Leveling UP : Critical Flaw


General Discussion


Your leveling up method seems like a great thing for a play test. I haven't heard if the leveling up rate in the play test rules is meant to be kept for the main printing.

I wouldn't do that if I were you...

While it's great for one-shots or short campaigns it will not work well for long term campaigns. The main reason is character advancement rates.. fabulous as long as no one has a character die, but as soon as they do they are hosed. With the current system there is NO WAY for a new character to catch back up to the rest of the party. There are meta game methods such as the DM just gifts the character the appropriate level. Personally, I don't like that.

With progressively higher XP requirements for each level it becomes possible for new characters to close the level gap by their own efforts.

Just sayin.


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Do you...actually have a player bring in a level 1 character if their level 6 one dies?

That's never been a good idea.


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Cyouni wrote:

Do you...actually have a player bring in a level 1 character if their level 6 one dies?

That's never been a good idea.

Yes, and I am not the only. For lots of old school D&D'ers its not optional. Especially in 'Dungeon style' campaigns.

Anyway, it's an easy fix for the people that need it fixed.


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Well technically the character could get a lot more xp than the rest of the group, so he would catch up, since all the monsters would be a higher relative level to him than they are to the rest. So if the monster is level 5 it would contribute 30 xp to the budget (for a 6th level party) but the level 1 guy would get 160 xp from the monster instead. You could also say the party of 3 level 6th and 1 1st would count as a level 5 party in terms of encounter building, and then the level 5 monster would count for 40xp in the build, reward the 1st level with 160xp and the rest of the group with just 30xp each. (There are no rules for this, but it would be quite easy to simply do the math. Whether it's fair or need some balancing is up to the GM, I really don't like level difference in a party so I wouldn't use it)

However be careful with this; falling several levels behind will make that character quite useless, so I really don't think there should be any official rules in any core book for this. If the GM is capable of handling a party of quite different levels he should be able to house-rule an xp system that makes sense.

Silver Crusade

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

If you have new/replacement characters come in at levels behind the party (for whatever reasons) but want them to be able to catch up the current system is adequate to handle that, you just decrease the exp needed to level up for them until they're caught up. Just like you increase the amount needed if you want them to take longer.

EXP is in and of itself a metagame mechanic.


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Hi, I've been playing since '81. I am an old schooler. I've never heard starting players of dead characters at level 1 that far below the rest of the party was important to anyone. YMMV.

Regardless, this post is over the top about its conclusions. Player death is not so routine that it should be an important factor influencing level progression. Characters level up to have fun. They don't "not level up" to stay on par with newly re-rolled level 1's whose originals died.

If you want to discuss what happens in PF2 when a character dies, that's a great idea for a thread created for the discussion. This post is senseless as phrased.


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immotus wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

Do you...actually have a player bring in a level 1 character if their level 6 one dies?

That's never been a good idea.

Yes, and I am not the only. For lots of old school D&D'ers its not optional. Especially in 'Dungeon style' campaigns.

Anyway, it's an easy fix for the people that need it fixed.

It is optional.

The issue with your solution is that the player behind can never actually catch up - they'll always be X amount of XP behind, because the entire group will be earning XP together. It also means the party has to spend exponentially longer at each level in order for the new character to eventually reach the same level - at which point, they'll very shortly level up, and now the new character will be behind a level for just as long.

The only way around this is to run a s#!&load of sessions with that player one-on-one - which is godawful for a lot of reasons and is an extremely inefficient use of the GM's precious time on earth.

If a GM does want to have players "earn" XP with new characters, it's better to use PF2's existing tools. When building an encounter, XP granted is based on relative level to the party - this is with the assumption that the party is all the same level. You can very easily decide individual PC's earn XP based on their own level rather than the party's average level, which has the effect of lower level characters earning XP faster.

Once a player character is within one level of the party's highest level character, they'll continue to be treated as though they were actually two levels lower for the purposes of being awarded XP. This continues until they finally match the XP value of the highest level party member, at which point they'll gain XP as normal.

The result is that when a player dies, they'll begin by leveling very rapidly even on trivial threats, and then their XP rate slows down to a minimum of 2x what the rest of the party gets until they finally catch up. If you want them to catch up faster, let them continue earning XP as though they were three or even four levels lower than the party leader so that their XP rate doesn't slow down.

That should be enough to make a player feel like death was a serious penalty and that they earned their spot back in the party with their new character, but without the months-long ordeal of not actually getting to really play.

You could additionally start the new character out as only one level behind, which would allow that new character to still meaningfully contribute to combat and for that player to still have fun while remaining noticeably weaker than everyone else in the party, at least temporarily.


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The playtest is incredibly unforgiving of mixed level parties. The issue is much deeper than the XP requirements to level up. A level 1 PC in a party of level 6 heroes has extremely low odds of survival against any enemies that can threaten the level 6 heroes. Even worse, they have no meaningful way to contribute to challenges that are 5 levels too high for them with the way the game is balanced. Their ability to hit, do damage are way too far behind the other PCs and the saving throws on their spells are laughable for the challenges the party will be facing.

