Jump to content

Akela

D20 topic - To DMs and Players, what is an Encounter?

Recommended Posts

From another forum

 

(Short)

Ok, so here's the questions... what do yall consider an "encounter" ?

How fast should a character gain levels?

 

(Long)

If, on average, a character gains a level with 13 encounters... what

defines an encounter?

 

~ Sufficient monsters of sufficient CR to create a party level

encounter is one definition.

~ A trap of sufficient CR for the party level is another definition.

 

The "CR" system allows us to easily measure the classical yardsticks

of XP awards (defeating monsters (no longer just slaying) and traps),

but what else?

 

The d20 Glossary at the WotC website defines experience points as:

"A numerical measure of a character's personal achievement and

advancement. Characters earn experience points by defeating opponents

and overcoming challenges. At the end of each adventure, the DM

assigns experience to the characters based on what they have

accomplished. Characters continue to accumulate experience points

throughout their adventuring careers, gaining new levels in their

character classes at certain experience point totals."

 

So what defines a character's personal achievements? What defines a

challenge overcome?

 

One of the reasons I ask is... if 13 encounters per level is the

benchmark... then that means it takes 247 encounters to attain level

20 from level 1. Assuming you're lucky enough to play 1 time per week,

that means you need basically 5 encounters per night. The typical game

is 4-6 hours long, so basically 1 encounter per hour is a good

benchmark. That's perfectly logical. In fact... why would a person

want to sit around for an entire hour without at least one

"interesting" encounter in that time period, right?

 

As we all know... a fight often takes longer than one hour to

complete. Is that good? Is that fun?

 

If it is fun... why is sitting around rolling dice and counting

numbers (adding up, writing down, scratching out, updating, moving a

piece of tin or plastic) for over 60 minutes considered fun? Or is the

combat a means to something else that we DO consider fun? (seeing a

new treasure item, facing a new interesting NPC bad guy behind the

next door, or is it just what we have to do to write down new stats on

our record sheets) Is it COMBAT that's fun or is it what results from

the combat that's fun?

 

Back to the 1 encounter an hour number...if that's true, in an "ideal

campaign" that meets every week, and plays 4-6 hours a week, you have

level 20 characters in one year.

 

What happens if you can only meet once per month? Should you slow down

your advancement or should DMs award more experience per game? Only

meeting 1 time per month means you need 20-21 encounters per game to

advance in the same amount of time, otherwise it means level 20 in 4

years.

 

Thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I don't consider myself to be one of "those people" who knows the manuals inside-out, can build a character without even looking at a chart, or tell you the stats on every monster ever invented, but I like roleplaying games, especially fantasy, and have played for almost ten years now on-and-off.

 

In my opinion what makes a game session fun is when the flow of the game narrative and dialogue takes on the atmosphere of theatre. I like sessions where there is some chances to use all those martial skills, but where there is plenty of opportunity for characters to develop personalities, backgrounds, quirky group dynamics and even perhaps hidden agendas (with the DM's consent).

 

As for those 4-6 hour sessions..we're lucky to get 2 hours around here, and that's if everybody shows up. If anybody in our group has aspirations of becoming a level-20 Godslayer, they might be waiting a few years.

 

On that note, what I wish D&D would consider is the needs of people who actually ENJOY being low-level characters, but who want an adventure that's a bit more complexicated than the old cliche' dungeon-crawl avec beaucoups d'orcs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On that note, what I wish D&D would consider is the needs of people who actually ENJOY being low-level characters, but who want an adventure that's a bit more complexicated than the old cliche' dungeon-crawl avec beaucoups d'orcs.

 

I LOVE my DM. We're at 2nd level, and we only had a dungeon crawl with goblins as a side-quest. We've dealt with a wild boar (I killed it good), some dogs (before I joined the party...the rest of the party ran from the dogs), some Grimlocks (I'm not sure what happened with the Grimlocks, it was before I joined the party but after the dogs) the goblins and an evil though low-level cleric. Oh, and a corrupt, bribe-taking town constable.

 

The constable I dealt with entirely by myself...the cleric I got some help with from our party's wizard, casting a sleep spell on him to buy me time to get close to him....the boar our cleric helped whittle down with a crossbow, and killed a few goblins as well.

 

Our over-arching quest is rescuing our wizard's lover/study buddy from a band of orcish slavers....we're not supposed to know, but the DM accidentally let slip that the orc slavers are under the command of a Chain Devil.

