In Defense of Milestone Leveling
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  1. #1
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    In Defense of Milestone Leveling

    In an earlier, unrelated thread, the subject of milestones vs. XP points came up. I didn't want to squash the discussion, but I also didn't want to derail my own thread...so I forked it over here.

    In a nutshell: I plan to use milestone leveling in my next campaign, instead of assigning XP points. Here's how it all went down.

    Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
    I would like a d20 Modern 2.0. but there are some problems about balance of power. How to explain it better? Do you remember the survival horror videogame "Alien: Isolation"? Only a xenomorph is a true nightmare, but in other games, for example the 1994 Capcom arcade "Aliens vs Predators" you can kill literally hundreds. A psycho-killer with a knife, for example the night slasher from Stallone's movie "Cobra" is too dangerous for an unarmed civilian character as Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen) but Marion "Cobra" Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone) could kill all the cult of "the new world". With the right weapon you can kill a dinosaur and only a shot is enough. With remote-control drones you can kill enemies from other town, or country. You could drive a truck to run over horde of zombies. Buffy the vampire slayer only needed a RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) to kill the judge (season 2 episode 14) and the Mayor was tricked to go to a zone with lots of explosives.

    How should be the XP reward and the challenge rating when the monster is too hard, or easy?
    To which I replied:

    Quote Originally Posted by CleverNickName View Post
    I don't mind experience points, but the way they are assigned has always seemed silly to me., and slanted toward violence. Why do we get experience for combat, but not for anything else?

    It's a little bit off-topic, but to answer your question: I plan to do milestone leveling in this campaign instead of handing out XP.
    And @Saelorn joined the discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
    Experience Points are slanted toward violence, because levels primarily reflect your capacity for violence. Fighting is how you get better at taking a punch, which is the only stat that goes up with every level. If you're not going around and fighting everything, then it doesn't really matter what level you are.
    So I kicked it over here with this response:

    Quote Originally Posted by CleverNickName View Post
    That's certainly true for some games.

    However, exploration scales with level just as combat does. With a higher level comes greater skill proficiency in things like Perception and Investigation, and better access to magic items (sorry, I mean "technology" and "computers"), vehicles, and other gear. You unlock class features and spells that let you move more easily, travel farther, carry more, and find things more quickly.

    Same for the social interaction pillar, as well. The higher your level is, the more proficient you have become in things like Deception and Persuasion, you've acquired items that buff Charisma, you've unlocked class features and spells that let you charm or influence others. You've met more factions and made more contacts, and the quality and importance of those contacts are higher. And so on.

    Anyway, this is off-topic...it has nothing to do with running a sci-fi campaign using 5E rules. I'll make this a different topic in the forum so that we can discuss it there.
    Please discuss! I didn't want to kill the discussion; I just wanted to keep it on-topic. How do you feel about Experience Points, and how they are distributed?
    Last edited by CleverNickName; Saturday, 2nd March, 2019 at 11:33 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I like milestone xp. I hate killing xp.

    That said. Combat/Killing xp is fine if the game is sufficiently deadly and if there is a penalty attached when you create your next character like start over at level 1 or something like that. Then there is a risk-reward paradigm to consider. The general method of 5e play doesn't seem to involve any of those things. You rarely die and if you somehow manage to you usually come back at the same level as everyone else (in my experience). Because of the lack of risk/reward experience by combat serves no purpose other than to put you on a kind of leveling treadmill that incentivizes you to play murder hobos!

    Milestone XP is based around goals that typically have multiple possible resolutions. That incentivizes roleplay to overcome the problem and obtain the XP.

    I guess technically XP for killing enemies is a form of milestone Xp. Your milestone is always just to kill another enemy
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  3. #3
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    It should be noted that while many people say "milestone XP," what they mean is what the DMG refers to as "session-based advancement" or "story-based advancement" (generally the latter in my experience). Milestone XP still uses experience points - it's just that the DM awards them when the PCs have engaged in certain events or earned designated achievements. See the DMG, pages 260-261 for details.

    But regardless of what you call it: Players in a game will tend to do the things for which they are incentivized.

    Therefore, if the DM wants the players to focus on following, for example, the plot of an event-based adventure, then milestone XP may be a good choice. The DM gives them XP when engage with and earn specific achievements that presumably the DM has made clear ahead of time. They don't gain XP if they ignore events or challenges and go off-track. So, naturally, they will tend to follow the plot the DM has prepared.

    If the DM is running a location-based adventure instead, then standard XP may be a better choice than milestone XP, awarding XP for overcoming combat or noncombat challenges as appropriate to the DM's vision of the campaign's theme and tone. In many of my campaigns, for example, I emphasize the combat and social interaction pillars. Therefore, if the PCs break some NPCs' bones with sticks and stones, that's worth XP, but so too is adjusting their attitudes with words instead. Overcoming exploration challenges is rewarded with treasure and other non-XP benefits. In this set up, the players know that if they want to advance their characters in levels, they need to fight or talk. If they want some loot, they need to poke around for it.

    My key point here is that it doesn't always have to be all one way for every adventure and campaign the DM runs. I frequently change it up based the group dynamic and the campaign's structure, theme, and tone. Let it be a thing that reinforces the behavior that's going to help the DM and group achieve their shared vision for the play experience.
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  4. #4
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    I feel compelled to point out that most editions have awarded at least some xp for non-combat stuff. 1e and earlier had xp for gps; 2e had class-based extra awards; 3e had guidelines for xps for traps and roleplaying; 4e had skill challenges; and 5e has (optional) guidelines for awarding xp for non-combat situations (e.g. traps in DotMM).

