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  1. #1
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    Low level syndrome in BR

    This was inspired partly by the discussions also had in the scion class question thread of mine, as well as the Portraying Bloodline thread.

    Here's something I have noticed from most of the posters in this forum:
    1. That most seem to agree that BR was designed as a campaign world that favours low level to mid-level play - high level tends to drastically alter the setting. Example - out of all printed material, the highest level "good guy" that comes to mind is Aelies. There are obviously a few Awnshegh that are vastly epic level, but most are in the mid to high level range, and thus, not too unbalancing.
    2. That the scion class, as well as other classes, are possibly disproportionate in balance, due to their effects on both low level, and later, high level, play (the rationale of losing some 9th level spells in order to have your scion class). This is due to setting specific material.
    3. Further to 2, due to the low magic setting, or, based on your view point of what "low magic" means (perhaps magic item rare, but again, there is disagreement) CR levels are altered substantially as compared to 3.5e, altering how challenges can be accurately assessed.
    4. Something I have brought up a bit before - at highest levels, D&D is designed for characters to singlehandedly annihilate armies (or even populaces!), thus making the BRCS system for war units... not the most effective. This doesn't even start including realm magic, but just say... repeated hammering of a place with meteor strikes, cloudkills and fireballs/delayed blast fireballs. Or a 20th level fighter who can mop the floor with 200 3rd level fighters as they kill 2 or 3 a round... and the 3rds can't even hit the 20th level fighter, except with 20s - If even...
    5. That by most gaming group's very nature, gaming past 12th level is rare, as groups tend to either become bored, fall apart, or, in BR, achieve many of their goals due to their abilities by that time (after all, even Darien Avan is only 12th level). Sure, they may not have fought the Gorgon, but Roesone sure is safe now from any of their enemies...

    Now. There are probably a few other reasons why low level syndrome is so prevalent in BR, as compared to say, high level FR, or that new-fangled Eberron thingie (which I have only read a bit about, so I could be talking out my ass). Perhaps even the old published material itself is to blame - there was really nothing published other than the Big G, plus a dragon or 2, that would easily map over as epic. And too many changes to the setting for this drastically alters the power balance. Sure, you could make almost all the domain rulers epic level instead, but if so, you would think things would be at least a bit more dynamic, and then, you really stomp on any new ruler's (often, the PCs) realistic chances.

    So. Here's a radical suggestion I am proposing, and something I will be trying to encourage in my next campaign. It's not something you see very often in 3e, or at least, in my games (so, bear with me, cuz I could be wrong).

    Rampant multi-classing. By encouraging this, the power level doesn't get too out of control, the scion class doesn't become something annoying, AND, the person who focuses on a spell casting class doesn't fall too far behind. So, this would be more focused towards the fighter/rogue types, who would essentially take levels in both, or possibly a few noble levels as well.

    Suddenly, the power level difference diminishes drastically - not to mention the possible xp penalties that will slow level progression, and thus allow for a longer, richer game (of course, I already vastly reduce the xp income of my players, but that's something I choose to do, not necessarily backed by rules). Now, the prob is, encouraging the players to do so - so obviously, just appealing to their ego for the good of the story may not work - every group usually has at least one power gamer, after all. So, what to do to encourage? And, is this viable?

    Clearly, a 2nd level noble/2ftr/2 rogue/1 scion is a lot weaker than a 6ftr/1 scion. Sure, their saves are good and they have lots of lower level abilities, but, as is noted, they don't have a lot of specialties. And yeah, you can munchkin a bit - make sure to take the rogue class first for the skill points, or some such (though, that's difficult without taking both scion and noble first! - requires other rules, such as in Savage Species, which I am not familiar with - let's avoid that discussion here). However, at war, and in personal combat, the 6ftr will probably win. The multi-classer would have to work to bring all their skills to bear, from all classes, to really have an even fight.

    I think what I am proposing is to encourage NON-specialization (or single-classing) of non-spellcasting characters in BR. Doing so brings back flavour, balance, the usefullness of the scion class, and could promote higher level play.

