[D&D] Replacement character's level

As per @ebear’s request, let’s move out this subthread from [West Marches] How do they get back home every time?.

ebear said:

2097 said:

(The other Q was if replacement characters, if PCs die, should be same level as the rest of the group or start at a lower level – again, I told them that we’ve tried both & both had some serious cons – I guess I wasn’t selling D&D particularly well :bawling:)

Curious on what the pros/cons were here as I’m looking to run a higher lethality game in the near future and have been wondering about this very thing, but that’s a different topic all together.

I personally think that for OSR style, open-ended games, starting over at the bottom works best. In D&D, it’s pretty quick to almost catch up in a mixed level party, and if everyone died we all get to have that low-level fun again. D&D is set up so that it’s really really hard to survive the first few levels and really really hard to die after a while. In some environments, level 1 and 2 are really dangerous so for some campaigns I like the (house) rule that once everyone’s in the party’s been level 3, level 3 becomes the new baseline. You may start at level 1 or 2 if you wish but with the XP you need to go to 3. In some other environments I’m like “there’s plenty of things for level ones to do around here” and that’s where you go. This is something we usually decide up front for the campaign.

Right now we’re running a module where it says explicitly “A replacement character should be the same level as the rest of the party”. The pro of that is that even though this module is one of the biggest sandboxes I’ve ran outside of aQ [no, not because of the “sand” pun, but because of the thoroughness of the 2e boxes], they can say “who cares about the maguffin, let’s take up life as pirates!” or w/e (there’s even a whole other level 1-16 campaign going on separately in another of the ruined cities here), the module also has a schtick that prevents resurrection magic from working and if they want to make headway towards the maguffin [again, the module doesn’t funnel them there, but they are strongly motivated to try to find it, go there, and do something about it], starting over would’ve been hopeless.

I also interpreted “the same level” as the party’s highest level which was a mistake. Lowest or average or median would’ve been better.

Same level

(Either party’s highest level, party’s average level, party’s lowest level)

  • Makes it so that sometimes the best way to advance is to die, unless you go “party’s lowest level”
  • Makes it possible (too easy?) to pursue high level goals & maguffins
  • Makes it easier to be level-appropriate
  • Can come up with more elaborate backstory. “Oh mad one! We beseech you for help. We’ve heard you’re the strongest witch in the land!” “Yep I’m level 7 with the Fey Pact of the Tome so you’ve come to the right place!”
  • Jumping to the same level as the rest of the party sometimes makes it feel not earned

Lower level

(Either start over at level 1, or if there are “tier lines” that the party can cross that then become the new starting level.)

  • Makes you learn the new class properly & gradually
  • In a mega dungeon sometimes you run out of low-level enemies to help you level up, once you’ve cleared the first floors
  • I love heavy-logistics low level play: water, light, food, sleep, getting lost
  • Coat-tailing as a level one with a high-level party sometimes feel pretty bad too

Same level, but zero XP so takes a toll on your advancement rate

  • I’ve never tried this
  • Can contribute right away
  • Stronger consequence of death than in the “same level” sitch
  • Stuck for a long time before seeing any variety to the character
  • OTOH, you are stuck at level six [or w/e] as opposed to being level one, level three, level five, level six – and a level six can do all the things a level three can (for example)
  • Talking to @Aviatrix about this, she said she had played in a game like that and it sucked. I tried to dazzle her with the math but in the end while it has some pros of both worlds it also has some of the cons of both.

Start over, but get more XP so can catch up

I’ve never tried this either, this is something I came up with just now (see, these kindsa thread can lead to design happening) Thinking of putting it in the player’s hands, with a rule such as this. You can give away XP to other players (most likely for the purps of you want them to level up faster than you, maybe if you’re ahead of them) as long as they haven’t received more “gift” XP than they had earned normally. I.e. a party of Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice gets 200 xp each. Ted gives Alice 100xp more from his own share. Alice couldn’t receive more than 200 total as gifts this way until she earns more xp normally idk I’m just brainstorming.

About “gaining more levels at once”

I wanted to touch on the “Gaining more levels at once”; many version of D&D has a rule that if you were to gain more more XP than you need to go to the next level, the excess XP is lost. I guess for when you find a ginormous treasure trove and use XP for treasure system. That rule is not in 5e (and I’m not about to houserule it back in, I don’t like the rule), but if you’re using a version that has that rule, here’s how I’d tweak it: the rule would only apply to people going to a level beyond the party’s currently highest level.

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Comments

  • edited April 20

    I forgot to say that for guest characters they do start at the party level. If someone is just jumping in for one night I’ll let them have a party-appropriate level. Leveling up and grinding is meant for campaign play.

    So when there’s someone new, I have to make my best estimation if they’re gonna be new & start coming regularly, in which case I give them a pregen at the starting level but with full crunch, including things like Strength and Constitution, or they’re just a guest star or just trying out the game, in which case I’ll give them a searcher at the party level. That way they don’t have to know what the heck “Wisdom” means. It’s just “roll this to fight, roll this for everything else, done!”

  • That's a nice summary of the issue, Sandra.

    I would never consider doing anything but starting over at level 1 for a challengeful old school-ish game; it's such a fundamental part of the experience to me. I won't acknowledge a game that gives free levels as legitimate. The game advancement math (geometric level progression) supports this very well, allowing a lower-level character to catch up to higher-level ones without any additional complication.

    For a new school game it's simplest to have everybody be same level; I haven't found reason to struggle against the expectation. I recommend dropping the xp mechanics as well, though, as without characters advancing at different pace it's simply not worth the trouble; much easier to just tell the players when to level up.

    My old school sandboxes start guest players at 1st level as well. It's just part of the underlying fundamental ethos: "The game must be fun at 1st level, if it's not I am doing something wrong." Having anybody start at 1st level always is a hygienic principle in this regard: it helps me keep it real by forcing me to maintain a meaningful, fun sandbox game accessible to 1st level characters. They come first, the occasional mid-level veterans are the exceptions that gain their exceptional aura by traipsing around in the low-level world with all their low-level fellow adventurers.
  • That’s a nice summary of the issue, Sandra.

    Thank you!

    I would never consider doing anything but starting over at level 1 for a challengeful old school-ish game; it’s such a fundamental part of the experience to me. I won’t acknowledge a game that gives free levels as legitimate. The game advancement math (geometric level progression) supports this very well, allowing a lower-level character to catch up to higher-level ones without any additional complication.

    That’s definitely my preference as well.

    For a new school game […] I recommend dropping the xp mechanics as well, though, as without characters advancing at different pace it’s simply not worth the trouble; much easier to just tell the players when to level up.

    This, on the other hand, I tried once (for a full campaign). Never again. It’s important to so many other underlying design principles that character advancement is not in the DM’s hands. Either go by playing time (count hours or sessions or w/e, never tried anything like that though) or do full XP.

    A lot of problems that other DMs report, such as fudging dice or hp, or players getting angry b/c TPK, or DMs getting frustrated b/c they can’t challenge the players, go away in a sandbox because you’re no longer serving up the encounters to them. They seek out the encounters themselves (no, not in a “Czege principle” violating way but by going out in the Dangerous Forest) and it becomes an economic game. “How much Level do we need before we can go to Area?” becomes the recurring question. And their player skill, ingenuity in bypassing monsters, their luck on encounter tables, their builds etc all become super relevant.

    When DM serves out the levels to suit the (upcoming) encounters, that’s almost as bad as the DM serving out the encounters to suit the player’s levels. You become reliant on challenge ratings or fudging or whatever, or if you refuse those things (which I do) you deserve the ire of the players when things go wrong. If you served the dish, you’re accountable for the recipe. If they serve themselves, by being in control of both their own opposition (through where they go or who they make enemies with) and their abilities (through earning experience), everyone can just eat to their own liking and have a good time.

    My old school sandboxes start guest players at 1st level as well. It’s just part of the underlying fundamental ethos: “The game must be fun at 1st level, if it’s not I am doing something wrong.” […] They come first, the occasional mid-level veterans are the exceptions that gain their exceptional aura by traipsing around in the low-level world with all their low-level fellow adventurers.

    For me when I have the guest drop in at their level, I see them as more of an NPC at that point. If I have any inclination that they’re gonna be a regular player I just have them join as a new player. But if they, like, live in another city or w/e, then they can get a guest spot.

    It’s almost like another thing. Eero, if we were to play in each other’s sandboxes I’m sure we’d start each other off at level 1 because that’s the experience we want to have; actually being part of the game world from day one of our adventuring careers. When my sister comes here to Sweden I’m more than happy to have her contribute with a powerful & simple-to-use character. She doesn’t play D&D regularly, we grew up with Hero Quest [the British one, not the Robin Laws one], Magic the Gathering, Cosmic Encounter, Zelda video games, and (above all) Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, our fave, where we spent hours exploring hex by hex with tons of house rules. If she gets into more regular D&D (she’s played with us like four times, with about a year between occasions) that’d be another thing. IDK.

    In my headcanon she’s this wandering Elminster type figure that shows up every now and then. I mean she always plays new characters but you get the idea.

    All that said, this:

    Having anybody start at 1st level always is a hygienic principle in this regard: it helps me keep it real by forcing me to maintain a meaningful, fun sandbox game accessible to 1st level characters.

    is a strong argument. We’re playing a ready made hexcrawl + medium sized dungeon and first level is def not accessible :bawling:

  • I really like this take on the topic: you're really covering the issue very thoroughly.

    My own approach (in my house ruled D&D) is to make character advancement much more gradual, so mixing levels isn't such a difficult issue - they're small incremental changes instead of big leaps in power.

    Sandra, your idea of "passing around XP as a gift" is pretty interesting. I think there's some potential there! (That's also one of the reasons I like "gold as XP", since it allows you to do that quite organically: "Hey, let's give the new party member double shares, to help them level up!")

    Another thing I've seen (which might actually be a really really early D&D rule, from way way back) is that the level of the character affects how much XP challenges are worth. Your collected XP is divided by your character's current level (or current level relative to the dungeon level or CR), so, effectively, going on a dangerous adventure with higher-level companions means you also score more XP than them.

    Since we were discussing character creation in the thread that spawned this, it makes me realize that pretty much every D&D I'm aware of doesn't handle creating characters beyond 1st level very well - it's always a hassle. Are there any exceptions to this rule, or clever workarounds? Any smart and easy ways to handle character creation beyond 1st level out there?
  • Paul_T said:

    I really like this take on the topic: you’re really covering the issue very thoroughly.

    Thanks♥
    I’m thinking that if I map out the current approaches, what’s missing will become apparent.

    Paul_T said:

    My own approach (in my house ruled D&D) is to make character advancement much more gradual, so mixing levels isn’t such a difficult issue - they’re small incremental changes instead of big leaps in power.

    Well, the big one for us is of course HP. IIRC you don’t increment HP as gradually as the other level stuff?

    Paul_T said:

    Another thing I’ve seen (which might actually be a really really early D&D rule, from way way back) is that the level of the character affects how much XP challenges are worth. Your collected XP is divided by your character’s current level (or current level relative to the dungeon level or CR), so, effectively, going on a dangerous adventure with higher-level companions means you also score more XP than them.

    Wait what!? That is the most tautological rule of all time :bawling: That does not make sense The XP curve is already non-linear for this purp.

    Paul_T said:

    Since we were discussing character creation in the thread that spawned this, it makes me realize that pretty much every D&D I’m aware of doesn’t handle creating characters beyond 1st level very well - it’s always a hassle. Are there any exceptions to this rule, or clever workarounds? Any smart and easy ways to handle character creation beyond 1st level out there?

