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arrowed
2019-01-24, 11:12 AM
Hi, just me wondering what other people think about this: in games player characters generally have a system of advancement, in the form of levels, xp, etc. which give the joy of improvement and progress to players. I like this. However I do sometimes wonder about how fast characters advance. In superhero rpgs gaining power as the plot demands is pretty much a part of the genre as far as I can tell. In 'long term' games where in character months or years pass between characters leveling up, it 'makes sense' to me. But if, to lean on d&d analogies, your heroes walk into a dungeon at level 1 and walk out a couple of weeks later at level 10, what does that say about the world? :smallconfused:
You can say the PCs are prodigies, or trials make the survivors stronger, and it's certainly not massively important if the game is fun, but in terms of the blending of game mechanics and the real world, why in some systems is it possible for an apprentice wizard to get to the power of an archmage in a few years without studying at wizard uni, just shooting fire at monsters? Does this happen in real life? How do NPCs 'level', if only to get to where they are when the DM pulls them out of the aether? What kinds of system have people payed with interesting answers to this?
tl;dr why do pcs level up so much faster than npcs?

Stelio Kontos
2019-01-24, 11:15 AM
Hi, just me wondering what other people think about this: in games player characters generally have a system of advancement, in the form of levels, xp, etc. which give the joy of improvement and progress to players. I like this. However I do sometimes wonder about how fast characters advance. In superhero rpgs gaining power as the plot demands is pretty much a part of the genre as far as I can tell. In 'long term' games where in character months or years pass between characters leveling up, it 'makes sense' to me. But if, to lean on d&d analogies, your heroes walk into a dungeon at level 1 and walk out a couple of weeks later at level 10, what does that say about the world? :smallconfused:
You can say the PCs are prodigies, or trials make the survivors stronger, and it's certainly not massively important if the game is fun, but in terms of the blending of game mechanics and the real world, why in some systems is it possible for an apprentice wizard to get to the power of an archmage in a few years without studying at wizard uni, just shooting fire at monsters? Does this happen in real life? How do NPCs 'level', if only to get to where they are when the DM pulls them out of the aether? What kinds of system have people payed with interesting answers to this?
tl;dr why do pcs level up so much faster than npcs?

In my mind: everyone can do it, in theory, but almost everyone who tries, dies. The PCs aren't exceptional because they can do something nobody else gets to, they're exceptional because they survived it.

Or you can take the slow and steady route, get a story award here and there, and be a 50 year old level 4.

Hunter Noventa
2019-01-24, 11:16 AM
Well for 3.5/PF, one could only presume that they have 'encounters' too, with an assigned CR. But they're more like overcoming a trap, than fighting a monster. A Blacksmith could be commissioned to make a sword...and that would be an encounter.

The thing is, said encounters have a very low CR and thus very low experience rewards, so it takes them longer to level up.

That's how I would think of it, as a DM anyway, I'm normally a player.

As to how this applies if a PC were to be said Blacksmith, well it clearly doesn't, normally. Might be something to consider building a system for sometime.

Tohron
2019-01-24, 11:35 AM
Just slightly off-topic but The Wandering Inn (https://wanderinginn.com/table-of-contents) is a story set in a world where leveling mechanics apply to everyone (as in, people explicitly refer to classes, levels, and skills). It's a pretty interesting exploration of how such mechanics would affect a society.

Segev
2019-01-24, 12:41 PM
I'm usually in the "most people who face the PCs' path die before hitting high level" camp. The high level threats are out there, but very rare. Most take a long time to get there, gaining dribs and drabs of XP. PCs advancing quickly are just facing that much threat and learning FAST. If they aren't dying.


I think taking a Bloodborne-inspired approach might be a fun worldbuilding exercise, though: Nobody can perceive threats and powers and dangers that are more than 2-3 levels above them. Some sort of "mist" or "veil" or just plain failed interaction blocks their perception, and to a degree protects them.

So low level people might see orcs and goblins, and witness wizards doing some low-level magic, but the mythic stuff is only something they hear about, distantly. If a wizard performs super-high-level magic, they just don't notice, or see something lesser, and any incidents that come from it, they're shielded from or perceive a "mundane" cause for.

As characters level up, they start to realize that the particularly strong "orc" bouncer is actually a hill giant, and they see more magic and can tell that the shop "nobody goes to" on the corner is actually a bustling magic item shop full of customers who are mid-to-high level.

When they reach the highest levels, they can perceive that the reason the Black Forest is so deadly is because there's a dragon in it. And that the miserable and dangerous part of town is actually being run by a Pit Fiend whose throne sits on a portal to Hell.

(It would take a lot more care than my brief synopsis to sell this, with great attention to the nature of the obfuscation and how much it protects vs. merely disguises.)

