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


Argyle King

Legend
I think it's interesting to see different numbers associated with XP, but I feel that I do not understand the benefit of using the alternative system.
 

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What I find interesting is that it is a step in the direction for recognizing that exploration, social interaction and treasure acquisition are means of gaining experience in addition to combat and story / milestone awards.

I've always found milestone awards to be arbitrary and agency destroying. Maybe I've just never seen it done correctly, but my experience is that the DM tells you to level up because you need to be higher level to handle the next chapter or something. I feel like my actions and choices made in the game don't really matter at all.

I suppose for the story line adventures, milestone leveling useful since you have to keep characters up with the level requirements for each chapter. I just don't enjoy the experience.

This alternate system would work in a sandbox style game. Especially if you explicitly stated the tiers for various locations. If you specify 5 areas on the map and which tiers they are to explore, you give players a good idea of what to expect from the locations and enough information to determine their risk/reward level.

For example, if the Necromancer's Cove is a Tier 2 location, its XP reward and its difficulty can be estimated and considered. The treasure map leads to a Tier 3 location but it is rumored to be a Tier 2 treasure... etc.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Are tables still not rewarding XP for non-combat experiences? I mean honestly the only way I've ever been able to reach the 6-8 encounters per "day" without turning the game into a grindfest is to make at least half of them non-combat experiences. Players should be rewarded for their success at diplomacy, deception, deduction, and dedication to tasks that do not involve "hitting it with a stick". You've never going to convince players to not be murderhobos until you start awarding them loot and XP for participation, completion and success in non-combat areas of the game.

It's amazing how much progress Wizards can undo every edition. I mean we just had an edition that rewarded XP based on resolution of the encounter (even going as far as to reward non-combat encounter resolutions to combat encounters the same as combat!) and specifically called out non-combat elements to be included AND rewarded. Yet here we are, trying to reinvent the wheel, wondering just how we can get the other aspects of the game more involved.

Mearls, as usual, presents an interesting alternative to the obvious, but like much in 5E feels like a painstaking attempt to miss the obvious and frankly, easiest solution that not only reduces grind, but moves players away from finding combat to be the only means of level-based progression.

The wheel was found to be most useful as a circle. Why would I ever want to use an oval?
 

Nathan Gaudry

First Post
I think it's interesting to see different numbers associated with XP, but I feel that I do not understand the benefit of using the alternative system.

I honestly don't think there is one. On the other hand, though, the Social and Exploration rules map really nicely to Milestone Experience (not Story-Based Leveling that people commonly call Milestones). Just award a Hard Encounter's worth of XP for the triggers they list (or two encounters if it's a tier above). I appreciate having the triggers, and I think it'll help ensure my players and I are on the same page about what Milestones are supposed to achieve.

But, no, I don't see a good reason to use the 100 point scale (and a few good reasons not to).
 

I honestly don't think there is one. On the other hand, though, the Social and Exploration rules map really nicely to Milestone Experience (not Story-Based Leveling that people commonly call Milestones). Just award a Hard Encounter's worth of XP for the triggers they list (or two encounters if it's a tier above). I appreciate having the triggers, and I think it'll help ensure my players and I are on the same page about what Milestones are supposed to achieve.

But, no, I don't see a good reason to use the 100 point scale (and a few good reasons not to).

I actually just re-read the experience section in the DMG.

I was mistaken about Milestone Experience... it is Story Based leveling that I have experienced in the past and disliked. The 5E DMG provides plenty of guidance for non-combat experience awards.

I think you are right that we probably don't need the revamped XP scale, but I do like how this system does explicitly break out awards into the three pillars and includes treasure as a part of exploration. As you implied, this is something you can put in front of your players and state this is what you need to do to get XP in this campaign, and just let them loose.

I'd probably incorporate the new document's Tiers (provide at least 4 but probably more) but use existing XP award recommendations... perhaps equate each Tier to a Hard Encounter XP amount for a set level (Tier1 = a Level 1 Hard Encounter, Tier8 a Level 16 Hard Encounter, etc).

Exploration Milestones:
1. Discover a new location in the wilderness - Tiered based on distance or difficulty to reach.
2. Discover a path to the next lower level of the dungeon - Tiered based on level depth.
3. Discover a sublevel or secret area in an known location.

Treasure Milestones:
1. Retrieve a significant horde - Tiered based on value or maybe just award XP for the GP value of the treasure, old-school style.
2. Finding a 'named' weapon or 'naming' a weapon you possess. - Tiered to power or legend of the item?
3. Finding artifacts important to cultures and institutions of the world. - Tiered to the age of the artifact.

