Leveling the Party

During my last game as everyone’s favorite Dragonborn Rogue, J’hari Wrex, our group played for approximately 10 hours. As the session concluded around 3AM, I asked if we had enough experience to level up. My DM informed me that I just made it to Level 12, which made me quite happy. But then I learned that everyone else in the group during the session was already Level 12. I had no idea I was a level lower throughout the entire marathon session.

Given that it was 3AM and I had to drive home, I didn’t have the time to ponder the implications of not being at the same level as the rest of the party. In the following days, I reached out to our DM (AJ, who is also a player in my campaign and host for both games) and asked why I did not level up at the same time as everyone else. He has decided to link Experience Points (XP) to attendance and he plans to run the rest of the campaign with players within the group possibly being at different levels. I disagree with this approach for several reasons. As we discussed the topic in an email chain, I decided it would make a decent blog post. Since he recently started his own blog (the power of Iddy compels him!), I told him we should answer the following question in our own way:

Should DMs level up all members of the party at the same time in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition?

I’m firmly on the Yes side, and I will explain why below the fold. Either before or after you read my reasoning, check out my DM’s firm No answer at The Dungeon Maestro.

AJ and I did not read each other’s answer before posting our responses. And check out the rest of his blog for other good D&D commentary and information about his Ultimate Gaming Table.

Combat Balance

In communicating with AJ (my DM), he commented that previous editions handled experience differently than 4th Edition, and stated it was not uncommon for players of the same party to be at different levels. Since I have not played previous editions to a great extent, I really cannot comment on them. However, I can comment on my experiences with 4th Edition.

The level of players and monsters are based so much on the math behind the scenes. The encounter level XP budget is based on Party Level. There are clear guidelines for creating an encounter for six Level 12 PCs. But the guidelines are less clear (or even nonexistent) for creating an encounter for five Level 12 PCs and one Level 11 PC. Without realizing it in our last session, my Rogue was at a disadvantage in numerous statistics throughout the game, especially since it was the difference between the group being at a higher even level and me being behind at an odd level. A 1/2 Level modifier is added to most statistics for a PC at each even level, and since I was still at Level 11, I did not have the same 1/2 Level benefit as the rest of the party.

As a result, my Attack Bonus, Skills and four Defenses were all lower than they “should have been.” Compared to the rest of the party, I was playing the game with a permanent -1 penalty to many statistics and rolls. Some may not believe that a -1 penalty to the majority of rolls is a major deal, but that is a 5% higher chance of failure for the PC. If a player in the campaign is two or more levels lower, then the math becomes quite unfair. Not only does it hurt my character’s abilities, it also hampers the party since they rely on me as a Striker in combat. If I’m missing 5% more often, then it sucks for me (I don’t like to miss) but it also makes an encounter more challenging for the party since I’m not as effective. I have not yet found an adequate reason to punish a player with that type of penalty. But one possible reason to limit XP earned is if the player is not attending the game regularly.

Attendance

I will be the first to admit that I miss more sessions that other players in my group.  The majority of the games I miss are because I’m out of town and literally cannot be there for the game. It is not a dedication-to-the-game issue. My wife and I live far away from our families (about 1,200 miles in opposite directions) and we travel to visit them four or five times each year. Not to mention some non-family travel, other things like holidays and stuff that “just comes up.” I do not blow off sessions at the last minute, and my no-shows from the group are documented well in advance. But I respect the subject of attendance as a very big deal. Since I’m DM for one group, I know the importance of having a stable group of players that are reliable. Thankfully, I think both groups I’m in have that reliability.

I went back to the original Dungoen Master’s Guide to see if they present guidelines for handling absent players. Indeed, the DMG on page 121 reads as follows:

“The game works better in a lot of ways if you just assume that the characters all gain experience and advance levels at the same rate, even if their players miss a session. You don’t have to worry about players lagging behind the others, and the players who miss a session don’t feel like they’re less effective. D&D is a cooperative game, and it’s more fun when all the players are on a level playing field, able to make equal contributions to the group’s success . . .

