GM Love


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Well, I have now begun to use Pathfinder for my regular games and my players are in love with it. The new class options and the feel of increased effectiveness at lower levels (especially 1st) have them all practically giddy (even the ones who could not make the game and are still just reading up on the game and its changes from 3.5).

Well, I ran across a mild frustration with it as the Game Master. That being: it did not feel as though much had changed on our end. It had all of the complications of 3.5 edition.

What has changed?

The game is still very good and I did enjoy it, but I will give 4E D&D credit where it is due and say that it made my job a whole lot easier. I am just wondering where Pathfinder made any improvement on the Game Mastering side of the game. How has Pathfinder improved or hindered anyone else who runs the game.

Giving more options to the players is wonderful and I approve of Pathfinder as a whole and will continue to run the game, but I wish to know if any Pathfinder love is being sent in the direction of the Game Master.

Thoughts?


The Pathfinder rules themselves don't really change much from the DM's perpective.

Sure, a few things are simplified, like Combat Maneuvers, but other than a few scattered little simplifications, Pathfinder DMs about the same as 3.x DMs.

You're right, 4e really simplified things for the DM. But, IMO, they did it by stripping away half of the options available to a DM, then maknig half of what's left childishly simple, sometimes to the point that even a child would say "no way, that's silly". Simpler, yes, but I think 4e took away the art and skill of DMing and replaced it something, I don't know what, but whatever it is, it requires almost no art or skill.

(being a good storyteller is still vital in both systems).

Were there specific simplifications you had in mind? Something you really liked about 4e that you wish were present in Pathfinder?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

You want GM love? Look at the new XP table. I love the new XP table. No more cross-referencing character level with CR to find the party award, then dividing by party members. Just look at the table. Done.


I agree that a lot of the ease of DMing 4E was that many options were taken away and I cringe at the thought of it going that far in Pathfinder, but I was hoping for a little more than what 3.5 had going for it. Story is forever and always the most important thing to me as a DM, the story of the PCs. However, in both systems, the game itself has interfered with the story.

EX: 3.5 D&D, so much mostly irrelevant legwork that it could interfere with the story of your game. (choice of appropriate monster or creation of an NPC, determining treasure using their random system, various exceptions to rules, etc)

EX: 4E D&D, so simplistic that it requires the DM to do a lot more on the fly and thus detracts from the story. This and general lack of options, even when simply comparing Players Handbooks.

It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I am hoping for something in between the two. I will honestly admit that I do not know entirely what I would want from it (specifics anyway). Really, all I am hoping for is that the developers of Pathfinder think of us while designing the game, not just the PCs. I have great faith that they are, but it is still a concern of mine.

And yes, the EXP charts are much easier. They are a great improvement. This lending proof that they are thinking of us, which makes me happy.

Another thing is monster design. If they are using the same setup as the example NPC in the Beta version, then I will be happy with that as well. This will alleviate another concern I had which was the overly complicated nature of some 3rd edition monsters. Again, 4E made them easier to run, but took so much away from them that it was not the same.

As is most likely clear by now, I am merely expressing concern for what might have been. Evidence thus far has been clearly non-confirming of my worries, which I am very glad for. As the product has yet to fully see the light of day, we can all hope that it turns out as good as we think that it will.


Vigil wrote:
You want GM love? Look at the new XP table. I love the new XP table. No more cross-referencing character level with CR to find the party award, then dividing by party members. Just look at the table. Done.

Yep, this makes running the numbers easier, but it also has a hidden complication.

Imagine if you have a player who misses some games, maybe he has to work some nights you play, or whatever, and he falls behind in levels.

Using the 3.5 XP rules, he will catch back up eventually. For example, if Al, Bill, Carl, Dave, and Ed are all 8th level except Ed who is only 7th because he missed some nights, and they fight a CR 8 encounter, Al, Bill, Carl, and Dave all get 480 XP while Ed gets 630 XP. Do this enough, and maybe within a level or two Ed will be the same level as the rest of the guys.

