Not sure if Dragon Turtles are a good example of
Slow and Steady but they definitely win the race because
everything else has been consumed…
In a system that doesn’t use experience points, pacing can be pretty difficult to get down when running a game. To be honest, it’s not something that comes up at my table very often, except for the occasional whining of, “Aw man, I really thought we deserved a level up after that one!”
I’ve been running the same campaign in 13th Age for a little under three years now and we’re still at level six. Well, level six with a couple of incrementals, in reality. This particular gap between levels six and seven has been getting a lot of complaints from the table, but honestly I’m just not completely satisfied with how things have been going. Our story is great, the role play is right up there with it, but there’s just something missing. No incredible milestones, really. Even with the events on Omen, it’s just not where I want to be with the plot. An article I read today written by the one and only Rob Heinsoo got my mind thinking on pacing and my particular views on it.
For me, even when 4e was being played with my group, leveling was about the story. If you weren’t at a pivotal part in the plot, no level for you. That was how I was raised as a player and now that’s how I’ve run things as a GM. You saved a farm town from the hungry trolls threatening to destroy it, good for you, positive story repercussions… but no level. You completely changed the relationship of the trolls to the area from a diplomatic envoy that ended in some sort of trade deal that the party has to moderate for a few months? Well, jeez, just take the damn level! Perhaps that’s a bad example because some particularly crafty players could extract outcomes like that out of a lot of situations, mostly due to my lack of foresight, but you get the point.
The beginnings and ends of stories are often times the most interesting. The first level and last are always my favorites. For things to get better in the middle, you have to make things happen that reflect that idea. If you look at the 13th Age core rules, it references a completely different philosophy on pacing. It’s mostly in reference to number of combats between levels. Depending on how punchy a particular party is (like mine sometimes), that could be problematic. Lately, my players haven’t gotten into many fights, but in the past it was rather rampant. That could make a game turn into a slow burn or a raging inferno of level ups. That’s mostly the reason why I base it on plot, mechanically speaking anyhow.
Before any of these ideals can really be brought to fruition, the most important question about your game if you haven’t started it is, what level are we starting at? It really makes a difference for the tone of your game. As a man who enjoys epics and tragedies, I like to go all the way from one to ten. Home games really are great for character development and overarching plots unlike organized play or con games. With 13th Age it’s really easy to make your home game not feel like a slog too if you’re slow to level like me. Incremental advances and the overall power of PC’s really helps the game stay fresh and relevant.
Well, there you have it. For more on my game pacing opinions, hit me up here or on Twitter!
Stay Metal \m/