Level Up (A5E) My Level Up Campaign has Ended! Level Up Feedback

Stalker0

Legend
After 1 year and 7 months (real time), my campaign has ended in triumph!

The party has been stranded with a community of refugees in a fey world for 445 days (in game time), but managed to contact an ancient civilization (Taranya) to help them out. Tarayna opened a portal (after a big ritual was performed to show the Taranyans where the world was at), and the party raced with their refugees to make it through.

The final fight involved them fighting two fey masters with their scores of servants that wanted to stop them from leaving. It was my 10th level party, some soldiers they had trained from the refugee community, and a 20th level epic fighter from Taranya. An epic battle with over 30 initiative slots commenced, and though the party was almost wiped at one point, they managed to get it done, and when one of the fey masters betrayed the other (ahh fey politics), the party was able to overcome, and get their people safely to a new world.

With the game over, I took the time to interview my players about level up. What they liked and disliked, with the aim of deciding how much of level up to use in future games. Here is the feedback they provided me.

My players for reference:

  • RF - Ranger (Hunter*) / Fighter (Battlemaster*): A highly mechanical player that often likes to optimize.
  • WG - Warlock (Genie*): A very non-mechanical player only focused on roleplaying most of the time.
  • R - Rogue (Cutthroat)
  • C - Cleric (Sunpriest)
  • WD - Warlock (Diabolist)
* - OG subclasses
Game started at 3rd level and finished at 10th.

For our next game, would you rather play OG 5e, Level up, mostly level up, or mostly OG 5e?
  • RF - OG 5e
  • WG - no preference
  • R - some level up
  • C - some level up
  • WD - OG 5e
What was your biggest like in the game, and what was your biggest dislike?

All - Liked Character Creation Option (Culture/Heritage/Background). The most consistent feedback was that everyone liked the more custom options and interesting character notes that this section gave (so I've removed that from the individual notes). Some like destinies as well, but this feedback was more mixed.

All - Dislike:
  • Fatigue/Strife penalties are way too harsh. Especially Strife 1 (we swapped strife 1 and 2 penalties because my players almost revolted at how strong strife 1's penalty is).
  • Destiny inspiration point generators are very imbalanced. Some are DM determined (and its easy to forget as the DM because you have so many little things in LU to keep track of), others are generated by game mechanics, and those inevitably generated far more points.

RF
  • Dislike: Expertise Die system, really found it annoying and fiddly compared to the standard. Didn't feel that spells were really changed much in the ways that mattered, the broken spells were still mostly broken, weak spells were still weak.
WG
  • Like: Really enjoyed her metamorphosis destiny inspiration point ability. That created some fun flavorful interactions.
R
  • Like: Manuevers were fun when their special niche was found and they kicked in well.
  • Dislike: Too many crunchy bits that ultimately weren't very impactful but still had to be tracked (specialization as one example).
WD
  • Like: Some of the new skills and uses for abilities.
  • Dislike:
    • Some of their initial abilities were really cool at the beginning but fell off hard later in teh game (example: they had an ability to create "simple tools". Handy at the beginning of the game, never game up in the second half). They wish they had more retraining options for some of that stuff.
    • Some of the control spells felt very "hit or miss". They wish Black Tentacles had a more "save for half" kind of option as an example.
    • Contagion spell seems way too OP.
C
  • Like: Enjoyed the destiny system, liked traits like cosmopolitan added some fun flavor to the game.
  • Dislike: The spell list felt pretty limited compared to OG 5e. Didn't feel like he could be very strong in melee, and felt forced into more ranged options.

Any other specific feedback you want to give?

RF
  • Was overall surprised they didn't like LU, as they thought they would really enjoy all the extra crunch in the system, but by the end they didn't feel the crunch really contributed much to the game.
  • There is a lot of "crunch" in the game that ultimately feels pretty inconsequential and not worth tracking.
  • There are a lot of abilities that need better narrative justifications. Examples: That only rangers can "set snares" is dumb. The ability that lets you just determine a creatures' CR is extremely weird and dumb.
  • Ultimately failed as a survival system (this game was a more survival focused game), supplies are just far too numerous.
  • Not enough rules for crafting things.
  • The manuever system concept was good, but the maneuvers are very imbalanced, and too many things require high exertion (aka the character was running out of exertion too quickly).
  • Really enjoyed the mechanic where Legendary Resistance now weakens the creature. While they still hate LR as a concept, they get its purpose, and this at least gives the players SOME feeling of progress.
  • Ultimately felt like "1 step forward, 2 steps back".
  • Was not impressed by the new subclasses, thought in most cases the OG subclasses are just better.
  • The Rangers "nova" (aka the Trained Accuracy bonus) is too good, they shouldn't be able to blow all of their points on a single super attack.
R
  • Did enjoy the split between Fatigue and Strife as a narrative concept.
  • Also agrees there is too much "fiddly bits" that aren't worth the tracking and mental energy. Felt bad for the DM having to track so many things.