I think you are correct in identifying that PF2 will not support cross level play that dips more than 1 or 2 levels from top to bottom, but it seems rather intentional and thus not a flaw in the design.


Helmic wrote:
immotus wrote:
Cyouni wrote:

Do you...actually have a player bring in a level 1 character if their level 6 one dies?

That's never been a good idea.

Yes, and I am not the only. For lots of old school D&D'ers its not optional. Especially in 'Dungeon style' campaigns.

Anyway, it's an easy fix for the people that need it fixed.

It is optional.

The issue with your solution is that the player behind can never actually catch up - they'll always be X amount of XP behind, because the entire group will be earning XP together. It also means the party has to spend exponentially longer at each level in order for the new character to eventually reach the same level - at which point, they'll very shortly level up, and now the new character will be behind a level for just as long.

The only way around this is to run a s#+$load of sessions with that player one-on-one - which is godawful for a lot of reasons and is an extremely inefficient use of the GM's precious time on earth.

If a GM does want to have players "earn" XP with new characters, it's better to use PF2's existing tools. When building an encounter, XP granted is based on relative level to the party - this is with the assumption that the party is all the same level. You can very easily decide individual PC's earn XP based on their own level rather than the party's average level, which has the effect of lower level characters earning XP faster.

Once a player character is within one level of the party's highest level character, they'll continue to be treated as though they were actually two levels lower for the purposes of being awarded XP. This continues until they finally match the XP value of the highest level party member, at which point they'll gain XP as normal.

The result is that when a player dies, they'll begin by leveling very rapidly even on trivial threats, and then their XP rate slows down to a minimum of 2x what the rest of the party gets until they finally catch up. If you want them to catch up...

They CAN catch up in Level. I've seen it happen. They can't catch up in XP, obviously.

Folks, this is just a mathematical thing.

If level progression is Linear -> no catching up in LEVEL(not XP).
If level progression is Logrithimic -> easy to catch up in LEVEL(not XP).

If people play together and get XP together this will happen automatically. If you follow the rules you can't avoid it.

Whether or not you want people 2,5,10 levels of difference in the same group... I can't help you. That's all about style and the people you play with.


immotus wrote:

They CAN catch up in Level. I've seen it happen. They can't catch up in XP, obviously.

Folks, this is just a mathematical thing.

If level progression is Linear -> no catching up in LEVEL(not XP).
If level progression is Logrithimic -> easy to catch up in LEVEL(not XP).

If people play together and get XP together this will happen automatically. If you follow the rules you can't avoid it.

Whether or not you want people 2,5,10 levels of difference in the same group... I can't help you. That's all about style and the people you play with.

It is also a "mathematical thing" that if two characters have significantly different XP totals, then even if they're the same level they'll level up at different times, leading to one party member constantly being behind a level.

Sped up XP is largely the same concept as requiring stupidly more XP each level - you're making it so the lower level character is gaining progress faster than the higher level player. Mathematically, the two solutions get the lower level player to the right level at around the same time.

The difference is that sped up XP doesn't f#*+ up the entire XP table and remove the easy-to-track math with nice round numbers and and easy to remember guide on how much XP to give players, along with XP rewards for doing things like mapping dungeons or completing quests automatically scaling as appropriate. It also provides for the possiblity of a player to match up with XP to fix the level fluctation problem I mentioned earlier.

Same amount of time spent catching up, actually finishes the job of catching up, and doesn't require memorization of an entire table. Also allows for arbitrarily many levels without needing to follow a formula, every level requires 1000 XP and every player can remember that.

Silver Crusade

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

They can catch up... for a little bit, then they have to catch up again... and again... and again.

You're basically looking for an issue in the current system that isn't there. If you want players to play catch up, and actually catch up, you can 100% do that with the playtested exp/leving progression.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I can safely say that I never played in a group with or met people who thought that a "new PCs start at level 1 regardless of what level the party is at" is a good idea. It simply doesn't work in a game where level matters so much like it does.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

New or replacement characters starting at level 1 isn't really something I've seen work since AD&D2e, and even back then it wasn't a super great idea, in hindsight. At least in AD&D catching up was super quick with the way XP doubled each level - just keep your head down and gain a level each session until you're nearly equal.


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I don't understand. This hasn't been standard practice in over 20 years. If old school people want to do something nonstandard that doesn't work very well in any modern system (and didn't work well back then either)... why is that a problem with the rules?

That's a problem with people trying to do something that's simply a poor idea. And if you want to, more power to ya. But I sure wouldn't agree to come in with a character that's going to get one shot by everything and is rolling at an effective -8 compared to everyone else when doing anything.


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You got a lot more problems than XP, OP. +1/level will ensure that more than 2 levels behind will be suicide to adventure with a higher level party.

Just another feature with no respect I tell ya.


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Tridus wrote:
If old school people want to do something nonstandard that doesn't work very well in any modern system (and didn't work well back then either)... why is that a problem with the rules?

In something like D&D 5e, having groups with different level PCs doesn't work too badly. The bounded accuracy means the low-levels can still contribute, and the XP scaling means that they can level up quickly.

