One thing that D&D Next seems to be doing is adding the concept of the apprenticeship tier to the early development of a character. This topic dovetails nicely into a bit more detailed post I had on Levels. From the D&D Next article:
Is the Apprentice Tier designed with multiclassing in mind?
Not especially, in the sense that it isn’t the primary driver of the proposed tiering system. The primary driver of that design is the goal of streamlining the entry into a class so that new players (both to the game, and to that class) can start simply and ease into greater complexity. By spreading class features along a few (short) levels, this gives the player time to thoroughly learn a feature before moving on to a new one. Of course, there are a lot of other benefits to the approach—including making dipping into a class less appealing in an a la carte multiclassing system—but that also includes making character creation faster at that level, as well as highlighting what I would call essential class features that define a class, and then gradually introducing more texture.
I definitely see the beginning of Lost Worlds looking like an apprentice tier of play. Whereas the designers of D&D next discuss the reason for it as a way of making the game more approachable to new players, I think it does also help solve the multi-class play-balance issues pretty nicely. Since I’m packing 20 levels into the span of 10 levels of traditional D&D, it makes sense for me to make the first several levels of play feel more like the “apprentice tier” where you don’t have much coin and you don’t have uber-skills compared to the average city guard. Yet.
Of course, just like in standard D&D, you could always decide to play a game with established heroes, and start at a higher level and with some starting gear. Sure, you “miss out” on some of the content of the game, but as a group, presumably you’ve all agreed you wanted to miss out on that content so you could skip directly to the content you like the best. In theory, the game could support a progression table that moved you through a group’s favorite tier more slowly, or provided more levels and content within that tier, but since I’m already moving the game to apprentice->gritty->heroic instead of heroic->superhero->demi-god, I’m not too worried about not having “enough” levels of content in the tier I want to play in.
Since I think level-ups in lost worlds will be more common (one every 1-2 sessions), that gives us approx 20-30 sessions of play for an entire campaign. Comparing that to my current Pathfinder game, the group is between level 8 and level 10, and we’ve been playing for 18 months, every other week (so approx 36 play sessions). It seems as though Pathfinder, on the standard progression, is looking at approx. 100 play sessions of content to move through from start to finish. To be clear, this isn’t a failing of Pathfinder, I can of course give more or less experience, or change the level progressions to move the game at any speed I want. It’s more of a look at the assumed standard of the game. I think for Lost Worlds, I’ll end up with an assumed standard that is significantly more condensed than 100 play sessions.
One game philosophy I have, that this discussion highlights, is that I’m more interested in playing shorter and more-varied campaigns. I like the development of an ongoing story and characters as much as anyone, but I think I want to taste a little bit more of the diversity that can exist in the RPG genre than playing the same ongoing storyline for 3 years. At the same time, I don’t want to ruin the momentum of a single game by alternating too much.
Back to the main topic. I envision Lost Worlds having the following tiers:
1-5: Apprentice Tier
6-10: Gritty Tier
11-15: Hero Tier
16-20: Champion Tier
- Are Dead Levels a Bad Thing? (paperspencils.com)