The Jack
2019-01-24, 12:52 PM
When i do Asian games, I hope to run classes as a particular path of chi cultivation. They're all in a lightweight xianxia and each level is a breakthrough on a particular path of enlightenment. I had a Warrior monk (Class-wise a barbarian) who was going to have this thought process, but the GM didn't get the Daoist/buddhist stuff so I abandoned ship.
Characters can be strong without the chi-stuff/player classes,they can accidentally harness chi, but the chi stuff is very efficient.

When I do western games (IE every bloody time) I just think of my PC's as extremely talented. Or, I might go all gnostic/steal the asian stuff with a different brand. Maybe they're imperfect sleepers who are awakening to the power of their immortal souls...

gkathellar
2019-01-24, 01:44 PM
You could always steal a page from KotOR 2 and suggest that the PCs are literally siphoning the energy of people they kill (or help) into themselves. I've always sort of liked how sinister that notion is.

But yeah, PCs in D&D-alikes are very shounen-anime.

Anonymouswizard
2019-01-24, 07:29 PM
I tend not to run a lot of D&D, the game I'm starting next week is unusual in that regard. There I'm justifying it via an explicit system of characters levelling up whenever the year advances, to reflect their winter training before they go adventuring again in the summer. Most other inhabitants of the world are either not seeing anywhere near as much combat, or aren't training, with the campaign scheduled to end at around level ten.

In most of the games I run advancement isn't quite as swift as in a game of D&D. You'll normally get 2-4XP/session, with your peak skill normally taking two to three sessions to raise due to scaling XP costs. At this point it's fairly easy to justify it as the PCs just dealing with more stuff than the average person until somebody decides to buy a bunch of new skills.

Cosi
2019-01-24, 08:07 PM
I think advancement is mostly fast because of the assumption that people go from adventure to adventure immediately, not particularly because they advance a lot per adventure. I think most stories with advancement at all have advancement at about the rate of one level per adventure, it's just that in most TTRPG campaigns there isn't assumed to be that much downtime between or during adventures. Take, for example, Harry Potter. I think you could reasonably model Harry as gaining one or two levels per book, which is about what a D&D character gains over the course of an adventure. It's just that Harry's adventures typically run the course of a school year, with a summer worth of downtime between them, and D&D characters might plausibly clear a dungeon in a week then do that again next week.

Mechalich
2019-01-24, 08:26 PM
Personally I'm a fan of the E6 model. A level 1 character's straight out of basic training, as it were, but once thrown into the fire they may advance very rapidly to bad*** if they manage to survive, and can be recognized as serious hero with a suitable large role in society. This is analogous to a soldier who goes on campaign and fights a few battles in rapid succession and wins a bunch of medals and earns recognition as an Ace. After that, advancement slows down, and the difference between the people at the top are marginal (a feat or two here and there) that wouldn't necessarily be the deciding factor in combat.

Adventuring, therefore, is like taking a super-intensive crash course in something where you live, eat, and breathe whatever your focus is for a few months. If you manage to come through the other end without breaking down (which in the D&D sense usually means death), you'll emerge as quite a bad*** at whatever that is.

Most people in the rest of the world won't do this, in large part because it is so stressful, and instead they'll gain experience much more slowly. For instance, you can imagine a city guard or village cleric having to deal with 1-2 real emergencies each year that would count a actual events with a CR, and as such they might gain a level every decade or so. At the same time, if you have an army that has to march off and fight multiple battles in succession, the surviving veterans might have gained multiple levels, which helps to nicely represent what having a truly elite force means.

Mark Hall
2019-01-24, 08:40 PM
My rule of thumb is that non-adventurer humans advance at a rate of 1 level per decade. From about 10 years old through 19, they're level 1. 20-29, they're level 2. 30-39, level 3, etc. NPCs, in practice, are whatever level I want them to be, but if I have to generate a random person, they'll be that level. What level is the local priest? He's level 5, so he's in his 50s. If I need them to have access to a higher level cleric, I don't have a problem doing that, but he's going to be a different character than Father Mike, who never left town and only healed cart injuries.

Darth Ultron
2019-01-24, 09:13 PM
But if, to lean on d&d analogies, your heroes walk into a dungeon at level 1 and walk out a couple of weeks later at level 10, what does that say about the world? :smallconfused:

That it's a cool world?



You can say the PCs are prodigies, or trials make the survivors stronger, and it's certainly not massively important if the game is fun, but in terms of the blending of game mechanics and the real world, why in some systems is it possible for an apprentice wizard to get to the power of an archmage in a few years without studying at wizard uni, just shooting fire at monsters? Does this happen in real life?

Yes. It does not take years for everyone.



How do NPCs 'level', if only to get to where they are when the DM pulls them out of the aether?

In a general sense all creatures go up levels by gaining experience...life experience. Most normal people (aka NPCs) gain this very slowly over time by living life. Generally a person gains 1-5 xp points a day. At that low rate, most people only gain a level every couple of years.

