In my last two Under the Hoods I talked about this world building system I came up with, what I want to talk to you about tonight is an unexpected gem we found. How fun, and interesting it was to play characters without their class abilities and attributes that were as often sub-par as over-par. So I'm going to detail this “alternate” generation system herein. I put alternate in quotes because it isn't different to the parts that go into making your characters; it's just done in a different way.
First step: roll stats. I know this is hotly debated in the culture but this system goes back to the good ole days of first edition. Roll 3d6, we did them in order because the point of this is to find the character in the numbers, but you can do them out of order. The important difference here is you take note of your lowest die for each stat (this is important later).
Step two: determine race. The point of all this was randomness so we drew cards (after determining what races we wanted in our world). You could choose, but where is the fun in that? After all, we don't get to choose the nature of our births. After you apply racial modifiers to your stats and take note of proficiencies, and other abilities you're ready for the next step.
Step three: Choose a background. We did this randomly as well, because the process was about randomness. I have some conflicted thoughts on the matter of the background though, on one hand it can be great fun to “fall into a career” more often you focus your life and education toward a specific line of work. Do this as you like, but I caution you to not discount the random results – they can be super interesting.
Last step: HP, gear, and AC. All of them get 4 + CON mod (minimum 1). I gave them 3d6*100 GP to equip all of their characters, I thought this was enough to get them what they needed while still enforcing scarcity on them. They also got whatever their background gave them in terms of individual funds, and tools, clothes etc.
Now we did this four times (lots of people are going to die in what comes next). After all of them had their four characters, and the world was built I ran them through an “adventure.” And by that I mean to inflict the world on them in a trial by fire. There is an interesting thing that happens when most of the characters aren't proficient in armor or shields: they opt to carry a shield, because you can ditch it if you don't want disadvantage on STR or DEX checks. So most of them went with spears and shields (the exact armament of peasant levies for millennia). I am embarrassed to admit I didn't kill nearly as many of them as I thought I would. But all of them lost at least one character. The blood bath being over it became time to advance them to HEROES.
Heroic phase step one: go through your stats and see if a fourth d6 will make a difference. If the roll is high than the low number recorded you increase that stat by the difference (now you have 4d6 drop the lowest).
Heroic phase step two: pick a class. Do all the things you would do for the class.
Now with your heroes having been tested you can begin your adventures. Use the other survivors as NPCs, potential allies and enemies to flavor the campaign world (also, they are built-in back-up characters should you kill their survivors). This has created an interesting dynamic at the table thus far. If you follow suit let us know.
See you in the multiverse,
I see a lot of optimization builds for DnD5e out there, they also exist for other games that are not as main stream. For me optimization is like playing a game of sudoku, it is fun to try to see between the lines and figure out the code. Some game systems are purposefully balanced in certain ways and it is interesting to see what can be done with the pieces left behind and perhaps create something never considered by the developers. In a way it feels like a second-hand communication with the mind of the creators of the game.
In our season using Exalted the system is originally made by White Wolf and modified under Onyx Path for the current edition. One thing that remains from the White Wolf storyteller system is dots. Your attributes, abilities and merits are all measured on a scale of 1-5 and represented by how many dots you have. When creating your character, you get a set of dots to use in different places. Each time you get a set of dots you get a few options to distribute them into. For instance, when setting your attributes, you get 8/6/4 dots to add to your mental, physical and social attributes. Putting each set into whichever set you want.
When you are distributing these dots, you can do so without limits. Those eight dots can max out two of the attributes and leave the third at 1 or you can average them out to 4,4,3, or 5/4/2, ect. The only real cost difference shows up later when you get xp. While this edition makes attributes much cheaper than previous games they are still expensive with xp, 4x the current number of dots to increase it. This multiplier means that each dot is more expensive than the previous. So, if you are bent on being a perfect 5 in all your attributes it becomes better to max out each attribute you can with those free dots.
Let me spell it out a bit better. If you choose to set your attributes to 5/5/1 at the beginning, it will cost you 40 xp to get to 5/5/5. If instead you chose to take the more balanced road of 4/4/3 it would take you 60 xp. Bit of a difference, by maximizing you basically get 20 free xp. But that is just in one set of attributes, and each can net you up to 20 xp. By making a very unbalance character of 5/5/1, 5/3/1, 5/1/1 you get 60 free xp. And it will be cheaper to get your character balanced out. A couple extra dots that only cost 4 apiece instead of 8 for a single dot to the balanced player.
