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Missed session catch-up XP

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
@iserith,
I reevaluated my position on leveling and XP with 5E and came to the same conclusion and see no reason to change. It's not a "holdover", I don't generally justify my decisions based on an appeal to tradition.

As far as why I choose this direction, I've explained it multiple times now. I also think even a few levels can make a big difference in effectiveness, survivability and ability to significantly contribute even in 5E, which is something I've personally experienced.
 

iserith

Explorer
As to pcs dying in epics in adventure league games. I have played in and dm epics. And talked to other dms. The big reason people die in Adventure League. TEAMWORK FAILURE. Because people and couples go in as individuals, and the rest of the table will not try to do teamwork. My first kill in AL was due to the individuals wanting to kill monsters instead of taking two rounds out to stabilize a team mate. About a third to a half of the names of skully are due lack of team work. Either the group did not gel. Or someone tick the rest of group off and the team let the goober do his own thing and die.
I don't play AL, but on the topic of lack of teamwork, I 100% agree. I run one-shots monthly with pickup groups. Groups like that don't work together well, by and large. So the difficulty level of the challenges shoot up. I could see the same happening in an AL group, if those players don't regularly play together.

I was lurking in a friend's game on Sunday and the pickup group was 3rd level and just getting destroyed by goblins that were working together. What should have been a fairly easy challenge for a cohesive team, these guys and gals were being murdered. Notably, the characters were all the same level.

My friend got the idea for the scenario from a session I ran in Sunless Citadel where I used the same goblin tactics against 1st- and 2nd-level PCs. But this group, comprised mostly of my regulars, works very well together. So as a result, their party - fewer in number and with disparate levels lower than the aforementioned Sunday group - did way better. They did make a fatal mistake tactically that cost them in the end (their own choice), but comparatively speaking, the more cohesive group outshined the less cohesive one on every level.
 

iserith

Explorer
AL does have issues now and then. After all it's often a random group of people that just happen to show up so you get luck of the draw.

But it can can happen in any game even if the PCs work together if the spread of levels is too high. Any creature, caster or environmental hazard has an area effect that will be a challenge for a mid-to-high level may well kill low level PCs outright. That evil wizard is not going to avoid fireballing the low level guy. He's evil, he'll probably make sure the intern dies first.
That could easily be failure to telegraph the threat on the part of the DM or failure to pick up on or act accordingly in the face of that telegraphing. Don't get in fireball or lightning bolt formation when fighting a spellcaster, for example. Don't run into the strange green mist where all the plants are dead. Hang back, switch to ranged attacks. Drop prone to avoid ranged attacks. Dodge to get advantage on Dex saves. Bank Inspiration for when you need it.

A common thing D&Ders do in my experience is play the same way regardless of party composition or situation. That's especially true in my experience when they lack healers. They just carry on as normal until, oops, everyone's dying. Don't play as if you have a cleric when you don't have one.

So take that, combined with lack of group cohesiveness in what is essentially a pickup group, and now you have all sorts of other issues outside of level disparity contributing to an undesirable outcome.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
[MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION],
We have different preferences. That's it. Stop man-splaining ... umm ... nerd-splaining? In any case, stop telling me what I think, what my experiences have been and how I make my decisions.
 

iserith

Explorer
[MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION],
We have different preferences. That's it. Stop man-splaining ... umm ... nerd-splaining? In any case, stop telling me what I think, what my experiences have been and how I make my decisions.
Not sure how you're arriving at this. I'm not telling you what you think or what your experiences are. I can only go by what you've said. And again, I don't care about your preferences. Do whatever you like. But when you assert a justification for the preference that is debatable, it is reasonable in my view to expect that it will be debated. If you don't want to debate it, that's just fine. You can stop responding at any time.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
I would add that, in my regular groups, all the players are happy when someone else gains a level, even if it's a higher level than they are. One's teammate just got a boost and that helps everybody! Alex being resentful of Sean for being able to play more and gaining levels quicker is totally foreign to us.
Very much this.

Put another way, the characters in our group work together to overcome obstacles. If someone else in the group levels up and now has more tricks and talents to help the group overcome the obstacles, everyone gains.

