Coordinator Gymnastics - Solutions

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As of the time of this posting, there are currently two threads burning up the boards talking about starting characters in LFR above level 1. Some feel that this would address a particular need with the difficulty of coordinating satisfying play experiences with people of varying tenures in LFR across an increasing number of level bands. However, there is a strong opposition to the idea from many.

For the record, I think I am finding myself on the side opposed to starting characters above level 1.

However, that's not what I'm really looking to discuss here. What I would like is for this thread to be a discussion about solutions to the level band issue. I think starting characters above level 1 has been well and truly covered, so lets look for other solutions. Let's not limit ourselves for suggested changes to LFR rules - what can be done on the author, coordinator, DM and player levels to alleviate some of this problem as well?


THE ISSUE - LFR currently has 5 level bands and will eventually expand to reach 9 level bands. Many players have a tendency to have a "main" character that they want to play as often as possible. However, based on when a player began playing LFR, those PC's will reside in different tiers.

The issue is further complicated in that each table requires a DM, who himself probably has a favorite character he would like to be playing. In my experience, DM's seem to fall into 3 catagories - those who do it exclusively for provided incentives, those who do it occasionally, and those who do it so frequently that their characters fall behind the leveling curve. There is also a base of players who will avoid DMing like the plague, either because they do not wish to, because they do not feel they have sufficient experience, or both.

A further complication mentioned is that as new characters enter the playerbase, the modules offered are "stale". For some players, a run through AGLA 1-1 is a new experience, since they have never played LFR. However, while AGLA 1-1 may be a great story the first time through, it is expecting too much that the story will be enjoyable on the 2nd playthrough, much less the 4th or 5th. As exciting new content is released, such as DALE 1-7 or the MINI campaigns, should veteran players feel obliged to roll new characters to play these? If so, is that a good thing or bad thing?

THE CORE QUESTIONS
 
How can organizers best support the increasing diversity in preferred level band of the players?
How can more people be encouraged to DM?
What can be done so that the playerbase as a whole feels that the offerings presented are fun?
Are new low level modules helping or are they frustrating veteran players?

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

Allow players to create characters above level 1

A cohort system, which will give lower level characters bonuses to correspond to the more difficult levels of play

Allowing players to earn XP for their characters as a DM reward

Arbitrary limits on how often a particular PC can be played

Designing modules that allow a broader band of levels to play together

Increased publication of modules at level bands below the highest level band, encouraging veterans to play other characters while waiting for modules they can play with their mains

A point system for DM rewards that allow them priority access to tables above those who have not volunteered to DM as much

Broaden playerbase connectivity through online play, preferably via the holy grail known as the Game Table



So, lets hear your solutions, whether it's one of the above or something new. I'd like to stay off of the debate about starting characters above level 1 in this thread. It's been proposed and sufficiently discussed elsewhere. So, especially for those opposed to that solution, what else is out there?
Except at conventions, and even then, my personal experience in coordinating so far (I help run a weekly game day, run one con and help with another) are such that the "problem" hasn't risen to the level of problematic, yet.

As such, I'm personally for keeping on keeping on.

That said, I think that there are other solutions, no one is discussing:
1) have players be helpful: They can GM once in a while and help out your "main" GMs get their play in. We NEED to encourage new GMs.

2) have experienced GMs help out new GMs with special games to "show them how it's done", or run special judge only tables that reward GMs (thus encouraging folks to GM) ... especially of mods that everyone wants to play

3) run a judge only table of a mod one week ... with the understanding that players at that table have to GM said mod for at least one other table in the coming weeks.

4) have players be helpful: If there are a lot of people not playing because they want to play their paragon PCs but you're not offering paragon mods, ask them to help out the club by GMing, by playing down and helping other players get up to paragon, etc

5) have players be helpful: If there are a lot of players who are playing often and they are squeezing out players, ask them to let others play so you can get them up to level.

6) Institute a system such that players who cannot sign up one week are given preferred seating the next week. Or a week of their choosing if they can't do the next week. (edit: "cannot" in the sense that they are waitlisted or there aren't enough seats for them when they show up that game day)

7) have players be helpful: so much more can be done by the players for the players and the GMs than I'm suggesting ... try some.

In general, if everyone cooperates more, more people play more ... a few people may play less but in general I think satisfaction will go up.
I can talk about a couple of the issues.

How can more people be encouraged to DM?