    It would mean that some common multi-class combos would erupt:
    Anuireans with ftr/cleric
    Brecht ftr/rogues
    Rjurik ranger/druid or ranger/rogue or ranger/ftr, ranger/bard (how can you tell I like Rjurik characters...?)
    Khinasi fighter or rogue +magician/sorceror/wizard
    Vos barbarian/fighter
    maybe elven figher/magicusers would come back in vogue again
    halfling ftr/rogue
    dwarven ftr/clerics

    And yeah, those are stereotypes - plus I am ignoring prestige classes, which essentially also multi-classes a character, and thus, could also assist with my point (although some are grossly overpowered for my purposes). But, encouraging these, plus then bringing in a scion level or two, plus noble levels, suddenly vastly cuts back on the imbalancing effect a 20th level character can have on such a game world as Cerilia. Heck, if you wanna, include spellcasting classes in this too. A 20th level ftr 10/wiz 10 is way less powerful in obliterating entire armies than a 20th level single class is... and, when they do achieve epic level, they won't get lots of epic feats. That spell caster will never have their 9th level spells without focusing on their class into their epic levels... and maybe that should be the case. Make those spell casters out there work to earn their spells. Make it so that their 5th level magic, at 10d6 (which still can kill units!) is rare, and they can't do it so often.

    I could be wrong, of course. And, there are obvious weaknesses here, such as the question of how to encourage. Another is that I am going too far into balancing questions, and further, now unbalance spell casters in the opposite direction - even with a scion level or 2!

    Comments?

  2. #2
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    There are issues of play style here, because I regard the 2 noble/2 fighter/ 2 rogue/ 1 scion as a more powerful character than the 6 fighter/1 scion.

    How many different roles is a character expected to fulfil during an adventure? Are tasks so varried that a one-trick-pony, like the 6 fighter, is useless 9 times out of 10, and really useful 1 time in 10?

    If I expect a fighter-type guy, lets call him the count of Cwlldon in Mhoried, to be a warrior when confronting ogres, a courtier in society, a leader before the people, an administrator before his council, a skilled hunter when out with the boys, a soldier in the field, and so on, and the consequences for failing any of these tasks is bad, perhaps all equally bad, then no one class is suitable to do it all.

    The fighter can do two of those things well, can probabaly do another two poorly, and has no basis for claiming any skill in two others. Likewise the rogue. The noble might claim to do all of these things marginally well. If I felt I needed the skills, and couldn't abandon the fighter role, I'd indeed go with the 2/2/2 character. Otherwise I might go with a noble 3/fighter 3, or more typicaly, noble 4/fighter 2, depending on how much fighting I needed to do.

  3. #3
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    and don't forget that 2nd ed D&D level progression was harder than 3rd ed. So most characters advanced slower hence the reason for more low level regents.

    If you use the experience set out in the new DMG it wont take long for a good sized party to fly up the levels making most of the realms regents underpowered and basically a waste of time.

  4. #4
    I forsee many issues with this.

    Let's get issue one out of the way right at the start: clearly, if you go with "weak multiclassing" (as in: multiclassing to the point of creating mechanically weak characters), then the DM is going to have to work harder to make balanced encounters. I mention this only in passing - not because it's unimportant, but because it's been mentioned before in other contexts (eg low magic).

    The second issue is that specialisation encourages teamwork. Regent PCs already are somewhat difficult to convince to work together; if every PC can do a bit of fighting, a bit of spellcasting, and a bit of roguery, then it becomes even harder to convince them to work together.

    Thirdly, how would one encourage this, exactly? It seems as if you're not even proposing getting rid of multiclassing XP penalties. There's certainly no reason from a power perspective to do it, and even roleplayers who would never consider anything in powergaming terms may blanch at having such an unfocussed character. You could do something such as say that you couldn't have a spellcasting level as your highest level class, but that's a bit tricky as well if prestige classes are allowed.

    I'm not really convinced that the end result is a better match for the setting in any case.

  5. #5
    Site Moderator geeman's Avatar
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    When it comes to "low level syndrome" I think we have to go back even
    further than the rules BR first appeared in. It`s back into Advanced
    Dungeons & Dragons that the "syndrome" has its rules. Way back in
    those days there was the rudiments of a domain system. It used hex
    grids and assumed a truly massive amount of gold expenditure for PCs
    to become rulers. There was lots of information written into the DMG
    about "kingdoms" and information about how much money a character
    could expect to collect in taxes written right into every single
    character class. All this seemed to assume that all characters
    would, naturally, wind up in some sort of leadership position.

    The flipside of all that, however, was there were level restrictions
    on such things. It was assumed that characters had to reach their
    "name level" (which was 9th to 12th or so depending on class) before
    he could "settle down" to rule a realm. A character could own a
    castle before he reached name level, but for some inexplicable reason
    his influence was not recognized until that time, so he collected no
    income from the lands he oversaw.

    Ruling a realm did not really mean "settling down" though. In fact,
    the cost of paying for a castle`s construction, maintenance,
    retainers, etc. were all presented as a possible method of draining a
    PCs coffers, and motivating him/er to participate in adventures. It
    turned the system of rulership into a kind of vanity project for PCs.