If the DM is doing their job, they will do their best to shine the spotlight on each PC at different times to help avoid a player feeling "left out" or "jealous" because of some real or perceived imbalance in PC ability.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Very much this.

Put another way, the characters in our group work together to overcome obstacles. If someone else in the group levels up and now has more tricks and talents to help the group overcome the obstacles, everyone gains.

If the DM is doing their job, they will do their best to shine the spotlight on each PC at different times to help avoid a player feeling "left out" or "jealous" because of some real or perceived imbalance in PC ability.
But doesn't it become more than a perceived issue at a certain point? A level 1 or 2 PC is quite a bit more likely to die on a single turn than even a level 4. It's just a simple matter of HP and defenses.

It's even worse if a most of the group is moderately high level and for whatever reason you bring a new PC into the mix. If the group is going off to fight the dragon that level 1 character can either tag along and become a charcoal briquette after the first breath weapon attack or they can stay at the inn while the real adventurers go off and do their thing.

Unless of course low level PCs simply have plot armor.

As far as people's feelings of inadequacy, different people play for different reasons. Just because you don't agree does not mean that other peoples feelings and opinions are irrelevant.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
But doesn't it become more than a perceived issue at a certain point? A level 1 or 2 PC is quite a bit more likely to die on a single turn than even a level 4. It's just a simple matter of HP and defenses.
Yes, which is why I wrote "real or perceived". Doesn't mean real imbalance can't be successful though, either. "Plot armor" might be one way. Playing cautiously or creatively might be some other ways.

As far as people's feelings of inadequacy, different people play for different reasons. Just because you don't agree does not mean that other peoples feelings and opinions are irrelevant.
I assume you mean the general "you" here. I neither wrote nor implied anything that sought to dismiss others feelings or opinions. Sorry if that's how you interpreted it.
 

iserith

Explorer
I assume you mean the general "you" here. I neither wrote nor implied anything that sought to dismiss others feelings or opinions. Sorry if that's how you interpreted it.
Setting aside someone's feelings or opinions in a discussion is also not dismissing them. It means those feelings aren't up for debate because they're feelings. Other assertions, however, might be up for debate.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yes, which is why I wrote "real or perceived". Doesn't mean real imbalance can't be successful though, either. "Plot armor" might be one way. Playing cautiously or creatively might be some other ways.
The issue of new PCs is one of the reasons I decided to not track XP for individual PCs. While 5E is more balanced in many ways than previous editions, a lower level character can often go from fully healed to dead in a single turn when facing monsters that are appropriate to a higher level group. It's a personal preference, but I'd rather not have that hill giant (much less a monster with double digit CR) ignore the new guy simply because I know I'll kill them with a single hit. I want my opponents to do what makes sense to them from their perspective.

In any case, I was just curious what other people do because I never devised a solution I was happy with. If it makes sense for the hill giant to throw rocks at the sniper in the back, that's what they should do. If I'm at a point in the campaign where the PCs should be fighting storm giants I don't think there's much outside of plot armor that can protect a lower level PC.

I assume you mean the general "you" here. I neither wrote nor implied anything that sought to dismiss others feelings or opinions. Sorry if that's how you interpreted it.
Sorry, I'm probably overly-sensitive. Certain people seem to make the argument that peoples feelings and opinions somehow are supposed to be "set aside" when discussing the topic as if taking into consideration what people will enjoy is not relevant to playing a game.
 

iserith

Explorer
But doesn't it become more than a perceived issue at a certain point? A level 1 or 2 PC is quite a bit more likely to die on a single turn than even a level 4. It's just a simple matter of HP and defenses.

It's even worse if a most of the group is moderately high level and for whatever reason you bring a new PC into the mix. If the group is going off to fight the dragon that level 1 character can either tag along and become a charcoal briquette after the first breath weapon attack or they can stay at the inn while the real adventurers go off and do their thing.