    I really like Dungeonesque’s approach to creating a character. A clear checklist, and, above all, ability scores moved to after you’ve selected class & type-of-being. Makes much more sense in an “arrange scores in any order you want” system (i.e. what we use, method one in AD&D 1e DMG).

  • The idea that higher-level characters should gain less XP for the same deeds than lower-levels was introduced in AD&D, I think. There weren't firm rules for it at that point, but I seem to remember something very gygaxian about not awarding XP for "non-challenging" adventures, or something of the sort. It's an old DM worry - what to do if the players play over-leveled characters and trivialize the adventure that way.

    The WotC 3rd edition, on the other hand, has explicit rules for how a character's XP gains get prorated: there's a table that you use to correlate a monster's CR (you basically only get XP for monster-slaying in 3rd) with the adventurer's level, and if the adventurer's level is higher than the monster's CR, then that monster's not as valuable. For example, a 4th level character gets 600 xp for a CR 2 monster, while an 8th level character gets just 300. The hilarious part is that in an encounter with multiple adventurers and multiple monsters (not very uncommon, that) you're supposed to reference the table for each adventurer-monster pair separately, which can be a bit of work I imagine.

    If I were to DM 3rd edition in a more old school style (for a reason I can't quite fathom right now), with sandboxes and character stables and all, I would actually use that devaluation rule despite its ugliness; 3rd edition XP tables have very weak inherent inflation compared to the geometric series used in 20th century D&D, which means that low-level characters don't catch up to high-level ones on their own. It's actually a very different design compared to the original, math-wise.

    Needless to say, I don't recommend stacking multiple layers of rules for fine-tuning something like XP awards. Either every level-up costs 1000 XP (or whatever) no matter your level, but it's more difficult to gain points at higher levels, or you do something like Gygax and halve the value of the individual point every level by demanding more and more of them as you go up. Either way works, but combining them together is pretty dim, I think; a good example of the fake complexity that guides modern D&D design.
  • edited April 20

    In some way, my remix of the three pillars XP system does use something like that. My players are tier 2 and thus don’t get XP for finding rare magic items, only “very” rare magic items. Except I forget to actually use this three pillar XP system 99% of the time. I guess you're right that it's tautological & fake complexity. I though the monster XP system already worked well and I wanted something similar for discovery and for swaying

    In 3e and 4e a low-level monster is a significantly worthlesser threat, because PC AC goes up so much. That’s not the case in 5e.

  • Yeah, that's a fundamental reason why I think that old-style D&D (something resembling Basic) can aspire to not caring about this issue. I don't think that it's entirely obvious, and I think that you need specific techniques of play to achieve the ideal, but in certain editions of Basic you hardly need to worry about adventures being "too easy to count". Apparently it's a phenomenon that became a concern for D&D authors at some point, but to me it seems like the cure is sometimes worse than the disease.

    The key mechanical issues in having a D&D where low-level dangers aren't too easy for higher-level characters are the existence or non-existence of critical hits and/or fumbles and whether AC has hard limits. (Consider this: original D&D basically doesn't have AC scaling at all - a mid-level character adventures with the same armor a 1st-leveler does.)

    A D&D where lower-level adventures are still potentially dangerous to higher-level characters doesn't need too much in the way of penalties for being over-leveled: the natural penalty of a low-level adventure not being worth that many points is enough, as the character takes a real risk in participating in the adventure anyway. If you're going to risk your neck, you should do it for an amount of points that might help you level up.

    In my own sandboxes I make a point of fine-tuning the rules in such a way that low-level adventures are the best choice for low-level adventurers and mid-level adventures are the best choice for mid-level adventurers. This is pretty simple to achieve as long as you manage two things:
    * A mid-level character can still die in a low-level adventure because the combat system is sufficiently lethal and uncertain. Doesn't need to be as likely as it is for a low-level character, but it has to be a concern.
    * Mid-level adventures have better payouts, but there are gate-keeping concerns that tend to keep low-level adventurers out: expeditions to mid-level locations are more expensive, or only reputable adventurers with the right contacts can get the hook.

    If both of those are true, then a mid-level adventurer shouldn't be slumming it out with low-levelers too much: a more valuable character should be doing a better class of adventure altogether.

    A pro tip: D&D traditionally has dungeon features that are dangerous to higher level characters as well; not everything scales neatly, and some things simply scale pretty slowly. The absolutely simplest way to ensure that low-level dungeons are too dangerous for a valuable character is to scatter a liberal amount of poisonous save-or-die snakes everywhere. That's the sort of place where you'd rather pay a poor 1st level bastard to delve so you don't have to go there yourself.

    In general I'm of the opinion that here, as well as in other places in the D&D chassis, the designer is best served by reducing the ever-creeping idea of numbers advancement. D&D has at its core the wonderfully powerful concept of the Hit Point pool, which already grows linearly as characters advance and makes leveled characters extremely robust and therefore effective. I am uncertain whether there are any numbers in the resolution system that need to grow on top of that, or if it's all just fake progress.
  • Agree completely.

    This was a problem that 3e/PF exacerbated and that 4E took to a ridiculous degree. (Much to love about 4E but this is not one.)

    However, when 5e scaled it back, they scaled it way back.

    image

    Is this awesome? y/n
    YES it is super awesome.
    It's perfect.

    PS thanks for the snakes! I've accidentally the same thing but now that I know about it I might consider it more deliberately. OTOH… I always thought that it was kind of the nature of D&D characters to be fragile at low levels and resilient at high levels. They have resurrection and such. Or so I've heard, we've never gotten there.
  • edited April 20
    Except in the released game it does go up to +16. If you have a 20 in the ability, that's +10 right there, and then +6 for being proficient.

    But still, less than AD&D 1e through 4E.
    In 4e you can get to +37…?!
  • First of all thank you all for this thread, hearing about all of your experiences has really been enlightening. I definitely made the mistake of trying to hand out XP basically on GM fiat and would probably never do that again. This time I'm doing level ups based on attendance in my west marches style 5e office game and it's definitely an improvement. I want to try out XP for gold with whatever we play next and see what that's like.
    2097 said:

    A lot of problems that other DMs report, such as fudging dice or hp, or players getting angry b/c TPK, or DMs getting frustrated b/c they can’t challenge the players, go away in a sandbox because you’re no longer serving up the encounters to them. They seek out the encounters themselves (no, not in a “Czege principle” violating way but by going out in the Dangerous Forest) and it becomes an economic game. “How much Level do we need before we can go to Area?” becomes the recurring question. And their player skill, ingenuity in bypassing monsters, their luck on encounter tables, their builds etc all become super relevant.

    I've started to realize over the past couple of months that the things that I whine and complain about with regards to 5e are not actually things that have to do with the system. I mean sure, some of them are but most of them are actually under my control and have more to do with things like dungeon/sandbox design anyway.
    2097 said:

    Well, the big one for us is of course HP. IIRC you don’t increment HP as gradually as the other level stuff?

    Until recently I was being a huge baby about HP progression. By the time characters got to level 4-5 I would start saying things to myself like "This combat encounter is so long and it doesn't really feel like the characters are even in danger". I attributed it to 5e giving characters and monsters to much HP but I think that's baloney now. For one thing I could have had the players roll for their HP and I chose not to. I was also doing things like only stocking dungeons with "level appropriate" monsters. And even worse I stopped rolling for random encounters because I was so tired of these endless combat sequences where nothing seemed to be at stake. Of course that snowballed because without the random encounters they basically walked into static encounters with all of their resources and just brushed through them.

    The thing I latched onto when reading stuff like B/X or LL is that a red dragon has about 40hp and I said "Aha! I this is the secret to fast and exciting combat!" Of course that doesn't make any sense because the damage dealt in those games are relatively scaled down as well (is it proportional? I have no idea).

    Anyway things are going better this time around with my current game but there is still plenty of room for improvement. I think I need to be more proactive about tweaking the system and my play style and actually observing the effects of those changes the way @2097 does on this forum. It's very inspiring.

    (Also playing B/X and LL for real rather than in my head probably would probably be a helpful learning experience as well)
  • edited April 21
    A sidenote:

    I know that Ben Robbins said that in the West Marches, new characters would start at 1st level. However, after the game matured some and had more high-level characters, they switched over to new characters being half the level of the previous character.

    In successful games in this style I've seen, however, there was often a "character stable" kind of approach, which meant players also had to choose which characters to send on adventures. Will you use the powerful character? Then you're risking them (what if they die?), and the "newbies" won't get to level up. Maybe it would be better to try to get everyone to a reasonable level, instead of putting all your eggs in one basket... It's a gamble and a bit of a juggling act.
  • ebear said:

    I definitely made the mistake of trying to hand out XP basically on GM fiat and would probably never do that again.

    Yeah, thanks for reading my rambling charitably♥

    When I come across as harsh about things such as fudging or milestone XP it’s because I’ve been burned by those things myself. I can’t judge anyone for doing something that I used to do (as a kid, in the case of fudging, or a few years ago, in the case of the milestone XP campaign).

    ebear said:

    This time I’m doing level ups based on attendance in my west marches style 5e office game and it’s definitely an improvement. I want to try out XP for gold with whatever we play next and see what that’s like.

    ♥ Number one rule: ABT — always be testing♥

    ebear said:

    I’ve started to realize over the past couple of months that the things that I whine and complain about with regards to 5e are not actually things that have to do with the system. I mean sure, some of them are but most of them are actually under my control and have more to do with things like dungeon/sandbox design anyway.

    And it’s understandable why you would fall into those pattern because of some of the module designs (like Hoard of the Dragon Queen, or I think even Dragon Heist if I understand it correctly) and also that a lot of the play culture came over from the 2e/3e/4E era of adventure paths and “serving up encounters”. And a lot of that shines through in popular DM advice shows rooted in that culture of play, like Taking 20, Matt Colville, Mick Ryley…

    Basically there are three different “cultures” in 5e; those who came from the OSR and Story Games movement [two groups hate each other :bawling: but who have the exact same philosophy of coherence & system matters] & those who came from the 2e/3e/4E era. The “Robins’ Laws” era. I believe that most DMs and players of 5e are new or lapsed but they’re being influenced by material from these cultures.

    2097 said:

    Well, the big one for us is of course HP. IIRC you don’t increment HP as gradually as the other level stuff?

    Here I was specifically talking about Paul’s houserule of splitting up a level increase into its component parts, which our group doesn’t do; HP and everything works completely normally as per 5e in our game.

    ebear said:

    By the time characters got to level 4-5 I would start saying things to myself like “This combat encounter is so long and it doesn’t really feel like the characters are even in danger”.

    Well, that can happen. For example, you are standing in a place where the zombies can’t reach and you have ranged attacks and they don’t. In which case just give them the XP and say “Two hours later” in a bad Jacques Costeau voice.

    But when that doesn’t happen, I’m gonna make a new thread about how combat can go fast.

    ebear said:

    I attributed it to 5e giving characters and monsters to much HP but I think that’s baloney now. For one thing I could have had the players roll for their HP and I chose not to.

    Well, we let that be a player’s choice. However, once they do roll they can’t go “oh, I rolled a one, naw I’ll take the average instead”, they’re stuck with it.

    We’ve mathed out (but we’re not sure about this) that rolling for stats have an 80% chance of giving you something better that the standard array (so players usually go for rolled stats) and rolling for HP likely is worse (so players usually, but not always, go with the average HP).

    ebear said:

    I was also doing things like only stocking dungeons with “level appropriate” monsters.

    Well, that’s fine though. Appropriate for the dungeon level / location. Except you never know when the character are going to go there.

    ebear said:

    And even worse I stopped rolling for random encounters because I was so tired of these endless combat sequences where nothing seemed to be at stake.