    When BR first came along it corrected many of those issues. It did
    away with the character level requirement of rulership. You could be
    a "boy-king" in BR and characters could inherit a realm far before
    the earlier editions of D&D would assume s/he were "ready." In
    almost every way that is a much more playable way of setting up the
    system. Heirs are often not ready for their jobs. Kings are
    sometimes (probably more often than not) powerful in title only.

    Perhaps the setting even went a bit too far the other way. Older
    characters who are described in ways that would indicate they have
    been experienced in the ways of the world and adventuring are given
    only a few character levels. The setting`s most powerful creatures
    are often not very strong when compared to other D&D settings. Given
    the background of the setting in which the gods themselves appeared
    to do battle directly with one another one could justify a high level
    campaign pretty easily.

    But other realities of D&D make that difficult. As has been pointed
    out, what purpose a small kingdom in D&D when a high level character
    can wipe out units even whole populations with the magics presented
    in the base system? Why would characters really seek to rule at all
    given the particulars of the domain level? It is no longer a vanity
    project as it was in 1e. It`s an actual occupation that takes up a
    serious amount of time, and from the D&D standpoint the character is
    probably not at all more powerful than he would be if he dedicated
    the same amount of time and effort to straight adventuring.

    The closest thing to an answer for either of those problems is to
    make the setting a "low-level" one. In reality, it`s probably not
    the best solution possible. In many ways the setting cries out for
    an entirely different set of rules. But given the rules that it was
    under that`s the simplest solution.

    Gary

  6. #6
    Administrator Green Knight's Avatar
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    The RPG for A game of Thrones offers such a system (there was thread on this a while back).

    It is recognizeable d20, which for a lot of people should be a selling point, while also (to some extent at least) mitigating the problem of high-lvl characters interecting with a predominantly low-lvl world.

    A shame that it is not accompanied with a useful magic system; that is its biggest flaw IMO, requiring quite some work for the DM to adapt.
    Cheers
    Bjørn
    DM of Ruins of Empire II PbeM

  7. #7
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    just a note about the "A Game of Thrones" RPG. Guardians of Order, who released it have gone out of business. see www.guardiansorder.com for details.

  8. #8
    Birthright Developer irdeggman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mantyluoto
    and don't forget that 2nd ed D&D level progression was harder than 3rd ed. So most characters advanced slower hence the reason for more low level regents.

    If you use the experience set out in the new DMG it wont take long for a good sized party to fly up the levels making most of the realms regents underpowered and basically a waste of time.
    Actually the statement and assumption that level advancement is quicker in 3.5 than it was in 2nd ed is really a false one.

    It depends on the comparison being made since in 2nd ed all classes had their own xp advancement tables and if using the class specific xp awards (the PHB said they weren't optional while the DMG said they were).

    When comparing fighter to fighter between editions, the 3.5 one advances quicker in any case I can come up with (even with class specific awards from 2nd ed).

    When comparing thief to rogue the thief always advances quicker (even without the class specific awards of 2nd ed that have them advance at unbeleivably quick rates - I mean 5 xp/1 gp of treasure and 200 xp per use of class ability combined with the quickest advancement tables of all).

    Wizards in 2nd ed had a strange advancement system - slow at low levels, fast at mid levels and slow again at high levels. Class specific awards, IIRC, 100 xp/spell level cast.

    Clerics had a pretty quick advancement table, 2nd only to thieves and their class specific awards helped them a lot.
    Duane Eggert

  9. #9
    Birthright Developer irdeggman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epicsoul
    Clearly, a 2nd level noble/2ftr/2 rogue/1 scion is a lot weaker than a 6ftr/1 scion.
    It depends on the level of play.

    For a combat heavy game then yes, but for a domain level heavy game the 2noble/2ftr/1scion is clearly superior due to the number of skills (and skill points) and domain level benfits.
    Duane Eggert

  10. #10
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    Talking

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by epicsoul
    ...Or a 20th level fighter who can mop the floor with 200 3rd level fighters as they kill 2 or 3 a round... and the 3rds can't even hit the 20th level fighter, except with 20s - If even...

    I've always felt that the combat system utilized by the the D&D system (AD&D 2nd addition, D20, etc) is somewhat imbalanced.

    Our group was puting together a combat system based off of the Conan D20 RPG put out by Mongoose publishing.

    If you are not familiar with it, this system uses " Dodge" bonuses (DEX based - but also determined by class) and "Parry" bonuses. (STR based - but also determined by class) The results are as high in most cases but they can always be adjusted by making the class dodge/parry bonuses lower or higher.

    Armor provides no bonus to an individuals "AC" but instead grants a damage reduction bonus. (though most melee weapons have an armor piercing value that helps combat this)

    Anyway, just putting in my two cents concerning the combat system. (my apologies!!!)

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