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xmld20 - an XML Schema for d20 gaming systems - tables

Before I go any further into this system, I'm going to abstract the idea of progression tables, first for the base classes, then for the monster clases and prestige classes. This will involve coming up with a notation for all of the different things that happen at each level (HD gain, save gain, BAB gain, special ability gain), and in the process, trying to ascribe a scoring system to the value of each of these things.

Progression tables

Instead of diving right into figuring out the scores for the pit fiend, I've decided to try and "rank" the gains on a regular class, starting with the barbarian.

barbarian

I think the barbarian is a good starting place, because it is the only standard class with a d12 hitdie, and it gains +1 to its base attack every level. These are significant things, and the scoring system we come up with should be able to balance those, with the extra abilities that the barbarian gets each level, to make other classes not look too weak in comparison.

The d12 versus d4/d6/d8 or d10 is significant. It should be worth more than d4/d6/d8, for sure, but maybe not d10? Should it be worth three times what a d4 is worth? The actual numbers we use are arbitrary -- they just have to make sense relative to each other.

For instance, if we assign the gain of a d4 hitdie "1 point", which is probably one of the weakest gains a class can give, then perhaps gaining a d12 hitdie should be 3 points? d6 would be 2 points, d8 probably 2 as well, and d10? Let's say 3 points.

Right off the bat, then, the barbarian is gaining at least 3 points worth of benefits every time it levels up. Is that good or bad? We won't know until we come up with the rest of the scoring system.

The barbarian also gets a "Fighter level" base attack progression, meaning it gains +1 every level. A class can also have "Cleric level" or "Wizard level" base attack progressions. For now, let's assign them 3, 2 and 1 point respectively.

The barbarian is up to six points per level already. Not too bad. Compare that to a wizard, who would only have two points (though we should hope that the spells make up for this!)

The barbarian only has one "good save" -- Fortitude. All of the regular classes have at least one good save, but monster classes can have from zero to all three. How much should this matter? Gaining in every save is pretty nice, as is just two, so let's make that worth +1, as a starting point. The barbarian, gaining in only one, gets no point for that.

The barbarian, at first level, gains fast movement and illiteracy. For the sake of argument, let's say they cancel each other out.

The remainder of the barbarian's abilities are rage, trap sense and damage reduction, all advancing through the levels, as well as a few more interwoven abilities. For the most part, only one is gained per level, with two at 12th, 16th and 20th.

In the monster progressions, which we'll look at later, the HD and Base Attack gains don't necessarily happen every level as they can do in the basic classes. This leaves "gaps" in the monster classes, where the basic ones have a consistent "score" for each level. This consistent score allows us to figure it out once for the class, and ignore it from the level-to-level figuring we might do.

Our consistent score for the barbarian was six. If we decide that each of these other abilities have a score of one apiece, then we have seven points (with the occasional eight) for each level.

That's a good starting number, but the question now becomes: can that same number be applied to the other basic classes, the prestige classes, and the monster classes? If they have abilities that seem to require a higher score, what scoring is wrong on the barbarian?

fighter

Okay, so let's look at the fighter (I'm skipping the spell-casting classes for now, until we get a better grip on the number of points that make sense per level).

The fighter has d10 hitdice, which we said earlier is also worth three points. He, too, has the "Fighter level" base attack progression (of course), worth another three. And, he only has one good save, so that's worth nothing.

Right off, the fighter and barbarian look the same. The fighter, however, gets his bonus feats instead of the abilities of the barbarian. Except for the first level, he gets them every second level. To keep pace with the barbarian, then, the feats should be worth 2 points each. It gets them pretty close.

We could do this hand-picking all day, but is there perhaps a more mathematical way to do this? If we express the class in terms of a formula, then at equal levels, classes should be equal (or pretty darned close). For instance, the barbarian at 20th level has 20d12 HD, 20 BAB, 20 single good saves, plus 6 rages, 6 trap senses, 5 damage reductions, and six other abilities, plus the illiteracy. Assuming the six other abilities are equal (which we perhaps shouldn't), we can write

  20*(d12) + 20*(bab) + 20*(save1) + 6*(rage) + 6*(trap) + 5*(dr) + 6*(abilities) + (illiteracy)
All the values in parentheses are variables that we're trying to determine.

