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We played with the Deck of Many Things last night and a character drew the card that gives you 50000 XP. The character was 14 and the XP amount was enough for him to gain the next two levels. 15 and 16. Is there a rule in 3.5 to not let that happen? I remember reading somewhere that an encounter can only give you enough XP to gain a level and you stop at 1 XP before the level after that. Can someone guide me to that rule if it exists?

P.S. I know that playing with the Deck of Many Things is a bad idea generally, but this was the session that ended a long going campaign and the players actually wanted to do that.
P.S.2 I am treating the gain of the XP by the card as an encounter.

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up vote 51 down vote accepted

As Ceribia referenced, RAW does not allow this. However, in this case I would consider it for four reasons.

First, the Deck of Many Things is an artifact. Artifacts generally give the big flaming middle finger to RAW. It is what they are there for, to bend or break the rules in epic, awesome, or sometimes silly ways.

Second, even up to level 24, 50K XP is always going to be enough to jump (at least) two levels. The writers must have known this, and the general expectation is that characters stop at level 20, there must be a reason they put it at 50K instead of just saying gain a level (unless it carried over from an older version and they weren't paying attention).

Third, drawing from the Deck is a big risk. They took it, and that player got lucky. Stripping off somewhere between 42 and 70 percent of the benefit (depending on how much XP the player had before the draw) seems unfair.

Four, you said the campaign is ending. Unless you meant that differently, that means the characters are retiring. So does it really matter what level they are at?

That said, if the campaign was continuing, I might negotiate with the player. Because having one player two levels higher than the rest of the party can cause any number of issues. Jealousy, encounter balance, etc.

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Note that 50,000 XP is the same amount the card granted in AD&D 2E, which had a different advancement schedule (but, I think, still limited PCs to one level at a time). However, I agree it's best to assume good faith. – Hey I Can Chan Feb 22 at 21:22
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And a Deck of many things also has a risk. The characters could have been reduced to a pile of goo with out a save. That is the nature of the deck. I would hate to nerf the best card in the deck just because your characters got lucky. – Chad Feb 23 at 0:46
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+1 for making a good case for a DM ruling where a rule and a feature are in conflict. – KorvinStarmast Feb 23 at 16:43
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I seem to recall that the semi-canonical list of Famous Last Words includes picking up a DoMT and saying: "The game is 7-card stud." Sometimes your hand wins, so I endorse awarding the full 50kXP. – Codes with Hammer Feb 23 at 21:16
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@HeyICanChan "There is only one hard and fast rule concerning advancement. Player characters should never advance more than one level per time experience is awarded." (DMG2e p.49, "Rate of Advancement") It goes on to say a character should never skip a level and the DM should place the PC somewhere between halfway through the next level and one below its successor, discarding the excess XP. – nitsua60 Feb 25 at 1:46

No

PHB p.58:

A character can advance only one level at a time. If, for some extraordinary reason, a character's XP reward from a single adventure would be enough to advance two or more levels at once, he or she instead advances one level and gains just enough xp to be 1 xp short of the next level.

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Is the reasoning for this rule ever given? – corsiKa Feb 22 at 23:23
    
@KorvinStarmast Since corsiKa has so far declined, perhaps you could post the question about the history of the one-level-only rule in D&Ds? – SevenSidedDie Mar 31 at 19:37
    
@SevenSidedDie Done. – KorvinStarmast Mar 31 at 20:10
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As has been stated the rule exists to mitigate potential game balance issues. In this case I would grant them the full amount of XP allotted in the rules ergo up to 2 level - 1XP. They take the difference and have them track it as a side pool of xp that they can use to mitigate xp loss only (e.g. item/spell creation etc). This way they are granted the full benefit of the reward they are entitled to, you can ward off arguments with rules lawyers, and preserve encounter balance. Other options could be a reward of gold for the difference or splitting the remaining amount among the party.

The simplest answer is that the deck of many things is a "Troll" item, and as such not gaining the additional XP you feel entitled to would fit its very nature. (This is like the Bowser's 100 star reward in Mario Party, while you bested Bowser and his unfair system through sheer luck... He doesn't play by the rules.)

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But the Deck of Many Things isn't a troll item--it's not necessarily bad. It's a major gamble. – Smurfton Feb 23 at 23:08
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And it's been in the game since the beginning ... high risk, high reward. – KorvinStarmast Feb 24 at 1:05

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