Thursday, October 29, 2009

Half Levels

My friends and I sometimes celebrate half-birthdays, the day opposite one's birthday on the calendar. It's a hoot. Looking at the slow progression of older editions vs 3.x and with desire to attract and entertain players accustomed to more stuff, more quicker I present half-levels. The (not original) idea of providing some of the next level's benefit before actually getting there. Don't want to escalate character progression, just flatten it a little.


At mid-point to next level each character receives a few perks. What the perks are depends on your game system and particular mechanics.

Everyone re-rolls (using existing levels Hit Dice) hitpoint with +1 added to the total. This only works if you already play with rerolling hitpoints (taking best result) every level. Alternatively, everyone can get +1 hitpoint. Not much but will make that 1hp guy happy.

Wizards get 1 new spell. (and 1 less when reaching next level)

Thieves get a few percentage points taken from those awarded next level to spread around their skills.

Fighters get a weapon proficiency now instead of at next level.

A few skill points now instead of next level.

One of characters new abilities now instead of next level.

Perks (very light feats/skills) get awarded at half-level. Some examples. I can read!, learn new alchemical formulae, "Slaughterhouse" (ftr ability to mow through low-hitdie scum), local heraldry.


  1. It may be worthwhile just to rewrite these things for increased granularity. Just explain that "name level" is now 20th, and Epic starts at 40.

    Unfortunately this requires a shift in player expectation, and like converting people from imperial to metric there may be problems comprehending what a creature of a given level or HD means.

    Then again, people used to online RPGs are used to having more level gains. We use fewer so we can keep bookkeeping down. You ideally want to juggle numbers that are as small as possible, so one skill point or +1 to hit is a big deal just because we don't have anything like 3,000 skill or +256 to hit.

    In fact, the homebrew D&D I use has a unified XP table where all the numbers are divided by 10 from the standard. All awards are divided by 10. It just makes the bookkeeping easier. High-level characters have 1 less digit of XP. It's still granular enough - but I wouldn't go to (/100) XP. Sure an M-U needs just 25 XP to level up to second. But then you can't award less than 100 XP at a time. And if you add decimals you're just shuffling the problem back to where it started.

  2. The only edition that had slower advancement than 3.x "by the book" is 2e really. The gp=xp rule makes it so that the advancement speed in 1e, OD&D, B/X & BECMI is roughly the same as 3.x

    There was a great comparison of the 1e module set (T1-4, G1-4, D1-3, Q1) as played for 1e and 3.x that showed that they advanced at roughly the same pace, and collected roughly the same amount of treasure.

    All that said, I'm not adverse to adding half-levels a game where the players would appreciate such a thing.

  3. 2E with the handbooks had those class-based individual XP awards though. A Cleric who had a 13 Wisdom would get 2 first-level spells per day and would typically spend them both on Cure Light Wounds. The fighting during the day may have resulted in less than that much for each PC's share.

    Another example would be a Thief who stays hidden and silent in the dungeon where possible. If he enters a fight and backstabs, the DM ought to give him the 100 XP for Move Silently and 100 for Hide in Shadows performed successfully and usefully. That, plus all the climbing, listening at doors, and picking locks and traps can really add up fast.

    Basically at low level more than half your XP comes from individual awards. After that it still makes a difference, and Clerics and Thieves will tend to be a couple levels higher than everyone else at least, but it's no longer 50% of your XP.

    Given that, I've had first-level adventures where my Thief or Cleric character went up a level at the end of the adventure and everyone else only had maybe 500 or 600 XP. And I wasn't especially XP whoring, just doing my job!


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