PF2 handles this situation poorly. Which means you would have to either:
(a) Refine the XP system and maybe replace +1/level with a +1/2 level system (or similar) to reduce the disparity.
(b) Stop doing it.


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First of all, characters below average party level get double xp.

And second... don’t do that. Like seriously, aboslutely never do that. Really.


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This isn't a "flaw" with the system but differences in Table Play.

If you have a table like OPs that likes bringing in low level characters to higher level games you will have issues with games that don't "support" that playstyle.

I would recommend using a system that supports the playstyle of your table. For example, if you want to play a supers game I would recommend something like Masks or Wild Talents. Or if you want to be a group of vampires play Vampires.

If at your table you have a specific niche that you all love, such as bringing level 1 characters into level 12 games after your character dies, than use a system that supports that niche.


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immotus wrote:
Whether or not you want people 2,5,10 levels of difference in the same group... I can't help you. That's all about style and the people you play with.

In theory, I understand what you are trying to say here, but in the playtest, and very likely PF2, a character 5 levels behind the rest of the party might have 1 or 2 skills that are equal or higher than the worst untrained skills of the rest of the party, maybe, but probably not

That means the character won't really even have anything to contribute at all to any situation the party finds themselves in. Maybe you can play a pure heal bot cleric or buff only bard and be roughly as useful as one or two wands that the party could probably afford 8 of with how much wealth they will be bringing to party at that point.

I don't really see how this massive discrepancy is something that can be handled by play style, and complicating the XP system of the game to allow for a completely unsupported play style is not a good idea.


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Helmic wrote:
immotus wrote:

They CAN catch up in Level. I've seen it happen. They can't catch up in XP, obviously.

Folks, this is just a mathematical thing.

If level progression is Linear -> no catching up in LEVEL(not XP).
If level progression is Logrithimic -> easy to catch up in LEVEL(not XP).

If people play together and get XP together this will happen automatically. If you follow the rules you can't avoid it.

Whether or not you want people 2,5,10 levels of difference in the same group... I can't help you. That's all about style and the people you play with.

It is also a "mathematical thing" that if two characters have significantly different XP totals, then even if they're the same level they'll level up at different times, leading to one party member constantly being behind a level.

Not constantly. In the PF1 exponential xp (what Helmic calls logarithmic) the gap in xp remains constant, but since the span of xp in a level increases exponentially, the time that that gap leads to different levels shrinks. It becomes as Rysky described:

Rysky wrote:

They can catch up... for a little bit, then they have to catch up again... and again... and again.

You're basically looking for an issue in the current system that isn't there. If you want players to play catch up, and actually catch up, you can 100% do that with the playtested exp/leving progression.

The PF2 exponential relative xp has an additional effect, which I will call overflow. Imagine a party with some 5th-level members at 0xp and some 4th-level members at 980 xp. The face a challenge that gives the 5th-level members 50 xp each. But that challenge was a level higher to the 4th-level members, so they gain 70 xp each. While the 5th-level members end up at the same level with 50 xp to their credit, the 4th-level members first use 20 of their 70 xp to reach 5th level, and the remaining 50 xp overflows to 5th level, so that they have 5th level and 50 xp, just like the more experienced members of the party. They caught up.

By the way, it helps to review the rules for awarding xp. The are on page 339.

Playtest Rulebook, Game Mastering chapter, XP Awards, page 339 wrote:

Any XP award gained goes to all members of the group.

For instance, if the party wins a battle worth 100 XP, they
each get 100 XP, even if the party’s rogue was off in a
vault stealing a treasure during the battle. If she collected
a splendid gemstone, which you decided was worth 30
XP, all the party members get that XP, too.

Now, how do we end up with a party with some 5th-level members at 0xp and some 4th-level members at 980 xp? By a series of overflows. Imagine that two party members had been adventuring and just reached 2nd level when two new party members joined and the cruel GM decided that the new members would start at 1st level with 0 xp.

old members 2nd level, 0 xp
new members 1st level, 0 xp

The new members gain xp at a rate of 1.4 xp to every xp earned by the old members. So 750 xp (to the old members) later, the new members have earned 1050 xp. They reach 2nd level with 50 xp overflow.

old members 2nd level, 750 xp
new members 2nd level, 50 xp

The old members level up 250 xp later. Since both old and new members are the same level, they earn the same 250 xp.

old members 3rd level, 0 xp
new members 2nd level, 300 xp

They aren't the same level anymore, so 500 xp for the old members later, the new members earn 700 xp and catch up.

old members 3rd level, 500 xp
new members 3rd level, 0 xp

I am stopping narration now. Just read the numbers.

old members 4th level, 0 xp
new members 3rd level, 500 xp

old members 4th level, 400 xp
new members 4th level, 60 xp

old members 5th level, 0 xp
new members 4th level, 660 xp

old members 5th level, 250 xp
new members 5th level, 10 xp

old members 6th level, 0 xp
new members 5th level, 760 xp

old members 6th level, 200 xp
new members 6th level, 40 xp

old members 7th level, 0 xp
new members 6th level, 840 xp

old members 7th level, 150 xp
new members 7th level, 50 xp

old members 8th level, 0 xp
new members 7th level, 900 xp

old members 8th level, 100 xp
new members 8th level, 40 xp

Okay, we have diminishing returns because the times when both old and new members are the same level and earn the same xp keeps increasing. At some point, the GM should just fudge the missing xp to allow them to catch up.