Then we get to abilities. Here’s where things get flipped on their head a bit. You are limited with 28 dots, each favored or caste ability must have one dot, dropping you to 18 and no ability may be raised above 3. Normally I’d just say maximize your dots again, and might as well put them into what you want to do. First though let’s look at how the xp costs work. In this edition abilities cost 2x current and favored or caste abilities get a discount of 1 xp per dot when purchased and every new dot costs 3. (you will never get that dot 1 discounted because you have to start with 1 in those abilities) This means the cost for abilities by level is 3/2/4/6/8 and for favored it is -/1/3/5/7. In other words it is actually more xp effective to put dots into out of caste abilities, and specifically to either put 1 or 3 dots into abilities and never 2!
With 26 abilities (Unless you count craft 50 times) you end up with 16 abilities you can put a dot into. Leaving you with 2 dots remaining to put an ability at 3, or you know put 6 abilities at 3. If you do this instead of putting all the dots into caste/favored you net another, you guessed it, 20 xp. If you did the worst possible, build for xp and put 2 in every caste/favored ability and then 2 in 4 more abilities you would also lose another 4 xp. In the end the difference between a maximized character and a worst-case character is 84 xp, enough to almost be starting two essence over the other character. Compared to your average player character you might expect something closer to 50 ish xp. Then again you might have a very hard time explaining or role-playing this Frankenstein of a character that is somehow better at random things then they are at what is supposed to be favored. You could spend all your bonus xp on favored abilities to cash in early and show that they end up as good or better than the out of caste abilities.
Normally world building would be a GM Corner thing, however what I want to talk about is a system we've been developing and playing around with. In the Backgrounds article I mentioned a world building system where everyone one at the table has a hand in creating the world you are about to play in.
The creation is tracked using poker chips (you could use something else, but they are color coded and easily handled), each color corresponds to an aspect of the world. White chips allow a player to define something beneficial or useful to adventurers. Green chips define geographical features of the world. Blue chips defined lore and history. Black specific locations, be that towns, neighborhoods, specific important buildings, etc. Red defined enemies.
How many, and of what type of chip a player got was determined by what skills their four level zero characters had. Yes, each player made four characters; how we did it is going to get it's own write up soon because some interesting things are coming out of the process – but not everything has shaken out of that just yet. White chips could be used if a character had: Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Performance, or Persuasion. Green were granted for Acrobatics, Athletics, Medicine, Nature, or Survival. If you wanted blue chips you needed Deception, History, Investigation, Perception, or Stealth. For locations, black chips, you needed: Arcana, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion. Red had the most available skills on its list because adventuring is all about conquering dangers: Animal Handling, Arcana, Deception, Intimidation, Religion, Slight of Hand, Stealth, and Survival.
I will say I structured the skills-chips lists thinking players would avoid adding bad guys. Boy was I wrong. If a player had a choice the seemed to gravitate toward the red. After a round or two some of them seemed to be regretting their choices, so I let them change their chips for the following areas.
I'm going to GM the game, and I came up with the system but I needed chips as well, so I got mine from “selling” optional rules: Feats, Flanking, Encumbrance, Mulitclassing, Gritty Healing, the Alternate Initiative system, Madness/Sanity, Honor, Resurrection Difficulty, Bonus action potion drinking, and the Extra Casting rule from Tal'Dorei. Whichever rule got three votes made it in, and I got chips for it.
We started in the center and rolled initiative. Everyone took turns playing a chip and defining something about the world. A point of contention cropped up because I wasn't clear about how the green chips could be used to modify what had gone before; and a player wanted to stop people from adding features to what he had previously defined (the whole are was a plain). When he tried to do it in another area I had to stop him because it wasn't fair, or the intention of the system that one person's definition couldn't be altered. Improvisational world building requires a “yes, and” attitude. They were not so keen on the geography part being handled that way.
I would get into the details of what we came up with but that would be a boring campaign setting guide that will not fit within the format of this article. Suffice it to say with this system we got a 32,400 square mile world to play in where the general state of the world everyone knows, and I'm able to fill in the gaps and make them all fit together (hopefully). And more importantly to me, it is a world where any one of us could GM a game there. Maybe you can do this at your table. If you do let us know how it goes.