    Well, I need random encounters because instead of skill checks, a lot of the time I charge them in time. Precious lamp-oil time… and at the cost of encounters.

    ebear said:

    Of course that snowballed because without the random encounters they basically walked into static encounters with all of their resources and just brushed through them.

    I almost started yet another paragraph with “Well, …”

    If the PC’s life are at stake for every encounter they would most ensuredly die.

    I mean let’s say there’s five percent of them dying each encounter. 95 percent chance of survining any given encounter. That means that their chance of surviving through 30 encounters is still only 21%. The goal is not to put them in a situation where they will assuredly die. It’s OK if they survive. We want to “play to find out”, not “play to inevitable death”. It’s OK if they die, too, of course. #LawfulEvil2097 #cruella

    There are usually other meanings to encounters.

    1. It shows the dungeon ecology at work, makes it a living place
    2. The hobos might get something from it, XP or information or items or all of that
    3. It might cost the hobos something: their life, arrows, slots, hp, hd

    Not every encounter costs them things but that’s why we fight them out, to see if they do.

    I almost skipped an encounter last Sunday, thinking “they’ve isolated one of these and they like to fight in packs” and just said “700 xp later” and they were like “are you sure?” and I said “when in doubt play it out” and it ended up costing them like 3HD, some slots, and a couple of uses of wildshape. It was also over in like 2 minutes and it was a dynamic fight with a bunch of grappling and swimming.

    ebear said:

    The thing I latched onto when reading stuff like B/X or LL is that a red dragon has about 40hp and I said “Aha! I this is the secret to fast and exciting combat!” Of course that doesn’t make any sense because the damage dealt in those games are relatively scaled down as well (is it proportional? I have no idea).

    If you want the exact lethality & odds as B/X, play B/X. You die much more in that game than in 5e. And we’ve had our share of slogs in B/X; actually much worse in many ways:

    1. AC is higher so there’s a lot higher whiff/ping factor
    2. Sometimes rolling for initiative every round (it’s group initiative [1d6 per side] but still)
    3. There’s not a lot of variety in what happens – if 5e combat sometimes devolve into “Polyhedral Yahtzee” where you’re just rolling it out, that’s what every fight in B/X is.

    The latter is partly because of my house rules around ranks and monsters going for the most delicious targets etc but also because how players have more abilities to choose from etc.

    It’s actually not a wholly good thing that our fighting rules are so awesome.

    In the OSR there’s this thing that combat should be more like war rather than some sorta art-ful karate display tournament.

    In our LL game [I was a player] we set up tripwires & glue and when the skeletons stepped in it we blasted them with color spray and then started bashing them. Ofc, the actual bashing, then, was just a Polyhedral Yahtzee roll&snooze-fest. Which I don’t mind – it’s more about what you bring to bear or what circumstances you can set up than the actual round by round tactics – but I’m not about to kick 5e out of bed, either.

  • ebear said:

    I think I need to be more proactive about tweaking the system and my play style and actually observing the effects of those changes the way @2097 does on this forum. It’s very inspiring.

    ♥♥♥

    Paul_T said:

    I know that Ben Robbins said that in the West Marches, new characters would start at 1st level. However, after the game matured some and had more high-level characters, they switched over to new characters being half the level of the previous character.

    That’s interesting to learn and that could be a good rule.

    Paul_T said:

    In successful games in this style I’ve seen, however, there was often a “character stable” kind of approach, which meant players also had to choose which characters to send on adventures. Will you use the powerful character? Then you’re risking them (what if they die?), and the “newbies” won’t get to level up. Maybe it would be better to try to get everyone to a reasonable level, instead of putting all your eggs in one basket… It’s a gamble and a bit of a juggling act.

    I like that! ♫A little bit of Ars Magica in my life♫

  • edited April 21
    Oh, I should address my heretical (but still untested) version of leveling up:

    I'm building a version of D&D that does away with linear HP increases. Basically the opposite of what D&D5 does: as you level up, you get better at doing all kinds of things, but you only become less fragile very gradually. The most you can end up with in terms of hit points is about 3x the starting amount (so, a "high-level" character in my version of D&D is like a more competent and skilled 3rd level character in normal D&D - somewhere in the realm of a 10th level 5E character in terms of aptitude but with the hit points of a 3rd-level character).

    My hope is that it keeps the game exciting and avoids that "slugfest" effect D&D can sometimes have. Even terrifying monsters can be brought down by a few powerful blows, if you're brave enough!

    (The "E6" rules for 3E were a little like this, where D&D characters maxed out at 6th level. e.g. https://dungeons.fandom.com/wiki/E6_(3.5e_Sourcebook)/Introduction
  • Wait, what? I thought you had a different model of HP and wounds already [since you saw it as meat points and you didn’t want the gradual chopping down & yelling “timber!” of a “slug fest”] so what’s the point of this?

    I can get behind a game, like Diaspora or Traveller or Cthulhu Dark, where you don’t really get better. I think that’s a great idea that solves a lot of things.

    But if you are getting better, and I’ve had great experiences with 5e and getting better and the zero-to-hero thing, I think increasing HP & damage output is the way to go.

    1 skeleton is dangerous to a level 1 hero. 17 skeletons are dangerous to a level 9 hero. The exact same statblock. Really great for sandbox games, I don’t have to do the 4E “this is a level 14 goblin”.

    (“But wait, Sandra. Chance of hitting does affect damage output directly. If my AC went up instead of my HP went up, it could be done with careful math etc such that we got the same effect as 5e has.” And yes maybe I’d do it. In my “Things I would’ve done different than 5e” thread, I might do away with HP and just have one hit one kill and just set the difficulty & ac enough that it takes a couple of clang-clang-clang until you hit. It’s difficult to do with the course granularity [not swingingess] of a d20 but any die can have its granularity become more fine with the addition of tie-breaker dice. I.e. you need to roll over 17.34; you roll a d20 which is fine 95% of the time but if you land on 17 you have to roll some tie-breaker dice.)

  • edited April 21
    Well, I'm doing something like "bounded accuracy" (which I think is a ridiculous term, but hey!) and a reduced scale for hit points... it's just that the hit point scaling is even more "bounded". ;)

    EDIT: Oh, and, on top of that, hit dice are rolled when you get hit, so you're never 100% safe, anyway.

    As far as I'm concerned, so long as AC doesn't change too much (and in my rules it would change very little), it's no big deal. Everything else can scale pretty safely, except maybe saving throws (depending on how common "save negates" stuff is in the ruleset).

    If your high-level character goes toe-to-toe with a real bad opponent, he's still fragile - the difference is that, if he does, he can hit that opponent pretty much all the time. Your thief can climb all the walls and steal all the gems, but you can still stab him to death. And so on.

    (Or are there some real, serious objections to this model? I'm not aware of any, but I wouldn't rule them out, so hit me up if you have some!)
  • It's way easier to scale getting better with HP increases than with AC increases because you have finer granularity.

    Assuming a 3e style ascending AC system, an AC increase of one single point is the equivalent of an HP increase of [average damage per attack that hits × number of attacks per day].
    So let's say you're fighting skeletons, who hit for 5 damage. If you fight what the DMG says is a reasonable number of skeletons in a day, which is 48 skeletons for a party of four level 4 characters (eight per fight, two fights per short rest, three such periods per day), an AC increase of one point is the equivalent of an increase of twelve hp. If you're at level eight and are fighting the prescribed amount of 24 skeletons per fight, 144 per day, an AC increase of one point is instead the equivalent of an increase of 36 hp. So as you can see the scaling, when scaling AC rather than HP, is non linear. That's why it's better to scale HP than to scale AC.

    Another argument in favor of having AC bound tighter than HP is because you get bigger & bigger AoE spells that hit more and more targets.

    (Again, as you know, I don't serve up "prescribed amounts of skeletons"; I run a world and there are monsters in it that the players have their characters stumble upon or seek out. This is just to show some of the math probs with AC.)

    It's the equiv argument of "why can't there be giant humans and giant bugs" well because mass increase at a different rate than area as you go up in size.


  • edited April 21
    Oh, sure. The part that I'm not doing, though, is increasing AC. No thank you, for the very reasons you mention. Combat math is much more like 5E in that sense. (In fact, AC is probably even more tightly bound in my rules than in 5E... hard to say, because I'm using a different mechanic for that altogether.)
  • But you are increasing chance to hit, right? Which, same deal.
  • Hmmmm. That's true, yes. But... either I am too tired or you're twisting my brain around. Wouldn't these numbers depend on the expected number of monsters and attacks, as well as the typical damage output?

    For example, if you're fighting 100+ skeletons per day, as you suggest, HP can be adjusted in a more subtle fashion. But if the numbers are smaller (like they are in a B/X or OD&D context), then the reverse seems to be true - a 5% difference to-hit can be a smaller effect than an extra hit point.

    And does this matter, in any case? Why is this important? For instance, we could scale up all damage and hit point numbers by a factor of 10, and thereby get even finer granularity. Or we could roll percentile dice instead a d20 to hit. Does either of those somehow improve the game for us?

    Maybe I'm just being slow, of course.

    You're saying that AC modifiers scale differently that hit point modifiers (ok!), but I'm not sure how that gets us to "it's better to scale HP than to scale AC". What criteria are we using to judge "better"? And what's the potential failure point here? What could go wrong?

    The only one I'm aware of is the problem where one side can't hit the other at all (a la GURPS), which doesn't happen if we tend to favour increasing chances "to hit" instead of AC bonuses - at worst they just both hit each other all the time, which I'd imagine is ok (works great in Into the Odd, after all! - and the random damage still keeps things uncertain).

    The math makes some sense here but I'm not sure where you're heading with this in the long term, in other words.
  • Well, heaven knows I’ve fucked up math things before so I’m not sure.

    Maybe I’m just unconsciously doing the old “blast processing” schtick rn of defending 5e’s design choices no matter what.

    “Better” = easier & more obvious for DMs, module writers & game / class / monster designers.

    The skeletons chance to-hit isn’t going up right? Because you don’t want to get in the 4E situation of having to re-scale the world wherever the PCs go. “Skeletonは Skeletonだ” is still a pretty good principle.

    So what you’re saying is that the PC’s chance to hit go up. Do their number of attacks go up as well?

    If not…

    It takes three normal weapon attacks to bring down 1 skeleton. (+5 vs AC 13, each attack deals 1d8+3.)

    That decreases to two attacks to take down a skeleton once you’ve hit… wow, you need to go up to +10 to hit, (+10 vs AC 13, each attack deals 1d8+3.) And then you can’t bring it down to fewer than two normal weapon attacks per skeleton you want to dispatch as long as the weapons deal 1d8+3.

    So a PC that can handle N skeletons at +5 to hit, and taking 3×[(N+1)×N/2] damage in the process,
    that PC can then handle N×1.5 skeletons at +10 to hit, and takes 2×[([N×1.5]+1)×[N×0.75]] damage in the process.

    For all values of N, the PC takes more damage in the latter scenario.

    (It starts out as the first scenario taking 80% of the damage of the latter, but then approaches 2/3 as N approaches infinity.)

    Now, the argument then is obv that the PC can’t “handle” N×1.5 skeletons if she takes that much more damage. So how many more skeletons can she handle if she increases her to hit from +5 to +10 (remember, any number between +5 and +9 is the same as +5 [it takes three attacks on average to fell a skellie] and any number +10 or higher is the same as +10 [it takes two attacks on average to fell a skellie]) while taking the same amount of damage (within 1 HP) for the whole fight on average?

    Well, it starts at 1.5 for a single skeleton (uh… obv… so she can handle one skeleton as easily as one and a half skeleton, rounded down) , and approaches 1.23 as N approaches infinity.

