So...shit, do I even want to write this?
Tell me true, gentle readers: would it kill you (or your players) if the whole of D&D game play was compressed into less than half-a-dozen levels of experience?
Let me explain EXACTLY what I mean, just to make sure my question is clear. In B/X, the whole of player character experience has a maximum potential career of 36 levels (for human character classes); less if one chooses to ignore levels beyond 14 (the final levels detailed in the original Cook/Marsh expert set). In D20 characters were capped at 20 levels of experience, which is considered the "effective max" in 2nd edition also, if I'm not mistaken (and excluding supplemental "epic play"). In AD&D and OD&D most classes had no maximum level, unless one chose to play a demihuman character, but even those could reach 8th or 10th or higher levels depending on class and ability scores.
Lots of levels. Lots and lots of levels. And "high level" generally not considered until PCs reach the double digits, at which point truly cool adventuring can be expected to occur: the GDQ modules, not to mention endgame scenarios like building castles, conquering territory, and exploring paths to immortality.
Okay, so...given that THIS is what D&D is kind of all about, in its current (myriad) incarnations, how do y'all feel about the idea of compressing that entire career into, say, 3-5 levels? Or more specifically, 5 levels for human characters and fewer (than 5) levels for demihumans?
I only ask, 'cause that's what I'm doing.
[I've also compressed the class list down to 3 (total) with a potential "bonus type" (about the same as rolling psionics...except not psionics). And no, there are no "skills" at this point, nor any plans for the inclusion of skills]
Now understand this isn't terribly original...the idea comes from DCC (whose level titles are compressed down to 5 levels) and Holmes Basic (and the idea of playing HB "straight"...with 3rd level being the maximum level in a world that still has trolls and vampires and purple worms). I have some ideas for putting a twist or two on the concept, but the end result still remains: player characters' progression in an adventuring career is limited to no more than 5 levels.
Anyone have a problem with that?
I mean is there a particular reason characters need to go to level 10 or 14? If you want "drawn out" play, you can make the XP gaps between levels larger (or the XP awards for monsters and treasure smaller). Why make attack and save progression every 3 or 4 levels when you can make it every single level? Heck, you could have PCs roll 3 dice for hit points every "level up" instead of one die if you wanted to keep pace with the original D&D design (I am NOT doing that, though I have other thoughts on increasing character durability).
Granular spell progress? I'm already changing the magic system based on player wants; it probably won't resemble the Vancian system (or DCC, for that matter).
Granular thief skills? Leaving aside whether or not there will be a "thief" class at all, I find this one of the weakest aspects of the Old School D&D anyway.
No, I'm pretty sure I can make stuff work with 5 levels. To give you an idea, the degree of character effectiveness roughly maps like this:
1st level = 1st through 3rd (Basic level play)
2nd level = 4th through 6th
3rd level = 7th through 9th (Expert level play)
4th level = 10th through 12th (Name level)
5th level = 13th through 15th (Companion level play)
The main question I have is: do people hate that they can't have an 8th level or 19th level or 42nd level character? I mean, World of Warcraft has 80 or 90 levels of play, and people really seem to dig on that. I want to make the game less like a video game, but still with a method of "measuring power." But I know Americans like high scoring games (basketball, football) more than low scoring ones (soccer)...they like the feel of constant "progress" and accolades and awards. Maybe they prefer multiple, less effective levels.
Mmm...actually, I don't care if they do. My game, my rules. I guess the REAL question is not "do you hate the idea," but:
A) How much do you hate the idea? and
B) Are there other reasons for including a multitude of levels that I am not considering?
Thanks for your input.
[now, back to jury duty...]