L5R has one of my least favorite mass combat systems, but it does have one. It starts off pretty good, but it is in the details that it fails for me. Let’s look into why, for both 3rd edition and 4th.
The order of battle proceeds as such, step 1: choose level of engagement. Choices range from reserves to heavily engaged and will affect how high the TN is to get a battle determining opportunity. Step 2 the opposing generals make a mass combat roll to determine which side is winning or if it is even. Then in step 3 the players all make their mass combat rolls. Then you roll 1 die, add your water ring and battle skill and subtract some if you failed your battle roll or add if you successfully raised your determination roll. This will put you onto a chart at your level of engagement to determine what random opportunity you get to take a shot at.
Here is where the system really breaks down for me. These opportunities are often just some + or – to the generals next roll and signifies you seeing a good opportunity to rally the soldiers or lead an assault, however many of the opportunities are a duel between you and some number of enemy samurai. After the first event you will be injured, if you even survive, if you get another such roll you will probably have to reject the opportunity lest you die. Yay fun. What’s worse is that you now have to go through an entire combat, initiative and all, solo while everyone else just sits there, for upwards of 20 minutes doing nothing. There are a couple of these that allow the whole team to participate but most are you against the world.
In 4th edition they decided to add a bit more to combat. 1st the decided how many turns the combat would last based on how many soldiers are on each side, 1 turn per 500, then they took out the determination roll. Now you just roll a d10, add your water ring and battle skill, and compare it to the slightly bigger table. The higher you roll the less damage you take and the more glory you get, the more heavily engaged you are the more wounds you take automatically and the more glory you get. There are still chances for heroic opportunities but now they are determined by the GM, and they are basically all fights.
Might want to bring some pillows for nap time while each player that rolls well gets to have their own complete combat while you wait. Furthermore, you might want to bring a lighter if this mass combat is lasting more than 3 rounds. You are taking wounds every round almost regardless of your rolls and level of engagement, each of your opponents on the other hand are not under the same constraints apparently. There is no rule saying that your enemies have any wounds when they start one of these duels against you, so they will always be at full health and full void points. Real battlefields are supposed to be pretty deadly so I guess you have realism going for you.
There are some houserules out there for those who want to try to keep the base rules and just fix them a bit but is doesn’t really seem that they had their heart in trying to fix it. One idea is to have the automatic damage each round be xk1 instead of just up to 6 dice of damage all at once. I mean you can just straight up die with one bad roll. Kinda like life I suppose, one bad decision and all.
We are currently testing a system of world building that makes it co-operative, and a way that everyone at the table can run a game in the world you build together. I don't want to detail that here today however. What I want to talk about is something which I noticed while doing the background work on said system.
One of the things I needed to do was to determine how many times each skill appeared in backgrounds and as racial options. So I started with the PHB (Players Handbook). I noticed something amazing. Neither Nature, nor Investigation appear in any background. Expanding my source options I went to SCAG (Sword Coast Adventure Guide) there are options given in those backgrounds, so for those I counted them as 0.5 in my scoring. I used Curse of Strahd, and even the Tal'Dorei source book to get as many backgrounds as possible.
There are 30 different backgrounds listed in all the above source books, here are the number of times each skill appears in them (remember choices count as 0.5), or as a racial option.
Animal Handling: 1.5
Slight of Hand: 2.5
There are 3.75 wild card options (the player can choose any skill). Those are the human variant (with one skill choice), the half-elf (with two skill choices), and the Faction Agent with can choose any Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skill (which accounts for 13/17th of all the skills).
I find it amazing how rare investigation is as an option. I wonder if it was done on purpose to make traps a dangerous thing, or to limit which characters could pick it up (since class skills are the only other place they can get skills). Investigation appears on the class skill list of the Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard; Bards can get it, but they don't have a class skill list since they can choose any 3 skills. So, only 1/3 of the classes have it on their list.
I'm not sure how I fell about such a exposition enabling skill being so rare. Is it worth limiting it just so traps can be a thing? Let me know what you think below.