    In other words, in Skeleton World you have one very blunt knob (going from +5 to +10) and the amount of skeleton the PC can fight are these:

    • If +5 can handle 1 skeletons, then +10 can handle 1 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 2 skeletons, then +10 can handle 2 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 3 skeletons, then +10 can handle 3 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 4 skeletons, then +10 can handle 5 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 5 skeletons, then +10 can handle 6 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 6 skeletons, then +10 can handle 7 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 7 skeletons, then +10 can handle 8 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 8 skeletons, then +10 can handle 9 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 9 skeletons, then +10 can handle 11 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 10 skeletons, then +10 can handle 12 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 11 skeletons, then +10 can handle 13 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 12 skeletons, then +10 can handle 14 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 13 skeletons, then +10 can handle 16 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 14 skeletons, then +10 can handle 17 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 15 skeletons, then +10 can handle 18 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 16 skeletons, then +10 can handle 19 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 17 skeletons, then +10 can handle 20 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 18 skeletons, then +10 can handle 22 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 19 skeletons, then +10 can handle 23 skeletons
    • If +5 can handle 20 skeletons, then +10 can handle 24 skeletons

    (And then it stays at just under %22.5 more skeletons as N approaches infinity.)

  • Whereas if HP goes up the number of attacks you can take also go up, pretty linearly♥
  • Interesting analysis! I don’t think you’re wrong about that. I just have different design goals than D&D5, I think. I don’t ever want the skeletons to stop be scary.

    And I’m not faulting 5E; they did a good job on this front. I’m just looking for something else. A more low-scale progression.

    Now, a question for you:

    I scaling HP is so much easier (which it is!), then why bother increasing to hit chances at all? Why not scale everything with HP? Is it just legacy or is another purpose behind it?
  • Paul_T said:

    Interesting analysis! I don’t think you’re wrong about that. I just have different design goals than D&D5, I think. I don’t ever want the skeletons to stop be scary.

    It’s not that they are un-scary in 5e. It’s just that where 2 skeletons are scary at level 1, 15 skeletons are scary at level 9.

    Paul_T said:

    And I’m not faulting 5E; they did a good job on this front. I’m just looking for something else. A more low-scale progression.

    Well, I don’t think a game w/o any progression (Travelller, Diaspora, Cthulhu Dark) is inherently bad.

    Paul_T said:

    I scaling HP is so much easier (which it is!), then why bother increasing to hit chances at all? Why not scale everything with HP? Is it just legacy or is another purpose behind it?

    I’ve thought about this since 5e was released and I haven’t found a reason, except the one you propose: I believe it’s legacy.

    PS. Here’s a horrifying fact about me and my DMing….

    I know a lot about the encounter math. If I never use the CR system to set up encounters, why would I bother to learn this stuff (which was easily the difficultest part of 5e until XGE came out)? The reason is…

    because some spell summon monsters or animate furniture or whatever, and I wanted to find out which spells the spellcasting enemies could cast that were the most devastating and brutal spells possible and that includes doing a lot of encounter math to see which, if any, of the summonable monsters are as efficient as a good old Blight or Fireball :bawling::bawling::bawling: #Cruella #LawfulEvil2097

  • Our OSR campaign (over 100 sessions, four scores of casualties) has run into some trouble regarding replacements.

    (We always start new PCs at level 1 and use a geometric XP scale, BTW.)

    After the party reached name-level (level 6 in my homebrew) there were some bitter losses, so the players put their current quest (G2: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl) on hold, feeling too weak to handle it (i.e. half the PCs were name-level and the other half low-level).

    Next, they started with new characters in Dyson's Delve to level up replacements for the name-level group.

    Then they ran into a scary monster (random restock from my own tables) practically immune to magic and put Dyson's Delve on hold to level up some fighter PCs specifically to help deal with that.

    So right now we're following the third separate group of PCs and and recognize we have a bit of a problem...

    Long-term, I plan on changing the rules so you have to pick a class before you roll your abilities (funny that Sarah should mention this very approach this week). This should help with party composition (and has other interesting effects I think).

    Short-term, we plan on uniting all PCs into a giant stable - introduce them to each other, so to speak - so the name-levels might perhaps remove the roadbloack in Dyson's Delve etc. (but not get involved any further because - as Eero points out - continually risking high-level characters in adventures beneath them is a losing proposition).

    Additionally, I think we also need to adjust expectations (and possibly the design) of high-level quests. I think it is unrealistic to expect everyone to have a name-level character at the same time. I think a mere two or three name-level characters should form the nucleus of a party for serious quests (with everyone else playing low-level extras who quickly gain a few levels if they are lucky enough to not get caught in area effects like fireball or trample attacks).
  • Your conclusions are very similar to mine, Johann - and let me say that it's a pleasure to hear about how lethal, sandboxy and stable-y your campaign is becoming; I find these to be high virtues. I am also amazed that you're tackling the Giant series with 6th level characters [grin].

    I am very much in favour of unevenly leveled parties, and I am also in favour of doing the exact things you're doing as a group: exploring the strategic battlespace, leveling up characters, filling up the rosters and finding the approachs that work for you. So as far as I'm concerned, anything's cool here. It would be a shame to lose track of the original high-level adventure skein you were following, but so far it seems that you have the overall picture well in hand.

    Using a higher-level character as a battering ram to level up some weaklings is an excellent approach to leveraging a developed campaign to my mind. My religious relationship to starting at 1st level shouldn't be mistaken for some sort of desire to have the campaign remain low-level for all time; I just think that players should approach the problem holistically and solve it with the resources at their disposal rather than just give out free XP.

    I am of the mind that generally speaking a 5th level character should be well able to seize leadership in a 1st level group and take them through some low-level dungeons. Maybe a few die on the way, but it's unlikely for the leader to die, and as long as rewarding adventures continue to be found, it'll be no time at all until those 1st-levelers are 3rd level, and then a bit after that 5th - at which point the 5th-leveler is level 6 himself, and the party is solidly mid-level. And it presumably doesn't take 20 sessions, as it seems to take us when starting from zero, thanks to the presence of the mid-level battering ram.

    Alternatively, as you say, a firm core of mid-levelers can just take a bunch of no-level newbs into a mid-level adventure with them as redshirts. Sure, half may die on the way, but any that survive even a shorter adventure are sure to hit 2nd level even on a meager share of the spoils. They'll grow or die rather quickly even just squiring for their betters. You might consider doubling the number of entrant redshirts by having the players with name level characters run some share-eating retainer NPCs on the side; get more redshirts than just the number of players into it, and you improve the chances of even some surviving. You can then turn those heretofore-generic 2nd level retainers into player characters later as necessary.

    Or, consider the opposite, hands-off approach: why not have the surviving high-levelers figure out some low-level questing that needs doing, and have them hire new low-level adventurers to do it? A higher-level character will presumably encounter trouble and adventure that they are motivated to address but don't want to do themselves. They can finance a lower-level party, improving its chances, and the reward money they offer is XP-worthy same as any (if NPC rewards are XP worthy, of course - some campaigns have only dungeon treasure count for that, I hear). Adult players will of course keep the financing and rewards to realistic and reasonable levels, the metagaming possibility is rather impossible to miss. Still, a juicy adventure hook with solid financing and a reward on top isn't something to ignore when you're 1st level.

    The thing I like about this sort of campaign approach the most is the variety: instead of running through the GM's string-of-pearls, or even just managing our own rise through a sandbox, we're doing a varied tapestry of play. Getting some characters to high levels doesn't mean abandoning the low-level shenanigans, it just means adding all kinds of weird variations into the mix. It's rather obvious in my experience that a high-level adventurer will necessarily develop their own undergrowth of lower level concerns that require the players to play stuff at all levels rather than just aiming higher and higher all the time.

    And yeah, I am with you on the possible need to rethink what high level adventures even are like. I am unwilling to commit to a stance at this time due to not having sufficient experience with high level D&D, but my initial feel is that the nature of the adventures should probably change more radically than they do in the textual tradition; your average TSR high level module may not be as true and legitimate to real implications of the wargaming as I'd like. A topic for another time, preferably after we get a campaign to the lofty heights of the Giants series ourselves.
  • A question I’d love to hear your thoughts on (aimed at everyone!):

    What if “starting” an adventure had diegetic consequences?

    In other words, we know what happens when you “finish” an adventure: maybe you slay the monster, clear out the dungeon, and return with wealth and magic. But what happens, in terms of consequences, when you don’t complete the adventure?

    If you start such and such an adventure and then just leave and do something else (as in Johann’s account), should there be some consequences?

    Have you stirred up the hornet’s nest? Awoken a sleeping evil? Started a war? Or left the unlocked tomb to be pillaged by others?

    Would it make sense to attach meaningful consequences to the decision to “drop” an adventure?
  • I do that all the time. The adventure starts living its own life after it's been "activated" in the campaign. This generally happens when the PCs start experiencing it, but even just blatantly ignoring a very specific adventure hook might do it: once I've established that there's a lich living thataway, it's just going to be a matter of time before the lich dungeon does something.

    This is all the more true if the adventurers actually visit the adventure, even in a superficial fashion. As an example of how far this sort of thing can go, I once GMed the very first scene of the mid-level AA12, "The Barrow Mound of Gravemoor" to our group. After the party abandoned the adventure (they were clearly looking for a softer target), well, it just so happens that this particular adventure revolves around a wight with a necromantic artifact - so the wight did as a wight does, and lo and behold, later on the Italian Wars (the campaign was set in 14th century Northern Italy at that point, pretty much) had a new participant in the form of an undead army rampaging about. The original adventure design was the direct implication here: it's very clear about the goals and modus operandi of the villain, everything is going to go to hell relatively quickly of nobody delves the Barrow Mound. The PCs started seriously combating the threat at this point, which lead to a delightful campaign arc as they stole the treasury of Milan (by then thoroughly zombie-infested hellscape), fought in various pitched battles against the undead threat, had their own mercenary company contract ghoulism (subtly memetically infectious in that campaign) and so on.

    You never know how safe it is to leave a situation be. Some other adventure locations can be perfectly static, there's nothing "going on" aside from some inconsequential dungeon ecology reshuffling as monster A eats monster B and monster C moves in from the countryside.
  • 2097 said:

    Yeah, thanks for reading my rambling charitably♥

    When I come across as harsh about things such as fudging or milestone XP it’s because I’ve been burned by those things myself. I can’t judge anyone for doing something that I used to do (as a kid, in the case of fudging, or a few years ago, in the case of the milestone XP campaign).

    For sure, I mean at the end of the day the only people I hold my self accountable to in terms of my play style are the people I actually play with. I think everyone in the campaign I've been describing here actually loved it (not that they had ever played in any other 5e campaigns before). I don't think there was really anything wrong with what I was bringing to the table but like you said so eloquently:
    2097 said:

    When DM serves out the levels to suit the (upcoming) encounters, that’s almost as bad as the DM serving out the encounters to suit the player’s levels. You become reliant on challenge ratings or fudging or whatever, or if you refuse those things (which I do) you deserve the ire of the players when things go wrong. If you served the dish, you’re accountable for the recipe.

    I got sooo tired of trying to serve that dish. I got really burnt out and eventually suggested everyone switch to Dungeon World, which actually went pretty well for everyone and was a much better fit for what we were actually doing. That game gets a lot of flack (a lot of is totally on point too), but PbtA was much better vehicle for the high fantasy tropes we were trying to hit at a lot less cost to my sanity. But I'm off topic.
    2097 said:

    ebear said:

    I was also doing things like only stocking dungeons with “level appropriate” monsters.

    Well, that’s fine though. Appropriate for the dungeon level / location. Except you never know when the character are going to go there.

