Unearthed Arcana WotC's Mearls Presents A New XP System For 5E In August's Unearthed Arcana


This might be a way to simplify the problem. Starting with a goal that PCs should have a 50/50 chance to survive from level 1 to level 20 and an assumption that PCs hit a lethal encounter once per three levels, or about half a dozen times over their career, we can tune our chance to survive each lethal encounter for a best fit. For example, if a lethal encounter is one with a 90% chance of survival, our cumulative chance to survive half a dozen encounters is about 50/50. Across a party of four, we can feel confident that one or two PCs won't make it.

Wow. Surviving to level 20 would not be my ideal choice of goal for a difficulty metric. Not only does it define success in such a way that it may take months or years to achieve, but it also sets the bar simultaneously so low that "winning" becomes theoretically commonplace because it's easy, but also rare because most campaigns will fizzle out of boredom long before success is reached. (And you also wind up with an implied game world that is as chock-full of high-level NPCs as the Forgotten Realms.)

If you must define success in per-level terms, take advantage of the fact that most campaigns stay at mid-levels. Make it a 50/50 shot of reaching 9th level, and maybe a 50% chance of surviving to each tier after that.

But personally I'd rather just define success in per-adventure terms. If you bring an Nth level PC on an adventure that's advertised for level N, I'd like there to be about a 50% chance of winning if you do everything in the straightforwardly obvious way, and a 100% chance of winning if you do things in a way that is smart or creative. To me that's an interesting game. E.g. if it's an adventure about being invited to take place in a gladiatorial combat, I'd like to stack you up against someone in your own weight class, or multiple someones in a lower weight class. If you do well in your own fight, you'll get invited to bonus rounds, and maybe get to challenge the champion. (There's a secondary game here where I as the DM am playing Mephistopheles to your Faust; I'm trying to tempt you with rewards that make you take on something out of your weight class, but to do it in such a way that when you inevitably overreach and you die, lose all your magic items, or wind up in slavery, you're left kicking yourself instead of me!)
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
Wow. Surviving to level 20 would not be my ideal choice of goal for a difficulty metric. Not only does it define success in such a way that it may take months or years to achieve, but it also sets the bar simultaneously so low that "winning" becomes theoretically commonplace because it's easy, but also rare because most campaigns will fizzle out of boredom long before success is reached. (And you also wind up with an implied game world that is as chock-full of high-level NPCs as the Forgotten Realms.
Great points. There has to be some chance of PC death, for lethal to mean anything, but it shouldn't be simply linear. Regarding the game world I'm using a 1/100 are tier-1 equiv, 1/10th per tier upward assumption in my campaign world. Not all who fail to advance die, some retire.

If you must define success in per-level terms, take advantage of the fact that most campaigns stay at mid-levels. Make it a 50/50 shot of reaching 9th level, and maybe a 50% chance of surviving to each tier after that.
That sounds pretty reasonable. Experientially it will be affected by how a DM treats death. In my campaign, PCs roll at lowest surviving level minus 1 so one survivor will drag others upward (that can be viewed as them hoovering up characters who have already made it).

But personally I'd rather just define success in per-adventure terms. If you bring an Nth level PC on an adventure that's advertised for level N, I'd like there to be about a 50% chance of winning if you do everything in the straightforwardly obvious way, and a 100% chance of winning if you do things in a way that is smart or creative.
In order to define lethality in a way that meaningfully relates to encounters, there must be some chance of PC death per encounter. Whatever that chance is, it's always going to be put over the number of encounters PCs will experience. Whether that be per adventure or per career makes no statistical difference. Remember that the chance of death - the difficulty - isn't a fixed value in relationship to player performance. Stronger player performance can reduce the lethality. Weaker performance can increase it. That is all by definition, in order for the construct to have meaning.
 

In order to define lethality in a way that meaningfully relates to encounters, there must be some chance of PC death per encounter. Whatever that chance is, it's always going to be put over the number of encounters PCs will experience.*snip*

I don't see how that follows. My expectations for what will kill a PC are derived from my experience with PCs; I may not always estimate the odds perfectly, but it's as possible for me to underestimate difficulty as to overestimate it.

Remember that the chance of death - the difficulty - isn't a fixed value in relationship to player performance. Stronger player performance can reduce the lethality. Weaker performance can increase it. That is all by definition, in order for the construct to have meaning.

