Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

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Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby OldGrouch » Thu May 09, 2019 6:19 am

In regards to the staff-reply in the discussion regarding the Level Cap itself.
This post and its replies will be considered for alternatives as well as additions to the way the level cap currently works, this is an open invitation for your suggestions and thoughts regarding it.

Currently, there have been suggestions to change the cap from 3k/month to 100xp/day, or instead 1xp/15 minutes, which has been received with some positive response. This would indeed be more lenient concerning the freedom you have when it comes to the rate you wish to level, progression after all is ideally not a staircase, but a flowing line.

Another point was made in the discord to provide buffs for being at a PCs cap. This particularly is an option we’re interested in exploring. There would naturally have to be several options, since not all buffs are useful for all classes. A few options that are either being considered or otherwise notable mentions, are listed below.

- Random AC/ab/dmg-bonus.
- Random (minor) Ability-bonus, these could also negate a lowered ability due to earlier deaths.
- Better chances of revival upon falling unconscious.
- A free respawn.
- Random Skill-bonusses, such as a bonus to Appraise, Disable Device, Escape Artist or Stealth.
- Bonusses to Resting conditions, these would improve the chances of regaining spell-slots and hp.
- Very minor DR.
- Boost to Spell Penetration/DC/Spell Duration.
- Gained XP works towards the E8 system while capped.

- on behalf of the TER team

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Re: Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby Ostheim » Thu May 09, 2019 1:47 pm

Basically any of the bonuses or buffs you'd get while capped out sound good to me, assuming you can pick one or two of them from a list. A free mulligan on what would normally be an ability loss when respawning or being raised would also be a good option to take some of the 'needless risk' factor out of adventuring while capped. Obviously this should only apply once. I'm not sure I like the idea of a skill bonus being random, I feel like any bonus you get from this capped thing should ideally be in the hands of the players completely, they should know what they're getting.

I really like the XP going towards the E8 system thing, as an aside, but that of course sort of necessitates the system coming to fruition. It's a good idea, I just feel as if it should probably be offered as an option when said system is actually released.

As to the whole XP cap system itself, most of my issues with it sort of go away with the prospect of there being a neat little bonus offered to go along with being at your cap. Ideally we'd have people sticking around anyway to get some RP in, but offering something to help encourage logging in and interacting with the automated elements of the server would certainly, in my view, help player retention. While I admire the whole catering to both inactive and active players thing, I feel like the system as it has existed has helped to make most active players become inactive players, assuming they make the decision to not make an alt (which I fully sympathize with), which while offering a different perspective and character dynamic, is bound to feel mechanically similar to the process you just went through with another character, and thus stale.

I feel like roleplay XP is also something that should be seriously considered, and detached from the @work system, which I personally feel as if has always been sort of a weird, needless system in a setting that primarily caters its stories to people who go into danger to make their coin. In a more practical sense, I've never found the coin you make from the @work system to be in any way meaningful towards buying anything that's actually useful in any way. I realize it's supposed to be system to help with RP scenarios, but in practice I've practically never seen it used this way, nor felt the urge to use it in that way.

I'd say jettison the system all together and instead examine how to further incentive the already-popular practice of characters actually talking to one another and engaging in roleplay around the fire or a tavern, or where-have-you. Perhaps designate areas such as taverns or city squares as popular hang-out spots where you can get a certain amount of experience per day (week?). This XP should be subject to the XP cap, and thus offer talking and goofing around in safety as a reasonable, mechanical alternative to adventure and exploration. For me, adventure has always been about profit, exploration is always about finding interesting things, and roleplay is about building stories with other players - all three should have a mechanical affect on your character's progression.
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Re: Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby Jogglehog » Thu May 09, 2019 3:51 pm

I like the cap. This is a roleplaying server, so cry me a river if not earning XP is enough to make you miss a plotline. I'm pretty sure you can still get DM XP for participating in events, anyway.

But if it had to effectively go in some way, I would not want the module to be any easier for staying under the cap. If you want to burn twice as bright, then higher danger I say, even beyond just lower chance of stabilizing or enemies not finishing you. Full on nerfs for earning X over?