The playtest rulebook gives a fudging method:

Playtest Rulebook, Game Mastering chapter, Group Parity, page 339 wrote:

Party members who are behind the party’s average level

should gain double the amount of XP the other characters
do until they reach the party’s average level.

but Rysky's suggestion is more elegant:

Rysky wrote:

If you have new/replacement characters come in at levels behind the party (for whatever reasons) but want them to be able to catch up the current system is adequate to handle that, you just decrease the exp needed to level up for them until they're caught up. Just like you increase the amount needed if you want them to take longer.

EXP is in and of itself a metagame mechanic.


As mentioned, XP is awarded relative to your level in comparison with the level of the encounter. The lower your level, the faster you level up for encounters above your pay grade.

I am running a game with staggered levels (6,7, and 8). The lowest level character caught up to 8 before the original 8s got to 9. The gap has shrunk quite quickly and will continue to do so.

The lower level casters were still relevant, despite their DCs being a little low. It helps that spells still do stuff on a success, and the bard had several compositions without saves.

We also have some level 5 follower NPCs... The Paladin can still put out relevant damage if she rolls well, but if she draws any aggro she goes down fast. But healing magic is always relevant.


By the way, in 1981 I joined a mixed-level Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, playing a 1st-level druid. The highest level character was 8th level, and he mostly hung back and did nothing to avoid dominating the challenges. My druid worked his way up to 4th level, and then died to a single high-level fireball thrown at the entire party. In my other D&D games I was a starting player, so didn't have that disparity.

In my Rise of the Runelords campaign, one player's fighter died in heroic self-sacrifice at 6th level, so she took over playing at NPC druid of equal level. She retired that druid at 9th level and decided to play a 1st-level bard for the challenge. That bard leveled up every gaming session for a few levels. When she was one level behind the party, she asked for her missing xp, which I had held in reserve for her, and caught up to the rest of the party.

The parties in my campaigns often end up with followers, lower-level people helping out because they befriended the party or share the same goals or are cohorts from the Leadership feat. They don't earn xp; instead, Leadership cohorts are 2 levels below the party and the other followers are 3 levels below.


Someone mentioned something about an exponential leveling system...

so, for clarity:

Your XP is your XP it is not dependent on another value. Your level is dependent on your XP.

That means you put your character Level on the Y axis and your XP on the X axis of a graph. This doesn't give you too many options in the shape of the graph. Leveling systems have historically been logarithmic - ish. Knowing this is a nerd thing and not too relevant to the discussion except for one point: In an exponential leveling system your level would start to increase exponentially as you gained experience. Clearly, this is not desirable.

This is what a leveling system tends to look like:

https://imgur.com/pypAe5y

As you go up in level it takes more and more XP to attain the next level. So your growth starts out fast then slows down more and more over time. This is logarithmic. This makes it very possible for someone to catch up in levels. Will they stay caught up? Maybe not, but one thing is CERTAIN: The power difference between two characters will narrow.

Think about it. Even in real life you can see power gaps narrow.
Hold a new born baby in your hands when you are twenty. Think about all the things you can do that it can't. You are 20 TIMES older than that baby. Now, advance 15 years. You are 35 and only 2.3 TIMES older than that baby ..er teenager.


Dude. You're wrong. XP gain is relative. How are you not getting this.


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I thought we weren't testing necromancy in this playtest. Why raise this thread from the grave?


immotus wrote:
Someone mentioned something about an exponential leveling system...

Both Helmic and I mentioned it. Maybe immotus will be interested in my monograph, The Mind-Boggling Math of Exponential Leveling.

Captain Morgan wrote:
Dude. You're wrong. XP gain is relative. How are you not getting this.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition XP is relative to level (see page 278 in the Playtest Rulebook). Pathfinder 1st Edition XP is absolute. Perhaps immotus did not notice the change. How XP works in PF2 does not matter for the Doomsday Dawn playtest.

Furthermore, the PF2 relative XP is designed to mimic absolute XP in that PCs level up after the same number of level-appropriate encounters as they would with PF1 absolute XP (compare Table 4 on page 21 of the Playtest Bestiary to the Experience Points Awards table in the Gamemastering chapter in the PF1 Core Rulebook). The only differences with relative XP is that with relative XP the players have a clearer picture of how far along they are in progression to the next level and they have an occassional overflow effect, which I described above.

Ruzza wrote:
I thought we weren't testing necromancy in this playtest. Why raise this thread from the grave?

Because exponents and logarithms are fun!

Or maybe immotus was busy with the Christmas season and only now has time to continue his thread. This thread was quiet for only 10 days.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Dude. You're wrong. XP gain is relative. How are you not getting this.