Social Milestones:
1. Establish Friendly relations with a significant faction or NPC - Tiered based on strength of the faction.
2. Overcome a Hostile reaction from a significant faction or NPC - Tiered based on the strength of the faction.
3. Learn a significant lore from a social interaction with a faction or NPC - Tiered to the obscurity of the lore.

Combat Milestones:
1. Defeat or overcome a challenging foe - Tiered to encounter difficulty (Medium, Hard or Deadly... no experience for easy or trivial encounters).
2. Overcome and resolve a threat to a friendly settlement or homestead - Tiered to the size of the settlement.
 

Are tables still not rewarding XP for non-combat experiences? I mean honestly the only way I've ever been able to reach the 6-8 encounters per "day" without turning the game into a grindfest is to make at least half of them non-combat experiences.

As an aside, I'm surprised to see the "6-8 encounters per day" trope still around. If you stick to even moderately interesting encounters it's hard to fit more than 3-5 encounters into the typical adventuring day's budget, per DMG guidelines. "6-8 encounters per day" was sort of a semi-okay rule of thumb back when 5E came out, especially before they revised the encounter rules to turn difficulty ceilings into difficulty thresholds somewhere around Basic 0.2ish, but by the time the DMG came out that guideline was totally obsolete.
 

thekindgm

Villager
It's a really good idea but it's still lacking, in my opinion. It offers limited options for the explanation and social interaction pillars. However, it could be combined with the milestones system in order to provide ideas on how to use it better.

Sent from my iQ9011_2 using EN World mobile app
 

OB1

Jedi Master
There is also the follow up scene. The rogue sneaks off and kills 50 chickens, wiping out all the poultry of two farmers. The farmers, irate at losing half their breakfast and livelihood, raise an angry mob to chase the villager out of town or arrest them for the slaughter.
Killing a chicken has derailed more than one game of Skyrim for me... Don't see why mass poultricide is forgivable here.

They wouldn't need to raise a mob, as every farmer would be a level 20 character!

Thinking about it, that might make for an interesting campaign setting. Farmer God Kings who tightly control who can slaughter animals for food to prevent the unworthy from leveling up and challenging them for their land.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Its better then milestone leveling I guess.

Agreed - milestone leveling really drills home to the players that they're on a linear path and must jump through the DMs hoops to level. It's starting to grate with me as I feel too powerful in the relationship. "You level when I say you level!" :D

This might redress the balance.
 

I think this demonstrates a weakness with leveling systems. Why should one receive xps for having a great rp "scene" when the reward for advancing a level is greater power in combat? It doesn't make much logical sense. I guess in a skill-based system a great rp scene might be reflected in advancement in a socially based skill like persuasion.

Why should a fighter go up a level for achieving social, exploration, and treasure milestones when his/her business is combat? The same idea applies to wizards and most other character classes.

Since D&D is a class-based and level-based system perhaps some consideration should be given to creating "social classes" where social xps -- for great RP or the achievement of social and treasure goals -- could be reflected. So you could have a 5th lvl fighter who is also a 2nd lvl "Leader," for instance. Perhaps some non-combat supplemental classes could be created -- explorer, leader, etc. Once you achieve some social xps you could choose a supplemental class. Perhaps working within the existing system of professions might make sense.

There should be rewards for great rp but also for winning fortunes (stealing stuff), exploration, achieving goals outside of combat, but the existing class system does a poor job of reflecting that when the rewards are typically reflected in combat power.

Just an idea.
 

I think this demonstrates a weakness with leveling systems. Why should one receive xps for having a great rp "scene" when the reward for advancing a level is greater power in combat? It doesn't make much logical sense.
Nope, it never has made much sense for beating something to death in combat because your only offensive spells is Push, to make you a better magic-user, either. And, yes, it's a weakness with leveling systems, a 'known bug' I suppose, and D&D has had plenty of time to fix it, and largely declined to do so.

What's close to a rationalization is that you do tend to get better, via Proficiency, at your skills, so if you do have proficiency in anything you used in that Social/Interaction (not RP, RP is part of all 3 pillars) scene, at least that /is/ being improved. It was maybe a bit better at rationalizing 3e, when you could devote Ranks to the skills you used most, or 4e, where all your skills got a bit better as you leveled, but it helps.

