Character Progression and Game Balance

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damian
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Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by damian »

My Fantasy Grounds Castles & Crusades group are all now 6th Level (and the Rogue 7th).
They are currently engaged with the Red Hand of Doom (WoTC 3.5e product). At the start they were pretty well matched for the challenges but we're more than half way thru now and they are struggling big time in some of the encounters. Looking at it I think there are several factors:

1. C&C characters primarily advance thru treasure based XP and this (long) scenario is very light on treasure (actually the whole campaign has been pretty light on treasure but now its starting to bite I think). There are not many realistic places to increase the treasure at this stage.
2. It seems that these middle levels dont give the characters much in the way of advancement... eg the spell casters gain 1 L4 spell at each of Levels 7 and 8. Thats give or take 150,000xp to accumulate for only 2 spells. The other classes dont get much either...
3. Wands and Staves etc are typically not rechargeable.
4. The players have not accumulated too much in the way of magical treasure. The Wizard just burnt the last charge in his Wand of Fire. He still has some charges left in his Wand of MM. Most of their magic items are armour and melee weapons with most members also gaining a ring (water breathing, sustenance, protection).

I think the party are not outclassed so providing they defeat or neutralise the Ghost Lord I will level them up to 7 (8 for the Rogue).

Is what my party are experiencing quite a common experience? Am I being too stingy on magic items? Do you allow wands/staves to be recharged? Should they be swimming in rivers of gold to keep levels moving? Weve been playing for almost 2 years at 4+hrs once a fortnight....
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mmbutter
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by mmbutter »

Most wands can be recharged by casting the appropriate spell into it. And there is nothing saying you can't throw an extra side adventure or three in there to help them level up a bit before continuing.

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Aramis
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Aramis »

1. Level according to what suits the module, rather than the mechanical method in the book. It gets a bit tricky with multi classes and high XP (wizard) vs low XP (rogue). But level at whatever rate suits the adventure you want to run

2. Mid level casters seem to get a fair benefit for their XP, as do Paladins and Rangers, but fighters can feel a bit lacking at mid levels until they get their fabled 2nd attack at 10th. Allowing this benefit earlier (at say 7th level) or alowing 3 attacks every 2 rounds at 5th can act as a sufficient bridge.

Also, the Castle Keeper's Guide (CKG) offers all sorts of fun extras that can make PCs more potent. Things like Advantages, luck points, fate points etc.

Given that you are running a 3rd ed. module, allow PCs to attempt some 3e feats with a SIEGE check (things like cleave or power attack). Some of these are also available as advantages in the CKG.


3. My understanding is wands are recharged simply by casting the relevant spell back into the wand. Perhaps that is only a CKG rule?

4. I don't know the module (even though I own it). Generally, I would stick with the treasure as given. But in 3e, wasn't buying magic items fairly common? So that might be part of the assumption of the module and why magic is lacking.

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Captain_K »

You control experience points and levels, need them to level, level... don't think of this as accounting.. just my two cents... I hear all sorts of "ways to burn cash""" so no cash, no burn needed, but level needs to move based on something... so you decide, but don't let accounting hold back the fun. If the adventure is good but treasure and $$ light and it fits, let it be and make it up in other ways.
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Treebore »

Yes, it is a common problem with adventures published for 3E and later.

I handle it by scaling the challenge level to the party, not keep it at how the module has it. I also tone down the 3E/4E NPC's and monsters, because they usually have really high attributes, lots of HP, high AC, etc...

Another option is to add fill in adventures that are smaller in scope but still fit within the framework of the main adventures. Since your running Red Hand of Doom, this is pretty easy to do. This gives the opportunity to gain loot and advance in levels a bit faster, and for you to get more helpful magic items into their hands.

Another option is to simply level the party as the module recommends, rather than worry about actual XP earned.

Still, be sure not to make things too easy for them. If it is the main encounters giving them trouble, that is appropriate. The main encounters are supposed to be challenging. If the lesser minions are pushing them to their limits, then yes, change things. Do things like I mentioned above, decrease numbers encountered, etc...

As for recharging, there are rules for doing so in the treasure section of the Monsters and Treasure book.
Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
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damian
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by damian »

Thank you guys (2 more posts while i was writing this). Lots of things to consider. Lots of good ideas.

Regarding Wands - in the M&T it states:
WANDS
Unless listed otherwise below a wand is a thin baton that contains a single spell of 9th level or lower. Each wand has 50 charges when created, and each charge expended allows the user to use the wand’s spell one time. A wand that runs out of charges is just a non–magical stick.
And I cant find anything regarding recharging in the CKG either.

