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D&D 5E Class-Based Milestone Advancement (or a new look on leveling up with XP)

Plutancatty

Explorer
Gneh, the name kinda sucks, buuuut anyway.

I was thinking about how to make a world low-fantasy/low magic without limiting the starting options available to players. So I started digging around a bit on the interwebs and, after barely scratching the surface, I see this one idea, which is actually pretty obvious: to limit magic, simply limit your player's levels.

Let's put it this way: if magic is limited/your fantasy is low (gameplay-wise) spellcasters/people in general are low leveled. I mean, the Fellowship of the Ring itself is only probably 5-7th level, and they're the mightiest heroes the forces of good can muster in Middle Earth (which is pretty low fantasy compared to your average d&d world). This means your average spellcaster (considered fully proficient by the arcane society at large, and by absolutely no means an average person in any way) may cast 2nd level spells in a low fantasy world. 3rd, if they're gifted. An archmage may be someone who is able to cast a single 5th level spell uncovered from an ancient scroll found in a ruined tower long ago; and that is the only existing written specimen of that spell in the known world/region.

But why aren't there that many high level characters? By XP rules, you could just go around murdering 3,550,000 commoners (or cats, or whatever) and you'd be level 20 (Just, yeah, it's still mass murder on a tremendous scale, but there's no need to go around looking for Ogres and Trolls and Dragons to slay to get dem numbers up).

Alright, so: high level NPCs in game usually have an impressive backstory-conquering cities, founding religions, murdering dragons, etc. This got me thinking: what if there was a certain new threshold you had to cross when you wanted to go up a level? It makes sense: once you master a real life skill, you don't get better by repeating it over and over, you need to go and challenge yourself doing new things. Example, there are lots of boxers, but there's one Muhammad Ali and one Mike Tyson, and there's a reason everyone has heard of them: they did things no one else was able to do, and they did tings no one else thought could be done, period.

So what I'm proposing is a new way of making your PCs level up, based on personal achievements (or at least by not counting minor ones).
Each class (or PC, if you wanna be fiddly) has a standard which is let's say the norm for their equivalents. To level up, they need to perform a feat that goes over that. And then again next level, until they reach territory where no one has ever been before and keep going.

You want to get your Barbarian to level 3? No problem, kill some goblins or whatever. Level 5? At the very least I want you to solo an ogre. Level 10? I want you to break down a castle's main gate.
Tier 1 bard? Whatever, sing some songs or something. Tier 2? The whole city has to be talking about how you slept with the duke's daughter (and it has to be true) etc
Rogue? steal shinier and shinier things.
Ranger? Bigger heads on your mantelpiece.
Cleric? I'm keeping track of your conversions.

This approach would be very story-driven and story-driving: you need players with characters that want to go out and do things nobody has ever dreamed of doing, and you as DM need to make the story tied to events that can make your PCs level (or not, and see how they move through your story with just wits and a few class levels)

But you see what I'm saying right? I'm gonna think of a few examples of level-worthy achievements for each class and edit this while I see what you first impressions of the idea are.




Barbarian- mostly based around feats of strength or combat prowess. Tier 1- beat a number of weaker enemies (goblins, skeletons, zombies, etc) or a single stronger (less-weak; Goblin Boss, Ghast, etc) enemy on your own, or perform an act that would take the strength of three normal men (in a situation that also makes it useful). Tier 2-

Bard- uncover hidden knowledge or create works of art that resonate with numerous people. Tier 1- entertain a crowd of at least 20 people with your skills, interact successfully with a number of NPCs (deceive, seduce, persuade, intimidate, etc), help your more action oriented companions in their quests. Tier 2-

Cleric- hold steadfastly on to your beliefs, even when in doubt, spread your faith, follow the will of your god. Tier 1- make your god's power manifest to non-believers or believers who have lost their way, aid those of your faith, offer a significant sacrifice (something meaningful to you, expensive, useful on a mechanical or social level). Tier 2-

Druid- protect nature, exert your control over its unbridled force. Tier 1- stop a small community from destroying a portion of forest, stop a rampaging sylvan beast, tame a wild animal that threatens a small area. Tier 2-

Fighter- develop fighting technique and prove your worth against strong opponents, pass on your skills to others. Tier 1- defeat a number of weaker warriors or a single gifted one with a certain reputation locally. Tier 2-

Monk- reach higher levels of being through asceticism and meditation, hone your martial skills. Tier 1- resist temptations from the daily world, defeat worthy enemies. Tier 2-

Paladin-
Ranger
Rogue
Sorcerer
Warlock
Wizard
 
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Plutancatty

Explorer
What is the advantage of this approach over plain old milestone advancement?

