E10 setting with continued progression


Homebrew and House Rules


Note: It's long, but I am posting this for constructive criticism: please let me know if you feel any part of this can be improved.

The thing I dislike about most level-based systems is the eventual number bloat and how that affects late game. While I love the feeling of powerful characters and rarely see an issue with the unique effects of late game spells/feats/abilities (especially as presented in PF2E), the number bloat annoys me to no end, particularly when a 20th lvl character can sit back and laugh at the negligible dmg which can be dealt by a hoard of 1st lvl NPC's until they finally decide to exterminate them all with one AOE action. What makes this even worse is the fact that many of those same lvl-1 NPC's can literally trip themselves to death by rolling max dmg twice on a d6, which is not that hard to do.

That stated, PF2E seems to do a wonderful job of keeping the static bonuses granted to characters of similar level pretty much even across the board through a system of proficiency and stat bonuses. As such, I'd like to design a variant for an E10 setting which narrows this gap by taking advantage of some of those features without limiting the unique effects available by completely subtracting higher level feats and spells.

This system comes in two parts, one to make the "common" NPC a bit sturdier, and the second to cap the number bloat.

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~~~~ Part One: Sturdier commoners ~~~~

Essentially, this is a level chart for common NPCs. While (for the most part) this should be a meta-game consideration that the players are simply familiar with, it serves to make the common NPC a bit sturdier, more useful, and more of a threat if you happen to piss them off by giving them either hit-point/hit-die or class levels based upon their relative age and/or experience. the basics are as follows:

Infant -> HP = 1 + Con
Child -> HP = 1d6 + Con
Teenager -> 1st lvl NPC
Young adult/adolescent -> 2nd lvl NPC
Full-grown adult -> 3rd lvl NPC

Infants can have a specific heritage, but cannot select a background until they have become children, and must wait until they are a teenager before they may take any Ancestry Feats. Once a character becomes a teenager, they replace the 1d6 + Con hit points with their class hit points instead, gaining all the benefits of a 1st lvl character of their selected class. (This represents their exploration into the class they wish to pursue into adulthood, but could theoretically be retrained.) Young and full-grown adults are simply more experienced and/or hardier individuals.

Ideally, we would have a couple basic NPC classes to choose from in addition to the classic character classes to further highlight the differences between NPCs and PCs, but even without that this creates a usable medium-fantasy setting for your characters to start exploring. It also reduces accidental fatalities and gives both monsters and PCs a reason not to piss off a mob, even if they could still take on a few villagers by themselves without too much trouble.

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~~~~ Part Two: Capping Number Bloat ~~~~

While most E6/E8/etc systems seem to completely cap all character progression after the denoted level, I specifically want to target number bloat while leaving character progression in place. Therefore, I need a system which will accomplish this while still permitting characters to gain spells, feats, ability boosts, etc.

To this end, I propose the following modifications:

1 - At 10th lvl characters stop gaining additional HP or resistances based upon numeric character lvl. This does not prohibit them from gaining or improving these benefits based upon feats or class abilities.

2 - Characters continue to gain class abilities (including spell slots and spells known), feats, skill increases, and ability boosts past 10th lvl, per normal advancement.

3 - Spells up to 6th lvl function normally, as do lower-level spells heightened up to 6th level. (I selected 6th as opposed to 5th lvl spells as one extra die does not seem to make too much difference at this point, but there seem to be more Heightened effects at even-numbered levels than there are at odd-numbered levels.)

5 - Spells of 7th lvl or higher which have scaling numeric effects (particularly healing/damaging effects and resistances) are reduced to match those of 6th lvl spells. (This can be accomplished by reversing the effects of heightening such a spell for most 7th and 8th lvl spells, or reducing such effects by 1/3 or 30% for most 9th and 10th lvl spells.) Effects which are non-numeric or which fall into the category of special conditions (such as Stunned, Sickened, Clumsy, etc) are not affected.

6 - Creatures with more than 10 class levels experience the same modifications to those levels as stated above. Alternately, the GM may elect to grant additional levels (class or monster) to creatures with a CR of 3 or less to make them appropriately threatening to a common NPC.

7 - Monsters with a CR above 10 should have their lvl-based proficiency bonuses reduced accordingly. However, their resistances should not be reduced by more than 5 points and their HP should not be reduced at all. It is up to the GM if spell-like effects innate to the creature are reduced or not.

