May 14, 2018

Levelling Speed in Fifth Edition

My first offline campaign ran for nearly 2 years, with some short breaks. The players ran from levels 1 to 10 (and probably will continue to advance once we restart).

It only took 6 months of in-game time.

If I told you that you could train to become the most powerful actor in almost any room in which you chose to walk, and it only would take you 6 months, what would you give for that?

Now, D&D is supposed to be about heroes, right? To a certain extent that's true in 5e, though I disagree with the fundamental premise there. But if that status is available to just anyone willing to slog it out for less than a year, why isn't everyone running around being a hero?

Also, its worth noting that Mike Mearls said that characters should level every four hours of real time! What??? Unfortunately, I'm not surprised that Mearls has such a disrespect of the players of his "game." He also is a fan of the horrid blight of milestone levelling. Barf.

Taking one of the standard ability generation methods (4d6 drop lowest), the most common result is a 13. This is the prerequesite for multiclassing. Since there is no minimum score necessary to play a certain class, as in some other editions, let's assume the multiclassing minimums for a Ranger: DEX 13 and WIS 13. Up to 24% of the population could meet that requirement! For a single stat, the chance is about 48%. From a certain perspective, that makes sense. The player wants to stand out - they wouldn't really bother to play a rando with 10s down the board. Using a "meaner" 3d6, about 7% of the population could be rangers. That might be a better starting place.

This dirty analysis, of course, does not accurately reflect real world choices. Perhaps I have the dexterity and wisdom to be a ranger, but I prefer to play a rogue or cleric instead.

Similar to racial demographics, a distribution can be developed to describe a certain person's disposition to pursue a clerical or roguish career. This is not intended necessarily to place constraints on character creation, but to flesh out the NPCs a party might be expected to meet. My driving philosophy here is that any mechanic available to the party is also available to everyone else. My hypothesis is that this forces players to make conscious choices in order to bring their will to bear on the world, rather than "winning" by virtue of conveniently selecting the right options before the game even starts.

Players should become heroes (or not) based on their own choices as characters, not based on an ad hoc decision by the DM to declare them so, or to carefully place encounters in their way to gently coax them into a false greatness.

This is starting to turn into another post, similar to this one (as usual, Alexis is eight years ahead of me). However, here I want to call attention to the inadequacy of 5e to really describe a population. Mearls (et al.) is clearly not interested in creating believable experiences. Maybe he doesn't need to be. But it's up to the DM to be aware of what they're signing up for, and how much work it's going to be to hammer the 5e "ruleset" into anything resembling an actual player-agency rule-defined game.

I don't have good answers for either of these problems right now. I'd rather leave the level speed as is right now (I have enough work to do without redesigning the whole game), but I'd like to take another look at how those rules affect sensible demographics. When the party rolls into town, who meets them?

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