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View Full Version : How should power develop by level?

Maerok
2010-05-25, 10:50 PM
I've done some reading about this lately. For example in 3.5 warriors are considered to develop linearly while most casters develop quadratically (Shadowcaster was pretty dead on linear it seems).

If everything was fine and dandy with the balance of power between warriors and wizards (in any system), should everyone end up developing linearly or quadratically?

Linearly - A level 4 character is always 'twice' as powerful as a level 2. Every level between each class grants the same amount of power (TM). Multiclassing has no drawbacks.
Quadratically - The difference between any two consecutive levels increases. Multiclassing is unfavored as two five-level classes are less potent then a single ten-level class.

Quadratically seems to work for wizards in principle since the use of magic should help to refine further use of magic. Continue this and you reach singularity as you would with technology and society, in principle.

Something I'd like to see is maybe where characters develop in power as a square root function. Here, characters develop to near their full capacity relatively quickly but once you reach higher levels the difference between level 15 and 16 or so is minimized. However, with something like this a level 8 is only 2 times more powerful than a level 2 (if my maths are doing it right). I'm not overly competitive or feel like playing survival so that's why I kind of like it.

I'm working on a game project where new players who join with lower level characters should be able to survive in a group of higher level characters. My previous idea might be a good way of allowing them to keep up.

Criptfeind
2010-05-25, 10:54 PM
Generally I think something like what they tried to do with DnD would give the most satisfaction and balance, IE you are even with two people that are two levels lower than you.

Draz74
2010-05-26, 12:38 AM
Something I'd like to see is maybe where characters develop in power as a square root function. Here, characters develop to near their full capacity relatively quickly but once you reach higher levels the difference between level 15 and 16 or so is minimized. However, with something like this a level 8 is only 2 times more powerful than a level 2 (if my maths are doing it right). I'm not overly competitive or feel like playing survival so that's why I kind of like it.

That's a little harsh, but I agree with the general prospect of giving diminishing returns. That's one of the reasons I like E6: You never stop getting more powerful, but it gets a lot more believably slow as the game goes along.

It's also nice if a lot of the power advancement by level happens in the form of "you now have more versatile options that don't suck" instead of "you add bigger numbers to all your dice." Not that the latter doesn't have its place. D&D just takes it too far for my taste. (At least it's not WoW, though ... :smallsigh:)

Godskook
2010-05-26, 12:47 AM
Fighters, with proper homebrew, have the ability to develop quadratically, but WotC refused to let them(doing so would've required feat-chains that actually keyed off each other like [Draconic] feats do, but while still being as useful as combat reflexes or improved trip).

And growth is *not* linear for fighters. If that were the case, 4 L2 fighters = 1 L8 fighter, which it isn't.

And the current 'estimate' for a L8's power is more in line with 12 L2 fighters = 1 L8 fighter by the CR system, which according to the DMG, breaks down as you start adding more and more people to the fight.

Mastikator
2010-05-26, 12:57 AM
Give warrior classes options that don't suck as they gain levels.

Fighters can for example get the craft magic arms and armor at level 5 for free and substitute their bab as cl and use scrolls (no umd check, simply have the scroll, it's used) to craft items. Maybe also use their fighter level + int mod to identify magical properties of magic arms and armors by using said magical item.

Give all warrior classes a increasing bonus save against fear.

Throw them a few bonus feats extra. Give fighters and paladins 4 skill points instead of 2.
Let barbarians start their damage reduction at level 1, and everytime they take toughness feat it increases dr by 1. Why? Because barbarians can have nice things. Maybe their dr also gives resistance against all energies (equal to dr).

etc

you know, let warrior classes have nice things.

You can also nerf spellcasters by increasing casting time in combat to full round unless the caster wants to make a defensive casting check.

sonofzeal
2010-05-26, 01:17 AM
Continue this and you reach singularity as you would with technology and society, in principle.
Er, quadratic curves have no asymptotes, so there's no moment of singularity. Even exponential curves have no (vertical) asymptotes. You need a Tan function or some 1/x shennanigans to get that.