People that have more exciting and extreme lives....like adventurers...gain xp much more quickly.

Anonymouswizard
2019-01-25, 07:40 AM
I think advancement is mostly fast because of the assumption that people go from adventure to adventure immediately, not particularly because they advance a lot per adventure. I think most stories with advancement at all have advancement at about the rate of one level per adventure, it's just that in most TTRPG campaigns there isn't assumed to be that much downtime between or during adventures. Take, for example, Harry Potter. I think you could reasonably model Harry as gaining one or two levels per book, which is about what a D&D character gains over the course of an adventure. It's just that Harry's adventures typically run the course of a school year, with a summer worth of downtime between them, and D&D characters might plausibly clear a dungeon in a week then do that again next week.

I'm going to take a slight more relevant example to D&D, Lord of the Rings. It takes place over the place of about a year from Frodo leaving the shire to the entire (surviving) fellowship being in Minas Tirith. Bewarned there's some minor spoilers here, I've tried to keep it as free as possible but I've referred to some events by name.

Gandalf gains the equivalent of a few more levels over the course of a ressurection spell, but that's divine intervention allowing him to access more of his power.
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli might not have gained any levels at all. They already began as some of the most skilled fighters of their kinds, and end the story pretty much the same way. Although in-story it's hard to tell the difference between a level 7 and level 8 Fighter when the majority of the world is level one or two.
The Hobbits, having begun at about level 1, gain levels quickly due to facing encounters far above their level. We can assume that they reached level 2 by Rivendell, and level 3 by the end of the Mines of Moria. Then I'd argue that Merri and Pippin gain a level from Isengard, allowing them to be relatively equal to their comrades during the Battle of the Plenor Fields (during which at least Merri reaches level 4, probably Pippin as well), while Sam at the very least gains a level on the way into Mordor and potentially one or more on the journey.

Knaight
2019-01-25, 07:55 AM
The rapid advancement is generally a comparatively rare system quirk, tied into some pretty odd setting assumptions that have mostly been jettisoned. Those that remain include people having enormous variety of power, where people can rise from nothing - which tends to come across in NPCs as well. Given that framework really rapid advancement for people who pretty much live their lives at full intensity dedicated to their craft makes sense, especially given the amount of learn-or-die in play.

Kaptin Keen
2019-01-25, 08:18 AM
What is the world total XP?

I know it's not really on topic, but I got to thinking: If we establish some sort of baseline, based on earth in the 13 hundreds, let's call it around 400 million living, breathing souls (of human or demihuman kinds), then establish a standard bell curve for levels, extrapolate from that to monster populations ... where do we land?

I mean, ok, that's a lot of math that I'm both unwilling and entirely unable to do myself, but I wonder: Do ends meet at all*? And what is the max level possible? =D

*What I mean by that is, for X number of people to reach level Y, will they deplete the world population before they reach their target level? Will there be be XP safaris, hunting the last high XP areas of the planet?

Griffith!
2019-01-25, 08:23 AM
The only element that bothers me is long-lived heritage, like elves. Okay, so they lack the drive of humans, are you seriously telling me a 300 year old elf has only accumulated as much knowledge of their craft as a twenty year old human? In 300 years, to have learned so very little...

And yet, they level as fast as humans in a crisis. Which is why elves are the epitome of lazy. Dwarves too. Industrious my short-lived foot.

Willie the Duck
2019-01-25, 08:45 AM
It's not rare that a game conceit works/makes more sense for the PCs than it does when interpreted to the world at large. Usually it relates to the game economy (particularly the equipment costs, along with NPC assumed wages). My general response has usually been, "look, this is a game initially about PCs going from the town to dungeons, to explore the dungeons and bring back loot from the dungeons, such that they can get better at dungeon-crawling so they can go back to the deeper levels of the dungeons and bring back the loot from them... Everything else is retro-actively filled-in to justify that situation, so just find an explanation that works for you."

That's certainly true from a how-the-game-developed perspective, but it isn't a particularly satisfactory answer. Beyond that, clearly the designers started worrying about the game world and how applying PC-rules to them would work. Otherwise, the Gygaxian 'let's put level limits on demihumans otherwise the long-lived ones would all be crazy-high levels and my humanocentric world wouldn't make sense' justification for level limits would have been completely unnecessary.

