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On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:51 pm
by Proven Paradox
So, I'm working on a big d20 project. (I'll request a subforum for it when it reaches a point where I can start really benefiting from user input: not there yet.) I'm trying a couple of things with it and want some input from the community on some general issues. For this particular thread:

When designing a class-based system, what is your opinion on dead levels? That is to say, levels in which no significant class features are gained: you get new maneuvers/spells, class specific parameters increase, and nothing else. Is this ever acceptable? If it is, how so, in what kind of quantities? If not, why not, and what do you do about them?

Re: On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:26 pm
by DragoonWraith
I think they're pretty much bad news. They cause unevenness in the value of levels (e.g. one should always take an even number of Fighter levels, because an odd number does one no good) - which may or may not matter, depending on what options the players have in terms of multiclassing. A lot of people get turned off by empty entries in a table, too.

One thing that you can do is break things up more so they can be gained more gradually. Massaging the timing of gaining certain abilities so you don't have too many on one level and too few on another is something I spend a fair amount of time doing when designing classes. The other obvious suggestion is to simply put in low-power fluff abilities in the otherwise-dead levels, but something about that seems poor to me; better to be honest about it being a dead level, seems to me, so that someone can tell from a glance at the table what and when they're getting nice things.

Re: On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:19 pm
by Fax
In the d20r project, I tend to keep dead levels to a minimum, and only insert them into a class when I can call it a 'pseudodead' level--that is, you gain something at that level from your level, not from your class (like a feat every three levels). that way, you're still getting something: you're just not getting something from your class.

Dead levels--or partially dead levels, where you gain increased features from a base class but no additional prestige class specific features--in a prestige class can be used as a balancing mechanism as long as their use is consistent between classes.

Re: On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:38 pm
by Gralamin
My preference is in between DragoonWraith and Fax.

At lower levels, Psudeodead are alright - When getting that feat really matters. At higher levels, non-class benefits tend to be far outstripped by class benefits, and I wish to "Reward" classes that have taken a large number of levels in a class with frequent, strong abilities. This should not be objectively better then multiclassing or PRCing, assuming a 3.5esque system - it should instead make staying single class an actual viable alternative.

Re: On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:55 pm
by Golden-Esque
I give something new to play with to my characters at every level. You either get a new level of spells / martial maneuvers / powers / etc or a class feature. While numeric bonuses are nice, I don't think they, or additional spell slots for that matter, supply the 'oomf' that really excites players. I find that it's new options that gets that particular job done :). But yes, I'm not afraid to leave a class feature slot blank as long as the class is providing at least some benefit beyond a numeric increase.

Re: On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:16 pm
by Zeta Kai
Dead levels are acceptable in a few cases, but I think that they should be kept to an absolute minimum. Full casters gain new spells at every level, so it is much easier to allow dead levels for them, but a partial caster (& especially non-casters) should have something going on at each level. A rare exception to this was mentioned by Fax, namely levels at which a character will gain a feat or an ability score point. The only time that I would give a non-casting class a dead level is actually when they gain BOTH a feat AND an ability score point, which only occurs at level 12.

BTW, I didn't see a Hello thread, but this is my first post here. Some of you may recognize me from the GitP forums, particularly the homebrew forum. Hello all; nice place you got here.

Re: On the acceptability of Dead Levels

PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:16 pm
by TheCripple
The pedantic answer would be "it depends", however I can't stand them in d20. The fewer levels there are the more important it is that each of them has something, in a 100 level system dead levels are fine, in a 20 level system they should be avoided, in a 6 level system there is absolutely no excuse for them. Of course, this assumes quite a lot regarding the nature of the game, something very narrative, or where levels are just one aspect of character growth, or possessed of any number of other possibilities doesn't necessarily fit into the paradigm where one would even consider dead levels.