IMO, quadratic growth is good for heroic fantasy, and linear or sub-linear for more gritty, grounded stuff. It's a really nice feeling, finding yourself powerful enough to stomp through enemies that scared you earlier. You really get the sense of character growth and change. At the same time, that'll pull you further and further way from the real world. So, I guess it depends what you're going for, and whether you're more "gamist" or "simulationist"

Maerok
2010-05-26, 08:46 PM
Er, quadratic curves have no asymptotes, so there's no moment of singularity. Even exponential curves have no (vertical) asymptotes. You need a Tan function or some 1/x shennanigans to get that.

Not a graphical singularity but more like http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html?printable=1 with Moore's Law and stuff. I'm just saying that as t->infinity, power->supreme overkill.

---

I'm also a fan of more goodies and options for each character as they level up. Just getting bigger numbers is boring.

Optimystik
2010-05-26, 09:14 PM
The problem with fighters is that the challenges they face don't develop linearly.

Monsters learn to fly, or be incorporeal, or travel across planes, or cast spells of their own, or heal large amounts of punishment in moments... fighters just learn how to hit things harder and harder.

Maerok
2010-05-26, 09:49 PM
:vaarsuvius: : "Now, if you don't mind, I am somewhat preoccupied telling the laws of physics to shut up and sit down."

I don't think there's a way to balance wizards with warriors when wizards are supposed to be masters of reality and such. However, with settings like LotR magic doesn't appear as powerful and seems a lot more abstract. I've seen the movies and done some reading so that's all I can say about it.

I think spells should be have 'weaker' effects but more open-ended possibilities (IMHO, the predominant philosophy of WotC by the end of 3.5 and the start of 4.0 was to make things more hard-wired and less open to DM interpretation). Yet a lot of people measure success by DPS and such.

So many spells have been created for the express purpose of killing but I'd be far more interested, as a society, to see what it can do to improve the homelands. But that's more of the mundane stuff that gets overlooked in an adventure. I still think there would be some charm in a game where wizards use cantrips and other 'helper spells' to maim/overcome their enemies as opposed to an explicit Fireball or Power Word: Kill. Weaponized spells could be far and few between, often treated and hunted down like IRL nuclear weapons when the Magical Inquisition learns about them. I guess this is kind of what you see in the Harry Potter series. The group accomplishes a lot of work with just the basic wizard spells but you've also got WMDs like the Unforgivable Curses.

Glimbur
2010-05-26, 09:50 PM
I'm working on a game project where new players who join with lower level characters should be able to survive in a group of higher level characters. My previous idea might be a good way of allowing them to keep up.

Have you considered letting new players join with comparably leveled characters instead? It seems like a much easier approach.

Maerok
2010-05-26, 09:51 PM
I wouldn't necessarily fit the concept if I were to explain it fully (as more of a persistent game). But that's a simpler way of handling it. :smalltongue:

2010-05-26, 10:22 PM
I put forth that you make better combat classes. . . or use the better combat classes that exist in the TOB. . .

i made a homebrew that is an example of one such class.

you should check out the homebrew area, lots of playgrounds have attempted to make soultions to the crappy fighter problem.

Maerok
2010-05-26, 10:31 PM
I've made plenty of my own for DnD. The thing is that I'm looking at RPG design in general. Trying to make my own stuff as a hobby. There's been a campaign setting I've had in my mind for two or more years now that I want to put to paper some way.

2010-05-26, 10:52 PM
I've made plenty of my own for DnD. The thing is that I'm looking at RPG design in general. Trying to make my own stuff as a hobby. There's been a campaign setting I've had in my mind for two or more years now that I want to put to paper some way.

If this is somthing your making on your own from scratch then choose how you want progression to go and make everything work that way. What power level are you looking at? do you prefer the Casters exponential growth or a linear fighter(pretending that they are linear)?

