I’m only 2 sessions into my first DW campaign, but I’m already looking for ways to streamline the mechanics.

I’m only 2 sessions into my first DW campaign, but I’m already looking for ways to streamline the mechanics.

I’m only 2 sessions into my first DW campaign, but I’m already looking for ways to streamline the mechanics. My players are leveling very fast. (One PC is well on his way to 5th level after 2 sessions.) I’m wondering whether it would be a good/bad idea to cut to the chase with a leveling/XP rule like:

* PCs of levels 1 through 4 will level at the end of every session.

* PCs of levels 5-10 will level at the end of every two sessions.

The upside is I don’t have to bother with XP at all. The downside is the positive aspect of a 6- result goes away. I suspect this auto-leveling approach will actually slow down PC advancement at the beginning.

Any thoughts?

23 thoughts on “I’m only 2 sessions into my first DW campaign, but I’m already looking for ways to streamline the mechanics.”

  1. Honestly I’d just do what you suggest, that way everyone levels at the same speed.

    The way I do it for my X-crawl campaign is to double the required XP per level but the party gains XP as a single entity.

    So if three people roll 6’s, that’s 3xp towards that required XP for everyone

  2. A single character rolling and failing 20 times in a session is almost a statistical impossibility, unless it’s like a 6 hour session for a single character.

  3. We didn’t change the leveling system, but we did pool all the XP’s from failure rolls into a single total that gets divided by characters at the end of the session. Every time a fail occurs, I drop a colored stone into our adopted “Copper Mug of Failure.” The same pool also includes feats of awesomeness (if something happens that’s particularly cool). I toss 2 stones in on snake eyes (and then make doubly hard moves). Helps balance out advancement. Session’s end is still basically the same: answer the big 3 questions, then also grant XP if they fulfilled class/alignment goals that sesion. We’ve stopped using Bonds completely.

  4. I wonder the same thing as Aaron Griffin… that’s a ton of misses. 37 XP to get to level 4, and assuming you got 5 XP per session via End of Session… you’re talking about 27 misses across two sessions? By one character. How are they still alive?

    Regardless… you’ll likely find that the advance rate slows down around 4th level for a couple of reasons:

    1) Stats are higher. At 4th level, they’ve likely got at least two stats at +2 (or maybe one at +2 and another at +3), and/or they’ve gotten rid of their -1.

    2) Their advanced moves are going to be making them more broadly effective, sometimes allowing them to overcome or bypass challenges in fewer (or no) rolls.

    3) The 7+Level requirement to level up will start to actually make a difference.

    With that said, I’ve found the advancement rate a little fast for my tastes, too. The formula I’ve been using is:

    1) Level Up requires 6 + (2 x current level). So the first few levels go about as quickly as normal, but the increased level cost _really_starts to add up quickly.

    2) Level Up also requires “days or weeks” of downtime, not just Making Camp. Of course, my games are based on PCs venturing out from their home town and returning, rather than making extended forays into the wild.

    3) Extra “Special” Move: Burning Bright: when you have more XP than you need to level up, you can spend 2 XP to add +1 to a roll you just made, after the dice hit the table but before any decisions are made. This allows the PCs to “burn off” excess XP that they can’t use to level up, because they don’t have days or weeks of downtime. It has the added benefit of making things start to move a little bit faster once they’ve been in the field, because they get more hits.

  5. Yeah, I’d suggest being harsher on failures. Kill them occasionally. And also let them auto-succeed more often on straightforward tasks. Only call for a roll when there’s actual stakes.

    That said, one of my players is about to hit level 4 after only about 10-12 hours play. He rolled nine failures in our last two hour session. Somebody died as a result; it just wasn’t him. It happens.

  6. For Charles Eichman​: You’ve really changed the XP award system. In addition to the normal awards you’re handing out an extra XP for snake eyes and XP on top of that for “feats of awesome”. No wonder the characters are levelling so fast.

    As it seems like you’re concerned about this, why not just go back to the standard XP award system rather than hacking the rules again?

    Dropping a token into a communal “Copper Mug of Failure” on a miss and then dividing those out at the end of the session sounds interesting. I wonder if that discourages players from taking risks somewhat though. In standard DW, taking a risk is rewarded with an XP if you fail. I’ve found it encourages players to try things they normally wouldn’t. But with communal XP, the rewards of taking risks is diminished, as some of that XP will go to every other character.

    Did you find your players stopped taking risks? Is this why you had to introduce the “feats of awesome” as an encouragement?

  7. For Derek Jones​​, along with many other people, I’m wondering how one player can get to level 4 after only two sessions. That’s a lot of missed moves.

    What sorts of situations are they rolling misses in, and what GM moves are you making in response? Games don’t all have to be harsh and gritty with frequent character death, but with that many missed rolls in just two sessions, things must be going very poorly for that character.

  8. I wouldn’t make any changes to the current XP system other than increasing or reducing the number of XP you need in addition to your level to Level Up.

    Also, Jeremy Strandberg​ Level Up actually only requires “hours or days” as it says on the special moves. Unless there was a change I’m not aware of?

