General Question about Leveling

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Supplement Four
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General Question about Leveling

Postby Supplement Four » Fri Aug 13, 2010 7:33 pm

Here's just a general question about leveling. Do you think that a first level character, having a one-on-one deadly encounter with a first level NPC, is enough experience to get the character bumped up to 2nd level?

Or, do you think a character needs to be exposed to more danger than that to get to 2nd level?
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Postby Supplement Four » Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:38 pm

That's a very helpful post. Thanks, Nialldubh. I think my head is still too much into D&D, and what you wrote gets me in a more story-oriented mode.

The basis of what you say is that: XP is dependent on the contribution the character made to the story.

My head is more in the way of: XP is tied specifically to the experiences the character faces. It's also based on threat (how dangerous is it for the PC?).

In your examples, a 1st level Soldier could fight his way through a large battle, killing 10 men, he'd get a decent amount of XP. Maybe 200 XP.

But, the same Soldier who fights a one-on-one fight, Troy-style, and wins, may get three times the XP because of what his deed meant to the story.

The Soldier in the mass combat may have been in more danger, but it is the Troy-style fight that had a bigger impact on the story.

I get what you're saying.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Sat Aug 14, 2010 8:31 am

Of old has it been custom and good tradition to advance a character from 1st to 2nd level at the end of the first session (or adventure, which should not take longer than two sessions at most). :)

That is, if you start on level 1 at all. In our D20 games, we've long since decided on starting level 3. It's just too frustrating when some random goon kills off a freshly created character with a single hit.

In the past I've also cross-checked with the D&D DMG XP tables to assess how much I should hand out for a fight.
Note: according to those D&D tables, a CR1 (i.e. 1st level) opponent is worth 300 XP to a 1st level character. All kill XP are divided evenly among all party members involved in the battle.

But as Nialldubh has said, Conan doesn't use those hack & slay tables, and you hand out whatever XP seems fitting for the progress of the story. In general, characters should advance a level every two to three sessions.
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Postby Supplement Four » Sat Aug 14, 2010 1:32 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:In general, characters should advance a level every two to three sessions.
:shock: Wow. Thanks for the input, but man, that seems a bit fast.

I think I'm going to get them up to 3rd and 4th level fairly quickly, then slow down a bit and keep them in the 4-8 range for a long while.

Or, something like that.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:14 am

Well, whatever your players enjoy and you can handle as GM. But I advise against keeping the PCs on too short a leash. Getting those new class boons and feats and trying them out is a major source of fun, especially in D20 games.

In our last game, we started at level 3, then went up fairly quickly to 7 or 8 (1 level per session), which is a pretty solid base to play with. Then the advancement slowed, and around level 12 it became clear that it would be around 4 sessions per level.
The GM said he wanted to keep us in a "manageable level range" as long as possible - which he considered up to level 15 - while we were keen on finally gaining those highlevel boons. So that was a conflict of interest.
But it's true, those additional attacks at high levels don't exactly speed up combat... you may need fewer rounds, but the number of total die rolls increases, so effective combat takes longer than at low levels.

Eventually we switched to Savage Worlds. There the advancement is pretty steady at 1 "level" per 2 session. (But levelup is done very quickly there -- only one, at most two choices per advance is easily done.)
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Postby Supplement Four » Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:17 am

I'm keeping the game world to what the game says--about level 10 and below. Anything above that, and the PCs will be true heroes, well known around the world, like Achilles. Therefore, advancement needs to be much slower than what you recommend.

But, I do think advancement at lower levels should happen quickly. For the average NPC, it should take a game year to go from level 1 to level 2. For the PC, I expect it to be quicker.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:31 am

Okay, then you don't want to run a heroic game. Seems a bit odd to me, since I think that's precisely what Conan is about.

Heroes like Conan, Achilles (nice example), maybe Leonidas etc. set the benchmark at level 20. Level 20 is about 4 times as powerful as level 10. So there's a lot of margin between those. Even 2 or 3 levels can mean a world of difference.

NPC advancement belongs to a different thread, but as a rule of thumb I've assumed something like 1000xp per year after adolescence, leveling out at some point. Level 10 maximum sounds about right for normal, unimportant NPCs. No limit for the important ones, which would advance much faster.