Also, you are likely to level, under a system like this, that gives exp in each pillar, from experiences in all three pillars, so there's that. You may win a debate with the vizier and 'ding,' but since the last time you 'dinged,' maybe you've fought a cult of Yuan-ti and their pet hydra, explored a lost temple, and recovered a fabled treasure, as well.

I guess in a skill-based system a great rp scene might be reflected in advancement in a socially based skill like persuasion.
That's how it worked in RQ1, the earliest example of an RPG I'm aware of that was skill-based, and used something like experience (Traveler was earlier & skill-based, but your character didn't improve once it was generated - it just got older).
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Agreed - milestone leveling really drills home to the players that they're on a linear path and must jump through the DMs hoops to level. It's starting to grate with me as I feel too powerful in the relationship. "You level when I say you level!" :D

This might redress the balance.


That is why I hate it myself an don't use milestone in my campaign though its had some problems since OotA is kind of setup around it.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Nothing new, nothing special, nothing well thought out.

There is one and only one valuable thought in the entire thing, and that's the concept of having XP to level be a nice round number for easy math. But it's only a valuable feature if the DM is ad-hocking experience, which the rest of the system is designed to get rid of.

Otherwise this system:
Has random arbitrary breakpoints with big swings. 6 players halves your xp, but 5 is fine? A demilich in his lair is the same XP as the tarrasque or 7 goblins to a level 10 character? But if you're level 11, then it takes 3 demiliches in their lairs to match up...
Doesn't support catching up levels.
Discovered a site of planar significance at level 1? Well, those guys over there killed 20 goblins, 1 at a time. Guess you're even. And you're both even with those guys that killed 20 orcs in one gigantic battle, and those guys that killed 20 giant rats one at a time...
 
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Erechel

Explorer
I don't know. Is a little barebones, but I reallly find this approach interesting. I strive a lot to make adventures not based on combat only, and characters to spend their resources on the Exploration pillar. I acknowledge that I'm not great building social interaction scenes according to any systematic principle, as I don't have a particular guideline to make this pillar a real challenge, but at least I don't suck, because of the Angry GM Systematic InterACTION! rules.

About experience alone, this is great, at least for D&D standards. The XP grind was always cumbersome and counter-intuitive. I don't really get why they use such pointless XP tresholds at all for advancing levels (unpredictability, perhaps?), and this numbers are much easier, and they really benefit the other parts of the game meaningful for character advancement.

Nevertheless, the main "but..." is that there are no real guidelines to make "harder" social encounters, and very little for Exploration challenges, that can be easily done by a level 1 character. The significance of the NPC is useful, but it doesn't escalate as well as the monsters combat abilities. There are loose guidelines in the DMG for both pillars, but there are nowhere near as detailed, polished or engaging as the Combat engine. Maybe stablishing certain difficulty tresholds for certain challenges?
EG:

Local knight: Diplomacy (Persuasion, Deception and Intimidation) DC 10-15. Doesn't require any particular trait to be acknowledge by him.

Baronet: Diplomacy (Persuasion, Deception and Intimidation) DC 15. Requires Nobility trait or the introduction by a knight.

Duke/Baron: Diplomacy (Persuasion, Deception and Intimidation) DC 15 to 20. Requires Nobility trait or the introduction by a baronet or minor noblemen. Also, requires some form of renown and influence. He can grant the Nobility trait (knightship).

King: Diplomacy (Persuasion, Deception and Intimidation) DC 20 to 25. Requires a high Nobility trait or the introduction by a trusty counselor or high noble. To know the king and ask for a favor is only prerrogative of a few, but a king may want to know any high renown folk, such as a hero.

Emperor: Diplomacy (Persuasion, Deception and Intimidation) DC 25. Only a few can claim to know emperors and whisper in their ears. Only the most powerful nobles and kings can grant an audience with an emperor. Only great heroes or villains may be known enough for an Emperor to hear of.

Demigod: Diplomacy (Persuasion, Deception and Intimidation) DC 30. Only the greatest heroes can claim to attract the attention of the divine.

Having renown on a faction may be the threshold to attract attention of an importan figure, such as a duke or king.
 
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HobbitFan

Explorer
A couple thoughts based upon this conversation.

1. It seems a little strange that the D&D guys are worried about rethinking initiative and experience. These were things that were supposed to be done before the books went to print. Shouldn't they be concentrating on other things?