I don't know, but I don't want things to get any easier; if you know what you're doing there isn't much risk for soloplay, especially for a caster with a few summons, and decent rewards. As well, the last time I saw things get even close to falling apart with a party involved an area being tested and the tank getting the transition bug.
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Re: Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby Recklessfireball » Fri May 10, 2019 9:31 pm

I'm quite new to the server, so I'm a little hesitant to opine until I've experienced a few months of play, but I'll give you my initial thoughts and impressions as a new player (Character is only level two and I've been playing for about 2 weeks now, I think). I have a lot of things knocking around inside this strange brain of mine, and I've never been good at being concise, so please forgive me if I drone on... :oops:

Firstly, it's great to see a level 8 server. There are only a handful (comparatively) of low level servers, and those of us who like them are desperate for more choices in that vein. It's also great to see all of your very thoughtful (and good, IMO) rebalance of character classes and races (The crappy monk and half-elf are greatly improved, the munchkiny weaponmaster is tweaked to be desirable, yet balanced, and so on). 3.5 D&D has always had a terrible power creep problem and, on most servers with custom rules systems, this is magnified and exacerbates the problem, rather than fixes it (Levels advance beyond lvl 40, custom PRC's that add even more power, ridiculously overpowered magic items, stat's modified to be able to grow to over 100 or higher, etc.).

I also have great admiration for your willingness to acknowledge topics such as these, and to openly discuss and consider alternatives, while also being devoted enough to your personal vision to have the courage to say that you won't embrace any changes that would derail that vision. The unique vision that created this place is the major part of what makes it different, and what drew me (and, I think, others) to it in the first place. While I might, on occasion, disagree with certain design choices that you make, I recognize that as the module creator, those choices are yours to make- not mine (or anyone else's).

However, I will say that I have never been a fan of level advancement gatekeeping. Indeed, I have never been a fan of experience based crpg systems altogether, which- although they work quite well in tabletop play (where everyone meets as a group, at the same times, on the same day, and levels at approximately the same pace)- they lead to grinding for xp in online games. To my mind, xp grinding is counterintuitive to the concept of roleplay.

To explain what I mean, and where I'm coming from, it might be easiest to work from your own statements about the level caps purpose:
About the Level Cap’s Purpose
The level cap is meant as a suggestion for pacing. We like to see a character grow and have a recognizable story-arc, and we try to aid as best we can to help you work towards that, your character’s goals, hopes and dreams, while also being able to portray that mechanically. Given our level 8 limit, we decided to implement a level cap. This way, we can still aid characters in pacing that arc, without losing track of a sense of progression that is appropriate within the setting.

While I do see where you are coming from here, I think some things are worth considering. Firstly, it must be aknowledged, I think, that this is not merely a "suggestion" for pacing; it is an enforced rate of level advancement, intended to cause all characters to grow in power at roughly the same speed, relative to one another, and while I don't inherently object to this, it causes other problems that I don't care for (more on this, below).

Secondly, character growth and story arcs are not only about the growth of a character's power, how they respond to that growth, and what they do with the power that they've acquired. Yes, that is certainly a form of character growth and a certain kind of story arc and, yes- it can certainly be enriching to explore it. But there are many other kinds of character growth and story arcs one could pursue, that needn't have anything at all to do with one's level of power in the game system, and can be equally fascinating and fun, even when one is at the maximum level attainable on the server. Indeed, most everything listed below hasn't anything necessarily to do with mechanics, nor do they need to be represented by it. Just as a few examples:

Personal Redemption.
Finding a long lost friend, parent, or sibling.
Becoming a trusted advisor to a king or noble.
Establishing a trading outpost in a remote wilderness location.
Founding a guild (adventuring company, street gang, merchant coster, whatever).
Opening a business (Tavern, smithy, magic school, etc.).
Researching a new spell or magic item (Cantrips are spells, and magic items can be RP' related- a magic broom that simply animates and sweeps the floor for you, as opposed to one that you can fly around on, attack with, etc.).
Investigating disappearances, thefts, or murders.
Win the love, affection, admiration, respect, or simply the acceptance of others (fellow players, interesting NPC's, so on).
Explore and map the wilderness (I do this one, myself, on a regular basis).
Uncovering secrets, hidden objects and places of ancient myth.
Seeking revenge.
Acting as a spy for a foreign nation.
Becoming a famous artist or performer.
Sacrificing your personal welfare (health, wealth, life, whatever) for a noble cause.
Pursuing hedonistic pleasure and reckless fun.
Serve your god and advance its goals.
Change or abolish an unjust law.
Cure a strange disease.
Avert (or fulfill) a prophecy.
Steal something (or recover a stolen item)
Immortalize (or slander and scandalize) others in song.

Now, as to this philosophy...
Currently, it is made possible to reach the highest mechanical level attainable in a little under a year. For a character to reach their ‘ultimate form’ in less time than that is something we find we cannot cater to, not while still retaining the integrity of a low-level, low-magic setting.
This is firm and clear, and I can understand the underlying desire to maintain the integrity of your server vision. However, the speed with which one advances in level has (IMO) nothing to do with whether or not a server is low-level, low-magic, low-power, or what have you. That is determined by what the maximum attainable level of power is, and what items, skills, spells, and equipment are accessible in the server environment. Is an 8th lvl character who got to 8th lvl in one week, ultimately any more powerful than an 8th lvl character who got there in 12 months? No, there is no difference. The difference is only in the time factor which it took to arrive at this point.

I think the actual concern here, even if you may not recognize it consciously, is the fear that people will run around grinding xp to attain max level, rather than RP'ing. On a server that desires to be oriented around immersive roleplaying and storytelling, I agree it is a valid concern, but I don't think gatekeeping level advancement is the way to deal with this problem. Here are a few points I feel are valid, with which you may, or may not, agree:

1) Whatever system is in place, dedicated roleplayers with a love of storytelling will pursue that diversion, regardless.
2) Powergamers, with little interest or dedication to rp and story, will pursue that diversion, regardless of the system that is in place.
3) A system intended to stymie the latter, will not have the desired effect, and may also potentially cause frustration, boredom, and dissatisfaction to the former, who are not the root cause of the problem.
4) Some players might enjoy playing an ordinary commoner that experiences a sudden apotheosis into a more powerful being (ala the classic high-fantasy trope of the peasant lad/lass discovering their the ancestor of a great hero or wizard and suddenly manifesting powers, finding mythic weapons, etc. that make them far deadlier and more powerful than the normal man), and must learn how to deal with this sudden change and the new power that they wield. The current level progression system eliminates the possibility of this kind of background/story.
5) Those who don't want to play out that kind of story, can simply adventure less, rp more, and advance at a pace which suits them, without enforcing a similar requirement on others.

If you're worried about power gaming, and having too many powerful characters, I would prefer one (or both) of the following solutions, instead of level advancement gatekeeping:

1) Lower the maximum attainable level. If you don't want a bunch of lvl 8's running around the server, cap the max level at 7 (or even lvl 6, or lvl 5, if you think it melds with your vision of the power level of the server). To compensate players who would have lvl 8 characters de-leveled, offer compensation in the way of gold, magic items, RP advantages (Titles, property, henchman, whatever). Ideally, a list of choices would be made available, so the player could pick the one they wanted.

2) Eliminate advancement over time, altogether. Set the server to a certain level (for argument, let's just say lvl 6). Have a level up bot (I've seen these on numerous servers- most of the powergaming servers, unfortunately, but they could be used to great effect on a server like this, for different reasons) that lets new characters create that lvl 6 character, along with their full character concept, upon logging into the server. Then, if the character wishes to develop different skills, powers, rp concepts related to such, etc. Allow them to access the level-up bot again, to delevel their character and select new classes/skills/feats, etc. related to roleplay, after "X" amount of time has passed.