To justify it, I generally make these assumptions:

Whatever leveling is, in-fiction, the universe gives it most readily to those doing the things that PCs do (that most other people don't). The reason that Baron Von Regionalauthorityfigure is a level 10 fighter when the PCs start out their adventuring career and a level 10 fighter when they are 20th level is because he's spending most of his time being a baron (not a quick-advancing role), while the adventurers are adventuring. This is really specific to 'adventuring,' not combat or money acquisition, or whatever is giving the PCs their xp in a given edition.
NPCs who are doing what the PCs are doing are on the same trajectory. The NPC adventuring party is also having a high-risk, high-reward career which should end in high levels or horrible death in a short period of time (unless they decide to retire to a less rewarding/risky lifestyle, just like the PCs) .
When there is a relatively long-term/stable situation of NPC doing PC-like things, but not also being a flash in the pan (ex. The Fearsome Five is a group of well know heroes/antiheroes in the PC's culture that are known to all as having been doing amazing things for the past thirty years. The PCs meet them, and they are level 8. The players recognize that their characters either die, retire, or make it to level 20 within 2-3 in-game years), it is because, as Cosi points out, most people other than D&D PCs have significantly more downtime between adventures.

Frozen_Feet
2019-01-25, 08:51 AM
Leveling up has usually turned out to be pretty slow in practice. System assumptions: XP is awarded based on value of treasure found and a single treasure can only get you up one level and halfway to the next. XP is not awarded for usable magic items nor money acquired by trade or other non-adventurous undertakings.

Also, XP is calculated when you get back to safety. So if you go into a dungeon at level 1 and stay for a week. .. you will come back out at level 1 or a corpse, and AFTER tallying up the treasure you might get to level 2, halfway to level 3 at best.

For contrast, games with fast leveling exploits don't cap experience on adventure basis and calculate XP instantly.

Mark Hall
2019-01-25, 09:59 AM
The only element that bothers me is long-lived heritage, like elves. Okay, so they lack the drive of humans, are you seriously telling me a 300 year old elf has only accumulated as much knowledge of their craft as a twenty year old human? In 300 years, to have learned so very little...

And yet, they level as fast as humans in a crisis. Which is why elves are the epitome of lazy. Dwarves too. Industrious my short-lived foot.

Oh, that's simple.

They have level limits. :smallbiggrin:

MoiMagnus
2019-01-25, 10:26 AM
Hi, just me wondering what other people think about this: in games player characters generally have a system of advancement, in the form of levels, xp, etc. which give the joy of improvement and progress to players. I like this. However I do sometimes wonder about how fast characters advance. In superhero rpgs gaining power as the plot demands is pretty much a part of the genre as far as I can tell. In 'long term' games where in character months or years pass between characters leveling up, it 'makes sense' to me. But if, to lean on d&d analogies, your heroes walk into a dungeon at level 1 and walk out a couple of weeks later at level 10, what does that say about the world? :smallconfused:
You can say the PCs are prodigies, or trials make the survivors stronger, and it's certainly not massively important if the game is fun, but in terms of the blending of game mechanics and the real world, why in some systems is it possible for an apprentice wizard to get to the power of an archmage in a few years without studying at wizard uni, just shooting fire at monsters? Does this happen in real life? How do NPCs 'level', if only to get to where they are when the DM pulls them out of the aether? What kinds of system have people payed with interesting answers to this?
tl;dr why do pcs level up so much faster than npcs?

Answer 1: Same than for anime where the main character power up when the plot need. People accept it because for plot convenience, the scenario does not last 50 years with all the training needed. Some scenarios require the power-up from "normal guy" to "superhero" to happen in one week, because you need a feeling of urgency (so only one week), which start with a character people can identify with (normal guy), but have some spectacular superhero fight.

Answer 2: They don't, and you just need to adapt the plot to allow few years of training between each scenario.

Answer 3: The NPC also level up. In the last campaign, our DM had a system of "waves in the fate". So while the PCs did level up faster than most, the whole world did gain 10 to 15 levels during our campaign (and will slowly regress to more reasonable level after the campaign)

Answer 4: Assuming D&D5, leveling up gives:
+ Some negligible boost to attacks and saves. This is just "experience".
+ Some new knowledge and tricks, that should be justified in-universe case-by-case, but aren't for the same reason you don't take care of the day-to-day lunch of your characters. You could assume every NPC also frequently gain those, just that since a NPC will do far less fighting and adventure, they will not gain skills related to this. (Maybe they now have the ability to negotiate extended deadlines with the imperial administration)
+ New spells. That one is a little more difficult to justify if the level-up is fast-paced. Depends a lot on how magic works in your world building.
+ More Hit Points. If you consider that "Hit Points" are a kind of "heroic luck given by the fate & magic", and that you only start being really injured when you are at almost 0 hit-points (Before that, sword strikes just don't do anything), then it makes sense for the heroes to gain HP when becoming more and heroic.

Anonymouswizard
2019-01-25, 10:46 AM
Leveling up has usually turned out to be pretty slow in practice. System assumptions: XP is awarded based on value of treasure found and a single treasure can only get you up one level and halfway to the next. XP is not awarded for usable magic items nor money acquired by trade or other non-adventurous undertakings.

Also, XP is calculated when you get back to safety. So if you go into a dungeon at level 1 and stay for a week. .. you will come back out at level 1 or a corpse, and AFTER tallying up the treasure you might get to level 2, halfway to level 3 at best.

