2015-11-06 Level Limits

Gavin recently proposed replacing demi-human level limits for classic D&D with an XP penalty, on G+. Here’s what I said.

Whenever level limits for demi-humans come up I wonder: is this an actual problem at the table? I’ve been playing for years and the first cleric characters are slowly reaching level nine, now. And I’m tiring of these campaigns. The chances our campaign ending before level limits come up are far higher.

But I have a point regarding the math, too. If XP requirements double every level, then getting 50% XP simply means loosing a level. In the long run, that doesn’t make much of a difference. You could argue that this is exactly what elves in B/X D&D or Labyrinth Lord actually do: If you think of elves as splitting their XP between fighter and magic-user, then they only get 50% of their XP for their magic-user class and thus they need to gain 5000 XP to get to the equivalent of a magic-user with 2500 XP…

So, part of my argument is: “it has already been done.”

As an argument with players at the table, however, I’d simply pull out a list mapping levels to the importance of people in the world. Something short and visual, like this:

  1. noobs
  2. veterans, village heroes, sergeants, squad commanders
  3. town leaders, captains, company commanders
  4. lieutenants, second-in-commands
  5. rulers of a castle, of a hex, of a tribe, barons

So basically, the level of non-magical types shows how big their domain in this campaign setting is. If the limit is 8, then ambitions are smaller than a castle. If the limit is 12, then the domain they rule can be larger: various mountain hexes. If the limit is 10, then the domain is simply a forest hex, maybe two. With no level limit, immortality or fighting the gods for divinity is the end game.

If your players agree with the power distribution of the end game, then the level limits remain. If they prefer to go for immortality and divinity, then just get rid of the level limits, no XP penalty required. You can still keep those level limits for non-player characters, if you want.

Or you could say that elves without level limits are obviously Melnibonéan overlords riding dragons and they exist and they run this place. :)

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