This latter system has several advantages, in my view:

1) You can set the power level of the server at whatever you wish (lvl, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, whatever)
2) Since characters can start at the maximum attainable level, this eliminates the need to grind for xp, thus removing that worry.
3) Players that would rather experience a gradual growth of power over time, or RP being an apprentice to a more powerful character, could elect to level up to a lower point (start at level 2 or 3, just as an example) and earn levels gradually, over time, as per normal.
4) Most characters would be at roughly the same level of power, making it very easy to adventure with most any group, without having to worry about weaker characters dying, or stronger characters hogging the action/spotlight.
5) It would make it extraordinarily more simple for DM's to plan and balance events and the adventures that ensue, to make sure everyone has a good time and is suitably challenged.
6) It reflects most of the characters we see in fantasy fiction, who do not usually become vastly more powerful over time, in most cases. Aragorn, Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Jon Snow, are all compelling characters with interesting histories and adventures they've taken part in, but throughout the books we read, we see that they have relatively the same abilities throughout these stories. Any power they gain, is largely a matter of event's they were caught up in (RP, in our terms), rather than a sudden- or even gradual- boost of abilities. Becoming a being of mythic power is mostly a D&D trope, and we need not be slavishly devoted to it for the purposes of this server. And if there are characters that wish to pursue such a goal, there are ways to accommodate it without hamstringing the other players.

Anyway, there's my two Sardil's worth, for what it's worth. ;)

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Re: Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby Recklessfireball » Sun May 12, 2019 8:28 pm

Apologies for the double-post. I considered editing my original post but, given the size of the post, I was afraid my follow up comments might be missed. Who wants to read that thing twice, amirite? :P

Anyway, It occurs to me that in my response I actually forgot to address some of the proposed changes to tweak the system. My thoughts on those, are as follows:
Currently, there have been suggestions to change the cap from 3k/month to 100xp/day, or instead 1xp/15 minutes, which has been received with some positive response. This would indeed be more lenient concerning the freedom you have when it comes to the rate you wish to level, progression after all is ideally not a staircase, but a flowing line.
Personally, this would just feel like another form of level-advancement gating, to me, and it would not improve my play experience in any meaningful way (JMO).
Another point was made in the discord to provide buffs for being at a PCs cap. This particularly is an option we’re interested in exploring. There would naturally have to be several options, since not all buffs are useful for all classes. A few options that are either being considered or otherwise notable mentions, are listed below.

- Random AC/ab/dmg-bonus.
- Random (minor) Ability-bonus, these could also negate a lowered ability due to earlier deaths.
- Better chances of revival upon falling unconscious.
- A free respawn.
- Random Skill-bonusses, such as a bonus to Appraise, Disable Device, Escape Artist or Stealth.
- Bonusses to Resting conditions, these would improve the chances of regaining spell-slots and hp.
- Very minor DR.
- Boost to Spell Penetration/DC/Spell Duration.
- Gained XP works towards the E8 system while capped.
So, I don't think any bonus for hitting the cap would alleviate the frustration I feel at being "stuck" at "X" level for "X" amount of time. It would be an initial bonus that would be nice once you hit the cap, but then it would just be more tiresome waiting to access the rest of your abilities to no good effect (again, IMO).

And, of all of these, the only one that seems significant to me is the idea of gained XP being banked towards the E8 System. It doesn't actually address the underlying concern in any meaningful way, but if you're going to try to throw us a bone in an attempt to make us feel better about it, that's the one that I would be most inclined to chase.

Really, though, I'd just like to not have chasing experience points (gated, or otherwise), as an aspect of play. That has little or nothing to do with roleplay, in my perspective (Unless we view our main RP arc as the traditional trope of going from zero to hero, as has always been the case in Dungeons & Dragons. For my part, that's not a particular story I'm interested in exploring, if for no other reason than that I've already done it, over and over again, in almost every D&D campaign that I've played in).

