Megadungeon Sandbox and 4E - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)



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    I think you need to let go a bit and not worry about controlling the campaign as much as 3e and 4e assume. In a megadungeon sandbox, it is not the GM's job to ensure balanced encounters or wealth-by-level. Skillful or lucky play should get the PCs over-standard wealth, for instance (traditional XP-for-gold ensured that poor PCs were not high level, but gold didn't translate to magic items - I'm really talking about item wealth, here). Monsters should, on average, possess average wealth, but insert plenty of variation - either use random tables or pseudo-random distribution.

    Edit: It's very important though that if you are assigning treasure, you MUST do it before the monster is defeated. You absolutely must not be ticking off treasure packets in a pre-determined order.

    Always remember that the players have a great deal of choice how deep they wish to delve - they set their own risk/reward ratio. This means you need lots of stairs to lower levels; it is NOT sandbox design to have just 1 way down, only findable after defeating the Level Boss. Don't worry if after going up to say 4th level they still insist on seeking out all the easy 1st level encounters - don't convert these into level-appropriate challenges. Easy victories mean less XP and slow advancement. If the players don't like it, there are those stairs downward...

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Chainsaw View Post
    Anyway, the point is that I think your commentary's very relevant to what I'm doing at the moment.
    Agreed! I actually have been flip flopping on whether to do this kind of setup or just convert over an early edition module or two wholecloth. Either way, I'm going for an old school style in 4E rules, so there's a lot here worthwhile to think about.

    I'm keeping my eye on this thread, and when I have more time to think about it, I'll try to add something more intelligent to it

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    Always remember that the players have a great deal of choice how deep they wish to delve - they set their own risk/reward ratio. This means you need lots of stairs to lower levels; it is NOT sandbox design to have just 1 way down, only findable after defeating the Level Boss. Don't worry if after going up to say 4th level they still insist on seeking out all the easy 1st level encounters - don't convert these into level-appropriate challenges. Easy victories mean less XP and slow advancement. If the players don't like it, there are those stairs downward...
    I completely agree about the access to lower levels... stairs down need to be early and often (especially for deeper levels, so it's not painful for your high level guys to get to the fun area).

    In 1E, a 3rd level fighter would need 8,000 XP to go from 3rd to 4th - double - and that's 4x what it took to get level 2. Beating up kobolds for coppers in AD&D really wasn't much fun.

    It's a tougher argument in 4E, where it takes 1,000xp to get to level 2, and only 3750 to get to level 4, but the difference between a level 1 standard fight is 500xp and level 4 is only 875xp. Players *might* still be leveling at an acceptable (albeit unchallenging) pace if given access to enough encounters below their character level.

    I see your point about parceling ahead of time - specifically if you're going to reward players for old school tactics like stealing, tricking monsters out of treasure, etc. Since the paradigm for rewarding XP has shifted from 1gp = 1xp to 'defeating encounters', you need to be willing to redefine what it means to defeat an encounter...

  4. #14
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    Keep in mind those conversion ratios though: At no point does the 4th ed DMG advocate 1 floor = 1 PC level, but it does advocate that 8-10 encounters at PC Level X = enough XP to go to PC level X+1 and 10 treasure parcels of item Levels equal to X+4 through X+1 and some gold/gems/art/etc. If I had the DMG handy I might do some more elaborate analysis, but for now let me speak generally.

    So you have this first floor. The PCs walk into it when they're level 1. It's big, really big, bigger than 8-10 encounters. You don't know what order the PCs will clear it, you don't even know how much they'll clear before stepping down to the second floor. You could assume second floor = level 2, but you already know that's not your intent.
    What you DO know is the following: after the PCs do roughly 8-10 encounters of their level, they will go up by 1. In the course of that, they'll get 10 treasure parcels. They also will go up another level if afterwards they manage to do enough encounters to equal 8-10 of their new level. This, too, will yield 10 parcels. If you took the two PC levels as a whole, they're close enough that doing a certain order may speed up or slow down the process, but they should still hit 20 parcels total.

    This is the logic behind the treasure parcel backup list: combine enough of the different groups of 10 item parcels, and you can seamlessly go from encounter to encounter. It doesn't really matter if they do all the EL 1 (to borrow a 3.x term) encounters and then move on to all the EL 2 and then move on to the EL 3 etc. etc. They'll get their either by taking down big baddies or by stomping lowbies, or a mix of both. Creating lists of equivalence between multiple tiers of items gives you the flexibility to adapt to whichever strategy they employ, ensure you're giving out level appropriate rewards, and creates a subtle nudge to delve deeper when the treasure dries up that isn't so heavy handed.

    When I have some free time I may try to post an actual example to clarify what I mean.

