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D&D help wanted: Milestones variant and how much should I tell the players?

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  tankkommander 1 month ago.

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  • #1568037

    lawnor
    17422xp
    Cult of Games Member

    I’m about to step back in the rolepay after a 10+ year break and I’ll be DMing the campaign for a group of my frieds over Roll20 starting tonight.  The campaign I’ll be running is not linear.  Its head to new town, pick up 20 quests and do them in no particular order, at some point unlock a bigger plot quest, unlock a bunch more quests, unlock a big mission etc…  There is potential here for them to earn more XP than I want them to and for them to bcome too powerful too early so I want to thorrole that by using Milestones.  However, Milestones rewards them for doing something important, like those big plot quests.  I want them to hit the milestone before they go there.  The only requirement for that though will be them deciding to go there instead of on another side quest.  So instead of milestones as rewards I’m thinking milestones as gated XP.  They can earn XP up to lvl X, but once they set out on Plot Mission A the cap goes up to lvl X+2 for example.  I’ll be tracking their XP as a party.  Unless level drain creeps in somewhere everyones XP should be the same so its easier this way.  I also kinda want people to feel safe to skip a session or two.  I’ve 8 players and that might be a bit much so if I get 4-6 for every sesion but its not always the same 4-6 that might be best for everyone.

    My question is, how much do DMs tell their players about milestones and how much should I tell mine?  I’ve told them my XP plan (But not told them the campaign structure.  I don’t want them to have any more spoilers than is needed.  I already have more planned than they think and I want to keep it that way for as long as I can).  When running on milestones do you tell people what they need to do to unlock the next milestone?  In a linear storyline this doesn’t seem to be an issue, but when they could spend a lifetime avoiding that one important mission and not know it, it could create problems.  I also don’t want them just doing things because they will or won’t earn XP.

    Do I not tell them they’ve hit an XP cap?

    Do I tell them in advance where the cap is and which plot thread must be progressed to unlock it?

    Do I tell them they’ve maxed out for now but not what they need to to to remove the cap?

    Is my plan really dumb and there’s a simpler solution I’m ignoring?

    #1568039

    mage
    20031xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Sounds like your over complicating it. I mean, you want them to do loads of quests… but not get too strong. I mean, why should they do the quests then? Why should xp be capped when they risk their characters for it.

     

    what your describing by capping it at certain points sounds inconsistent and breaks immersion tbh, and super convoluted with the mish  mash way of missions

     

    I really am not trying to sound negative, it’s just what your describing sounds like a creative idea but one that is… please forgive me here… highly impractical. Were I to play with a DM running something like that I’d be gone after a session.

    anyway, if you do go with it I hope it works out. Not trying to be negative again but that’s my feedback.

     

    As for milestones no, don’t tell players ever: it will lead to meta gaming (intentional or not) and characters acting out of character. I mean, imagine The Dark Knight if Batman captured Lau (the various mobs money guy) in Gotham instead of going to Hong Kong to extract him after he fled the city, because Christian Bale just happened to read the script first.

    Hope it all goes well for you dude.

     

    which edition are you going with?

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  mage.
    #1568041

    mage
    20031xp
    Cult of Games Member

    As for getting people to do things as characters in your story or campaign make the tasks be related to back stories of their character or be a threat to the world, stability, their home or something else important to them. Motivation and all.

     

    As a piece of advice I’ll phrase it as a question: how can you solve all of your problems, issues and points of indecision with in-world and story or character based  reasons or motivations

    #1568042

    lawnor
    17422xp
    Cult of Games Member

    5e and I haven’t touched it since 3.5e.

    Honest balanced negativity is appreciated.  Its a warning of the feedback I could get from my players.  I may yet change my mind on this method.  I don’t know if it will even become relevant for a long while.

    Players should still want to do stuff to progress the story and earn loot rewards, and have fun with their friends.  They will still be progressing through gaining gold and magic items etc and some of these quests will be needed to unlock the main quests.  It’s a very sandbox module.  They probably won’t do or even find all the missions.  I know I’m overcomplicating it by giving them more to do than they need to and more available XP than is good for them, but I have my reasons, which I’d happily share but I don’t know if any of my players will see this thread.  I’ll PM you some details.

    #1568043

    kiranamida
    3217xp
    Cult of Games Member

    The advantage of Milestone advancement is that you get to decide when they happen as the GM so you have the advantage of being able to fudge things if they get a bit out of hand.

    For my players they blasted through levels 1 through 6 in about six months because they happened to focus on the campaign goals, then spent 6 months at level 6 because they went side questo g through a new city and I award levels when they complete a narrative arc.

    Now, it sounds like your going for a somewhat more by-the-numbers campaign so you still want to track xp in some way.

    As a thought experimemt: could you class the quests by level bands? Perhaps a easy starting quest is level 1 – 2, and tougher one is 1 – 3 and the first campaign quest could be 2 – 4 or something like that. If the quest is level appropriate then they get exp for it. If they pass out of the level band for it then it’s not worth exp as it is beneath them. Perhaps the NPC who manages the quest giving comments that “Isn’t that sort of thing a little beneath adventurers of your skill.” or “Oh, those goblins? Yeah another party came through and took the job whilst you where busy dealing with the trolls.”