Not exactly wrong. The parity suggestions are a kludge that turns a straight line XP system into a curved line XP system to account for the flaw in the system.

But, maybe I missed something? Where are these rules that throttle your XP based on the challenge level of the encounter? And, what exactly is the point of making a linear XP system then adding rules to make it non-linear. How are you not getting that relative XP gain is non-linear?

I am not sure I understand their thinking on the matter. Why add extra complications? If you are going to kludge in a leveling rate for an obvious problem why not just remove the problem? Why not just go ahead and do the math and create a leveling table and be done with it?

It doesn't take a lot of effort to see there is a problem here.

@Ruzza - Hey, this thread was still on the first page.


immotus wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Dude. You're wrong. XP gain is relative. How are you not getting this.

Not exactly wrong. The parity suggestions are a kludge that turns a straight line XP system into a curved line XP system to account for the flaw in the system.

But, maybe I missed something? Where are these rules that throttle your XP based on the challenge level of the encounter? And, what exactly is the point of making a linear XP system then adding rules to make it non-linear. How are you not getting that relative XP gain is non-linear?

I am not sure I understand their thinking on the matter. Why add extra complications? If you are going to kludge in a leveling rate for an obvious problem why not just remove the problem? Why not just go ahead and do the math and create a leveling table and be done with it?

It doesn't take a lot of effort to see there is a problem here.

@Ruzza - Hey, this thread was still on the first page.

Because most people don't make players play with weaker characters than the rest of the party.

Like I have literally NEVER considered doing that to my party, save for one major problem player when I was a really new GM.

I've never been quite that upset with them.


immotus, Paizo gave their reasons for relative XP in the March 12, 2018, preview blog, Leveling Up!

Logan Bonner, Paizo designer wrote:
Well, first you're going to need some Experience Points. You can get those XP by fighting monsters, encountering traps, solving puzzles, and accomplishing goals. Once you hit 1,000 XP, you level up! (That's for every level, so whenever you have 500 XP, you'll always know you're halfway to leveling up again! And if you have any extra Experience Points after leveling up, they count toward the next level.)


Mathmuse wrote:

immotus, Paizo gave their reasons for relative XP in the March 12, 2018, preview blog, Leveling Up!

Logan Bonner, Paizo designer wrote:
Well, first you're going to need some Experience Points. You can get those XP by fighting monsters, encountering traps, solving puzzles, and accomplishing goals. Once you hit 1,000 XP, you level up! (That's for every level, so whenever you have 500 XP, you'll always know you're halfway to leveling up again! And if you have any extra Experience Points after leveling up, they count toward the next level.)

Thanks Mathmuse. I will give it a read. I will also read your thread on the math behind the levels. Yes, the XP required does increase exponentially, and the math behind coming up with how much xp needs to exist between the levels can become complicated. But, I stand by my clarification. Level is dependent and XP is not. In my book that makes it a logarithmic system ;) We both can be right depending on our perspective!

@Edge93 - Clearly you have never had players as boisterous as the ones I've encountered. They would tar and feather me and hang me from a flag pole if I went so easy on them. Upset would be an understatement on their part. They'd hate me and get a new DM. They'd probably burn my books at the bottom of the flag pole.


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Note one:
The rulebook must give an xp system for a variety of reasons (mostly as a GM tool) and it’s good that they’re in it. I am not contesting this.

Note two:
I haven’t used xp in over 10 years, since Pathfinder removed the rules on xp losses and xp spending from the 3e chassis, and I will never turn back because xp are an awful drag that has no benefits in any style of play that I am interested in.

This thread is a magistral example of several reasons for why xp shouldn’t be used. Thank you. Next time someone asks why i don’t, I’ll send them here.

(As for the ‘contributing to the discussion’ bit, try this out - I can follow your maths fairly easily, but what is your design intent? What does your game gain from the calculation? Why is it important that level progress depends on monster kills? If something else is involved, isn’t that just the GM deciding he wants players to level early because of the story? If these are avoided, what does the story gain from the players being a lower level than expected? Would you change the encounters because of it? Why?)


Ediwir wrote:
As for the ‘contributing to the discussion’ bit, try this out - I can follow your maths fairly easily, but what is your design intent? What does your game gain from the calculation? Why is it important that level progress depends on monster kills? If something else is involved, isn’t that just the GM deciding he wants players to level early because of the story? If these are avoided, what does the story gain from the players being a lower level than expected? Would you change the encounters because of it? Why?

I think treasure and experience points both started in original Dungeons & Dragons as a reward system. The PCs defeated the challenge, so they were rewarded with more gear and more levels. Experience points were a method of delaying the new levels, since giving one new level per encounter would be way too much leveling.

As roleplaying systems evolved, leveling up became less a reward and more a tool for adventure design. Similar encounters grow boring, so the characters need to change so that the player can play with more abilities and defeat stronger enemies that they had to avoid previously. 6 low-threat challenges, 8 standard-threat challenges, and 7 high-threat challenges is enough to level up. That is enough for players to master their current abilities and be eager for new abilities. Meanwhile, the most straightforward stories for an adventure have the party working their way to the evil overlord's headquarters, so the GM needs them stronger to deal with the final challenge.