It's more immersive for each individual player and makes them develop their character more deeply. Of course, if your players aren't interested, don't use it :)

Also don't use it if you think your players won't be able to work together to allow each other to reach their goals. But personally I think it would be really cool if my DM did this.
 

5ekyu

Hero
Aside, one structure for the accomplishment-based xp system could be done with xp.

"At level x, reduce xp per opponent by Y"

So at 1st your goblin pats out abc. At 3rd, that same goblin pays out less than abc, by 5th it may pay out none.

You would beed to reduce the xp per level, maybe to a flat figure since the enemy reduction would go up.

What i would start at is an idea that once you get to a higher tier, the bottom of the lower tier is zero xp and the top is 2/3.

So at 11th level, cr5 varmints and below give no xp and cr10 give 2/3 and 7-8 being the 1/3 ranges.

As for the question of what does rhis change, it establishes within the world fairly structured plateaus... Guards who fend off city for years vs gnolls and ohres plateau around 5th-6th as they rarely see and oppose CR7+.

It helps present to the players a common basis for "world scaling" determined by adversaries.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
How is this going to contribute positively to the group's game? How is it going to improve the play experience?
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
This seems fine for a solo game, but the goals seem to lack party synergy. The barbarian is driven to go out and kill stuff, while the bard is incentivized to hang around town and interact with NPCs.

Certainly a good DM could construct an adventure that hits all the necessary points. But in a more player driven campaign, I'm not convinced it would be ideal. And even for a DM, it could mean a lot of work.

I'm not convinced it's a problem that needs solving. I've never met a group of players that would consider killing 3 million commoners a reasonable way to level. That sounds like the most boring campaign ever IMO.

I could see something like the Immortal spheres perhaps (Basic D&D). Therein, you have to achieve certain tasks associated with your Sphere (Matter, Time, etc.) in order to become an Immortal (disclaimer, I'm vastly oversimplifying the process). Certain classes were better suited to certain spheres, but I believe any class could attempt any Sphere.

Maybe just create a few "spheres" and let the players choose.

The valor bard might choose the combat sphere, in which one must defeat a powerful opponent in single combat to advance into the next tier.

The carousing barbarian might choose the social sphere, in which he has to make friends and influence people.

I would recommend having it by tier, not level (I'm unclear whether or not your proposed system intends it to work this way). So rather than needing an achievement to reach level 2 (for example), the players are capped at 4th level until they achieve their tasks. This gives them more time to complete them.

On the other hand, the one character who, due to a string of bad luck, is held back a tier could be problematic (and would also suck for the player)...
 

Staccat0

First Post
I don’t hate this as a concept. Obviously it needs work to be fleshed our but the intent is nice.

If I were to do this I might make each character a deck of cards with “achievements” on them. Some are harder than others but all of them are broadly worded. Sorta like “Make a better deal” “take a prisoner” “pick a pocket” and stuff like that.
Some are class specific others are just general purpose.

At the start of each session players lay 3 our in front of their character sheet. When they accomplish one they gain XP and replace it. Players can spend an inspiration point to mulligan and get new goals.

Players gain a level with 10 xp. A card’s xp value is determined by level.

So at first level doing one is worth 10 and they get less juicy as time goes on.

You could even do fun stuff where there new xp cards that get added to the deck for certain missions or to reflect current events in the game. Or have cursed weapons add bad or useless cards to a characters XP deck.

Just some ideas.

Heck I’m tempted to steal it for a hack I am toying with haha
 

Plutancatty

Explorer
How is this going to contribute positively to the group's game? How is it going to improve the play experience?
IMO it would help the DM develop the PCs in the way their players want them to progress. To become a better fighter you have to fight, to become a better rogue you have to steal and sneak, etc. I think it helps immersion by having players think more about what they character would do rather than having them do the easiest thing.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I like the idea in principal. It would definitely improve character motivation.

However there is one big sticking point. I won’t have characters at different levels, i fundamentally disagree with it as mechanic in a social team game played with friends. Individual XP was removed from the game a while back and I wholeheartedly support that. Unless you can ensure parity of level it’s a deal breaker.

Maybe party goals?... oh wait that’s milestone XP.
 
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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I am a big fan of this idea overall, though it clearly has some wrinkles as mentioned above. First and foremost is the PCs-of-differnet-levels issue, which was no problem back in the day when people didn't all get goodies every level but could be a problem now. The second is the challenge of team building when everyone's actual metagame goals are different.