    It's definitely a matter of degrees, I'm not saying every goblin lair should have a beholder in it. But at the time I was saying things to myself like "I'm not going to even consider monsters over CR 2 for this portion of the point crawl", which I do think is boring. I also wasn't randomizing the number of monsters encountered. Basically I was trying to make everything seem consistent and "fair", I looked at my players and thought "they're never going to run from an encounter" (because I wouldn't let them learn that lesson) so I made sure to never put in encounters they would objectively need to run away from.
    2097 said:

    ebear said:

    And even worse I stopped rolling for random encounters because I was so tired of these endless combat sequences where nothing seemed to be at stake.

    Well, I need random encounters because instead of skill checks, a lot of the time I charge them in time. Precious lamp-oil time… and at the cost of encounters.

    Yeah I actually think this is necessary even if you are using skill checks (not that I'm advocating for them). Most exploratory skills (lock picking, searching, etc) don't have an interesting consequence for failure unless there is some sort of time crunch. There are other ways of making time felt (rising water levels or something) but random encounters are pretty handy.
    2097 said:

    ebear said:

    Of course that snowballed because without the random encounters they basically walked into static encounters with all of their resources and just brushed through them.

    I almost started yet another paragraph with “Well, …”

    If the PC’s life are at stake for every encounter they would most ensuredly die.

    I mean let’s say there’s five percent of them dying each encounter. 95 percent chance of survining any given encounter. That means that their chance of surviving through 30 encounters is still only 21%. The goal is not to put them in a situation where they will assuredly die. It’s OK if they survive. We want to “play to find out”, not “play to inevitable death”. It’s OK if they die, too, of course. #LawfulEvil2097 #cruella

    I realize they way I posed everything in that post made it seem like I'm just advocating for ramping up the CR of every encounter in my campaign until characters start dying but it's really not what I meant haha. Here's some context: I've never had a character die in any of my 5e games. I haven't played as much as you by a long shot, but I've played < 50 sessions. In the particular campaign I've been describing I we only got down to death saving throws on two occasions.

    I'm really not advocating for making my game "harder" (even though it's almost literally what I said), that would be just as bad as making it "fair". When I make a ruling or a judgment I try to make one that is a consistent with the fiction as possible, and whatever leeway is leftover (which is a lot whenever you are talking about fantasy) goes in favor of the players. I know that about myself and I'm not really sorry about it.

    So what I really want is to put the adversity the characters face as much as possible under the purview of things that either:
    1. The players control (like their geographic location)
    2. The system controls (random encounter rolls with explicit and transparent triggers)
    2097 said:

    ebear said:

    The thing I latched onto when reading stuff like B/X or LL is that a red dragon has about 40hp and I said “Aha! I this is the secret to fast and exciting combat!” Of course that doesn’t make any sense because the damage dealt in those games are relatively scaled down as well (is it proportional? I have no idea).

    If you want the exact lethality & odds as B/X, play B/X. You die much more in that game than in 5e. And we’ve had our share of slogs in B/X; actually much worse in many ways:

    1. AC is higher so there’s a lot higher whiff/ping factor
    2. Sometimes rolling for initiative every round (it’s group initiative [1d6 per side] but still)
    3. There’s not a lot of variety in what happens – if 5e combat sometimes devolve into “Polyhedral Yahtzee” where you’re just rolling it out, that’s what every fight in B/X is.

    The latter is partly because of my house rules around ranks and monsters going for the most delicious targets etc but also because how players have more abilities to choose from etc.

    It’s actually not a wholly good thing that our fighting rules are so awesome.

    In the OSR there’s this thing that combat should be more like war rather than some sorta art-ful karate display tournament.

    Yeah totally, and was really trying to highlight my own misconceptions here. The thing that appeals to me about B/X now is the tighter focus of play, and a clear system for facilitating it (essentially removing my own judgement where possible).

    I'm definitely familiar with the whiff/ping factor as it comes up in Dungeon Crawl Classics all the time especially during the character funnel. I also look at some of the LL classes and think... who's gonna choose that over a 5e character??? But regardless I think B/X has a lot teach me, and it seems like an easier place to shake my old habits than starting over again with 5e. I'd rather come back to it with fresh eyes.

    Also thank you for all your responses. I'd of course love to continue this conversation but I'm not expecting a response from you here, I'm flattered by you taking the time that you have already. Mostly I just needed to write this in order to process what you said!
  • That's great, Eero. Exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about.

    Although this thread made me ponder whether setting more "dangerous" stakes for a lot of adventures could be an interesting sort of incentive to "finish" a task once it's "opened".

    It's a little artificial, in a sense, but it could be a nice frame for some of the players' decisions: the more directions they explore in, the more trouble they may have to face later.

    I'll have to think on it some, I suppose.

    Is that a dynamic that comes up in your campaign, whether intentionally or unintentionally?

    It would work very organically and naturally in a "hostile environment" premised campaign, like the Mindflayer's Matrix campaign frame I came up with some long time ago.
  • Johann said:

    Long-term, I plan on changing the rules so you have to pick a class before you roll your abilities (funny that Sarah should mention this very approach this week).


    Yes, that might be the ticket for you guys. We don’t have it as a table-wide rule, everyone does things differently for every character, it’s kind of a chaotic&unorganized area of our process rn.

    Paul_T said:

    What if “starting” an adventure had diegetic consequences?

    That’s the norm, isn’t it? I was listening to a 4E podcast (“Behind the DM’s Screen”) and they were doing this. @skinnyghost has also talked about doing this all the time.

    I was thinking of doing this for my next campaign: the “start” isn’t when the players go there. The “start” is when the first rumors are rolled. I.e. investing the rumor table itself with mechanical significance.

    ebear said:

    But at the time I was saying things to myself like “I’m not going to even consider monsters over CR 2 for this portion of the point crawl”, which I do think is boring. I also wasn’t randomizing the number of monsters encountered. Basically I was trying to make everything seem consistent and “fair”, I looked at my players and thought “they’re never going to run from an encounter” (because I wouldn’t let them learn that lesson) so I made sure to never put in encounters they would objectively need to run away from.

    Oh, ok! Then yes, I think you’re on the right track identifying this as a problem and trying to work with it.

    ebear said:

    Yeah I actually think this is necessary even if you are using skill checks (not that I’m advocating for them). Most exploratory skills (lock picking, searching, etc) don’t have an interesting consequence for failure unless there is some sort of time crunch. There are other ways of making time felt (rising water levels or something) but random encounters are pretty handy.

    For the things where there are rolls, such as picking locks or bending bars or lifting gates, I do “one roll, that’s it”. Or “let it ride” as it’s sometimes called. Couldn’t pick the lock? I guess that lock’s too difficult for ya! The flipside is that a high stealth roll lasts for a really long time too. (Until you mess up and make some noise or something.)

    ebear said:

    I realize they way I posed everything in that post made it seem like I’m just advocating for ramping up the CR of every encounter in my campaign until characters start dying but it’s really not what I meant haha. Here’s some context: I’ve never had a character die in any of my 5e games. I haven’t played as much as you by a long shot, but I’ve played < 50 sessions. In the particular campaign I’ve been describing I we only got down to death saving throws on two occasions.

    Oh, wow! We had people dying in the first cave in LMoP. We had a player who had played a lot of 3e and he charged bravely into battle on his own in the biggest room and when the monsters not only chopped him down but also chopped up his death-save-rolling body racking up fails on him so he ultimately died, he was like “Oh. OK. I see what kind of game this is”. 5 years later he’s still with the group♥

    ebear said:

    I’m really not advocating for making my game “harder” (even though it’s almost literally what I said), that would be just as bad as making it “fair”. When I make a ruling or a judgment I try to make one that is a consistent with the fiction as possible, and whatever leeway is leftover (which is a lot whenever you are talking about fantasy) goes in favor of the players. I know that about myself and I’m not really sorry about it.

    I get you. I used to be that way before I found D&D and sandbox games. Now I’m like… ok, so the module says they’re facing a spellcaster with these particular spells… how can I maximally mess the players over? Scry & fry baby!

    But I don’t want to kill them directly. I’m in the business of selling rope♥

    It’s a brutal fight to the death between the players and the prep, with me as impartial judge.

    ebear said:

    So what I really want is to put the adversity the characters face as much as possible under the purview of things that either:

    1. The players control (like their geographic location)
    2. The system controls (random encounter rolls with explicit and transparent triggers)

    Yes! The gloracle!

    ebear said:

    The thing that appeals to me about B/X now is the tighter focus of play, and a clear system for facilitating it (essentially removing my own judgement where possible).

    Oh, yes! I def do use the exploration turns idea from B/X.

    ebear said:

    But regardless I think B/X has a lot teach me, and it seems like an easier place to shake my old habits than starting over again with 5e. I’d rather come back to it with fresh eyes.

    I can get behind that! I hear B/X Essentials by Necrotic Gnome is a really good version.

    I’ve got the most experience as a player with LL and LotFP (the latter being much better than the former) and a Swedish game Svärd och Svartkonst, and as a 5e DM I mostly use ACKS, the Rules Cyclopedia, and AD&D 2e to crib from. Not that the 2e rules have worked particularly well for anything. :bawling: Those weather tables have got to be completly unplaytested :bawling:

    ebear said:

    Also thank you for all your responses. I’d of course love to continue this conversation but I’m not expecting a response from you here, I’m flattered by you taking the time that you have already. Mostly I just needed to write this in order to process what you said!

    NP! Being the best DM in the world I need to share my knowledge with everyone so that I can finally get to be a player someday! I have this idea for an enchanter-school wizard with the noble background. With retainers to carry her backpacks and torches, and posh silk dresses, and immaculate make up, and a necklace made of human teeth.

    Answering questions helps me sort my thoughts out. Keep ’em coming!

  • Paul_T said:

    Although this thread made me ponder whether setting more "dangerous" stakes for a lot of adventures could be an interesting sort of incentive to "finish" a task once it's "opened".

    It's a little artificial, in a sense, but it could be a nice frame for some of the players' decisions: the more directions they explore in, the more trouble they may have to face later.

    I'll have to think on it some, I suppose.

    Is that a dynamic that comes up in your campaign, whether intentionally or unintentionally?

    Well, yes. I personally consider this the nature of the transformation from low-level play to mid-level play: as the adventurers uncork various adventures and their consequences (whether the players engage the adventure or leave it bubbling) start piling up, and the adventurers experience the setting in general and learn about it, an overall strategic theater of operations emerges. It's no longer just you and a dungeon; it's you and a complex set of emergent considerations all over the landscape.
  • 2097 said:

    1 skeleton is dangerous to a level 1 hero. 17 skeletons are dangerous to a level 9 hero. The exact same statblock. Really great for sandbox games, I don’t have to do the 4E “this is a level 14 goblin

    Hi Sandra, I'm not sure if you're aware but 17 level 1 monsters are just as dangerous to a 9th level PC in 4E as 17 CR 1 monsters are to a 9th level PC in 5E. The "Bounded Accuracy" restriction only works as a method of flattening power accumulation if all other variables are the same and they're really not: from Levels 1 to 10, the mean difficulty curve (as a metric of increased DPR output and incoming DPR mitigation) of a 4E monster is approximately 18% per +1 level whereas from CR 1 to CR 10 the mean difficulty curve of a 5E monster is approximately 25% per +1 CR. So, contrary to popular opinion and 5E marketing spin, 5E monsters actually have a steeper power curve than 4E monsters.