Locally, I've started up something called Judge Night.  I'm setting up a weekly game for people who DM to play in.  Since even at our reasonably high rate of play we're still a fair bit behind the adventure release curve, the plan is to offer first-run newly released adventures up for the Judge Nights as both a reward/incentive and as pre-emptive Slot Zeros for when these adventures eventually hit a Gameday.  So far I've got a few months of these set up, with the regular crew cycling through as volunteer DMs (so I get to play too).

This scheme helps offset the opportunity cost of DMing (that being not playing).

Are new low level modules helping or are they frustrating veteran players?

This depends on your veterans.  If you've got a group of "demanders" with big senses of entitlement, then you're probably out of luck whatever you do.  If you've got a group who are just as excited to play PC #5 as to play PC #1 then you're golden whatever you do.  I've been in the second situation, so I've never really had to consider the first.

A big part of the challenge is to get your veterans into the fold as volunteers, on-board with the notion that "if I put the club's interests ahead of my own interests, then there will be a payoff for me that equals or exceeds what I'd get if I put my own interests first".  And this mindset boils down to realizing that you don't have to DM to be a club volunteer.  Simply playing your PC #5 with a table of newbies rather than fighting for a P1 spot with your PC #1 can count as volunteering for the club.  Again, since I more-or-less inherited a club with this mindset already, I can't tell you how to engender it deliberately in a different setting.


What can be done so that the playerbase as a whole feels that the offerings presented are fun?

A lot of this comes down to the message you're sending from the top.  I liken it to what I've heard about game stores and the level of success/failure of 4E when it was new.  Store owners who were genuinely excited about 4E reported huge sales and a runaway success, while store owners who strongly disliked 4E and were resentful that it even existed reported dismal sales and a complete failure.

In the same way, if you DM a replay adventure with a "sorry about the replay folks, let's just get through this a quickly as possible and we'll do better next month" attitude, then the players pick up that vibe.  But if you can find a way to make it fresh and exciting for yourself, then the play experience will follow naturally.
it's unclear to me whether or not you're suggesting changes to the CCG (i.e. rules for the RPGA) or simply guidelines / idea/ suggestions for how coordinators should run their events (or run their events better).

First - every area/group is different.  What works for one area won't work for another, as the social dynamic, play style, supply/demand of DMs, players, and game-space vary.  So don't ask RPGA to design a system that will inherently not work for some groups (or many of them).

Second - I've learned over the years that overly complex systems just create more work - when what you're trying to really do is minimize the work that goes into game-day coordination (while maximizing the fun of everyone involved).  Don't make something really complex (point systems to play, or complex algorithms to determine what tier is run this week). 

I agree that regardless of whether or not you allow people to "start" PC's above level one, the system needs to be looked at, and should think about accomodating that possibility. 

My recommendation is this:  always offer two games.  One game should be a "simple" game (see below) and one should be a "special" game (see below).  Overly complex and hated adventures should not be run at gamedays (and you should consider a process to identify these before you run them). 

Simple games:  these are typically level 1-4 games.  They're intended for casual and especially brand new players.  If you can only start PC's at level one, then by definition they're going to be level 1-4 to accomodate the "new" player.  Choose adventures that are also easy to prep - so that any DM could potentially run them.  Avoid forking/matrix style adventures, complex combats, overly difficult combats.  Perhaps choose adventures with useful (generic +2 implement/weapon/armor/neck) magic item awards. 

Special  games:  typically games that are in high-demand tiers (varies for your area).  If your area is mostly H3 (level 7-10), than run H3.  This can also include premiering a new adventure of any tier, an adventure higher that few can play (the first P2 mod), and MYRE.  If you're game-day is such that you have the time, include SPEC, ADCP, ADAP, QUES, and MINI adventures as well.  But always shake it up.  Don't run H3's for six weeks in a row... try not to run the same tier three weeks in a row.

Complex/Hated games:  these are games to avoid running at a public gameday. They include long, drawn out boring fights, brutal fights, overly complex adventures (that Dm's are unlikely to want to run regularly), "unfair" fights, etc.   Now, the exact definition of which mods fit into this category will vary by play-group.  What's a blast for some is a nightmare for others.  The point is, if you as coordinator, don't think your group is going to have fun playing OR running an adventure - don't schedule it.  Period.  You can identify mods by "vetting" them with a small DM group that meets outside your public game day, or rely on the comments of specific people on these boards who's opinions you share (again - opinions.  just because poster #12 is really smart, doesn't mean his/her opinion of a "good" or "bad" mod is shared by you and your play group). 