I have stared at my screen for a bit now trying to come up with easy and consistent ways to address those hiccups and I'm drawing a blank. So good luck! I'm interested to see where you go with it.
 

5ekyu

Hero
IMO it would help the DM develop the PCs in the way their players want them to progress. To become a better fighter you have to fight, to become a better rogue you have to steal and sneak, etc. I think it helps immersion by having players think more about what they character would do rather than having them do the easiest thing.
IMO... I hate the idea if used as "class" based. My rogue might well be a warrior built to kill, just by other means than muscle. Same for my cleric who might be focused on other things too. Class has moved beyond the olde straight jacket and lets not "help" the game with GM defining what you have to be.

But, the same kind of "fix" to the threshold can be achieved with reducing the xp payouts of varmints of lower tiers. That allows the "plateau" to be reached where without tougher challenges the levelling stops (from world and pc.)

For milestone type leveling or session based leveling, this is easier by just not counting "lesser" sessions or goals.

I do not like and have not seen a lot of benefit from shackling advancement to "actions chosen." I have seen a host of problems when it was done and the GM decided the link, told the player how they had to run their character by basically defining a lot of things as not profitable for advancement.

Inspiration imo is the in game mechanic for gm saying "do these get cookie" not advancement.

If you the gm feel you dont have enough control already... So that you have to subset your player's characters choices to favor ones you approve of...

Do the work and put these nilestones in for class, sub-class, race, sub-race and backgrounds so that as a pc builds hos character and makes choices **they** are the ones making their choices on "what is it i do a lot of."

Might also consider adding traits like flaws, ideal, bonds to that too.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I love this idea, but also dislike the notion of different characters leveling up at different times. Even worse, this may pull different characters in different directions, in search of individual XP.

I'd modify as follows:
- Each class has a list of Great Deeds, let's say 2-3 at each tier. So it's not enough to get you all the way to the next tier on your own.
- When anyone in your party accomplishes a Great Deed, everybody levels up. This encourages you to help your teammates achieve their Great Deeds.
- In fact, you could just make it a rule that a character can't benefit from another Great Deed until everyone else in the party has gotten a chance.
- The character who actually accomplishes the Great Deed gets some transient benefit, instead of becoming higher level than anyone else. Something like super-inspiration. Actually 3 Luck Points (like from the feat) sounds good.


BTW I grant permission to use my cool and awesome terminology "Great Deeds" which I totally thunk up myself just now and am quite proud of.
 

wellerpond

First Post
I do something similar without the crunch. Using the milestone method, when it’s time to level up, the players need to “earn” it.

For example, they try something that would normally be way out of reach, like a crazy ricochet arrow shot, and I give them a non 100% chance they will make it via a series of DCs.

A fail means the new skills aren’t yet achievable but they can sense something new within reach. A success means their effort paid off and they level up.

I leads to some incredible storytelling because they can play anywhere on the spectrum of abject failure to unqualified success!
 

wellerpond

First Post
I do something similar without the crunch. Using the milestone method, when it’s time to level up, the players need to “earn” it.

For example, they try something that would normally be way out of reach, like a crazy ricochet arrow shot, and I give them a non 100% chance they will make it via a series of DCs.

A fail means the new skills aren’t yet achievable but they can sense something new within reach. A success means their effort paid off and they level up.

It leads to some incredible storytelling because they can play anywhere on the spectrum of abject failure to unqualified success!
 

Tricky. I could see 5 different players all wanting to go different ways. One criticism of 1st edition was the XP system encouraged players to be selfish (doesn't mean they were, it was just set up that way).

If you had a campaign with downtime, perhaps it could be incorporated into optional training. The fighter takes everything she's learned and must face down a foe in solo combat. The bard must compose something original, engage in a contest. The cleric must convert someone to the faith. It'd incorporate your Tier system so that each successive level requires more (and I'd have 3 ways they could advance).

Anyways, curious how it goes!
 

Erekose

Eternal Champion
As an aside, didn’t the 1E Druid have to defeat the current incumbent at higher levels? You could easily adapt something like that for any class that exists within a formalised structure or institution. Although “defeat” could mean something very different from class to class.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Worth noting that 5e tends to support variable character levels within the party far better than either 3e or 4e did.

Interesting idea in principle. My main question is how well does it balance risk with reward - do each of the goals at any given tier carry about the same degree of risk* for each class? And how do other party members get rewarded for helping out? Suggestion here might be to have each of the goals be easier to achieve if they are done with assistance than if done solo; and give those who assist a few xp as a reward for their help....?

* - risk here being mostly physical, as loss of items wouldn't be as big a threat in a very-low-magic game such as the OP proposes.
 

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