Curse of Strahd -- Quest XP

Curse of Strahd -- Quest XP


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Curse of Strahd -- Quest XP

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Do you love old-fashioned numerical XP? Do you hate encounter XP arithmetic? Then have I got the PDF for you!

I broke down all the noteworthy story achievements in Curse of Strahd and assigned each an XP value that will advance the players at approximately the desired pace for the adventure. It's easier than awarding milestone experience because you no longer have to guess when is the "right" time for the group to level; easier than awarding combat experience because you don't have to add up all the monster values and divide by the number of players; and more fun for players who enjoy the pavlovian dopamine release of earning those XP!
  1. CapnZapp
    This is neat. Could you go a bit more into detail on "at approximately the desired pace for the adventure"? I think Dungeon Masters will be interested in knowing a bit more on how much you yourself had to invent or tweak the numbers, and how much you could extract right out of the module.

    And perhaps post a text dump right here into the thread, to ensure search indexing and to safeguard against issues with the download section?

    Look, a straight copy paste works bloody brilliantly (far better than I'd hoped)!

    Appendix B — Death House
    ❏ Find Strahd’s letter in the secret room (area 9). 50 XP
    ❏ Meet Rose and Thorn, ghost children (area 20). 100 XP
    ❏ Reach the dungeon level. 300 XP
    ❏ Lay the children’s remains to rest (area 23). 200 XP
    ❏ Reach the ritual chamber (area 38). 200 XP
    ❏ Defeat the shambling mound (area 38). 500 XP
    ❏ Escape the Death House. 500 XP
  2. pukunui
    Thank you very much for doing this! I am just getting started with my planning for this campaign, and I've been debating whether or not to use XP or milestones. When I played through it myself, we used milestones, and it ended up being kind of jerky. There were times where we levelled up quite slowly and other times where we levelled up really quickly. We even levelled up twice in one session once! I think using XP could provide a steadier progression.

    Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
    This is neat. Could you go a bit more into detail on "at approximately the desired pace for the adventure"? I think Dungeon Masters will be interested in knowing a bit more on how much you yourself had to invent or tweak the numbers, and how much you could extract right out of the module.
    @77IM: I'll second this. For instance, I'd like to know why you've made it so the Tome of Strahd is worth 2,000 XP, while the holy symbol and the sword are only worth 1,000 XP each.
  3. 77IM
    I'm glad you like it. I should clarify that this document is not playtested. Like, at all. So, I'd very much like feedback about specific XP awards that seem way off, especially from people who've played the adventure. (I'm currently a player in this campaign -- we are level 9 and are about half-way through the Castle -- so I do have a bit of experience with it.)

    To determine XP values, I worked backwards from the "Areas By Level" table on page 6. I wanted each pair of areas to contain about enough XP to level the party, plus a little extra to account for things they missed. This was mostly guesswork and gut feeling, but I came up with guidelines as I went along.
    • I tried to make boss monsters or set-piece encounters worth at least the face-value of the monsters. Often this would then get split between XP for meeting the creature and XP for defeating the creature. In general, monsters that I expected the players to parley with or flee from are worth more for meeting; monsters that are pretty much just obstacles that need to be eliminated are worth more for defeating. For example, Exenthanter the lich is way more interesting to talk to than to destroy, so his award slants heavily towards meet.
    • I tried to account for monsters in the area and incorporate their XP into the main award. For example, the arcanoloth in the Amber Temple is worth extra, to account for all the flameskulls around. Likewise, getting the magic gem from the statue is worth extra XP for all the druids around it, but getting the same gem from Wintersplinter later is worth a lot less, because Wintersplinter has his own XP award.
    • Meeting a friendly NPC is usually in the 100-300 XP range, depending on where they are and how important they are to the story; more important NPCs in harder-to-reach areas are worth more. Witnessing an interesting and scary event (such as the March of the Dead in Barovia Village) is generally worth 150 XP.
    • Travelling to a new place is worth 500/750/1000 XP based on expected level. The higher-level places tend to be farther out, so a greater risk of random encounters on the way there.
    • "Major" quests tend to be worth 1000+ XP. This award is increased based on how much overland travel is involved, how important it is to the story, and what level the players are likely to be when they accomplish it. Again, lots of guesswork.
    • In general I didn't give XP for finding treasures, even good ones, because treasure is its own reward. I did give XP when there was some kind of puzzle or challenge to finding the treasure (challenge above and beyond "get past scary monsters"), or finding the treasure advanced the story somehow. For example, finding the three special treasures from the fortune reading is worth XP because they are part of the story. But the Tome of Strahd is worth extra because it advances the story much more (by revealing background info), and because it's pretty useless (the other two treasures are worth getting just because they are awesome).

    The adventure itself wasn't very helpful with assigning XP values for anything. The only one I remember seeing was that destroying the Heart of Sorrow was worth 1,500 XP.

    -- 77IM
  4. iserith
    Thanks for posting this. It was helpful to see what the plot points worth rewarding are, including stuff like meeting NPCs. That saves me a lot of time!

    Right now, I've prepped Death House for play as a prelude to the module and something of a "proof of concept" for my idea of running CoS like Evil Dead. The PCs will be "real people" from the 1980s transported to Ravenloft. Hilarity and chainsaw hands ensue. So I consider it a one-shot that, if it goes well, will turn into the full campaign. I'm cautious with what I'm willing to commit to doing these days because my time has gotten more limited.

    I'm probably going to use a variation on Hero Points in this game (DMG, page 264), so perhaps I will tie the major points of the quest to level advancement and the minor points to acquiring Hero Points (start at 0 hero points and can have up to 5+half character level at a time). For example, the PCs will achieve 2nd level by finding the hidden path to the dungeon level. They will earn a Hero Point if they Find Strahd's letter, Lay the Children's Remains to Rest, Escape the Death House, etc. I would make it clear what the PCs have to do to gain their levels as part of the exposition dump, but Hero Points would be a "surprise" reward for doing certain things. The players will know what Hero Points are tied to in a general sense.

    Any thoughts on this?
  5. 77IM
    @iserith I think that's a great idea. One big problem with milestone levelling is that it tends to be all-or-nothing, so you might go several sessions with no reward, and then BAM! A whole level! Your Hero Point rewards should solve that nicely, by giving players a little boost in between levels.

    Another problem with milestone levelling that is specific to "sandboxy" adventures like CoS is that the players can go wherever and might go for a long time without doing ANYTHING worthy of a milestone. E.g., beat the first half of 3 different dungeons, but don't actually beat the big boss of any of those dungeons. I've got a couple of ideas how you might address that, but I'll admit these ideas are a bit weak.

    You could track fractional milestones, in secret. Like for certain successes, the PCs would get a Hero Point, but also get +1/3 of a milestone. You wouldn't need to tell them that. But this way if they complete three such sub-tasks, they'll get a milestone for that, too. The other thing you might fiddle with is the cap on the number of Hero Points. (As an aside, I don't see why the character level should matter to the cap, even though that's how previous editions did it.) Maybe as a consolation prize, any session in which the PC's don't level up, they gain an extra Hero Point and their Hero Point maximum increases by one. Or they gain a special Hero Point that is allowed to exceed the maximum.

    I'd advise you to look at the "Areas by Level" table (page 6) very carefully when deciding where to put your milestones. I don't think you need to strictly adhere to that progression but it shows roughly how frequent the milestones should be. I'm not sure you need to be quite so careful about pre-planning when to issue Hero Points because they are a transient benefit.

    Please let us know how this goes! And if you come up with a good set of milestones I'd love to see that too!

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