The alternative, of course, is to give XP only to the characters who are present and who participate in each encounter . . . If a player misses a session, that character doesn’t get XP for the whole session. The result is that players who never miss a session get ahead of those who miss the occasional game, and eventually they wind up a level or more ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The DMG indicates the “games works better” is the party members are always at the same level. But is does leave room for DMs to emphasize attendance and for players who attend a session to earn more XP than players who miss a session. I realize that rewarding XP to all players – regardless of attendance – can set up a dynamic where players who attend each session get frustrated because they do all the work in the campaign but somebody that is only attending sporadically recieves the same rewards. I think it is important to reward players for being at the game compared to players who are missing sessions, but XP should not be one of those rewards.

Should missing players get the same XP?

First, I have other ways of rewarding players for attending the games and being invested in the campaign. The players who miss sessions are not involved in gold and magic item splits during treasure parcels. A player that misses the session may miss out on an item that they would really like to have for their character, but since they missed the session, they are out of luck. They also do not have the same amount of gold to shop with in the future (although GP in 4th Edition is another topic that bothers me, but I’ll save that for another day!). Second, I reward players in my campaign with +1 tokens for a variety of in-game deeds such as excellent roleplaying, “cool” moments and other displays of creativity and investment in the campaign. The players who miss sessions are not able to receive these benefits. I also give out rewards such as +1 tokens or Healing Surges for players that send me a journal from the PC’s perspective between sessions. Not to mention the players get the privilege to play in my campaign, which should be reward enough! Sorry, I slipped into The Angry DM mode there. ;-)

The final point I wish to make on the attendance issue is that it sets up a situation where a long-running group can have players with a wide range of levels. For instance, I am dedicated to our campaign but have to miss a few sessions during the year. As time advances, I might be two or more levels below those who never miss a gaming session. I demonstrated above that just a one-level difference can have a strong effect on the game.  The only way to balance that is to have easier monsters, but then the higher-level party members will not be tested. It would result in a great deal of unbalance in encounters.

Tracking Experience

I do not track XP in my campaign while DMing. I started off by keeping track of the party’s XP but realized a few things rather quickly. First, our group can only play once every two weeks (at most, see scheduling issues above) and the pace of progress was too slow for my tastes. It would take four years or more at that pace to finish a campaign from Level 1 through 30, and I simply do not want to wait that long. Second, I enjoy the fact that it is one less thing to worry about. I do not have to keep a separate page or file to document the XP earned by the party. I inform the party at the conclusion of a session, “As you recover from the last encounter, you begin to feel stronger. Level up!” The only downside I see in this system is that the group might feel shortchanged that they are not earning XP fast enough. But I am leveling the party faster than they would have otherwise “by the book,” so I don’t view this a problem.

My DM informed me that he would be using a modification to XP to “catch me up” to the group. If I fall below the level of the party, I would earn XP + 15% (or something like that) until I am at the same place as the party. This seems to be a fair compromise, but I do not see the point of spending the time to track and modify XP if the end result is the group will be at the same level anyway. It is good that I will not fall too far behind the rest of the party, but there will still be sessions when I’m playing with a penalty compared to everyone else. I’m not sure what holding me back from a level for a session or two accomplishes.

Summary

I level up all party members at the same time for two primary reasons. First, it makes my life much easier. I do not have to worry about the extra complication of dealing with players at multiple levels. In fact, I don’t even track XP and level up players when I want, which is always faster than they should be leveling according to the DMG. I have enough to worry about as a DM, so I’m perfectly fine “handwaving” the XP to keep the group moving along. Second, I think an unbalanced party can cause problems for the players in the group. It creates a fairness issue, and not only imposes a penalty on the player who a level lower, but also drags the entire party down and makes them less effective. I suggest you level all party members at the same time.

If you do have an issue with attendance, then that should be a separate discussion with your group and the specific players that tend to miss sessions most often. Find other rewards for the players who are present for the majority of games to keep them feeling invested.

I think our DM is quite fair with the players in our group. But this is one issue where we disagree. He has his reasons, and you should certainly read why he thinks rewarding XP based on attendance is a fine idea. We’re curious to learn where other DMs stand on the topic, and hope it generates some lively discussion.

EDIT: I have decided to turn off the Comments for this post. It was not an easy decision, and I very much thank everyone that stopped by to read the article and write their thoughts. I think the “for” and “against” positions were covered, but I do not want things to get personal or out of hand. I do not have the time to moderate every Comment, and I do not want something offensive to bother a loyal reader or someone casually viewing the site for the first time. Also, I think the discussion has reached a point where further back and forth will not be productive. Thank you for reading the article! I will have new articles up next week, and Comments remain open on the other articles.

