Varied Power Levels within a Party

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Varied Power Levels within a Party

Post by adaen »

One item that is if interest to me (and hopefully others) is the use of varied power levels within a party.

For example, a party of nine that consists of a L20 wizard/druid, a L15 Human Ranger, a L12 Human Fighter, a L10 Elven Bard, a L10 Dwarven Fighter, and three L3 Hobbit Rogues, and a L5 Hobbit Noble. I think you see where I'm going with this.

Fantasy literature is littered with scenarios in which the group of protagonists are not all approximately equal in power. Has anyone made this work in C&C? Did you make modifications to the system to faciliate/enable scenarios of this sort? I'm assuming there would need to be some...perhaps associated with further strengthening niche protection or some other meta-game constructs.

Any thoughts on this or better yet experience as to what did and did not work?

Thanks.

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Post by Deogolf »

I've never made any exceptions or protections for a group. Such is the life of an adventurer. If he or she goes into a place that is too tough, don't go in there! If you die, you made a bad decision.

Catering to the group makes for bad/boring gaming in my book. Where is the sense of danger and excitement if you know you're not going to perish. A little fear never hurt an adventurer!!
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Post by adaen »

Deogolf wrote:
I've never made any exceptions or protections for a group. Such is the life of an adventurer. If he or she goes into a place that is too tough, don't go in there! If you die, you made a bad decision.

Catering to the group makes for bad/boring gaming in my book. Where is the sense of danger and excitement if you know you're not going to perish. A little fear never hurt an adventurer!!

Well, I'm not sure I agree with you in all instances. I think it depend upon your gaming agenda. As written, most games do not facilitate playing in a Lord of the Rings type campaign because the hobbits all get slaughtered if they do anything other than cower. That being said, I'm not sure that you understood what I meant by niche protection.

I'm referring to the idea that within a group of (player) characters, each character should have a primary role to play (e.g., the fighter fights, the noble leads, the thief is stealthy, the wizard casts big offensive spells, the cleric casts big defensive spells, or whatever). Strong niche protection would prevent any characters secondary ability from trumping another characters primary ability.

Eg, The Fighter with DEX as a prime shouldn't be stealthier than the Thief (even if the Fighter is 10th level and the Thief is only 4th). Otherwise, it isn't as much fun playing the Thief.

The use of character classes in a game helps protect niches. Skill based systems (w/o classes) tend to allow bleed over between niches. This is not inherently bad, but it does tend to preclude a Lord of the Rings type game.

Do you see what I mean?

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Post by serleran »

Methinks you're being too generous with the levels of said individuals... but, C&C works with level discrepancy. Encourages it, in fact. Look at the XP charts.

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Post by gideon_thorne »

Any character of any level can survive in any situation if the player learns to play to the characters strengths and the weakness of the opposition. Thats just good strategy. As is avoiding facing overwhelming odds.

Mixing up the levels is no different really. Its all about preparing the ground for maximum benefit. A low level hero tends to have a psychological edge over a high level villain. To take the example of LOTR as offered, Sauron badly underestimated what a simple hobbit could accomplish.

Thats key right there. Running villains appropriately complete with overwhelming megalomania.
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Post by adaen »

serleran wrote:
Methinks you're being too generous with the levels of said individuals... but, C&C works with level discrepancy. Encourages it, in fact. Look at the XP charts.

The levels were just (for example).
I'm not sure how C&C encourages it. I remember AD&D 1E not being very friendly to very disparate groups (in terms of power levels), though it is better than D&D 3E with that regard.

Your position is that it can be run out of the box with a mixed level party?

If everyone got to pick one of the LotR characters at the levels I described, who would pick Pippin? Perhaps that question isn't enirely fair, but I think it gives you an idea of what I'm looking to do....to make selecting Pippin over Gimli or Aragorn be a (somewhat) viable option.

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Post by adaen »

gideon_thorne wrote:
Any character of any level can survive in any situation if the player learns to play to the characters strengths and the weakness of the opposition. Thats just good strategy. As is avoiding facing overwhelming odds.

Mixing up the levels is no different really. Its all about preparing the ground for maximum benefit. A low level hero tends to have a psychological edge over a high level villain. To take the example of LOTR as offered, Sauron badly underestimated what a simple hobbit could accomplish.

Thats key right there. Running villains appropriately complete with overwhelming megalomania.

These are good points and I can't say I disagree entirely with any of them. I am looking for tweaks that foster the fun of the scenario I've described. In which it is still fun to play Pippin even though the other player got Aragorn.

I think C&C can handle it. I'm looking to see how it worked for people and exploring ideas to bolt on to the main system to facilitate the LotR scenario.

Thanks.

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Post by Treebore »

The opposition needs to be as mixed as the party is.

