Experience Point Issues during RotR

Rise of the Runelords

Hello there! (Hopefully I'm in the right forum category for this)

First off, my experience with Pathfinder is recently new. I have been playing in two custom campaigns where a fair amount of the rules are waived, and I am playing in one DnD 4e module where I have understand on the potential of my character or classes. I have more interested in the Pathfinder campaign, since I have been able to read through mechanics online during my free time. I am also DM’ing for the first time, and I wanted to DM an Adventure Path. Wanting to do the adventure paths in order, I started with the Rise of the Runelords, and just bumped it up to the anniversary edition for good measure. I am been DMing for about 3 months now, and I fear with the way things are going, I’m losing control on certain campaign aspects, and would like some insight on how to repair it.

For starters, I have a total of 8 possible players. 5 try to make it every week (but I haven’t been able to get all 5 to the table as of late), the other 3 make it when they can (which is very rarely). It was totally my fault on this, as I have a hard time telling people who are interested in trying the game, “No.” 5 out of the 8 people are new to the system, and the other three have varying experience with other campaigns.

Now onto the thing I want some opinions on:

I really wanted to follow the experience system that is detailed in the gamemastering section in the CRB. Due to the size of the main party being 5, and including some custom made NPCs here and there for character backstory, I generally have 6 or more people technically in the active party regardless of who is actually at the table. Also, to not penalize the player who can and can’t make it, I end up NPCing those who are not able to make it and are in the main party. I originally had plans to end this around level 10, but may bring that cut off level here sooner.

It seems that, because of this, I have jipped my players of experience because they get lower values. Now, I understand the mechanics of increasing the encounters CR rating and adding more mobs or beefing them up. I did this for a bit, however it seemingly leveled the PCs too quickly, so I only did it for important fights like Tsuto, Erylium, Nualia, etc. It was working out well, as some of the beefing up ended up meaning better loot for my players. However, my concern is that I’m now just after the Habe’s Sanatorium section of The Skinsaw Murders and the party is still level 4. According to the book, they were supposed to be level 5 by now, and really soon here to be level 6 shortly after the beginning of the Misgivings.
To me, the answer is partially clear; just do a few custom combat sessions with enemies dealing with the character backstory stuff to catch back up. However, I fear we have quite a few to do to get caught back up to where the party should be, so I’m not sure if this is the appropriate solution. Should I make the players work for the experience? Or just say, “Hey whoops, I messed up. Here’s all of the missing exp you guys should have gotten. Sorry about that.”? Seems to take the hard work out of it, but then again it’s my bad for their current progression.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Which XP progression are you using? If you didn't pick the "fast" one, maybe you should move from "slow" ot "average" or from "average" to "fast". The switch might give them a level immediately, and you can go on from there.

I did select the Average speed, figuring that it was my group of friend's first experience with the experience system. I'll start doing a loose write up to see how the fast progression lines up on the 6+ party size, in lines with the AP.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, David's on the right track. Runelords was written in 3.5, which had different design assumptions behind the XP track. The AP is written with the thought that four PCs are running on the Fast XP track. More than four PCs or switching to Medium will slow down the progression, and you have actually done both.

Since you've got six PCs, I'd definitely look at handwaving the XP. Run the numbers, look at where they would be if their current total was at Fast rather than Medium. If that pumps them up to where they should be, based upon the AP estimates, then awesome! If not, then they'll be closer, and you can stick in a few "random" encounters to get them extra XP.

Don't be afraid to admit you've made mistakes. You've been running for three months, and you're going to make a whole lot more before this campaign is over. You know what? Nobody will mind for the most part. As long as everyone's having fun, then you're doing your job right.

You probably shouldn't worry too much about them being slow due to the 6 players. That naturally works itself out, because there'll be two more of them but everyone will be one level lower.

As Misroi mentioned, though, it is intended to be on the Fast Track. It's a rare jerk indeed that will give you problems for admitting an error that was bad for them and making it right.

Personally, I gave everyone max hit points per hit die instead and kept them on medium. That's a pretty major change, though.


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Our group has gone almost exclusively eliminated giving xp anymore for several reasons:

1) it eliminates the idea that the players have to kill everything to level up. If they miss an encounter, no biggie. And they're more likely to use diplomacy to get out of the situation too.
2) it allows you as gm to level them where appropriate, so if you need to hold them back or advance them you can!

It's actually worked really well for us the last few campaigns.

CaroRose has the right of it. Your situation with varying attendance and in and out of pc/npc mode makes dropping XP a good idea. Hard to do with a home brew campaign, easy to do with AP's which are written to support it. Simply level them when the story reaches the stated point in the AP.

Next session tell the players you want to eliminate some overhead for you and make sure they're getting full credit for what they've done. Tell them the AP has a system that skips xp and levels them at various points in the story.

They've finished Habe's? Has farmer Grump come to town yet? If not, bump up the number of ghouls out in the fields and after they finish them off, tell them they're at 5th level. If they've already dealt with the Hambley farm, have more ghouls attack Sandpoint and then level them to 5. Should get them ready for Misgivings. With 5 or 6 pc's, trailing a bit won't hurt too much and then level them again in the middle of misgivings if you need to.

Just as an FYI, I've done the math. If you follow the AP and your pc's do the encounters in the rough order presented, actually awarding XP works out almost exactly to what the AP sets the level markers at for the Fast track. So you're not really losing anything and you're giving yourself the flexibility to add monsters, etc. to account for your variable, larger group without worrying about throwing the level track off.

I suggest switch to Fast Track XP - it's written for Fast Track - and be ok with the group being a level or so below expected level at times, that evens out with the larger group. It doesn't sound as if you have major problems.

I suggest being a level or two behind if you have six players. If all eight show up, the module will be completely out of balance. I run my five player group a level behind. They do well and sometimes I still have to up the challenges or add the advanced template. When I played it with six players, we were two levels behind and it played fine. You'd have to really redesign many encounters if you have more than four players.

That's my experience though with a couple experienced groups.

But yeah, stop keeping track of XP and just do the level ups when appropriate. Why bookkeep things you don't have to track?

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