Using the Pathfinder rules, poor Ed will be forever lower level than the rest of the group because this simplified XP table doesn't care about the level of the PCs who receive the XP - everyone gets an equal share regardless of level.

So, once again, simple isn't always better.

Note: I anticipate that some people will say Ed should not catch up. He's lower level, so he is contributing less to each fight than the other guys, why should he get more XP? Some people will say Ed should stay behind forever - it's the price he pays for not showing up those nights.

The counter-argument is that Ed's character is, by definition, less experienced than the other guys - that's why he has fewer experience points. Therefore, he knows less than they do, and can possibly learn more from the fight than his wiser, more experienced companions.

For or against, the final argument is whether we want to penalize Ed for having his job, or his family, or whatever makes him miss some sessions.

Me, I'd like Ed to feel like he belongs and to feel like a worthy, contributing member of the group when he can be there, so I like letting him catch up, even if it means more maths for me.


denaekall wrote:

I agree that a lot of the ease of DMing 4E was that many options were taken away and I cringe at the thought of it going that far in Pathfinder, but I was hoping for a little more than what 3.5 had going for it. Story is forever and always the most important thing to me as a DM, the story of the PCs. However, in both systems, the game itself has interfered with the story.

EX: 3.5 D&D, so much mostly irrelevant legwork that it could interfere with the story of your game. (choice of appropriate monster or creation of an NPC, determining treasure using their random system, various exceptions to rules, etc)

Choosing a monster was never more for me than cracking open the book and checking some CRs. From a story angle, if I want a dungeon full of minotaurs, I make a dungeon full of minotaurs. Some might have class level, or you might have to fight them in packs instead of individuals, if I need to beef up the challenge. Not really a lot of legwork.

Now, I agree with you on the NPC thing. Whipping up a mid- or high-level NPC for a 3.5 session is much more work than for a 4e session. But that's just the other side of the coin - on the front side is the fact that you have a whole world of options for the 3.5 NPC, but the 4e NPC is a cookie cutter that looks and behaves (mechanically) just about like the NPC you used last week, even if they're different races and class.

As for me, I'll throw away the cookie cutter any day, even if it means spending 4x as long to lovingly craft my unique (to my campaign) cookies.

denaekall wrote:
EX: 4E D&D, so simplistic that it requires the DM to do a lot more on the fly and thus detracts from the story. This and general lack of options, even when simply comparing Players Handbooks.

Requires, or simply encourages. Can't a 4e DM plan stuff out in advance so nothing is done on the fly?

denaekall wrote:
It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I am hoping for something in between the two. I will honestly admit that I do not know entirely what I would want from it (specifics anyway). Really, all I am hoping for is that the developers of Pathfinder think of us while designing the game, not just the PCs. I have great faith that they are, but it is still a concern of mine.

Unfortuntely, as with anything in life, with the more options you have, with the more tools at your disposal, the compensation is that you need more time and effort to learn how to use those tools.

A game of poker would be easier to learn and easier to play if we took out all the aces and every even-numbered card, then only held 3 cards in our hand instead of 5.

Chess would be much easier if we removed the rooks, replaced the knights with another set of bishops, and only let the queen move one space at a time. Forget 2 moves or en passant rules for pawns. Make the board 6x6 too, since we have no rooks. And nobody can castle. Easier to learn, easier to play.

Neither of these games would be nearly as fun as the real versions. And neither of them would be played world-wide, universally, by people who sometimes cannot even speak each-other's language - but they speak the common language of the game they love.

D&D is like that. It's awfully complex, but the simplified stripped-down version is not as fun to play.

IMO, the extra trouble is well worth it.


While you are right about the "unique cookies" aspect, my meaning behind the DM "ruling on the fly" was meant in terms of player initiative rather than creativity.

ie: player comes up with something you really did not expect.

3.5/Pathfinder has a lot more ruling to it to make the DM's job easier in such cases while 4E was not as through. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy 4E greatly. I just admit that it is a strength of 3.5 over it.