In LotR the powerful guys knew who they needed to handle and the hobbits learned what they could handle, plus it helped to have mithril shirts of invulernability.

So the dynamic needs to be the high level members of the party draw the attacks of the powerful opponents, and the lower levels square off against each other.

So as long as you don't have a mixed level party fight only lvl 16 Orcs, it can work out.
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Post by Omote »

I have run a few times with characters of differing party levels. The most recent was a 8th level ranger with a 3rd level fighter. There is a big power difference as one might assume, but when put into a situation where the fighter was outclassed by the monsters, I made a spot call and imposed a penalty to hit and damage. The penalty was essentially based on average party level MINUS the fighter's actual level. The difference was the penalty to hit and to damage.

Example:

Ranger - Lvl 8

Cleric Lvl 7

Wizard Lvl 6

Bard Lvl 6

Fighter Lvl 3

8+7+6+6+3 = 30 Total party levels.

30 / 5 = 6 (average party level)

Fighter's actual level 3. 3 - 6 = -3 (the penalty for enemies to hit and damage the fighter who is of lower level.)

It seemed to work for the most part.

-O
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Post by adaen »

Omote wrote:
I have run a few times with characters of differing party levels. The most recent was a 8th level ranger with a 3rd level warrior. There is a big power difference as one might assume, but when put into a situation where the fighter was outclassed by the mosnters, I made a spot call and imposed apenalty to hit and damage. The penalty was essentially based on average party level MINUS the fighter's actual level. The difference was the penalty to hit and to damage.

-O

Now that is what I'm talking about. Things like this won't work for everyone (as people's taste vary), but it is good to know that these things are in the toolkit for C&C. Thanks, that was a great suggestion. Anyone else?

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Post by Fizz »

I think varied levels works best (for the players anyways) if they don't step into each others' strengths. That is- substantially different classes. Then each character has his own places to shine where the others can't.

IE, a low level rogue is better at disarming that trap than the high level fighter.
Quote:
Eg, The Fighter with DEX as a prime shouldn't be stealthier than the Thief (even if the Fighter is 10th level and the Thief is only 4th). Otherwise, it isn't as much fun playing the Thief.

Now, if you ask Serl (or maybe if you don't ), the rogue is ALWAYS better at thiefy things than the fighter. The fighter might be able to move quietly, but the rogue will move completely silently, even if the odds of success are different. The rogue's best effort is always better than the fighter's best effort.

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Post by serleran »

Quote:
Now, if you ask Serl (or maybe if you don't Smile ), the rogue is ALWAYS better at thiefy things than the fighter.

That ain't no opinion; that's rules as written.

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Post by DangerDwarf »

serleran wrote:
That ain't no opinion; that's rules as written.

Undoubtedly true.

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Post by Maliki »

Omote wrote:
I have run a few times with characters of differing party levels. The most recent was a 8th level ranger with a 3rd level warrior. There is a big power difference as one might assume, but when put into a situation where the fighter was outclassed by the mosnters, I made a spot call and imposed apenalty to hit and damage. The penalty was essentially based on average party level MINUS the fighter's actual level. The difference was the penalty to hit and to damage.

Example:

Ranger - Lvl 8

Cleric Lvl 7

Wizard Lvl 6

Bard Lvl 6

Fighter Lvl 3

8+7+6+6+3 = 30 Total party levels.

30 / 5 = 6 (average party level)

Fighter's actual level 3. 3 - 6 = -3 (the penalty for enemies to hit and damage the fighter who is of lower level.

It seemed to work for the most part.

-O

I like this, the next time I have big gaps in the levels of PCs, I'll give this a try.
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Post by Deogolf »

I guess I'm just a mean bastard!
The way I look at it is this - if you're a lower level character running around with higher level muckey-mucks, you better watch out! You are going to run into things that are waaaay out of your league. Most parties are smart enough to not let you hang out in the open to get plugged. If you were first or second level, would you want to join a group going into the TOMB OF HORRORS - nyet! Be smart about where you go and who you are with!
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Post by adaen »

Deogolf wrote:
I guess I'm just a mean bastard!
The way I look at it is this - if you're a lower level character running around with higher level muckey-mucks, you better watch out!

Nah, you're not mean. we are just talking about a different creative agenda at work in gaming. Some view the game as first and foremost a game...with all that implies. Others view it as a creative story telling exercise. Still others a chance to experience being someone else and behave exactly as their character would. All of these are valid reasons to play and most people play for a pleasant mix of them. The thing of which to be mindful is the degree of importance we place on things in our games.

And to be honest, I've enjoyed games that demand high degrees of tactical skill and are very unforgiving of "stupid mistakes by the players or poor communication by the GM" and games in which the "letter of the rules is bent for the greater good of the story (e.g., If it is less interesting for Sir Percival to die right now than live, he doesn't die...no matter what the dice say). So even for a single player, it can vary wildly. The important thing is to define the creative agenda and styles of play as much as possible so that everybody gets the gaming fix for which they came looking.