Point #7 serves a dual purpose: it reduces the amount of work required by the GM to set up an encounter; it reinforces the powerful nature of truly monstrous creatures. This helps preserve the GM's high-level toolbox while granting PCs a heightened level of immersion as they will need to employ more advanced strategies when dealing with such powerful entities. After all, while they might still be able to take on such a creature head on, the risk would be much greater, incentivising them to take a more cautious approach, whether that should mean opting for parley or calling in the reinforcements!

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Further Thoughts

In reference to the relatively static scaling bonuses past lvl 10 (particularly the Ability Boost and Skill Increase proficiency bonuses), I do not believe these to be too powerful, but I do think that they (along with other special effects granted by spells, class features, and feats) help highlight the differences between 10th and 20th lvl characters. As these bonuses are relatively narrow in range (+0 to +8 for Proficiency bonuses and -1 to +6 in Ability bonuses), and as the majority of these bonuses are assigned in in the earlier levels of character development, I do not think that they would adversely affect game play across the spectrum when factored into the system described above.

Ultimately, the difference these bonuses might make on the outcome of a fight between a small group of commoners and a character of 10th lvl or higher seems negligible (10th-lvl PC vs ~10 commoners being an even match or a 20th-lvl PC vs ~12 commoners). However, when considering a confrontation between 10th and 20th lvl characters, a not-unreasonable +4 to +6 bonus difference can drastically affect the outcome. I feel that this (alongside the special affects granted by higher level class features, unique spell effects, and feats) would help PC's at those higher levels feel more powerful without necessarily making the outcome a foregone conclusion, especially if the higher-level characters were slightly outnumbered.


Concerning points # 5, 6, and 7, I was initially unsure how to apply this to Polymorph spells in particular, as these sometimes give static Attack bonuses (which are effectively proficiency bonuses that factor in character level). As such a large variance in attack modifiers can can drastically affect damage over time, I suggest reducing such modifiers by 2/spell level above 6th lvl.

This factors in the fact that a character's max spell level is generally equal to lvl/2, rounded up, but does grant an overall +1 level bonus to this proficiency-based stat for expending a higher level spell slot. As this equates to just a 5% chance increase, and it falls in line with the rest of the system, I feel this is a reasonable compromise.


#1: Classes with high HPs (martials) gets hit harder than classes with lower HP (casters), without the latter suffering any hit to their class abilities.


Matrix Sorcica wrote:
#1: Classes with high HPs (martials) gets hit harder than classes with lower HP (casters), without the latter suffering any hit to their class abilities.

As I've been reading it, most of the major scaling damage boosts for melee characters (such as Sneak attack, Power attack, etc) are also based on the numeric character level. As that caps at lvl-10, I don't see where that should become imbalanced as all classes tend to end 10th lvl with about 6dX dmg/round, plus static bonuses.

Is there something I'm missing? And if so, what might you suggest to correct this?

Edit:
I did notice that the Barbarian does get a 12th level feat "Spirit's Wrath" which may need adjustment, as it is a 1-action ranged attack dealing 4d8 + Con dmg. But bringing this down to 2d8 + Con should be sufficient to fix this, bring it back in line with other damage sources.

The only other issue I see is potentially with the Barbarian's static Instinct damage bonus once they obtain Greater Weapon Specialization, but seeing as this replaces the Greater Specialization bonuses, only functions while raging, and they get no real additional damage dice boosts past lvl-10, I'm not sure how much of a problem this would really be.

Am I mistaken, or is there anything else which I might be missing?


The issue with sturdier NPCs is that PCs are supposed to be slightly stronger than the average person of their ancestry, even at start. They aren't necessarily BETTER at everything (eg. skills or spells), but they would be above average in combat abilities. Making the average adult level 3 means that a starting PC can only be a teenager, which is a bit restrictive.

As for numbers bloat, why not just remove level from proficiency modifiers? That would approximately half all bonuses to rolls by the time you get to level 20. I don't think you should be doing anything to modify damage, though. There's isn't really any difference between a level 10 fireball vs a level 6 fireball when cast into a crowd of commoners.


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For the Child NPC: 2E got rid of hit dice, so you should just put a number there for hit points.


Frogliacci wrote:
Making the average adult level 3 means that a starting PC can only be a teenager, which is a bit restrictive.

While many published campaigns start PCs out at lvl-1 or lvl-2, there is nothing saying that a setting couldn't have PCs start out as youngsters or as 3rd lvl characters.

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Frogliacci wrote:
There's isn't really any difference between a level 10 fireball vs a level 6 fireball when cast into a crowd of commoners.

