Giant Killer Small Target Level 1 ...etc

In the first session, the characters didn't get any experience, so they're still level one. One of the PCs is a Giant Killer Ranger. The Giant Killer has a special ability at level one, called Small Target that lets you use your reaction to take half damage from a large creature. I wanted to let his character use his ability, so I looked through the Bestiary for a level 1 large creature, and I found one. Exactly one. It's a horse.

OK, so I reskinned the horse, and said it was an oversized Hobgoblin with a Maul. I changed it's damage from 1d6+2 to 1d12+2, gave it a 10 ft reach, and changed its intelligence from 2 to 8.

So, it's a little funny that I had to reskin a horse in order to make the Ranger's level one ability usable.

In this session there was a lot of story, and three combat encounters. Some goblins kept trying to sneak up on them, but the party is full of stealthy characters (they all four of them have the sneak skill, and none of them wear heavy armor), so they kept surprising the goblins instead. The third combat encounter was the Hobgoblins and Bigun as I called the reskinned Horse.

Now they still don't have enough XP to reach level 2. I planned enough level 1 combat encounters for them to reach level 2, but we'd been playing for about 5 hours when the Hobgoblin encounter ended, so we stopped there. The concept of this campaign is to do a ten session thing, because I will be moving in October. So, I could let the group take another five sessions to get through those encounters I planned for one session and reach level 2 at which point the campaign will be about half over; or I could go back and figure out how much experience I should have awarded them for the story sections; or I could stop using the XP system altogether and give them levels insted.

One thing about the story sections was that they really bumbled their way through them, and I typically had to have an NPC come in and get them on track. I've been DMing for a very long time, but something I could still learn more about is how to get new players to ask NPCs lots of questions. The fact that they bumbled through the story sections doesn't have to mean they don't get the XP for it though.

I remember when we played D&D in higschool with my stepbrother, leveling up was extremely slow. We reached level 12 after about 100 sessions (literally). So, this matches what I remember from D&D experience gain, but somehow doesn't match with what I expect from a newer version.

Summary

The Giant Killer 1st level ability can only be used against a horse, which isn't a very heroic thing to be fighting against. With combat encounters broken up by exploration and story, it would take my play group about six sessions to advance to level 2. I'm aware that I have a number of options to allow the play group to reach level 2 sooner, but having level 1 abilities that work against level 1 monsters is important to me and my slow paced playing style.

Solution for Reaching Level 2 for my Playgroup

The trouble I have with awarding specific XP amounts for different story elements, is that I don't know how far the players will get through the story I prepare. They got through about a third of the combat encounters and also about a third of the story I'd prepared, and I'd put enough XP of monsters for them to advance to level 2 by monster XP alone. I guess the thing is that for the people playing the game (but not for the characters) we kind of expect sessions and level advancement to be linked. So, I think I'll retroactively assign XP rewards to story elements that occurred during the session, and assign enough to get the players to the level I want them to be. We only have 7 more sessions to go, and I'd like to experience some of the other character levels. 
If you're looking at a time constraint you might want to consider just giving the PCs double XP per monster. This way they still get XP for doing things, but they level faster. Another option would be to just add XP at the end of the game, but that isn't as fun for the players.

As for the large monster thing the bestiary is nowhere near finished but even when it is large monsters are usually pretty tough and I doubt they'll be level one. However solo monsters are weaker in 5e so you could probably pit your party against a level two or three solo monster and let the ranger shine there.
The Oberoni fallacy only applies to broken rules, not rules you don't like. If a rule you don't like can be easily ignored, it should exist in the game for those who will enjoy it.
Lots of DMs don't even use XP as a reward. I use xp guidelines to help me build encounters, and eyeball when PCs should level up, but ultimately I have the PCs level up when it seems right in the campaign. Since you have a time limit, you should definitely do the same. That way everyone will experience play at many different levels which is a nice way to see how the PC changes with new options and abilities.

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

I kind of agree with bobinchese. Gaining XP is fun for players - it makes them feel like they are in control. It can also help motivate the players to stay focused during the session. I've decided to combine this approach (multiplying the XP) with XP rewards for non-combat encounters. I know what you mean Rhenny, but I'm going to try multiplying XP.

What that multiple is will depend on how things go next week. If last week is an indication, I would need a x5 XP reward to have them gaining a level every two sessions or so. But, next week they might be able to spend less time on the story and more time in combat for XP. So I'll see how it goes next time. 
I'm not a real fan of the 'favored foe' mechanic for the Ranger. It's just so limited. As above - I've run whole campaigns where nothing that would reasonably be considered a 'Giant' or even a 'large creature'  were encountered. I don't always use 'Orcs' in every adventure and since they've decided that Orcs are not 'goblinoids' it's even more limiting.

At best it's a nice to have but not really useful, unless the Ranger is leader of a group and can select the adventures based on his/her specialty. Always heading into the Orc homelands or travelling to JotunHiem to fight the Giants.

As far as XP goes and leveling up - I think the Pathfinder Society mechanic is hands down the best method I've ever encountered for awarding XP. I assign each 'adventure' or gaming session a number of points - Usually 3 or 4 but sometimes more or less. Each point is dependent upon the group achieving certain goals and I also allow at least 1 point per session for 'actions above and beyond'... This eliminates any need for keeping count of who kills what, who 'gets the assist' for helping kill something, how much loot each player gets, etc. 

The number of XP for leveling up can be assigned by the DM depending on how fast you want the progression to go.      
remember the XP guideline is 40XP per player, for a total of 160; and the DM guidelines for a tough encounter are conservative. these are all large creatures that are 200 XP or less:

Ankheg (1)
Ape, Carnivorus (1)
Carrion Crawler (1-2)
Great Cat: Tiger (1)
Ochre Jelly (1)
Ogre (1)
Snake, Giant (2-3)
Spider, Giant (3-4)
Wolf, Dire (2)
 
Giant type or just "large" creatures are rare, esspecially for level 1 player. What if he choose dragon killer? Most dragons are beyond lvl 10  

Or what if he choose brute as a favored enemy? There are no wild humanoids with class levels in the playtest?

There will be missing monsters during the playtest, you should change the stats of regular creatures...
Giant type or just "large" creatures are rare, esspecially for level 1 player. What if he choose dragon killer? Most dragons are beyond lvl 10  

Or what if he choose brute as a favored enemy? There are no wild humanoids with class levels in the playtest?

There will be missing monsters during the playtest, you should change the stats of regular creatures...

The point is that it's the ability he gets at level 1. He doesn't get avoid reach until level 8, even though that could reasonably come up at level 1. If he chose Dragon Slayer he would get fearless, which might come up at level 1? I haven't investigated that.