I love being a DM. I love crafting stories that my players talk about for weeks (years in some cases, no over exaggeration) and I am glad that the game (both of them) encourages that greatly.

At the same time, I am also glad for any tools to make my job easier provided by the game itself. Thus, my asking if Pathfinder has done much to make our jobs easier.

Liberty's Edge

I found that for NPC creation, the 3.5 DMG character-class equivalent NPC charts fairly easy to use. That said, both the DMG2 and PHB2 had some excellent stuff that could also be applied for fast NPC generation (Contacts and Hirelings, DMG2 and Quick NPC/PC creation chart from PHB2).

Something along those lines for Pathfinder would be a great boon for us DMs who want to be able to speed up our session set up time. I'm reminded of something R.A. Salvatore said about comparing the two systems... (some paraphrasing involved)... "with 3rd Edition, I could spend all day making a dungeon for my players and they would spend four hours going through it. With 4th edition, the opposite is true."

Just something to keep in mind for us DMs!


Arnim Thayer wrote:

I found that for NPC creation, the 3.5 DMG character-class equivalent NPC charts fairly easy to use. That said, both the DMG2 and PHB2 had some excellent stuff that could also be applied for fast NPC generation (Contacts and Hirelings, DMG2 and Quick NPC/PC creation chart from PHB2).

Something along those lines for Pathfinder would be a great boon for us DMs who want to be able to speed up our session set up time. I'm reminded of something R.A. Salvatore said about comparing the two systems... (some paraphrasing involved)... "with 3rd Edition, I could spend all day making a dungeon for my players and they would spend four hours going through it. With 4th edition, the opposite is true."

Just something to keep in mind for us DMs!

Now, now, now.

Clearly Mr. Salvatore speaks with a bit of hyperbole.

Given 24 hours in a day (he did say "all day", didn't he?), he is saying that 3.5 is 36x more work for a DM to prep a dungeon.

Allowing for 8 hours of sleep, leaving 16 hours for the prep day and/or 16 hours for the play day, that still means 3.5 is 16x harder for the DM to prep a dungeon.

My experience having DMed both systems is it is something like 2x as hard, more or less, to prep a 3.5 dungeon:

The time to plan the dungeon concept is the same (is it a haunted crypt, or an abandoned dwarfhold, or a network of lava tubes, etc.).

The time it takes to map out the dungeon is the same.

The time it takes to decide what monsters will inhabit the dungeon is the same.

The time it taks to place the monsters is the same (3 orcs here, 4 goblins there, a carrion crawler here, etc.)

The time it takes to jot down monster stats on my notepaper, or print them from the SRD is the same.

The time it takes to add loot to the dungeon is significantly longer for 3.5. Maybe 3x longer, as a rough estimate.

If I put NPCs in the dungeon, those NPCs take longer to create. Maybe 3x longer. If the dungeon has lots of them, this could be a significant time of the prep work statting up the NPCs, but if the dungeon has few of them, or none of them, this could have little impact on the amount of time spent prepping the dungeon. Let's say an average of 3x as long as an average across all dungeons I might create.

The time it takes to add traps to the dungeon is the same (basically pick from the lists, or whip out a Grimtooth and convert to the system I'm playing).

The time it takes to tie all that together with a story, a history, some rumors, a hook or three to get the PCs involved, and maybe an overland map or other bits of interest to imbed this dungeon into my campaign is the same, unless that overland map needs a few encounters, in which case some of the same considerations listed above for the dungeon must be extended to the overland scenarios too.

All in all, most of the steps are the same, and a couple of the steps take 3x longer.

It may be fair to say that a bunch of 1x design steps and a few 3x design steps might average out to an overall 2x multiplier, more or less.

So there it is. Maybe a bit overthought, but I think that's a fair refutation of Mr. Salvatore's statement.

If I were to fix his statement, it might go like this:

"With 3rd Edition, I could spend a day making a dungeon for my players and they would spend a day going through it. With 4th edition, I could spend half a day making that dungeon and they would spend a day going through it."