I generally agree with this sentiment, but the goal is to make the difference between lvl-10 and lvl-20 less drastic, while still preserving some of the feeling of power advancement. For this purpose, the difference between a 6th lvl fireball and a 10th lvl one is rather large.

As such, my variant attempts to provide a (relatively soft) cap to both HP and damage, while retaining ability and flat proficiency bonuses (minus level bonuses), as well as special action options provided by class features and feats in an effort to let higher level characters (who also have more spell slots) make up that difference over time.

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Frogliacci wrote:
As for numbers bloat, why not just remove level from proficiency modifiers? That would approximately half all bonuses to rolls by the time you get to level 20. I don't think you should be doing anything to modify damage, though.

There is a good argument for removing level from proficiency modifiers, but I feel like doing just this would not affect the number bloat issues concerning HP and damage output/turn, which I honestly feel is the larger issue.

In the native system, a single lvl-10+ character can mow through fields of commoners (lvl-1 NPCs). I'm going for a system that will make them think twice (in this case by making the the commoners lvl-3 NPCs). However, this still falls apart in the gap between 10th and 20th lvl (as a 20th lvl character can wade through a field of 10th lvl characters without adjustment). Therefore, it becomes necessary IMHO to limit HP and dmg values, letting actual dmg output over time rely more upon the differences in static proficiency bonuses, action economy options, etc.

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David knott 242 wrote:
For the Child NPC: 2E got rid of hit dice, so you should just put a number there for hit points.

Given the way the native system works, this is not a bad suggestion. Do you thing 4 + Con would be appropriate?


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Something you could consider. Make all HD above 10 become 1HP per level. Have a die ceiling for damage dice. Any # of dice over something three or four, you cap it and turn the extra die into a single point. Alternately, you let them roll that many dice, and they take the highest dice from the group. (either dropping the extra dice, or converting them to 1pt for each extra die) That way larger dice pools do tend to do extra damage, but not extremely so.

I found the idea of just dropping the bonuses after 10 strange, thinking if you want less difference between the top and bottom, my first impression was, why not just cut the progression into 1/2 level instead? But as I understand it, you like the feeling of progression during the early levels, and were mostly worried about the upper levels getting out of hand.

On a different topic, for a small child's HP, you could probably give them 1/2 the typical racial HP and add their Con (although you might keep in mind it might be lowered due to age/size adjustments)


RachnaX wrote:
Matrix Sorcica wrote:
#1: Classes with high HPs (martials) gets hit harder than classes with lower HP (casters), without the latter suffering any hit to their class abilities.

As I've been reading it, most of the major scaling damage boosts for melee characters (such as Sneak attack, Power attack, etc) are also based on the numeric character level. As that caps at lvl-10, I don't see where that should become imbalanced as all classes tend to end 10th lvl with about 6dX dmg/round, plus static bonuses.

Is there something I'm missing? And if so, what might you suggest to correct this?

Edit:
I did notice that the Barbarian does get a 12th level feat "Spirit's Wrath" which may need adjustment, as it is a 1-action ranged attack dealing 4d8 + Con dmg. But bringing this down to 2d8 + Con should be sufficient to fix this, bring it back in line with other damage sources.

The only other issue I see is potentially with the Barbarian's static Instinct damage bonus once they obtain Greater Weapon Specialization, but seeing as this replaces the Greater Specialization bonuses, only functions while raging, and they get no real additional damage dice boosts past lvl-10, I'm not sure how much of a problem this would really be.

Am I mistaken, or is there anything else which I might be missing?

A fighter loses out on 120 hp plus con ifhit points are capped at level 10. A wizard loses out on 60 hp. See?

Plus, the wizard's class abilities are deemed better that the fighter's by the designers - why else should the fighter be getting more hp that the wizard. So even if both classes continue to improve class abilities, the fighter "loses" more.


Matrix Sorcica wrote:


A fighter loses out on 120 hp plus con ifhit points are capped at level 10. A wizard loses out on 60 hp. See?
Plus, the wizard's class abilities are deemed better that the fighter's by the designers - why else should the fighter be getting more hp that the wizard. So even if both classes continue to improve class abilities, the fighter "loses" more.

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this point. The way I see it, both classes are losing half their HP and half their dmg potential, so the fact that one class has more HP than the other to begin with is irrelevant.

It seems the argument you are making is that, even though the penalty is 50% across the board (HP and dmg), the fact that the numbers were different to begin with makes it unbalanced. If that were the case, I'd wonder why the developers thought that making these classes have such a large difference between them (in HP for this instance) would have even been enough to balance them out in the first place.

