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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Demihuman Level Limits

    Pondering the issues of level limits and XP/level progression for demihumans (elves, dwarves, halflings and half-elves and half-dwarves (if those are allowed))

    In BECMI, the matter of level progression is largely addressed, as the races are classes. There is the matter of enabling dwarf clerics, elf clerics and thieves, etc. I've yet to see a really good means of dealing with these within the BECMI framework. Dwarves are fighters-with-benefits, so the XP requirements are understandably increased and there is a level limit (which seems very contrived to me). Elves are fighter/mage hybrids, and the XP requirements are much higher (though not as high as tracking 2 classes separately), and there is the contrived level limit. Halflings are also FWB, but their benefits are pretty substantial, perhaps justifying the XP tax but still not the level limit. When you try to allow demihumans to deviate from their class norms, it becomes a cluster fart. Dwarf clerics' XP chart is crazy; and the variant Elf "classes" from Princess Ark are just a mess (especially the paladin).

    With Holmes, one can assume the good doctor had in mind separating race and class as in the 0e supplements and 1e. That opens up another can of worms. Handling different classes is fairly easy: just track everything separately. But if a dwarf (with the benes) is Just a fighter, does s/he just progress as a fighter? Is there no XP tax? I know there's still a (very low) level limit. Likewise if an elf is Just a mage, is there, or should there be, an XP tax? Or if a halfling is Just a thief, s/he still could have hefty benes. Should there be an XP cost?

    Ultimately I should like to run BECMI but allow demihumans to multiclass. I guess an immediate port of this would be to use Advanced Labyrinth Lord's multiclassing; but there may need to be an XP adjustment, as I really want to toss level limits.

    I'm sure this topic has been beaten to a pulp, but I am too lazy to look it all up Any thoughts?

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    Yora's Avatar

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Basic Fantasy just throws its arms into the air and brings in races as separate from class. Four races, four classes, combine as you want.
    Humans get a flat out +10% XP bonus to give them something in place of the special abilities of the other races.
    Though I personally are not convinced that 10% actually makes any percievable difference. Which is why I always ignore prime requisite scores to make XP tracking easier for everyone. (At higher levels it will let you sometimes level up one session earlier than other PCs who get the same reward, before everyone else has caught up again the next session. Not worth the hassle.)

    Level limits for nonhumans are nonsensical. The reason that is circulated by D&D folklore is that the intention is to make players not want to play nonhumans and ensure that in high level play, only human PCs become big movers and shakers. Which is just dumb. If you don't want demihumans in your campaign, just play in a setting without them.

    It also has a rule for multiclassing. While it says only elves can be fighter/wizard and thief/wizard, the system works for all races and classes. To reach a new level, the characters needs the required XP for both classes combined. For attack bonus, hit points, and saving throws, they get whichever of the two is better. The resulting combination classes for fighter/wizard and thief/wizard look pretty good on paper when compared to normal classes at the same XP count. They look very impressive for any given level, but you'd also be lagging behind a level or two, so I think it doesn't look too bad. I suspect the other combinations should work out similarly well.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinn View Post
    I'm sure this topic has been beaten to a pulp, but I am too lazy to look it all up Any thoughts?
    You've likely seen my take on this on Dragonsfoot, but...

    Level limits were a bad design choice. They follow from the idea that "humans are the average and have no special abilities". However, they decided the human special ability was "can be any class" and "can advance to any level." This fails to do the job... level limits are irrelevant if you don't ever reach them, and being able to be a paladin doesn't many anything if you don't want to be a paladin. There is a sweet spot where level limits work exactly intended... but before then they're useless, and after that they're anchors. So, I support getting rid of level limits.

    In an AD&D context, I think this is best answered by giving humans actual abilities. I favor a +1 to Charisma and a +1 to all saves; humans are often portrayed as getting along with various species (they can work with humans, elves, gnomes, even sometimes orcs and goblins), and human-favored classes (q.v. paladin, druid, 2e bards) often have Charisma requirements, so that gives them a boost to those classes, if they want. A +1 to all saves makes humans a bit more resilient and come across as a bit lucky. Neither are overwhelming benefits, and I'd also lean towards a bonus weapon proficiency in 1e, and a bonus weapon and non-weapon proficiency in 2e, representing the combat and non-combat abilities other races get... the human perk is they have no penalty to a stat, but a +1, they have another weapon they can use without penalty, and they may have an extra skill, if you're using skills. Nice, but not overwhelmingly awesome.