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Post by Montague »

Deogolf wrote:
I guess I'm just a mean bastard!
The way I look at it is this - if you're a lower level character running around with higher level muckey-mucks, you better watch out! You are going to run into things that are waaaay out of your league. Most parties are smart enough to not let you hang out in the open to get plugged. If you were first or second level, would you want to join a group going into the TOMB OF HORRORS - nyet! Be smart about where you go and who you are with!

Not sure I agree with the bolded part heh
If I were in this situation as a DM I would take the LOTR metaphor a step further and give the low-level character some sort of McGuffin. Not only does the lowbie have to be very careful, but the higher-levels need to actively protect him or them for some reason. Depending on the circumstances that arose to bring about that situation, I'd be more inclined to work on a metagame solution to the problem, such as giving the high-level characters an incentive to send a follower or henchman of appropriate level in their place. Unless of course the low-level players are looking forward to the challenge then by all means I'll accomodate them

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Metagame

Post by adaen »

Montague wrote:
(snip) Depending on the circumstances that arose to bring about that situation, I'd be more inclined to work on a metagame solution to the problem, such as giving the high-level characters an incentive to send a follower or henchman of appropriate level in their place. Unless of course the low-level players are looking forward to the challenge then by all means I'll accommodate them

Metagame : That is where I think the best solutions to the LotR scenarios are to be found. C&C is a system that is simple enough that allows for building these metagame structures along side or even right in the middle of the SiegeEngine. That really is a lot of the appeal (at least for me).

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Post by Omote »

But, why wouldn't varying levels of power adventure together? When recruiting a team to plumb the depths of the Tomb of Horrors, undoubtably you'd get a mix of adventurers. Not all of those adventurers would be of like experience!

-O
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Post by Deogolf »

Omote wrote:
But, why wouldn't varying levels of power adventure together? When recruiting a team to plumb the depths of the Tomb of Horrors, undoubtably you'd get a mix of adventurers. Not all of those adventurers would be of like experience!

-O

They do. I've often been in groups with varying degrees of expertise and character levels. I'm just saying, based on its legendary status and history of nasty death, most lower level characters would be smart to say, "Sorry, buddy! Maybe another time!" if asked to go along.

If I was low level, I know I would! (Hindsight is great!!!)
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Post by Omote »

How does one know they are "low level?" I'm a new adventurer who is a veteran of a war or two... but I'm only a 1st level fighter! Verteran of a few wars you say... I'll tackle that Tomb of Horror! Who gave it that name anyway, some pantywaste rogue who's never seen a single fight?!?!
-O
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Post by Treebore »

Omote wrote:
But, why wouldn't varying levels of power adventure together? When recruiting a team to plumb the depths of the Tomb of Horrors, undoubtably you'd get a mix of adventurers. Not all of those adventurers would be of like experience!

-O

It depends on the way a GM runs their game. In my games everyone starts at the same time, so they will have very close XP values.

When a PC dies I allow the player to create a new PC of the same XP's.

The only time I have anyone start at a lower level is when they are new to the group. Then they start at the next lower level, and at or near the bottom of that.

So in my games the level variance won't be very extreme. I would even consider it extreme at all.

I know of other GM's where they further punish player for their PC death by dropping them to the bottom of the next lowest level, etc... So I have seen games with 4 to 6 different levels between the PC's.
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Post by Omote »

Yeah, you're probably right. I'm kind of speaking from the context of a person who exists in the fantasy world. Every adventure would probably have a few members of vastly differing experience levels.

-O
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Post by adaen »

Deogolf wrote:
(snip) I'm just saying, based on its legendary status and history of nasty death, most lower level characters would be smart to say, "Sorry, buddy! Maybe another time!" if asked to go along.

If I was low level, I know I would! (Hindsight is great!!!)

You are undoubtedly right! That is exactly the problem. Assuming that LotR's was generated by a gaming campaign (can anyone else here JRRT rolling in his grave....get it Rolling! .....yeah, I'll burn for that one). Ahem, back to my premise: ssuming that LotR's was generated by a gaming campaign, if the players are smart, there would not have been any 2nd Level Hobbit rogues involved (much less at center stage).

The reason that great stories (novels, movies, etc.) are great is often because the protagonists defied the odds. We remember the stories because they were successful. Now statistically speaking there are probably a bunch of other stories that weren't told or remembered b/c the protagonists defied the odds....and failed. Being those guys does not make for a fun game.

I'm all about making the game fun. At the same time, I'd like to recreate the drama, the incredibleness of defying the odds, etc. of great stories. Those are the solutions I'm looking for.

