Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Grist For The Mill

Now, this is my fourth post on this subject, and I think it is time for a few ground rules. It should be quite clear by now that I am bent on continuing with this system regardless of my critics, so those who wish only to piss and moan at this point are invited to take their comments on the road, to post them on their own blog, where they can speak to their hearts delight about how I am fucking with the laws of nature or whatever.

Comments criticising the methodology will continue to be entertained, but any comment which disparages the overall system on principle will, henceforth from this post on, be deleted.  This sort of stick-in-the-mud thinking (however dressed up as intelligensia) is destroying the potential for rational discussion.

Very well.

The principle flaw in those numbers for classes given on the last post would be that they represent only the minimum age possible with regards to a candidate successfully mastering their class. In the case of mages, where the age range is from 26 to 40, in actual fact only 1 in 64 candidates would succeed at becoming a mage in that time (the DMG gives the age range as 24 +2d8).

So, if you really want to get ambitious, you can work out the number of mages according to their actual successful completion.  This isn't as easy as it sounds; I thought I would calculate it out by a) multiplying the total that had reached a certain age by the chance on 2d8 (age 26, 1 in 64: age 27, 3 in 64; age 28, 3 in 64; and so on), while continuing to remove 5% of the candidates for failure ... because they could get to age 36, say, and still fail to become magic users.  That's just the way the ball breaks.  Some doctors make it through pre-med and med-school, and they fail their internship.  Life is a bitch.

But I found out that even without any failure rate, with everyone who reaches age 26 eventually becoming a mage at some point, there are virtually no candidates after age 37.  Here's the table I was able to generate (these numbers continue to be per 100,000 population):

Clearly, only a player character has any likely chance of being 40 (rolling on the DMG's table).

Anyway, this is just an exercise to get us warmed up.  I had wanted to answer a question from Jhandar, who asked, "What is to keep a lord from mandating magical training for citizens of prerequisite Intelligence?"  And now I can answer that.  Nothing.  Except that, quite probably, the time it would take for the plan to reach fruition, and the likelihood that most of the candidates would fail before reaching the mark.

But then, some of those would-be mages who failed would still possess some cantrips (though probably not any spells), as well as book larnin' (according to my sage tables) and the general increase in the population's well-being.  It wouldn't do that much, however, to influence a country's economy, or their military prowess.

A different question I haven't been asked, and which I haven't answered, would be what level would all these classed/leveled persons be?

Ah, now this is fun.  And if the last posts riled the credulity of the gentle reader, these are not likely to fare any better.  Mind the warning in the first paragraph.

Rather than creating a random table and assigning each level a random chance, I conceived instead of the following table:

This table is fixed on the very simple principle that individuals with higher statistical strengths, and with greater resources on account of their opportunities and wherewithall, are likely to gain more experience than their stay-at-home cousins.  The numbers are not so unlikely - my party members, in the space of a game year, are quite able to go up seven or eight levels ... it really depends upon how ambitious they are.  Where it comes to some social constructs like the nobility, which is free to go hunting daily and have game (and x.p.) scared up for their convenience, it is obviously much easier to reach second level than a poor student who has lucky to find a position at an obscure pastor's country church.  And, of course, there is experience for treasure.  A celebrity (hero) or adventurer may do well in that capacity, but the noble or liege's cut from the treasure trains of a conquered foe would be unmatched.

This table is also based on the total experience earned falling off as the individual tends to settle down and travel less.  No doubt an individual would be at the top of their game in their late 30s, but that would be on account of everything they had done up to that time - not because they are still out razing dragons and such.  Of course, they might be - one quest in two years for the local hero still pulls down a healthy 29,000 x.p.  Not to be sneezed at.

The pleasant thing about this table is that it establishes the NPC's level upon his or her age, and not upon their particular authority.  Thus, a grizzled 47 year old sargeant might actually be higher level than the 26 year old regiment commander ... which fits better with things that I have read on such matters.  Playing this encourages players to think twice when dealing with old NPCs - you don't know where they have been.

The other convenient application is that it does not, as many random tables do, equate a 7th level paladin with a 7th level thief.  It is the x.p. that is indicated, and therefore compared with the class requirements.  A total of 47,000 experience, therefore, does indeed indicate a 7th level thief, but only a 5th level paladin.

It might also be helpful to point out that knowing the NPC's experience points is useful for hirelings and so on, when the party wants to know how tough is their purchased sargeant-at-arms.  The calculation can be made swiftly, starting with whatever age you want to spontaneously assign the sargeant ... now you know his experience, his level AND his stats.

There is much more to this NPC generation thing than rolling up six stats and hoping one of them in strange enough to create a character out of.  Age is relevant ... and how helpful is it to have age, stats and experience all linked together in one system?

