Sunday, 28 May 2017

High Level Play/too powerful PCs

I've taken two contrasting approaches to this issue:

1. In my Varisia/Golarion game the Epic (17-20) PCs will* likely spend most of their time on high level Epic threats from high level Pathfinder AP adventures, Books 5 & 6 of various AP lines. Stuff written for PF 13-18 can definitely handle 5e 17-20 I think. With just Books 5 & 6 of Rise of the Runelords and Shattered Star I have around 40 sessions of well-integrated epic level play, and it should be easy enough to add material from other APs. I suspect stuff like Tomb of Horrors will still be useable at 20th level also. Failing that I can always homebrew around Kill-the-BBEG type plots...

*Group is currently 11th-14th level after 50 sessions.

2. In my Wilderlands sandbox I have an 18th level barbarian, Hakeem the Exalted Champion of Bondor the sword god, but Hakeem is still doing mostly paragon/Tier III type stuff, questing around (often incognito) while gearing up to face his Nemesis/opposite number Kainos the Warbringer, the Empyreal son of the war god Bane, in single combat. I solved the overpowered high level party issue simply by ruling that new PCs started at 11th (non-caster) or 8th (caster) so they would essentially be his sidekicks. I have other lower level PC groups in the campaign where other players get to be the Hero of the Story, but I found that it simply worked best to accept that Hakeem was the leading character for his saga, and not try to shoehorn in a bunch of other 18th level PCs.

Long Campaigns

Replying to Sword of Spirit:

I like these, but I generally prefer to go for 3 years not 4+. I finished a 5.5 year 4e 1-29 campaign last year (Loudwater) and in retrospect it was too long, should have gone for 1-20 over about 3.5 years.

I also have run several ca 2 year games of around 30-35 sessions (eg 3e Lost City of Barakus level 1-8, 3e Willow Vale level 1-8, PF Curse of the Crimson Throne level 1-14), which I think are large mini-campaigns in your metric. I would tend to regard these more as full campaigns, albeit on the short side, but not failures. I ran a 12 session level 1-4 Pathfinder Beginner Box Yggsburgh game, which was designed and completed as such. I would call that a true mini-campaign. I have also run a couple 4e campaigns (levels 1-8 and 3-10) that each lasted around 18-20 sessions and could be considered failed campaigns, having been conceived to potentially run longer.

My current campaigns are:

1. 5e Wilderlands - long running open world sandbox game since at least 2009, longest lasting current PC Hakeem the Barbarian-18 started Jan 2015 when we rebooted in 5e rules. No end point, but current major story arc will likely be another year or so.
2. 5e Varisia/Runelords of the Shattered Star - started November 2015, 50 sessions in, expect to run about 70-90 more sessions over about the next 1.5-2 years, so aiming for about 3.5 years total.
3. Just announced my Classic D&D Karameikos game has ended as a group tabletop game at least for now. In current form went from start of 2015, so 2.5 years, going from level 1 to about 19th.
4. 4e Nentir Vale, 6 sessions in, intended to run around 50 sessions fortnightly over about 2.5 years, go 1st to maybe 14th level.

So it sounds as if I prefer slightly shorter campaigns than you, but similar principle.

Speed of levelling in 5e is definitely a potential issue. My solutions are (1) to run at 20th with Epic Boons, plus Feat and ASI gains every 50K XP and (2) Individual PC XP, which has a surprisingly significant effect in slowing down group advancement. One high level PC in a mid level group basically has to play a mid-level game, totally unlike 5 or 6 high level PCs.

Edit: Definitely disagree that 4e XP levels PCs too fast. Default 4e advancement rate is glacial, especially from 11th level up. If you use the DMG2 systems, tons of minions, and generous quest awards, you can get it up
to about 1 level per 12 hours, but by default is nearer 1 level per 20 hours' play. With default XP my 4e level 1-29 campaign would have taken 8 or 9 years rather than 5.5.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Realm of Chaos, Realm of Law

LogicNinja: D&D 3.x/PF is the only game I've ever played where as the GM I have to do all of this work just to make society make sense

I did come up with a way to solve this, based on Gygax's intro to Keep on the Borderlands (he prob took it from Poul Anderson who took it from faerie myth):

The Realm of Man is narrow and constrained. Always the Forces of Chaos Press Upon Her Borders...

1. The vast bulk of Humanity lives in the Realm of Law/Realm of Law, where magic does not work, or very little (eg church rituals, holy water, possibly some spiritualism - what a typical 19th century lower middle class Victorian might believe in).

2. The 3e/PF ruleset describes the Realm of Chaos/Realm of Faerie, where magic works. This includes most big-D  Dungeons, the deep wilderness etc.

3. In between are the Borderlands, site of the conflict between Law and Chaos. Here brave Men do live on the frontier, and wield magic as they battle the forces of Chaos - or turn allegiance to Chaos and fight against Law. The Borderlands ebb and flow as Chaos then Law gain the upper hand. Here, magic works, but grows more limited as you head towards the Realm of Man - perhaps 6th level spells work on the Frontier (OD&D pre-Greyhawk style) but only 1st & 2nd level spells as you approach the Realm of Law.

