Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Calidar Mages vs. D&D & Pathfinder

While looking into describing a character class in a manner usable with different RPGs, I ran into a challenge, as the scales each game system uses to measure experience are widely different. Calidar, which is meant to be system neutral, relies on a simple percentile scale to express the “Life Forces” of both monsters and characters. It is a tricky feature because this rating does not always convert accurately into all RPGs. There is a bit more to this than just how far up an experience progression table a character rises.

the fiveby Sindacollo  /  / ©2008-2019 Sindacollo


Since my goal is to describe a magic-user variant for my current project, Calidar “On Wings of Darkness,” I decided to look up the experience levels characters need to earn before acquiring the ability to cast at least one Level 9 spell in various game systems. From this point onward, this threshold is referred to as “top level” in this article. It seemed to be the common denominator for magic-users across the board (I used the median XP progression chart for Pathfinder). As expected, results vary with each game system, as follows:
D&D 5e & Pathfinder: Level 17
AD&D (1e, 2e): Level 18
D&D BECMI: Level 21

The good news is that these experience increments aren’t that far apart. A more problematic challenge concerns exactly how many actual experience points each system involves. The rates at which experience is accrued in each game vary hugely at various points in the magic-users’ progression charts, especially as regards how quickly lowest levels can be attained vs. highest levels.

The list below illustrates how many experience levels magic-users can reach with just 10% of the total XPs needed for their “top levels:”
D&D 5e: just short of Level 7
D&D BECMI: Level 8
AD&D & PF: Level 10

Here’s the list at the 33% mark:
D&D 5e: just under Level 11 (+4 from the previous list)
D&D BECMI: just under Level 12 (+4 levels)
AD&D (1e, 2e): Level 12 (+2 levels)
Pathfinder: just under Level 14 (+4 levels)

Here’s the list at the 66% mark:
D&D 5e: Level 14 (+3 level from the previous list)
AD&D (1e, 2e): Level 15 (+3 levels)
Pathfinder: just under Level 16 (+2 levels)
D&D BECMI: Level 16 (+4 levels)

Based on the above, AD&D & Pathfinder characters seem to earn lower levels the fastest. BECMI catches up with Pathfinder around the 66% mark. Beyond this point, BECMI becomes the most generous while Pathfinder becomes the least. Since there did not appear to be a simple and convenient way to reflect these factors, I stuck with relative experience levels (though it was worth a look). There are other issues such as D&D 5e allowing more spells to be cast at lower XP levels, but getting downright stingy at higher levels. All RPGs except BECMI also offer zero-level spells or cantrips. This is something for referees to bear in mind when adapting a character class intended as “system neutral.”

Here is a chart showing relative XP levels for Calidar and 4 RPGs, along with a possible way to arrange the details of the hypothetical new character class.

Comparable Magic-User XP Levels
Hypothetical New Character Class
Special Abilities
Magic-User Spell Progression
CA*
BECMI
AD&D
5e & PF
Lvl 1
Lvl 2
LVL3
Lvl 4
Lvl 5
Lvl 6
Lvl 7
0%
1
1
1
0
6%
2
2
2
Sense Raw Mana
1
8%
3
3
-
2
11%
4
-
3
2
1
14%
5
4
4
Demon Enmity
2
2
17%
6
5
5
3
2
19%
7
6
6
Laying On Hands
3
2
1
22%
8
7
-
4
2
1
25%
9
8
7
Conduit Purification
4
2
2
28%
10
9
8
4
2
2
1
31%
11
-
9
4
3
2
1
33%
12
10
10
Shebbai Empathy
4
3
2
2
36%
13
11
-
4
3
2
2
1
39%
14
12
11
Shebbai Foresight
4
3
3
2
1
42%
15
13
12
4
3
3
2
2
44%
16
14
13
Mend Tabernacle
4
4
3
2
2
47%
17
-
14
4
4
3
2
2
1
50%
18
15
-
4
4
3
3
2
1
53%
19
16
15
Mana Banishment
4
4
3
3
2
2
56%
20
17
16
4
4
4
3
2
2
58%
21
18
17
Consecrate Tabernacle
4
4
4
3
2
2
1
61%
22
19
18
4
4
4
3
3
2
1
64%
23
20
-
4
4
4
4
3
2
1
67%
24
-
19
4
4
4
4
3
2
2
69%
25
21
20
4
4
4
4
3
3
2

(*) CA stands for Calidar. The row in red shows when normal magic-users acquire at least one top level spell. (Sorry for the small type size.)

Life Force: This class is intended to fit between a magic-user and a warrior. Therefore, in BECMI terms, the base HD would be a d6. In AD&D (1e, 2e) it would have to be a d6+1. With both D&D 5e and Pathfinder, it should be a d8. HD are cumulative up to Level 10, after which each subsequent level receives an extra hp without additional Con bonuses.

Special Class Abilities: Up to nine abilities can be earned, as listed in the above table. I selected rows without intervening empty cells, resulting in the odd distribution.

Spell Progression: The annoying consequence of XP Levels getting rescaled is that some of the rows in the suggested spell progression get skipped entirely. This is most noticeable at early character levels. Short of generating separate spell progression charts, there’s no good way to avoid the awkward result while ensuring characters in various game systems have all the intended number of spells at the right XP levels. You get the idea.

Other Character Classes: Once XP level equivalences are established for the magic-user class, the next step is to determine how other character classes rank, relative to the magic-user. Just check how many XPs each requires, given that a Level 21 BECMI magic user is equivalent to a Level 18 AD&D wizard, or Level 17 wizards with D&D 5e and Pathfinder. A BECMI magic-user requires 2,100,000 XP; with this much, a BECMI fighter would reach Level 24 at least. The same thinking with AD&D would be 3,000,000 XP for a Level 18 wizard or a warrior Level 20. In D&D 5e and Pathfinder, all character classes pretty much use the same XP progression table, so a Level 17 wizard is deemed equivalent to a Level 17 warrior. Therefore, using this approach, a Level 24 BECMI fighter is equivalent to a Level 20 AD&D warrior, or Level 17 warriors with D&D 5e and Pathfinder. Clear as mud? The math may not necessarily prove realistic when taking into consideration the various game systems’ combat options and other mechanics in play, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Your comments or suggestions are welcome, since I am presently working on this material. Thanks!


2 comments:

  1. I have done some similar calculations with my various magic using classes. I'll dig them up to see if they are of any use to share. Your numbers line up with mine give or take some fuzzy numbers on either side. I did notice the logical progression of the CA to BECMI; 100% at 36th level. I like that. In fact looking over your chart here gives me some GREAT ideas for my current D&D 5e game.

    One thing I also considered was the differences in what 1 XP means in each system; or more to the point what 10 XP means since that is easier to express in terms of actions by the characters. In B/X and BECMI (as you know better than I do!) a goblin is worth 5xp so defeating two goblins meets my 10xp mark.
    Then I ask how many goblins do you need to defeat for a level. In basic at 2500 xp for Magic-users to gain 2nd level that's 500 goblins.
    In D&D 5 a goblin is 50 XP, but to get to 2nd level is 300 sp, so only 6!

    Bottom line...There is no good math way to suss out XP between the systems. At least not an elegant way.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly. It all depends on what your end goal is. Is it encounter difficulty or class level comparisons? They all point to different (often not so compatible) approaches.

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