View Full Version : [3.5] An alternative to going beyond 20

2012-03-29, 12:23 PM
Would this work?

One of the PCs in my sandbox reached ECL 16, and I think I ought to start looking at what to do when they reach 20. I've looked a little at Epic, and I've read a little on forums, including this one, and I feel inclined to say I don't want to go there.
So I was somewhat inspired by E6 (a concept I want to try out one of these days). I thought, what if you are still called ECL 20, but when you get enough experience to get to level 21, you gain something like 2hp and 2 skill points (nothing affected by int or con, and you still have to abide by level+3 for class and half that for crossclass), and since it's a level divisible by three you get a feat. At level 24 you'd get a stat increase. And then let it go on. No new spells, no change in saves, just a steady trickle of hp, sp, feats and stats.
The main reason is to keep something going on with XP (so not everyone must have an XP sink of some sort, such as crafting), and to keep some sense of advancement happening, beyond fluff and magic items.

Before I sound out my players with this, I'd like to polish away any glitches (or avoid making a fool of myself if there's a major gap I've missed). So, what say you, playgrounders?

Edit: For clarification.
Lvl '21': +2hp, +2sp, feat
Lvl '22': +2hp, +2sp
Lvl '23': +2hp, +2sp
Lvl '24': +2hp, +2sp, feat, stat increase
Lvl '25': +2hp, +2sp
Lvl '26': +2hp, +2sp
Lvl '27': +2hp, +2sp, feat
Lvl '28': +2hp, +2sp, stat incrase

2012-03-29, 01:53 PM
Sounds fair to me. It looks like a scaled down version of Gnorman's E6 project (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=215986), which (if I understand it right, which I probably don't) is based around the premise that character level is essentially capped at level 6 and every time they would normally go up one level they instead gain a bonus feat (I think!) or something of that nature.

It seems like it would work here too, though I'm not familiar enough with high-level play to say for sure that people would be satisfied with two hit points and two skill points at "level 21".

2012-03-29, 03:10 PM
Thanks! Maybe the amount of giving needs to be tweaked some.

More opinions are very welcome. :)

2012-03-29, 03:16 PM
That actually looks like it would work fairly well. The 2 hp each level will basically make up for any damage the feats add. Not boosting saves is the best idea I've ever heard (otherwise all spells become useless past level 30 (I like to pretend epic spells don't exist)).
The only thing that concerns me is that since everything is the same for all characters is that eventually, if you go to obscenely high levels, hp and sp will sort of even out. What about offering a high skill point variant with 3 sp but only 1 hp and a high hit point variant with 3 hp and only 1 sp. That way both skill monkeys and tanks can be happy.
Do you plan on still allowing epic feats? With the exception of epic feats having to do with spellcasting there shouldn't be anything to worry about.

2012-03-29, 04:23 PM
I do have to say, in all fairness, that Gnorman was not the original inventor of e6; just gotta keep that straight.

Would you still be able to get Epic Destinies (http://lonelygm.blogspot.com/2011/02/epic-destinies-for-d-35pathfinder.html)?

2012-03-30, 02:01 AM
@ eftexar: Good point. Maybe people should just get to choose each time they 'level' if they want 1-3, 2-2 or 3-1.
No epic feats. No epic spellcasting. No epic nuthin'. :)
If someone shows me a decent Epic monk feat that might save the monk from uselessness, I might consider calling it a normal feat and allowing it.

I allow retraining, so there would also be an opportunity to retrain every time you 'level'.

@ Amechra: Thanks for the keeping-stuff-straight. :)
No epic stuff, so no epic destinies either.

2012-03-30, 02:44 AM
Well, you can also move 'em down so they replace your feats at 12, 15, and 18, and then get the "capstone" at 20.

And you know what? I think giving only one "progression" for HP and skills is kinda limiting, so here's how I would do it:

HP: Take all the characters HD and treat them as if they rolled maximum for each level; after 20th level, each character receives 1/80 of that amount each level.

Skills: Add together the totals for skill points from each level, minus your skill points from Intelligence and any from class features/racial abilities/feats; each character receives 1/40 of that amount each level.

So a Fighter 20 would get 2.5 HP each level (so +2 at 21st, +3 at 22nd, and so on), and 1 skill point each level.

But a Rogue 20 would get 1.5 HP each level (so +1 at 21st, +2 at 22nd, and so on), and 4 skill points each level.

If you, say, played a (highly unoptimal) Fighter 10/Rogue 10, you would get 2 HP per level and 2.5 skill points each level.