One last table.  This is not meant to be anything except a showpiece.  It takes the average x.p. required for all classes, and compares it to an age arc based upon a 3% death rate ... and then calculates the number of individuals who would be at each level, and arranges those numbers according to the individual's status.  This, then, is the general distribution per 100,000 leveled persons:

But of course this table is flawed, for reasons I've already given - it doesn't make the valuable distinction between differing classes needing differing amounts of experience (and the 'average' is not determined according to the distribution of classes as given in the earlier post).  As I said, this is nothing more than a demonstration, to show what sort of table could be calculated, having been given the figures.

It is interesting to note that the higher strata stutus groups jump quickly through the lower levels at a young age, peaking at a certain level before dropping off again.  That, to me, was proof positive that the data produces the sorts of results I need.  If you encounter a liege lord, it would be possible that they would be 1st level, but highly unlikely ... and they would be no older than 15, and would likely have a regent commanding the kingdom.  It wouldn't be possible to have a liege, actually in authority over the kingdom, who was less than 8th level.  And that's as it should be.


  1. Hm. I see a need for matrixing the data for easy extraction of results (i.e., spitting out a complete NPC, including level, stats, and age) without having to flip back and forth between tables.

    There's an interesting bump in the Liege numbers at 17th and 18th level on the last table. It also points out that high-level characters will tend to be characters with high stats as well.

    Wow, there's all sorts of interesting data there, including level clumps for the different grades of NPCs.

    Nicely done!

  2. It's less of a bump than a recovery; the severe drop at 16th level is on account of the various x.p. needed to be maximum level in certain classes.

  3. It's always amazing how easy you make this look. You have my complements, as much as such things are worth from strangers on the internet.

  4. Firstly, lets say you sit down at the table with a blank character sheet and 4d6, what are the odds you'll roll the stats needed to play a Paladin?

    Because programming a character creation process in JavaScript would require similar math and frankly, my first two serious attempts have failed at this.

    Secondly, could you use those tables in a creative manner to determine, randomly, what the stats are for a randomly generated NPC of a given class, background and age? Because that would be phenomenal. And if so, could you not simply select your characters class, age and background and have the stats determined likewise? No need to roll dice.

  5. Alexis,

    I spent a good chunk of my weekend reverse-engineering your tables and coming up with appropriate formula to produce the numbers you have presented. I made some progress.

    My goal was to combine all these nifty table you presented into one giant worksheet where I could input a population number and it would spit out a breakdown of persons, their social status, their classes and levels (if any), and distributes them across age categories. I was not successful, but I have not given up hope.

    I've opted to eliminate year-by-year progression for XP, as this was making leveled Elves infinity levels while everyone else ended up dead. Instead I'm going to progress by age category, since these are the same across all races. I don't want to be racist and suggest that elves just fuck around a lot more than shorter-lived races and that's why they're earning less than 10% of the experience of a human in the same time span, but if I don't do something like this the math will demand that the elves should have been ruling the planet all along and humans and other races would be their chattel. That is, unless I impose the race-based level restrictions in the Player's Handbook.

    At some point I'd like to send you this worksheet I've been chopping at for your opinion. I realize that you're comfortable with your system as-is, but you might find it interesting to see how someone else interpreted your stuff.


  6. I am always open to any perspective I haven't seen before, Carl.

  7. I know this is just meant as an encounter table, just to work out how many leveled individuals is normal and what to expect from a given person, but a thought struck me.

    Your character generator uses modified results for demihumans, to condense their lifespans into human terms, but what does that mean for demihuman NPCs?

    Is the Dwarf Cleric who begins at the age of 60 going to earn XP at a substantially lower rate than a similar first level counterpart?

    Does this mean, then, that when players encounter demihumans, they can expect them to be at a substantially lower level than a human, even a much younger human?

    What is the rationale for the differing age tables, and what can a player expect of demihumans?

  8. Oh, no, I never meant to suggest that an older creature earns less experience for the same work. Rather, I mean only to say that old people campaign less, and that therefore the overall average of x.p. per day would be lower.

    I've had a couple of aged dwarf clerics as players. They make good clerics, as they're high on intelligence and wisdom, though low on strength.

  9. That's what I meant, actually. If the aged Dwarf Cleric in this instance were an NPC, would it be reasonable to assume they would be of lower level, since the majority of their XP could reasonably be assumed to have been gained at a later age, and therefore they wouldn't campaign have campaigned as much?

    A Human might become a Cleric at 20, and earn a 20 year old's XP, so would they be higher in level than the Dwarf who started 40 years later?

    Are we assuming that the XP earned is earned regardless of the age at which they attained 1st level?

    Ha, I suppose what I'm getting at is: do Dwarves become Clerics to retire from the mines, or does it just take a long time for the fires of religious passion to take hold?

  10. Sorry, had to penetrate the first four or five layers of my thick skull. THAT, I admit, I had not considered.

    I like your take on it, and the idea that few NPC dwarven clerics would be particularly high level.


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