There are a lot of cool new character options in the new Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. This guide is really well written, and I highly recommend it as it has the best mix of character options and flavor of any of the books I have read thus far. Today I am going to look over the new fighter options as they stood out the most to me. Our 3 new paths are Arcane Archer, Cavalier and Samurai.
A while back I had a conversation about how to make the best archer in 5e, one option was a rogue build, another a Battle Master fighter with the crossbow expert and sharpshooter feats, oh and ranger was mentioned. Now however, the answer seems to plainly be here. You get some basics like proficiencies and always treating you attacks as magical, but the archetype is rally built around the Arcane Shot feature. You get to start picking these up as you level and will end up with 6 of 8 choices. The options range from extra damage of basically every damage type, to a line attack that ignores barriers of any type, to the arrow used by Yondu that can seek a target you have seen within the last 10 min and if they are in range and there is any possible path to them and they fail the save you get to know where they are. Each of the option has some side effect that is pretty good also, the only real downside is that you only get two uses per short rest and can only use one per round.
The Cavalier is the 4th edition fighter. No straight up, you get a mark that gives disadvantage if they attack anyone else. Can increase nearby allies AC and give them resistance, can take opportunity attacks even if the target stays in your reach and if you hit they stop moving. And eventually can take an opportunity attack on every enemies turn, pair with the polearm mastery feat and enjoy the hilarity. Oh, and you get some minimal amount of mounted abilities.
I really like the feel of the Samurai archetype. You get a proficiency to represent time in court and can later add your wisdom to persuasion attempts. Nice, a fighter that is more than just a weapon on the battlefield. Of course, on the battlefield you get three turns of advantage that come with some temporary hp, per long rest. Later you can trade in one attacks advantage for a free extra attack per round, which it seems can benefit from advantage itself so yeah there’s that. And the capstone ability is awe inspiring, if you go to 0 hp, take an extra turn right now. Interrupt whatever is happening and take a full turn right now. You are still at 0 hp so any damage will cause automatic failed death saves, but yeah and if you can find a way to heal during this turn you also don’t drop unconscious at the end. Sounds like fun.
These options are only the fighter options and the book is much more than just new archetypes. This book gives me more of a desire to try new things which I had basically lost before this. I also really like the snide comments from Xanathar the beholder that are added to many pages and the new role-playing ideas added to each class to help stir up some concepts and quirks. Enjoy.
Dan and I were chatting about Critical Role theories and when I wanted to set the one-shot. I mentioned the blurb about Ixrattu Khar in the book and he told me his theory about Highspeaker Vord (He details it in the up-coming post game video). We decided to figure out what Ixrattu would be in game terms. We knew she was a killer and that she worshiped Vecna. We also knew that she was “regaining strength” so she wouldn’t be at full Vampire abilities. I wanted to design her as I would a PC, and to be about 12th level plus some vampiric abilities so that she would be a little tougher than the party members, but not unbeatable. So we started with stats.
Vampires get 18 in STR, DEX, & CON if not at those levels. I rolled her mental stats, and after racial modifiers and one ASI (Ability Score Increase), she ended up with a 16 INT, 20 WIS, & 18 CHA. Pretty great stats, but I tend to roll well on stats and crap on HP and saves.
I didn’t want her to be a regular Tiefling, so we used both the optional appearance and the silver-tongued Infernal Legacy option from SCAG (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide). I chose to give her blue leathery skin, cat like eyes, no shadow or reflection, 6 fingers, and forked tongue options. Dan said “and she looked like that BEFORE she became a vampire…”
Next, we tackled the serial killer portion of her personality. It screams rogue, but I didn’t want to go assassin. Dan suggested that I go thief to play up her 'hunting' for prey. This gave her second story work (effectively a climb speed) expertise, which she took in stealth and investigation for stalking her prey, uncanny dodge and of course expanded her cunning action to include thieve’s tools, sleight of hand, and use an object. It also gave her a sneak attack which, at 8th level is significant and really nice when things need to die, or be incapacitated without struggle.
I gave her 4 levels of cleric, worshiping the whispered one, of course. I decided to go with the blood domain for extra spell damage as well as the blood puppet ability. I gave her the War Caster and Cruel Feats for flavor.