    The issue is that running 65+ low-level monsters as an encounter is pretty boring and shitty no matter what system you're using. The fact the 5E monster has a 25% chance to hit while the 4E monster has a 10% chance to hit is largely irrelevant here: they're both still missing the overwhelming majority of the time and the only chance they have to take the PCs is through sheer numbers and the law of averages. 4E simply offers a more fun and reasonable alternative: re-contextualize the lower-level monster in a different category. This is really only possible because 4E monsters' XP curve matches up with the difficulty curve (whereas 5E's XP curve is almost twice its difficulty curve).

    Also, the 4E DMG recommends using monsters up to 6 levels below and 4 levels above the player characters. That's an 11-level span here. The idea you need to "re-scale" the world every couple levels is largely bunk.

    Trent
  • Hi Trent! 4E isn’t all bad! I’m trying to rewrite the spell list in an abbreviated form (to get an overview for me – each spell still refers back to the actual page number in the PHB) and I’m seeing that “the 4E-ese language” (even though it’s incomprehensible to me, I’m making kinda my own variant) is more concise.

    Trent_W said:

    Hi Sandra, I’m not sure if you’re aware but 17 level 1 monsters are just as dangerous to a 9th level PC in 4E as 17 CR 1 monsters are to a 9th level PC in 5E. The “Bounded Accuracy” restriction only works as a method of flattening power accumulation if all other variables are the same and they’re really not: from Levels 1 to 10, the mean difficulty curve (as a metric of increased DPR output and incoming DPR mitigation) of a 4E monster is approximately 18% per +1 level whereas from CR 1 to CR 10 the mean difficulty curve of a 5E monster is approximately 25% per +1 CR. So, contrary to popular opinion and 5E marketing spin, 5E monsters actually have a steeper power curve than 4E monsters.

    I was thinking about this a bit when I was talking to Paul.

    I want the DPR to increase for higher CR monsters. Through harder hits and more attacks/actions. The fact that increased accuracy is also part of that DPR increase, I don’t see as a big selling point for 5e; I’d like an even tighter bind. But I can hardrly complain, when it’s the most tightly bound edition of all time. Tight&cozy.

    Trent_W said:

    The issue is that running 65+ low-level monsters as an encounter is pretty boring and shitty no matter what system you’re using.

    I know for a fact that that’s incorrect and that it is fucking awesome in 5e. We just ran a fight where six skeletons per round arrived. It was great!

    Running 65 weenies with miniatures would be tedious. But with fighting.pdf and my paper “spreadsheet” it’s fun to run even hundreds of monsters!

    Trent_W said:

    The fact the 5E monster

    Hey, you convinced me to start spelling it 4E (a la TBP) as a courtesy to you but it’s 5e not 5E! It’s fifth edition not fifth EDITION.

    Trent_W said:

    The fact the 5E monster has a 25% chance to hit while the 4E monster has a 10% chance to hit is largely irrelevant here

    So one in four rolls isn’t meaningfully different from one in ten rolls according to you?

    Hitting on a 16 and up still feels like there’s a point in grabbing the dice while hitting only on a 19 or 20 makes me just wanna give up.

    Trent_W said:

    they’re both still missing the overwhelming majority of the time and the only chance they have to take the PCs is through sheer numbers and the law of averages.

    The Mob Rules! P250 in the 5e DMG! Monsters hitting on 16 and above, well, you just count up the number of monsters and divide by four and that’s how many that hits each round.

    Trent_W said:

    4E simply offers a more fun and reasonable alternative: re-contextualize the lower-level monster in a different category.

    DO NOT WANT

    The whole “these used to be skirmishers but are minions now” thing… I mean ideally I don’t want to tailor-make encounters at all. I want there to be a game world.

    Trent_W said:

    This is really only possible because 4E monsters’ XP curve matches up with the difficulty curve (whereas 5E’s XP curve is almost twice its difficulty curve).

    What in the hecking heck are you talking about darling?!

    Amount of “medium” encounters per level:

    5e:

    6 9 18 26 28 38 45 53 58 70 62 60 63 66 69 70 67 72 72

    4E:

    10 18 25 31 37 40 43 47 51 52 53 55 58 57 57 59 61 59 59 62 65 61 60 61 64 61 61 63 66

    Looks pretty darn similar to me!

    (Just in case someone was wondering,

    4E’s thirty levels normalized to 5e’s 20:

    10 18 41 52 62 68 77 79 84 86 87 90 89 91 96 90 93 93 93 97

    But I don’t think that’s fair to 4E.)

    Trent_W said:

    Also, the 4E DMG recommends using monsters up to 6 levels below and 4 levels above the player characters. That’s an 11-level span here. The idea you need to “re-scale” the world every couple levels is largely bunk.

    The RC says 3 below, 5 above (page 285). Encounter level can go 2 levels below, and then monsters in turn should stay within the 3 level span of that encounter level (so one lower or one higher). So that’s a three level span per encounter. Not bunk!

    Moreover, saying 4E isn’t a game where encounters are tailored to specific levels is something I can’t get behind.

    Both to the other more OSR-y playstyle where it’s more of a world and the heroes&hobos can just run into whatever, and to 4E, some of whose fans sometimes have touted this style of encounter building as a thing they really like about the system.

    Above all… what are you trying to say here? That 5e should go back to how 4E worked, that 4E was somehow better? You’re not really selling it with the mere eleven level span (or nine-level span in the RC) and the idea of recontextualizing and custom-building encounters.

    Or are you saying that 5e while it was based on 4E and improved on 4E, it didn’t improve enough? I can definitely get behind that, but 5e is still the best game I have ever played.

  • 2097 said:

    Agree completely.

    This was a problem that 3e/PF exacerbated and that 4E took to a ridiculous degree. (Much to love about 4E but this is not one.)

    However, when 5e scaled it back, they scaled it way back.

    This is incorrect. 4E's attack bonus curve is approximately +1 per level. 3E's attack bonus curve varies by class because of the different BAB schedules but for Fighter types (which your table is comparing) it is way, way, way more than +1 per level because it isn't factoring in feats, magic items, or ability score increases. A Fighter's actual attack bonus curve in 3E/PF is closer to +1.5 to +2 per level. 4E scaled the attack bonus curve way back compared to 3E. The fact that it has a higher maximum level does not change this (and is really comparing apples to oranges, quite frankly).

    And, yes, while 5E scaled the attack bonus curve back compared even to 4E it does not do so to the extent that is being depicted in the chart. Check out Blog of Holding's 5E MM on a Business Card and the statistical analysis it entails (which is more accurate than the horrible advice for designing your own monsters in 5E's DMG). 5E's monster math assumes an attack bonus curve of approximately 1/2 per CR for attacks and saves and 1/3 per level for Armor Class. Mike Mearls has given advice to this effect on Twitter as well, that adding 1/2 the monster's CR to its attack and saves gets you where you need to be in terms of creating a custom monster.

    In actual practice, 3E's attack curve is more like +1.5 per level, 4E's is +1 per level (assuming players are using the expertise feats otherwise its less), and 5E's is +1/2 per level. If you cap your campaign to 10 levels (which apparently data indicates the vast majority of groups tend to do), that is an average of +13.5 (3E), +9 (4E), and +4.5 (5E) per nine levels of Fighter, approximately.

    Trent
  • 5e’s DMG says that 17 CR 1 monsters is an appropriate matchup for a party of four level 16 characters. (XGE instead suggests that instead 48 CR 1 monsters are appropriate at that level.)

    In 4E, the DM is in violation of the rules if the character run into such an encounter. (So sandbox games need to do some house ruling.) A standard TL1 character is 100 xp. But just counting XP and CR it’d be a match for a party of four level 22 characters. Even a minion character at that TL has to be over a 1000 xp though.

    A TL 1 standard is supposed to have +6 to hit, right? A TL 22 minion is supposed to have around +27 to hit.

    Trent_W said:

    And, yes, while 5E scaled the attack bonus curve back compared even to 4E it does not do so to the extent that is being depicted in the chart.

    I wrote that already. It’s because, as you say, the graph doesn’t take ASIs into account.

    Trent_W said:

    Check out Blog of Holding’s 5E MM on a Business Card and the statistical analysis it entails (which is more accurate than the horrible advice for designing your own monsters in 5E’s DMG).

    Wow, jinx, I was just reading that page when the notification that you had posted came up! I was looking for it to see what attack bonus of a TL22 minion would be. (Yes, I wrote the first three paragraphs of this post before then adding my response to your new post into the same post.)

    Trent_W said:

    5E’s monster math assumes an attack bonus curve of approximately 1/2 per CR for attacks and saves and 1/3 per level for Armor Class. Mike Mearls has given advice to this effect on Twitter as well, that adding 1/2 the monster’s CR to its attack and saves gets you where you need to be in terms of creating a custom monster.

    I know; the conversion rules for running old TSR monsters is based on this as well. You add half HD to 2.

    Trent_W said:

    In actual practice, 3E’s attack curve is more like +1.5 per level, 4E’s is +1 per level (assuming players are using the expertise feats otherwise its less), and 5E’s is +1/2 per level. If you cap your campaign to 10 levels (which apparently data indicates the vast majority of groups tend to do), that is an average of +13.5 (3E), +9 (4E), and +4.5 (5E) per nine levels of Fighter, approximately.

    So you’re still saying 5e did a thing that I (Sandra) likes—binding accuracy tight af—better than any other edition? So what are we even arguing about? I should start playing 4E because it’s better than the edition I think is the crappiest edition of all time, 3e? I already knew 4E was less bad than 3e!

    And 3e goes to +20 (or so I thought at the time I wrote that post, not literally three minutes later when I had realized it only looked at BAB/prof, not ASIs), whereas 4E goes to +30!

  • edited April 22
    2097 said:

    Above all… what are you trying to say here? That 5e should go back to how 4E worked, that 4E was somehow better? You’re not really selling it with the mere eleven level span (or nine-level span in the RC) and the idea of recontextualizing and custom-building encounters.

    Or are you saying that 5e while it was based on 4E and improved on 4E, it didn’t improve enough? I can definitely get behind that, but 5e is still the best game I have ever played

    Hi Sandra, sorry I don't really have the time to do the point-by-point reply so I just wanted to address your response as a whole.

    My overall point is not that 5e should or should not change any particular way nor do I think it particularly "improved" upon 4e in regards to monster design and encounter building rules (in some of the player-facing rules, yes there are improvements in my opinion). Rather, my point is that 4e is often misrepresented in these types of discussions. What I'm doing is correcting misinformation about what I play, not trying to tell anyone what they should or should not play. I just want to make that clear.

    The issue with the mathematical analysis you're making is you are not taking into account the full array of numerical values that comprise a character's efficacy in combat: attack bonus, defense value, hit points, and average damage all combine to determine a creature's outgoing DPR as well as their ability to mitigate incoming DPR. You're just looking at attack bonus in a vacuum. So, yes, while a 4e monster's attack bonus goes up by +1 per level vs the 5e monster's +1/2 per CR (or, as I would put it more usefully in this discussion, a +8% increase in DPR vs a +4% increase in DPR approximately), the 4e monster's hit points only go up +8 per level vs the 5e monster's increase of +15 per CR and the 4e monster's damage only goes up by +1 per level vs the 5e monster's +3 per CR.

    If you take the average stats of a CR1 through CR10 monster and factor in the increase in DPR output afforded by attack bonus and damage and average that with the increase in DPR mitigation afforded by AC and hit point gain, you get a mean difficulty curve of about +25% from CR n to CR n+1. If you do the same for XP values (comparing the difference between n and n+1), you will find a mean XP curve of +48% which is why I say the difficulty curve does not match up with the XP curve --- there is a reason 5e's encounter building rules are notorious for being ridiculously easy on the players.