When scheduling - just keep in mind what the DM's want to run too.  Honestly, there are days when I open the .pdf and look at the number of pages.  If it's over 32, I don't schedule it.  Period.  It's actually a good rule of thumb (too many handouts, appendices, optional encounters, etc. means lots of DM prep time and complication for a simple week night game-day).  Save the complicated stuff for conventions and home play -where DM's are typically more motivated to put in the extra prep time.
THE CORE QUESTIONS
 

  • How can organizers best support the increasing diversity in preferred level band of the players?

  • How can more people be encouraged to DM?

  • What can be done so that the playerbase as a whole feels that the offerings presented are fun?

  • Are new low level modules helping or are they frustrating veteran players?


PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

  • Allow players to create characters above level 1

  • A cohort system, which will give lower level characters bonuses to correspond to the more difficult levels of play

  • Allowing players to earn XP for their characters as a DM reward

  • Arbitrary limits on how often a particular PC can be played

  • Designing modules that allow a broader band of levels to play together

  • Increased publication of modules at level bands below the highest level band, encouraging veterans to play other characters while waiting for modules they can play with their mains

  • A point system for DM rewards that allow them priority access to tables above those who have not volunteered to DM as much

  • Broaden playerbase connectivity through online play, preferably via the holy grail known as the Game Table



I think the rate of levelling needs to be seriously investigated. I think the relative rate of levelling at the different level bands is something that could be moderated to help improve the problem. I know many players think LFR levels characters a little too fast. Putting a drag on the overall rate of levelling also helps contain the issue. If we can slow up the highest levels and speed up the bottom levels, it will reduce the strain of trying to populate those low and middle levels. It's also those middle levels that could most use some sort of incentive as there always seem to be brand new players (or they can be instantly created) and there will always be hardcore players waiting for the next level band.

  • My first step would be to allow DMs to gain XP and gold while running adventurers for others. I think any incentive is a good one and feel it could reduce infractions of a frequently broken rule. I might consider limiting picking bundles or gaining XP on top level band characters.

  • My next step would be to reduce the XP in all upcoming P2 and higher modules to slow down the top end of the scale. Slowing down levelling will reduce the expansion of level bands available as time progresses and likely allow players to know their characters better. I think the new retaining rules should sate most players' need for change.

  • The next step would be to add a line in the next LFR CCG adding a blanket bonus to XP and Gold between 10-25% to H1 and H2 modules in order to hasten the ability of new players to catch up and allow existing players to quickly level up new characters as they become available. As time goes by higher bonuses and more level bands can be added to this acceleration.

  • Another step would be to focus the special events on the level bands below the highest. If P2s are debuting there will be no problem populating those tables because players have likely been waiting for them. There is no need to further incentivise them with particularly attactive or higher XP events.

  • The last step would be to try to make broader level bands if possible. I think we are pretty quickly approaching a point where realeasing heroic 1-5 and 6-10 adventures could make sense. A little boost (temporary boon or loaned item) to the low end characters combined with NPCs who target higher level PCs more regularly could be all that might be needed. If levels 1-30 could be covered by 6-7 bands instead 9, it's bound to help.


THE CORE QUESTIONS
1. How can organizers best support the increasing diversity in preferred level band of the players?
2. How can more people be encouraged to DM?
3. What can be done so that the playerbase as a whole feels that the offerings presented are fun?
4. Are new low level modules helping or are they frustrating veteran players?



1. Work with the community to address this issue. Always offer at least one H1 table at every event/time-slot. Simply put, everyone can play in these. Rotate the higher-tiers.

2. Depends - current DMs judging more, or new DMs?  Compared to earlier editions, 4e is very easy to judge. Workshops for new DMs, store-credit fees (payed by players), and special judge-only events have all worked in our community. Every community is different - find what works for you!

3. Depends on what the player base thinks is fun.    You have to work with them on it, but there's enough content being released that only the hard-core types (myself included) can't find something "new" to play!

4. New low-level mods are a huge help!  I'd rather make a new Level 1 character to play something new, than get stuck playing a mod I've played before.  (Personal preference.)

I don't think there's anything wrong with the current system - - - - I don't feel that new players "need to catch up," nor do I think that DMs are "missing something" by judging.  (For example, you could offer a double-judge-special session of SPECX-X, with the "cost" of judging other groups in the community twice during the next month.)