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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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48 Responses to Leveling the Party

  1. Jeff Gupton says:

    As a player of *gulp* 30 years, and a DM for most of them, I agree that the party should be of equal level. I played many games in 3E where the party was uneven and as a player, I was constantly running around trying to help my “lesser” allies deal with monsters over their heads. As a DM I was constantly banging my head over building encounters that would challenge the higher level players, but wouldn’t completely devastate the lower ones. Now that I am a playtester DM, I need to have them all at the same level to make sure the encounters are balanced, so I might be a little biased there, but even in the “for fun” games we run, everyone levels up together.

    • Jeff Gupton says:

      PS- there are other ways to “punish” faulty attendance (and by that I mean the flake who is unreliable, not the ones who miss for something big, that is understandable). My personal favorite is to reward the players who are there with yummy, character specific treasure, and the “flakes” miss out. And when they do show up, they might get something nice, if they turn off their iPhone and pay attention! (yes, I speak of someone specific)

    • AJ says:

      Ok, devils advocate, or rather opposing view.
      First, it sounds like your DM wasn’t very good at Game Balance if your character had to compensate for his in ability to balance.
      Second, as a DM, there shouldn’t be a need to “bang your head”. If your players desparity is so vast, you should take a look at removing players who have fallen so far behind. They obviously aren’t showing up at all if level desparity is that far off. I’ve played for 30+ years, and I’ve never (ever) had a problem with a level desparity under 4. Regardless of edition.
      Lastly, as a playtesting DM, shouldn’t you also be testing offset levels? Designing for all players to be equal level is really only good for tournament type stuff.

      Just asking.

      • Jeff Gupton says:

        No, my DM was fine, but when you build an encounter with monsters of varying levels how do those monsters know to got to fight the lower players? If things are truly random during a fight, a lower level player can’t tell a higher level monster “Sorry, I think that guy over there was meant for me” and run away. (this was my 3E experiences) And as a player, I would be devastated to be told by a DM I could no longer play my character just because he distributed XP unevenly as in the older days of “GP=XP” and “You killed it, you gain it’s XP” that I remember, it’s not my fault the fighter jumped in all the time. Besides, if the only reason you are giving XP away differently is a punishment for absences, then that, in my experience and opinion, creates an “us against the DM” tension at the table that is way more destructive than missing players. As I said, there are more creative ways to punish flaky players, I’ve used them and received great results. And I know there are many different choices to building an encounter, but to me the logical way is to keep the players even so you can present monsters to all of them that are level appropriate. As for the playtesting, they didn’t test the Ford Pinto to be run at Datona so why would I test a level 6 adventure on players that aren’t level 6? It even says in the beginning of most of the adventures I’ve read :”This adventure is for X players of Y level”. Now in my 4E adventures, I include a section for scaling up or down the encounters, just in case, but I prefer to playtest with characters of the level that it was written for to see the baseline.

      • Sure, I would prefer to play with all things equal too. But you are correct in that, that is why scaling is modules. I remember GP=XP days. Not the best choice on WoTC’s part.
        But there are creative ways of adding in XP here and there.

  2. HEHEEH, First post! Beleive me though, when Krakus misses a game again, he’ll be in the same boat. =)

    Just as a note. The encounters which were run during the last session were set to a party of 5, (Scales of War is balanced to a party of 5 by default) at level 11. We had all 6 players present, 5 were level 12, and 1 was level 11. Ergo, you were not behind in the balance of the encounter itself. If anything the others were ahead.

    One trick I use as a DM, (DM TRICK SPOILER) is in the presence of adjustement offsets, such as the one that exist at even levels in 4E; is to modify the mob when in the face of the lower level opponent or boost it in the presence of the higher level opponent.

    For example, the two dragons the party faced were balanced for a level 11 party. You guys probably had no idea that one of the dragons had a plus 1 to hit any character, Except you. (the level 11 character). This sort of +1 / -1 adjustment is a very quick and easy method to balance level disparity when you have too. In this case I chose to keep the mobs at encounter level 11 (for the most part). I didn’t modify AC’s or area attacks. But the bite and claw on the green dragon (male) got +1 versus the level 12 party members in order to give the encounter a nudge upwards.

    And if I do say so,you guys sorta handled them pretty well for a running fight where your two charges were not able to charge all the time.

