Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DMG - Rewards

I wasn't originally going to make a post solely for this chapter, since it's so short, but in the end I decided it was something worth commenting on.

Rewards, as the chapter points out, are what drive the characters, and the players, through the adventure. Whether your character loves every shiny coin and eye gem, or the player is the power-gamer who just needs that one extra level to realize her dreams, rewards represent your "score" in this game. Even for the most die-hard roleplayer, saving simple villages and negotiating with kobold chieftains can get a bit boring after a while; they want to advance to saving cities, nations and worlds, and dealing with giants, dragons, demons and deities. These are things that the lowly first-level character can't be expected to do - the only reason a dragon bothers to parley instead of attack is if the party either poses a threat, or can offer something in return. These require advanced levels, treasure, or both.

My favorite part of this chapter happens to be the change for the experience points from a variable scale to a static one. No longer do you compare each monster's Challenge Rating the the party's level to determine the experience earned; that orc is worth 200XP whether you're first level or fifth. How much that 200XP helps in your advancement is what changes. Why is this significant? It makes adventure-building a lot easier. In 3rd edition, the DM would have to look up the CR of each creature in an encounter and figure out the XP once the encounter ended - if the adventurers cleared the crypt before ridding the pass of the troll infestation, they might have gained a level and thus the trolls aren't worth as much. This prevented pre-calculation of experience points for each encounter, unless you knew for sure that the party was going to be 6th level here.

Now, adventure writers can provide the total XP for the encounter with the encounter, regardless of the size or average level of the party. Not only does this make for easier computation for the DM running the adventure, but it also allows single encounters or encounter sets (Side Treks, as Wizards is calling them) to be looked at and considered for inclusion into a module or campaign; if the DM wants to ensure the party is in the paragon tier before they get to the Dark Spire of Death, and knows the party needs another 11,000XP total to reach that level, he can flip through his collection of random encounters and pick out a couple that total to that amount.

Milestones and action points are still new ideas to me, so I'm not sure how much of a "reward" an action point is. Sure, there might be a reason to reward a party that has kept going without rest, and admittedly, an action point isn't too large of a reward, but it seems like there's more attention to this idea that it warrants. It's just an action point, one extra action. I agree it can be handy, perhaps the turning point of a tough combat (especially if you've been going non-stop through encounters), and they provide that extra surge to make the character that more heroic. I just don't know that I see them as the big deal that the rules make them out to be.

Treasure is what drives a lot of characters, whether the accumulation of wealth or the power of magic items. The figuring of loot has been greatly simplified as well. This might have taken a bit of fun out of it, with the new parcel system, but on the other hand, it does allow the adventure creator to better tell if the adventure is doling out a reasonable amount of loot. This is a system that the Wizards people themselves have needed, for they were always notoriously stingy in their published modules.

I was surprised, when I read the section on the treasure parcels, though. In the early days of 4e's announcement, there was talk about magic items being toned down, yet the suggested loot for a party of five, per level, includes five magic items (not including potions). Perhaps this will seem lower at the higher levels, where you'd expect every enemy to be wielding at least +1 weapons, and that's where the new powers system looks like it'll be useful - obviating the need for everything over 5th level to have at least +1 items. Also, with potions being all but gone, especially the ubiquitous Cure Light Wounds of old, I suppose the number of magic items is affected there.

It will be interesting to see how the treasure and loot system works out at higher levels. In 3rd edition, selling items gave you half the market value on average. Now you only get a fifth, so characters are going to be motivated to make do with what they find, or disenchant them for rituals, which I'm looking forward to trying out in the future. I also find it interesting that a first-level party is expected to find an item four levels higher than them during their first level (in fact, every level should expect magic items of +1, +2, +3 and +4 of the party level). Yes, levels are stretched from 20 to 30 now, but still, this feels significant. This means that a second-level party could potentially end up with a +2 enchanted item, or if not, a +1 with some impressive enhancements.

Of course, we're currently playing through the first module, a Wizards of the Coast production, so I'm very curious whether the loot matches the parcels at all, or if the party is going to once again be poor.

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