Yesterday I introduced the Roll to Advance alternative system for character experience and advancement in our classic fantasy game. In short: At the end of each playing session, the player rolls a d20. If the modified roll exceeds a specified number based on the character’s class, race, and current level, the PC advances to the next level. Accumulated XP, awarded at a rate of 1 (one) per gaming session, provide a positive modifier to this roll. Traditional experience point awards and tracking are eliminated.
We’re using this system in our heavily house-ruled Labyrinth Lord game, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work in other similar games.
Below are the rolls needed to advance at each level for each class. (Note that this table shows the number needed to advance from the current level, not to the next level. For example, a 4th level assassin needs to roll a modified 22 to advance to 5th level.)
This table only goes through 12th level. Currently, that is what we’re considering to be our maximum level for any character in our game. Higher levels are possible, but we will essentially deal with that when we get to it, probably with a “high-level adventuring” type supplement to our core rules. The advancement rate for each class continues on in the same pattern it took to reach 12th level.
There are two factors in determining the number for each class at each level: the starting point (number to advance from 1st level to 2nd) and the progression rate. I have done my best to accurately represent the various classes in relation to each other, taking the standard XP requirements as a starting point and tweaking them slightly. For instance, I have always felt that the cleric’s advancement numbers were woefully low. So I increased them slightly and they are now roughly comparable to the fighter’s. Also, in our game we have ramped up the thief a little, giving him d6 hit dice, studded leather armor, and some other additional abilities. So the thief’s numbers are not quite as low in respect to the other classes as might be expected.
As each character gains one XP for his first session, you can see that every class (even the paladin) has a chance to advance to 2nd level after only that first session. For the paladin this is only a 1-in-20 chance, while the assassin, cleric, fighter, and thief all have a 4-in-20 chance to advance after one session.
All classes except the paladin (who needs a 23 to reach 3rd level) could possibly advance again after the second session. For the monk, this would require rolling 20s after each of the first two sessions. The thief, on the other hand, would still have a 4-in-20 chance to advance to third level after the second session if he had been fortunate enough to roll a 20 after the first. If he had rolled a 16 after the first and had needed to use his only XP to advance to 2nd level, his chance of advancing again after the second session would fall to 3-in-20. This use of XPs, losing them they are “used,” is a key to the system. Players can help themselves by rolling well when they advance, but those that advance more quickly than others will do so by burning through more XP, giving others a chance to close the gap in later sessions.
Though the first few levels could possibly be a bit wild with some players rolling consistently well and others rolling consistently poorly, odds are that things will begin to even out after third or fourth level. The magic-user, for instance, requires a 26 to advance from 4th to 5th. The fastest she could have reached 4th level would have been four sessions (very quickly indeed) but she would have had to use all of her XP and roll twenties every time it was mathematically possible for her to advance. (After the third session, even rolling a 20 would not have advanced her because she would have had only 2 XP and needed a 23.) With a 26 required, that means that our example magic-user would have to play a minimum of six sessions at 4th level to accumulate six more XP and then roll a 20 to advance to 5th. Ten sessions to 5th level may seem quite quick to some (it does to me) but if a player can hit 20s in four straight rolls to advance, I say let them advance.
Besides the practical matter of characters in my games rarely reaching 9th or 10th level let alone 13th, another reason that our rules currently have a soft cap of 12th level is that as the rolls to advance become larger, the variability of the d20 becomes less and less of an issue. For instance, a ranger character would need a 45 to advance from 16th level to 17th. That means that a minimum of 25 XP, earned at one per session, would be required to achieve this. That removes a lot of the uncertainty about advancing at very high levels, making the number of sessions (to amass XP) more important than the actual rolling. I’m not sure if this is a bug or a feature, but I’m inclined to think it might be the latter. I will have to see this system in action for a while before I try to decide, though.
I have run these numbers through many simulations, tweaking them a bit here and there to get things where I want them. A fighter, for instance, will be 11th or 12th level after 100 sessions. That’s two years of weekly sessions. A magic-user will be 9th or 10th. A paladin will be 8th or (maybe) 9th. This seems about right to me. However, I freely acknowledge that my sensibilities about rate of character advancement may not match those of others, and I’m keen to hear what you think.
A simple tweak for those who disagree with requirements would be to give, say, a +2 adjustment to all rolls or lower every requirement by two. Or, perhaps, those who have not increased the thief’s abilities feel that the class should be easier to advance in, so they give it a bonus of 1. Or make magic-users more difficult to advance beyond 5th level. Not that customizing standard XP tables was all that tough, but these small numbers and the fact that it’s a single target rather than a range make such class tweaking even easier.
NEXT: There is a modifier to the numbers on this table due to race. Humans have no modifier and use the listed numbers. Dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, half-elves, and half-orcs each must pay a penalty due to the extra abilities that demi-humans have. These penalties will be listed and discussed in tomorrow’s post, along with the elimination of a long-controversial element of the game.