    Also, keep in mind that treasure splits and treasure in general don’t happen every session. Sometimes its simple just not feasable. You can’t split gems unless you are in town. We don’t always find magic items every session. There have been several occassions players have been absent, and missed nothing at all. What signal does that send?

    It’s not about trying to punish anyone, it’s about rewarding. It’s the DM’s job to keep the game balanced. It’s something that takes practice for sure. But it’s doable. DM’s have been doing it for 30 years, it’s not really anything new.

    • froth says:

      i hate loser power trip dms that pull this kind of crap. one dm did this on the vt so i just quit the game. what i get punished bc i have actual fn responsibilities sometimes? it should be enough that they dont get any gold or whatever that session. thats why the dm guide goes against it. it didnt matter so much in 1e; everyone has different to hit matrixes anyway. anyway op, sorry your dm is such a ********. its probably the only power he has in his real life

      • Really? that’s it? attack my manhood? I hate players who get their panties in a bunch because have to be equal to everything all the time.
        It’s not about having responsibility, it’s about taking responsibility. The DM guide also says that level disparity is probable too.
        If you read on, you’ll see it didn’t detract from game enjoyment.
        The session Iddy missed didn’t have gold, or treasure, it just happened that way.

    • Will says:

      I’m sorry but I think you’re just wrong here. You say the rest of the party was ahead of the curve, but that doesn’t hold water. 5/6 PCs are level 12, it’s a level 12 party. With a slightly less competent friend. You might have been running them through an adventure for level 11 but it doesn’t change the fact that EVERYONE else at the table has an edge over ID. You say it’s not a punishment, but you have made the game in some way less enjoyable for a player. Isn’t that a failure as a dungeon master? Is having a party member a level lower balance? I missed that in the DMG. That’s the stuff relevant here. The rest I’ll post on your blog.

      PS: ID I’ve been reading your blog for a while and it’s awesome. I check you once a day. Keep up the good work!

      • The Id DM says:

        The thing that sparked the dueling posts by AJ and I was the fact that I didn’t know I was down a level the entire session. Since I didn’t know, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game; I actually thought J’hari performed quite well during the evening. But it did leave me with some thoughts and we discussed it over a few emails. I’m equal to the party now so it may not come up as an “issue” for a while in the campaign.

        Thanks for checking out the blog! I really appreciate the support. I’ll keep cranking out articles as often as possible. I have some fun things in the works at the moment.

      • Compentence is not a product of level. It’s a product of the player. If you are calling Iddy less competent then I’d gladly say that’s not true.

        Let me turn your arguement on it’s head. Am I punishing one player, or rewarding 5?
        Why do you percieve players as having an Edge of ID? The game is players Vs. Monsters, not PVP. Seems like your aim is more about measuring Epeen Vs. your fellow players.

        I would say it’s not entirely your fault though, it’s been a product of 3rd edition and by proxy 4th edition has picked it up. Unqual XP tracks in first and second edition let us know things didn’t have to be equal. Once that was eliminated people began to measure themselves vs.other players. Optimization boards began to tell you how to measure up, and people ate it up. Game balance was not more about comparing characters than comparing parties to monsters.

        It’s the same equal mentality that got dodgeball taken out of school, because we can’t have losers. God forbid.

      • Will says:

        It won’t let me reply directly so this is replying to Dungeon Maestro @11:09 am.
        In a game like D&D a level gives you a quantifiable mechanical edge. In this case the rest of the part has:
        +1 To Hit, +1 To All Skills, +1 Defenses, +4-7 Hit points, +1 Utility Power, +1 Feat, +1 Retraining (Your Mileage May Vary here)

        It is possible for the party to hit targets ID couldn’t, make skills checks he couldn’t and have a mechanical advantage in terms of options in Combat. Mechanically that is an obvious edge. It’s not even abstract. It’s pretty obvious. Now while different roles have different jobs, and there are different expectations in combat. However universally a basic level of power and ability is measured by level. When I am a defender I want to be able to hold the line and keep the party safe. When I’m a leader I want to be able to heal the party and keep them going strong. When I’m a striker I want to be doing enough damage to take down our foes in step with the others (Or kill a monster in a single blow…). I want to pull my own weight and contribute. I think everyone in a party does. At a very basic level this is more difficult when you’re a level behind.

