Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Leveling Up

The cleric I’ve been playing in an on-line B/X game just hit 2nd level after four (plus) months of play. This is the first time I’ve earned a level in ANY edition of D&D (on-line or not) in YEARS…as in, more than a decade.

Four months is a long time, but having played and run PBP and PBEM games in the past I understand it takes 3-5 times as long to get anything accomplished in this format…and it takes longer the more players involved in the game. We’ve really only had three (four?) excursions to the local dungeon in that time, so that’s about a “par” rate of return for B/X, maybe even a little quick. But then again, clerics advance quicker than most other classes (only 1500XP needed for 2nd level), and my character receives an XP bonus for a high Wisdom score.

SO…how do I feel about the accomplishment?

Honestly, gratified. I see what all the fuss is about: why D&D, with its class/level system, has enjoyed such immense popularity over the years. As a DM, I’ve always enjoyed seeing my players “level up” because it A) makes for happier players, and B) opens up new adventure opportunities for ME as a DM (using niftier traps, monsters, encounters, treasures, etc.). But it’s been a long while since I was on the other side of the screen…and it IS cool to have a concrete measure of achievement.

I just want to note a few additional thoughts:

- While it’s a nice “rah-rah” moment to go up in level, it’s especially nice that the level up brings a concrete increase to my character’s effectiveness. As a cleric, my character receives his first 1st level spell (awesome) and a boost to his turning ability (auto-turning skeletons!), in addition to the bonus hit points. If my character was a fighter or dwarf, achieving 2nd level would do nothing but give me an extra roll for HPs. As a design consideration, rewards mean more when they carry some actual value other than a +1 BAB or a couple more skill points.

- Having different XP rates is nice because it staggers the leveling of party members, “keeping the party going” (so to speak) over several sessions. That’s hip…I’m looking forward to the next guy’s turn, which should occur shortly, followed by our fighter and then our illusionist. When you have everyone level at once (such as in D20), you get one “big party” followed by long, dry stretches of grinding.

- There is definitely a “sweet spot” to leveling up and…for me…it’s sooner rather than later. 20+ sessions (what would amount to 4-5 months in a table-top game) is waaaay too long; at least during the low to mid levels. Unfortunately, it’s the low levels where leveling seems to take the longest, due to the poor output of XP from tiny monsters and stingy treasures.

- Personally, it’s not just quantity of the accomplishment, but the quality of the accomplishment that is satisfying. To me, this game feels like I’m doing more than just “going through the motions” of kicking in doors and stabbing things. There’s mystery, there’s history, there’s “local politics,” and sub-plots and much of the adventuring is fueled by the players’ motivations rather than by railroads or “carrots” dangled by the DM. It’s to our DM’s credit that he’s able to run with and adapt to the interests of the players.

I’ll (possibly) talk about some of that last one in a later post. Heron (the DM) has graciously given his approval to discuss and quote his campaign on Ye Old Blog (our campaign/game blog is a closed one so I can’t simply direct folks with a link). There are several topics of conversation to take from his game and besides this is a gaming blog; I should probably discuss some actual gaming rather than simple theory right?

All right, more of that later. Right now I’m going to spend a little time familiarizing myself with the 1st level cleric spell list. Heron says my character is more likely to cast cause fear than cure light wounds (there doesn't seem much of the "healer archetype" to my character) but I do like to know all my options.
; )

Later Gators.


  1. In my Pathfinder campaign, cause fear was recently put to good use by a 1st level wizard against one of 3 ogres... of course, if the ogre had made it's save...

  2. The LL campaign I’m running has just reached a similar plateau. After 11 sessions/3 months of play, everyone pulled in enough XP in last night’s heist to finally reach 2nd level. You could feel the sense of accomplishment from everyone in the room. And it helped that they got that haul through smart play and planning (and at least a few lucky dice rolls).

  3. Since I don't have an infinite amount of time to play, when I go for online gaming I give more XPs to balance the enlarged time scale of gaming. In my AD&D 1e Dragonlance RPOL campaign the players have reached on average 4th level in about 6 months of play. It obviously also helps that AD&D gives in general many more XPs than Classic D&D.

  4. In my D&D(ish) games these days - as we're all adults with kids and can't have gaming sessions that last all weekend! - I halve the XP requirement for second level (with the requirement for third level being the old second level mark, etc.). It still takes longer (in real terms) to level than it did when I was a teenager. It also have the advantage of making the fantasy economics slightly less absurd - millions fewer GP have to have poured into Threshold to produce those levelled adventurers.

    Still, no-one levels, they all die, but...