Unless of course low level PCs simply have plot armor.
The biggest level difference I've seen is seven from the lowest-level PC to highest-level PC in that group. In that campaign, the 1st-level PC joined up with the party and delved into the dungeon which they had been clearing for some time. He was a melee guy, but figured he'd hang back a bit at first and do ranged. The group encountered a couple higher-level monsters (can't recall which exactly), but given that level of the dungeon, probably in the range of CR 5 to 9. A fight ensues. The PC makes some ranged attacks, which hit (because monster AC can be low even at higher CRs) while observing what the monsters can do, then he runs in to do a Help action to help a heavy hitter overcome some disadvantage which leads to the other PC killing the last monster. The XP from that encounter causes him to immediately level up to 2nd and get halfway to 3rd.

I remember this (except for the monsters) because everyone talked at the start of the session how it was suicide to bring a 1st-level PC to the area of the dungeon they had been exploring. Only, what we found was that if the player is savvy, he or she would do just fine. The player was very happy with his accomplishment and made 4th level by the end of the night. That was a very interesting data point that stuck with me, even a couple years later.

Of course, that is only one data point. Most level differences I see are one to three levels in our two weekly campaigns and in my one-off adventures with player pools. Sometimes these are across tiers where one would expect a noticeable impact. Still, the players or characters are able meaningfully contribute. And we're not into plot armor. You will earn your victories and survival in our games. If you know your character is going to be particularly fragile in a certain fight, you act accordingly or you die. That's just player skill. That hill giant you mention? Get outside of its rock-throwing range - even a light crossbow can do that. Spend Inspiration to offset the disadvantage due to range. Or get within 80 feet, but further than 60 feet, attack normally, then drop prone. It either attacks at disadvantage due to range or due to prone. Attack and run behind total cover, if you can. Have another member of the party get adjacent to the giant so its ranged attacks are at disadvantage. And so on and so on...
 

iserith

Explorer
Sorry, I'm probably overly-sensitive. Certain people seem to make the argument that peoples feelings and opinions somehow are supposed to be "set aside" when discussing the topic as if taking into consideration what people will enjoy is not relevant to playing a game.
*face palm*

Feelings aren't relevant when debating assertions presented as fact like lower-level PCs not being able to meaningfully contribute in a party of higher-level PCs in D&D 5e.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The biggest level difference I've seen is seven from the lowest-level PC to highest-level PC in that group. In that campaign, the 1st-level PC joined up with the party and delved into the dungeon which they had been clearing for some time. He was a melee guy, but figured he'd hang back a bit at first and do ranged. The group encountered a couple higher-level monsters (can't recall which exactly), but given that level of the dungeon, probably in the range of CR 5 to 9. A fight ensues. The PC makes some ranged attacks, which hit (because monster AC can be low even at higher CRs) while observing what the monsters can do, then he runs in to do a Help action to help a heavy hitter overcome some disadvantage which leads to the other PC killing the last monster. The XP from that encounter causes him to immediately level up to 2nd and get halfway to 3rd.

I remember this (except for the monsters) because everyone talked at the start of the session how it was suicide to bring a 1st-level PC to the area of the dungeon they had been exploring. Only, what we found was that if the player is savvy, he or she would do just fine. The player was very happy with his accomplishment and made 4th level by the end of the night. That was a very interesting data point that stuck with me, even a couple years later.

Of course, that is only one data point. Most level differences I see are one to three levels in our two weekly campaigns and in my one-off adventures with player pools. Sometimes these are across tiers where one would expect a noticeable impact. Still, the players or characters are able meaningfully contribute. And we're not into plot armor. You will earn your victories and survival in our games. If you know your character is going to be particularly fragile in a certain fight, you act accordingly or you die. That's just player skill. That hill giant you mention? Get outside of its rock-throwing range - even a light crossbow can do that. Spend Inspiration to offset the disadvantage due to range. Or get within 80 feet, but further than 60 feet, attack normally, then drop prone. It either attacks at disadvantage due to range or due to prone. Attack and run behind total cover, if you can. Have another member of the party get adjacent to the giant so its ranged attacks are at disadvantage. And so on and so on...
Do you run higher level games? Games above 10? Because I've had people join (or replace a dead PC) when the rest of the party was level 15 or higher and starting to venture out to other planes of existence where the waiting room attendant would have killed them by accidentally bumping into them.

