Wednesday, January 7, 2015

On Advancement Speed

Thought I'd share this since it came up late in our session last night. Dreams in the Lich House has an interesting post on leveling speed in 5E:

One of the issues I have our version of Dwimmermount is that the challenge level just wasn't right. The first few levels are too large and the party level quickly outpaced the difficulty of the encounters.The levelling speed curve of 5E is partly to blame for this: my instincts are much more about slow levelling, and a fairly even levelling curve, but the 5E xp chart is designed around market research (ex. Players want to move through the first levels quickly, the math holds together best in the middle levels, most campaigns flame out at certain level/session number thresholds).

Should my response be to design to the xp chart or change the xp chart to better suit my/our sensibilities?


  1. I don't agree with the premise. Dwimmermount levels were big, but not excessively so. The half sessions we play due to time constraints probably make a large dungeon too much for us to chew, maybe. Which is all the more reason to stick with the B/X idea of smaller, more widely distributed adventure sites.

    With respect to leveling speed, the easy trip to 3rd does make it easy to slot in replacement PCs if they make it through their under-powered first fight. I talked a little smack at Shawn for wasting XP with his character switch, but as it turns out the correct answer was "Who gives a shit?"

    If we stick to the tradition of the domain game starting in the 9th-11th range and posit that we will not actually be playing the domain game, that means for all but the first few sessions, the advancement curve is flat. Also, given the average session length, we'll be spending a month or two in RL between levels, which seems reasonable to me.

    So I'd say don't change the XP chart, but I don't think designing to the chart is the answer. We're going to outclass our weight in orcs, but that just moves them into the background and we start looking at the orc king and his advisors as potential targets instead. Make the mooks surrender or flee toward home, and if we chase them into the mouth of a dragon and get eaten, well we ought to have been paying better attention.

    The DMG guidelines tell you where the balance points are for any given party level, but it does not therefore follow that we should be running into balanced encounters. We'll do more non-combat playing, which is a better use of limited table time, and have fewer 15 minute adventure days if we mostly run into bandits who we can rout in a round on our way to hunt down beasts which could swallow us whole.

    We rout enough of those guys and we'll have a rep that will draw the rival NPC parties that will probably wind up being a more balanced fight plus a bigger treasure haul, to boot.

  2. Screw the chart. Design the environment you want, and make the mechanics and rewards fit it.