2012-03-30, 03:13 AM
@ Amechra:
Steward and eftexar agree with you that the amount may need to be tweaked, so I'll probably do that. Though I like your system, I think it'd be easier to just go with "Choose one of 1-3, 2-2 or 3-1 when you 'level'". Easier to remember, and gives some choices to the players.
As for capstone, there really ought to be some sort of capstone for reaching 20, I agree. I'll have to mull that one over some.

2012-03-30, 07:38 AM
That seems solid. I honestly can't say if the numbers you have are good enough since I don't think I've ever actually played past level 20 before, but I definitely like the customization idea. There are some classes that just like skill points (although at some point won't they end up hitting some kind of cap on how many ranks they can have?) while others rely more heavily on hit points.

2012-03-30, 01:08 PM
The 3/1; 2/2; 1/3 sounds great to me!

Kind of reminds me how baldur's gate 2 handled things.

2012-03-30, 07:47 PM
@ Steward: Thanks! Yes, they will eventually reach caps, but they can always branch into new skills. There's after all something like 50 skills, each possible to get to put 22 or 23 skill points into, and numerous skill tricks. I don't think they'll run out of things to do with their skill points any time soon. :)

@ wayfare: Never played BG2 for more than ten minutes, so I'll take your words for it. Thanks!

2012-03-30, 09:31 PM
The problem with this is, the bonuses granted are so diminuative at that point that any player who can craft magic items would do that much sooner than trying to level up. 2 HP at level 20 is negligable (You get more from Toughness!) and 2 Skill Points are the same (plus you can craft a +10 to Skill item instead) and without epic feats, the likeliness of any such character going beyond 21st is unlikely.

2012-03-30, 11:08 PM
But who is to say that levels = experience? Beyond level 20 it might actually be better for the DM to just say that they've leveled after a major event, especially with how high experience totals get, and then just hand over a few xp specifically for crafting and stuff.
Again I really don't think most epic feats are a problem. Alot of them aid in melee and if you don't allow for epic spellcasting feats it might actually close the gap between mundanes and casters a little bit. Of course if you have players with tome of battle characters that might not be a good idea.
But the plan works as is now. Just add the experience limitation.

2012-03-31, 04:20 AM
@ Jackmage: If the crafters prefer to craft, that's actually not a problem in my book. It's just so that not every single character needs to have an XP sink.
That said, crafters have been crafting for a while when they get to level 20, and they'll likely have filled their body slots nicely iwth some of the best equipment they can hope for. I don't think the desire to craft will be quite the same by then, so they too, will likely welcome some alternative to crafting.

@ eftexar: In a different campaign I'd probably do that level-when-I-say-so thing. But this is an open sandbox with upwards of ten players coming by from time to time. I may cast a further glance at epic feats and see if some should be allowed, but I'm very hesitant. The players will be much more inclined to feel slighted if I allow feats that favour specific classes, which is what I ought to do. Much cleaner to just disallow epic feats alltogether.
Still, I don't think anyone would feel so bad about monks and paladins getting a little help from some nice feats.

2012-03-31, 03:41 PM
@ Jackmage: If the crafters prefer to craft, that's actually not a problem in my book. It's just so that not every single character needs to have an XP sink.
That said, crafters have been crafting for a while when they get to level 20, and they'll likely have filled their body slots nicely iwth some of the best equipment they can hope for. I don't think the desire to craft will be quite the same by then, so they too, will likely welcome some alternative to crafting.

Just to illustrate with a bit of math. From 21st to 22nd level, you gain 21,000 XP. We'll go with that, since you gain a feat at 21st level, which may be enough incentive for any class to take it.
There's a 225K Gold difference between ECL 21 and 22, so we'll assume the PCs have that much to play with.

A Non-magical Rogue with no crafting ability takes this 21,000 XP and uses it to gain his lovely +2 HP and +2 Skill Points (limited by ranks, of course).

A caster can make a +20 Skill Point (Let's say it's a Luck bonus, so it'll cost twice as much as a competence, and just for funsies let's make it no-space requirement. Cost to create is 80K and 6400 XP.)
Now he wants his HP to increase too, so as not to be outdone by the rogue. So he makes a +HP Item (Not exactly any rules on this that I can see, so I'll just make a make an At-Will Aid item at CL 10. Standard Action, at will, he gains 1d8+10 Temp HP. And for funsies, no item slot again. Cost to create 40K and 3200 XP.)

So, the Rogue gets +2 HP and 2 Skill Points, and 225K Gold unspent
The Cleric Crafter gets +20 to a Skill and 1d8+10 HP at will. And still has 11,400 XP and 105K Gold to buy other goodies.