As far as a level 1 facing CR 8-ish monsters (level appropriate for the rest of the group) all I can say is that when it happened to our group in AL, the DM just killed the 1st level characters. And no, we didn't have a chance to avoid it other than to not play. That may have been bad DMing, but while I don't go out of my way to kill PCs I also don't go out of my way to not attack them either. In addition, while I don't get too caught up in the mechanics of leveling it would be a bit odd for a fighter to have one fight and instantly gain a couple of levels. But that's just me.

In any case, it doesn't sound like it happens all that often in your games. It might work sometimes.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
*face palm*

Feelings aren't relevant when debating assertions presented as fact like lower-level PCs not being able to meaningfully contribute in a party of higher-level PCs in D&D 5e.
What I've said is that people don't feel like they can meaningfully contribute.

Even so, I simply disagree. If a group is high enough level and the barbarian is doing 30-40 damage per round, that 1st level wizard that can do 3-4 points of damage per round is not contributing significantly. Especially since the wizard is dead if they are ever hit since nobody has plot armor in my games and the bad guys flank and have ranged attacks all the time.
 

iserith

Explorer
Do you run higher level games? Games above 10? Because I've had people join (or replace a dead PC) when the rest of the party was level 15 or higher and starting to venture out to other planes of existence where the waiting room attendant would have killed them by accidentally bumping into them.
Yes, I've run higher-level games. The largest spread in levels I've personally seen are what I stated upthread. What people do is have more than one character that they level up from time to time so they don't have to start at apprentice tier again if their characters die.

That may have been bad DMing
Maybe so.

In addition, while I don't get too caught up in the mechanics of leveling it would be a bit odd for a fighter to have one fight and instantly gain a couple of levels. But that's just me.
Yeah, there are no rules about when you level up when you reach the appropriate amount of XP. I've noticed some people have hangups about this.

In any case, it doesn't sound like it happens all that often in your games. It might work sometimes.
It depends on what you mean by "it." PCs are commonly not the same level in our games. The maximum spread was 7. There have been a few cases of 4 to 6 levels. Mostly it's 1 to 3 levels. Still, players are able to meaningfully contribute. The reason I get to have all these data points is because we have player pools - more players than seats per session and more characters than players. How you get XP can vary by campaign, but this naturally leads to PCs of disparate levels.

What I've said is that people don't feel like they can meaningfully contribute.
I would show those people how they can.

Even so, I simply disagree. If a group is high enough level and the barbarian is doing 30-40 damage per round, that 1st level wizard that can do 3-4 points of damage per round is not contributing significantly. Especially since the wizard is dead if they are ever hit since nobody has plot armor in my games and the bad guys flank and have ranged attacks all the time.
Are there ways to meaningfully contribute other than doing as much damage as someone else? Because that argument could also be the case with parties at the same level since some character are better at the combat pillar than others. Wizards are pretty versatile in this regard. How about you make that barbarian protected from the undead he or she is doing 30-40 damage per round to so that he or she can attack recklessly every round without the undead having advantage to hit back? That seems like a pretty meaningful contribution to me.

I would say the metrics you appear to be using to determine meaningful contribution are needlessly narrow. As for survivability, that's chiefly on the player and, as my previous example shows, that goes up very quickly if you're following the rules for character advancement.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yes, I've run higher-level games. The largest spread in levels I've personally seen are what I stated upthread. What people do is have more than one character that they level up from time to time so they don't have to start at apprentice tier again if their characters die.



Maybe so.



Yeah, there are no rules about when you level up when you reach the appropriate amount of XP. I've noticed some people have hangups about this.



It depends on what you mean by "it." PCs are commonly not the same level in our games. The maximum spread was 7. There have been a few cases of 4 to 6 levels. Mostly it's 1 to 3 levels. Still, players are able to meaningfully contribute. The reason I get to have all these data points is because we have player pools - more players than seats per session and more characters than players. How you get XP can vary by campaign, but this naturally leads to PCs of disparate levels.



I would show those people how they can.



Are there ways to meaningfully contribute other than doing as much damage as someone else? Because that argument could also be the case with parties at the same level since some character are better at the combat pillar than others. Wizards are pretty versatile in this regard. How about you make that barbarian protected from the undead he or she is doing 30-40 damage per round to so that he or she can attack recklessly every round without the undead having advantage to hit back? That seems like a pretty meaningful contribution to me.

