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Leveling up with Milestones--how do you handle it?

Lackofname

Explorer
For those who handle "You level up" when it's story convenient or when you feel like it's time, how does that typically play out in your game in terms of number of encounters/sessions/time-played before a level up? How does that usually end up if you were to go back and measure it.

Mainly because I use milestones to avoid XP accounting. However, in practice I let the PCs level every 3-5 encounters because "Hey that feels about right", and I get the feeling that is uh, a bit too fast. However I think if I extend it I'll feel like it will have been too long.

That, and XP gives PCs a sense of what behavior is getting rewarded, so small actions and minor quest completion, etc etc, don't get rewarded. Passing out XP gives them a sense of how long it'll take before the next level up.

So I'm wondering how you handle it, in hopes I can make it work without the leveling speed of lightning.
 
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Retreater

Legend
Depends on if you are using a published adventure. In which case, I'd follow their recommended guidelines.
If you are doing your own adventure, I would say look at the scope of the mission and space out the leveling accordingly. Like if I'm doing an adventure that should take around 9 sessions, I would probably do one level every 3 sessions.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
If you are doing your own adventure, I would say look at the scope of the mission and space out the leveling accordingly. Like if I'm doing an adventure that should take around 9 sessions, I would probably do one level every 3 sessions.
This does assume you have a really good handle on your scope.

Things can be far murkier if you're doing sandboxes, or you're basically plotting by the seat of your pants, or you don't really have much in the way of concrete adventures "Here's the beginning, here's the end point, it has encompassed an entire narrative arc".
 
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Retreater

Legend
This does assume you have a really good handle on your scope.

Things can be far more elusive if you're doing sandboxes, or you're basically plotting by the seat of your pants, or you don't really have much in the way of concrete adventures "Here's the beginning, here's the end point, it has encompassed an entire narrative arc".
In that case, how about just figuring out how fast you'd like them to level up and then set a rate at "every 5 sessions" (or whatever you like)?

If you're trying to do a milestone system without actual milestones (quests, stories, etc), you'll have to set it to a number of sessions. Or otherwise let them set goals. Explore x# of hexes, clear x# of locations, accumulate x# of gp, etc.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Whenever I feel like it. Sometimes that's FAST, like 1-2 encounters. Sometimes it is slower, like 4-7 encounters. No idea why, other than the next encounter(s) are higher level? Also, excellent roleplaying, or when they do defeat a BBEG....so, kind of random I guess (like this rambling post).
 


Retreater

Legend
That's the thing: I don't know.
Ok, so I think it would be helpful for you to think about your campaign to create a basic plan.

Some questions to ask include:

How often do you play?
What is your "sweet spot" of levels to DM? (i.e. do you like high-level play? prefer levels 1-5? etc.)
How long would you like your campaign to last? (do you want this to go for weeks? months? years?)

Then we make a mathematical plan for awarding milestone levels based off your answers.

For example, if you play weekly sessions, preferring levels 3-8, and would like your campaign to last 6 months (24 weekly sessions), here's a formula:

Level 2 - after 1 session
Level 3 - after 3 sessions (week 4)
Level 4 - after 3 sessions (week 7)
Level 5 - after 4 sessions (week 11)
Level 6 - after 4 sessions (week 15)
Level 7 - after 4 sessions (week 19)
Level 8 - after 4 sessions (week 23)

So you would plateau the higher levels in your sweet spot, pushing them through levels 1 and 2 (if you don't like those as much).

But having a rough idea of what you want out of the game will help immensely with your pacing of awards.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
Ok, so I think it would be helpful for you to think about your campaign to create a basic plan.

Some questions to ask include:

How often do you play?
I'd like to play weekly. But that depends on players' availability, which I don't know.
What is your "sweet spot" of levels to DM? (i.e. do you like high-level play? prefer levels 1-5? etc.)
I honestly don't have enough experience.

All I know is that I generally like starting around level 3.
How long would you like your campaign to last? (do you want this to go for weeks? months? years?)
IME most campaigns go 1-3 sessions and then die for whatever reason. I've never had a group that lasted more than a year. So "let's go as long as we can and cross our fingers" is my MO.
 

BookTenTiger

Adventurer
I do it differently depending on the campaign.

In one campaign, I awarded a level after a number of sessions equal to the next level (so 2 sessions for level 2, 3 sessions for level 3), capping it at 9 sessions for levels 9, 10, etc. That pace seemed to work really well for that campaign.

My current campaign is a riff on Curse of Strand. I made my own Tarokka Cards, and every time the characters fulfill a prophesy of the cards they gain a level.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
The system I'm using (4e) assumes a level happens every 8-10 encounters. "In practice that ends up being 6-8 encounters, 1 major quest, 1 minor quest".

Now IME, a session generally only lasts 2 encounters (and by encounters really I mean Fights, because RP ranges wildly). If all the players are system veterans, I imagine could go 3. But with a benchmark of 2 per session, that's 3-4 sessions per level.