        Also I know you didn’t mean to, but you sound incredibly condescending there. Which isn’t called for. I’ve been running D&D for 15 years now and while I’ve played a lot of 3rd and a and 4th

      • Will says:

        I don’t know what happened to my comment there.

        I’ve played a lot of 3rd and 4th but I remember my wizard gaining levels slower then fighters and rogues. I also remember being glad I wasn’t a Multi-Class character. I’ve put my time in as it were. There is no need to talk down to me or excuse my lack of experience.

      • @ Will -
        Not going to say anything about condescending tones or we’d go round and round. Your stating your case, I’m stating mine. I don’t take anything you say or would say personal. So feel free to unleash. I’m fire proof! =)

        That being said, You are correct. a level 12 can (ALL things being equal) roll exactly 1 higher than a level 11….. However, all things are not equal. Hardlyever.

        The level 12 cleric will never match the level 11 rogues acrobatics, stealth, thievery, or damage. Not even a +1 will make that difference. If the party was made up of entirely rogues, you might have a case. But in this case, J’hari even lacking a +1 is still a more formidable fighter than the Cleric, or the Warlord.
        Besides it’s not like they were trying to hit 35+AC’s.

        In most cases, they were all hitting on natural 12-14′s. And in one fight it took 15′s to 20′s AND that’s only AC. They quickly figured out that attacking mobs reflex and will was much easier.

        In fact I happened to be there that night (i was DMing) and watched J’hari hit mobs time and time again, by taking running leaps off of cliffs and negating the falling damage with successful acrobatics. He definately won the cool award for the evening. He seemed just fine. In fact I don’t recall J’hari missing a mob by 1 the whole night. Despite his crippling disadvantage as you would have me believe. Which means the difference is nill. Cept for a feat he may have had, and possibly a power. But since he didn’t die, and since he wasn’t a boat anchor, and especially since he didn’t even notice. I would say the night was a success. =)

    • The Id DM says:

      The more I think about it, the more the -1/+1 adjustment doesn’t make sense to me. And increases my “Why bother juggling XP if you don’t have to” thoughts. I could see this causing more trouble than it’s worth.

      For instance, during the course of combat, the party narrows in on the number needed to hit a monster – a 23 misses but a 27 hits . . . ahh, a 25 misses . . . the AC must be 24.

      In your system, the AC would shift depending on who is attacking the creature. And that would get rather confusing to the party. It seems like a punishment to those that have attended the most sessions. I could see someone asking, “Hey, why is my attack missing on AC 25 but he was able to score a hit against AC 25?”

      Just too complicated for me. I see too many problems in the system.

      • Wrong, wrong, wrong, You couldn’t be more wrong. The AC of the mob didn’t change, doesn’t change, and never would change. I don’t know how I can make that more clear. You guys are making stuff up now. This isn’t complicated folks.

        MERP used a similar combat scenario, actually CoH uses this exact scenario under the Sidekick rules. Mobs attack those based on the targets level. Actually CoH even addresses mob defense based on attackers level as well. But that’s another ball of wax.

        Again, you never knew the difference, until you were told to level up.

  3. The Id DM says:

    froth,

    I edited your response to remove some of the language, but I’ll keep the rest of it. As I mentioned above, I don’t agree with the decision to reward XP based on attendance. However, I think it’s possible to have a conversation about the topic with labeling people and calling people names. I think my DM – who you so rudely bashed – runs good games. He posted his thoughts about why XP should be linked to attendance, and I think some of his reasons make sense given the fact that he has played multiple editions over 25+ years.

    I’m all for having a debate on this topic, but I’m not going to deal with people flaming a friend of mine. And the DMG does not go against it, as you said. It says both are viable options, although I agree it leans more toward leveling everyone in the party at once.

  4. froth says:

    hey man, its just my opinion. let me ask you this. if the dm cancels to you kick him in the groin? no, bc he probably doesnt expect to get punished when real life happens. but seriously, if you dont like my comments delete them, its just my opinion

    • Dude, you can flame me on my board. It’s cool, I can take it. I’m not going to bash you for your opinion. If you DM a game, DM how you want too. That’s cool, and I’ll play by your rules. Your game, your rules.

      As a DM, if I miss a bunch of game, not they won’t kick me in the jimmy. But I do run the risk of losing players. That goes with the territory. Bad DM’s lose players, period. If you don’t want to play in my game cuz I am old school on XP, that’s cool. Your choice. But to have never played in my game, and make that decision, well, just seems naive to me. But again, it’s yer call.