Best,

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Post by serleran »

You could implement something called Hero Factor (trademark). Each important character, which would be each of the PCs, receives an ad hoc bonus directly proportional to level. Start it at 20 - level of creation. This bonus can be used as wanted, to a save, to damage, whatever, but once used, it is gone. So, if you have a 20th level wizard, he gets no further bonuses.... his awesomeness is that he's a 20th level wizard! But, that 1st level hobbit chicken-herder... well, he gets to modify anything he wants until he's used up 19 points.

Might want to limit the bonus to no more than level can be used at once.

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Post by adaen »

Treebore wrote:
(snip) I know of other GM's where they further punish player for their PC death by dropping them to the bottom of the next lowest level, etc... So I have seen games with 4 to 6 different levels between the PC's.

As an aside, there are some GM's that reward players for good character deaths. They give players more XPs which which to build their next character depending on how their character died. Were they true to their nature? Did they embody a campaign ideal (e.g., sacrifice, bravery, etc.)? Was the death especially dramatic as a result of how the character handled it. If a GM wants deaths like these (as opposed to just "Death due to Stupidity of Player"), they need to reward the players who provide them. C&C does not currently have that built in, but is flexible enough to accommodate it with ease.

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Post by adaen »

serleran wrote:
You could implement something called Hero Factor (trademark). Each important character, which would be each of the PCs, receives an ad hoc bonus directly proportional to level. Start it at 20 - level of creation. This bonus can be used as wanted, to a save, to damage, whatever, but once used, it is gone. So, if you have a 20th level wizard, he gets no further bonuses.... his awesomeness is that he's a 20th level wizard! But, that 1st level hobbit chicken-herder... well, he gets to modify anything he wants until he's used up 19 points.

Might want to limit the bonus to no more than level can be used at once.

Essentially, the old standby of Hero/Fate/Fortune Points. These definitely can help with that. I've seen some game designs of late that allow for replenishing points. The points are all "targeted" somehow. For e.g., each player picks three traits for their character such as "Will be Crowned King", "Will lead the people against Mordor", and "Defender of the Weak". Now anytime one of these things comes into play (directly), they are triggered and a point can be used.

Frodo might have "Fated to Destroy the Ring" (a broad one offset by his lower level), "Selfless", and "Compassionate"....these are off the top of my head.

Sam might have "Devouted to Frodo", "DEVOUTED TO FRODO DAMN IT" and "Good Hobbit-sense".

Gandalf might have "Sacrificing myself", "stirrer of men's hearts", "the guy behind the guy"

Does this resonate with anyone?

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Post by Beyondthebreach »

You can also try something more subtle than actual rules changes . . . which would be to give the higher level PCs active interest in looking out for the survival of the low level PCs.

In the LotR example, Gandalf, Aragorn and others had a top priority of protecting the hobbits. Likewise, in a C&C campaign, certain campaign/plot lines could be developed that made it in the best interests of the party to want the low level PC (PCs) to survive. The cleric might use up several spell slots and cast Aid on them before combat. Maybe the Wizard has to devote invisibility or levitate or fly to helping them out. Instead of charging, a fighter may have to hold back a guard the corridor so that the bid baddies can't have unimpeded access to the weaker members.

Magic items and especially potions can also be a key to success. Keep in mind that 4th level PCs adventuring with 12th level PCs are going to find some pretty potent magic items not commensurate with their level.

12th Level Fighter: " Ugh! Another Shield +3 and 30 +3 arrows . . . I don't even need them."

4th Level Ranger: "Ummm . . . I'll take those then! Do you need an extra share of gold?"

12th Level Fighter: "Nah. I've got a Keep, retinue of Men-at-arms, armory and about 200,000 gp lying around."

Finally, low-levels will rapidly advance as the XP they receive will also be out of proportion with what they normally might expect. All they need to do is survive a few adventures and they will be 8th level before they know it!

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Post by DangerDwarf »

Beyondthebreach wrote:
Finally, low-levels will rapidly advance as the XP they receive will also be out of proportion with what they normally might expect. All they need to do is survive a few adventures and they will be 8th level before they know it!

You are correct.

However, it does make me picture a 4th level fighter standing out on the Plains of Greyhawk and...
Goobur shouts, "Can some1 PoweLevel me plz?!?!"
Goobur invites you to join his group. Accept/Decline


Goobur tells you, "PL me plz?"
Goobur invites you to join his group. Accept/Decline
Goobur invites you to join his group. Accept/Decline
Goobur tells you, "Can u SoW?"
Goobur invites you to join his group. Accept/Decline
Goobur tells you, "SoW plz"
Goobur invites you to join his group. Accept/Decline

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Post by Omote »

DD... you make me sick with this style of gaming. But, as I am sickened I laugh out loud.

-O
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