Many GM tossed XP into the trash bin. They instead give a level up based on the party reaching a story milestone. That works too. For some stories, it works better. A case where XP works better is a sandbox campaign where the GM has no planned mileposts.

When the party members go off plan and avoid the story mileposts, even a planned game can convert to unplanned. I remember once in Lords of Creation, the 2nd module in Iron Gods, where my players were hesitant to go to the final area before they reached 7th level, because I had hyped the reputation of the Lords of Rust too much. Unfortunately, that final area was supposed to let them earn 7th level, so if we stuck to story mileposts, then they would never reach 7th level. Instead, they earned more XP from additional 6th-level encounters I added, until they reached 7th level. In contrast, that same group of players decided to rush to the final area of the 4th module one level early and handled it well.

In adventure design, the main question is what can the party handle? That is easier to answer if all party members are the same level. A secondary question is how can this encounter be fun for all players? As Ediwir asked, what is the point of having some PCs at lower level than the other PCs? A lower level on NPCs sidelines them so that the PCs take charge: that is more fun for the players. A PC at lower level might be sidelined too, and that is a lot less for for that player.


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Ediwir wrote:
(As for the ‘contributing to the discussion’ bit, try this out - I can follow your maths fairly easily, but what is your design intent? What does your game gain from the calculation? Why is it important that level progress depends on monster kills? If something else is involved, isn’t that just the GM deciding he wants players to level early because of the story? If these are avoided, what does the story gain from the players being a lower level than expected? Would you change the encounters because of it? Why?)

That's why I stopped using XP as a DM the moment I was reading the Fate Core rulebook and was introduced to milestone levelling. What a revelation.

There was always this inherent problem around my campaigns because they are with an RP heavy group and involve lots of talking. If the PCs get sidetracked and I spend two sessions creating a side quest on the fly because of what they decided to do... how much XP is that worth? I have absolutely no idea.

If they do that several times and outlevel stuff, is it okay that all their random investigating made them better at fighting for some reason and makes encounters much easier? If they don't do it next time and I expect them to, are things now too difficult for them? How do I set the XP for these things so the PCs don't feel like I'm punishing them for choosing one path over the other?

It's so much easier to simply say "they'll level up at this plot point" in my notes, ditch the math entirely, and tell them that there are no XP numbers and thus there is no difference in how they go about doing things or much side exploration they want to do.


immotus wrote:

Thanks Mathmuse. I will give it a read. I will also read your thread on the math behind the levels. Yes, the XP required does increase exponentially, and the math behind coming up with how much xp needs to exist between the levels can become complicated. But, I stand by my clarification. Level is dependent and XP is not. In my book that makes it a logarithmic system ;) We both can be right depending on our perspective!

A value being dependent on an independent value does not make it logarithmic, a logarithm is a specific thing that does not bend to your perspective, that is not how math works. By your logic, y=20x is a Logarithmic function, and that's just not the case.

Liberty's Edge

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Cyouni wrote:
Do you … (have players) bring in a level 1 character if their level 6 one dies?
immotus wrote:
Yes … (as per) old school D&D'ers

First off, level gain is entirely in the DM's hand except in organized play, or if you think D&D is a boardgame and you have to follow all the book rules. So, no matter what Paizo publishes, you can do whatever you want in your own campaign. I recommend story based leveling, and awareness of (and control of) character total equipment value.

As a player since the 70's, character death and campaign continuence have always been a big issue, and typically flavors the campaign. Inheritance, start over at 1, hoarders, and gimmicks emphasize rules over story, and ruined many a player experience. I quickly learned that I didn't enjoy playing games that rewarded CYA play, and kept risk takers or the creative as second class citizens. I enjoyed games that focused on all the players having fun and contributing together on somewhat balanced resources. I disliked playing in games that kept PCs of players that couldn't make all the games (work, life, school, illness) a level or two down - and in some cases, invented mechanics that kept them there.

RPGs can easily devolve into accounting, penalyzing characters that are generous, or players that realistically have thier characters spend money like sailors on shore leave. In concert with my players, I've developed mechanics to free players from thinking they'll be penalized if they don't personally utilize everything they run across (anyone heard of "Greyhawking the bodies"?) or if they fail to spend half thier time trying to find everything. The game feels grittier if PCs are kept lean, but miserly if they don't find wealth and then feel free to share it. It doesn't have to be a boardgame, nor a computer game.

Bottom line - run the game that strikes the best balance of fun for everyone in the group, and you're most likely to have the best group experience. The rules are guidelines.


Nolan Garrett-Swodeck wrote:
immotus wrote:

Thanks Mathmuse. I will give it a read. I will also read your thread on the math behind the levels. Yes, the XP required does increase exponentially, and the math behind coming up with how much xp needs to exist between the levels can become complicated. But, I stand by my clarification. Level is dependent and XP is not. In my book that makes it a logarithmic system ;) We both can be right depending on our perspective!

A value being dependent on an independent value does not make it logarithmic, a logarithm is a specific thing that does not bend to your perspective, that is not how math works. By your logic, y=20x is a Logarithmic function, and that's just not the case.