 

We're not sure how long it will take us to reach the Chain Devil though, because we play regardless of who's present...if someone's can't make it they collaborate with the DM to create a reason for their character not being there and then the people who could make it go on a sidequest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I haven't played any D&D for about 12 years, so what I say may not apply anymore. However, when I was DM, people leveled pretty slow. They received experience of course, but I had devised a kind of a sliding scale to award points. It depended on the difficulty of the task and how they solved it. If they just "hack-n-slashed" their way through, they received fewer points; if they thought their way through, they received more.

 

Encounters varied greatly. Some sessions there would be dozens of encounters; others, only a few. However, I didn't dispense XP like it was Halloween candy; they had to earn it. The adventures that I ran were very much like the ones that both Spike and Bill spoke about: not so much a "dungeon crawl" (although I did run a few of those), but a wide variety of things for the characters to do and explore. In many cases, characters would gain a level maybe once a month. Maybe. And that was meeting every weekend and playing for hours on end (sometimes for a solid day or two).

 

So, to answer your questions:

 

"What defines an 'encounter'?" An encounter is any time that the characters are faced with something that they need to find a solution to. Encounters do not always have to be a fight of some kind. For example: it could be a locked door, a riddle, a trap, etc.

 

Combat: sometimes it's fun because a character may get a chance to try out a new weapon or spell. Sometimes it's the reward. I don't think there's any "pat" answer for this question. It just varies. However, if a single fight is lasting for more than hour, then, IMO, someone is doing something very wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't been a DM for years and years, but it seems to me that the whole CR system is a bit too systemic. My favorite campaigns had a DM that let the game ebb and flow naturally- as party members get hurt, he toned it down a bit. If our dice were rolling well one night, he'd amp it up. While there is nothing like whomping on something with critical hits, the other rewards are figuring things out, outsmarting the DM (within rules and character) and so on. The game really takes on a life that way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been running games for what seems like forever. My current campaign has been in-progress for a little over 3 years now. I run (I think) a fair but difficult game. I don't pull punches for either side; sometimes the party fails miserably (bad luck, poor tactics, whatever), and sometimes they succeed far beyond what they should. A good example of this is a combat encounter from last week's session. They were attacked by 3 bebeliths, which proceeded to hand them quite a butt-whipping. Several party members were injured badly, and there were 3 pieces of magical equipment destroyed in the fight. The encounter was a full two ELs below the party, and should not have been challenging at all, but it was. Not long after that, they faced another encounter of exactly the same EL, and they completely trounced it. It goes both ways.

 

As for encounters, quite literally anything can be an encounter. I consider my game to be broken down into four major encounter types: combat, traps, puzzles, and role-playing. Sometimes (actually, often) encounters are a combination of one or more of these types.

 

I do not favor the current speed of advancement in the D&D game; my players advance more slowly accordingly. Our average gaming session runs 3 1/2 hours, and it typically takes from 9-10 of these sessions to gain a level. I started the campaign off with the characters at 4th level (for several reasons I won't expound upon at this time), and most of the group is now 14th-15th level. We've played somewhere around 37 sessions per year (we skip one week a month so that people can do other things, plus ocassional cancellations), which means in a little over a year, this group should finally reach 20th level. That's a pace that I'm just fine with.

 

On the subject of encounter duration, we try not to have fights last an hour, unless they are extremely complex and dangerous ones. To alleviate some of the "number-crunching" headaches of the game, my entire group has switched to DM Genie for character management. I, in turn, use the program for character management, campaign maintenance (time keeping, equipment tracking, experience points), and even encounter and adventure design. It means I have to spend a little more time outside of the game preparing everything in the program, but sessions run smoother come game time, particularly when there is combat involved. It is an excellent tool, and I highly recommend it.

 

~v

 

EDIT: Incidentally, if you are interested in learning a little more about my game, as well as some of the custom "tweaks" I've made, just follow the link to shakandara.com in my sig...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm old, jaded and cynical regarding this topic. I've cut my teeth on D&D back in the eighties, and have tremendous nostalgia for what seemed like simpler times and mechanics. Now I've been playing the new edition from 3.0 into 3.5 for some six years, and I like it less and less. I've never had a feel for the whole CR nonsense. I liked the old AD&D with their modules, balanced encounters, experience points for treasure, roleplaying, avoiding danger with brains and savvy, etc.

