D&D 5E Tier Benchmarks in a Level-less 5E

Reynard

Legend
This is mostly a half formed thought experiment than an actual proposal, so bear with me.

I was thinking about building a level-less game on the 5E chassis, and figure the tiers of play would make good benchmarks for GMs to establish the baselines for their campaigns in general. That is, tier 2 play would always be around 7th level in comparative power, and "advancement" would be purely diegetic (drink!) and equipment based.

Ignoring for the moment the exact mechanism of the "point buy" system of building characters at these tiers (because, frankly, I have not thought that deeply about it yet) I was hoping to get an idea of what the benchmarks for each of the tiers actually are. Given that 5E classes and subclasses are not particularly well balanced against one another, this is going to be more art than science, but even so it might be worthwhile to at least try.

Let's start by defining the tiers. The easiest method is probably to follow the Proficiency Bonus increases, so tier 1 is levels 1-4, tier 2 is 5-8, tier 3 is 9-12, tier 4 is 13-16 and tier 5 is 17-20. This also maps pretty well to big power bumps for full casters. But beyond that, how do we determine appropriate benchmarks for ability scores, hit points, class abilities, damage output, etc...?

What do you think?
 

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aco175

Legend
I'm not coming up with anything that is not a de-facto level. If you gain HP at some point, level. Gain spells at some point, level. I do not see how you can survive higher tiers without gaining HP and spells.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm not coming up with anything that is not a de-facto level. If you gain HP at some point, level. Gain spells at some point, level. I do not see how you can survive higher tiers without gaining HP and spells.
The idea is that you play at a particular tier for the entire campaign. You don't "gain hit points" (or new class abilities, or higher spell levels or whatever) during play. You gain lands, retainers, wealth, magic items, etc...
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I actually prefer this method as a long time Traveller fan. I also played a lot of E6 which gives you the level advancement without the 1 to 20 drag.

Sounds like you got the tiers figured out.
 

Reynard

Legend
I actually prefer this method as a long time Traveller fan. I also played a lot of E6 which gives you the level advancement without the 1 to 20 drag.

Sounds like you got the tiers figured out.
Right but I need help with what the actual character packages would look like. I want a way to allow folks to make a "tier 2 wilderness warrior" without them having to make a 7th level ranger.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Right but I need help with what the actual character packages would look like. I want a way to allow folks to make a "tier 2 wilderness warrior" without them having to make a 7th level ranger.
Im lost, dont understand the difference?
 

Reynard

Legend
Im lost, dont understand the difference?
So I am not explaining it well.

What I am looking for is the "sweet spot" in each tier for hit points, damage output, ability checks, class abilities, etc... in order to create a foundation for a system where if the group decides to play a "tier 3 epic fantasy campaign" the pools/resources from which the players build their characters have appropriate thresholds (min. and max). I am not talking about telling everyone to create 12th level characters or whatever. This exercise is foundational to a more open ended character generation system -- not necessarily classless, but certainly broader than the current ethos.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
So I am not explaining it well.

What I am looking for is the "sweet spot" in each tier for hit points, damage output, ability checks, class abilities, etc... in order to create a foundation for a system where if the group decides to play a "tier 3 epic fantasy campaign" the pools/resources from which the players build their characters have appropriate thresholds (min. and max). I am not talking about telling everyone to create 12th level characters or whatever. This exercise is foundational to a more open ended character generation system -- not necessarily classless, but certainly broader than the current ethos.
If its a point buy feature type system you might want some baseline templates like mage, fighting man, rogue, etc... I'm not that good at reinventing the wheel when it comes this kind of thing, but I'm interested in what folks come up with.
 

Reynard

Legend
If its a point buy feature type system you might want some baseline templates like mage, fighting man, rogue, etc... I'm not that good at reinventing the wheel when it comes this kind of thing, but I'm interested in what folks come up with.
That's why I want to start small, with the benchmarks.

If tier 2 is from 5th-8th level and we call it 7th for ease of use, the very basics are:
35-70 HP based on average die rolls and assumed stats, depending on class
Ability checks and saves for proficient main abilities are about +8 with one ASI from 4th level.
Typical round to round damage output is 2 dice (either two hits or increased base damage) plus ability mod in damage, so probably 2d8+4 on average.
AC is really wonky because it isn't tied to level nearly as much as it is tied to class choice, and the trade offs aren't very easy to understand.
Then we move in to much fuzzier territory when we start to try and quantify numbers of and power/utility of class abilities (including spells).
Hence why I am asking for extra brains. ;)
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
I was thinking about building a level-less game on the 5E chassis, and figure the tiers of play would make good benchmarks ...The easiest method is probably to follow the Proficiency Bonus increases, so tier 1 is levels 1-4, tier 2 is 5-8, tier 3 is 9-12, tier 4 is 13-16 and tier 5 is 17-20. This also maps pretty well to big power bumps for full casters. But beyond that, how do we determine appropriate benchmarks for ability scores, hit points, class abilities, damage output, etc...?
It's not a crazy idea. There have been D&D-adjacent games, like early Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World where leveling didn't exist or didn't make much of a difference, and advancement came mostly from gear - I'm sure there are modern d20 examples, too.

GW, BTW, gave you d6 HD per point of CON, so, have some hp. ;)

I'd want to go with the high or mid point of a Tier for HD. You could do 4 HD per Tier, for instance, that's straightforward.

You might want to go ahead and take the opportunity to nerf casters and buff martials, give a Fighter 1 attack/Tier, for instance, have highest slot levels based on Tier, 1 through 5 ... Maybe simplify things by just using the Pact Magic mechanic across the board?
 

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