      I’m very happy playing in Iddy’s campaign where he runs equal XP. I still think our rogue who misses sessions is sneaking off and stealing things, but I let it roll into RP.
      It’s his session, his rules. period.

      • The Id DM says:

        J’hari is a rogue. Stealing is in the job description! So if I come back from a missed session and say, “Hey, I stole this awesome +4 Mace,” you’ll let me roleplay and keep that?! ;-)

      • Honestly, there’s nothing you could do to cheat, lie, or steal, I hadn’t seen done before or I couldn’t handle.

        If I don’t want you to have a +4 mace, you won’t have one. If I don’t want you to make a saving throw, you won’t. It’s the harsh truth inherant with every single D&D game ever played. You are always at the DM’s mercy.

        If you don’t want me to fly out of a river to escape a waterfall……. I can’t….(as witnessed last session)

  5. froth says:

    ill give you another example. i had a player miss a session bc he had to drive his daughter to visit her mom a few states away. its already a stressful situation, so what, when he gets back im gonna tell him he cant level with the rest of the party? please. see to me thats being a lame dm. i wouldnt dream of punishing someone bc they have to deal w real life bc i wouldnt want to be treated that way

    • I just answsered this question in my Blog. (one I had been waiting for actually).. the answer is “by missing a session you earn,,,,, a chance to make it up”. Solo sessions, XP for RP (our group uses emails inbetween gaming sessions). As for our little Rogue, he’s got a deep desire to uncover more of his mysterious past. What better than a solo session with “make up XP”?

      What you call punishment, I call opportunity. That’s the diference between a glass half empty and one half full.

  6. Justin Kutch says:

    @ Meastro – So what you’re saying is that your reward is simply cosmetic? Because if you’re scaling the monsters based on who they attack (and I assume who attacks them), you’re doing basically the same thing as keeping everyone’s level the same. “Whoo! I get a +1 to attack!” DM: “Yeah but the monster has a +1 AC vs your attacks because you’re higher level then that guy. That’s only fair” If you’re going to reward somebody – reward them.

    On top of that, you make the comment that DM’s have been balancing encounters to multiple levels for decades, so it’s nothing new. Then in that case, I’d say that Grappling rules have always been esoteric, so they didn’t need changed, right? Just because it’s been done one way for 30 years doesn’t make it the right way.

    • Sort of. But yer quote is innacurate. I didn’t scale the monsters defences at all.
      Only one of two dragons, and only its “basic” attacks. No encounter powers or rechargables.

      You’re taking a small sample, semi out of context. Granted, I can’t/won’t give you a play by play of the entire evenings session and what encounters I had on tap. So you don’t have any idea of what was planned as far as the nights events. So I won’t hold that against you.

      The short version is, everything was planned according to the entire party. (from a DM perspective). The basic overview is, I knew the parties levels and capabilities. (heck I know their characters better than some of them know their own). I planned the first encounter with the one small caveat, in order to mince up the party a bit. It’s a matter of time management really. I could make a level 11 encounter level 12, which due to terrain (more than anything) would cause a much greater problem for them. Or I could give one little dragon a circumstance bonus to his bite and claw attacks (since he’s the melee centric dragon). I chose the latter, quicker and easier. After all, isn’t quick and easy sort of the point of Equal XP? So don’t judge to harshly. =)

      They then had a skill challenge, which all of them completed. Even the level 11 rogue had no problem with it. (so that sorta nixes any idea about a skill disadvantage).

      Then they were going to be thrust into a fight soon after (no extended rest, that would test them pretty good). Sizing up the parties skill, I made no adjustment to that encounter at all. It was LEVEL 11! Not 12. The party had plenty to handle, and it wasn’t a cakewalk. The level 11 player didn’t complain it was too hard. And the level 12 players certainly didn’t complain it was too easy.

      It was the longest gaming session we had had in quite some time, and the immediate comments were about how much fun it was. So again I ask, what’s the problem?

      The important thing to note is, our level 11 rogue, had no idea he was a level behind. I think this is getting missed in the equation here.

