Are levels necessary?

I am a big fan of Open Legend’s versatility. And I am fully convinced, that there is no setting you cannot do with this fine System here. There is just one little detail that seems to be a wee bit restrective, that is the concept of levels. I come from level heavy games but came to embrace the concept of disentangling certain restrictions from a level.

My approach to this in OL would just be to omit levels entirely. The only restrictions to me would be the same as already exist, a fresh char cannot start with more than 5 in any attribute and the attribute cap for a chars would remain 9.

In between I wouldn’t tie a attribute caps to a level as upgrading an attribute is still costly, although surely quicker than with level caps. But then having a one attribute trick pony wouldn’t make a char more effective than investing in feats as well. I’d say, a char having agility 5 and attack specialisation of 2 is more cunning than a char with agility 6 who spent those 6 xp in raising the attribute by just one than in 2 ranks of the feat.

What is your thought on this?

EDIT: Mea culpa, completely forgott that attribute points from XP don’t equal feat points!

There are a few other things that levels tell you, though they are minor. For example, the max multi-attacks you can take are determined by your level.

Here is the other reason for the level restriction though. By making you have to wait to bump up your attribute via the cap, it causes you to think more about spending and spreading out the attribute points to other things. With no cap, the mindset could easily go to just putting all your attributes into it until you get to attribute 9. And since you are getting feat points along with, no reason not to.

The other thing level helps for some GMs is creating encounters, but that could still easily be done via XP points.

To note, with OL, a level 1 could easily party along side a high level, so difference in level isn’t too big. The only real gain you are getting is faster attribute scores. And if you are wanting to get read of the caps on attribute score, then there is no real reason to limit a starting character at 5. If you are already decided that there should be a cap at start, then why not continue to have a cap, which at that point is completely arbitrary?


Oh, another reason is that sense of achievement. XP is cool to achieve, but knowing you have jumped up a level and now have access to more is pretty cool. With that taken away, now it is just XP that you are getting.


I see your point, and it’s an interesting question, but I suspect you’ll run into balance problems pretty quickly. Remember that the prerequisites were all created with level restrictions (for Attribute values) in mind. Take that out, and you’re fiddling with some pretty fundamental assumptions. Here’s an example:

A player wants nothing more than to kill everything with dark energy. Because they are forward thinking, they spend 15 of their initial pool of Attribute Points at character creation to put Entropy at 5 (the maximum allowed at creation). They spend on nothing else.
They get their first experience point, bringing their total of unused points from 25 to 31. The spend 30 of them to put Entropy up to 9. At this point, you have someone barely out of the gate who can make use of some of the most powerful banes and boons in the game. Of course, they have the lowest possible defenses and HP, so throwing something more challenging at them will likely result in slaughter.

Now, maybe this isn’t something you view as a problem. In that case, go ahead and homebrew it without level restrictions. For me, this is not something I’m interested in dealing with right away. I ran a campaign in d&d 3.5 where I let people buy abilities without scaling the price for higher values, and the game was nearly impossible to balance, for basically the same reasons. Personally, I think the limits are useful.

Edit: My math was bad. You need 2 xp before you have enough to get an Attribute to 9 under the proposed system, not 1. At 1 xp you can increase it to 8, and get the rest of the way at 2 xp.

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You all have legitimate objections. A possible path would be to seperate feat and attribute points, so one XP would either grant one feat point or three attribute points or rather two attribute points to make purchasing attributes a bit more expensive. So you would have to spend 3XP alone on a raise of an atribute from 5 to 6 without gaining any feat point. And I would still limit a starting char to a max of 5.

And regarding the level dependency of multi-attack, they could be tied to the tier instead, like tier 1-2 grant 2 additional attacks, rank 3-4 grant 3 additional attacks and 5-6 4 additional attacks. After all one tier of multi-attack costs 3 feat points which equals one level. And to prohibit a char using his 9 starting feat points solely for multi-attack III could be to limit a starting char to a max of one or two tiers in all feats.

seems like that creates more complexity and things you need to figure out than just having levels in place?

What is your actual goal in removing the levels? To remove restrictions? Honestly there are already very little restrictions to it, and the only thing you are adding is you can sort of get attributes higher sooner, but now you can’t completely b/c you are getting them slower via XP… not sure you are even achieving what you wanted now.

Ok, here are the questions to ask, I think.

  • What do you really want?
  • To me it seems you want to be able to get attributes higher sooner, as that is pretty much the only thing that levels are restricting.
  • In order to do this, you are creating even MORE restrictions via what you suggested above with a spend XP to raise attribute system or buy feat system (still not completley sure what you were suggesting, but it is late and after lots of driving)
  • So answer this first, but remember, just because you came for level heavy systems, don’t assume that the levels are heavy here at all, or even work the same way, it is a completely different mindset. Really it is the XP that are “restrictive”
  • What do you feel you will gain by changing Level/XP?
  • What do you feel you are losing by having the level as it is?
  • Is this worth the added complexity and change?