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

I have a weekly LFR game with a closed group of people.  We take turns DMing (but I DM more than most of them).

I participate in one open game day a month, roughly.  And that game day only has two slots, so it's run one/play one for me.

One problem I've hit that hasn't been mentioned is the hard line between H3 and P1.  The one level buffer makes my weekly game a lot easier to schedule.  If someone misses a few weeks, it's ok.  They're the 4 in the 4-7 module when the rest of the table is level 5.  But between 10th and 11th, that no longer works.  So getting everyone to wrap at the same time is a pain.

The "DM only tables" assumes that the weekly game nights are open LFR game nights.  Mine are not.  That won't work.

So my favorite solution is the "DM gets XP/Gold" one, because its perfect for the weekly game.  It doesn't completely fix the H3/P1 issue though.

I'd like the H3/P1 boundary to be fuzzier.  Allow 10th level PCs to play in P1.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

I have a weekly LFR game with a closed group of people.  We take turns DMing (but I DM more than most of them).

...

The "DM only tables" assumes that the weekly game nights are open LFR game nights.  Mine are not.  That won't work.



so, what's you're saying is that you're off topic?



what?

It should be noted that the rate of leveling in LFR is exactly the same as in the Core rules. If you as a group really feel bad about it, you can simply play low, and ask the DM to run it at high monsters.

 > Allow players to create characters above level 1

See other thread.

> A cohort system, which will give lower level characters bonuses to correspond
> to the more difficult levels of play

See other thread. I also fail to see what the benefit is compared to starting the PC at higher levels. In fact, this is worse since it allows the player to play at whatever level they want whenever they want.

> Allowing players to earn XP for their characters as a DM reward

You do realize that you might just as well start them at higher level? Less paperwork, easier to balance. It also saves you the discussion about running the hard adventures with big rewards without any risks to their characters.

> Arbitrary limits on how often a particular PC can be played

What does this solve?

> Designing modules that allow a broader band of levels to play together

As discussed in other threads. It is difficult to implement, but in practice it does not help overly much except in a corner case or two. In LG the bands were wide, but players really did not want to play too far up or down anyway, so in regards to mustering this only complicated matters. The only thing it solves is in regards to storylines, giving players a bigger chance to finish them.

> Increased publication of modules at level bands below the highest level band,
> encouraging veterans to play other characters while waiting for modules they
> can play with their mains

Enough adventures are published of all level bands. In my experience veterans don't switch because after having created half-a-dozen of PCs they want to play them at higher levels and not just constantly create new ones. The players who already don't mind starting new characters constantly, have ample of new play.

> A point system for DM rewards that allow them priority access to tables above
> those who have not volunteered to DM as much

That is something only a local organizer can keep an eye on. Mind you, without any DMs you will not have a game, including those normal DMs.

> Broaden playerbase connectivity through online play, preferably via the holy
> grail known as the Game Table

You can already play online quite well, Game Table or not. The fact is that it is a different experience from a tabletop game, and it is not for everybody. I personally rather dislike it.
As someone else said, every area/group will be different.  I personally haven't seen any issues with the level bands yet.  The gameday I typically attend has a mix of tables of H1-H3.  Most of the players who have higher level PCs tend to judge there a lot and play a lot outside of the gamedays where they get their higher level mods.

On a personal note, when I have helped coordinate things, I have found things to be smoother than the old APL system of Greyhawk with it's wide level bands where you often had tables not go off because you had players with vastly different levels of PCs and not enough people for a legal table at any APL, even with playing up or down.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
I've let this stew for a few days and now I'm going to post my proposal. It falls under the DMXP catagory.



The proposal requires an amendment to the actual rules set for the RPGA/LFR.

1) The DM selects one of his characters to gain XP and GP rewards for playing a module.

2) The DM checks his character's level against the level tier of the mod. For modules covering multiple tiers, such as "Jungle Hunt", use the level band played by the PC adventurers as the level band of the module.

3a) If the character's level is lower than the module's minimum level, the DM's character gets the average low tier rewards in XP and GP of a module at appropriate level for his character, regardless of whether the module was played on low or high tier, and regardless of the player's success or failure in the module.

3b) If the character's level is equal or higher than the module's minimum level, the character get's the low tier rewards in XP and GP of the module run by the DM, regardless of whether the module was played on low or high tier and regardless of the player's success or failures in the module.