      Conversely, just because they changed something after 30 years, doesn’t mean it’s the right way either. For the record, I’ve played grapplers since second edition; always a fun class to play, glad to meet a fellow grappler. But, overhauling the rules doesn’t = better game. I was doing flying dropkicks on quicklings in second edition with knockback effects… Why? because my DM was good! Nto because it was in the rules. It’s about the DM, not the rules. A 3rd edition grappling monk is pretty wicked, rivaling that of constrictors by level 2. Sometimes the mechanics of melee are right on target, sometimes they aren’t. But mechanics of melee is an entirely different subject.

      Take it easy

  7. Kilsek says:

    This is a classic issue of admin vs. earning things. In the case of 4e, with so much admin already to track, as much as I love the idea of players having to earn their stripes, the game just runs more smoothly with a balanced party.

    It’s a question of priorities and real-time opportunities to play D&D for me and my playgroups.

    Which brings me to the one thing I wish I could find is something to replace the whole special feeling of random XP awards from creativity or moments of greatness in a 4e XP-free system – something I really like about XP systems.

    Is it gold? Is it magic items? Is it action points? Milestones? Restored surges? Not sure yet.

    • Iddy came up with the +1 token, which is cool. (don’t shoot me Iddy), but honestly I usually toss them down for damage. Since I know it’ll get applied for sure. If I use it to attack and miss, it’s like having greatness wasted. It usually doesn’t make much of a difference on damage, but hey, I can say I used it.

      I too was a fan of the XP bonuses for kick ass play. Something I’m bringing back to my game, which is what sorta spawned this whole discussion.

      If you find something like that, that evokes the same “special feeling” I’d definately be all ears.

  8. Here’s my problem with this issue, using a situation in my game.

    I have a player who was unemployed but who managed to get a part time job but the result of that was that he would rarely be able to make the game. He was only able to show twice out of the last six months. Now he’s got a fulltime job and looks like he can play regularly again.

    In the meantime, the PCs have gained 5 levels over 2 campaigns (one ended). Should this player have to play a 1st level character when everyone else is playing 6th level characters?

    By your reasoning, yes.

    That, frankly, is bollocks.

    Why are we playing this game? To have fun. Unfortunately when you get to the age that we are at (late 30s), we have other responsibilities. By not allowing a player who has missed sessions to keep up means that their competence as characters is reduced. They hit less. They have less powers. Right now that’s only one level, but what if it was 3…or 5?

    “Too bad Joe. You missed six months of gaming because of you having to put food on your table, so you’re just going to have to suck it up and suffer. We wouldn’t want to be called Communists, now would we?”

  9. As an addendum, I should point out that I almost stopped reading the ‘No’ arguement at the ‘Communist’ label. Words have meaning and power, and with the drivel that is the political discourse these days, dropping labels like that regarding something that is supposed to be an enjoyable game is at best non-productive.

    This is a game, meant to provide enjoyment and fun. The cost of missing a session is that you don’t get to enjoy that session. You shouldn’t be taxed on top of that.

    • First, thanks for reading and posting.
      But if you’re going to try to quote my logic, don’t make stuff up… If a player missed six months, and everyone else is level 6; as I stated, he would
      “come in at the lowest level of the party”.
      Which is……… wait for it……. LEVEL 6. See how that works? Pretty neat huh? =)

      Besides If my buddy only showed twice out of 6 months, he’d be a “guest star” for the night and not factored into party strength.

      In fact I’ve done exactly this with one the guys from Id’s group. Twice over the last year he’s had a chance to sit in my game. Both times I simply had him roll a char of equal level and had him join in. He’s a guest for the night. He’s not expected to have an attendance, but he’s not expecting to get treasure either. See how that works?

      If you don’t like the communist label, /shurg, grow a sense of humor. I don’t know what else to say. It’s the web, it’s not personal.

      • Let me rephrase my argument then. Assume instead that we had already started the campaign, gotten to level 2 when Joe had to stop playing. When he’s available to come back, the PCs are level 7. From my reading of your reasoning, in that situation, he’s stuck at level 2.

        Yes, he has the opportunity to do solo stuff to catch up…but geez, that’s a LOT of solo stuff to expect him to go through.

        As for growing a sense of humor…I have a good one. It’s just that your ‘joke’ wasn’t very funny. You’re attempting (I assume) to convince your readers that you’re right in this. Labelling those who disagree with you Communists is not going to be very conducive to get them to listen.

      • Wrong. If Joe misses 6 months, (essentially) he’s not in your group regardless of his prior leveling. If he comes back and everyone else is level 7. Then I’d drop him right at the cusp of level 7. Essentially as if he’d just joined forthe first time.