IME.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DM_Blake wrote:
Imagine if you have a player who misses some games, maybe he has to work some nights you play, or whatever, and he falls behind in levels ... For or against, the final argument is whether we want to penalize Ed for having his job, or his family, or whatever makes him miss some sessions. Me, I'd like Ed to feel like he belongs and to feel like a worthy, contributing member of the group when he can be there, so I like letting him catch up, even if it means more maths for me.

Couldn't agree more. If I were a player and I had to miss a session because of an unavoidable conflict with work, a sick child, a surprise engagement etc, I'd be pretty ticked if I also got docked XP's. Yes, I know that's how it was in the old days, and yes, I tend to favor old-school over much of new-school, but when I DM (virtually always) I do not penalize players who have to miss sessions. I have dropped XP's altogether and now just have the PC's level every 3-4 sessions or after they accomplish a significant story goal. I'm loving the freedom of not tracking XP's whatsoever.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Punishing players, for any transgression, will ultimately lose you players. Sure, they tick you off, they break the system, they don't show up, they spill soda on the couch. All of these things (except the soda...) happen. Just remember though that it is a game and it is meant to be fun. If it isn't fun then people won't bother showing up. That's why I never understood the DM vs. Player mentality. If I kill my PC's again and again and again, eventually they will shrug and stop comming to the game.

The whole EXP penalty for not making a game is a subtle way of punishing folks for not making the game. Sure it seems fair, you weren't here for 2 days of game, sorry you are just going to have to accept that you are a level behind. However, if you don't give them any way of catching up and they miss again, now they are 2 levels behind. What happens if they fall 3 or 4 behind? How long before they are unviable within the game. They get killed, why bother making another character, that one will be comming in the same level as the last one and they aren't a weak character for their level, they are just out classed in the game because they are so far behind. That's not even counting the harm done to the other players because they have to count on someone who doesn't have the ability to do their share of the work.

There needs to be a way for people to catch up on exp. Life is never fair around here, someone misses the game now and then.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Brutesquad07 wrote:
There needs to be a way for people to catch up on exp. Life is never fair around here, someone misses the game now and then.

In the past I've handled it a few different ways, depending on the player.

1) Play by email - a little RPing xp expanding some storyline which explains where the character was instead of with the party.

2) Come an hour early or come over another day for an hour or so for a little one on one gaming to catch up.

3) Character is still present though the player isn't (i.e., they were in the midst of a dungeon) ... either the DM or another player runs the character, and they still get their share.

There's always ways to catch up the person.

Though I do recall one time were we did not catch the person up and actually majorly outleveled the guy (back in 1st edition, when treasure was part of your XP we were on a silver standard for what treasure was rolled to keep wealth low, went gold for one adventure). Reason? The player had blown us off with last minute ditching for several games, twice without calling until we'd waited for him over an hour and the final time (when we outleveled him) never even bothering to call at all. Funny thing was the GM gave the players the option, and we all voted to dump his *bleep* :)


I think maybe some of the math has been given a pass here.

1. According to the PF rules, everyone gets the same. However, if Ed misses the first night, and everyone levels (exactly) while he's gone, they are now 2nd. Come XP for the next night, say they all get 1300 (using the fast chart). Guess what - Ed is now 2nd level, while everyone else is also 2nd level - they're just closer than he is. As long as the chart continues to expand the amount needed for next level, he will never catch up, but he'll be close enough.
2. In 3.5, actually, it works exactly the same way. You get more for being lower level, but you'll still never catch up, because as soon as you hit the same level as everyone else, you start getting the same. You'll narrow the gap, but you'll never catch up.

So, it's a wash.

In our group, we generally don't worry about it, but in extreme cases, we have done what has been mentioned:

1. Someone else runs the PC (especially in Star Wars - we needed that wookie!)
2. Someone gets so far behind they literally die - Guess what, their older brother/sister shows up, per accepted convention, (s)he is at the bottom of the level of the rest of the party.