  9. Jeremy Strandberg I re-read your post and saw that you are using your own formula. Sorry, missed that tidbit. Had a fussy 2 month old in one arm while I was reading it 😉

  10. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I may be misremembering the current level of the guy who is advancing particularly rapidly. He might just be 3rd level closing in on 4th instead of closing in on 5th. And, yes, he missed a lot of rolls over the two sessions. I only had 2 players for session 1, so he was the center of a lot of action. Both sessions featured quite a bit of combat against swarms of goblins.

    I’m not too worried about my players’ advancement rates. My thought with this thread was to simplify the XP/leveling process so we have even less bookkeeping to keep track of. Potentially slowing down rapid leveling at low levels is very much a secondary concern.

    The main thing holding me back from trying what I suggested in the OP is that it would make some moves irrelevant since they reward certain in-game actions with XP.

  11. 3rd level going on 4th is definitely more reasonable. That’s only (!) ~15 misses across two sessions.

    Is it fair to say that this PC is always jumping in and getting in the thick of things? And rolling a miss, making things go south, resulting in them making more rolls and getting more misses… that sort of thing?

    What’s the other PC up to during this? Misses are a good time to shift the spotlight. “Cleric, the goblins swarm over your buddy, you see him born down under a pile of a snarling yellow teeth and stabby stabby! And you think you hear more goblins coming. What do you do?” This helps prevent one player from making moves over and over, as well as sharing the spotlight more equitably.

    Likewise, if the PCs aren’t physically proximate to each other, try “zooming out” your moves. For example, say the fighter (?) is off getting into trouble and misses a hack and slash with the gobbos…

    Separate Them: Fighter, your blade cuts a bloody swath through them but they just keep coming, swarming over you and bearing you down and everything goes dark. Okay, Cleric, you’ve been following the fighter’s trail, right? Well, after a few minutes you find that room, goblin blood and bits splattered all about, and there’s this bloody trail leading further into the dungeon, what do you do?

    Tell Them the Consequences: Fighter, you cut a bunch down but more keep swarming out of the warrens. You can make a stand here, but you’ll be overwhelmed pretty soon. What do you do?

    Offer an Opportunity with a Cost: Okay, tell you what, you’re the Butcher of Barrington, right? We’ll say you make your stand and chop down ever last one of the gobbos, but you’ll be barely left standing, like 1d4 HP left and weakened. Or you can look for a way to retreat. What do you do?

    Basically: don’t be afraid to fundamentally shift the narrative on a miss. I find that I tend to focus on the moment-by-moment exchanges, and that’s great… the game snowballs like a JJ Abrams action scene. But it can mean that you spend entirely too much time on such scenes, without actually moving the story along. Big, scene-shifting GM moves can help avoid that.

  12. I’m not having problems with the pace of PC leveling, what to do on a PC miss, or shifting the spotlight. The discussion (while interesting) is moving further and further away from the question I tried to pose with the OP: would switching to auto-leveling so that tracking XP is unnecessary a workable change to the RAW.

  13. Derek Jones it’s workable, sure. But I think the loss of some sort of minor bennie on a miss is a pretty big deal. Xp-on-a-miss is one of the killer features in DW, IMO. I can’t count the times someone’s bugged a roll and everyone roars with laughter over some variant of “whelp, at least I mark XP!”

    Other thing you’d lose:

    * Alignment/Drive XP: I’ve seen the course of entire games changed by some doggedly (or recklessly) pursuing that 1 XP.

    * XP from bonds (or flags if you use them): again, it’s not much but it can drive behavior and works nicely to make people think about their relationships.

    * End of Session Questionnaire: seems minor, but serves as a good reminder to everyone regarding what the game is about. I’ve regularly found myself reminded by these questions to add more more memorable loot in the next session.

    * Custom moves that grant XP, like a compulsion to open the door (“I’ll give you an XP if you doooit…”).

    Will the game work without this? Sure. But I think it’ll lose more than it gains in reduced bookkeeping.

  14. Jeremy Strandberg​ summed up some really good points. Taking away that XP on a miss removes a big motivator for players to try different things. When all a player gets on a miss is a GM move, there’s very little reason to make moves that rely on low stats.

  15. Just some brainstorming stuff to throw in the mix on this topic:

    Players need something to push them towards risk and as stated before, taking the XP away may cause them to not do that. So instead, you could award a +1 forward in place of XP.

    Taking away XP also makes the End of Session move pointless. If that doesn’t bother you then you could just drop the move. You could also change the end of session move into a new move suited to what you want. This move would work best if 6- gave a different bonus.

    End of Session

    When you reach the end of a session, if you feel that at least one of your bonds is resolved (completely explored, no longer relevant, or otherwise), mark an XP and write any new bonds with whomever you wish.

    Once bonds have been updated look at your alignment. If you fulfilled that alignment at least once this session, mark an XP. Then answer these three questions as a group:

    Did we learn something new and important about the world?

    Did we overcome a notable monster or enemy?

    Did we loot a memorable treasure?

    If they answer “yes” to any of these questions, everyone marks an XP. Then roll+XP gained from this move. On a 10+, you have gained enough experience to level up the next time you make camp! On a 7-9, you are close to realizing your potential, but not quite there, take +1 forward to End of Session. On a 6-, you learned nothing from your journey, along with whatever the GM has planned for you next session.

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