While, if damage were to continue to scale past 10th lvl, I would see your point, that is specifically curbed in my system. Therefore, I feel the basis for your concern has already been addressed, IMHO.


Edit: these comments are my initial reactions. I'm trying to ask questions to help me understand why you've designed this, and what you hope to get out of it. I hope I don't come off as combative or overly negative.

I don't see much benefit to this system when you could just stop leveling players at 10 instead, since that seems what you want. You're trying to scale back benefits from leveling, but by targeting some scaling aspects more than others you're just throwing balance way out of whack. You turn casters into pure utility, since their damage just hits a wall at 10 but their utility keeps increasing, and you turn martials into glass cannons, since their damage does keep scaling but their survivability doesn't. Rogues seem largely unaffected, besides dying faster to at-level enemies, as skills keep scaling as normal. This means the best party will probably be half casters and half archers, who use their utility spells to get the best engagement and never stick around long enough for the enemies to get a reprisal. That might seem interesting, but frankly you can do that already without nerfing every other playstyle into the ground.

You've said in comments that you've halved both wizard and fighter damage, but I don't see that in your rules as written. There are no decreases to fighter damage in any of the rules. Care to elaborate?

These changes don't seem to affect your scenario with the level 20 character against a horde of level 1's at all. You haven't changed AC, so the level 20 is still literally impossible to hit. And a horde of level 1 enemies dies just as easily to a 6th level fireball as to a 9th level one.

You said to reduce higher level creature's proficiency bonuses accordingly, but I'm not sure what that even means. What stats would you be lowering on creatures? Basically every stat scales with level in some way, some more directly than others.

The system as proposed is not a 2nd edition system, it is a 1st edition system. You are using several mechanics, like NPC classes, hit dice, challenge rating, and monsters gaining class levels, which do not exist in second edition. You may want to reconsider how you codify these things to match the new paradigms in 2nd edition.

How is a level 20 party ever supposed to kill a single level 20 creature before they die if their damage and HP is half what it's supposed to be while the creature is largely unchanged? If that's the point, since it's an E10 system, that's fine I guess, but I definitely wouldn't like it. To just hit a roadblock at 10 would make me want to just roll up another character, rather than fighting an uphill battle against encounters I have increasingly smaller chances of doing well against until we hit the inevitable TPK. Playing a high level character should feel fun, not feel like I'm losing just because I can't keep up. Of course if your campaign is designed so the level 20 characters keep fighting lower level enemies then that's moot, but again, why not just stay at level 10?


The concerns of high level characters being much stronger than lower level enemies seems like it will be addressed by the variant system of removing level to proficiency that will be in the GMG

So my understanding is that a level 20 character will not get +20 AC making standard soldier able to hit them.

As to “E10” - wasn’t the conceit of Epic 6 that you stopped progressing in everything

This system seems rather complex in allowing abilities to carry on increasing even past 10 and somewhat missing the point of what the “E” system was always trying to achieve

A true E10 (or 6 or 8) system would just be like it used to be where you can carry on gaining feats but nothing else . This seems like it would work well in 2E as feats are the cornerstone of the system and within about a year there will be loads of them

And you already have people saying they don’t get enough and wanting to pick all the options (most notably if you wish to recreate all the abilities of something like a 1E Druid)

This system is treading a middle ground that doesn’t seem necessary to tread down (in my view)


Lanathar wrote:


A true E10 (or 6 or 8) system would just be like it used to be where you can carry on gaining feats but nothing else . This seems like it would work well in 2E as feats are the cornerstone of the system and within about a year there will be loads of them

Completely agree, that seems to achieve what they are going for a lot more elegantly than my "just stop at 10" suggestion. So characters stay at power level 10 but gain a breadth of abilities compared to lower level characters.

Do you know what was done with spell progression in such systems?


BellyBeard wrote:
Lanathar wrote:


A true E10 (or 6 or 8) system would just be like it used to be where you can carry on gaining feats but nothing else . This seems like it would work well in 2E as feats are the cornerstone of the system and within about a year there will be loads of them

Completely agree, that seems to achieve what they are going for a lot more elegantly than my "just stop at 10" suggestion. So characters stay at power level 10 but gain a breadth of abilities compared to lower level characters.

Do you know what was done with spell progression in such systems?

Spells also cap at 3/4/5 (depending on level cap) with anything higher level converted into rituals, if they become necessary.

Rituals are core in 2e, so redesigning high level utility spells (eg. teleport) into rituals would actually be pretty easy.

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