I have run parties with as many as 4 levels difference (8th - 11th), and the low level people really do catch up pretty quickly - that was in 3.5, but I think the same would hold true in PF. After a few months the level range was 11-13 or so.

And the game is supposed to be fun. You want to be fair, but unless Ed is a real jerk (like the above player mentioned), if it gets too far, just tell Ed that his PC went off and had private adventures, and he should level him up to be in line with the rest of the party. Actually, that is a good penalty, because he'll have the power, but he won't have the magic items the rest of the people have, so he still has some catching up to do.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Another thing Pathfinder makes easier as DM:

Skill building. You no longer have to figure out the order your complex NPCs took their levels in, nor deal with cross-class skill 1/2 points.

Example:
Rog 5/ Ran 5

3.5: If 1st level was Rogue or Ranger makes a difference of 8 skill points ((8-6)x2), and I have to keep track of which levels the skill points are spent on skills that are on one class' skill list but not the other
Pathfinder {(8+Int Mod) x5} + {(6+Int Mod) x5}= 70 + (Int Mod x 10) skill points to spend however I see fit, if the skill is either a Rogue or Ranger skill and has ranks, add 3 for being a class skill, done.


Major_Tom wrote:

I think maybe some of the math has been given a pass here.

1. According to the PF rules, everyone gets the same. However, if Ed misses the first night, and everyone levels (exactly) while he's gone, they are now 2nd. Come XP for the next night, say they all get 1300 (using the fast chart). Guess what - Ed is now 2nd level, while everyone else is also 2nd level - they're just closer than he is. As long as the chart continues to expand the amount needed for next level, he will never catch up, but he'll be close enough.
2. In 3.5, actually, it works exactly the same way. You get more for being lower level, but you'll still never catch up, because as soon as you hit the same level as everyone else, you start getting the same. You'll narrow the gap, but you'll never catch up.

So, it's a wash.

Well, this is not completely true.

Imagine that a 7th-level party composed of 4 characters, all with 20700 xp, starts a session (we are speaking of 3.5, of course).
Imagine that one the players is missing and the characters gain 400 xp (perhaps it was a rule-heavy sesson with almost no encounters), except the missing one.
Now, the next session, the whole party has 21100 xp (level 8th) except the missing player (his character is still 7th level with 20700 xp).
Now, the tricky part: a dungeon-crawl session starts, full of creatures.
Let's imagine 4 encounters, all CR 9.
The 3 8th-level characters gain 3600 xp each (following the 3.5 XP charts... 4 encounter CR 9 divided by 4 characters).
The 7th-level character gains 4200 xp.
Now, at the end of the session, the 'never-missing' characters have 24700 xp.
The 'missing one' ends with...24900 xp ! More than his friends !

This is what I call 'the Bungee-effect'. Note that this example is a bit extreme (the player catches his friends, and even surpasses them, in a single session), but similar effects can occur in multiple sessions.

Now, it's true that PFRPG has no more 'Bungee-effect', so we obviously have to find a 'homebrew' method to allow such a character to be 'on par' with his fellowship without being a burden - or worse yet, surpassing them...

Perhaps the most reasonable thing is the method suggested by Gamer Girrl - one that myself always use: the character of a missing player is used by the GM or another player for the session. IF the player starts of making this a habit, of course, people have to ask him (or her) what are is intentions with the group. Is he/she still interested in play? Can he/she afford a continuous presence ? If not, no rules are needed - the character is out.
(Of course, I am speaking of missing sessions not related to emergencies, illness, family, and so on)

Just my 2c.


DM_Blake wrote:

Imagine if you have a player who misses some games, maybe he has to work some nights you play, or whatever, and he falls behind in levels.

Using the Pathfinder rules, poor Ed will be forever lower level than the rest of the group because this simplified XP table doesn't care about the level of the PCs who receive the XP - everyone gets an equal share regardless of level.