Again, this is just one guy's opinion, so try not to take it personally. I love your mod, overall. My gripe about level grinding holds true for essentially every NWN server that has ever existed. ;)

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Re: Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby Kerstman » Sat May 18, 2019 8:27 am

I like the system as that is. Maybe it's easy talking for me since I suffer from altritis (never playing 1 or a few characters), All my characters are older than a year and a half and I tend to take prolonged breaks from TER, while the uncapping of my PC's continues. However, I am strongly in favor of the slow progression and agree with the TER Team that some cap should be used. The solution is never perfect, but I prefer a monthly over a weekly or daily cap. Slow character progression means proper character building in my opinion. And indeed, within the year you can reach level 8 if you want to. I have two PC's on 8 and one halfway between 7 and 8. I enjoyed taking it slowly and for most of them it took me over two years to get there. I believe that if you take this time for your character to get there he or she shall develop more roleplay history on TER which results in a more enjoyable experience because your character has a lot more IG background and a larger IC interaction history with other PC's. I love it when my PC's meet other PC's with whom they have shared their deepest secrets, the most happy moments or with whom they have been in the most troubling and harrowing situations. I love it even more when this happens several years later.

Is all this impossible with the level cap? Ofcourse not. I believe that if you are a quality roleplayer you will display very high quality roleplay regardless of the cap. Still I believe the forced slower progression adds to the overall experience. I would not want my characters to reach the max level in 3 months. I am aware this is an extreme, but the levels and the progression feels more like an achievement for my chars (both ICly for them as for me as a player) when it takes them time than when it takes them relatively little time.

Again, the cap has its imperfections, but I cannot think of a better alternative at this moment. As for the suggestions provided by the team I only like the Gained XP working towards the E8 system while being capped. It feels like XP shall still be rewarding, but it is like you are putting it in an XP bank and you'll get it when you are level 8. That way it makes it something to look forward to and something rewarding for actually getting your character to level 8. The other suggestions I don't like so much. As far as I am concerned there does not need to be much of a reward for doing stuff while on cap. The stuff you do IG should suffice or at least go a long way. Also I never like the random bonuses.

One final addition I wish to make. I remember that a while ago it was suggested to link the cap to player activity and in fact to freeze the cap when a player / PC remains inactive for a longer time. I would be firmly against that one. Activity of a player should be rewarded, but inactivity should not be punished. While being inactive, the 'punishment' is that someone is not getting any xp or money and that is plenty. Also the arguments in favor of the cap do not advocate for a freezing of a cap for inactivity. And there's that even without logging in a character can develop in a really meaningful way. The PC may go on a voyage to other realms, there can be purely offline rp of any kind with or without involving any other PC in it or the player can decide to expand the character's background. I have done stuff like that and I've seen other players do it. Sometimes it is just as wonderful as any IG roleplay. Also, if stuck on the monthly cap it can be very interesting to do something like it.
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Re: Level Cap Alternatives Discussion

Postby Talisman » Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:24 am

Buffs while capped are campy and unappealing to me.

Honestly, I'm happy with the cap increasing in smaller, quicker intervals now (every 24 hours). This is how it is now working and that is pretty much a good enough fix for me. Though I do think that xp cap gain/day should have a doubled or tripled rate when E8 is a thing. I enjoy the cap personally, I just hate seeing it scare people off. Especially people I've enjoyed RP with.

Here is my final thoughts on this topic and taking it to a broader scope:

I don't think having problems with a cap makes you an inferior RPer. People have different tastes, and TER is very niche in its identity. That narrow niche will always be the main factor in the server's historically low pop. In a very finite "market" of potential players, I don't mind it if the team relaxes some of the hardcore features of the server (specifically the xp cap, really) in minute amounts to compete with a larger share of NWN's remaining playerbase. I love TER and I want more people to find and enjoy it too. But I would never want or ask the team to stray so far that the server loses its low-magic, hardcore identity in the process. Those are exactly the qualities that I like about TER myself (and reading this thread, other veterans seem to align on this). It is a balancing act in the end. I just see that things could be loosened somewhat to appeal to a broader audience, because the one rule that seems to dictate population size of NWN servers is that players beget players.

One last thing: The xp cap is really the only hardcore mechanic on the server I've ever heard complaints about and know that we have lost players to. Just seemed like the area to focus on when I brought it up.

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