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Advancement in M-W PbP

   
Advancement in M-W PbP

I'm curious how far some of the players and GM's on this site have been able to advance their characters in their PbP games here. To answer this fully please describe briefly which d20 system (past, future, D&D, etc), a little bit about the game, a little bit about the character and also what level the character started at and where they advanced to.

My preconceived notion is the majority of games with significant advancement (more than 3 levels where the characters gain ten levels or more during the course of the game) are hack-and-slash, monty haul style games with little fluff and story. I tend to think most games aren't long-lived enough due to GM/player retention issues (aka: RL) to have any significant amount of character advancement unless something is sacrificed, but I'm happy to be proven wrong and would welcome hearing about your characters, all grown up from their humble beginnings.

I've been playing in a PbP game on Tangled Web (we use MW sheets, and that's how I was introduced to this site) for almost two years now in a very plot- and roleplaying-intense urban semi-sandbox. I have advanced my neutral cleric of Norgorber (knowledge and trickery domains) from level 1 to 6, though granted, we use a really sped up experience system. Basically we have leveled up once each significant episode, which takes about 4-6 months to complete. The level of roleplaying involved was really slowing progression down, so the DM stopped tracking experience and just handed out levels at regular, significant intervals.

So I would say I have been able to advance, but you are right, we had to give something up: adherence to Pathfinder's normal experience progression. Also, we have miraculously not had any player retention issues. We have the same six players we started with, which has been amazing and almost completely unheard of.

In Cailano's Jade Regent Pathfinder AP, we've gone from level one to seven in the last eighteen months or so. That's certainly not what I'd call purely hack-n-slash.

I play in two games that are (one actually, one de facto--there's a guy who's been bumping a game to avoid archival for four years) the oldest games of their system on the site. One's a Star Wars SAGA game that's been going for about six years now; the other's a 4E game that's been going for four or five.

The SAGA game is mostly plot-driven and we tend to level about twice per year; the 4E game is probably the most beer-and-pretzels game I've ever played (we get fairly involved with dialogue, but it almost reads more like a parody comic than a serious game) and we've only leveled up four times.

We also gave up any semblance of XP some time ago in both games. XP just does not work on a PBP site, which is why I think that level-based systems actually do so well here.

I think that your preconceived notion is, quite frankly, pretty wrong. I've joined and watched die probably over a hundred games at this point; the only ones that tend to stick around are the ones where people genuinely enjoy playing their characters. If there's one thing that both of the long-runners I'm in have in common, it's that both games have their tongues planted firmly in their cheek. The SAGA one has its serious and dark moments, but those are counterbalanced by some fairly amusing joking around as well. So I think that a pure hack-and-slash game is going to die just as quickly as most super-serious "real" RPing games, and for the same reason: after a few months of dealing with them at least three or four times a week, they're just not fun.

I'm running a game that started (gosh!) over a year ago in Feb '14.
While I was initially a player, a lot of advancement stemmed from the GM's occasional "real life got in the way, here's some exp to say sorry" vanishing acts. After a couple of months it got a bit too much for him and I took over, we've been going ever since.

It's a Rogue Trader game and i generally give them experience every time there's been an IRL sessions's-worth of activity, as judged in a vague and subjective manner.
They're currently on Rogue Trader's equivalent of Level 2.

I run a pathfinder game that's been going for just over 3 years here on Mythweavers. Just like Tsuyoshikentsu, I gave up on trying to keep a numeric tally of XP long ago. A lot of the role-playing XP was so arbitrary anyway. Now I just keep track of encounters, and how hard they are for the party (not just combat, but ALL encounters). I rate the encounters by assigning a value of 1-4, which is based on how many resources the group had to use, the difficulty of skill checks involved, and just how generally difficult it was to complete. Many encounters get a 1 as they offer a minor obstacles for the party to overcome, but some get a 2 because they are more level appropriate, while 3's are reserved for really challenging encounters and 4's for near TPKs (neither of which have happened yet). I keep track of all the encounter scores, and when the party reaches the magic score of 13, they get a level, yay!

However, to recognize and promote character growth and development, I also award various statistical benefits after the party completes major and minor plot lines. This is usually additional traits or bonus feats (this is an E6 game, so I don't worry about giving players too many feats as they'll have a ton by the end anyway), and I make sure they reflect certain characteristics or behaviors that I've noticed the character engage in. As an example, when the party was facing the humongous ant queen as part of the end on one of the story arcs, our resident gnome (played by a certain King of the gnomes) interposed himself between her and his companions and held her off while they turned her into a arrow-filled pincushion, I awarded him the courageous trait which gives +2 to fear saves. Certainly not game-breaking, but I think it helps break up the space between levels, and rewards players for role-playing their characters.