    In a TD&D context, I prefer the ACKS approach: Demi-humans have their own classes. You might be a dwarven vaultguard, who is a fighter-type dwarf, or a dwarven craftpriest, who is a dwarven cleric, but those are distinct from fighters and clerics as humans have them. Elves have mage/thief and fighter/mage classes, but those belong to elves. You could create other classes based on these themes... the blade-dancer is a female warrior-priest who, cue the shock, uses blade weapons, with a different spell-list than a cleric, and a different array of proficiencies available. Compare a vault guard to a fighter and you see that vault guards have better saving throws and a couple skills related to traps and caving, while fighters can use weapons the short dwarves cannot and grant morale bonuses to their hirelings. Neither is an a priori better choice. It lets you have your variety... your dwarven trapspringers, your craft priests, your vault guards.... but keeps your human classes human.
    The Cranky Gamer
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Multiclassing brings its own limitations. If you track XP separately, you cannot advance evenly across all classes. If you rule that you have to advance in all classes together, it's going to get Really slow.

    The challenge is really with single-classed demihumans. Technically/BtB there is no mechanical reason for a single-classed character to be human, Unless there is an XP tax. Demihumans will always have a leg-up on human characters due to their benes. A 10% tax isn't outrageous, but is it enough? Or just rule some special abilitie(s) for humans. But what human bene(s) would make up for, say, a halfling's luck, or skill with thrown weapons, or ability to hide, or saving throws, or.. ? +1 to all saves seems a little OP or UP, depending on what you're comparing to.

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    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinn View Post
    Multiclassing brings its own limitations. If you track XP separately, you cannot advance evenly across all classes. If you rule that you have to advance in all classes together, it's going to get Really slow.

    The challenge is really with single-classed demihumans. Technically/BtB there is no mechanical reason for a single-classed character to be human, Unless there is an XP tax. Demihumans will always have a leg-up on human characters due to their benes. A 10% tax isn't outrageous, but is it enough? Or just rule some special abilitie(s) for humans. But what human bene(s) would make up for, say, a halfling's luck, or skill with thrown weapons, or ability to hide, or saving throws, or.. ? +1 to all saves seems a little OP or UP, depending on what you're comparing to.
    A 10% XP tax/bonus is more or less meaningless, as Yora points out. 50% is more on par, 100% (i.e. humans advance twice as fast) is better.

    +1 to all saves is, IMO, relatively balanced with other races. Elves have the 90% sleep/charm resistance, which is powerful but fairly limited, and they match it with some great other benefits (bonuses with weapons, excellent stealth, secret door detection). Dwarves, gnomes, and halflings have the more focused save bonuses... higher bonuses, but on a few, common, saves... you'll be poisoned or have spells cast on you a lot. A human +1 to everything works out to a +5 to saves, total... but spread out, making them generally good at everything. The +1 to Charisma means they get more henchmen and better (more loyal) hirelings, and no penalty is a nice bonus. The free weapon proficiency (and NWP if you're using it) gives them flexibility.... while a halfling gets a +1 to all thrown weapons, a free WP gives humans another weapon with which they don't have any penalty. It's a moderate boost to a fighter (especially nice if you're using Weapon Specialization), but it's a great boost to thieves, clerics, and mages.

    As for multiclassing, well, that's another advantage to the ACKS approach, or a create-your-class approach... you have one class, not a complicated balance of several.
    The Cranky Gamer
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    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    As for multiclassing, well, that's another advantage to the ACKS approach, or a create-your-class approach... you have one class, not a complicated balance of several.
    I don't care for the necessity of class design every time one opens up a class to a given race. The dwarf cleric is a small example of this; the expanded elf options from VotPA are a better example. Just taking a BtB BECMI elf and working out a way for him/her to be a cleric or druid or especially a paladin seems like an exercise in frustration.

    I know that OSE and ACKS have pre-made race+class combos; I just think it's overkill for something that shouldn't be that complicated.

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    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Level limits were a bad design choice.
    This.