So, once again, simple isn't always better.

As has been pointed out, this is simply, completely, not true.

The Wraith wrote:
Major_Tom wrote:

I think maybe some of the math has been given a pass here.

[snip]
So, it's a wash.

Well, this is not completely true.

Imagine that a 7th-level party composed of 4 characters, all with 20700 xp... [snip]
The 'missing one' ends with...24900 xp ! More than his friends !

This is what I call 'the Bungee-effect'. ...

Now, it's true that PFRPG has no more 'Bungee-effect', so we obviously have to find a 'homebrew'...

Major Tom was 99% correct. There is no need for any compensating factor for people missing out on xp, starting at different levels, etc. The Pathfinder system is essentially *IDENTICAL* (pardon the caps) to the 3.5 system, it is simply inverted. Instead of adjusting awards to the level, the requirements to level are pre-adjusted.

If a character of whatever level is behind the rest of his party, he will catch up to be the same level at almost precisely the same rate between 3.5 and Pathfinder.

It's not simply a matter of "eventually the others need more xp" - that is what happened in 3.0 when everyone got the same xp. Since Pathfinder's leveling XP charts (slow, medium, fast) are exponential, any amount of XP behind quickly becomes insignificant, catching up the character at the same pace as 3.5's adjusted XP rewards, and then further reducing the effective difference as they continue to level on.

Funny enough, I was already using this system for my Runelords game when PFRPG Alpha was released - it's nearly identical to the "Level-Independent XP Rewards" system from Unearthed Arcana, just refined a bit for the low level adjustments.

Quick Example if needed:

Spoiler:
Party A,B,C, & X is halfway through Level 10.
3.5 XP = 50,000 - 5k to level
PF XP = 88,000 - 17k to level

Each group, minus member X, gets enough xp to place them a full level ahead - halfway through Level 11. [FYI, PFRPG results in about 3.2x as much XP at level 10, so don't worry about comparing the amounts.]
3.5 XP = 60,500 (50% through 11), 50,000 for X (50% through 10)
PF XP = 125,000 (50% through 11), 88,000 for X (50% through 10)

Member X returns. Now lets give them 8 CR 11 encounters in a row. [Calculates XP]. 3.5 group is now 12th, with X at 11 (which he hit two encounters earlier than the rest of the group hit 12). PF group is the same.
3.5 XP = 66,875 (7.29% through 12), 58,100 for X (28% through 11)
PF XP = 150,600 (8.6% through 12), 113600 for X (21.5% through 11)

Now 13 CR 12 encounters in a row. [Calculates XP]. 3.5 group is now 13th, with X at 12 (which he hit six encounters earlier than the rest of the group hit 13). PF group is the same.
78575 72162 213000 176000
3.5 XP = 78,575 (4.4% through 13), 72,162 for X (51% through 12)
PF XP = 213,000 (3.5% through 13), 176,000 for X (48% through 12)

And so forth. It's even slightly skewed in favor of 3.5, since 3.5's level based XP adjustment is staggered - it doubles every 2 levels, by doing a 50% increase, then a 33% increase. Since I used encounters one higher it hits that 50% increase. Not a large distinction though.

I consider Pathfinder's solution to this far superior to 3.5's since it is a much smoother change and, frankly, much fairer. I have had players get very irritated that when they show up all the time, and are ahead in levels, others could get several multiples of the amount of xp that they get - and as Wraith points out with the bungee effect, could even surpass them if a big encounter hits with them one level below.

Pathfinder's system is Simple and Better. It quickly catches up level differences (at about the same rate as 3.5), without effectively penalizing the leading characters. That lead eventually diminishes in effect to virtually nil, but doesn't rob them of it.

Certainly, if you can run the character fairly, and give at least half xp, that helps prevent the issue in the first place. But Pathfinder's built in solution to it is far smoother and more elegant than 3.5's.

Sorry for the length all - I'm simultaneously enthusiastic about the elegance of PFRPG's XP system (mind you 3.5 was pretty sweet as well), and greatly aggravated by mathematical oversights.


