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D&D 5E Reducing 5e XP after 10th level

S'mon

Legend
My latest 5e campaign (set in Damara/Blodstone Lands, 1359 DR) is a multi-group sandbox game which started in August 2020. I use standard 5e XP with a lot of lower CR monsters, which gives a rather sedate advancement rate. Currently PCs are in the 3rd-6th range (I currently start new PCs at 3rd). In order to keep the progression rate about the same and allow for long term play, I'm planning to halve XP awards for PCs at 11th+ level. I was wondering if anyone else has done this and how did it work out?
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I would put it on the back burner as a possibility for later, if a problem arises. As it is, it looks like you're trying to solve a problem that hasn't happened yet. While it is true that the XP needed to advance per level, as a function of level, shrinks after 10th, you're already using a primary means of slowing progression -- building encounters of low XP creatures and using numbers to make up the challenge. Given the structure of your campaign, if this continues, it should be fine and perhaps even get stronger. If you get there, in 5 more levels, and find you need more, then you can stretch xp totals. I, again, wouldn't worry about it now.
 

S'mon

Legend
I would put it on the back burner as a possibility for later, if a problem arises. As it is, it looks like you're trying to solve a problem that hasn't happened yet. While it is true that the XP needed to advance per level, as a function of level, shrinks after 10th, you're already using a primary means of slowing progression -- building encounters of low XP creatures and using numbers to make up the challenge. Given the structure of your campaign, if this continues, it should be fine and perhaps even get stronger. If you get there, in 5 more levels, and find you need more, then you can stretch xp totals. I, again, wouldn't worry about it now.

Well one issue is that some PCs will hit 11th while others are say 8th or 9th level; faster progression at 11th will increase the level disparity, whereas I'd prefer to see it shrink naturally.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well one issue is that some PCs will hit 11th while others are say 8th or 9th level; faster progression at 11th will increase the level disparity, whereas I'd prefer to see it shrink naturally.
Not if they're earning the same XP from the same encounters. The only weird place on the XP chart is 10-11-12. And this is because of 11th level xp. The jump from 10th to 11th is from 64k to 85k or 21k xp. Then for 12th you need only 100k, meaning another 15k more. This is weird, and causes a real slowdown at 10th to 11th, but a quick jump from 11th to 12th. After that, it settles back out into steadily increasing chunks. If this is an issue, it's a simple fix -- change 11th level XP to 80k. That makes the jump from 10th to 11th the same as for 9th to 10th at 16k, and make the jump from 11th to 12th 20k, same as for 12th to 13th. This makes every level need either the same or more XP as the previous level to advance. Much simpler fix than doubling XP gain needed after 10th, which still means 11th to 12th isn't that bad but everything else afterwards is a huge slope. And, given your propensity to use lower XP creatures in numbers, this is already slowing progression time nicely.
 

Having both run and played in Tier 3, I highly recommend this. It was fairly common for characters to level after only 1-2 sessions. Even if you're using more lower CR creatures for overall lower xp, this is still going to be somewhat of an issue. Since you have a disparity, you should talk to the players about it before they get near level 10, since surprising them with it might feel unfair to those ahead of the curve.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Having both run and played in Tier 3, I highly recommend this. It was fairly common for characters to level after only 1-2 sessions. Even if you're using more lower CR creatures for overall lower xp, this is still going to be somewhat of an issue. Since you have a disparity, you should talk to the players about it before they get near level 10, since surprising them with it might feel unfair to those ahead of the curve.
Weird, that wasn't my experience with T3. It seemed it took about the same as prior levels, but then I also had encounters that were appropriate and stressed the daily XP expectations in play. The only weird part was the 10-11-12, where 11th took quite awhile and 12th was pretty quick. I've also had experience using lots of lower CR creatures as the mainstay of encounters (I tend to like larger encounters of individually lower threats rather than small encounters with higher threat creatures -- I find the former is more of a challenge to PCs), and these do act very much to slow XP progression. If you have a level disparity, it does so even more.
 


jgsugden

Legend
#1: You're better off using Milestone advancement. If you don't like the rate of advancement created by using the RAW core system, you're wanting a change, and that change is motivated by a sense of where you want to go. Milestone advancement skips straight to that goal without unnecessary math.

You don't need to tell the PCs you are using it, either. I have used a version of Milestone advancement since the 1980s when I realized that tracking experience for combats was a waste of my time, and often unsatisfying as the difficult of encounters did not match the rewards given. To that end, I would look at one PC, see how much they needed to level, and then award xp to the group based upon what percentage of the way I felt they deserved to reach after a session. Nobody realized I was not doing the math anymore - ever. And that is after running thousands of sessions.

