Another experience question - mass combat 3.5

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There is probably no hard and fast rule for my question so I am seeking opinions on how to assign experience. I am DMing a war/mass combat campaign (side campaign in an ongoing game). I have read Heroes of Battle but I am not finding my question addressed in a way that helps me. My players are level 5 and 6. They were in this town for several months prior to the outbreak of war and (despite 2 of the players leaning evil) the party has assisted the town quite a bit. Thus, they are a known group and, as such, have been asked several times to command groups of soldiers in battles. For the most part, I give each PC 10 warriors to command. Because my players insist on being active with each group, each player essentially gets 2 turns per round (the PC acts, and then gets 1 attack roll for the group of 10). The mechanics work for this group and we have fun.

My challenge is how to award experience. If I work it out per the DMG (CR experience for level/number of allies), I am awarding a pathetically low amount of XP. For example, last week the group had to defeat a dire bear and a group of bugbears. By the time the dire bear went down, 67 allies contributed to bringing it down. That gave the PCs a whopping 40 experience (44 for the Level 5 PCs). It hurts the conscripts assisting the PCs as well. I mean an untested conscript who survives a massive battle with a dire bear and a host of bugbears might not be green anymore (he or she might not make it to level 2, but I think it would be close). However, since the number of allies is so high the experience for even the conscripts is pathetic. Last night, the PCs fought 34 orcs (30 MM1 orcs, 2 orc corporals, 1 orc sergeant, and a single 6 Barbarian/1 Eye of Gruumsh). The 4 PCs had 30 mostly conscript warriors and 30 conscript archers (I did not mean to give that PC 30 archers but it happened). This was a tough battle and there were was a point when the orcs were very close to overrunning the allies. However, the PCs held and after the battle when I worked out the experience, the PCs end up receiving 32 XP for Eye of Gruumsh (or 35 for the level 5 PCs); they get 53 XP total for the 30 orcs, and 7 or 8 for the sergeant. I know the NPC warriors were the difference in this battle but I still feel like taking down such a massive group warrants more XP. Even if I double the amount it still seems too low. After all, the Eye of Gruumsh, sergeant, and corporals were for the PCs. The Eye did kill a lot of conscripts to get to the PCs but once he got there, he fought the PC fighter and PC cleric. However, the conscripts are probably what kept the fighter and cleric alive since the conscript warriors did a few points of damage and bought the PCs time as the Eye dropped NPCs. The PC ranger ended up massacring plain orcs but she kept the orcs occupied and prevented them from making it past the other PCs. So, I am not sure how to assign XP. And again, the conscripts seem like they get cheated too. I am not tracking them so I can just say they level up but it would not work out that way using normal XP awards.

Anyone have ideas on how to award an appropriate amount of experience without cheating the PCs and not granting them too much? I am considering giving them a set amount based on the task (hold the village) but I am open to suggestions.

Thanks
For what you're describing, it might be easier to forego XP for a while. I believe PCs are expected to level about every dozen encounters. I'd say just arbitrarily let them level every 10 or so encounters, and let the conscripts level in NPC classes (probably warrior or commoner) about every 7. I don't DM too often, so I may be way off base, but that's my
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I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
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In this case, rather than awarding EXP by combat you should award EXP by encounter and achievement. Helping to level up NPC conscripts, killing enemies, and keeping said conscripts alive all are endeavors that risk party resources and test their abilities, even if just to keep their conscripts from being killed rather than keeping themselves from being killed. As the combats are giving essentially no combat experience for the Player Characters, the non-combat experience for leadership and tactics should help make up for some of that risk.
Part of me wants to say your math is wrong (at least it doesn't look right in the encounter calculator):
30 CR 1 Orcs:  300 XP for 1st level and 6th-level characters
2  CR 2? Orc Corporal:  600 XP for 1st level, 500 for 5th, and 450 for 6th
1  CR 4? Orc Sergeant: 1350 XP for 1st, 1000 for 5th, and 900 for 6th
1 CR 7 Eye of Gruumsh:  3600 XP for 1st, 3000 for 5th, and 2700 for 6th.
vs.
60 1st level character, 2 5th, and 2 6th.
XP for 1st level characters = 15,150 XP total over 64 participants = 236.7 XP each
XP for 5th level characters = 14,000 XP yielding 218.75 XP each
XP for 6th level characters = 13,500 XP yielding 210.9 XP each

Ok, everyone gets less XP then they'd get soloing a CR 1 but don't forget the PC party outnumbered the enemy nearly 2:1.  It certainly isn't much on a "per creature" basis but there were a LOT of enemies in that encounter.  After five major battle like that the "conscripts" will have the XP to level up even if the PCs are still waiting.

Now something I'd consider doing with a big group of low level NPCs is to group them up and then treat the group as if they were a higher level to begin with.  For example I may consider 8 of your conscripts as a single 5th-level character and award them XP with that assumption.  Putting all these individuals together does mean few ways to split the XP but I'm not sure one fairness.
 
For what you're describing, it might be easier to forego XP for a while. I believe PCs are expected to level about every dozen encounters. I'd say just arbitrarily let them level every 10 or so encounters, and let the conscripts level in NPC classes (probably warrior or commoner) about every 7. I don't DM too often, so I may be way off base, but that's my



Finally, a voice of reason! That's about how we do it Draco, and it's worked perfectly well for about 25 years now.

Neue 
Steve,

My math was partially wrong. That's what I get for trying to calculate XP at 4:30-5:00am. However, the 30 orcs are CR=1/2

30 orcs (CR=1/2) = 4500/64 = 70 XP (I accidentally used 84 instead of 64. I have no idea what I did for the other orcs.)

3 orcs (corporals and sergeants are CR=2 using HoB stats) = 1500/64 = 23 (about 8 per orc) for level 5 or 1350/64 = 21 (7 per orc) for level 6

1 orc CR=7 = 3000/64 = 46 for level 5 or 2700/64 = 42 for level 6

Total XP for level 5s = 139
Total XP for level 6s = 133

draco and Neue,

I am not opposed to doing it that way. I enjoy tracking it and it gives me numbers to explain what some of the encounters. Regardless, I can always assign a number to various encounters like these battles so that the PCs get the amount I think they should get and make it work out that they level up in about 10-12 encounters.

Thanks for the assistance.

Recalculating:

30 CR 1/2: 150 XP each (as two should make CR 1 which is 300)
3  CR 2:  600 XP for 1st level, 500 for 5th, and 450 for 6th
1  CR 7:  3600 XP for 1st, 3000 for 5th, and 2700 for 6th

1st level = 9900 max = each get 155
5th level = 9000 max = each 141
6th level = 8550 max = each 134

Those leader types REALLY add XP for the 1st level types.  If you were looking at the total XP awarded and left out those higher CR types for the conscripts that would seriously schew the net totals.

The lazy part of me might just treat this as two encounters.  You have the "minion battle" with the 60 conscripts fighting the 30 basic Orc and earning 75 XP each which makes sense if when you consider the orcs are out number 2:1.  Then you'd have the "boss" fight with the four tougher orcs taking on the PCs; in this four on four fight the 5th-levels would earn 1125 each and the 6th-level would earn 1013.  The total XP awarded would be 8775 which is actually a bit lower then 9830 total if the total encounter was looked at although the PCs are earning quite a bit more.
You could also apply the Mob rules from DMG II. In general the standard rules break down once you have more than 10-15 PCs+NPCs.

The suggestion of just having everyone level after 10 encounters would also work except for lower level characters supposedly levelling a bit faster as the XP math works in such a way that they should slowly catch up.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

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