I think I good option is feat progression magic and combat. Rather than just spellcasting that goes on its own with advancment. for example. 1 feat gets you the ability to cast spells at all and comes with a few cantrips based on your casting modifier. the next feat gets you the ability to cast spells of a certain type. more feats allow access to wider variety or more powerfull kinds of spells. In this way casting is open to everyone(though obviously a casting class would get the feats for free and probably get bonuses) but casting becomes a more organic thing that based on character choice. combat classes could be given the same types of feat chaining for beter combat abilities. either specializing or generilzing. It would make gish impressively easy without becoming overpowered as well.

sonofzeal
2010-05-26, 11:14 PM
Not a graphical singularity but more like http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html?printable=1 with Moore's Law and stuff. I'm just saying that as t->infinity, power->supreme overkill.
As t->infinity, even linear growth also approaches infinity.

I'm also a fan of more goodies and options for each character as they level up. Just getting bigger numbers is boring.
Well yeah, for sure. I think there's a limit to how big a golf bag of tricks can be without getting redundant, but I agree that most characters should have some sort of expanding sphere of competence as things go on.

Maerok
2010-05-26, 11:15 PM
If this is somthing your making on your own from scratch then choose how you want progression to go and make everything work that way. What power level are you looking at? do you prefer the Casters exponential growth or a linear fighter(pretending that they are linear)?

I think I good option is feat progression magic and combat. Rather than just spellcasting that goes on its own with advancment. for example. 1 feat gets you the ability to cast spells at all and comes with a few cantrips based on your casting modifier. the next feat gets you the ability to cast spells of a certain type. more feats allow access to wider variety or more powerfull kinds of spells. In this way casting is open to everyone(though obviously a casting class would get the feats for free and probably get bonuses) but casting becomes a more organic thing that based on character choice. combat classes could be given the same types of feat chaining for beter combat abilities. either specializing or generilzing. It would make gish impressively easy without becoming overpowered as well.

Well the linear/quadratic thing isn't an idea I thought of but I've seen it used from time to time.

It'd be based something like that with rather weak prerequisites or simple feat trees. If someone wants to use a feat, spell, or whatever, then let them have it rather than working around a character. At the end of the day, all character options should be equally acceptable to a wide playerbase because they all provide meaningful actions.

I prefer to work on rules-light systems and I've even done some attempts to simplify aspects of DnD which are unnecessarily book-keepish.

Bitter Iocus
2010-05-26, 11:16 PM
Doesn't matter as long as there's relative parity between everyone who's playing and the game supports it. That said, F&K talk about this at length, and should be read. TGD may be a hell-hole these days, but some good thought came out of there, I learned recently.

Maerok
2010-05-26, 11:28 PM
What's FGK and T&D?

Yes, what I'm ultimately looking for is parity. I think any character concept should be viable for play with some forethought on their stats but with way below the extent of planning that goes into some DnD characters around here. At the same time, people might think that degrades the experience since character optimization becomes less of an art. However, a lot of that gets wasted anyway around here when a game goes by the wayside.

Yet equality between characters is hard to compensate for as you have to factor in the ability of the character/player, the game's theme and focus on combat/stealth/diplomacy/etc (I'd like to see more games where all three are combined), and the other characters/players synergizing with or without the character. Some systems at least try to accomplish this in character design while DnD hasn't (until ToB and such).

With the question of linear/quadratic, it's whether or not personal power begets more power or does one's capabilities advance independently. It would seem that non-linearly would be the natural choice.

sofawall
2010-05-26, 11:42 PM
What's FGK and T&D?

Mixed up the middle characters.

F&K is Frank and K, responsible for the Tome series of homebrew.

TGD is The Gaming Den, a website that I have never visited, but I hear is the Mos Eisley of D&D boards.

Douglas
2010-05-26, 11:52 PM
I am (slowly) working on a project to rebalance 3.5e D&D, to the point of pretty much rewriting the whole thing, and part of what I've got finished for the project is some guidelines on how power and level relate.

First: The numbers should increase in strictly regulated fashion. Given a character's level and whether or not he's focused on a particular stat (attack bonus, AC, damage, etc.), you should be able to reliably guess that stat for that character within a narrow range with no further information. This is required to make level an actually useful and reliable indicator of character power, and it helps a lot when judging monster CR. For modifiers on d20 rolls, or DCs for the same, I'm going with approximately +1 per level.

Leveling up would get boring very quickly if numbers were all that changed, though, so...