C
  • Thought the wormway spell was really cool (he was disappointed we didn't get to 11th so he could cast it).
  • Likes the idea of Doom condition, but thinks there should always be a way to fix it. aka have it last longer and have some "plot" means to undo it. Just having someone go to doom without any way to stop it just doesn't feel great.
  • High level cleric spells (aka 4-5th level spells) felt more balanced and interesting.
WD
  • Really hated the Doom condition
  • Found the new layout for the warlock pretty confusing.



and now what did I the DM think of the system overall? My notes.

DM Pros
  • I really like the NPCs in the MM, there is a lot more interesting variety.
  • Enjoyed a good amount of the new magic items.
  • The "boon" tables was great to create little random fun things for the players to find.
  • Rare spells was one of my favorite things.
  • I did find the class "exploration" abilities really did work for this exploration heavy game. The cleric for example used their "cosmopolitan" trait a lot to glean neat little tidbits of things. The ranger was able to suss out enemy vulnerabilities and resistances which they used to good effect, etc.
  • I liked the strongholds, though I only used them a bit they gave good inspiration.
  • I liked the countdown mechanic and used it a decent amount, though my players were mixed it seems on its desirability.
  • The encounter math was a marked improvement from the OG.

DM Cons
  • The manuevers need a wholesale balance pass, there is some real imbalances there. Most of the bow school for example is very bad.
  • Subclasses for the most part I did not like. I think the OG ones are better.
  • There was a lot of crunch going into the game I thought I would enjoy, but very quickly dropped, as I found it just way more tedious than the value I got out of them. The armor materials, damaging items, weapon special bonuses, skill crits, I dropped them all pretty fast.
  • I had real trouble remembering destinies and I would forget to give out inspiration for various destinies a lot.
  • While monster design I think was overall better, there was too much reliance on reactions and bonus actions, which as a DM is very easy to forget when your running 5-6 monsters in a fight.
  • My biggest disappointment was the journey system. That was actually what I waited on LU for, as I didn't want to run this kind of "high travel, high exploration, survival" game without the rules. Ultimately they didn't really do the job for me. I found supplies way way way too plentiful (I houseruled them down twice in abundance and still found them too plentiful). The journey activities were narratively clumsy and it was weird because some things seemed to work on a day to day basis but others in a more "nebulous time" that I had a hard time resolving. I ultimately dropped the system in favor of a custom one I created.

The Future (what will I use LU for in the future?)
So right now my tentative plan is to go back to OG 5e for the next campaign, but keep a few LU elements.
  • Culture/Heritage/Background
  • Countdowns
  • Magic Items
  • Monsters (some at least, I'll pick and choose ones I think are especially better in LU).
  • Destinies: But I will likely give all the destinies the basic "Excellence" destiny ability to generate inspiration points, so its all tracked by the players and not me.
  • Rare Spells as fun gifts.
  • Fatigue/Strife I'm torn on, not sure what I'm going to do with that.
 
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Sounds like a fair assessment to me too. My group has the game that's been going on almost 2 years now that started as O5e and then slowly converted to Level Up after it was released.

Personally, I'm more of the opposite and think most of the A5e subclasses are better than the OG ones. I'm a very heavy crunch type player and so is one of buddies in that game, so we took to the system like ducks to water. Overall we agree that while a lot of abilities are nice, especially the social and exploration abilities each class gets, but in the grand scheme of things some seem pretty niche. The journey rules being a bit inconsistent is something I noticed too, though due to the current adventure we're in we haven't used them for a while. Also due to the nature of said adventure we end up doing a short rest roughly every 2 or 3 encounters, so we've been focusing on getting more mileage out of various recovery abilities. Makes me wish there were more of them for all classes. I do think that Supply is over hyped as a difficulty, and the various rules regarding them feels so narratively inconsistent that even I feel they're too gamey, like rules solely inserted to be obtuse or increase difficulty. Some of the rules feel like the should have been optional rather than be baked in base to the game.

I think the biggest peeve for our GM is that not all the players are crunch savvy, so it ends up falling on them a lot of the time to remember some of naughty word that the players themselves should be the ones to keep track of.
 