    Demi-human level limits do not accomplish what they originally were THOUGHT to accomplish in the way they were thought to accomplish it. If the game ends or the level limited PC dies before reaching their limit then the limits have accomplished no balancing for anyone. As level-limited characters are left behind by characters with higher limits or no limits at all, then the further the separation the more the limits are not a balance between any two characters and more a severe punishment for having chosen wrong at the time of creating your character.

    The only way to think of them having any usefulness as originally written is as a SETTING design tool, not as a tool for balancing character class/race choices. Since nobody ever does think of them as tools of setting design, they are again just BAD DESIGN. There is no fix for this except for individual DM's crying, "F this noise!" and redesigning this aspect of the game to do something that they want it to do and that it can be verified it actually does some good at doing.

    I'd add one additional note. There is a suggestion of using a 10% xp bonus here or there. This is ALSO useless. Because of the logarithmic nature of xp progression this doesn't accomplish what people think it does. It's a bit cumbersome to explain, but look at it this way: In getting to 2nd level a character with the bonus will get there an insignificant 10% sooner than a character without the bonus, but then they stay apace with each other. When getting to 3rd level the one with the bonus doesn't level up 20% sooner - only 10%. The one with the bonus advances PRIOR to the other by a very small margin, but doesn't then advance FASTER because of how xp requirements mostly keep doubling for everyone overall. Not until xp progression plateaus to a fixed amount rather than doubling the amount from the previous level will the character with the bonus actually start compounding that bonus and finally truly begin gaining over others without the bonus. But even then the benefits of the bonus are all but insignificant. Only TEN LEVELS AFTER reaching the plateau will the 10% bonus mean that the character will be just one level ahead of where they otherwise would have been. Since most classes plateau at or just before 10th level that means that for the character with the bonus to finally be 1 level ahead of where they would have been without the bonus, they're at nor nearly at 20th level. The character with the bonus might be 19th instead of 18th. At that point the advantage is quite utterly insignificant and has taken nearly 20 levels to accomplish. This just isn't a benefit of any substance whatsoever.
    Last edited by D+1; 2021-03-07 at 11:04 AM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by D+1 View Post
    The only way to think of them having any usefulness as originally written is as a SETTING design tool, not as a tool for balancing character class/race choices. Since nobody ever does think of them as tools of setting design, they are again just BAD DESIGN. There is no fix for this except for individual DM's crying, "F this noise!" and redesigning this aspect of the game to do something that they want it to do and that it can be verified it actually does some good at doing.
    If I were going with a race-limited type of advancement (for example, the setting saying that dwarves could not cast more than 2nd level spells), I'd be inclined to develop a class that developed that. Dwarven wizards may be limited to 2nd level spells, but maybe they get more 1st and 2nd level spells than anyone else (because they focus all there efforts there). Or they get other skills to go along with it, since the human and elven wizards are slinging 4th level spells, and the dwarves need something to make it worthwhile to play one.
    The Cranky Gamer
    *It isn't realism, it's verisimilitude; the appearance of truth within the framework of the game.
    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
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    *The One Deck Engine: Gaming on a budget
    Avatar is from local user Mehangel
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  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    I'm actually very much considering to not have race as a mechanical element for my next campaign at all. All characters are simply using the Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Wizard classes as they are. No bells and whistles.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Starting with 3e, there have been no more level limits (other than the 20 level limit in 5e for All races/classes), no class limits, and all classes advance at the same XP rate. Would something like that work in an OSR game? I definitely want to drop any level limit, but keep some of the race/class limits. But if everyone advances at the same XP rate, demihumans would have an advantage due to their special abilities. I think giving an AS every 4 levels to humans and every 6 levels to demihumans isn't a bad way to go.

    Has anyone every played/used the Myth & Magic game? It was an attempt to build on 2e and add "modern" mechanics without going full 3e. It's actually kind of cool, and I wish it had been developed further. Anyway, M&M does much the same as 3e, but retains different XP progression for different classes. The whole game is kind of thought-provoking. "What if.."