This math is assuming the Cleric didn't want to do something cooler with his crafting (Which he probably would, because Aid and +Skill Point items are boring.)

Also, as a disclaimer, yes, this uses the info in the DMG - It may not mesh up with your campaign. If you're stingy with gold, or don't allow crafting, then this math would be different. However, this is the info I have to work with at the moment.

This alternate benefits the casters most of all, since there options are "Level up and gain insignificant bonuses" or "Use XP to Craft awesome stuff that's superior to less than a d4 average HD and a Int 10 Fighter's Skill Points."

The non-casters, however, have less options. "Level up and gain insignificant bonuses" or "Can I reduce LA yet?"

And it's a pain to be a non-caster about 21st level anyway. The Barbarian's mighty d12 HD becomes a measily 2 HP, which is probably less than he'd gain from Con alone. One of the Rogue's main attractions, the skill points, is nearly completely nulled out. The Barbarian and the Rogue would have to gain roughly 5 level in order to gain the benefits of 1 normal level up (and that's assuming low Con/Int, respectively.) And the feats and ability increases are gained so slowly it'll feel like pulling teeth. And since there aren't any epic feats anyhow, even those are lackluster.

2012-03-31, 04:21 PM
Thanks for taking the time to write all that up! :) I'm sorry to say, it didn't change my mind, it really ought to with all that effort.
It's great to be a caster, it sucks to be rogue (well, he may get a job assisting some crafting with some UMD and a scroll). I can't really mar or mend that. Fortunately, the players are pretty good sharers, so the windfall for the crafters (which would, as you rightly guessed, not be likely to include custom items) will also benefit the other PCs.

Don't forget, btw, that the cleric in your example is out of the game for about four months. I doubt the player would like that.

2012-03-31, 04:31 PM
Don't forget, btw, that the cleric in your example is out of the game for about four months. I doubt the player would like that.

That's why Wizards invented Planes of existence with different passages of time.

I'm not doubting in a fair game with good players this would work, but I've never been a fan of "Well, everything but casters already suck, so let's disregard them in balance." And that's what this seems to do, since they get 1/2 the minimum HD (like a Wizard) and 2 Skill points per level (like a Wizard, though they'd get more from Int) Also, not all players play nice with others, and some will be horribly greedy and hoard all their treasures to themselves.

Though, if it were me and I wanted to cripple the growth of PCs this much, I would just stop the XP growth altogether at 20, and give a feat when they would normally level up (as per E6.) Remeber, according to the DMG, it should take something like 5 combats to level up, which just deosn't seem worth it for 2 HP. No Crafting cheese, no Wizards somehow being just as hardy as Barbarians, just feats to represent their growing power.

2012-04-01, 01:39 AM
I also think you might be better off just going 1 feat/level like E6 does. If you want to add in some token hp/sp that's fine too, but it isn't really very useful, especially in those amounts.

2012-04-01, 02:54 AM
@ Jackmage666: About the planes of existence, the cosmology in the gameworld doesn't actually allow for that to happen. That aside, the players would balk at the idea. They'd consider it horribly stinky cheese (and be worried the chronomancers and the priests of the gods of time wouldn't let them back into the world after fouling up time in such a petty way, but that's anoher specific world thing.)
How would the wizard become as hardy as the barbarian, btw? Assuming the same con, the barbarian would be at d12 for 20 levels, the wizard at d4. The total gap remains, and would probably widen, as the barbarian is more likely to choose three hp than the wizard, who doesn't have the same use for them. It's taken them something like two years of real time to get to level 16. It's extremely unlikely it will ever get to anywhere near an equalization, even if the wizard gained two hp per level on the barbarian. It'd be expected to happen around level 60.
Maybe I should involve the players in the discussion. But isn't giving them a feat per level giving casters more anyway? Feats seem to be more like mutipliers than straight addition. The barbarian already has his power attack and charge skills. He may start going the imperious command route (say), but it takes two feats and a skill trick to come online (and an investment in charisma and intimidate). The wizard uses those feats for (say) Arcane Thesis on still more of his high level spells, giving a very definite boost to his spellcasting.

@DeAnno: Thanks for your opinion! :)

2012-04-01, 08:37 AM
I like this. It's not much but it's better than simply stopping at 20 if you don't like epic. And it's simple.

I suppose wealth would continue to accumulate but if you don't allow epic items it's manageable.

2012-04-02, 02:03 AM
@ ericgrau: Thanks for your opinion! :) I've yet to get into problems with PC wealth, so I may underestimate this problem. I'll try and keep an eye out for that.