D&D 5E Sacred Cow Bites The Dust.

Chaosmancer

Legend
Notably, all PCs start at 1st level regardless of what the average party level is. So if you join the game for the first time or bring in another PC (either because your other one died or you want to level up your background character), you start at 1st level. Many sessions see PCs of disparate levels and tiers. I found this works just fine - lower level PCs end up contributing well and leveling up very quickly. In the session before last, a 1st-level character played by [MENTION=6801984]Demorgus[/MENTION] went to 4th level in one session. [MENTION=6801813]Valmarius[/MENTION] is the highest-level PC at 6th level.

Do you find yourself not targeting the low level players when they first join?

There are plenty of traps and monsters that while a decent challenge for a 6th level adventurer, will drop a 1st level adventurer in an eyeblink.

Honestly, that's always my biggest concern with things like that, not that the player can't contribute in some way, but that the character is weak enough they have to avoid all combat because a single blow will kill them, then they may restart back at one, and never make any progress beyond a session or two.
 

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Before I had players that would go out of their way to force more fights for xp, that never let anything live if they could help it, and now.... if they butcher a bunch of npcs, it is because they are annoyed or bored, not because they are being rewarded at a system level.

For my next campaign, I plan to award XP ONLY for:

(1) spending treasure on RP goals off-screen (i.e. convert XP to gold on a 1:1 basis by e.g. sending money home to the Rebel Alliance); OR

(2) encountering monsters for the first time. Doesn't matter what you do, hide/flee/kill/befriend. No matter what, the experience of meeting a Purple Worm for the first time is worth the exact same 13,000 XP to you, and any subsequent Purple Worms are worth zero because you already know about Purple Worms.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

TL;DR

I tried the "just level up whenever it seem appropriate" a couple of times over the decades (yes, it was a 'thing' spoken about in hushed voices in the dark recesses of the FLGS where the DM's gather monthly under the shadow of a new moon... but you didn't hear that from me! I would never break the sacred Blood Bond of the Ones Who Walk the Shadows! ).

Ahem...uh, so yeah. Tried it. Each time it felt...'wrong' for AD&D/D&D. Other games with XP...never bothered me. But for some reason, probably because D&D was my first time partaking of the forbidden fruit, XP and level advancement just kinda needed each other. Like sushi and wassabi, or New Years day and hang-overs. I wanted to get away from it multiple times but it keeps drawing me (and my players) back. To us, I guess it's like "gold pieces for the Players"...it's just something that they can gauge their general success at playing.

Sure the story is cool, and the laughs, and the unexpected happenings throughout a good session, and all that other stuff that comes with all RPG's of any worth. But playing a 1st level Elf in BECMI, surviving on wits, luck and your companions, fighting veritable hoards of goblins, kobolds and giant rats, taking on Cave K and defeating the evil clerics, slowly gathering your coins and treasures...and then, at the end of a session in a long line of sessions, when your Elf is enjoying watching his friends and compatriots celebrate a hard-won victory at The Inn at the Keep, the DM speaks: "Silverleaf, you have gained 902 xp's". At that moment. That instant. When you look at your character sheet and realize you now have 4,016 xp's. At that moment, right then and there? ...well, that feeling of accomplishment is something that will never get old. As a DM, when I see that "new level glow" surround the player's smiling face...all I can do is slowly, and proudly, clap and say "Well done, sir...well done".

It's the gaining of those numbers, adding up 27xp here, 104xp there, another 74xp from that, and slowly but surely seeing a characters XP total rise closer and closer to that coveted Next Level is...well...it's just durn right satisfyin'!

As a DM, the now-known-as-Milestone-Advancement always fell...cheap? I don't know...kind of like I was just deciding "You take...24 points of damage...because it seems right", and then the character dieing because he's only a 1st level Elf with 6 hp's. *shrug* I'm a crotchety old grognard that is fairly set in his ways with regards to the whole "D&D should be played this way..." type of thing. I don't begrudge any other fellow DM's who decide to use the milestone approach or some other method...each DM is god/goddess of their own world and Master/Mistress of their own game. That's cool. But for me (and my players), we like gaining XP from adventuring. I give less XP per monster in 5e ( about half or lower), but I give out 1:1 xp from GP's recovered or earned. Keeps players from focusing on just killing everything that moves. :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 
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Do you find yourself not targeting the low level players when they first join?