Second: There are quite a number of things that break the numbers guidelines in half or open up whole new capabilities, such as flight, invisibility, and save-or-die/lose. These abilities should be put into categories, and each category has a level at which it becomes available. The more you level up, the more fundamentally different categories of abilities are available to you. If a category grants an overwhelming advantage, such as flight against pure ground-based melee, at least partial counters to it become available an appropriate number of levels earlier so that it's only an auto-win against opponents that are enough levels below you that you are supposed to be able to wipe them out easily.

Done right, this should result in high level combat being different from low level in a lot more ways than just the numbers being thrown around.

Din Tempre
2010-05-27, 12:31 AM
Why not just use a point system then? GURPS comes to mind and I really like their books. Admittedly I have yet to get a group brave enough to dive in so it might not be as good in practice as theory, but I know other point systems like battletech work nicely. Progression is levelless so the new players could be raw talent that keeps them involved, if still less capable, while the old players are grizzled veterans and everything works out easier fluff wise. Or the progression could just be slowed down to a point where experienced players are better, but only 1.2x as good as the new guy. I understand the idea of building some system that fits what you want exactly, but unless it's rules light it would be very large project, and a lot of GM work to keep under control. Bottom line, check other systems, like GURPS, even if you do venture to create your own it might give you some ideas.

Roderick_BR
2010-05-27, 12:49 AM
:vaarsuvius: : "Now, if you don't mind, I am somewhat preoccupied telling the laws of physics to shut up and sit down."

I don't think there's a way to balance wizards with warriors when wizards are supposed to be masters of reality and such. However, with settings like LotR magic doesn't appear as powerful and seems a lot more abstract. I've seen the movies and done some reading so that's all I can say about it.

I think spells should be have 'weaker' effects but more open-ended possibilities (IMHO, the predominant philosophy of WotC by the end of 3.5 and the start of 4.0 was to make things more hard-wired and less open to DM interpretation). Yet a lot of people measure success by DPS and such.

So many spells have been created for the express purpose of killing but I'd be far more interested, as a society, to see what it can do to improve the homelands. But that's more of the mundane stuff that gets overlooked in an adventure. I still think there would be some charm in a game where wizards use cantrips and other 'helper spells' to maim/overcome their enemies as opposed to an explicit Fireball or Power Word: Kill. Weaponized spells could be far and few between, often treated and hunted down like IRL nuclear weapons when the Magical Inquisition learns about them. I guess this is kind of what you see in the Harry Potter series. The group accomplishes a lot of work with just the basic wizard spells but you've also got WMDs like the Unforgivable Curses.
The thing is that D&D is supposed to be high magic. There's a theory that Gandalf would be somewhere betweeb level 5 or 6, the level cap suggested for the E6 variant. Above it characters (or at least, casters) start to grow epically (even before the actual Epic levels, that are just broke). A 20th level character was supposed to be on level to face demigods. In 3.x, whoever, the writers forgot to give powerful options for non-casters.

Tome of Battle was the attempt to make meelers more powerful (and playtest new rules for 4E), by giving them "special attacks". A 20th level wizard can cast Wish and reshape reality. A 20th level warblade can do things like killing someone with a punch (dealing 2d6 points of con damage) or lead a small squad into an epic charge attack devastating a lot of stuff in it's path. Of course, people complained that the maneuver mechanic looks too much like vancian casting, and others complained that this book replaces fighters and monks instead of fixing them. You know, meelers can't get anything nice.

NMBLNG
2010-05-27, 12:50 AM
I think leveling up involves 2 things: better numbers, and more options.

Warriors generally do fine getting better numbers. They get more HP, higher attack bonus, stuff like that. But they lack options. Almost no skill points, and class features with limited applications.

Casters, on the other hand, get the bigger numbers they need and a bajillion options in the form of new spells.

Systems like GURPS and Star Wards D6 do well with this in that players can choose to widen their options instead of increasing their numbers.

So I don't think the rate of growth matters, as long as all the classes (and monsters) grow at the same rate. And give 'low tier' classes options. It helps them not feel so constrained compared to casters.