Roll to Advance (pt 3)
–The Races

This is the third part of my series of posts on our Roll to Advance alternative experience and advancement system for our fantasy RPG. 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 it in our modified Labyrinth Lord game, but it should work similarly in any old-school version of the game.

Part 1 introduced the system and outlined its basic operation. Part 2 looked at the specific numbers for each of the standard character classes. This part looks at racial modifiers to those numbers and the elimination of something I’ve never really liked: the level limit for demi-human characters.

Gamers who like the idea of level limits, and I know that there are at least a few of you out there, could probably just ignore this component of the Roll to Advance system. It’s designed to account for racial abilities and longevity in another manner. Gamers who detest the idea of level limits, and there do seem to be an awful lot of them, may read on.

Basically, every non-human race has a penalty at every level to offset the bonuses and advantages that demi-humans enjoy, including the extended lifespan that conceivably allows them to adventure for many decades or centuries longer than their human counterparts.

The penalties for each race are as follows:

Dwarf Elf Gnome Halfling Half-Elf Half-Orc Human
1 2 3 2 1 2 1 0
2 3 4 3 2 3 1 0
3 4 5 4 2 3 2 0
4 5 7 4 3 4 2 0
5 6 8 5 3 5 2 0
6 7 9 6 4 5 3 0
7 8 11 6 4 6 3 0
8 9 12 7 5 7 3 0
9 10 13 8 5 7 4 0
10 11 15 9 6 8 4 0
11 13 17 11 6 9 4 0
12 14 19 12 7 10 5 0

The appropriate value from this table is added to the standard class target to get the roll to advance number for a demi-human. Please note that, like the class listings, this table shows the number needed to advance from the current level, not to the next level.

Example: A fifth-level dwarf fighter needs a 30 to advance to sixth level, 24 from the class table plus 6 for being a dwarf.

If these penalties seem excessive, remember that demi-human characters will now have no limitation to the level they can reach. And their extended adventuring career, thanks to living so long, will give them the opportunity to reach those levels.

Meanwhile, even at first level, demi-humans enjoy significant bonuses and abilities over human adventurers. Infravision, detection of secret doors and traps, substantial bonuses to saving throws, resistance to various special attacks, extra languages, and so on. The great weakness of the level limitation as a means of balancing these abilities out is that the limitation does not begin to affect the character until rather high levels. The approach taken by the Roll to Advance system is to spread that penalty out over every level. If these abilities are not accounted for in some manner, there would be no reason to play a human.

One way to look at these penalties is to view them as the number of extra sessions that must be spent at each level. An elf, for instance, will have to spend a total of 12 extra sessions (3+4+5), on average, before reaching 4th level. If this seems like a lot, remember that elves have (according to Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Companion) 394 years of ‘adult’ life before reaching ‘middle age’ and aging penalties. Humans have 40 years. If anything, the advancement penalty for elves is too low. But as few players will actually play out game centuries of adventure with an elf PC, I think the game is better with the penalties where they are. (I actually have the rate increase slightly as the characters reach higher levels, but this isn’t terribly clear until reaching levels beyond 12.)

Here is comparison of fighters using a spreadsheet simulation I created showing the most common levels after the given number of play sessions:

Human Elf Dwarf
10 sessions 3 or 4 2 or 3 2 or 3
20 sessions 5 or 6 3 or 4 4 or 5
50 sessions 8 or 9 prob 6 6 or 7

This seems to fit my view of how things should be. Others, no doubt, will have their own view of this issue and will want to adjust the racial numbers accordingly. This is simple enough to do with a few quick changes.

In play, record the number needed to advance on the character sheet, calculated by simply adding the class/level target and the racial modifier, in the experience section along with any accumulated XP. At the end of the session add another XP, roll a d20, and see if you made it. If your roll plus your XP (including the one you just earned) equal or exceed the roll to advance, you did. Deduct any used XP from your total and advance to the next level. If you didn’t make it, try again next session. And never worry about hitting the level limit.

NEXT: Using multi-classed characters with this system presents some problems. I decided to use these problems as an opportunity to “fix” what I’ve always perceived to be a partially broken multi-class system. If you don’t hate this system yet, maybe you will after seeing tomorrow’s post.

Roll to Advance:
Pt. 1 – Intro and Basics
Pt. 2 – Classes
Pt. 3 – Races
Pt. 4 – Multi-Classed Characters
Pt. 5 – Wrap-up and Feedback

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–The Races

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