    Edit: this works in reverse as well: If your players are bold and quickly skip down below, equivalence tables ensure that those low level parcels find their way into their hands.
    Last edited by Badwe; Wednesday, 29th October, 2008 at 07:36 PM.

  5. #15
    Badwe, maybe I'm not understanding where you're going and will need to wait for the example...

    In an old-school throwback model, dungeon level *does* equal encounter level... yes yes, it may seem illogical, but it's part of the players being able to make good choices about their level risk/reward (part of challenging the players).

    One of my (minor) quibbles with 4e is the idea that challenges will always scale... when you go into the woods at level 1, you fight level 1 orcs. 4E philosophy says , suddenly the woods are full of level 10 threats when the guys are level 10! My approach would be to have two sets of woods, and they pick where to go...

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by crash_beedo View Post
    If you built a level 1 dungeon with 50 encounters, you literally could give every monster an appropriate treasure. And one reason players might not spend time on level 1 any longer is the XP and Treasure rewards they're getting no longer keep them moving forward at an acceptable rate.

    In the 4E paradigm, I don't believe XP is exponential any longer... it's a more gradual curve... raising the issue that a level 2 party could still be advancing at a decent pace while whomping on level 1 monsters.
    I see what you're saying.

    What you want to do is lower the reward for low-risk encounters and up the reward for high-risk encounters, right?

    I wonder if you could use wandering monsters for this. Wandering monsters, as everyone knows, don't carry any treasure. As the dungeon is cleared out, the less-rewarding wandering monsters start to move in. They still carry XP, but wandering monsters are more dangerous because they might jump at you when you don't want them to.

  7. #17
    One alternative, especially given the shallowness of the XP curve, would be to have each floor of the dungeon equate to about 2-3 levels worth of xp. So when the party enters the dungeon at level 1, the first floor contains 25-30 encounters some of which at level 1, some at 2 and some at 3, but not necessarily in order. Since XP is fixed, by the time they get through the level, they'll be 3rd-4th level, and ready to take on the 2nd floor, which has encounters of 4th-6th. Just because tradition has one floor per level doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

  8. #18
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    I think the OD&D rule of dividing dungeon level by PC level (to a maximum of 1) to get the XP multiplier that a poster above mentioned may work well for 4e and prevent rapid levelling from 'grinding' easy fights.

    So eg, on the 1st dungeon level the average encounter level and treasure packet are 1. A 2nd level party on the 1st dungeon level gets 1/2 XP for encounters, because of the reduced risk. When they go to 2nd (or deeper) dungeon level they get full XP.

    I'm not sure this is necessary for 3e, where XP needed to level initially escalates rapidly, but might be necessary from 4th level onwards since CR 1 encounters are still giving full XP per RAW 3e while no longer being much threat.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by malraux View Post
    One alternative, especially given the shallowness of the XP curve, would be to have each floor of the dungeon equate to about 2-3 levels worth of xp. So when the party enters the dungeon at level 1, the first floor contains 25-30 encounters some of which at level 1, some at 2 and some at 3, but not necessarily in order. Since XP is fixed, by the time they get through the level, they'll be 3rd-4th level, and ready to take on the 2nd floor, which has encounters of 4th-6th. Just because tradition has one floor per level doesn't mean it has to stay that way.
    That's reasonable, and emulates the typical level spreads of traditional modules, which were usually "for level" 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 etc, meaning your PCs could start the scenario at any level within the listed range (whereas 3e '7-9' means you start at 7th and finish at 9th).

    1e megadungeons were classically 10 levels, to fit the 10 'monster levels' I-X. With 30 PC levels to get through, you could definitely do a 10 level 4e megadungeon with each level covering 3 PC levels.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by S'mon View Post
    I think the OD&D rule of dividing dungeon level by PC level (to a maximum of 1) to get the XP multiplier that a poster above mentioned may work well for 4e and prevent rapid levelling from 'grinding' easy fights.

    So eg, on the 1st dungeon level the average encounter level and treasure packet are 1. A 2nd level party on the 1st dungeon level gets 1/2 XP for encounters, because of the reduced risk. When they go to 2nd (or deeper) dungeon level they get full XP.
    Yep - I think a rule like that is what I'm looking for, and could be easy to implement - divide the party level by the dungeon level if the group is higher than the dungeon level. (Apologies to Badwe if that's what you were saying and I missed it). Thanks for the ideas!

    Alternatively I was going to consider something like the post here -
    Adventures with an XP Budget - "Strategic" Play in D&D 4E ? but I think players should still be able to earn experience if they insist on some grinding (it's their sandbox too after all) - just not able to motor up as much.

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