For contrast, games with fast leveling exploits don't cap experience on adventure basis and calculate XP instantly.

The other thing I notice is travel time. The dungeon is almost never at the end of a long journey, in my experience you're lucky if you have to travel for more than a day to find it.

Seasons also play into this. If we imagine that travelling to and from the dungeon takes a fortnight each way and that most groups spend a week inside then you have the opportunity to raid the dungeon four or five times before winter sets in and supplies become scarcer, less if the characters realistically take some time off between delvings (I've considered running an OSR game and forcing this via only frivulously spent treasure counting for XP).

Stelio Kontos
2019-01-25, 10:57 AM
The only element that bothers me is long-lived heritage, like elves. Okay, so they lack the drive of humans, are you seriously telling me a 300 year old elf has only accumulated as much knowledge of their craft as a twenty year old human? In 300 years, to have learned so very little...

And yet, they level as fast as humans in a crisis. Which is why elves are the epitome of lazy. Dwarves too. Industrious my short-lived foot.

Elves have forgotten more about their craft than you'll ever know.

Which is, of course, the trouble; they've forgotten it all.

Friv
2019-01-25, 03:53 PM
Leveling up has usually turned out to be pretty slow in practice. System assumptions: XP is awarded based on value of treasure found and a single treasure can only get you up one level and halfway to the next. XP is not awarded for usable magic items nor money acquired by trade or other non-adventurous undertakings.

Also, XP is calculated when you get back to safety. So if you go into a dungeon at level 1 and stay for a week. .. you will come back out at level 1 or a corpse, and AFTER tallying up the treasure you might get to level 2, halfway to level 3 at best.

For contrast, games with fast leveling exploits don't cap experience on adventure basis and calculate XP instantly.

If you spend a week in the dungeon every time, and you only gain a level every two dungeon adventures, then at the end of six months of dungeoneering you'd be Level 13. That's not a particularly slow advancement rate.


The only element that bothers me is long-lived heritage, like elves. Okay, so they lack the drive of humans, are you seriously telling me a 300 year old elf has only accumulated as much knowledge of their craft as a twenty year old human? In 300 years, to have learned so very little...

And yet, they level as fast as humans in a crisis. Which is why elves are the epitome of lazy. Dwarves too. Industrious my short-lived foot.

In real life, you have to constantly practice at the things you're good at or else you lose your skills. There will come a point at which you just can't keep up with all of your interests, and you're spending more time practicing to keep them than to learn new things. At this point, you don't so much level up as slowly change what you've levelled in.

D&D doesn't have mechanics for this, because losing your skills is not fun.

Mark Hall
2019-01-25, 04:19 PM
In AD&D, Dragonlance simply instituted a universal level limit... no matter your race, you couldn't go above 18th (?) level, because at that point, the gods had other things for you to do.

Anonymouswizard
2019-01-25, 05:31 PM
If you spend a week in the dungeon every time, and you only gain a level every two dungeon adventures, then at the end of six months of dungeoneering you'd be Level 13. That's not a particularly slow advancement rate.

6 months is roughly 24 weeks. You're assuming that all the PCs do is spend time in the dungeon, with no travel time, R&R, or time spent seeking out resources.

Now travel time is a pain to generalise, because dungeon placement varies, but we can assume that it's probably at least a couple of days out from the closest settlement, but less than a month's trek. Half a week each way sounds like a fair comprimise for now, which slows your advancement rate to 12 levels/year.

But we should also take availability of supplies into account. If food is scarce enough then it's going to be that much harder to get to the dungeon. If a third of the year is not adventuring friendly then the rate slows to 8 levels/year.

But how long do characters have to rest between adventures? I don't know about you, but after a life-threatening experience sandwiched by treks I enjoy a rest.

Friv
2019-01-25, 07:18 PM
6 months is roughly 24 weeks. You're assuming that all the PCs do is spend time in the dungeon, with no travel time, R&R, or time spent seeking out resources.

Now travel time is a pain to generalise, because dungeon placement varies, but we can assume that it's probably at least a couple of days out from the closest settlement, but less than a month's trek. Half a week each way sounds like a fair comprimise for now, which slows your advancement rate to 12 levels/year.

But we should also take availability of supplies into account. If food is scarce enough then it's going to be that much harder to get to the dungeon. If a third of the year is not adventuring friendly then the rate slows to 8 levels/year.

But how long do characters have to rest between adventures? I don't know about you, but after a life-threatening experience sandwiched by treks I enjoy a rest.


So, a few notes. A lot of old D&D games involved megadungeons - places where you would be doing multiple levels of delving at once. So it would be very easy to spend a solid month or two in one place, and then move to the next large dungeon and continue, rather than clearing out each dungeon in a week.

Secondly, travelling to and from dungeons meant wilderness survival, which could gain you XP.