 

I always thought in the eighties that D&D was a grown-up game played by adolescents, and now is a game for adolescents played by grown-ups. It seems like a super hero flavor game now, not a gritty fantasy setting. 20th level was unheard of; you were lucky if you lived to see 9th or 10th level. Play was slower, but less cluttered. You didn't need a laptop to add all those things stacking to make you invincible. The whole sum of 3.5 is stacking bonuses and making builds. It detracts greatly from what I remember as creating CHARACTERS, not just builds with numbers.

 

So I would say throw that whole encounter nonsense out the window and grab your game by the balls like we did back in the day. Decide for yourself how fast your players should advance. Decide if the story they're involved in is more important than acquiring power. Decide how much responsibility comes with these added levels/powers. Remember first and foremost, don't let the rules get in the way of your game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the campaign I am currently in our DM told us up front the he was not going to track XP. He said that he would level us as a group when it was time. He is very fair and all of the players were happy with it. It makes things go more smoothly because no one is worrying about who killed what, or who took what risk. I agree that Ithink the AD&D rules were less cumbersome, but I am just happy to be playing again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's pretty much how our DM does it in this crazy 3.5 world we're livin' in. Every so often we hear those magic words, "level up!" and we do. No big deal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only issue I have with that method of advancing characters is that their is absolutely no relevance to attendance. Tracking and awarding XP, at whatever pace I choose to do so, keeps the players with excellent attendance from feeling like their time is unappreciated. I do also offer the opportunity to earn bonus XP (for paying my bills, mowing the yard, etc. :lol:) for players that want to "catch up" when they've missed a session or two.

 

~v

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a slightly off-topic note:

 

Reading through these messages, I can see that the chance of me ever sitting down and playing D&D again is pretty much null. Even if I managed to find people around here that play, they're probably playing with the WotC version; something that I know little about and, from what I've read here, something I wouldn't want to be part of.

 

It really burns me when a company - any company - buys a tried-and-true product and then decides to "re-vamp" it for a younger, and apparently much dumber, generation. I understand that in this day and age, many kids, teens and even those in their twenties and thirties are used to the instant gratification of video games and the like. Playing "slow" is unheard of. "Story line? Who cares? I want that godly gear and I want it now!" For some of these people, taking a month to reach the highest level would most likely drive them insane. If it took years to get there they would never play.

 

D&D was always about the characters: who they were, where they were from, what they were looking for (especially in terms of character development and personality growth) and how they dealt with the situations in which they so often found themselves. True, the numbers were, and always will be, a part of the game; it's probably part of the allure that drew some of us "geeks" and "nerds" to it. However, what really drew so many of us to it was what the game was at it's very heart: a role-playing game. The exploration, the quests, the use of our brains and imaginations and, perhaps most of all (for me, anyway), spending quality time with friends.

 

To me, it is truly sad that so many games today are more concerned with the goal than the path taken to get there.

 

I apologize for ranting like this and I hope I haven't offended anyone in any way. If I have, please let me know so I can apologize.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really, Hinton, despite the changes to the game, things have really remained much the same. Huh? Lemme explain...

 

Do you remember when you first started playing (as an adolescent), and the game quickly became about getting the biggest and baddest and best toys, stomping all over Epic monsters, and reaching high levels as fast as possible? Yeah, I remember it to, and at some point, we learned that playing like that wasn't really all that fun. We called it Monty Haul gaming, and moved on... And when you were ready to get away from it, you fell in with a group of more mature players that were interested in role-playing their characters in an interesting setting with a complex plot.

 

Starting a new game was also was always about finding people that wanted to play the same type of game you were interested in; that hasn't changed. If you want to get back to playing, find yourself a good, mature local grou of players and sit in for a session and watch. You'll quickly get the idea if they are right for you, and vice versa. My campaign, despite existing under the 3.0 rules set, is extremely story-driven. We'll go weeks without combat, as the groundwork for plot lines are laid out. Often there are multiple plotlines running concurrently in the game (with or without my players' knowledge), so sometimes an arc they thought was dead rears its ugly head when they least expect (or want) it to.

 

There is still a place for you to play; the whole reason we use laptops at my game is to de-emphasize the impact on the numbers of the game, freeing the players (and myself) to just role play.