Let's fix this math a bit:

Party A,B,C, & X is halfway through Level 10.
3.5 XP = 50,000 - 5k to level
PF XP = 130,000 - level 10, not 9.

Each PC, minus member X, gets enough xp to place them a full level ahead - halfway through Level 11. [FYI, PFRPG results in about 3.2x as much XP at level 10, so don't worry about comparing the amounts.]
3.5 XP = 60,500 (50% through 11), 50,000 for X (50% through 10)
PF XP = 187,500] (50% through 11), 130,000 for X (50% through 10)

Member X returns. Now lets give them 8 CR 11 encounters in a row. 3.5 gives 825/encounter to the 11th level characters and 1125/encounter to the 10th level character, Pathfinder gives 12,800 x 8 / 4 = 25,600 to everyone. 3.5 group is now 12th, with X at 11 (which he hit two encounters earlier than the rest of the group hit 12). PF group is the all 11th level.
3.5 XP = 67,100 (9.16% through 12), 59,100 for X (37% through 11)
PF XP = 213,100 (89.38% through 11), 155,600 for X (1.0% through 11)

Note that the 3.5 player X is 82% behind his group while the Pathfinder player X is 88% behind - not gaining as fast

Now 13 CR 12 encounters in a row. 3.5 gives 900/encounter (11,700) to the 12th level characters and 1238/encounter (16,094) to the 11th level character, Pathfinder gives 19,200 x 13 / 4 = 62,400 to everyone. 3.5 group is now 13th, with X at 12 (which he hit six encounters earlier than the rest of the group hit 13). PF group is the same.
3.5 XP = 78,800 (6.15% through 13), 75,194 for X (76.61% through 12)
PF XP = 275,500 (58.42% through 12), 218,000 for X (96.92% through 11)

Note that the 3.5 player X is 30% behind his group while the Pathfinder player X is 61.5% behind - not gaining as fast

Conclusion:

While it is true that the increasing XP progression for Pathfinder helps the characters who are behind catch up, it still takes them a very long time to do so. The data above shows that after 8 CR 11 and 13 CR 12 encounters, PC X has only gained 39% of the level he was behind, and prjecting that forward, he won't catch up until 16th level, though for parts of each level he'll be the same until his buddies go up a level and leave him behind for a while.

On the other hand, the level-adjusted XP chart from 3.5 allowed the the PC X to catch up 70% of the way to his companions in just 8 CR 11 and then 10 CR 12 encounters, and prjecting that forward, he should catch up in one more level.

So it seems we were both right and both wrong. I said the 3.5 XP chart allows someone who misses a session to catch up and Pathfinder doesn't.

Others have said Pathfinder does allow them to catch up (some have said it's equal to the 3.5 catch up).

The reality lies somewhere between, with the ease of catching up favoring 3.5 by a margin of rougly 2 to 1.

And our example only shows what happens if someone misses a single session, or just enough sessions to be exactly 1 level behind. Imagine what happens to that poor fellow if his job makes him work 1 weekend every month, so he can only be there for 3 sessions out of every 4? With 3.5, he will catch up a lot more before he misses the next session, but with Pathfinder, he'll just keep falling farther and farther behind.

And a final conclusion:

I freely admit (and didn't previously deny) that it sure was, and is, easier to calculate that XP with the Pathfinder chart.


DM_Blake wrote:

Let's fix this math a bit:

Party A,B,C, & X is halfway through Level 10.
3.5 XP = 50,000 - 5k to level
PF XP = 130,000 - level 10, not 9
....

Note that the 3.5 player X is 30% behind his group while the Pathfinder player X is 61.5% behind - not gaining as fast

Conclusion:

While it is true that the increasing XP progression for Pathfinder helps the characters who are behind catch up, it still takes them a very long time to do so. The data above shows that after 8 CR 11 and 13 CR 12 encounters, PC X has only gained 39% of...