That said I still want to give a feeling of reward rather than "you show up and you roll your dice and you get the level handed to you in x time".

So I'm thinking maybe reducing Xp down to 1 point and 1/2 points, and then building that so the math comes out to 3-4 sessions.

Easy Encounter = 0
Normal Encounter = 1
Hard Encounter = 2
Session = 1
Major objective = 1
Minor objective = 1/2
(Important note here. I forsee more of these than normally ascribed, the equivalent of "you are tasked with cleaning out the rats from the basement, killing the rats is the encounter but the objective was to clear the rats" kinda deal, and so it's usually a 1-3 encounter task)

So in 3 sessions would be...
-6 Normal Encounters
-3 Session points
-1 Major objective
  • x minor objectives
  • y for harder encounters (I generally give harder fights).
Equals 10 points + x + y

4 Sessions would be
-8 Normal encounters
-4 Session points
-1 Major objective
  • x minor objectives
  • y harder encounters
Equals 13 points + x + y

The buggaboo is now figuring out what the target number for a level is, and determining for x and y. x and y are important as a budget.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
The system I'm using (4e) assumes a level happens every 8-10 encounters. "In practice that ends up being 6-8 encounters, 1 major quest, 1 minor quest".

Now IME, a session generally only lasts 2 encounters (and by encounters really I mean Fights, because RP ranges wildly). If all the players are system veterans, I imagine could go 3. But with a benchmark of 2 per session, that's 3-4 sessions per level.

That said I still want to give a feeling of reward rather than "you show up and you roll your dice and you get the level handed to you in x time".

So I'm thinking maybe reducing Xp down to 1 point and 1/2 points, and then building that so the math comes out to 3-4 sessions.

Easy Encounter = 0
Normal Encounter = 1
Hard Encounter = 2
Session = 1
Major objective = 1
Minor objective = 1/2
(Important note here. I forsee more of these than normally ascribed, the equivalent of "you are tasked with cleaning out the rats from the basement, killing the rats is the encounter but the objective was to clear the rats" kinda deal, and so it's usually a 1-3 encounter task)

So in 3 sessions would be...
-6 Normal Encounters
-3 Session points
-1 Major objectives
-- x minor objectives
-- y for harder encounters
Equals 10 points + x + y

4 Sessions would be
-8 Normal encounters
-4 Session points
-1 Major objective
--x minor objectiv
--y harder encounters
Equals 13 points + x + y

The buggaboo is now figuring out what the target number for a level is, and determining for x and y. x and y are important as a budget.

Edit: I also realize I could just do this, but instead of actually tracking it, just level them up after 3-4 sessions period. The point is the players are seeing Xp coming in.
 
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Lackofname

Explorer
In one campaign, I awarded a level after a number of sessions equal to the next level (so 2 sessions for level 2, 3 sessions for level 3), capping it at 9 sessions for levels 9, 10, etc. That pace seemed to work really well for that campaign.
That's neat. It certainly gives a feeling of higher levels take longer, rather than it being a constant unchanging rate.
 


Nobby-W

Far more clumsy and random than a blaster
You can vary the pace a bit if you want. IMO the sweet spot of 5e (for example) sits around level 5-10. You could level up 1-3 or so fairly quickly and then spread things about a bit.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I'm chiming in a little late, but I do level-up after the first session--because first-level characters are so flipping fragile; after that it's after some sort of major story-beat, so long as there's been at least one combat--because however much we might want it to be about other things, D&D is at its core about fighting things (and most of what people get for leveling up is about combat, and I want people to get a chance to play with the new shiny).
 

I use slow milestone leveling, with each level taking a little more effort than the last. On average, I would guess that a year's worth of once a week play usually puts the characters at level 7 or 8, but that can vary.

Since I do sandbox campaigns with no inherent balance, there are no preset goals for the characters to pursue. I take into account the goals they have set for themselves, what progress they have made towards them, what clever things they have done, what things they have discovered, and other such factors. They can level without ever getting into combat, if that is the way things turn out.
 

MarkB

Legend
I use milestone levelling, but I also note and track the XP budget of encounters, and am mindful of how many XP would be needed to hit the next level. So I have an idea of roughly when the party "should" be hitting their next level if I were using XP, and simply let them level up once they come to a suitable dramatic point after having gone through roughly the requisite amount of encounters.
 

aco175

Legend
I mostly make things up with when to level. Right no, I'm following a module with some side quests that I created. A level of the campaign book recommends a PC level and I try to keep to that. I'm at the end of the campaign with the PCs level 12 right now. I will most likely level them to 13 just because I can scale the ending and giving them level 13 allows them to use the cool powers of 13th level before the campaign ends.
 


BookTenTiger

Adventurer
I would some day love to do a Milestone Level campaign with milestones set by players. It would be neat to have player-driven goals set up that reward them with a level.

I'm not sure how it would work concretely, though.
 

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