2. This variant XP suggestion and the fact that recent hardcover adventures utilize milestone XP seems to indicate that the WOTC staff don't use the XP model in their own game. They seem to be suggesting that they largely "hand wave" things and are introducing this variant so we can play more like they do. Again, this seems odd.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
A couple thoughts based upon this conversation.

1. It seems a little strange that the D&D guys are worried about rethinking initiative and experience. These were things that were supposed to be done before the books went to print. Shouldn't they be concentrating on other things?

2. This variant XP suggestion and the fact that recent hardcover adventures utilize milestone XP seems to indicate that the WOTC staff don't use the XP model in their own game. They seem to be suggesting that they largely "hand wave" things and are introducing this variant so we can play more like they do. Again, this seems odd.

1. Yeah, totally, they shouldn't, in the light of a few years of experience and observation, ever rethink what they've done and offer, through the means they set up to offer such things, any alternatives based on that experience and observation.

2. Absolutely! I mean, clearly they're not making a product for the broadest section of the market because they're running a business, it's totally that this is how they play! I bet they're not even developing these things and just giving us what they ran at their own tables last year!

[/snark]
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I appreciate the sarcasm Ovinomancer but I still think I raised valid points.

Eh, not really. That they occasionally go back and look at what they've done and provide a barebones option or something they're trying out in their home games (which I expect look nothing like anything published) isn't odd. It certainly doesn't prevent them from doing their day job, which is 99+% of what we see out of the design team. Secondly, Merls pretty clearly said when he presented his recent alternate initiative system that he uses it in his home game, so.... Maybe he doesn't use this in his game, maybe he does, we can't say. What we can say is that milestone leveling is one of the most commonly upvoted methods in polls, so using it for published adventures means you're using a broadly liked by potential consumers method, AND eliminating the need in the adventure to either railroad through enough encounters to provide enough XP or dealing with games that skip those side quests and are now underpowered for the next plot arc. Milestone leveling is the absolute best business call they can make as it simplified their job, eliminates the need to railroad everything, and appeals to a broad base of consumers. What they do in their home games doesn't have any of those constraints, and, honestly, we shouldn't be trying to guess what the designers do 'off camera' and then try to use that as justification for an argument. I don't know, you don't know, let's not base arguments on what we don't know, yeah?

All of that aside, props on being able to take a ribbing without offense!
 

HobbitFan

Explorer
Eh, not really. That they occasionally go back and look at what they've done and provide a barebones option or something they're trying out in their home games (which I expect look nothing like anything published) isn't odd. It certainly doesn't prevent them from doing their day job, which is 99+% of what we see out of the design team. Secondly, Merls pretty clearly said when he presented his recent alternate initiative system that he uses it in his home game, so.... Maybe he doesn't use this in his game, maybe he does, we can't say. What we can say is that milestone leveling is one of the most commonly upvoted methods in polls, so using it for published adventures means you're using a broadly liked by potential consumers method, AND eliminating the need in the adventure to either railroad through enough encounters to provide enough XP or dealing with games that skip those side quests and are now underpowered for the next plot arc. Milestone leveling is the absolute best business call they can make as it simplified their job, eliminates the need to railroad everything, and appeals to a broad base of consumers. What they do in their home games doesn't have any of those constraints, and, honestly, we shouldn't be trying to guess what the designers do 'off camera' and then try to use that as justification for an argument. I don't know, you don't know, let's not base arguments on what we don't know, yeah?

All of that aside, props on being able to take a ribbing without offense!

Fair enough.
I just thought it strange they were talking about alternatives for initiative and leveling. I wasn't aware that these were areas that people really had complaints about. I haven't heard in person or read online about alot of problems with these areas. So, the choice seemed strange to me.
I wasn't meaning to say they can't develop alternatives...that's part of their job.
And I wasn't trying to make a judgement about milestone xp.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Fair enough.
I just thought it strange they were talking about alternatives for initiative and leveling. I wasn't aware that these were areas that people really had complaints about. I haven't heard in person or read online about alot of problems with these areas. So, the choice seemed strange to me.
I wasn't meaning to say they can't develop alternatives...that's part of their job.
And I wasn't trying to make a judgement about milestone xp.

No worries -- everyone occasionally slips up and forgets they're not the target (or not always the target). I just spent far too much time arguing about how a relatively minor detail in a published WotC adventure was dumb (it is) while forgetting that I usually don't buy WotC adventures -- because they often contain stuff I find dumb. So, yeah, everyone's occasionally a bad critic.
 

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