This is a legitimate question and it might be that the answer is part sentiment at least. Having a level cap feels like there is an expiration date to the chars developement. Usually levels in RPG are used to tie the raise of bonus modificators, Hit Points and the like to it. This is (gladly) not the case in OL. To me, the major reason for levels drops out. Some players are level-focused, I tend to be skill-focused nowadays.

Nope, not the case. I would limit the XP to either one feat point or one attribute point. If I would want to race up the attribute ladder, I would raise the amount of points and grant both feat and attribute point. The core mechanic allows way quicker attribute raise than my approach. Actually the GM has the ultimate power to influence the rate of gaining competence be controlling the XP flow.

Instead of tying the effect of a feats to a level I would tie it to the tier of the feat itself. So if you want, the scale of the restriction would remain the same, maybe with greater emphasis to the ability instead of an artificial reference like a level.

Restrictive might be the wrong term, I would rather agree with the “mindset”. To me the lack of levels means ultimate freedom in the character developement. And as you emphasize, levels are not heavy here I might ask a counter question. If levels are just minor and the meaning neglectible, why levels at all?

Freedom in the character developement. A mindset thingy as you mentioned.

Same as above, the character developement feels finite. And though I know, levels beyond 10 are already mentioned in the core rules, the chars already start very competent and won’t gain much more Hit Points by leveling. They do not gain that much more competence like in a leveling system. You said, 1st level chars would be able to quest next to higher leveled chars. That’s true and that’s what I love OL for. But if there isn’t any distinction between chars based on levels, why levels at all?

To me, it wouldn’t be that much more complexity added. There are just very few aspects that are tied to levels, as you said.

I guess, the major reason for levels is that reward trigger for some players, who tie the grade of competence of their char mainly to the level. To me the competence of the char is rather tied to how skillful a char is. A great example is 2D20 Conan.
I am very happy with the mechanics of OL and my suggestion only touches a really small part of the core, that’s how to handle “leveling”. I didn’t suggest to omit feat and ability points to buy feats and attributes. Please don’t take my suggestion as a critique. I deliberately posted this under “house rules” as an alternative home brew idea, I never ment to attack the core rules or make any demands.

no worries, I never saw it that way.

Whenever I see house rules, I always want to break down the reasoning for it first, and point out the things that will end up not doing what you intended.

For example, a lot of the sub points I put in there that you responded to aren’t even needed b/c there was a misunderstanding of what you were going for. Your original statement and points made it seem that you wanted to remove restrictions because you didn’t want the limit on attributes to start with, and that is what stemed a lot of this.

However, my next question is, how much have you played so far? One thing I always recommend for anyone playing any system is to first play the system as is so you can see how it works. After you have gotten your feet wet, then look at changing the system.

You mentioned about tying the effects of a feat to the feat itself instead of a level? Feats have little to no interaction with Level right now.

Why have XP at all, why have feats at all, why have attribute points at all. These are all the same questions for OL. What is XP, XP is getting Attribute Points and Feat Points as you have achieved things in game. Level is just a milestone marking that you have gotten 3 more XP.

Let’s break down what Level actual is, and why it is used.

###Your Age
How old are you? Well Sir Moustache, I am 25!

Actually, no you aren’t, you are 9250 days old. See, 25 is just determined by your days, which determines your weeks, which determines months, which determines years.

Level is simply determined by your XP. Every 12 months = 1 year, Every 3 XP = 1 level. You age determines certain things for you,d epending on where you are. In the USA, at 16 you can drive, at 18 vote, at 21 drink.

In OL, the level helps with a few things:

  • Your Max Attribute Score
  • This in turn helps with balance
  • Helps GMs (and module builders) create encounters quickly
  • Give a perspective to how far along the group is

You could do a lot of the above with just XP, but it is easier via seeing the Level. The same is true of age, you could go around telling someone you are 9,250 days old, but it doesn’t give a lot of people a good context compared to saying you are 25 years old.

Now, onto the things you are now, more clearly, suggesting to do.

You want to give the players a choice, each time they earn an XP, to either “purchase” an Attribute Point (or perhaps you are saying an Attribute advance) or purchase a Feat Point (or maybe you are saying a whole Feat).

There is a balance currently in OL between Attribute Points and Feat Points. It is a 3 to 1 ratio because Feats are far more valuable of a currency than Attribute points. Now you could do, choose to purchase 3 Attribute Points or 1 Feat point with each XP they earn.

Here’s the whole issue I see (of course my opinion) with having them choose between the two. Buyers remorse can happen pretty quickly as one player sees what another is doing by purchases the other option. Plus, I don’t see it as helping with character development that much or giving more freedom. As you mentioned, if it is the level “cap” that bothers you, you can keep going on past that pretty easy (also something you mentioned).

If what you are really wanting to do is slow down their progression (which is what it sounds like all this will do) then that is a whole other thing.