#2: Look at the design of 5E and you'll see something hidden in there: We do not have levels 12 through 20. At least, they are not levels like the earlier levels. Advancement is faster, but the abilities, and primarily magic abilities, are stretched out more. You get fewer spell slots per level. Fewer spells known for sorcerers. The secret is that it generally, but not always, takes more levels to get the same 'impact' on a PC that you felt for achieving a lower level. This is not true of all mechanics - but it is true of enough that you can see it if you play enough high level play. Don't feel bad if your PCs advance higher in levels between levels 12 and 20 because they're not really advancing as quickly in terms. I think of levels 12 to 20 in 5E as (12 to 14), (15 to 16), and (17 to 20) as three mini tiers that PCs advance through at about the same rate that they went from 10 to 11.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
#1: You're better off using Milestone advancement. If you don't like the rate of advancement created by using the RAW core system, you're wanting a change, and that change is motivated by a sense of where you want to go. Milestone advancement skips straight to that goal without unnecessary math.
Except that he has characters of different levels that he wants to level up at different rates - with rate changes not just represented by the XP chart. Milestone doesn't work for that at all.
 
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pogre

Legend
I think it is an interesting idea - largely because I enjoy higher level play and would not mind having a few more sessions between 11-20.

I also run a table with variable level PCs. I have 8 players and most weeks I have 6 at the table. My solution for XPs is take the XP earned, divide it by the number of players, and distribute that amount to each of the highest level PCs. For each level below the top level I give a 10% bonus.

Example: Party has five people that earn 10,000 XP.1 PC is 10th, 2 are 9th, and 3 are 8th level. 10th level PC gets 2,000 XP, 9th level PCs get 2,200 XP, and the 8th level PCs get 2,400 XP.
 

toucanbuzz

Legend
Although different speeds of XP advancement was talked about in development by Mike Mearls, it didn't make the cut, likely because DMs could incorporate this on their own if they wanted at their own rate.

Pathfinder (aka D&D 3.5+), did incorporate fast-medium-slow. When I ran games in that system, I preferred to slow it down so we could enjoy the ride. So, there's no reason you couldn't do that. It's just extra math (e.g. slow takes 50% more XP than the default rate) and consideration of how much treasure you're handing out (e.g. by slowing it down, are your players getting more magic items than would be expected, thereby making it tough to guess at appropriate level encounters?)

It's off-topic for your question, which isn't to convince you to use another method, but I've abandoned calculating XP because it's tons of math for little gain. I use a descriptive milestone (e.g. if your barony's capital reaches Town size and you resolve a major threat or 3 minor ones to your barony, you'll get a level).
 

aco175

Legend
I would think it depends on the campaign and how long you plan to play. My group has campaigns that last to the 12-14th level range and then some of the players want to get back to 1st level. I would want to speed up XP at these higher levels and have one or two giant cool battles before the players want to end the campaign. If your group plans to play that campaign longer, you can slow advancement to keep PCs in a range you need, but the expectations of the players may be different if they are used to gaining a level every 4-8 sessions and now months go by. If the story is good, it may not matter as much.
 

#2: Look at the design of 5E and you'll see something hidden in there: We do not have levels 12 through 20. At least, they are not levels like the earlier levels. Advancement is faster, but the abilities, and primarily magic abilities, are stretched out more. You get fewer spell slots per level. Fewer spells known for sorcerers. The secret is that it generally, but not always, takes more levels to get the same 'impact' on a PC that you felt for achieving a lower level. This is not true of all mechanics - but it is true of enough that you can see it if you play enough high level play. Don't feel bad if your PCs advance higher in levels between levels 12 and 20 because they're not really advancing as quickly in terms. I think of levels 12 to 20 in 5E as (12 to 14), (15 to 16), and (17 to 20) as three mini tiers that PCs advance through at about the same rate that they went from 10 to 11.
I think this is a really important point to consider before adjusting XP rates - the high levels just don't mean as much as the low levels, so slowing the advancement rate to match the current leveling rate can make character advancement seem to drag - getting levels at the same rate will mean getting cool new stuff to use at a slower rate.
 

Although different speeds of XP advancement was talked about in development by Mike Mearls, it didn't make the cut, likely because DMs could incorporate this on their own if they wanted at their own rate.
Figures; another modular option that could have been dropped into the DMG, lost to pagecount. I hate gaining a level right after I just gained one. I want to have a chance to enjoy my new toys for while. Gaining them too quickly makes them seem much less special.
It's off-topic for your question, which isn't to convince you to use another method, but I've abandoned calculating XP because it's tons of math for little gain. I use a descriptive milestone (e.g. if your barony's capital reaches Town size and you resolve a major threat or 3 minor ones to your barony, you'll get a level).
I want to thank you for actually address the question, rather than just deriding the option. Too many times when the discussion of adjust xp comes up it gets clogged with "don't use XP" comments. XP has a few advantages over milestones, but it really depends on the type of game you want to run. If you run an epic or quest style game, milestones are vastly superior, since you know the points you want the party to level. In a sandbox style game, XP is better because you don't have set objectives.