So PCs still get all their toys in their normal, level-appropriate play environment, but human society can be as realistic as you like.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Giving XP

In a game like 5e D&D I tend to give out an "Easy" or "Medium" or "Hard" combat challenge XP award for the non-combat equivalent challenge or quest completion, using the PCs' average level. In 5e I cap these awards at the level 10 line since the XP chart gets wonky after that and I'd prefer the PCs not to level up too fast.

Another thing I do in my 5e Pathfinders game is give a flat 100 XP per PC for every 'discovery' such as a new dungeon level, weird room etc.

I occasionally abstract it to "one Easy XP award per hour of play" if the PCs are active but the session doesn't break into clear quests/encounters/etc. A good rule of thumb for me is that if the PCs are active they should get at least 10% of the XP needed to level up in a 3 hour session, or above 10th level/name level in 5e make it 10% of what a level 11 PC would need to advance (ie 1500 XP).

I deliberately avoid giving XP for time spent OOC planning, book keeping etc, I don't want to incentivise not playing the game. But I might give XP for in-character planning sessions esp where NPCs are involved, persuasion attempts are required, etc.

The 5e level 10 encounter XP line is:

Easy 600
Medium 1200
Hard 1900
Deadly 2800

If the level 10+ PCs spend the time not in combat I'll typically give 600 XP per hour of non-threatening active play, but a typical achievement gets them 1200 XP each. In practice my online text-chat group typically get around 1800 XP for a 3 hour session sans big combat whereas the tabletop group get more like 3600, mostly because tabletop play is faster and they get more done. I rarely use the Hard & Deadly lines for noncombat awards but I might give 2800 each for something really major.

For reference, level 10 5e PCs need 21,000 XP to level, level 11 need 15,000, and level 19 need 50,000 to reach 20.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Future Campaign Ideas

5e Primeval Thule Sandbox with Stonehell & Xoth adventures. PCs are all non-casters, start at level 3. Can multiclass later.

5e Skull & Shackles AP

5e Jade Regent AP

5e Dwimmermount Sandbox/megadungeon. roll best 3 of 4d6 in order for starting PC, allow hiring of PC-class retainers (max retainers 2+CHA bonus) who use the same stat gen system, but no feats or multiclassing unless they become full PCs. Everyone starts at 1st; PCs roll for starting gold. Choose or roll for Background. Gritty rest variant.

Operation Whitebox  Achtung! Cthulu - Open Sandbox using D&DG Cthulu mythos + finale Assault on the Mountains of Madness campaign. PC hp 10 for 1st hit die +4/subsequent, exploding crits.

Gateway 1942
A recovered Nazi Cthulutech teleportation gate device, the Reise-Tor-Gerät, allows instant travel from home base in London to other TCs whose coordinates can be determined. The first decoded TC lies beneath Schloss Heiselburg - in January 1942, Allied agents uncover a Nazi Cthulutech Megadungeon in the German Alps. Who knows what dark secrets lie within, or what plans are afoot.
Meanwhile there are rumours that the Reise-Tor-Gerät may be able to access alternate worlds...


PC-PC-NPC relationship maps? "X wants Y from Z"?

Grey Box Forgotten Realms sandbox - 5e or Labyrinth Lord +AEC? With WoTC 5e APs? Dyson's Delves & PF Battlemats for lots of dungeons?

'Metal Labyrinth' LL/Mutant Future sci-fantasy mashup w alternate classes set in Current Year.

Game of Thrones with divergent timeline. After the death of Robert Baratheon, the King's Hand Eddard Stark arrests Queen Cersei on charges of high treason. The young Princes Joffrey & Tommen are also imprisoned, but Princess Myrcella is smuggled to safety by Ser Jamie. The Lannisters rise in revolt. While Stannis moves from Dragonstone to take the throne, his brother Renly also revolts, claiming the kingship, and is supported by the Tyrells. In the north the Starks & Tullys mobilise against the Lannisters. The Vale stays neutral. In the East a Dragon Queen rises, a Dothraki army at her command. And in the North the White Walkers are on the move...
ASoiAF rules, or could use Pathfinder Beginner Box?

4e FR Undermountain with Grey Box FR + The Savage Frontier. Ancestors of the 'Loudwater' campaign PCs?

LL or 5e Stonehell with Black Pudding classes.  Wilderlands near CSIO?

Savage Rifts or just Savage Worlds, with Venger Satanis stuff - Isle of Purple Haunted Putrescence

Savage Deadlands in Leone's Dollarverse

FR - pcs in the army of Lashan of Scardale, assaulting the tower of the Tyrant-Sage of Shadowdale.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

My conversion from 3e/Pathfinder to 5e D&D system:

AC: Halve AC over 10.
Hit Points: Increase by 50%.
Attributes: Halve attributes over 20 (monster) or cap at 20 (NPC)
Damage: Increase by 50%.
Attack Bonus (weapon or spell) & Spell Save DC: Calculate based on CR-derived Proficiency + Attribute bonus
Good Saves: If it's a Good (2+1/2 level) save in 3e, the monster has Proficiency in it in 5e.
Will > WIS and possibly INT or CHA.  Ref > DEX. Fort > CON and possibly STR.

This is easy enough to do that I can convert during play. I rarely worry about the exact number of spell slots an npc caster has, they will be dead in 2-3 rounds anyway...

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