Currently, the FU rules do not provide details on advancement through experience points, instead suggesting to change descriptors and make adjustments to characters in a more ad-hoc manner. It is a small step, however, to reward play with experience points and tie this to character change or development.

Introducing experience points (XP) to games of FU is straightforward. You will need to come up with a list of things that characters (and/or players) earn XP for, and then a way for players to spend this experience.

What will earn XP?

Games have different expectations for both character action and player interaction depending on the theme, tone, genre and a variety of other factors. A good XP system will reward preferred actions in order to encourage players to behave in the desired manner.

When determining what things will earn XP in your own games, take into account what your story is about, the desired interactions of players and the frequency of such events.

What is important in your game/story?

The first thing you need to do is decide what kinds of actions, activities or interactions you want to promote in your games. Experience points are a reward for playing in a particular way, so you need to know the expectations. I would make a short list of what the game is “about”. Is your game, at its core, about killing monsters, solving puzzles, defending the weak from dastardly villains or stopping nefarious organisations from destroying the world? Maybe its about exploring relationships, amassing wealth, or learning the truth of a particular time, place or event.

Whatever you decide your game is about, make a short list of 1 – 3 things that you would expect characters to do or achieve during their adventures.

What player behaviour do you want to reward?

Experience points can also be used to reward player action as well as character action. This is the reward for “good roleplaying” or “staying in character”, but might also extend beyond that, too.

Add to your list any specific behaviours you want to promote. This might be “roleplay”, or just “participate” or even a bonus for the person who brings the snacks!

Estimate the frequency of these achievements

Make an estimate of how often characters/players will achieve each thing on your list. Some stuff you would expect to happen every time you play a session, while others will only occur every couple of sessions or at the end of a dramatic and exciting adventure. It is good to have a variety on your list so players have something to work towards and strive for.

Example XP Lists

Here are some ideas for experience rewards to get you started. Personally, I would look to use 2 – 4 items from the Generic XP rewards list and then add a number of genre / story specific rewards. In total, aim for about five items that can earn a character XP.

Generic XP rewards:

  • Participation – thanks for playing, here’s some XP!
  • Overcoming a major challenge – defeating a “big boss” or some other major obstacle
  • Goals – successfully achieving one or more group / party goals
  • Drives – pursuing and/or achieving a personal goal
  • Weakness – a personal weakness or flaw causes significant trouble
  • Catering – bringing the Mountain Dew and other munchies this week

Fantasy Dungeon Delve:

  • Defeating a mighty foe – you killed the beast, so reap the reward! (Decide if it has to be the killing blow, or if everyone who participates gets the reward.)
  • Carousing – spending all your wealth on living large (great for sword and sorcery games!)
  • Liberating the treasure – when you find a mighty treasure, whether it is a relic, culturally significant or just a huge pile of gold

Super Heroes:

  • Defend the weak – you protect the weak and innocent from harm, at great personal cost
  • Innovation – you use a super power in a unique or surprising way to overcome an obstacle
  • Team-up – you have conflict with a character before finding common ground and teaming up
  • Justice – you do the right thing, but at great personal cost

Space Opera:

  • Go boldly – you discover an important location/civilisation
  • The Directive – you overcome a potentially hostile challenge without resorting to violence
  • One purpose – you have a meaningful connection with another character

Earning that experience

When your XP list is created, communicate it clearly to all players. Perhaps you discussed it as a group as it was  created (great idea!), but if not, ensure everyone knows the kinds of things that will earn their character XP.

At the end of each session of play reward characters with experience points. Give a character one experience point for each item on the list they achieved. It is important to be clear before play about whether actions are individual, or if everyone in the party gets the reward for doing something. An effective list will have some “whole group” reward opportunities along with individual rewards.

Only award each item once per session. It doesn’t matter how many “major challenges” a group overcame, or the number of times they actually did the required action, each XP can only be earned once per session.

Here is my list for a game of pulp adventure:

  • Participation – thanks for playing, here’s some XP!
  • Overcoming a major challenge – defeating a “big boss” or some other major obstacle
  • Drives – pursuing and/or achieving a personal goal
  • Stunts – using the environment in an interesting way to overcome an obstacle
  • Exploration – when you discover something important about the supernatural world

The Overcoming a major challenge and Exploration rewards are given to the whole group when such an event occurs, while the others are individual rewards. My expectation is that Participation and Stunts will be rewarded every session, while Drives, Exploration and the Overcoming reward will be given as they occur.

Spending those experience points

Players may spend their XP at the end of a session of play. Every N experience points will “buy” one advance for a character. What N is equal to depends on your group and the rate of advancement is really up to how quickly you want to see characters improve. Personally, I’m happy to see some movement every two or three sessions, so set N to equal 10XP, but you might want to make this number lower or higher.


When a player spends XP they get an advance. One advance will let a player add a single new element to their character. This might be:

  • A new descriptor
  • Unlock a single meta-tag for a pre-existing trademark (if using trademarks)
  • A new item of gear
  • An additional drive
  • Some other significant new feature of the character

Depending upon the game you are playing there might be other ways to improve a character.


Keep a record of how many advances a character has achieved. If a character has significantly less advances than other players, consider giving them a bonus FU point at the start of a game session. What constitutes “significantly less” is going to depend on whether it is just one character behind the rest, or if there is a spread and so game masters are encouraged to test things out. I would consider if a character has less than half the number of advances of the most experienced character they should be given a bonus FU point.

Groups might decide to cap the maximum number of advances a character can have. After six or so advances they will have a very large number of descriptors/meta-tags/gear with which to overcome challenges and things may begin to become very predictable. This does depend on choices the player makes and how narrow or broad they make their choices and therefore every group will be different.

There you have it – introducing experience points to your games of FU. What do you think? Do you already use XP, is it something you might use, or do you just “hand wave” it all anyway?

This article was first published on July 4, 2016

This article originally appeared on a website dedicated to Freeform Universal. I have consolidated that material here in order to bring everything into one easy-to-find location.