    That said, milestone xp is great at what it's great at. But for it to work well, your campaign has to have a storyline, and it needs a consistent group of pcs of the same level. If either of those things aren't part of your playstyle- for instance, if you run a sandbox with no main storyline, or if you let pcs of mixed levels adventure together- then milestone xp becomes less useful. After all, if there's no storyline, how do you decide when you've reached a milestone? And if the pcs are mixed level, how do the lower level characters catch up?

    So yeah, milestone xp is okay, but limited in its usefulness to an old-skool sandbox DM like me.
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    I spent a lot of time thinking about this (& some discussion here). I don't mind 5e XP but I'd like it simpler and less combat centric. For my latest campaigns I went over to:

    XP System
    PCs advance a level every 10 XP 1-3, 20 XP 3+, typically receiving 1 XP per significant encounter or achievement. Lower level PCs may receive additional XP, eg 1st level PCs adventuring alongside 5th level PCs may earn x2 XP.

    Typical XP awards
    Moderate encounter - 1
    Minor quest achievement - 1
    Major encounter - 2
    Significant quest award - 2
    Major quest award - 3
    Deadly encounter 3-5
    Carousing (100gp per PC level) - 1
    Incredible carousing (1000gp per PC level) - 2
    Doing a session account.- 1

    XP Table

    Level XP Needed
    1 0
    2 10
    3 20
    4 40
    5 60
    6 80
    7 100
    8 120
    9 140
    10 160
    +1 +20

    Beyond 20
    At 20th level, every additional 20 XP earns 1 Advance that can be spent on either +2 to an attribute, +1 to two attributes, or a Feat. Attributes are still capped, though now at 22.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by the Jester View Post
    I feel compelled to point out that most editions have awarded at least some xp for non-combat stuff. 1e and earlier had xp for gps; 2e had class-based extra awards; 3e had guidelines for xps for traps and roleplaying; 4e had skill challenges; and 5e has (optional) guidelines for awarding xp for non-combat situations (e.g. traps in DotMM).

    That said, milestone xp is great at what it's great at. But for it to work well, your campaign has to have a storyline, and it needs a consistent group of pcs of the same level. If either of those things aren't part of your playstyle- for instance, if you run a sandbox with no main storyline, or if you let pcs of mixed levels adventure together- then milestone xp becomes less useful. After all, if there's no storyline, how do you decide when you've reached a milestone? And if the pcs are mixed level, how do the lower level characters catch up?

    So yeah, milestone xp is okay, but limited in its usefulness to an old-skool sandbox DM like me.
    Depends on what you are calling milestones right? If your sandbox currently has 3 factions each asking you to complete a different task then having milestone xp for completing such a task seems very appropriate for a sandbox to me, doesn't it to you?
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  7. #7
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    I think some of you here are confusing Milestone Leveling with Milestone XP. There is a system where you level up characters based around certain milestones. There are also systems where completing a goal awards the party with a certain amount of XP.

    Milestone leveling removes xp from the game entirely and instead just awards levels. The systems are a bit different.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrogReaver View Post
    I think some of you here are confusing Milestone Leveling with Milestone XP. There is a system where you level up characters based around certain milestones. There are also systems where completing a goal awards the party with a certain amount of XP.

    Milestone leveling removes xp from the game entirely and instead just awards levels. The systems are a bit different.
    Yep, this distinction is very important. In the campaign I am putting together, I will use Milestone Leveling. I will not award XP at all. (Guess I should update the title of this thread, huh?)

    The players will gain levels when they pass certain points in the plot. Like the very first adventure will be escaping the intro dungeon by any means necessary...if they do, they gain a level. It won't matter if they fight their way out, sneak out unnoticed, or sweet-talk the guards and schmooze/buy/intimidate their way out, either way they all gain a level when they see daylight.

    I like this system for a number of reasons, but the top three are:

    1. Simplicity. One less thing to keep track of on the character sheets, one less thing for them to fuss over, one less thing for me to worry about.

    2. Less guesswork. I know what level the party will be when they reach certain points of the story, so I can balance the adventures beforehand. No more late nights before a gaming session, rebalancing everything because someone isn't at the level I thought they would be.

    3. More uniform rewards. When XP is rewarded only for combat, characters that focus on non-combat stuff tend to feel like they aren't contributing as much. (I suspect this is why the "DPR Rogue Build" became a thing.) This removes the illusion of some characters contributing more or less than any of the others.
    Last edited by CleverNickName; Saturday, 2nd March, 2019 at 11:38 PM.

  9. #9
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    I think @Saelorn was essentially just suggesting a way to explain how "XP for fighting" can be viewed to make it palatable if you think it works weird. He could probably just as readily offer a way to explain milestone XP if someone thought that was the system that worked weird.

    I have no preference for an XP system. It's all just game mechanics to me, and I've never found that different XP systems improve or detract from my fun, so I just don't care. I'm not saying I don't care about gaining XP, if it's there to be gained, though. I would totally be chasing that carrot as part of playing the game, doing all the things that netted me that sweet level-up like @iserith suggests would happen.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrogReaver View Post
    Depends on what you are calling milestones right? If your sandbox currently has 3 factions each asking you to complete a different task then having milestone xp for completing such a task seems very appropriate for a sandbox to me, doesn't it to you?
    I mean, you could do that, but you're sort of pushing into story-based awards any time you do. In your hypothetical situation, a group could get no xp at all for engaging with all three factions, taking on all three assignments, and working on all three without actually completing any. One of the joys of sandbox play, to me, is all the dangling plot threads that pcs leave behind them everywhere they go. Milestone xp seems like it would force the pcs clean a lot of those up in order to gain xp.

    But yes, you can use milestone xp in a sandbox. I just feel that the very concept of milestones results in a strong push toward more story-based play. And while there's nothing wrong with that, it's not my preference.
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