    My point is, if you offer a wide selection of quests to the players and don’t expect them to do all of them then you can find narrative reasons for them to fade away once they become irrelevant. Adventurers all have to eat after all.

    I don’t know what your back of the napkin maths are but this would be what I would look at for this kind of campaign.

    #1568045

    lawnor
    17422xp
    Cult of Games Member

    I am considering removing some quests as they become less relevant.  It seems a good way to reduce xp or periods of players feeling they aren’t levelling.  Likewise I might also not unlock certain less relevant quests as things go foward.  I fear removing key information by accident though.  I have a flow chart of how everything connects next to me right now and it looks like a confused murder board covered in red string.  Not sure I’ve caught all the connections either.  I could easily have missed some of the subtle ones.

    I’m starting to see a way to do it standard milestones, but the problem there becomes that theres a way for them to jump straight from level 1 to level 3 in session 1 if I do that, and then hit level 4 in session 2 and lvl 5 in session 3, which would be an unsatisfying campaign.  I can stop that happening though, but it might become obvious and heavy handed plot manipulation, if the players make certain specific choices and don’t go full murder hobo.

    #1568046

    kiranamida
    3217xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Perhaps it is worth taking to your players in vague terms? I spoke to my players at the start of the current campaign and explained they would probably blast through the first bunch of levels A) because things are just like that when you start out and B) things start getting interesting at lvl 3 for most classes so I just set the expectation that they would go by quickly to get to the good stuff but things wouldn’t always progress at that rate once we got under way.

    And they were fine with this. Experience tells me if you tell your players you are trying a thing even if you keep the details to yourself they will be accepting if you need to tweak things?

    The other question is do they need to know everything? An element of mystery can be an element of the story itself. My players miss details all the time but because I know all the details things can progress as they should and they often have moments of “Ooh, that’s what was going on!” when the consequences are fulfilled. I think this will depend on the types of players you have more than anything else.

    #1568047

    lawnor
    17422xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Theres a few missions that only unlock if they find some locations, and sometimes these missions are important.  Their reasons to head to some of these locations isn’t always clear and can be just a random seemingly disposable line in what is otherwise a side quest.  They may not need to know everything, but there are some things I want them to find out and at this stage of things it looks like blind luck that they’ll ever get the information.  Hopefully it’ll take more shape as we get going.  I overthink things sometimes.

    #1568059

    mage
    20031xp
    Cult of Games Member

    @kiranamida had some good ideas and solutions there

    #1568064

    limburger
    14751xp
    Cult of Games Member

    plans rarely survive contact with the enemy … and some don’t survive contact with reality.

    @lawnor unless they have a really good motivation to do ‘save the world’ chances are they will ignore everything, unless you start railroading them.

    I suspect it’s best not to plan too far ahead. Also consider rewarding players with things other than plain ol’ XP.
    Give them contacts or responsibilities instead.

    No one has to level up because the rules say that levelling up is a thing.
    Think of what a given level means in your world.
    If the king himself is level 3 then consider what it means if your players reach that level themselves.
    Are they as powerful as the king ?

    And remember that certain things may require help from specialist npc’s.
    Wizards don’t get a free spell just because they reach the next level. They need to find and learn it from a wizard somewhere.

    Priests and paladins that need to ‘level up’ will have to find a quest worthy of their god.

    If the focus is on pure XP then you will turn your party into a bunch of murder hobos who strip every dungeon of its treasures room by room …
    If you get them used to looking for new contacts to advance their personal goals the adventure will write itself.

    Always remember that bad guys never wait for the good guys to stop them. They will advance their plans.

    #1568076

    lawnor
    17422xp
    Cult of Games Member

    “If the focus is on pure XP then you will turn your party into a bunch of murder hobos who strip every dungeon of its treasures room by room ”

    Turn in to?  We may not have played in a long while but they’ve always been XP and loot hungry murder hobos.  We’d try other systems and we’d alwasy end up killing tha bad guy and taking his stuff no matter the setting or period, much to the annoyance of whoever was DMing at the time.  I’m hoping to break some old habits.  Youve some good advice up there.  I’ll take it under advisement as we go forards.  I made everyone write a short backstory with a basic motivation to be here (First time I think ive see the whole party with a background) and I hope to find ways to work with everyones over the coming months.

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  lawnor.
    #1569258

    limburger
    14751xp
    Cult of Games Member

    old habits die hard … ideally you need a really good DM who is used to turning murder hobos into roleplayers 😀 (no not me … I am probably as much a murder hobo as anyone else)

    maybe pick a system that rewards murder hobos and stop worrying about it ?

    what about Paranoiia ?

    That system is great according to Friend Computer … and he knows his stuff 😉
    It’s got fun missions like convincing friend Computer that a corridor needs painting without getting exterminated (it’s a real challenge ).
    bonus : you get to murder player characters for not complying with rules that you don’t tell them about …

    #1569365

    tankkommander
    Participant
    3725xp

    How to use Milestone levelling.

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