But with that in mind - if we cut back to 8 levels per year, that means about 16 weeks of dungeoneering, 16 weeks of travel, and about twenty weeks of rest per year. That leaves a good 3-4 weeks of rest in the middle of the adventuring season, with a long rest and training and recovering period over the winter...

... and it still pushes adventurers from raw recruits to name-level lords in one year. (And if you're not playing OD&D, which has the name-level around Level 9-10, you're not playing with "treasure gets experience" and a bunch of assumptions shift on you.)

Which was my point to Frozen Feet; that levelling up is still very fast compared to any real-world effects, so you have to assume that people are somehow hero-cool at gaining levels.

BWR
2019-01-25, 07:38 PM
To a certain extent there is a lot of handwaving in favor of PCs and rapid leveling. As a GM you can try to reduce the rapid advancement by enforcing downtime and maybe going back to the old days of training in order to level up.

As previously mentioned, high level characters in universe are special because they survived to get to that level, (usually) not because only they are capable of it. I don't distinguish between PCs and NPCs in this regard - some people spend decades to get to 3rd level, some people manage to become archmages before they're 30. Some of it is drive - not everyone wants to risk life and limb for a handful of coins. Some of it is talent - not everyone manages to learn at the same speed or to the same degree. A lot of it is luck and circumstance - lots of people are comfortable where they are and while they could be quite competent if pushed, they see no need.

In my games long-lived races, especially elves, are usually quite high level once they get a few centuries on them - they just don't tend to focus. You spend a couple of decades adventuring and getting a couple levels of Fighter, then try your hand at magic as a Wizard, learn some music, go through a religious phase, help the community as a farmer or a blacksmith, etc. There are lots of 10+ level elves floating around, they are just rarely 10 levels in any class or combo of classes that synch particularly well.

Anonymouswizard
2019-01-25, 07:41 PM
So, a few notes. A lot of old D&D games involved megadungeons - places where you would be doing multiple levels of delving at once. So it would be very easy to spend a solid month or two in one place, and then move to the next large dungeon and continue, rather than clearing out each dungeon in a week.

Secondly, travelling to and from dungeons meant wilderness survival, which could gain you XP.

But with that in mind - if we cut back to 8 levels per year, that means about 16 weeks of dungeoneering, 16 weeks of travel, and about twenty weeks of rest per year. That leaves a good 3-4 weeks of rest in the middle of the adventuring season, with a long rest and training and recovering period over the winter...

... and it still pushes adventurers from raw recruits to name-level lords in one year. (And if you're not playing OD&D, which has the name-level around Level 9-10, you're not playing with "treasure gets experience" and a bunch of assumptions shift on you.)

Which was my point to Frozen Feet; that levelling up is still very fast compared to any real-world effects, so you have to assume that people are somehow hero-cool at gaining levels.

Oh, true, but I was pointing out that you were overselling just how fast it is. 8 levels a year is an insane levelling speed, but it's a bit more realistic for a an actual game, and brings up the important fact that adventuring is not all that adventurers do. Plus I have a personal dislike for the tendency to act like downtime shouldn't be an inherent part of the game (I once played in one where at the start of every session we ran a week of downtime due to the campaign working in real time, it worked surprisingly well).

Now the modern approach might be 'mission based' games instead of 'dungeon based' games, but again we can divide time between 'rest' (no XP gain), 'travel' (low XP gain), and 'objectives' (high XP game). The inherent problem is that groups tend to dedicate a lot of in-world time to the last and less to the first two, instead of just dedicating more game time, leading to insanely advanced levelling rates and entire campaigns lasting for less than an in-game year. It's one of the reasons I think an episodic campaign might be slightly better, where adventures can be seperated by weeks or months and there's little problem.

Florian
2019-01-26, 03:16 AM
Classes, levels, XP and all that are simply abstractions used to modeling learning and growth on the side of the PC. The speed and scope of the growth in power is only due to how the game and the player base has changed over the years. I guess no-one has the time and patience anymore to wade thru a number of throw-away characters to even reach the survivable levels and no-one has the time or nerve to campaign for 10 years with a growth ratio of 1 level per year. It can be done a little bit more fine granular, look at the Staggered Growth optional rules in Pathfinder Unchained, but personally, IŽd leave it as it is and don't make it a topic of world building or realism, as these are pure player rules elements.

Frozen_Feet
2019-01-26, 05:48 AM
@Anonymouswizard: travel times definitely are a major factor: how densely locations of interest are packed sets hard limits on speed of advancement. Of note here is that in lot of modern games, travel time is waived or the GM feeds new adventures to the characters in a blatantly artificial manner, so the characters don't actually have to spend time looking for adventure. This is key to many fast leveling exploits: having the adventure come to you instead of having to go to it.