        If he came back and you had a couple of 7′s and a couple of 6′s. I’d drop him at level 6. Welcome back Joe, lets roll.

        Catch up stuff is for someone who misses a session every once in a while. Not someone whose taken a 6 month sabaticle. (yes I know Joe had job issues, choose any word you like)

  10. The Id DM says:

    AJ, I’ve been reading so many comments on your site and mine that I thought I saw you say somewhere that the ACs shifted around based on the player. I guess you were only talking about attacks. Got it now.

    • It’s all good, just be careful not to miss quote me. Alot of that going on here. =)

      The whole point of the +1 to attack, was that as a DM I was wagering the fact that a 5% boost to the dragon which was melee centric would inflict 2-3 more hits on the primary damage absorbers. (Krakus, & Sierra) They caught Gilhad and J’hari once in the crossfire, but I don’t think it mattered as I don’t recall pulling off the double claw hit combo all night. When Krakus is sporting 35 AC it doesn’t much matter unless Stephen is over there rolling 2o’s. =) I was hoping to wear them down with those 2-3 hits to equal 1-2 surges. It’s not much, but with what’s comming, it’s a judgement call. Being a DM is about predicting what’s to come.

      I think it played well from a DM standpoint. Honestly it was something I would have done anyway. The encounter was set to level 11. But I knew the flying was going to throw you guys off yer normal tactic. Forrest wasn’t able to charge all night, which took some of the punch out of yer groups normal attack strength. But his ranged attacks played well.

  11. Marie says:

    “It’s not about having responsibility, it’s about taking responsibility” Thank you. I mean really…. Life happens, you miss XP. Once or twice won’t kill you and if you miss so much that you are that far behind, don’t play. Don’t expect to show up once every 3 months and get equal pay.

    • “Hey Joe, you hear that? We’ve been friends for 25 years, but you’ve had to work the last six months instead of playing. You obviously don’t have your priorities straight. Yes, I know that you can play now regularly, but you’re so far behind, tough luck.”

      If once or twice won’t kill you, once or twice also isn’t worth punishing the player either.

      • I think yer missing the point. Being there once or twice a month isn’t exactly being “in the group.” Doesn’t mean that Joe isn’t your friend/pal/lover. (who am I to judge) But for all intent and purpose, Joe wouldn’t be regular player.

        In fact if Joe were your friend at all, he’d be like “hey man, I just can’t commit to the regular group, could I just pop in on occassion?”

        I’ve had some guys sack up like that and that’s totally cool. Certainly they can play occasionally, we call them Cameo appearances. They don’t get XP, or treasure, and they can make a character each time if they want. No harm at all.

        If/when Joe returned to being a regular player, then Joe would get treasure/XP like everyone else.

  12. JSollars says:

    I have been running the current season of Encounters (Dark Legacy of Evard) at my local gaming store.

    The rules in the provided adventure explicitly state that all players should track xp individually based on attendance and they provide you with session tracking sheets for this purpose (and this is an official WotC product). This has resulted in the players at my table leveling up at different times during the season (you also track treasure and renown points individually), as some players have missed an occasional session. I can honestly say that not one player has complained nor has this resulted in the combats being too hard or too easy for any of the PC’s.

    In my estimation, the nature of the combat was more of a factor in the effectiveness of the various characters. Controllers are likely to be more effective against lots of minions, etc. even if they are one level lower than some of the other characters at the table.

    Encounters is more of a casual game and only runs for a short time before it wraps up and a new season begins, so obviously it is not the exact same as a long running home campaign. Just thought I would toss is out there.

  13. Jeff Gupton says:

    Wow, hot topic today, lol.

  14. Mr Iuz says:

    ID and his band of yahoos = completely wrong and whiny. I want experience for not experiencing anything. Metagaming at its worst. Boo hoo, I have to work and can not get experience. Be glad you have a job and stop crying about a game.

    Maestro = Correct on all counts. Sadly some of his players and their supporters are whiny bitches.

  15. The Id DM says:

    I thank everyone for their comments; I truly do. I appreciate that you all came over to the site to check out the article and write your thoughts. However, I am going to turn off the Comments for this thread now. I do not have time to moderate all the discussions going on, and I’d hate for readers to be offended. If you have any questions or concerns, then please contact me through email. Many thanks.

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