Nolan Garrett-Swodeck, you misinterpreted the banter between immotus and me. I worked from a list of how much xp is required to reach a particular level, which is approximated by xp = 2098×(1.43^level)) - 3000. In that exponential equation, level is the independent variable and xp is the dependent variable. immotus worked by calculating level from xp, level = log_1.43((xp+3000)/2098). In that logarithmic equation, xp is the independent variable and level is the dependent variable.

Whether we call the relation between level and xp either exponential or logarithms depends which one is the dependent variable. Hence, it is a matter of perspective.


The DM of wrote:

Hi, I've been playing since '81. I am an old schooler. I've never heard starting players of dead characters at level 1 that far below the rest of the party was important to anyone. YMMV.

Regardless, this post is over the top about its conclusions. Player death is not so routine that it should be an important factor influencing level progression. Characters level up to have fun. They don't "not level up" to stay on par with newly re-rolled level 1's whose originals died.

If you want to discuss what happens in PF2 when a character dies, that's a great idea for a thread created for the discussion. This post is senseless as phrased.

When playing (79-88) in various campaigns it was very common in many of our games to have new PC's (who died and or were replacements) come in a lower levels.

Depending on the game level differences could be as much as 10 but often were less.

Since about 2000 I have not seen a lot of games with large level disparaty (except online play by post and or a game that had sub games and groups associated with them) but if done right can be fun.

MDC


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Previloc wrote:

RPGs can easily devolve into accounting, penalyzing characters that are generous, or players that realistically have thier characters spend money like sailors on shore leave. In concert with my players, I've developed mechanics to free players from thinking they'll be penalized if they don't personally utilize everything they run across (anyone heard of "Greyhawking the bodies"?) or if they fail to spend half thier time trying to find everything. The game feels grittier if PCs are kept lean, but miserly if they don't find wealth and then feel free to share it. It doesn't have to be a boardgame, nor a computer game.

Bottom line - run the game that strikes the best balance of fun for everyone in the group, and you're most likely to have the best group experience. The rules are guidelines.

In playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends (before Pathfinder), we discovered that a cluster of generous people in a party support each other so well that they outperform the greedy people. The rules favor teamwork. In our later games, the savvy new players adopted the style of the teamwork players because they saw that that style worked.

Therefore, when I became a GM, I had a bunch of generous, team-oriented players whose party performed two levels above their actual level. I took to increasing the difficult of the encounters in the adventure path in order to challenge them. And thus, they learned another lesson: extra power did not make the encounters any easier, because the more power they had, the more I raised the difficulty. My players decided that the only extra power they wanted was the fun stuff--the interesting feats and flavorful magic items. As for the rest of the treasure, their characters gave it away to charity. This was great for me as a GM, because their character's generosity and kindness let me stage plenty of friendly interactions with NPCs and give them good information to support their quests.

The end result is that I had the players that most GMs wish for. They did not abuse the rules, they did not build characters that broke encounters, they roleplayed well, and they focused on creating fun encounters and stories. My wife often derails the adventure paths to create a better story, but I like the better story and the challenge of improvising after the plot twist. I never saw many of the problems that PF2 is trying to correct.

Remember the player I mentioned on December 18 who decided to play a 1st-level bard in a 9th-level party? She risked that because she trusted the party to protect her bard and still give her an interesting role.

Thus, Previloc and I reached the same point by opposite paths: develop mechanics to free players from thinking they'll be penalized if they aren't greedy, and run the game that strikes the best balance of fun for everyone in the group.


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Mathmuse wrote:


In playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends (before Pathfinder), we discovered that a cluster of generous people in a party support each other so well that they outperform the greedy people. The rules favor teamwork. In our later games, the savvy new players adopted the style of the teamwork players because they saw that that style worked.

Therefore, when I became a GM, I had a bunch of generous, team-oriented players whose party performed two levels above their actual level. I took to increasing the difficult of the encounters in the adventure path in order to challenge them. And thus, they learned another lesson: extra power did not make the encounters any easier, because the more power they had, the more I raised the difficulty. My players decided that the only extra power they wanted was the fun stuff--the interesting feats and flavorful magic items. As for the rest of the treasure, their characters gave it away to charity. This was great for me as a GM, because their character's generosity and kindness let me stage plenty of friendly interactions with NPCs and give them good information to support their quests.

The end result is that I had the players that most GMs wish for....

Run a game so that it is fun for people? What trickery is this?


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I saw that rule in the AD&D (1st ed) DMG about starting characters off at 1st level in a higher level party and immediately decided it was a bad idea. I was 12 at the time with experience only in Basic D&D, and with Basic plus the AD&D PHB to take it past 3rd level. It was still obviously a bad idea to me and the people I knew then. 3 decades and change on there are people still using it, though it hasn't been repeated elsewhere as far as I know? Amazing.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I actually stumbled into milestone leveling by accident while running adventure paths. I was getting annoyed with tracking XP, and since the books kept telling me "the PCs should reach X level at Y story beat", I was finally like "screw it, then, the PCs will just reach that level at that point."