I'm afraid your appraisal is in error. You adjusted all of my beginning numbers to the Medium progression, which is not equivalent to the 3.5 system, Fast is the closest.

However that actually does not matter, so long as you progress the group *as far*. Notice how in my example the 3.5 group and PF group stay roughly right at the same point in the level, where as in your example the PF group falls behind. If you provide enough encounters (should be right at 50% more) to bring the main group to the same point, I think you'll find that the lagging character is at right about the same spot as the 3.5 lagger.

Maybe try re-evaluating my example in light of this?

Other than the "method", there is no difference in the XP systems. The PF method is smoother, and does not have as severe a "bungee effect", and that's about the only differences.


To further expand (since I have very little time last night), here was your end point:

DM_Blake wrote:

3.5 XP = 78,800 (6.15% through 13), 75,194 for X (76.61% through 12)

PF XP = 275,500 (58.42% through 12), 218,000 for X (96.92% through 11)

The PF group got 88K xp - add half of that again for being on the medium progression, and you get:

PF XP = 319,500 (3.5% through 13), 262,000 for X (44% through 12)
vs. my ending 3.5 of:
3.5 XP = 78,575 (4.4% through 13), 72,162 for X (51% through 12)

Pretty tightly aligned.

The remaining difference on the 3.5 side between our numbers is due to your choice of granting player X xp as a level 10 for *all* 8 CR 11's, and all 13 CR 12's. In my calculations he leveled after 6 of the 11's (so only got 825 from the last two), and after 7 of the 12's (and only got 900 for the last six).

So no "fixing this math" required.

If anyone reading this is confused as to why the Medium progression is comparable with 50% more encounters it's due to this:
In 3.5, XP is adjusted on the DM side, basing it on the party level, and handing it out.
In Pathfinder XP rewards are constant, or can be.
In Pathfinder, to slow down leveling, you can choose the Medium or Slow XP chart.
In 3.5, to slow down leveling, you had to reduce xp as it is given out (by 1/3 or 2/3 for the same rates). So to compare 3.5 to Medium, you would have to reduce the 3.5 xp by 1/3 (200 instead of 300), or give the Medium 50% more.

By the way, the "value" of the XP you get in PF does depend on your level, because with a exponential progression, the "% of level" changes radically just one level to the next - whereas in 3.5 5000 XP was a lot, for a 5th level or a 20th level, proportional only by level (5/5's of the level and 5/20's of the level).

XP "value" in PF is proportional to (close to) 2^(Level/2) - or two to the power of half your level. So 5000 XP to a Level 6 is relatable to a factor of 8, whereas a level 20 is relatable to a factor of 1024 (2^10), or 128 less value. Comparing: 5000/8000 (needed to level to 7th on fast chart) vs. 5000/1,000,000 (est. needed to level to 21 on fast chart). Wipe off some zeros and you see 8 to 1000.

So whereas 3.5 20th level gets 1/4 the value of the xp as a 5th level, PF 20th level gets 1/125 the value as a 6th level.

This doesn't mean the systems are different - they are actually virtually identical, except in the the concept of where the "value" of XP is decided, on the DM side or the PC side. Given the same number of same CR encounters, two characters in 3.5 and Fast PF would be almost exactly the same level. Just with fastly different XP totals after the first few levels.

Again, pardon the length.

P.S. The vast difference in XP "value" is actually why XP costs pretty much cannot return. The formula to restore some sort of "value" equivalency is complex enough to get me excited - a.k.a. no one would ever want to use it.

P.P.S. So I hope this puts to bed the notion that Pathfinder characters "catch up" slower. Other than an imprecision in 3.5 that can overcompensate, the rates are the same.

P.P.P.S. If you wanted to "smooth out" 3.5's version, all you would have to do is proportionally reduce the XP that exceeds the amount needed to level. (If 10th level got 1200 and 11th level got 900, then if you use 600 to get to 11th, only add 450 after that). But that is silliness.

Final Thought: Still Alive.

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