Regarding Leveling - for the most part I have been assigning appropriate amounts of XP to level the party to where they need to be to face the challenge but that seems to be harder to do now with jumps of 30,000+ XP for L7 and then 70,000+ XP L8 when defeating foes gives much smaller amounts of XP. I will bump them when (if!) they defeat (unlikely) or neutralise (hopefully!) the Ghost Lord but that next jump seems improbable but I fear will be required.... I think 3.5e tends to level based more on the number of encounters/missions?

The treasure is sparse as the party are defending the (mostly) human mostly good people of the Elsir Vale (s cant plunder and steal their valuables) from the oncoming horde of the Red Hand which as an army they dont tend to carry much in teh way of treasure either. Even if the party do find a large cache of coin they must remain mobile as they are required to travel large distances regularly to try to delay and oppose this army. Perhaps more magical treasure items...

Due to the timing of the Hordes advance thru the Elsir Vale their is little time left for them to embark on side missions... they have twice now fought their way behind enemy lines to pursue a lead or advantage. Even now they are a along way to the West behind enemy lines and the Horde is but days away from laying siege to Brindol.

I did allow them to spend their previously accumulated wealth on defensive magical items (mainly armour) before beginning this part of the campaign.

I might have to offer them an additional skill or feat as you suggest along with finding a little more offensive magic...
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damian
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by damian »

Ooops - missed one of Trebores points. It is even some of the lead up fights that are challenging them. 6 BoneDrinkers and a Dire Lion almost took out my party of 7. Ranger, Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Rogue and Wizard.
Actually now that I think about it... In doing the conversion from 3.5e to C&C I may be making a fundamental mistake which is making this much harder for my players...
Im looking at the Monsters HP in the Sourcebook and they are always very high and then I look at the HD and think that those HD wont deliver those HP and I have been increasing the HD by 1 and sometimes even 2! This of course is increasing their likelihood of hitting the party by 10-40%.... Doh!. I guess that better be the first thing I stop doing. I mean, I want it to be hard - I want the party to find combat challenging and draining but maybe Im overdoing it... I like giving the party a tough battle and then following it up closely with what should be an easy one but because they have used their spells and taken many hits they struggle with the "easier" one.
I setup all the monsters at the start of the campaign so I havent even thought about this boost I had given many of them since...
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Aramis
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Aramis »

Sounds like you have it well in hand. Adding to monster HD does give a quadruple boost (hit points, to hit rolls, saves, and skill checks). instead of a HD boost give them a boost of 4 hp per HD you were going to add.

Give the rules on fate or luck points a look too. We find they really add a cinematic polish to the game. For that one or two rolls a session that the PC really has to make, having that bonus really helps.

The rules on recharging are on p 242 of the CKG. Not sure where they are in the M&T if they are in there too.

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Arduin »

damian wrote: 3. Wands and Staves etc are typically not rechargeable.
Why did you make this house rule by changing the rule in the M&T under Creating Unusual Items? "For items that require spell replenishment, the item is assumed to be able to absorb and store the spells. The caster must simply cast them into it."
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Treebore »

Arduin wrote:
damian wrote: 3. Wands and Staves etc are typically not rechargeable.
Why did you make this house rule by changing the rule in the M&T under Creating Unusual Items? "For items that require spell replenishment, the item is assumed to be able to absorb and store the spells. The caster must simply cast them into it."
As he stated, he never found it, since the Trolls put the relevant info in a completely unrelated area, since stock wands are NOT "unusual items".
Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
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damian
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by damian »

@Aramis - the other thing Ive been doing is changing the HD from d8s to d10s or even d12s - I could continue that but leave the number of HD as is.
Rookie mistake on my searches... Id been searching "charge" "recharge" and "wands". "recharging" would have found that one!
I will allow them to recharge I think...
Is Luck/Fate also in the CKG? I have several copies - but never really delved into it!

@Arduin - in the M&T under wands it specifically states that "A wand that runs out of charges is just a non–magical stick" and I didnt find anything to the contrary.

Thanks again all for your input and advice.
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Aramis »

damian wrote:@Aramis - the other thing Ive been doing is changing the HD from d8s to d10s or even d12s - I could continue that but leave the number of HD as is.
Rookie mistake on my searches... Id been searching "charge" "recharge" and "wands". "recharging" would have found that one!
I will allow them to recharge I think...
Is Luck/Fate also in the CKG? I have several copies - but never really delved into it!

@Arduin - in the M&T under wands it specifically states that "A wand that runs out of charges is just a non–magical stick" and I didnt find anything to the contrary.