I would say the metrics you appear to be using to determine meaningful contribution are needlessly narrow. As for survivability, that's chiefly on the player and, as my previous example shows, that goes up very quickly if you're following the rules for character advancement.
Your sample is of a guy who, from your description was never targeted by the enemy. They survived because they were never hit. You also had a situation where it was possible to be far enough away to avoid being targeted. That's not a given unless the PCs have plot armor.

In my sample, my wife and I were playing level 1 characters and they died because they were targeted by a higher level enemy. What was a potentially deadly encounter for the rest of the group was a guaranteed deadly for 1st level PCs that were targeted. There was no "hide in the back" or "creatively avoid danger" option possible in either of the encounters the PCs died in. Our PCs were not being reckless. The PCs that survived were level 3-4, so not a huge gap but a critical one.

As far as my own campaign, maybe I'm an outlier in that I've allowed people to join the game when it was nearing a conclusion. Maybe after a certain point PCs never have to be replaced in other people's campaigns. If a new PC were to join my campaign and I forced them to start at level 1, I doubt they would live to see level 2 very often after a certain point in the campaign.

Ultimately I just don't see any real reason to keep people at different levels. YMMV.
 

iserith

Explorer
Your sample is of a guy who, from your description was never targeted by the enemy. They survived because they were never hit. You also had a situation where it was possible to be far enough away to avoid being targeted. That's not a given unless the PCs have plot armor.

In my sample, my wife and I were playing level 1 characters and they died because they were targeted by a higher level enemy. What was a potentially deadly encounter for the rest of the group was a guaranteed deadly for 1st level PCs that were targeted. There was no "hide in the back" or "creatively avoid danger" option possible in either of the encounters the PCs died in. Our PCs were not being reckless. The PCs that survived were level 3-4, so not a huge gap but a critical one.

As far as my own campaign, maybe I'm an outlier in that I've allowed people to join the game when it was nearing a conclusion. Maybe after a certain point PCs never have to be replaced in other people's campaigns. If a new PC were to join my campaign and I forced them to start at level 1, I doubt they would live to see level 2 very often after a certain point in the campaign.

Ultimately I just don't see any real reason to keep people at different levels. YMMV.
The character I mentioned was never targeted by the enemy because he and the other PCs engineered that outcome via team cohesion and good tactics. I didn't choose not to attack that character - I just couldn't. One of the tactics that group loved employing (when the requisite PCs and players were in that session) they called the Dragonborn Shieldwall. Two dragonborn in plate with shields would stand shoulder to shoulder and Dodge while heavy hitting ranged characters behind them would tag enemies on the other side of them. Sometimes one or more of those dragonborn would also have sanctuary on. They'd set this up in a chokepoint (or at least a spot where the monster would provoke OAs to get at back ranks). It was very effective. Even grappling and shoving them to break up the shieldwall wasn't terribly effective as they were trained in Athletics.

The same opportunity applies in almost any situation - you create your victories. Anything outside of that situation I would say is probably an outlier. Even if you're in tight quarters in a dungeon, there's always the possibility of rounding a corner to avoid being a target or shutting the door. In larger areas, you can move out of range. Unless the ranged weapon options for the given character are limited to thrown only, it's usually the case you can out-range a monster. You can Dodge for bonuses on Dex saves. Or use Inspiration. D&D 5e PCs are so survivable. (Surely you've seen threads where people lament how PCs never seem to die!) You just sometimes have to work for it.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The character I mentioned was never targeted by the enemy because he and the other PCs engineered that outcome via team cohesion and good tactics. I didn't choose not to attack that character - I just couldn't. One of the tactics that group loved employing (when the requisite PCs and players were in that session) they called the Dragonborn Shieldwall. Two dragonborn in plate with shields would stand shoulder to shoulder and Dodge while heavy hitting ranged characters behind them would tag enemies on the other side of them. Sometimes one or more of those dragonborn would also have sanctuary on. They'd set this up in a chokepoint (or at least a spot where the monster would provoke OAs to get at back ranks). It was very effective. Even grappling and shoving them to break up the shieldwall wasn't terribly effective as they were trained in Athletics.