3c) If the character is at a bridge level (level 4 or 7, for example) the lower band of modules is considered the appropriate rewards for the PC.

4) The DM received the "additional gold" reward. He may not select a magic item bundle or consumable for his reward.

5) The DM does not receive positive or negative story awards for his character. The character does not count the module as completed for the purposes of a quest.

6) The DM's character is not considered to have played the module. In this way, the same character can receive rewards for the DM running the same module multiple times, and his character can also play that module, and can receive rewards for running a module the character has already played.

7) The DM's character is not included in any actions that advance a card quest (i.e. Zhentarim Infiltration or In Slumber Remain).

8) The DM's character is not present and may not act in any way during the running of the module.


Troubleshooting:

The rules should be wordsmithed for clarity, but I hope to have made the intent clear - trying to avoid some abuses.

A DM and his players can agree to start a level 1 mod, all players immediately walk off the field or commit suicide, and thus the DM gets rewards.  By rotating this, people could quickly group-powerlevel with no effort. Some sort of "reasonable attempt to succeed" clause is needed, but at the end of the day, if people want to cheat or exploit they will. :-( Hopefully this sort of shenanigans will be disdained by the vast majority.

As someone else said, every area/group will be different.  I personally haven't seen any issues with the level bands yet.  The gameday I typically attend has a mix of tables of H1-H3.  Most of the players who have higher level PCs tend to judge there a lot and play a lot outside of the gamedays where they get their higher level mods.



When we only had heroic level adventures, it wasn't a big issue.  The fact that your game day is only providing H1-H3 is indicative of the problem.  Paragon level mods have been out for a while, they should be available to people who want to play them.  Public game days should be able to support all levels of game play.

A simple alternative would be to allow people to give themselves XP/GP as if they hade played MYREs of the appropriate level.    That way DM's can keep up with the group, people joining can play whatever level is being offered.

Allen.


A simple alternative would be to allow people to give themselves XP/GP as if they hade played MYREs of the appropriate level.    That way DM's can keep up with the group, people joining can play whatever level is being offered.



Would you expect to see any play of anything other than P1 play with that rule in place?



A simple alternative would be to allow people to give themselves XP/GP as if they hade played MYREs of the appropriate level.    That way DM's can keep up with the group, people joining can play whatever level is being offered.



Would you expect to see any play of anything other than P1 play with that rule in place?






In home campaigns, I've always offered to let people start at any level.  They always started at level 1 anyway (well, level 2 occasionally back when level 1's were super-fragile).

If you offer interesting heroic level stories, people will want to play them.  But ... if a group wants to start at P1, would it really matter? 

If you really want to restrict it put some rules around it.  For example, only allow it if you need to form a table and the majority of people already have characters that qualify to play the table.

Allen.


If you offer interesting heroic level stories, people will want to play them.  But ... if a group wants to start at P1, would it really matter? 



If everyone's playing at P1, it vastly affects my ability to play a character linearly from 1st level.
I tend to agree with Thanlis on this point. There would be a lot of pressure to only offer mods of the highest tier available, and maybe an occasional 1-4 training module for new players. In theory, you can say that the option to level up a character is still there, but in practice, it wouldn't be - at least not for local gaming groups.
I tend to agree with Thanlis on this point. There would be a lot of pressure to only offer mods of the highest tier available, and maybe an occasional 1-4 training module for new players. In theory, you can say that the option to level up a character is still there, but in practice, it wouldn't be - at least not for local gaming groups.



But people like you are why gaming groups exist.  If it ever became an issue, discuss it with the group organizer.

Or, as I said, limit it to situations where there's already games forming at a specific tier and you have 1 or 2 people who don't have a character at a high enough level.  If the choice is not playing at all or creating a higher level character, I'd rather play.

I can't speak to all gaming groups everywhere.  I've played in or DMed more campaigns than I care to admit.  Most people prefer to start new characters at level 1.

Allen.


When we only had heroic level adventures, it wasn't a big issue.  The fact that your game day is only providing H1-H3 is indicative of the problem.  Paragon level mods have been out for a while, they should be available to people who want to play them.  Public game days should be able to support all levels of game play.



But there's the rub, around here, there are very few paragon level players.  The occasional P1 mod shows up now and again.  The H3 mods are just now getting more than one table.  Granted, this gameday is 1/month as opposed to some groups who play weekly.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
Hmm. I think I meant to post this makeup post (forums died on me last night) in this thread. Wow, we really are debating the same issue across many threads.

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