Friday, February 24, 2012

At What Level Do Your Campaigns Break Down?

It's been my gaming experience that (A)D&D starts to break down around name level. I suspect EGG knew that, and put in game reasons into character advancement to encourage the (semi)retirement of characters at that point.

What do I mean?

Once a character hits name level, they no longer roll a new Hit Die upon advancement. Depending on class, they get 1 to 3 Hit Points instead. That same handicap doesn't happen on the monster side (druids and monks are an exception, but their name levels are higher than other classes).

Upon reaching name level, characters are encouraged to settle down and build a stronghold, church lands, thieves guild, magic tower and the like. It's the only way most classes will get the followers indicated for attaining name level. The fact that there were little if any rules for PC owned lands and the running of such is a good indicator that it didn't happen much. (By the way, thank you to ACKS for giving us such rules).

So, figure most of the D&D rule sets and their clones work best to around level 10 before they start breaking down.

I suspect that LotFP Weird Fantasy breaks down earlier, possibly as early as level 5 or 6, in part due to the gradual removal of combat effectiveness of all classes but the fighter as level increases but also due to a dearth of magic.

Most D&D games and their clones assume PCs will gradually be accumulating magic items. Magic weapons and the like add to weapon damage (and increase the chance to hit) and wands and the like add to the spell casters combat effectiveness. These are pretty much absent in WF. Admittedly, WF also lacks most monstrous adversaries. Still, I suspect that Weird Fantasy encounters start turning into endless slugfests a few levels earlier than other OSR clones.

What is your experience? When does combat start to break down for you or do your campaigns even last that long? (I know many of mine never made it to name level)


  1. My campaigns, those that didn't end in a TPK, all come to a more or less natural end around name level.

    With ACKS, I'm thinking that might change, maybe with new PCs becoming vassals of the first PCs, who now rule domains and only adventure on occasion.

  2. it might be that Gary intuitively realized that things break down at or around name level... or perhaps unfortunately designed them to.

    I would not be shocked to find that the game behaves as intended around this level -- people were not encouraged to settle down because things stopped working right, but things stopped working right because people were encouraged to settle down and higher-level stuff was intended for NPCs.

  3. I'd say our games often break down around 6-8th, but that's probably more gamer ADD than anything. The few times we've gotten up to 10th+ it hasn't lasted long after that.

    I think the "domain" stuff can work, but it requires a shift in thinking and an investment in the campaign to get off the ground.

  4. I would think that LotFP would actually break down much later than other games because the power creep is slower. Having less emphasis on 'stock' monsters and having only the fighter gain attacks bonus would probably mean that you could play characters longer and to higher levels.

  5. except of course that they would be eaten by a grue...

  6. that slower power creep will lead to endless slugfests.

    WF will break down early if you run combat / encounter heavy games, less so if you play it more CoC style

  7. I've personally never had a campaign break down because of levels attained. Campaigns that I have participated in have always ended due to either circumstances or because people wanted to try something else. Most of them haven't gotten very high level though.

    I don't think a gradual power curve leads to endless slugfests, because PCs are not powerful enough to take much punishment. Like Todd, I think the PCs will just die in a combat heavy LotFP game if they stand and fight often enough.


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