The EXP Bowl for ICRPG



Inspired by this, I will attempt to modify it for ICRPG. I hope you guys will like it! And if you use it, do come tell me how it played at your table! :grin::+1:

TL;DR: a mechanic that makes players drop dice in a bowl, when they roll the bowl they gain experience in order to level up!

The source of experience

Hearts. Hearts are the bulwark that often stand in the way of your players’ victory! And with this mechanic, I hope to add a bit more versatility to them!

This mechanic starts off simple: when your players deal ten (10) Effort damage to an obstacle or enemy’s Heart, add 1D6 to the EXP Bowl.

Bigger dice

To allow your players to add bigger dice to the EXP bowl, a desireable thing, you the GM might want to give harder Hearts to beat to your players. Seek inspiration for making your own conditions using the table below:

Die Condition
D4 Weak obstacles that can be dealt with through numerous methods (such as doors), opposition with a single Heart, or when the Target Number is below 13.
D8 The obstacle has a particular resistance (or two) or disrupts the most obvious plan of action to deal with it.
D10 The Heart somehow negates at least five (5) points of Effort dealt to it or hides a fearsome surprise for the players.
D12 Opposition is desperate, the Target Number is darn high, and peeling each Heart off is like going through a bunker.

Rolling the bowl

The bowl is rolled at the end of the session. The procedure for leveling up varies from GM to GM, but the reward for leveling up is a Milestone reward (or should we give it another name?).

Every dice is counted as Effort toward the next level except 1s because they are tallied as a modifier bonus for the next time the EXP bowl is rolled.

Of course, players roll the bowl against an increasing amount of Hearts which starts at a single one and multiplies by two (2) after every level up! At high levels you might need this practical tool.

Alternative rules and ideas

Just some ideas to push the EXP bowl further, perhaps momentarily to show how dire or unique a situation is!

  1. Individual experience: Particularly cool ideas might allow a player to gain personal EXP dice!
  2. Flushing Inspiration: Any unspent Hero coin, inspiration, or luck die can be thrown into the EXP bowl at the end of the session.
  3. Memory thieves: hags, Illithids, and other creatures that ransack through character brains are dangerous indeed: they may steal some experience dice directly from the pool!
  4. If you’re so wise, why aren’t you high level?: players can pick dice from the bowl to bolster their rolls!
  5. Adventure Hearts: instead of rolling the EXP bowl against an ever increasing treshold, perhaps assign Hearts to each Adventure you design and let the players roll the EXP bowl when they have completed the adventure?
  6. Good stats make for good friends: add the Intelligence modifer of every character in the party to the result of the EXP bowl.
  7. Special Some Ones: tally the 1s of the EXP bowl toward something else rather than the next level: a sort of power, ability, or whatever.
  8. Loot for the bowl: periodically change D12 in the bowl into 2D6, make D4 the default experience die, make each die in the bowl affect the Target Number! I don’t know! Go nuts!

Roll fun! o7

Social Interaction Like Journeys
Potential new GM here. I have some questions
How fast do you advance your players?
Thoughts on a new monster generator?

Wow, a lot of good thought in this! I really think that could make a fun Part of a Game… yeah maybe i discuss that with my table


I love the idea of 20 1’s creating something bad - now that you say it… Maybe a table of personality ticks or mental maladies.
Basically you have failed MISERABLY many many times - now you {roll on Malady table}


W-wait, where did I say that? XD


I saw that and ran with it, lol… Im making a malady table, you cant stop me!


I can’t, I won’t, that’s fine by me. XD
Tell me what it looks like!


A couple more alternatives to the EXP Bowl!

Just 'cause I can!


Simplify the mechanic: when your players deal ten (10) Effort damage to the opposition or accomplish something worthy of experience, add 1D20 to the EXP Bowl. At the end of the session, your players roll the Bowl and check one (1) Mastery for every natural 20s they got!

You can tie this mechanic to the natural 20s they get during the game or get rid of the regular method, up to you.

Make sure the criteria for accomplishment is known by your players and try to be specific: “good roleplay” or “overcoming a strong enemy” means nothing. Instead, tie those criteria to things you want your players to accomplish in the setting, accomplishment that say something about your world or allow your players to discover it in details.

Fear of loss

Mwuahaha! My favorite! It fits horror adventures quite well!

I think that the AngryGM already spoke about something similar but I have not been able to find the article. If you know of it or remember it, please let me know so that I can add a link to this post! Cheers! :v:

This method requires some prep work, however. Take the Adventure Hearts, from the list of alternative ideas above, and reverse it: for every Heart and possible, obvious deed in your adventure, add an Experience Die to the EXP Bowl at the beginning of the game!

Whenever the players forego damaging opposing Hearts or accomplishing those deeds you’ve set up, remove Experience Dice from the pool appropriate to the amount they would have deserved. Do it right in front of them with a grin, let them know just what they’ve missed.

Roll as normal at the end of the adventure.

By the way: be fair to your players but uphold the atmosphere of the setting. If you are running cosmic horror, remove dice from the pool if players captured the horror instead of banishing it! Old Ones already come back every thousand years, no point in rewarding players for allowing the entity to come back sooner than that!

But at the same time, do not remove prematurely dice from the EXP Bowl to avoid putting them back in, you want to push your players forward through the fear of losing precious Experience dice. If you feel that the players should gain experience for overcoming an obstacle creatively, then allow them to keep the experience dice and let them know that.


A pretty clever and interesting idea. I love the idea of monsters stealing the dice from the pool, and further love the idea that players can steal dice from the pool for a bonus when needed.

I like it!


Thank you for your kind comment! :smiley:


Thanks for starting this discussion, BlazingPolyhedron!
The EXP Bowl may be the best idea I’ve encountered since “usage dice” (because who the hell wants to track torches, arrows, cheese, and wine… or even EXP, for that matter?!!). Also, I’ve never met a party that wasn’t greedy for EXP. The threat of a diabolical GM stealing advancement from under players’ noses adds even more drama to ICRPG – on top of the dreaded loss of loot!


I do like tracking things, but I’m happy to know you love this mechanic! :smiley:


Right on!.. Anything that muzzles my left-brain and allows my right-brain to take the podium for awhile, I’ll gladly try. While usage dice (a la Forbidden Lands, Black Hack, etc.) are a further abstraction of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, they still act as a GM throttle on resources – just enough to satisfy my impulse for complete tyranny! Thus, my love for the EXP Bowl you introduce here.
ICRPG, of course, doesn’t require any of these add-ons, but old habits die hard.