Thanks again all for your input and advice.
Yes. Luck and fate is in the CKG. I think luck is a handful of points each session which you can add to your various rolls. So when the fighter really needs to make that non prime save vs hold person, he adds his 5 points before the roll(or whatever amount he wants from his pool for the session) and hopefully makes the save. Whereas fate is a number of points gained as you level, and they can be used to buy various bonuses. I.e. a natural 20 when you really need it would cost 2 points or something. These tend to be more powerful, but unlike luck points , you don't get a new pool for every session. You spend your fate points and they are permanently gone.

This does tend to smooth out the high variability of C&Cs system, especially non prime rolls. It also produces a more cinematic game because those occasions where the player has to make a roll for a SIEGE check or a save for something to work tend to work. It also makes things a bit easier for the players. So it depends how gritty vs cinematic you want it

I wouldn't change too much all at once though. Make a tweak, see how it plays. Make another tweak, see how that works. But for the love of Crom, let the wizard start recharging his wand! :lol:

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Arduin »

damian wrote:
@Arduin - in the M&T under wands it specifically states that "A wand that runs out of charges is just a non–magical stick" and I didnt find anything to the contrary.

Thanks again all for your input and advice.
Correct. Like a wizard who has no memorized spells is just like a regular human. Read the rule I quoted for charged items. That is the rule. Otherwise you are house ruling that wands can't be recharged.
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Arduin »

Treebore wrote: As he stated, he never found it, since the Trolls put the relevant info in a completely unrelated area, since stock wands are NOT "unusual items".
Yes. One must read he ENTIRE magic item creation section in the book. Reading snipets doesn't work out well. Stock wands ARE items that require spell replenishment. Most people I find don't and thus don't understand what magic items are in C&C. The rule in C&C is different than most other games.
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Kayolan »

I've been running a game of C&C using a 3.5 product and the way I've been handling it is this:

1. I follow these guidelines as closely as possible: http://dnd-realm.blogspot.com/2010/03/c ... sades.html

2. I have converted the C&C XP tables to d20 (a no compromise conversion, so each class levels at the same variance as in C&C).

3. I allow clerics to have spell domains based on their deity/faith/etc.

4. I use hero and luck points.

5. I add secondary skills and advantages from the CKG.

6. I give XP for traps encountered and award XP as per the d20 system for monsters as well. I also award XP for goals attained and ingenious ideas/good role playing. This makes treasure for XP a non issue.

These methods have worked very well for me so far. YMMV

Also, check out the Crusader's Companion if you haven't already. I've found it very useful in conversion, especially with all the d20 spells in there that didn't make it into the PHB. There are a lot of other useful bits in that book, like the sorcerer class (among many others), demons & devils, more equipment items, etc.

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Captain_K »

Luck and fate points have become great adds to our games. That said, Fate cannot be cheated, add all you want to a 1 and bad things happen!

We also use a greatly simplified exp points system, points are awarded per game, no tracking for monsters, gold, MI or anything, simply events and player specific bonus and done.. then it matters not any of the worries you stated. If interested the simplified table is on the second page of Crusades "9th Hours Social Diversion Society".. I got to learn how to make a link!
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by serleran »

If you used AD&D modules, treasure would be the first of your "problems." Too much of it!

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Captain_K »

Luck and Hero points in the CKG.. slight error there
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by damian »

Thank you all. Plenty of things to try out there.
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Captain_K »

Simplified Method for tracking nightly games without treasure and such..
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Arduin »

serleran wrote:If you used AD&D modules, treasure would be the first of your "problems." Too much of it!
True.
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Traveller »

There was too much treasure because the DM didn't do their job. Three things off the top of my head that the DM is supposed to be doing is to enforce training costs, tithes, and equipment replacement and maintenance. Don't forget that henchmen have to be paid as well or they walk, and the DM should be adjusting the treasure rewards downward if need be. The end result is to entice the adventurers to continue adventuring.

C&C is no better or worse in that regard, which is why I take 25% off the top for training and require players to spend money to earn experience.

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by damian »

@Arduin, @Travller - there has never been a problem of too much treasure :) I havent used training costs etc but the players have 1. never had a whole lot of coin and 2. theyve only ever really had one opportunity to spend those ill gotten gains on anything special.
@Captain_K - I know its the simplified table - it even says so - but Im not sure how Im supposed to read it!
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Captain_K »