For spell selection, I took Guidance, Thaumaturgy, and Spare the Dying for her cantrips. The first two to make her presence all the more intimidating to her victims, the last for the cat and mouse aspect I see her having with them ("No, no. You can't die yet. I'm not done with you..."). For 1st level, she prepared Inflict Wounds, Guiding Bolt, and Sanctuary for damage, and control abilities. For 2nd level, she had Blind/Deaf, Hold person, and Crown of Madness. Racially, she got Vicious Mockery, Charm Person, and Enthrall.
For her monster abilities, at Dan’s suggestion - and latter possibly his dismay (watch the episode), I gave her the ability to grapple opponents with her whip. This gave her a reach attack that gave her additional control abilities without expending resources; it also informs how she could capture her victims. Then came the vampire parts. I gave lowered her regeneration to 10 instead of the normal 20 and took away the shape changing & summoning abilities to show her weekend state. I gave her all the normal legendary actions and resistances as well as the normal resistances and weaknesses all vampires have.
All in all, I think she did fairly well in the final battle and probably could have done better. She was supposed to be an antagonist, but had they followed my timeline and not used the Phantom Steeds (seriously, you should have watched the episode by now), they would have fought her, Vord, and eventually Vecna. The goal was to have them be one of the parties that Vecna boasts about killing while he rose to power in his fights with Vox Mochina, which Dan brings up in the aftermath video. Stay tuned for that.
Tomorrow our first one-shot will be up for you to enjoy (we hope). We decided to try out a new initiative system which Mike Mearls developed and was later tweaked by Matt Coville. With Dan’s help I further tweaked it and feel like it turned out okay, even though it didn’t work out exactly like I thought it would.
The idea behind the system is to roll initiative each round dependent on what you are doing that round. Each type of action has a different die type associated with it. For our game we decided on the following breakdown:
D4 - Unarmed attacks (makes beasts a little more dangerous), Dodge, Dash, Disengage, Cast a cantrip, and Use of a skill such as Intimidate or Persuasion.
D6 - Movement, Hide, Use an Object, Search/observe in detail.
Using a melee weapon uses the damage die as its Initiative die, so a longsword uses a d8 for initiative, and that mace uses a d6, and your barbarian's great sword 2d6. A ranged weapon uses half the damage die (a d2 for daggers, a d3 and d4 for short and longbows respectively) because the range and speed of the projectile usually means you'll hit them before they can hit you.
Casting a spell is a bit more complicated so that is a d8 + the level of the spell. There was a little confusion about how to handle casting lower level spells with a higher level spell slot (ie. casting a 1st lvl spell using a 3rd lvl spell slot). I ruled it was the level of the slot. More on this in our upcoming video.
To delay your action, you give up your action that turn to subtract a d4 from your initiative the following round. Readying an action simply means moving yourself to a later moment in the round (shifting your initiative higher, as you wait for your trigger). If you wanted to use the Help action, you choose to “act” whenever the person you are helping goes.
And Finally, anything you use your bonus action for is free. (if you are only using a bonus action and nothing else, your Initiative is 1) This makes those abilities much more powerful, which I liked a lot. <Addition by Daniel: Lair Actions should happen on 3 or 4 initiative count (½ a d6), it didn't come up in play so we didn't consider it initially but this feels right. Normally lair actions happen on count 20, high, but it's possible individuals could act before, so the 3 or 4 has the same potential. If you want a greater chance players act before the lair make it 4, if not 3.>
For example: your party has two melee fighters engaged with an enemy that explodes on death, and they don't want to be there when the artillery will kill them, so they both declare disengage, and move as their actions. However, the rogue decides he's going to throw his dagger as well, since disengage is a bonus action for him. The fighter rolls 1d6+1d4 and the rogue rolls 1d6+1d2, the ranger rolls 1d4 (since she doesn't have to move), the monster rolls 1d6+1d4 (because he wants to be able to give chase if his quarry runs, and because its attacks are unarmed), the party's healer declares casting a 1st level spell while remaining in place and so rolls 1d8+1.
In theory the declaration of actions should cause a little more planning. I didn’t keep up on having them declare their actions very well, and my players are pretty veteran and love strategy games, so they didn't act as I was hoping they would (panicked arguing about what to do). The thing it did help with is not having a static initiative order every round. Which is designed to encourage investment in the scene. Rather than knowing I have 4-7 turns to wait every round so I check my phone or zone out, I could be last in round A, and first in round B.