    If you do the same for a 4e monster and compare a level 1 through level 10 monster, you will get a mean difficulty curve of about +18% from level n to level n+1 and a mean XP curve of, shockingly, +18% from level n to level n+1. Now, the figures for both of these are of course simply statistical averages and the difficulty curve for both games is sharper at the first few levels and become progressively less sharp at higher levels.

    Anyway, this is somewhat beside the point. In both 4e and 5e you need somewhere in the ballpark of 10 to 15 CR1/L1 monsters per 9th level PC to defeat the party. And, while yes the 5e CR1 has about a 20% better chance to hit they are still no more of a threat than a 4e L1 is because 5e expects a +24 damage difference between CR1 and CR9 whereas 4e expects a +8 damage difference between Lvl1 and Lvl9.

    I hope I'm explaining my reasoning here well. I have a feeling I'm not communicating my points very clearly... something my math students can well attest to! :)

    (I'll try to remember the number-E vs number-e issue in the future.)

    Trent
  • edited April 22
    2097 said:

    So you’re still saying 5e did a thing that I (Sandra) likes—binding accuracy tight af—better than any other edition? So what are we even arguing about? I should start playing 4E because it’s better than the edition I think is the crappiest edition of all time, 3e? I already knew 4E was less bad than 3e!

    And 3e goes to +20 (or so I thought at the time I wrote that post, not literally three minutes later when I had realized it only looked at BAB/prof, not ASIs), whereas 4E goes to +30!

    Sorry for not communicating my point better. I was addressing the point that 4e had a sharper attack bonus curve than 3e. It does not and actually scaled back 3e's curve almost as much as 5e scaled back 4e's curve.

    A weapon attack bonus in 4e can be as high as +38 (although only a Fighter and Rogue can attain this by virtue of their class features) and an implement attack can be as high as +34. Although again, this is misleading as 4e has maximum level of 30th level. A more meaningful comparison would be to look at the attack bonus curve of each respective game which yields the +1.5x, +1x, and +0.5x values I indicated earlier.

    Its important to note that 4e's attack bonus curve (as a measure of probability not raw numbers) is more similar to pre-WotC versions of D&D as well. Both 3e and 5e are kind of the outliers here.

    Trent
  • Trent_W said:

    […]nor do I think it particularly “improved” upon 4e in regards to monster design and encounter building rules[…]What I’m doing is correcting misinformation about what I play, not trying to tell anyone what they should or should not play.

    OK, but the brief mention that I made of 4E in a post featuring on a diagram that I, myself, three minutes later noted was wrong because it didn’t note ASI’s is not ground for you to say outright insulting things like

    Trent_W said:

    haven’t critically scrutinized some of 5e’s more questionable marketing claims.

    and

    Trent_W said:

    The issue with the mathematical analysis you’re making is you are not taking into account the full array of numerical values that comprise a character’s efficacy in combat: attack bonus, defense value, hit points, and average damage all combine to determine a creature’s outgoing DPR as well as their ability to mitigate incoming DPR. You’re just looking at attack bonus in a vacuum.

    That is frankly bullshit. I’m usually all hearts & happy happy joy joy on here, but these sorts of claims can be really hurtful to my reputation. Someone might lurk through this thread and believe you. Me saying that 4E to-hit goes up by +30 across the 30 levels was more than 3e going up by +20, which we both pointed out was a mistake—including me in the very next post is hardly a serious slag on 4E’s rep but you putting my math skills and my critical analysis skills into question is rude and hurtful.

    Didn’t you see this post? I did analyze monster AC, monster to-hit, monster HP, monster number of attacks, hero AC, hero to-hit, hero HP and hero number of attacks in detail.

    Including the fact that the skeleton group’s total DPR decreases each round as the number of skeletons are killed.

    Trent_W said:

    So, yes, while a 4e monster’s attack bonus goes up by +1 per level vs the 5e monster’s +1/2 per CR (or, as I would put it more usefully in this discussion, a +8% increase in DPR vs a +4% increase in DPR approximately), the 4e monster’s hit points only go up +8 per level vs the 5e monster’s increase of +15 per CR and the 4e monster’s damage only goes up by +1 per level vs the 5e monster’s +3 per CR.

    That’s what my entire subsequent discussion with Paul was about!

    I know that the damage output and HP go up by level in 5e, that’s exactly what I was trying to argue in favor of doing when he said that HP was more tightly bound that accuracy in his game.

    Trent_W said:

    If you take the average stats of a CR1 through CR10 monster and factor in the increase in DPR output afforded by attack bonus and damage and average that with the increase in DPR mitigation afforded by AC and hit point gain, you get a mean difficulty curve of about +25% from CR n to CR n+1.

    So by “difficulty” you meant DPR?

    Let’s look at it another way.

    Here is how many attacks it takes for a lone hero to kill a monster, and vice versa. HkM/MkH, at levels one through ten and CRs one fourth through 10. All monsters in the SRD of each CR averaged together.

    Hero levelCR1/412345678910
    14/57/510/415/520/426/429/337/333/346/350/3
    24/87/811/515/720/626/529/537/433/446/350/4
    34/117/1111/715/1020/826/729/637/533/646/550/5
    44/166/159/1012/1316/1021/923/830/726/737/540/7
    54/195/188/1211/1615/1219/1021/1027/824/834/636/8
    63/255/237/159/2213/1616/1218/1222/1020/1128/829/10
    73/295/277/179/2413/1816/1418/1423/1120/1228/929/11
    83/374/346/228/3211/2314/1715/1719/1317/1523/1125/13
    93/414/386/258/3510/2513/1914/1818/1516/1722/1223/14
    103/454/426/278/3910/2813/2114/2118/1616/1822/1323/16

    This is awesome!

    For 4e, since I don’t have an SRD, I’ll have to make do with the “business card” math.

    Hero levelCR1/412345678910
    14/76/68/511/414/418/323/330/339/253/277/2
    24/95/87/69/512/515/418/423/329/339/352/2
    33/125/106/88/710/612/515/418/423/429/338/3
    43/154/125/107/88/710/612/515/519/423/429/3
    53/193/155/126/107/99/710/613/615/519/423/4
    62/253/194/155/126/107/99/811/713/616/519/5
    72/333/254/194/155/136/118/99/811/713/616/5
    82/453/323/244/195/156/137/118/910/811/713/6
    92/652/433/314/244/195/156/137/118/910/812/7
    102/1042/623/423/314/245/195/156/137/119/910/8
  • Trent_W said:

    If you do the same for XP values (comparing the difference between n and n+1, you will find a mean XP curve of +48% which is why I say the difficulty curve does not match up with the XP curve — there is a reason 5e’s encounter building rules are notorious for being ridiculously easy on the players).

    You don’t need to tell me that the encounter building rules are bad—I sent in playtest feedback that they were bad but the issues weren’t addressed in the final game.

    You’re dreaming if you think you’ve heard me advocating “building balanced encounters”!

    Trent_W said:

    If you do the same for a 4e monster and compare a level 1 through level 10 monster, you will get a mean difficulty curve of about +18% from level n to level n+1 and a mean XP curve of, shockingly, +18% from level n to level n+1. Now, the figures for both of these are of course simply statistical averages and the difficulty curve for both games is sharper at the first few levels and become progressively less sharp at higher levels.

    If you tried to do the same in 5e you’d be toast because of the action econ. 4E’s use of miniatures limits the action econ (monster’s can only hit who they can reach).

    Trent_W said:

    Anyway, this is somewhat beside the point. In both 4e and 5e you need somewhere in the ballpark of 10 to 15 CR1/L1 monsters per 9th level PC to defeat the party.

    The 5e DMG (p 82) says 3 per PC is a hard matchup and the XGE (p 90) says 4 per PC is good.

    But I don’t rely on those guides as you very well should know!!!

    A level 9 PC has two attacks per round (and can nova ability for two extra attacks per fight) and a CR 1 monster has one attack per round.

    We see in the table that I just made that the hobos kill one CR 1 monster in 4 attacks and that it takes the monsters 38 attacks per PC they want to kill.

    That means in a fight with 4 level 9 PCs and 12 CR 1 monsters, one PC will probably die.

    If the heroes use their nova the first round, and get first strike, they’ll kill four skeletons right away. So make it 4 level 9 PCs vs 16 skeletons.

    So the numbers in the DMG / XGE aren’t that far off. Forget 16 per PC (64 monsters total). 18 or 19 total is likely to kill three PCs and 20 is enough for a TPK.

    This is taking into account that the monster’s damage output decreases as the fight goes on. And the heroes, if any of them die.

    Trent_W said:

    And, while yes the 5e CR1 has about a 20% better chance to hit they are still no more of a threat than a 4e L1 is because 5e expects a +24 damage difference between CR1 and CR9 whereas 4e expects a +8 damage difference between Lvl1 and Lvl9.

    Yes; in 4E it takes 43 attacks for a level 1 monster to down a level 9 PC, similar to 5e’s 38. But because of the unbound accuracy, the monster is so easily hit, and it only takes 2 swings for the PC to successfully it.

    64 monsters is still pushing it even in 4e; 25 monsters (as opposed to 12 in 5e) threatens one PC, 36 monsters threatens three PCs and 39 or more might cause a TPK. (That’s, for simplicity’s sake, without a “nova round”, just like in 5e.)

    Here are the hot numbers in a fight vs 4 level 9 PCs

    4E5e
    Threatens 1 PC25-3112-15
    Threatens 2 PCs32-3516-17
    Threatens 3 PCs36-3818-19
    Threatens TPK39+20+

    So these li’l CR 1 / threat level 1 weenies are about half as relevant in 4E to a party of four level 9s, compared to 5e.

    Any questions?

  • OK, wait, I used the same 2 attacks per round formula that 5e uses for the 4E. Changing it to 1 attack per round would give us:
    4E5e
    Threatens 1 PC23-3012-15
    Threatens 2 PCs31-3416-17
    Threatens 3 PCs35-3618-19
    Threatens TPK37+20+
  • Hi Sandra @2097 , I apologize for the curtness of my earlier posts. I read the thread over the weekend so I may not have seen the more recent posts and was trying to hammer out a response before my students came in this morning.

    I think its important to point that I am not directly addressing *your* game but rather the 5e rules as written. I understand you have drifted pretty afar from the 5e text in many important respects. I also don't use the 4e Rules Compendium (don't own it) but the DMG1 and DMG2 as my resources (but I do own the Monster Vault and do use the updated post-MM3 monster math). In practice I would limit monsters from n-4 to n+2 in my own games, which is a solid 7-level span (well over half a tier and nearly 1/4 of the entire game's content).

    Yes, by difficulty I am referring to a mean of DPR output + DPR mitigation. I'm not sure where you are getting some of your numbers from. Here's how my math worked out:

    Monsters Kill PCs: A typical 5e 9th level PC (assuming Con 14) will have approximately 19 AC and 66 hp, whereas a CR1 will have +4 to hit and deal 5 damage per round. This yields 66/(0.3 x 5) = 44 rounds to kill. By contrast, a typical 9th level 4e PC will also have 66 hp but an AC 24 vs a L1's +6 to hit and 9 damage per round. This yields 66/(0.15 x 9) = 49 rounds to kill. If we want to cap our encounter duration to 4 rounds (since nobody wants a 40+ round battle), that gives us 11 CR1s and 12 L1s per L9 PC, respectively. Keep in mind I am not factoring in the many ways monsters can get bonuses to hit in 4E (flanking and charging, for example) nor am I factoring in 4e monsters' various recharge and encounter powers (their effective damage per round is *really* 9 x 1.125 in a 4-6 round fight) which would increase their DPR even further. Near as I can tell, they're about equally dangerous offensively in both editions despite 5e's bounded accuracy.

