Blips: D&D 5e Rules Variant (XP for Roleplaying)

There are lots of carefully-codified rules in Dungeons & Dragons for awarding experience points (XP) for combat encounters, but the material is pretty loosey-goosey about rewards for roleplaying encounters. Here’s what I came up with for Flumphscape, my 5e Planescape campaign that ran for two years. My players were level 17 at the end of the campaign, and I estimate about half of their total XP was from roleplaying, using these variant rules. Maybe they’ll work in your campaign? We’ll see!


I had a few goals in mind when I designed the rules for blips.

  1. Codify the “XP for roleplaying” rules, because I am a lazy DM and don’t want to painstakingly balance XP rewards for every non-combat encounter, which by their nature tend to happen spontaneously and require improvision. I wanted a formula I could plug in quickly and not think about too much.
  2. I wanted to empower my players to be able to do cool things. I like giving my players “plot tokens” they can use to take the DM seat for just a moment, just long enough to direct the story in a way that wouldn’t be possible through simple character action.
  3. In specific, Planescape as a campaign setting is very focused on philosophy. A character’s identity is more important than simply a few sentences written on their characters sheet. In Planescape, belief is power. I wanted to incentivize my players to constantly think about their characters’ thoughts and beliefs, pay attention to the beliefs of others, and to change and grow over the course of the campaign.

These are all lofty goals, but blips might still be a good fit for your campaign if you want something as simple as “I want to reward my players for playing their alignment.”

A blip is…

A blip is a game token equal to some fraction of an experience level. In Flumphscape a blip was worth 1/20th of the XP the highest-level character in the party needed to reach their next level. In my new campaign, where I’ve re-tooled the rules a bit, they’re worth 1/30th.

Left: Blips = 1/30th. Right: Blips = 1/20th.

That’s really it. If all you’re after is a kind of nebulous, scaling amount of XP to award players for doing cool roleplaying things, that might be all you need. Award a blip any time you would award Inspiration.

Blips as Player Rewards

I wanted something a little more detailed, though, and I wanted some incentive for players to both do cool things and acknowledge their fellow players for doing cool things. In my game, you can earn DM blips and player blips each session.

DM blips are just what I described above: award one when a player does something cool while playing their alignment, ideal, bond, or flaw. I limited these to one blip per trait per session, but you don’t necessarily have to.

At the end of the session I allowed the players to award each other blips. There are four of these, and I didn’t allow my players to cheap out on them. No splitting blips in half, no passing, no shenanigans. The group decides who deserves each of these each week, by answering these questions:

  1. Creative. Who had the most creative solution to a problem this session?
  2. Assist. Who furthered the party’s goals the most this session?
  3. Badass. Who did the most badass thing this session?
  4. Intangibles. What else do you want to award a blip for?

Then, because I stream my sessions live on Twitch, I set up a strawpoll and let my viewers vote on their favorite player that session.

Belief Points

In addition to blips, players in Flumphscape could accumulate Belief Points. I don’t think these mechanics are appopriate for every D&D game — I’m not using them in my new campaign — but they fit right into Planescape and you still might like to try them. If you do, I recommend using these rules to replace the base Inspiration rules. You might also consider disallowing the Lucky feat, since there’s a lot of overlap.

Each player could earn up to three Belief Points each session, by affirmatively answering these questions:

  1. Did your character act in accordance with his belief?
  2. Did your character learn anything new about his belief?
  3. Are his beliefs changing?

(In Flumphscape, characters had a Belief trait instead of an Ideal, and were not able to earn blips by playing their Belief.)

When players answered “yes” to any of these questions, I asked them to justify their answer. If their justification made sense, they got a Belief Point.

Players could only bank 6 Belief Points, and they could cash them in during a session to augment their rolls.

For 2 Belief Points, you can gain advantage on any roll. Essentially, this is how Inspiration works.

For 4 Belief Points, you can automatically succeed on any roll.

For 6 Belief Points, you get to “DM for one moment”. This is accompanied by a change in the character’s Belief. (In Flumphscape, this was skinned as the character’s belief being strong enough to literally change reality.)

Blips as Belief Points

Belief Points worked great in a Planescape game, but they weren’t appropriate for my new campaign. I also wanted to cut down the amount of time we were spending on end-of-session rundowns, which could take upwards of twenty minutes.

Characters don’t have Beliefs in the new campaign; they have Ideals, as is standard for 5e characters. In addition, I added Class Aspect as a new roleplaying trait. (These are the “personal touches” added to the character class sections of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. They’re really cool and I strongly recommend encouraging your players to think about them.)

You still earn blips for all your roleplaying traits, and for the player awards at the end of each session, and for being the crowd favorite in my chat. The big difference is, instead of being automatic XP, blips are now game tokens that work the way Belief Points used to. At the end of each session you can choose to keep your blips as tokens (and spend them later on rerolls or auto-successes), or immediately cash them in for XP. You can still only bank 6 blips; if you gain any above that, they automatically roll over into XP.


There is no conclusion. Off you go. Thanks for reading!

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