Sure, of course. But some players won't have strong play, they'll just play in the most straightforward way, and for those players/PCs deaths might be approximately as common as the predictor says they will be. Will be, if the predictor is a good one.

Maybe I've lost the plot--are you still talking about trying to derive chances of death from some multiple of the DMG CR/XP/difficulty tables? Because that would explain why you say PCs will always die less frequently than predicted--those tables are very forgiving.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I don't see how that follows. My expectations for what will kill a PC are derived from my experience with PCs; I may not always estimate the odds perfectly, but it's as possible for me to underestimate difficulty as to overestimate it.
All I'm saying is that given some chance of player death per encounter, then looked at over encounters (i.e. a series of chances) the probability of death is cumulative. This is important because characters typically face multiple encounters.

Maybe I've lost the plot--are you still talking about trying to derive chances of death from some multiple of the DMG CR/XP/difficulty tables? Because that would explain why you say PCs will always die less frequently than predicted--those tables are very forgiving.
No, I'm not trying to do that. I'm doing a couple of other things. One is that I'm setting a design target for the rate character death is experienced in lethal encounters. In doing so, I'm taking into account that a character will face more than one such encounter. I don't want to pretend I have the data to hit the target with any great confidence, but having the target calls out where I am heading and prompts course correction when I'm not getting there. It allows us to debate what the target should be? Maybe 1:8 is too high? Maybe it should be expressed as a chance of any death per encounter, rather than a chance of death per character engaged in an encounter? Another thing I am doing is tuning up the XP budgets by about 1.6, making encounters across the board more challenging.
 

phantomK9

Explorer
So has anyone actually tried this out yet? I'm looking for some real world feedback.

One of the players in my group (who also GMs) really likes this method and since I'm pretty open to trying it we are going to switch to using it this coming weekend. I'm fairly optimistic about since really it is just codifying XP for things I normally just handed out xp for anyway.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
So here is the number crunching. I simply divided encounter XP at each level and risk threshold into adventuring day XP. At the bottom are means, modes and medians. And the correlation of medium to hard encounters, which is significant and tight meaning that they are good predictors of each other (from a game design point of view, it suggests that the table is coherent).

Level Easy Medium Hard Deadly

1 12.0 6.0 4.0 3.0
2 12.0 6.0 4.0 3.0
3 16.0 8.0 5.3 3.0
4 13.6 6.8 4.5 3.4
5 14.0 7.0 4.7 3.2
6 13.3 6.7 4.4 2.9
7 14.3 6.7 4.5 2.9
8 13.3 6.7 4.3 2.9
9 13.6 6.8 4.7 3.1
10 15.0 7.5 4.7 3.2
11 13.1 6.6 4.4 2.9
12 11.5 5.8 3.8 2.6
13 12.3 6.1 4.0 2.6
14 12.0 6.0 3.9 2.6
15 12.9 6.4 4.2 2.8
16 12.5 6.3 4.2 2.8
17 12.5 6.4 4.2 2.8
18 12.9 6.4 4.3 2.8
19 12.5 6.1 4.1 2.8
20 14.3 7.0 4.7 3.1

mean 13.2 6.6 4.4 2.9
mode 12.0 6.0 4.0 3.0
median 13.0 6.5 4.3 2.9
correll 0.97091184

The real number of encounters per day using the adventuring day XP budgets is 4.4 to 6.6 i.e. about one and a half encounters fewer than advertised. I suspect this is a root cause of comments that 5e has an "easy" difficulty setting. For mass-market games it usually is correct to dial down the difficulty. Although ideally there should be a way supplied to dial it back up again. The problem might not lie in the adventuring day XP of course: it could lie in the monster CRs i.e. the XP may be paying for too few monsters. That could matter because if it is the case, increasing the XP serves to accelerate character advancement without appropriately increasing the risk.

What I'd like to do is figure out a simple method to provide a "hard" difficulty setting for 5e. We need to know if monster CRs need tweaking, which I think we can tell from the XP Thresholds table perhaps using Kobold Fight Club? Ideally, they won't, in which case all we'll need to do is up the Adventuring Day XP... perhaps by a quarter?

I found the formatting just too annoying. So here:

Challenges.jpg
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Haven't read the whole thread, but how is this a "new" or "different" XP system? You were always supposed to award XP for exploration and roleplay objectives. The DMG just didn't give guidelines on how much a given task should be worth, which I agree was a flaw in the DMG.
 

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