The same opportunity applies in almost any situation - you create your victories. Anything outside of that situation I would say is probably an outlier. Even if you're in tight quarters in a dungeon, there's always the possibility of rounding a corner to avoid being a target or shutting the door. In larger areas, you can move out of range. Unless the ranged weapon options for the given character are limited to thrown only, it's usually the case you can out-range a monster. You can Dodge for bonuses on Dex saves. Or use Inspiration. D&D 5e PCs are so survivable. (Surely you've seen threads where people lament how PCs never seem to die!) You just sometimes have to work for it.
That all may be true in your home campaign, it is not universal. The enemies should just ignore the dragonborn tanks, they aren't a threat. Chokepoints aren't a given, in many cases the bad guys should just move around the tanks. Larger area? Great. Walk away from the rest of the party, that's what the guys flanking from the back are for. Do your enemies never have ranged or area effect attacks? All it takes is one boulder from that hill giant to take out that annoying gnat in the back permanently.

So I call BS. Well, at least it's BS that these tactics would work in every game. Tactics cannot overcome the fact that low level PCs likely won't survive even a single hit or AOE.
 

iserith

Explorer
That all may be true in your home campaign, it is not universal. The enemies should just ignore the dragonborn tanks, they aren't a threat. Chokepoints aren't a given, in many cases the bad guys should just move around the tanks. Larger area? Great. Walk away from the rest of the party, that's what the guys flanking from the back are for. Do your enemies never have ranged or area effect attacks? All it takes is one boulder from that hill giant to take out that annoying gnat in the back permanently.

So I call BS. Well, at least it's BS that these tactics would work in every game. Tactics cannot overcome the fact that low level PCs likely won't survive even a single hit or AOE.
You may note that I did not make assertion to the effect that "these tactics would work in every game." You are attacking a strawman. I am not obligated to defend a position I do not hold. I really wish you would stop doing this. It makes conversations with you completely unproductive except to warn others who may be reading to be careful about engaging with you. And I don't know how much more of that particular public service I'm up for or how much more that point needs demonstrating.

I gave that example to show that party cohesion and tactics play a big role in survival. That speaks to [MENTION=277]jasper[/MENTION]'s point about AL lacking in those things (or my point about that being true of many pickup groups) and it also goes to whether characters of the same level or disparate level are successful. Further, I have already given you ways to deal with hill giants in general. Look, I'm sorry that you and your wife's characters were killed. But there are a lot of reasons why that may be outside of having lower-level characters as I've shown several times.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
You may note that I did not make assertion to the effect that "these tactics would work in every game." You are attacking a strawman. I am not obligated to defend a position I do not hold. I really wish you would stop doing this. It makes conversations with you completely unproductive except to warn others who may be reading to be careful about engaging with you. And I don't know how much more of that particular public service I'm up for or how much more that point needs demonstrating.

I gave that example to show that party cohesion and tactics play a big role in survival. That speaks to [MENTION=277]jasper[/MENTION]'s point about AL lacking in those things (or my point about that being true of many pickup groups) and it also goes to whether characters of the same level or disparate level are successful. Further, I have already given you ways to deal with hill giants in general. Look, I'm sorry that you and your wife's characters were killed. But there are a lot of reasons why that may be outside of having lower-level characters as I've shown several times.
I was just responding to: The same opportunity applies in almost any situation - you create your victories. Anything outside of that situation I would say is probably an outlier.

I don't see how a statement like that can be taken as anything other than what you said. Good tactics equals the PCs, even the low level ones, surviving. In the game where I played, there was no amount of party tactics that could have saved the 1st level PCs.

I could run through any number of scenarios where low level PCs would not survive encounters I typically throw at a mid-to-high level party if the monsters are being run intelligently. Then again, my monsters regularly attack the guys in the back if they're annoying and I rarely do traditional old school dungeons. If you gave me a way to deal with the hill giants throwing boulders at the guy in the back I missed it.

At least we're in agreement that one of us (well,okay probably both of us) are full of it. I think you're dismissive of people saying that it's not fun to play low level characters with a high level group. You seem to think that party cohesion and cooperation is some kind of magical unicorn fairy dust that will protect low level PC, and that if they do die it's probably "an outlier".
 

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