So first, my take aways from what you said (and this is based on what I read of what you typed, and my not be accurate to what you are saying, hence why I am typing it out to try and get a better feel of what you are wanting):

  • You want to slow down character progress
  • You want more freedom in character development
  • achieving this be allowing a character to completely focus on only getting feats or only getting attributes if they choose

I was going to put in more bullet points, but… I think that is about it… feel free to add. Try not to elborate, but put it in simple built points of at most a setence, I have found it helps my thoughts get related better a lot of times.

So I guess my other question is how fast do you see the characters leveling up?

How LONG do you see your campaigns going?

Are you going to be GMing or just a player?

Are you theory crafting right now, or have you played? How many games have you played?

As you mentioned, the GM is already in completely control of the XP and its flow. The difference between 3 Attribute Points + 1 Feat point, or seperating them out isn’t that big, but it depends on how quickly you see yourself handing these out.

If the level “cap” is more the issue rather than the fact you can’t get your attributes to a certain score until your level is at the right place, then that is really a none issue,a s you can keep going past 10 easy enough. It would take a LONG time and a LOT of XP to get all your attributes super high (in fact level 106 [317 XP] would be needed to have all 10s in every attribute).

Like I mentioned above, level is more like age then a “level”. Your concern about character development already exists via XP, and that is the reason for it, to allow character development. The thing that says the most about your character are their Feats, Perk, and Flaws. How they go about what they do is via their attributes and boons and banes.

So, if what you are wanting is to slow things down instead, by giving out less attributes points and feat points, there are other ways to slow it down. In a lot of cases, just get 3 attribute points means you are banking them, b/c you are wanting to get something specific iwth it already. So the difference between getting 1 point and 3 isn’t that big really, when you need 6 points to get the next level you are looking at. Same with Feat points.

The reason 3 XP = 1 level is based around the feat points, btw. That way, every level, you are able to purchase a feat, as the max feat cost is 3.

Anyways, just wanting to give you more things to think about and consider to help you do the best with the house rule.


This may well be one of the best explanations I’ve seen of why levels are used in games with progression. Working in the game industry, it’s tough to pitch games offering player progression without utilizing some sort of leveling mechanic. :heart: Players love leveling :heart:

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You explained the advantage of levels in a very comprehensible way and I am all with you. But it would interest me why it was decided to cap at level 10. I know it is mentioned that you can optionally level beyond 10, but still, why not cap at 20, 30 or 50? As Nizuul mentioned, players love leveling and there is much truth in his conclusion. Maybe the low cap at level 10 might be what I meant with the sentiment of finitness.

So, it’s not that there is really a “cap” there, it is just that is where a lot of people will stop. This goes back to my question of “How LONG do you think your campaign will be?” question.

Not everyone is going to play to that long.

Up to level 10 is where the core rules were needed in defining things, and where it is meant to balance. After that point is where you can take things and go in the direction your group and your campaign need to go. But basically, after 10, there isn’t anything else you need to know (such as what attribute score you can unlock).

An Attribute Score itself is capped at 9 (10 via dice concern through feats) because after that point, the dice growth/progression gets wonky and messed up, so 4d8 is the highest.

so there is this from the core:

Your total XP earned determines your level, with every 3 XP allowing you to advance to the next level. Your level is used to determine your maximum attribute score as well as to provide a general indication of your power compared to other characters and enemy or ally NPCs.

and then this:

Although officially, Open Legend was designed with a maximum character level of 10, there is no reason you can’t extend your campaign beyond this threshold if you are up for the challenge (higher level characters can be difficult to manage and properly engineer challenges for). Feel free to continue the campaign for as many levels as is fun for both you and your players. To do so, simply continue the established progression of 3 XP to gain a new level, with each XP also providing 1 feat point and 3 attribute points.

Continuing past level 10 means creating the content and the guide/information for NPCs and Bosses that are needed to match those levels.

Open Legend is designed to be Open, and as such, more content can be created easily to expand upon it.

So, again, it isnt so much as a cap, as that is as far as the Core Rules have gone with it for making the foundation that other things can be built upon.


We usually play chars up to levels 15 to 20, we are rather the epic campaign types than the one shoters.

So, since you didn’t mention, I’m going to guess you are using D&D or Pathfinder level 15 to 20?

Level 10 in OL is roughly equivalent to around level 20 in those types of games.

One shots I wouldn’t even be worried about with this discussion, I figured it was longer. Lots of different ways for people to play, and lots of reasons for people to stop a campaign. Sometimes there are natural endings or places to stop or retire your character.

For big games, and ones that last a long time, and encounter high levels, easy to just keep going with OL levels, as it mentions though.

You mentioned it in your very first post. OL is very versatile. In order to be that versatile, it hasn’t gone into every little detail b/c that can be hashed out by the GM/Campaign/Setting/Module Designer. That very same thing is true of the leveling. It is why you don’t get XP from killing things, or a prescribed amount for some many hours of play or anything like that.

OL knows that the GM has a better idea on that for their players and what works to make it fun at the table. So going past level 10, absolutely, go for it. It is in your hands to take that up, but OL can’t account for every weapon, every race, or anything like that. OL gives the foundation you need to build upon and take off with.