Sorry some explanation required. It's in another thread someplace but in summary here is why and how we use this system:
Why: We play for 4 hours once per month, all new paper RPG players, all younger.. to avoid paperwork and non-play efforts (which half do not want to do at all) I simply set a goal of one level every 6 months or so with a goal of moving characters along nicely over years...We've all agreed this is fun and interesting and that is after all why we're doing this, we are not frustrated accountants wanting to keep track of each point of EXP or value of coppers. This simple system avoids tracking EXP based on each monster and its HPs, further there are no awards for treasure, or MIs. Just simple points to keep characters where they need to be and moving forward at a pace that will not have them wishing that their 5th lvl Ranger has not leveled up in two calendar years....
What is it: The top table is just the EXP tables from the PH right next to each other with a few multi-class and class-and-a-half examples ("JD" is just a unique NPC class-and-a-half). There is a numeric average in there and I attempted to order them from on average lowest to highest in EXP costs. Having all classes lined up like this helps keep things in perspective. The second, or bottom, table is just these same PH numbers reduced for our brains to wrap around easier. It is the top table divided by 200 and rounded to the nearest 1/4 point. At a glance this lets you see how the classes rank and who would normally be ahead of who.
How to use: 1) The column "Nightly EXP" is the guide to the CK for the amount of EXP points to award for a typical night of encounters, puzzles solved, roll play, treasure, etc. This value must change with average group experience level to follow the classic "doubling" experience tables and keep multi-class one level behind and rogues one level above. Ex. Our group has played three games and on average are 4th lvl so for a good night each PC gets 7 EXP pts (give or take, again the CK decides).
2) The "6 game award" is just the Nightly number x6 to let you glance and see after 6 games which class level should be advancing. Again, this number was set by us for our length of game play and desired rate of advancement. Many CK simply level folks up at key points in story lines and keep class balance as they see fit (these tables might actually help with that style). As this group nears its 6th adventure at 4th lvl that award starts to shift toward 14 and by the 8th night it would be 14 because many of the classes would have leveled up and start to become on average a 5th lvl. group. This system has worked surprisingly well and each PC just prints out the table and trims it to size and sticks it in their book.
3) To allow for individual awards by the CK for great acts of roll playing, or some other important deed, there is the suggested "nightly Bonus EXP". Our group also has nightly group voted bonuses for "best roll playing", "most heroic", "most amazingly unlucky/stupid", etc.
In the end, this simplified system is still the core rules system in a reduced manner. We find it reduces time spent working lots of little numbers for all of us. Plus we choose to let MIs and treasure come and go for their own sake to be "made or lost" for their own reasons. As the CK I find this simple and within my memory grasp without book keeping much of anything.
The workings: This is just an excel table so it can be expanded and special class EXP can always be added, if your interested drop me a PM and I'll just email it to you.

I hope that explains it, let me know if I need to clarify any points. Capt K
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by Lord Dynel »

I agree with what Treebore said a little upthread. I've run RHoD with a 3.5 group, and found that the longer the PCs went, the easier the challenges got. While I haven't run it for a C&C group, I have run the Sunless Citadel, Forge of Fury, and The Speaker in Dreams (as well as a few Dungeon adventures) for a C&C group and I found similar results as you did, damian - the middle levels were a bit tougher for C&C characters. I think it has to do with the treasure-for-XP as you mentioned, and also the encounter design. Meaning, if careful consideration isn't given and encounter aren't adjusted, then challenge issues.

With no rhyme or reason, I've gone to adjusting the encounters of 3.x adventures by 0.75 (rounding down) and taking out challenges as necessary. If an encounter is supposed to have a EL of 5, I multiply it by 0.75 and the round it down to 3, then take out or weaken monsters (if a single encounter) as appropriate. It leaves the encounter a bit challenging, but nothing too dangerous. It's not scientific, but it's been mostly successful for me.

I haven't had this problem with earlier editions, for obvious reasons. :)
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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

Post by koralas »

damian wrote:2. It seems that these middle levels dont give the characters much in the way of advancement... eg the spell casters gain 1 L4 spell at each of Levels 7 and 8. Thats give or take 150,000xp to accumulate for only 2 spells. The other classes dont get much either...
That is incorrect. At 7th level you add your first 4th level spell, this is a net new spell level. At 8th level you gain an additional 3rd and 4th level spell. While, yes, that is only three spells, it is 11 spell levels. Consider at 6th level they have a total of 16 spell levels, an increase of 68.8% in spell levels with those two character levels. Clerics & Druids gain a 1st and 4th level spell at 7th, and a 3rd and 4th at 8th level for 12 new spell levels, at 6th level they have 15 spell levels, so they gain 80% of their previous spell levels at those two character levels. That is quite a bit of additional power.

Illusionists also improve their Sharp Senses, and the Druid gains additional Totem Shapes Also don't forget the 10% increase on Prime attribute checks, though all characters will get that benefit. Clerics and Druids will also increase their BaB at 8th level.

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Re: Character Progression and Game Balance

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damian wrote:@Arduin, @Travller - there has never been a problem of too much treasure :)
Spoken like a pirate! :D
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