Never really looked back, and didn't know that my "house rule" was more widely used or had an official name for ages. XD

Although I will say, if I run a sandbox adventure (I'm currently working on writing a sequel to Kingmaker for my party, which I plan to be my last PF1e campaign) I will definitely use XP tracking. But for any kind of more linear adventure, milestone leveling seems strictly superior.


Yeah, similar here. Though I actually said screw XP before I even started running my first game, XD


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MaxAstro wrote:

I actually stumbled into milestone leveling by accident while running adventure paths. I was getting annoyed with tracking XP, and since the books kept telling me "the PCs should reach X level at Y story beat", I was finally like "screw it, then, the PCs will just reach that level at that point."

Never really looked back, and didn't know that my "house rule" was more widely used or had an official name for ages. XD

Although I will say, if I run a sandbox adventure (I'm currently working on writing a sequel to Kingmaker for my party, which I plan to be my last PF1e campaign) I will definitely use XP tracking. But for any kind of more linear adventure, milestone leveling seems strictly superior.

In Tide of Honor, the 5th module of Jade Regent, I had to switch to milestone leveling because my players broke the XP system. :-)

They had derailed the campaign. The module intended for them to join and lead the nascent revolution against the corrupt oni-controlled government of Minkai, where "lead" is a lie because the module planned their actions. Instead, they decided to change the government by traditional means built into the Minkaian culture. This required a lot more diplomacy and espionage, so I set up a secret meeting of 130 oni and let them infiltrate the meeting in disguise.

They killed 100 oni. (Details at Amaya of Westcrown: Tide of Honor.)

The dead were mostly ja noi oni (1,600 xp) and ogre mages (4,800 xp) but also included 20 ice yai oni (38,400 xp) and one fire yai oni (51,200 xp). That's over a million xp. The party was 13th level and gap between 13th and 14th level in PF1 is only 130,000 xp.

If I let them zip up to 17th level, the appropriate level for over a million xp, then I would had to rewrite the 6th module, too. Therefore, I instead let them go to 14th level and switched to milestone leveling.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

For a moment I was going to argue whether massacring a hundred oni qualifies as changing government by a traditional means built into the Minkaian culture.

Then I thought about it for a moment and decided, yep, that checks out. :P

Exo-Guardians

MaxAstro wrote:

For a moment I was going to argue whether massacring a hundred oni qualifies as changing government by a traditional means built into the Minkaian culture.

Then I thought about it for a moment and decided, yep, that checks out. :P

It also works for Orc government and a good deal of Brevway as well.

Shadow Lodge

XP is a crutch to be used only when needed.


MaxAstro wrote:

For a moment I was going to argue whether massacring a hundred oni qualifies as changing government by a traditional means built into the Minkaian culture.

Then I thought about it for a moment and decided, yep, that checks out. :P

No, that wasn't the plan. That was my wife's character improvising. Icing on the cake.

The Jade Regent was reigning because the current emperor was safely in hiding from the oni. Actually, the emperor was dead, killed by the regent himself who was in league with the oni. The party planned to prove that the emperor was dead and reveal that Amaya was a true heir to the throne from the lost Amatatsu family. Minkaian tradition would make Amaya the empress through time-honored ceremonies. Except that the oni would fight back in secret and brutal ways once the truth was revealed, so the party was making themselves well loved across the country as folk heroes and allying with provincial leaders and secretly going through the ceremonies necessary to prove Amaya was worthy to rule, so that the time between the big reveal and the new empress would be a single day.

No plan should go smoothly, and the oni had a human oracle Meida Renshii on their side, so I decided that the oni had finally figured out that the party had the true heir and was going to massacre them with an arm of 250 oni. As a fair GM, I needed a way to warn the party about that. Meida Renshii gave a speech at the oni's meeting about what she had learned. She had given this speech to other oni already.

And after killing 100 oni, the party kidnapped Meida Renshii, made a deal with her, and released her. The oni no longer had reliable information from Meida Renshii after that, but they did not know that and did not seek other information sources.

My players are amazing.

And my instructions to my wife during the PF2 playtest was to stick to her game-changing ways. PF2 needed an extreme stress test. :-)


MaxAstro wrote:

I actually stumbled into milestone leveling by accident while running adventure paths. I was getting annoyed with tracking XP, and since the books kept telling me "the PCs should reach X level at Y story beat", I was finally like "screw it, then, the PCs will just reach that level at that point."

Never really looked back, and didn't know that my "house rule" was more widely used or had an official name for ages. XD

Although I will say, if I run a sandbox adventure (I'm currently working on writing a sequel to Kingmaker for my party, which I plan to be my last PF1e campaign) I will definitely use XP tracking. But for any kind of more linear adventure, milestone leveling seems strictly superior.

I used milestones for a while, but have been using XP since I converted. I wanted to test the new system, and narratively it felt hard to justify not having new PCs come in at a lower level. Crunching the smaller numbers is much easier and it seems to line up perfectly with the level advancement of PF1 APs too.

But I suspect I'll revert back to milestones at some point.

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