Pedantic

Legend
I've found Supply far too cheap and plentiful at all levels as well. I'm not sure the system can be easily salvaged for a small adventuring party, but I think it would actually work fairly well if you included dependents that can't help with Journey activities, like a caravan the PCs are escorting or a family they're guarding and so on.
 

ART!

Deluxe Unhuman
I really appreciate these insights. I've read through a lot of LU, but only used bits of it: traps, because they're easy to integrate into O5E; and exploration challenges, same reason. Those worked quite well for me, and of the two I especially like LU's approach to traps.

But I haven't played in or run LU as-is, so I don't have a sense of how it all plays. Based on what I do know, I can understand the complaints about expertise dice and Fatigue & Strike.
 


Pedantic

Legend
Supply is exactly as available as you make it, no?
There's a lot of abilities that obviate the need for it and/or make it very easy to forage, and it strains credibility to make it difficult to acquire a full Supply load at any settlement outside of some very specific narratives. To be silly for a second, I think it's much more a demand-side problem, in that more events need to eat supply (so it an serve as an effective "traveling HP" pool) and the regular drain of supplies needs to feel like a bigger pressure. I'd mess with consumption rates/day in certain terrain types and/or make supply loss a more present threat from exploration challenges.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
There's a lot of abilities that obviate the need for it and/or make it very easy to forage, and it strains credibility to make it difficult to acquire a full Supply load at any settlement outside of some very specific narratives. To be silly for a second, I think it's much more a demand-side problem, in that more events need to eat supply (so it an serve as an effective "traveling HP" pool) and the regular drain of supplies needs to feel like a bigger pressure. I'd mess with consumption rates/day in certain terrain types and/or make supply loss a more present threat from exploration challenges.
I’m pretty harsh with exploration challenge Supply loss. Plus journeys which don’t stop at settlements often. I think if you’re near settlements all the time, it’s going to be hard to make survival an aspect of the game. It’s really about exploring out there alone.

The example challenge penalties do err in the side of leniency, I agree. But they are just suggestions; you can make it exactly as demanding as you wish. We deliberately made it like that to accommodate different playstyles.
 


noodohs

Explorer
Interesting. I would be curious to know how you were playing: VTT? Pen and paper? I ask only because back in my PF1e days, we were playing with paper and it really did get annoying tracking things. But PF2e (and A5e), we are playing with a VTT and even PF2e doesn't seem too crunchy anymore. Everything is just there and easy to track. I rarely have to remember anything.

We've been playing our game for a while now and expertise has been my favorite addition by far. Not only does it allow me to excel more at something than other players, but it also provides additional situational bonuses that give me a reason to solve problems more creatively. With O5e, my biggest complaint is that every character winds up being only marginally different from other characters because proficiency is static. Yeah, I might have more or less bonus from my ability score, but one person being good at arcana is the same as another. Now we can focus on specific aspects of it and with some DM creativity, get different narrative results from our rolls. PF2e essentially operates the same way but with a fixed bonus instead of dice (though the average is about the same, IIRC).

Regarding the subclasses/archetypes, I do think it's hard to really judge the A5e ones if you're not playing them. This would also make it hard to really grasp expertise and maneuvers since O5e ones don't grant those. However, it is unsurprising that a player who is an optimizer might not be so into the more balanced archetypes in A5e. But the rebalancing is why I like A5e; a lot of things needed to be toned down. I would be curious if they actually mean "stronger/more powerful in combat" rather than "better" as I do not think these things are the same.

Maneuvers have been a mixed bag. I am always looking for opportunities to use them, but they end up being very situational and I don't often seem to be in the right situation. Partly this is because I wanted to play a ranged ranger and all the ranged maneuvers are pretty... non-existent, but I also feel like I'm just not in the right situation enough. I wonder if being able to switch them out on a long rest might alleviate that. I understand the idea of having a character who has signature moves, so to speak, but if you have a character who can, say, blind people and now you're fighting exclusively things without eyes, I can imagine that getting tiresome.

I also agree that having certain things rely on the DM to dole out rewards and others not isn't the best. It is one of my complaints about the artificer. If you have the right DM, it's fine, but if you don't, you might just never get inspiration or new schematics or this or that thing, but other players are getting inspiration or the wizard does get new spells because that's just the rules. Sometimes the DM just forgets, but other times they're just a dick and I don't think core features should be tied to DM whims.

Supply... I think I agree with Morrus. If you're frequently in towns, of course you can get supply. It's mainly there for when taking long journeys. Your strength score dictates how much free supply you can carry and additional rations can get heavy, so there's only so much you can carry. If you're just giving people bags of holding, yeah, you're going to completely defeat the mechanic.
 

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