So to get back to the question posed by Nautilus, in three years, the PCs have advanced about one level per year. The italics are because I don't use straight E6 but a variant I designed. So while they don't advance levels in the same way that most people are used to, for the purposes of this conversation each step can be considered a level up. One level per year, with other statistical improvements sprinkled in, and in a role-play heavy game that has its share of hacking and slashing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsuyoshikentsu View Post
I think that your preconceived notion is, quite frankly, pretty wrong.
Is it though? I'm not so sure you haven't just cited exceptions and called them rules. I also wouldn't call leveling twice in one year a 'significant' amount of progression. I mean, its not insignificant and its probably realistic for the game and rewarding enough to the players but I was referring to games where you start at level 1 and soar to much higher levels in a shorter time period. Simplified math says in your SAGA game level 20 would be attainable after about 10 years.

To be honest, me using the word significant to describe how often one levels up was not the most descriptive way to word it. Call it a placeholder for an intangible number, since I guess I'm not entirely sure what the norm is on here.

Agreed regarding enjoying playing ones character; I think this is vital to game longevity. Without that, why bother playing in that game? Most players have multiple other games they can shift their focus to if a character in one game gets dull / isn't fun to RP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammers View Post
It's a Rogue Trader game and i generally give them experience every time there's been an IRL sessions's-worth of activity, as judged in a vague and subjective manner.
Rogue Trader is d% not d20, isn't it? I appreciate your input and your points are relevant and a factor in d20 but I'm asking specifically about d20 progression here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doby View Post
So to get back to the question posed by Nautilus, in three years, the PCs have advanced about one level per year. The italics are because I don't use straight E6 but a variant I designed.
Pathfinder at its core is based heavily on d20, correct? I'm not sure what E6 is (that's why I mentioned d20 in my original post, its the only system I know) but the fact you redesigned it seems to indicate you 'sacrificed something' which I also mentioned in my original post.

Further, I think one level a year isn't really too significant either.

To everyone: Don't get me wrong - I think the amount and speed of progression mentioned by tsuyo and Doby makes sense, but I'm referring to games where characters are leveling up on the regular, and so gaining at least say ten levels through the course of the game. I see games advertising they will be taking players from 0 or 1st level up to epic levels if the game runs long enough. Does this really happen?

Yes, pathfinder is basically a reworked version of D&D 3.5. E6 is just a style of play that focuses on low levels, limiting level advancement to 6.

And I wasn't in any way saying you were wrong, in fact, I often wonder the same thing when I see ads for games promising to cover 10+ levels. My first thought is usually, "That game will be lucky to make it 6 months," followed by, "is the plan to gain a level every month or so?" I just figured I'd offer you my experience so you could to take whatever gems of wisdom from it that you wanted

Quote:
Originally Posted by nautilus_project
I'm referring to games where characters are leveling up on the regular, and so gaining at least say ten levels through the course of the game. I see games advertising they will be taking players from 0 or 1st level up to epic levels if the game runs long enough. Does this really happen?
I would say in direct answer, relatively few. Player burnout is the problem. People get bored, or distracted, etc, and just vanish without saying goodbye. In the d20 system, perhaps some of this comes from lack of advancement, stemming from the "slow" rate of play.

But is the rate of play actually that slow? It depends on where you're coming from. How long does it take to gain 10 levels? I would theorise that, the longer it would take you to gain 10 levels in your real-life games, the more likely you are to stick around in PbP.

For example:

In the games I run, playing once a month for example, I would expect my players to level maybe... three times a year? Maybe four? In that case, I would expect it to take about three years to gain 10 levels. I'm confident that if I had a game go three years on MW, the PCs could very well see that happen here, too. I personally find the levelling up rate in PbP is not that slow compared to my normal pace of play, because posting on a forum for a month is about equivalent to one good session around a table, which is how much I game. So it doesn't bug me, and I don't get bored/burned out waiting around for "something to happen."

But when I was 15-18, I was DMing for my friends almost every weekend, and we would blow through a whole campaign every year. This made PbP feel like a poor option for me back then, because it felt very slow, and I indeed burned out. But now that I'm 30, spending 5-10 minutes per game per day is just about right...

Long story short: I think MW probably has a lot of short-lived DMs and players who start, thinking it's a good way to get their game on when not sitting around a table. But it doesn't offer the speed of play that they're used to, so they quit. Amongst those of us who stick around, however, it is very likely that our games will go on to 10+ levels. So it's something of a bimodal distribution. If you're the kind of player who sticks around, and you join a game by someone that also sticks around, yes, you could see significant advancement. But if you're the kind that will burn out, or you join a game that will burn out, then no...

This suggests a graphic, and also indicates that I am getting way too into this:


All other things being equal (assuming an equal number of each category of person, for example), this would indicate that 75% of games will not last. But for those amongst that green 25% that intend to try, they can go the distance.

Duuuude, dat graphic doe! ;P

In all seriousness, thank you for the comments sir! Regarding the graphic, though a great reference you are only mostly right. In theory a non burnt-out GM can re-recruit and keep the game going. I feel a flowchart is in order.







 

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