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    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by paladinn View Post
    But if everyone advances at the same XP rate, demihumans would have an advantage due to their special abilities.
    That's actually untrue to a big degree. Only in a strict isolated experimental environment would it apply. Nothing that demi-human abilities provides will actually net a character WITHIN a PC party any more xp in 1E, for example. You get xp as a group for killing monsters, taking home cash and stuff that is sold for cash, and slightly lesser xp for keeping magic items rather than selling them for cash. But xp from all those sources is added together and THEN divided equally among PC's. +1 to hit with a bow as an elf doesn't give YOUR PC more xp unless your PC is actually adventuring alone compared to an essentially identical PC who is NOT adventuring alone. And then of course a PC adventuring alone should deserve more xp anyway because of the extremely magnified danger. Otherwise, the added ability to inflict damage, survive combat, find treasure, navigate the environment or WHATEVER... it all helps ALL the PC's in the party and doesn't bring specific xp awards to the individual PC using those abilities. Bonuses to saves against magic doesn't help a dwarf get more xp - unless that save manages to save the dwarf while other PC's are killed but never raised. And so on...

    It's possible some abilities would give the PC an advantage in a 2E campaign that strictly used individual xp awards (which is just more reason not to use individual xp awards...).

    In 1E/2E the classes are IMBALANCED. Balance is in no way actually significantly improved by each class having different progression tables because those tables DO NOT reliably adjust advancement pacing in any sane or sensible manner. Using a universal advancement table has LIMITED impact upon classes that normally would either advance VERY slowly, or VERY quickly at certain levels (and most classes that are noticeable in extreme pacing like that will actually reduce and even reverse that trend at other times). Ultimately, using a universal table in AD&D isn't any significant hardship for any players IME (yes, I've done it before). It's just something that adds more house-rules to an AD&D game.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by D+1 View Post
    That's actually untrue to a big degree. Only in a strict isolated experimental environment would it apply. Nothing that demi-human abilities provides will actually net a character WITHIN a PC party any more xp in 1E, for example. You get xp as a group for killing monsters, taking home cash and stuff that is sold for cash, and slightly lesser xp for keeping magic items rather than selling them for cash. But xp from all those sources is added together and THEN divided equally among PC's. +1 to hit with a bow as an elf doesn't give YOUR PC more xp unless your PC is actually adventuring alone compared to an essentially identical PC who is NOT adventuring alone. And then of course a PC adventuring alone should deserve more xp anyway because of the extremely magnified danger. Otherwise, the added ability to inflict damage, survive combat, find treasure, navigate the environment or WHATEVER... it all helps ALL the PC's in the party and doesn't bring specific xp awards to the individual PC using those abilities. Bonuses to saves against magic doesn't help a dwarf get more xp - unless that save manages to save the dwarf while other PC's are killed but never raised. And so on...

    It's possible some abilities would give the PC an advantage in a 2E campaign that strictly used individual xp awards (which is just more reason not to use individual xp awards...).

    In 1E/2E the classes are IMBALANCED. Balance is in no way actually significantly improved by each class having different progression tables because those tables DO NOT reliably adjust advancement pacing in any sane or sensible manner. Using a universal advancement table has LIMITED impact upon classes that normally would either advance VERY slowly, or VERY quickly at certain levels (and most classes that are noticeable in extreme pacing like that will actually reduce and even reverse that trend at other times). Ultimately, using a universal table in AD&D isn't any significant hardship for any players IME (yes, I've done it before). It's just something that adds more house-rules to an AD&D game.
    And yet, in B/X and BECMI, the demihuman benes were considered enough advantage that they were hampered both with XP taxes and with level limits. Are they that much more important than in 1e or 2e?

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    While many of the things in the older games that seem weird today have real reasons for their existence and actually serve a useful purpose within their own system (XP for gold, random encounters), I think in many areas the writers of these games had no clue what they are doing. Saving throws in particular seem to be completely random for all classes with no discernible patterns to be found anywhere. (And of course the completely backwards attack rolls and alignment.)

    Maybe they thought that the XP requirements for the various classes and bonus XP for ability scores were a balancing measure. But when you actually check it, it just doesn't.
    We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on very tall tower of other dwarves.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Demihuman Level Limits

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    While many of the things in the older games that seem weird today have real reasons for their existence and actually serve a useful purpose within their own system (XP for gold, random encounters), I think in many areas the writers of these games had no clue what they are doing. Saving throws in particular seem to be completely random for all classes with no discernible patterns to be found anywhere. (And of course the completely backwards attack rolls and alignment.)

    Maybe they thought that the XP requirements for the various classes and bonus XP for ability scores were a balancing measure. But when you actually check it, it just doesn't.
    Yea, verily

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