Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vault of the Goblin Session 3 - And About XP

I've pretty much made up my mind that the bulk of our campaign together is going to see Mary's elf (and her posse) exploring the depths of the Vault of the Goblin (which I'm developing as Book 3 of the Saga of the Splintered Realm). She managed to finish clearing the old goblin temple (several hundred miles from the Vaults, but with a magical pool that will allow access). In the process, she took on two goblin prisoners as henchmen and added a dwarf 1 to her party - so the count is now an elf 2, cleric 1, dwarf 1 and two goblins (which I've now made level 1 goblins, getting to play test the rules for the goblin class I'm also working on)!

Whew. She took part in three encounters:
She was almost one-shotted when she was surprised by a living crystal statue that came to life without her realizing what it was. The thing dropped her to -1 hp on its first flurry of attacks, and the cleric was busy dragging her out of the way as the two goblins wrecked it in two rounds. They rolled REALLY well.

Some takeaways:
- About clerics not having level 1 spells (which I'm calling 'sphere' 1 to eliminate confusion between xp and spell progression - I'm looking for an even less clunky term, but 'circles' is just as awkward depending on the grammar of the sentence it appears in)... having no healing power at level 1 makes this level very difficult. Even the two cure light wounds he will have next level will make a huge difference in their durability as a fellowship. I'm not going to change this (I like this nod to BX, and it makes sense that the powers-that-be don't hand out their blessings willy nilly ... you have to pay some dues to earn the ability to wield holy power).
- XP progression is slow, which I know is by design. They have cleared an entire (small) temple complex, and have killed (in total):

1 Ettercap (4 HD)
1 Crystal Living Statue (3 HD)
1 Wight (3 HD)
10 Large Spiders (2+2 HD)
6 Medium Spiders (1+1 HD)
10 Goblins (1-1 HD)
5 Stirges (1/2 HD)

They have captured about 350 gold in valuables
They have found a spear +1, a short sword +1, 2 potions of healing, and a scroll of mirror image

Macheon (my cleric) has earned 524 xp (after the 10% bonus from high Wisdom), putting him about 1/3 of the way to level 2.

I have gone 'by the book' in awarding treasure, and it's been pretty meager (all things considered). Then again, they've been fighting low-level foes. They are low level. They are still struggling to purchase the best gear (they cannot afford plate mail yet, and upgrading the two goblins to chain mail was a big deal). These things are appropriate to level 1. They should NOT be able to outfit a small army yet and lead an entire platoon of well-trained men at arms. They are a rag-tag little group, and they feel like it. Then again, the two main fighters now have a +1 weapon, meaning that the group is capable of taking on pretty much any threat and at least hitting it. I will see how this goes. At some point, it should 'feel' like they are getting richer. However, this shouldn't kick in until level 3 or so. However, once they start taking on 6 HD monsters (as a for instance) the 'average' treasure value bumps to 200 gold. Loot the lair of a few of those, and you'll be over 1,000 gp (for the whole group) pretty quickly. All of this, so far, I'm okay with. I'm using 1 gold = 1 xp for treasure, and that is okay...

I suppose the xp value for foes is where I'm running into some trouble. It just 'feels' like a 3 HD magical creature (the wight or the living statue) should be worth a sizeable amount of xp - they are each worth 90 xp in the current formula I'm using. That means that, with xp bonus for high scores, a team of two level 1 characters earns 100 xp total for killing two 3 HD creatures. A level 1 fighter has to kill 20 such creatures solo (or 40 with a partner - or 80 in a team of 4) to get to level 2. That's a LOT.

Then again, that's the OSR.

However, I don't want this to be a rule that people hand wave away because it's too slow and people are losing interest because their characters aren't advancing. It is no problem to give a 'story bonus' or somesuch and just bump the characters. That's not the point. I want you to be able to play 'by the book' (even though I know almost no one will)... If I make one minor shift to my chart (bumping everything 1 HD down vs. what XP it is worth) those 3* HD creatures are now worth 150 XP each, the 2+2 HD spiders are now worth 90 xp each, and the ettercap is worth 300 XP. This changes my total award to:

1 Ettercap (4 HD) = 300 xp
1 Crystal Living Statue (3 HD) = 150 xp
1 Wight (3 HD) = 150 xp
10 Large Spiders (2+2 HD) = 90 xp each
6 Medium Spiders (1+1 HD) = 45 xp each
10 Goblins (1-1 HD) = 30 xp each
5 Stirges (1/2 HD) = 15 xp each

This puts my total award at 2145 xp (in monsters) + 350 (gold) = 2495 xp for the whole adventure. We played three sessions (at an average of 2 hours per session with pretty focused play) to clear this.

That's just about right. If a level 2 fighter did this solo (possible, but unlikely) he deserves to move to level 2. A pair of level 1-2 characters (what I had for most of this) should come close to leveling up. Going back to the conversation about 'how many goblins' to get to level 2, a level 1 fighter (with no xp bonus) needs to kill 67 goblins to get to level 2. Solo. A group of 4 level 1 characters needs to kill 268 goblins (assuming they have no treasure - not really a safe assumption) for the 'average character' (assuming 2000 xp as the average requirement) to get to level 2.  It's still a lot of freaking goblins, but it's not insurmountable, and when you throw in the occasional chieftain, shaman, wolf guardian and their coffers of a couple hundred silver coins, this gets a little quicker.

This feels much better.

Consider the adjustment made.