The fighter would be a little easier:

  20*(d10) + 20*(bab) + 20*(save1) + 11*(feat)
Assuming we want them equal, we want to balance this equality:
  20*(d12) + 20*(bab) + 20*(save1) + 6*(rage) + 6*(trap) + 5*(dr) + 6*(abilities) + (illiteracy) = 20*(d10) + 20*(bab) + 20*(save1) + 11*(feat)
Cancelling out the common values, we get
  20*(d12) + 6*(rage) + 6*(trap) + 5*(dr) + 6*(abilities) + (illiteracy) = 20*(d10) + 11*(feat)
It's still a bit messy. For the time being, let's assume (d10) and (d12) are the same, so they cancel out:
  6*(rage) + 6*(trap) + 5*(dr) + 6*(abilities) + (illiteracy) = 11*(feat)
As we can see, if we assign (feat) 2 points, and everything else 1 point (with maybe 0 for illiteracy?), we get
  6*1 + 6*1 + 5*1 + 6*1 + 0 = 11*2
or
  23 = 22
Not bad! But does it hold up? Do we think all of the abilities of the barbarian are equally valuable? Or is a feat worth two of them? More? Less? While we could throw around subjective opinions all day, the best way to decide might be to continue to look at the basic classes.

That is assuming, of course, that Wizards of the Coast really did balance the classes. Why do I assume they do? They seem to be a company that is big on formula, from their Magic: The Gathering and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle card games, to the whole d20 system, they seem to design their games with logic and order.

sorcerer and wizard

These classes are very similar (though I could get stabbed with a pencil for saying so). They both get the same hitdice, the same BAB, and the same saves. They both get Summon familiar at 1st level. The two differences are their Spells per Day and the fact that the wizard gets Scribe Scroll to start, and a bonus feat every five levels.

This is interesting, because it seems to imply that while they tried to make the Spells per Day equivalent for each class, the wizard falls behind slightly, and thus gets this extra feat to catch up. If we assume seven or eight points per level, as we saw with the barbarian and fighter, that's a total of, say 145 points by 20th level.

The sorcerer and wizard each get d4 hitdice, so that's only worth 1 per level, and the base attack is the worst, so again only worth 1. With only one good save, they don't get anything extra, so that's 2 points per level, or 40 of the 145 points.

Both classes get the summon familiar ability, but we're not sure what that's worth. The only difference now is that the wizard gets five bonus feats. This means that over 20 levels, the wizard gets 20 spellcasting levels plus five feats, while the sorcerer gets 20 spellcasting levels. This works out to five sorcerer levels being equal to five wizard levels plus a feat.

For mathematical purposes, we would then want a feat to be worth a multiple of five, and that multiple would be the difference in value of a sorcerer level and a wizard level.

Lost yet? Let me keep going with this thinking, and see what we get. If we say a feat is worth five "points" (and remember, these were just arbitrary values, whose number only has meaning relative to other values), then the wizard feat bonus adds up, if we say that a sorcerer spellcasting level is worth "one more" than the wizard spellcasting level (whatever value we really ascribe them).

But feats are a universal thing, so we need to balance them back to the barbarian and fighter before. The reason they practically balanced was because we said that the feat the fighter got every two levels was equal to two ability gains that the barbarian got in the same step. If we now say a feat is worth five points, each of the barbarian abilities (and again, we're for now assuming that they're all equal), would be worth 2.5 points each. Fractional numbers get messy, and since they're all relative, we can increase them all by a factor to remove the fractions.

So. A barbarian's ability gain is now worth 5 points. That makes a feat worth ten points, which means that a sorcerer spellcaster level is worth two points more than a wizard spellcaster level. Okay... but what of the values we haven't adjusted. We just increased the value of feats five-fold. So where does this leave things like our scores for hitdice, saves, and BABs? They need to stay relative to each other, but we've not been trying to compare them to other abilities.

For instance, would you rather gain +5 BAB in five levels (the fighter and barbarian's progression), or three feats in five levels? With the value of "+1 every level" currently at 3, this is comparing 15 to 15, but are they really equal? Would anyone rather take the feats?

We can also try comparing the fighter to the wizard. We know that in 20 levels, the wizard gains 5 feats, and the fighter gains 11. This means that the 6 extra fighter feats, plus the fighter's high-end BAB and higher hitdie, should be compared to the wizard's 20 spell levels and inferior BAB and hitdie.

Spreadsheets

I could go back and forth with this, fiddling with this number, recalculating that number, but really, a spreadsheet is meant for this kind of thing. I have a spreadsheet that I put together for playing around with the numbers. It has the 11 base classes and their total "score" after 20 levels. As we've said over and over, the attribution of values is subjective, and thus the relative benefit of one gain over another is also subjective.

The total score on the spreadsheet for each class is between 363 (Druid) and 375 (Paladin). This is over 20 levels, so the difference of 12 means less than a one point difference per level. This also means that, the way I've ascribed scores for now, that the Druid is the "worst" class, and the Paladin the "best". I'm sure that would spark many a debate.

The HD, BAB and Save scores were increased slightly, not to really change their relative values, but to have them better represent their value compared to the other gains (feats, spells, special abilities). Much of the values were based off of the balancing of wizard and sorcerer, and what the resulting value of a feat worked out to, which was 6 points.
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©2002-2017 Wayne Pearson