There are plenty of traps and monsters that while a decent challenge for a 6th level adventurer, will drop a 1st level adventurer in an eyeblink.

Honestly, that's always my biggest concern with things like that, not that the player can't contribute in some way, but that the character is weak enough they have to avoid all combat because a single blow will kill them, then they may restart back at one, and never make any progress beyond a session or two.

That hasn't been my experience in 5E. First-level PCs are somewhat fragile, but I don't tend to use a lot of AoEs or spellcasting enemies, so what usually happens is that the higher-level PCs frontline while the lower-level PCs shoot arrows and such. After one or two conflicts the low-level PCs have advanced to 3rd level or higher and are no longer fragile.

(Not to say that there haven't been unlucky streaks. One player did get killed three or four sessions in a row in exactly the way you describe--but that was due to a combination of bad luck and getting unnecessarily close to gelatinous cubes in combat. So it can happen, it just doesn't have to.)

After 3rd level, deaths still happen, but often in ways that being higher-level doesn't particularly help with. E.g. blowing a stealth check while sneaking through a room filled with demons. Being 12th level might increase your odds of survival from near-zero to 50% or so, but whether you're 3rd level or 12th you're better off avoiding the risk entirely with a clever plan, if you can. The main benefit to being higher level is that you tend to have more options for clever plans and fallback strategies.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Of course is a players’ focus, it’s meant to be! You are using it right, I guess. The original game had a lot to do with dungeon crawling, defeating monsters, finding treasure, etc. But just adjusting what gives XP – and the quantity of it – can work wonders toward encouraging specific behaviors. That’s why I resurrected XP in my games: it stills feels good when you earn it, but now it rewards what I want.

Yep, rewards can help reinforce the kind of behavior we want to see in the game. I therefore change the reward structure based on the game.

Seriously? I always had that fear: “the player will be useless!” And that’s something I don’t like. Nice to see your experience.

Do you find yourself not targeting the low level players when they first join?

There are plenty of traps and monsters that while a decent challenge for a 6th level adventurer, will drop a 1st level adventurer in an eyeblink.

Honestly, that's always my biggest concern with things like that, not that the player can't contribute in some way, but that the character is weak enough they have to avoid all combat because a single blow will kill them, then they may restart back at one, and never make any progress beyond a session or two.

The rule in this game is that you level up with a short rest or long rest provided you have the requisite XP. A short rest is 8 hours (long rest is 7 days) and must be taken outside the dungeon at some risk of random encounter (mitigated sometimes by the PCs, but never eliminated). So the typical strategy for the players is that they "fish" for random encounters on the way to the dungeon and then try to hit a couple smaller encounters while delving. When they get at least 300 or 900 XP per PC, they do a short rest and the 1st-level PC becomes 2nd- or 3rd-level which increases survivability accordingly.

I don't discriminate between targets based on level - I'm reminded of Thak the 1st-level dragonborn fighter who went down several times his first delve with other higher-level PCs. It's on the player to avoid taking the full force of a trap or monster's damage as best they can until they gain some levels. I am not the kind of DM who gives a dusty flumph if your character dies. :)
 


orderofthings

First Post
I use milestones...
The decision was not based on anything other than laziness.
The first session of the current campaign ended, they looked at me and said "how much XP do we get?"
I had forgotten to track (first time DM'ing in 20 years). I looked down at my notes, looked back up at them and said...
"we're using milestones!"
They said "COOL!!"
*whew*

At the end of every session, I let them vote on the MVP. That character gains a quarter level. This has given them a reason to try and make their characters stand out, specifically in a way that helped the table have more fun. They have no real solid criteria for how they vote, it's a popularity contest. So far, nobody has won more than once but I have a feeling that the first time someone gets their 4th MVP award and levels up there will be a lot more interest.
 

Vymair

First Post
We've done this for quite some time when all the classes got the same xp chart. We generally level based on story goals. We do have one DM doing regular xp. I think I slightly prefer actual xp, but I don't worry about it one whit.
 

Bitbrain

Lost in Dark Sun
Reply to Opening Post.

There is no chance either of the two DMs for my group would ever stop using XP.

The main DM uses XP not just for combat, but also for good roleplaying and witty dialogue.
He once gave me 100 XP in-game for an out-of-game conversation where I compared an NPC Pit Fiend of his to a disreputable bank manager.

The second DM is my dad, an old AD&D veteran. The thought of not using XP makes him feel ill.
 

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