So in short, I'd set the threshold for "well known hero of world-wide renown" at around level 16.
In our game, we've conquered cities, retrieved ancient relics, slain a Demon, disposed of a Frost Giant, discovered an Acheronian colony, vanquished a Wyrm, and had a dance with the Thunderbirds, to name a few. Still our heroes are not widely known and that's okay -- news don't travel fast in a medieval world, whereas we get around quite a bit. But I'd feel rather shafted if we were still goofing around at level 7 trying to recover the farmer's stolen fertilizer.
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Postby Supplement Four » Sun Aug 15, 2010 3:13 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:But I'd feel rather shafted if we were still goofing around at level 7 trying to recover the farmer's stolen fertilizer.
:D Different strokes, I guess. That's actually quite appealing to me, at least at this beginning stage of the game, to recover stolen fertilizer.

I didn't say that I didn't want to run a heroic game, though. I just want to take my time getting there. Going up a level ever 2-3 game sessions is not what I have in mind for this campaign.

I expect, though, at some point, the heroes will grow into HEROES, and we'll see some more epic stuff.

Right now, though, I'm more interested in watching the PCs do a simple hunt and maybe find themselves squaring off with a wolf.
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Postby strategos14 » Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:33 pm

I don't like ad-hoc xp and none of my players do either. They always felt screwed in some way by the seemingly random way that xp was given out. They felt that they weren't deciding their own xp, that the whim of the GM was. They wanted at least some guidelines that would give them an idea of what they were earning. They didn't like feeling that they got too much xp either. So I made an xp chart. Showed it to the players. Revised it a bit after discussing it with them. And now I and the other GM of the group has adopted this chart. We are all obviously old school D&D (in our late 20's and early 30's). From using this chart though, I've noticed that level progression is right where I want it. First couple levels advance at maybe 2 sessions (depending on what's actually happening since sometimes a whole session goes by with little action but just roleplaying) and levels from 4 to 10 take a few sessions. We've been playing Conan a couple years now and 8th level is the highest anyone has got. Anyway, here is the chart:

COMBAT:
100xp per hit die of enemy defeated. If hit die of enemy is half again more that characters level, it's 150xp per. If hit die of enemy is half again less than characters, it's 50xp per. (divide total by number of allies and range up or down a tad based on other difficulty factors)

SKILLS:
Per meaningful instance or group of similar instances. 25xp for a DC10 skill, 50xp for DC15, 75xp for DC20, etc. note: "involuntary" listen and spot checks do not apply

Sorcery:
25xp per PP used per spell. note: this is small because it represents casting only. Often the result of an accomplished spell will yield much more xp.

ROLE-PLAYING:
Per NOTABLE instance. (good character playing, appropriate choice making, interaction, story related, etc) scale from 1 to 5. 25xp per point.

STRATEGY/PLANNING/TACTICS:
Per notable instance. Scale from 1 to 5. 50xp per point.

STORY GOALS/ADVENTURE CONCLUSION/ INDIVIDUAL GOALS:
Scale of 1 to 5 per instance. 100xp per point. (fate points and reputation points are usually given out here as well but they can be received elsewhere also)

This chart has worked well for us and we stick to it fairly well. At the end of each session, the GM will figure out all xp while asking the players for anything he might have missed. I'll hear "don't forget about when I snuck passed those guards" or "Those bandits were on horses and caught us in no armor in the dark, they should be worth more" or "didn't I roleplay well with that whore?" Anyway, I just through this out so everyone could see just another way it's done is all. There are no arguments at ends of sessions anymore and level progression makes sense for the hard combat oriented world and characters. IMO
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Postby Hervé » Wed Aug 18, 2010 8:42 am

I don't give XP anymore. I allow level advances depending on the characters actions and involvement in the campaign. The players don't always advance at the same rate. It works pretty well that way and it allows less book keeping. Conan is certainly not an 'XP chart" game...
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Postby strategos14 » Wed Aug 18, 2010 6:48 pm

My Conan game certainly IS.

Leveling is the best part of the game for most players. In any role-playing game. The game decides when the characters level. Not me.
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Postby Ichabod » Tue Aug 24, 2010 4:21 am

Whereas, I'd go further than Hervé and not only eliminate XP but have level advancement be in lock step for all players. While it's true that different XP totals are only likely to make a half level (full level at non-high levels) difference, I just don't see the point in accounting and the minimal difference only justifies not worrying about it.

Level increase would be tied to some sort of guideline, such as every three sessions, with how tightly one sticks to the guideline being whatever is more desirable.