 

~v

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I always thought in the eighties that D&D was a grown-up game played by adolescents, and now is a game for adolescents played by grown-ups. It seems like a super hero flavor game now, not a gritty fantasy setting. 20th level was unheard of; you were lucky if you lived to see 9th or 10th level. Play was slower, but less cluttered. You didn't need a laptop to add all those things stacking to make you invincible. The whole sum of 3.5 is stacking bonuses and making builds. It detracts greatly from what I remember as creating CHARACTERS, not just builds with numbers.

 

Holee bajeebus! That is the best description of the difference between the old AD&D (1st & 2nd Ed.) and the new WotC era that I have ever heard! I've feel the same way but have been unable to find the words to describe exactly how I felt and you, sir, have done that for me. Many thanks! <bow> ::D:

 

On a slightly off-topic note:

 

Reading through these messages, I can see that the chance of me ever sitting down and playing D&D again is pretty much null. Even if I managed to find people around here that play, they're probably playing with the WotC version; something that I know little about and, from what I've read here, something I wouldn't want to be part of.

 

Hey, Hinton, if you lived in SoCal, you'd have at least one other gamer that feels the same way and would LOVE to get an AD&D (1st Ed., thank you) game going!

 

One other thing you might try that I found recently, is www.meetup.com where you can search by location (zip code or city, etc.) and subject 'AD&D', 'Dungeons & Dragons', 'Role-Playing Games' etc. and will give you a list of fellow gamers and groups in your area. You can either look for one locally that specifies 'old school' D&D, or specify that's what you want to play if you decide to list yourself. I haven't used it yet, waiting for the 'busyness' of the season to quiet down and also get up the nerve to jump back in (sounds oddly childish, eh?), but am gearing up for it. There are quite a few groups local to me!

 

As for the rest of your post, I whole-heartedly agree with it too. It's depressing watching WotC ravage the game I've most cherished for nearly 3 decades. :down:

Viva la Old School! :poke:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I think it's still about your character and their background and such- but with the bazillion books out there, nothing is left to the imagination. The player's guide and campaign setting for Faerun details exactly the regions you can be from, what skills you would have, background, etc.

 

The rules should be just the basics- combat, experience, etc., but the storyline should be completely up to the players. You can play like this still, just get the new Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and DM Guide and forget about all that other hype. Really, I find the rules to be pretty similar, if not easier and clearer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose you guys are right to a point, but then why have a new version at all? To me, the new combat system seems geared around pimping the miniatures game (marketing). I'll freely admit that I'm too much of a snooty purist, but the new classes and prestige classes, etc. featured in every new supplement (marketing) seem rediculous to me. You want to release a book about the 9 Hells? Fine, I look forward to it, but does it REALLY need to feature prestige classes #1046-#1060 (marketing)? And why the whole name change for the lower planes? Baator? Tan'R Ri (sp?)? Trying to play nice with the PTA/PMRC crowd (marketing)? C'mon.

 

I will also grant that there are some rules that have been improved or streamlined in the newer versions, chief among them being AC (no THAC0!). But maybe that's part of my gripe. It was AD&D! Number-crunching was a given and half the fun!

 

It seems like they've 'dumbed it down' for the Magic The Gathering/Console Game generation(marketing) (no offense meant). That and as previously mentioned, the 3 new source books every month (marketing) is so...MARKETING...if they were really good, that'd be great! But what WotC releases doesn't compare to what you used to get in one thinner book by TSR. Compare the new 'environmental' supplement series with the old Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and it's ilk. You can't. There's no comparison. Again, the new books have a few new spells and niche classes. Fluff. The old series really gave you hard-core info. Remember the section of the DSG near the back about designing your own dungeons, with the isometric graph-paper and all...Bah, maybe it is just nastalgia...if so I'm just a crotchety old fart...and proud of it (though lonely...hehe). ::P:

 

P.S. You can add Dragon magazine to the conversation as well. About a year and a half ago when my interest in D&D reared it's beautiful head again after a looong hiatus, I resubscribed to Dragon magazine. Man, was I disappointed. It didn't feel at all like the old magazine either. In the old days, issues say, #70-#140 or #150, there were a slew of great articles, at least 1-2 per issue that either were great to incorporate into the game directly or at least gave you a new feel for something to be added to the game. Even the ones as simple as the orc language article, or the old halloween issues? Better yet, remember the article that showed you how to calculate how many coins would fit in a given volume chest, both loose and stacked? Nerd-heaven at it's best, I know, but I was enthralled by that for hours! This time around, I let my subscription lapse and am not the least bit sorry...

 

Phew, this went much further and deeper than I intended... :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×