@Friv: in old school games, XP requirements and amount of treasure don't follow the same curve, so the number of adventures needed to gain a level tends to not stay constant, it increases. Which brings up another trait of games with fast leveling exploits: ability to gain XP follows the same curve or increases faster than XP required for level up.

However, what keeps high level characters rare tends to just be mortality rate and the fact that to get there, you are halting advancement of other groups by killing them or taking their treasure. To take your example of reaching level 13 in six months, at rate of two adventures per level... that's assumed 26 successfull expeditions in a row. Is it doable? Yes. But from both gameplay and world-building perpective, these people are the ones who got a major lucky break.

So the key to making gaining name level take more realistic amount of time is... to make more realistic assumptions about success rate, amount of treasure gained and amount of opposition.

Which brings me to perhaps most important trait of games with fast leveling exploits: ability to guarantee success. To numerate all I've pointed out:

1) XP is awarded instantly (=no need to finish the adventure or get back to safety)
2) no cap on XP or leveling on per adventure basis (=makes massive spikes in power, farming and grinding possible)
3) no need to look for adventure, adventure comes to you (=no travel time, no downtime)
4) ability to gain XP follows the same curve or exceeds the amount of XP (=amount of adventuring per level stays the same or decreases)
5) guaranteed success (=character levels only go up with time, never down)

King of Nowhere
2019-01-26, 05:51 AM
My approach comes from my experience at playing chess.
I have noticed that everyone has an innate level of talent. They start playing and they get better very quickly, reaching their level of talent within a few years to a decade, depending on how high that is and how often they play.
After that, though, they tend to stagnate. They keep playing, but they never get better. If they study and put serious effort, they may get better, but it gets harder and harder the higher one wants to go past his natural talent level. If one stops playing, his skill will degrade over time, but a little bit of doing it again will quickly put them back at their natural level.

So I assume the same goes for npcs. they reach their skill level, that for most people is somewhere between level 2 and 4, early in their adulthood. then they sort of hover there. PCs and other exceptional people are exceptional because their natural talent level is very high, so they can keep gaining experience.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-01-26, 10:27 AM
My approach comes from my experience at playing chess.
I have noticed that everyone has an innate level of talent. They start playing and they get better very quickly, reaching their level of talent within a few years to a decade, depending on how high that is and how often they play.
After that, though, they tend to stagnate. They keep playing, but they never get better. If they study and put serious effort, they may get better, but it gets harder and harder the higher one wants to go past his natural talent level. If one stops playing, his skill will degrade over time, but a little bit of doing it again will quickly put them back at their natural level.

So I assume the same goes for npcs. they reach their skill level, that for most people is somewhere between level 2 and 4, early in their adulthood. then they sort of hover there. PCs and other exceptional people are exceptional because their natural talent level is very high, so they can keep gaining experience.

This is my approach. Gaining power (which may or may not be class levels) is bounded by your soul's natural potential. PCs are among those people whose potential hasn't been reached/ascertained yet. By convention, I assume that when a PC retires, that was their cap. I generally do power-law fall-off by tiers: roughly 1/2 as many of "level" n+1 as n within a tier (about 3-4 levels) but 1/10 or 1/100 between tiers. "Monster" races progress differently, depending on the race.

You can break beyond your natural potential, but the only "easy" way to do so involves blood magic (replacing part of your soul with energy from sacrifices) and ends up with you becoming a demon.

This means that people capable of casting 9th level spells are vanishingly rare. I've only statted one such among the civilized territory, and he's a senile lecher (and the Archmage of the Graniteflame Academy of Wizardry and Song, but that's separate).

Kiero
2019-01-26, 10:57 AM
ACKS includes as a fundamental part of it's setting construction a table showing the level demography of the society. PCs aren't the only people with levels, and it shows a pyramid-like structure from lowest to highest.

D+1
2019-01-27, 12:22 AM
tl;dr why do pcs level up so much faster than npcs?Because: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!

Yora
2019-01-27, 02:14 AM
I decided to adjust the narrative of the campaign to the world, rather than the other way around.

If you have a campaign that is mainly dungeon crawling and characters engaging multiple threats every second day or so, I think internal consistency as the setting goes isn't a real priority anyway. Such campaigns are gameplay first, with nobody really expecting to get a somewhat plausible representation of how people in a fantasy world would actually live.
If you have a campaign about fresh 1st level characters racing to stop a demon god before it destroys the world, then you have indeed a hard to fix mismatch. The characters have reason to press forward as fast as possible without taking breaks. But then you have to wonder why it's no name 1st level characters who fight the great evil and none of the already existing 19th level NPCs.

The approach that I have adopted now is to have PCs have a day job with a somewhat regular life, and adventures being rare and extraordinary episodes in their lives. Priests working at a temple, wizards doing their studies, and fighters guarding things without major incidents. But occasionally something happens that makes them pack their horses or load up their ship because something big and extraordinary has come up. Or they destroyed one threat and it takes the villains months or years to rebuild to make their next big move.