As for sorcery that costs XP or whatever, just drop that mechanic.

Rewards and punishments to distinguish player or character achievements can be either something like better Reputation or more Fate Points or fluff benefits in game or non-RAW mechanics. We use something like bennies (actually, two types are common), so it's easy to use that system. Having just played a bunch of L5R, having a more granular honor system than having a code vs. not having a code or using a granular status system (Glory is already pretty much Reputation) could be tacked on.

Anyway, I just see nothing gained by having characters of different levels, even if it doesn't really hurt that much either. (Obviously, our 16th level party running around with a 3rd level NPC is sketchy.)
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Postby Supplement Four » Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:39 am

Ichabod wrote: (Obviously, our 16th level party running around with a 3rd level NPC is sketchy.)
That could happen in my game. It would be like Achilles running around with his 17 year old brother who just started learning how to fight.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:20 am

As long as you don't make a player run a 3rd level PC along with a 16th level party, I guess that's just another Escort quest.
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Postby Supplement Four » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:39 pm

LOL. I don't make 'em do anything. The player do what they want.

In my last game, a Dragonlance game, we had this character that had 1 friggin hit point. She was a 1st level elf fighter, and we were using AD&D 2E rules.

We all thought she was a goner, but the player kept playing her. She was an archer. She kept her distance for that entire 1st level and never got into a face-to-face fight. That took about six game sessions. She went up to 2nd level...and he player rolled her d10 to add hit points for her 2nd level...and she got a friggin 2!

You guessed it, the character now had 3 HP. And, this was DragonLance. The Party was going through some hell.

Nobody thought that the character would make it. She didn't have any armor, either. She just had her bow and a cloth/leather (no armor) elf clothes.

But, the player played the hell out of her. Her body count with the bow was actually starting to stack up. And, finally, she made it to 3rd level--rolling 9 hp, to give her a total of 12.

She beat the odds. And, the player is quite fond of her today.

Damn fun gaming, too.
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Postby strategos14 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:15 pm

i can't just say every few sessions and a level is made. sometimes a few sessions encompass only a day or two in the game. sometimes a whole session or two go by with mostly just roleplaying and minimal combat. i can't see a guy leveling (getting better at skills and combat) by just roleplaying for a couple days and getting in a drunk fistfight in the local pub. maybe i'm a little old school and maybe my players are a little too serious, but nobody wants the GM arbitrarily handing xp or levels or anything.
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Postby Ichabod » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:30 am

strategos14 wrote:i can't just say every few sessions and a level is made. sometimes a few sessions encompass only a day or two in the game. sometimes a whole session or two go by with mostly just roleplaying and minimal combat. i can't see a guy leveling (getting better at skills and combat) by just roleplaying for a couple days and getting in a drunk fistfight in the local pub. maybe i'm a little old school and maybe my players are a little too serious, but nobody wants the GM arbitrarily handing xp or levels or anything.
You don't find that XP are inherently arbitrary?

What is the benchmark to compare rewards against?

My sense with XP is that it always feels arbitrary. The only logic behind rewards is one of how fast the GM wants to advance the party. Overly specific rewards only serve to muddle matters.

But, then, by old school, I assume you mean being rooted in D&D/AD&D or the like systems of defining antagonist combat power and treasure value and linking those to a rigid, incremental style advancement. *shrug* I see that game philosophy being more of a tactical wargame than a RPG, but it has been awfully popular and also fits into how online gaming typically works ... and it's not like Conan falls far from the D&D tree.
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Postby strategos14 » Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:58 am

of course xp is arbitrary. but i only look to structure it in a way that the players advance at the rate everyone is happy with, them and the gm. and that they get rewarded properly for EVERYTHING that warrants it EVERYTIME and it doesn't change week to week. and is xp given for one thing is in correct ration when compared to xp given for another thing. i was forced to make a chart (that is posted earlier in this thread) for this by the players because they were frustrated with the xp and leveling having no real rime or reason to it in their opinion. in mine too i guess. we actually made the chart together. i'm not saying one way is better than the other. i'm just giving an example of how we do it and saying that we enjoy it this way. that is similar to video game RPGs i guess although i've never played online RPGs really. i am rooted in D&D although my players always got xp for more things than just fighting and i was never big on treasure and magic items and all that. i ran D&D low magic, high role-playing, and dangerous. i admit i can get a bit too technical sometimes in my games but role-playing and story and the characters freedoms remain most important.
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