Okay, this is more of a question than some brilliant proposition. I think I need more coffee because my brain is muzzy on this topic. What I'm wondering is, since this is a social game that generally expects a group of people to play, why doesn't the group all level at the same time? Why does it matter, if in a party playing D&D, a thief is 2nd level while the magic-user is only first?
Is it because one player might suck and is not pulling their weight and because of poor play is a level behind everyone? That's not really possible in old school play is it? If you're playing and the party gets loot, XP is divided. You would either have to constantly be splitting the party or be absent.
Okay, so you have to play to level up and if Joe Blow only shows up every tenth session I can see why he shouldn't deserve to be the same level as everyone else. But a party with too disparate levels really isn't tenable is it? Eventually if Joe keeps coming he's going to die facing the increasingly difficult challenges the higher level party is facing.
Is it because it is an attempt to manage the different power levels of the classes? (Oh no, the dreaded balance!) Presumably this is because a wizard gets very powerful and will start tilting things into the mid-game very quickly. But couldn't you then just shift an MU's abilities up a level or two? Or not. What would happen if a party of a cleric, MU, fighter, and thief all moved up to second level at the same time? And from second to third? What difference does it make to the game, other than a lot of bookkeeping, that one character might level 2-3 sessions later than another?
even with XP divided evenly, the classes level differently. The problem is one that already plagues the low level magic user, he basically has no armor and less than 4 hit points, may as well paint a target on his back. Assuming he survives at all, at higher levels he still has no armor and less hit points than other classes. I don't know if this is addressed in later editions, but in the early game, B/X and 1e, it is assumed that the more powerful characters would "protect" the weaker ones.ReplyDelete
popular wisdom states that the MU is super-powerful at high levels, but in my experience this is only true and a problem if (a) the player plays strategically (something I've hardly ever seen) and (b) s/he plays against the group (which happens, but given the MU's hp, again would need great strategic play not to just blow up in his/her face). The real problem with balance is when one pc/class cannot contribute usefully to group success. I don't think the MU will ever force anyone else out of view: even ars magica wizards don't achieve that, and they're not anything like as borked as DnD MUs.ReplyDelete
I'm a fan of party based leveling. Saves some book keeping, keeps anyone from feeling left out or like their character sucks. Dungeon adventuring is a team effort so I think the team should advance together. Game balance isn't as important to me as player fun.ReplyDelete
I've gone back and forth on this topic. Sometimes I wonder if I want to stick to good old XP because of bad nostalgia's sake. But I've been playing with the idea of letting characters level up after their players have participated in a certain number of sessions. I was thinking of setting it at five sessions. I think this depends on the group and how frequently it meets. I've been pretty lucky to be able to game for a while now almost every week (once a week). So if you can do about 50 sessions in a year, that's 10th level in a year for all characters involved. Not too shabby, I think. Thoughts?ReplyDelete
I pretty much always do party-based leveling these days. In Old School Hack, it's built into the system.ReplyDelete
I've been messing with this idea for a while - it takes x number of sessions to level up where x is the next level (thus, you just made third level - you show up for four more sessions, and you are fourth level). A little book keeping, but if you show up regularly, you level up regularly - can't make it too often, you level more slowly.ReplyDelete
I tend to split the exp between a party fairly evenly with some bonus points for outstanding play and great ideas. Drag-alongs don't get full or any exp either if their player doesn't show.ReplyDelete
We play 40-50 sessions a year and that tends to get folks from 1st to 10th level or so.
As for level spread, it never bothered me. Everyone starts at 2nd level (with no earned exp)if the campaign has been running for a while and the level spread in the current party is 4th to 8th. Lower level characters catch up quickly if they adventure with higher level characters when characters advance by exp. Without exp they are always going to be a set number of levels lower.
Well player death mattered a lot. If you look at the 80 page play report Ryth chronicles you would sometimes have level differences of up to 4, either someone starting a new PC cause the old one got eaten by a grue, or someone dusting off a second string PC or henchman to turn into a PC.ReplyDelete
Secondly, why wouldn't be a headache for the group to have everyone level simultaneously? Isn't it easier all round if the groups various magic users aren't all trying to figure out new spells at the same time?
Even with unified XP charts people will level at different times for a million different reasons. Late stage d&d games seem to cater to a sense of OCD players IMO.
the xp pyramid has the same effect in pokemon: lower level additions catch up with higher level original party members quickly, and that's good and useful. But the advancement is sometimes comically fast and not at all pegged to Gary's sometime muttering about the ideal (glacial) pace of advancement.ReplyDelete
If I have to intro a new pc into a campaign i shamelessly make them the same level as everyone else and give them a secret and a history. For the party as a whole, I allow the active PCs + some shared "occasional" pc/npcs (a la ars magica troupe play), the latter usually trailing a couple of levels behind the former. PC death means a shared character gets promoted.
...and I handwave the leveling up of shared pcs: players rarely want to exploit the system b/c their own characters are higher level anyway, and they're mostly incurious about what's going on with Sam the Spear until they play him again, at which point they're delighted he's leveled upReplyDelete
Hi Telecanter, you have a great blog. Nice posts and interesting discussions. Imo party play defines the roles, there would be no need for a tank or protector if everyone had the same role.ReplyDelete
Also, would you be interested in a link exchange? Let me know to send you info on my site ^^
My guess is that one reason this wasn't initially the way D&D was written was because "the party" was really fluid, varying from session to session. From what I've read, Gary would run games multiple nights a week and so who showed up at the gaming table would also vary from session to session; when you don't have a set "gaming group," a lot of what "the party" is starts to become meaningless. Add to that the fact that 1-on-1 sessions with characters that were also used during group sessions were common, and that players often had multiple characters that they would choose to bring along for different sessions and "the party" ceases to mean anything more than "the characters that went on this particular adventure."ReplyDelete
(Also, leveling together like that would be Communist. ^__-)
All this has very little relevance to your campaign, though, from what I can tell from your session reports. When you *do* have an established "the party" for your whole campaign, it starts to make a lot more sense to level up as a party. I'll be interested in any system you come up with or decide to implement.
Well, if D&D is a social game, why not give all the powers and abilities to the party? The party gets 2 first-level spells and 1 second level magic-user spell, can move silently 27% of time, can speak with animals once per day, etc etc etc.ReplyDelete
Of course that's a stupid idea. The point is, people are attached to their characters as individuals, and tracking their "own" exp and level are one of the ways characters seem personal to them. 3e kind of solves this problem by awarding levels and experience to the character, not the class, but then again, that's 3e.
Thanks for all the comments folks. I think Staples has it, this ceases to be an option if the party isn't very consistent.ReplyDelete
Also, I forgot the great psychological draw we humans seem to have to progress. Players crave xp like crack, not quite the same rush if you go up after x sessions. I'll have to think about this more.