I have established the new rule that characters can only advance a level on the first day of spring, when they made it successfully through winter, and then also only one level per year. Their XP counts can increase normally, so nothing is wasted when the narrative demands that they need to finish dealing with a threat even though PCs already have enough to level up. In that case they just might be doing fewer or shorter adventures the next year.

At the table, nothing really changes. I still aim to have characters gain a level every 4 sessions or so. But within the narratives, the events of such a campaign would be spread out over many years instead of just a few weeks.

Anonymouswizard
2019-01-27, 04:21 AM
Because: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!

This really. Realistic advancement is no fun (the one time I played with it we got 1/25XP a session), so every time I've played advancement has been accelerated to the point where you could get a new skill point every week or so if you wanted. Even games that try to be realistic with 'learning by doing' rules still tend to have characters gaining skill points quickly.

Segev
2019-01-28, 11:34 AM
Let's not forget the 16th level elven commoners, either. After centuries of hanging around, they probably got up there eventually.

What does cause high-level NPC classes? Adepts, okay, they're spellcasters, so you assign a high level based on needing those spells for the CR or to run the town majyck shoppe. Experts, maybe, for the specialty high-end skills. But what prompts a high-level commoner even appearing from a Doylist standpoint? Let alone how they happen in-game.

Do even high-level PCs encounter high-level commoners or aristocrats?

hamishspence
2019-01-28, 01:54 PM
Let's not forget the 16th level elven commoners, either. After centuries of hanging around, they probably got up there eventually.

What does cause high-level NPC classes? Adepts, okay, they're spellcasters, so you assign a high level based on needing those spells for the CR or to run the town majyck shoppe. Experts, maybe, for the specialty high-end skills. But what prompts a high-level commoner even appearing from a Doylist standpoint? Let alone how they happen in-game.

Do even high-level PCs encounter high-level commoners or aristocrats?

If the DM is using the random generator for generating towns, there will be high level commoners in metropolises and planar metropolises.

Once they're created, a DM might find them "worth doing something with".

Mechalich
2019-01-28, 07:22 PM
What does cause high-level NPC classes? Adepts, okay, they're spellcasters, so you assign a high level based on needing those spells for the CR or to run the town majyck shoppe. Experts, maybe, for the specialty high-end skills. But what prompts a high-level commoner even appearing from a Doylist standpoint? Let alone how they happen in-game.

You get XP from completing level-relevant challenges, a high-level commoner just has to be in a position where they complete a lot more than the average. Most commoners have very consistent jobs, but there will be those who have high-risk jobs with a lot of troubleshooting and maybe even some large scale management.

For example, lets take Sailors. That's a commoner job: max out Profession (Sailor) and throw the other ranks around between Climb, Craft, Listen, Spot, Swim, and Use Rope. Now lots of sailors have highly predictable routes they run all the time, with low risk. For example, a ferryman who goes back and forth across a placid lake, or a coastal trader who hauls fish loads across a few towns. That guy probably takes 10 all day every day, and only faces a couple of actual challenges, in the form of storms, mechanical failure, or navigational hazards, each year. So even if these are level-equivalent encounters it will take them half a decade to level up, and as they gain levels their encounters are unlikely to scale up from CR 1-2. By contrast, there are going to be some sailors who undertake high-risk occupations, like Whaling. That's some dangerous sailing. Cold, perhaps even arctic waters in the deep sea, highly dangerous animals (in PF, Blue Whales haul in at CR 12), processing in stormy conditions while hanging off the side of the ship, the threat of piracy during the return leg, and more. A sailor on a whaler might gain two or three levels a season and inherit additional responsibilities thereafter to raise his encounter levels over time. So their level could end up being fairly high. And of course, such people are more likely to be more common in cities because they are centers of commerce and thus challenge and opportunity.

Frozen_Feet
2019-01-28, 08:54 PM
High-level commoners are an oddity of d20 system and I haven't seen them used outside 3.x. D&D. (I guess they can exist in Pathfinder?)

In old editions and OSR games, a commoner was 0th level normal human. Anyone with levels had a real class or was some kind of monster with specific HD and abilities. There were NPC-only classes in AD&D, but they weren't just strictly inferior versions of PC classes.

It seems the existence of high-level commoners is a fluke of d20 game design, specifically the want to standardize level and HD progressions.

King of Nowhere
2019-02-02, 05:08 PM
if a commoner gets lots of experience, though, i'd rather retrain him as an expert

KillianHawkeye
2019-02-02, 07:28 PM
It's really just a case of greater dangers leading to greater rewards, though. You gain a lot more experience from putting your life on the line and surviving than from playing it safe your whole life. And that makes enough sense to me from a "D&D as fantasy action movie heroes" viewpoint. Obviously the guys who are out there fighting every day are going to get a lot stronger a lot faster than the guys who sell them their weapons and magic items.