    PCs Kill Monsters: A typical 9th level 5e warrior type has a +9 to hit and deals 20 damage per round with both attacks (not counting special abilities or features here) vs a CR1's AC 13 and 15 hp. This yields 15/(0.85 x 20) = 0.9 rounds to kill, or approximately 1.1 dead monsters per round. By contrast, a typical 9th level 4e warrior has +15 to hit and deals 15 at-will damage per round vs a L1's 32 hp and AC 15. This yields 32/(0.95 x 15) = 2.2 rounds to kill, or approximately 0.5 dead monsters per round. Of course, again, we're not factoring in special abilities from the PCs which may change things up (the "nova rounds" you mention before). From what I can tell, the 4e L1 has a slight edge here due to higher hp totals.

    Trent
  • Trent_W said:

    Hi Sandra @2097 , I apologize for the curtness of my earlier posts. I read the thread over the weekend so I may not have seen the more recent posts and was trying to hammer out a response before my students came in this morning.

    Thank you for the apology♥

    Trent_W said:

    I think its important to point that I am not directly addressing your game but rather the 5e rules as written.

    The problem wasn’t the way you addressed 5e but the way you addressed my analysis, saying I had overlooked things that I had written about at length.

    Trent_W said:

    Monsters Kill PCs: A typical 5e 9th level PC (assuming Con 14) will have approximately 19 AC and 66 hp, whereas a CR1 will have +4 to hit and deal 5 damage per round. This yields 66/(0.3 x 5) = 44 rounds to kill.

    I was working with 60 hp (12 + (8 * 6)) and AC 18. I was thinking dex-based champion with, yes, Con 14.

    Skeletons hit for +4 and if they do connect they deal 5 damage. That’s right. They are, however, not CR 1. They are CR 1/4.

    I ran the 60 HP 18 AC fighter against every monster in the entire SRD and averaged it out, sorted by CR.

    Not that 44 is that far of from the number I got, 38.

    41 for CR 1/4 monsters, which are closer to that skeleton/goblin example. (Goblins and skeletons have pretty much the same stats and both are CR 1/4.)

    If I swap in your numbers, 19/66 for my 18/60, I get 42 attacks for a CR 1/4 and 39 attacks for CR 1.

    Not that big a difference from the numbers I posted with my 18/60 level 9 hero, nor from your 44.

    Trent_W said:

    By contrast, a typical 9th level 4e PC will also have 66 hp but an AC 24 vs a L1’s +6 to hit and 9 damage per round. This yields 66/(0.15 x 9) = 49 rounds to kill.

    Again, 49 is not far from the 43 I posted.

    I don’t have access to as much 4E data so I used the Business Card math for a 78 HP hero (24 + (9 * 6)) and AC 23 (14 + 9). Our L1s are the exact same.

    Swapping my 23/78 hero out for your 24/66 hero gives 49 exactly, yes. So that’s not a problem with my formula.

    Trent_W said:

    A typical 9th level 5e warrior type has a +9 to hit and deals 20 damage per round with both attacks (not counting special abilities or features here)

    You’re right, +9. I mistakenly had +10 but fixing that error only makes my case stronger, making the weenies even more of a threat than I wrote. I had messed up my ability scores for the 5e heroes throughout (the 5e heroes are consistently weaker than what I had wrote, so I erred in the direction that when fixed only strengthens my case). I’ll redo the table. But for the level 9 example, which was the most studied, I was only off by one.

    I had the attacks as dealing 1d8+5 each. That’s 20 if both land, yes.

    Trent_W said:

    vs a CR1’s AC 13 and 15 hp. This yields 15/(0.85 x 20) = 0.9 rounds to kill

    Again, that’s more likely a CR 1/4 (Skeletons AC 13, HP 13) you’re talking about. I was talking about CR 1 but ok, let’s look at the CR 1/4 fight from now on.

    Yes, it takes the hero three attacks to kill those skeletons, four attacks to kill a CR 1 enemy.

    Trent_W said:

    If we want to cap our encounter duration to 4 rounds (since nobody wants a 40+ round battle)

    ?!!? Four rounds!??!?!

    First round: one PC takes 66 damage from 44 arrows and dies. Also, four skeleton die.

    Second round, the second PC takes 60 damage from 40 arrows and is almost dead. Also, three more skeletons die.

    Third round, the second PC takes 6 damage from 4 arrows and dies. The third PC takes 45 damage from 30 arrows and is almost dead. Also, three more skeletons die.

    Fourth round, the third PC takes 21 damage from 14 arrows and dies. The fourth PC takes 19.5 damage from 13 arrows and is almost dead. Also, two more skeletons die.

    So three PCs died in four rounds. But let’s keep going.

    Fifth round, the fourth PC takes 37.5 damage from 25 arrows. One more skeleton die.

    Sixth round, the fourth PC is killed by 36 damage from 24 arrows.

  • edited April 22
    2097 said:

    Except in the released game it does go up to +16. If you have a 20 in the ability, that’s +10 right there, and then +6 for being proficient.

    :bawling: I was looking at a super ancient version of the searcher PDF that had this mistake: thinking 20 means +10. Obv it means +5 and thus it goes to +11 (I guess the 5e devs were fan of Spın̈al Tap). It's weird, I fixed that sometime between May 29 and May 31 back in 2016. Still I opened the wrong version by accident :bawling:

    I’ll redo my table from before:

    Hero level\CR1/412345678910
    14/57/511/415/520/426/429/337/332/346/350/3
    24/87/811/515/720/626/529/537/433/546/450/4
    34/117/1110/715/1020/826/629/637/533/646/450/5
    44/166/159/1012/1316/1021/923/830/726/737/540/6
    54/195/188/1211/1615/1319/1021/927/824/934/736/8
    63/255/237/159/2113/1616/1318/1222/1020/1128/829/9
    73/295/277/189/2412/1816/1418/1322/1120/1228/930/10
    83/325/307/209/2812/2016/1618/1522/1220/1428/1029/12
    93/364/337/229/3012/2215/1817/1721/1419/1526/1127/13
    103/394/377/249/3412/2515/1917/1821/1519/1626/1227/14
  • And that means that for the 5e fight of 4 level 9s vs the N CR 1s (switching back to CR 1, not CR 1/4):

    8–12 kill one PC,
    13–15 kill two PCs
    16–17 kill three PCs
    18+ TPK.
  • Oh my god guys, can we stop talking about 4th plzzzzz
  • edited April 22
    Ahhh, you're right. I messed up my math. The CR1 should have 30 hp and 10 damage with the same attack bonus and AC. My bad. So, with that in mind....

    Monsters Kill PC: 66/(0.3 × 10) = 22 rounds to kill, or approximately 5.5 monsters per PC for a 4-round encounter.

    PC Kills Monsters: 30/(0.85 × 20) = 1.8 rounds to kill, or approximately 0.6 dead monsters per round.

    I just realized another error in my analysis, however, in that a CR1 is supposed to be a challenge for four L1 PCs. This would make it equivalent to a L1 Solo in 4e, not a L1 Standard. With that in mind, the CR1/4 is structurally equivalent to a L1 Standard like you said. So, yeah.

    What struck me during my analysis is how similar both the CR1/4 and the L1 Standard are as threats to L9 PCs in their respective games, despite the very different mathematical assumptions of those editions.

    Trent
  • I am also amazed that you're tackling the Giant series with 6th level characters [grin].

    That's not nearly as impressive as it sounds because we are using a heavily modified version of DCC -- let me put things into perspective:

    (1) PCs are tougher than in OD&D: bigger hit dice, 4d6-drop-lowest (though no ability score increases), roll twice for hp at 1st level. Not exactly pure OSR...

    (2) DCC classes have a lot more firepower than OD&D's. High-level fighters, for instance, score critical hits more often, use brutal critical hit tables, and can easily perform "mighty deeds" (i.e. hamstring, blind etc.).

    (3) PCs can spend Luck (refilled upon gaining a new level), which is very handy for those situations when you absolutely need to land that hit (low levels) or make a save (name-level only).

    Monsters also receive plenty of buffs when I convert them, but PCs clearly have the edge. I'd say the PCs effectively punch at a level roughly x1.5 or x2 their own compared to AD&D.

    Also, I typically double all treasure across the board. Combined with delving deeper earlier due to their firepower, the PCs level up very quickly. I'd estimate 2 sessions per current level to reach the next one (e.g. 2 sessions to get from 1st to 2nd). That's a tenth of the time you guys need... The PCs completed Barrowmaze I in about 50 sessions, making level 6 at the very end.

    (Redshirt PCs in high-level parties level up even faster, though casualty rates are high and XP tend to be more chunky in higher level endeavours.)

    I guess that makes me a bit of a Monty Haul DM, albeit a bloodthirsty one (i.e. all the fabulous prizes are covered in the viscera of the unlucky contestants).

    I am very much in favour of unevenly leveled parties, and I am also in favour of doing the exact things you're doing as a group: exploring the strategic battlespace, leveling up characters, filling up the rosters and finding the approachs that work for you.

    That's a very heartening appraisal because I was starting to get worried. So it ain't chaos but a rich tapestry... =) =) =)

    I am of the mind that generally speaking a 5th level character should be well able to seize leadership in a 1st level group and take them through some low-level dungeons.

    That's exactly what the third group is doing right now. They are exploring the excellent "Fever Swamp" hexcrawl led by a 4th level PC fighter. She regularly steps forward from the front rank to draw attacks and only then the low-level PCs swarm forward... =)

    Moreover, low-level PCs receive excellent starting equipment, e.g. plate armor and a magic weapon in the name-level party (still the property of the order they have founded).
    Paul_T said:

    What if “starting” an adventure had diegetic consequences?

    We do that all the time, but there have been only modest consequences so far. Once the party had cleared out the upper levels of Dyson's Delve, for instance, I established a routine to have the manticores lower down move up every couple of months. The PCs took some detours, so the manticores eventually emerged from the dungeon and attacked the nearby village.

    As for the "Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl", the party has not really 'activated' the adventure. Having established their own stronghold in "The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief" (and having defended it against a frost giant war party in our first military engagement) they are currently on a diplomatic mission to amazon tribes in the North to get intel on the frost giants.

    The second party, established to create replacements via Dyson's Delve, was deliberately put in limbo regarding the campaign calendar, so as to make uniting it with the first party later easier. It doesn't feel quite right, but seeing how that second endeavour has snowballed to create new adventures, alliances and such, I'm at a loss regarding how to handle this. (Probably just bite the bullet and unite the parties and calendars and take it from there with some downtime / what-happens-at-your-stronghold-this-year tables.)

    (It's also problematic that the NPC lord who called for adventurers to pacify Dyson's Delve is a rival/neighbor to the name-level PCs. If they come to blows with each other we'll run into continuity errors.)
  • edited April 22
    Trent: But even when talking about CR 1/4 you would've had the party dead in six rounds.

    You can't just do [MkP_rounds / PkM_rounds] even for one PC vs one monster. That's where you're going wrong, mathwise. (Threadjacking this thread to talk about 4E just because I thought a level 30 could get +37 is another issue entirely.)

    You'd have to solve for X where
    MkP_rounds > (PkM_rounds ×[(X+1)×X/2])

    You know vs AC 19 that the skellies deal 1.5 damage per round so in your example, the lone MkP_Rounds 22 PC would be dead vs 7 skellies.

    Your mistake seems to be that you think that each PC is only attacked by a single monster each round. That the monsters line up and queue for death. But the PC is attacked by multiple monsters.

    And then for multiple PCs it gets more complicated, it's not just 7×PCs.

    As I showed back in this post. It's MkP_rounds

    Don't worry, Jeph, this is for 5th, at least my last two posts were and the six round detailed example were. And so is this one :bawling:
    Even though it applies to all D&D games.
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