In a sandbox, the players can choose a lot of different options, some minor and others major. To use your example, if they deal with 2 minor threats, then a major threat, do they "lose" the benefit from those 2 earlier threats? Additionally, milestones reward the players for staying completely focused on the primary objective, basically removing any side-quests the DM wants to include. It's more math, but it should be easy to do when designing adventures/encounters since you already need their CR anyway.
 

For what it's worth, PF's fast/medium/slow is superior in a few ways to just adding a fractional multiplier to xp as some have suggested.
  • If players know ahead of time that they are using a given xp table they can estimate & plan accordingly allowing their plans to better fit the resulting game.
  • If the exp gained is simply cut by a fraction players will eventually notice & start wondering. Not only that the result makes it more difficult for players to plan in ways that fit the campaign you plan to run.
edit: as has been said already, having the different xp rates cut to make room for other stuff in the DMG is a loss for us all as it probably could have been one of the few optional rules that don't break the game, require the gm to finish them, or wind up being designed to thwart the type of gameplay they should support.
 

toucanbuzz

Legend
In a sandbox, the players can choose a lot of different options, some minor and others major. To use your example, if they deal with 2 minor threats, then a major threat, do they "lose" the benefit from those 2 earlier threats? Additionally, milestones reward the players for staying completely focused on the primary objective, basically removing any side-quests the DM wants to include. It's more math, but it should be easy to do when designing adventures/encounters since you already need their CR anyway.
XP can be beneficial when encouraging "hexploration" of a sandbox. You're rewarded for being curious with XP and hopefully treasure. It can be done with milestones if your sandbox is contained. For example, in my "kingmaker" campaign, players gained a level if they explored 1/2 the hexes of the future barony and resolved either a major threat or 3 minor ones. Players can never gain the final level of the setup (in this case 4th) without resolving all major threats, so it's a contained sandbox in that sense. If the world is completely open, XP or attendance XP like Adventure League make more sense.
 

S'mon

Legend
Having both run and played in Tier 3, I highly recommend this. It was fairly common for characters to level after only 1-2 sessions. Even if you're using more lower CR creatures for overall lower xp, this is still going to be somewhat of an issue. Since you have a disparity, you should talk to the players about it before they get near level 10, since surprising them with it might feel unfair to those ahead of the curve.

Thanks, yes I've run a few campaigns to 15th or 20th and progression from 11th on always seemed very quick to me. Not just the reduced XP needed; the PCs increase in power a lot so they can earn XP a lot faster than before. I've had 2 campaigns go to 20th then keep running with Epic Boons, but for this one I'd rather have slower advancement and play for longer while probably never going to 20.

Half XP after 10th is in the campaign document, but this will be the first time I've used it.
 

turnip_farmer

Adventurer
For what it's worth, PF's fast/medium/slow is superior in a few ways to just adding a fractional multiplier to xp as some have suggested.
Pathfinder's fast/medium/slow is exactly the same thing as adding a multiplier to XP. Your arguments for why it's better seem to imply that a DnD GM would slow down character advancement without telling the players. Why would anyone do that?

Pathfinder's tables tell us that, if you increase the XP required to level up by a third, it will take longer to level up. They also tell us that if you decrease the XP required to level up by a third, players will advance faster. No one really needs a table to tell them that, do they?
 

Pathfinder's fast/medium/slow is exactly the same thing as adding a multiplier to XP. Your arguments for why it's better seem to imply that a DnD GM would slow down character advancement without telling the players. Why would anyone do that?

Pathfinder's tables tell us that, if you increase the XP required to level up by a third, it will take longer to level up. They also tell us that if you decrease the XP required to level up by a third, players will advance faster. No one really needs a table to tell them that, do they?
"Blame". When a GM points at a column or footnote about a multiplier printed in an official book it's simply a choice to use these official rules. When a GM makes up a multiplier and applies it openly or even secretly as described earlier it adds one more thing to the list of houserules. Houserules can only grow so long before it starts becoming a completely new system. If the 5e DMG were almost universally recognized as one of the best & most useful DMGs to date with stellar guidance into details behind the system's curtain & the art of GM'ing aong with stellar optional rules generally considered rock solid... Instead... it's the 5e dmg.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'm definitely happy with using by the book XP in this campaign; it mostly runs on Roll20 which helps with admin but doesn't allow the XP chart to be edited AFAIK. I like the 5e XP chart from 3-10 but for this game I don't want a chart designed to get PCs to 20th level; I'm almost tempted to cap at 10th but I think slowing progression by half should work.
 

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