Overall, I really liked this system and would love to play with it some more. what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
In my limited spare time, and some time I cannot spare, I have been playing Total War: Warhammer 2. It is the latest installment in the oft lauded Total War series that is known for being one of the best real-time combat simulators as well as having good turn based strategy, and until recently was also known for having accurately historical attention to detail. Now it is taking that attention to detail and making a fantasy game set in the Warhammer universe. Today I am going to talk about the game balance in a couple of the factions.
The two Warhammer entries have very good asymmetric game balance, in my opinion although I haven’t played much multiplayer. Each faction has completely different play styles and unit rosters that are not just reskins and bring back some memories of playing StarCraft. Different genre but it has that feeling of each faction being a whole new game. The level of asymmetry went beyond units and into differing building strategies, a couple factions have mobile horde cities and can’t settle any territories. From there it went into having different style of tech trees, some requiring buildings, other money to unlock sets of technologies and others being the more traditional large branching tree. Most factions could only settle certain territories, which left you needing to make peace with someone or destroying all signs of life in places. Every race was unique and worth trying out, I did.
Now that the second game is out I have noticed a few holes in their asymmetrical balance. I’ll demonstrate with the Lizardmen and High Elves. The high Elves lack a mid-game, in their early-game they have great archers and some spearmen, then they unlock the Lothern Seaguard and get a unit that is both while being a little worse at both positions and some light cavalry and light cav archers. They get a ballista, their only siege equipment, and then basically nothing to build an army around until they hit their final tier of units. End game they can build an army of heavily armored heavy infantry and cavalry and back them up with lots of different dragons. Fun stuff. Mid game however, they are still using tier one units and backing them up with Phoenixes or cavalry that can’t last in melee and White Lions of Chrace, a melee unit that has decent damage but low hp so it can’t last in melee.
On the other hand, we have the lizardmen. They start with Saurus warriors, and can get them with shields too. They have almost the same stats as those White Lions even though they are early game units and they can be heavily and easily upgraded with technology and leader skills. They are easily mid-game units allowing you to keep them in your armies longer and getting them xp to get to higher skill levels. In the mid-game you can also supplement them with decent but slow cavalry that does just fine in extended melee, flying archer units, monsters dinosaurs with ridiculous armor and on top of that their units almost never rout and instead go into a frenzy destroying everything in their path when the take morale hits. Late game they get even better giant dinosaurs that are also ranged siege weapons and are better at melee than most giant beasts and have absurd amounts of health and armor.
Basically, the lizardmen are fun throughout the game and don’t have any parts of the game where they feel weak, except maybe trying to pay for their upkeep. The High Elves feel great in the early game, but their archers don’t have armor piercing damage and so fall off pretty quickly, their melee infantry feel pretty weak until they can get to tier four or five and while dragon’s breath attacks are fairly strong they don’t do well against archers or melee swarms, basically the AI’s best strategy. Now some of this analysis is showing how I enjoy playing as much as how well balanced the factions are I do believe that the high elves have a big hole in their mid-game. I expect it to be fixed in an expanded roster update or DLC soon.
All that said the game has done a great job of asymmetrical balance. Both on and off the battlefield. Each faction has strengths and weaknesses, unit types they excel at and others that they lack entirely. Undead have 0 ranged units, Dwarves have no cavalry, Empire has no monsters (but they do have tanks so maybe). This game shows how to make different play styles different and unique while still letting them all participate on equal footing in all parts of the game. Stay tuned for this week’s GM’s Corner where I will compare the game balance in this game to the way classes are balanced in Dungeons and Dragons.
Golf provided inspiration for a mechanical solution to XP rewards and speeding play. Stay with me. A thought occurred to me the other day about how to encourage rapid flow of play and experience point rewards (penalties) as a way to do it. This is a D&D solution because of D&D's bounded accuracy, other systems might not work out so well.
The idea is that an encounter has a par based on the CR of the creatures and the number of them vs he number of players. Once you have the par of the encounter you can give bonus XP if your players finish it under-par. I also like the idea of a Birdie and Eagle bonus (finishing the encounter in one or two rounds). This bonus I think should be 10% per round under par they finish it. An XP penalty should be half the reward, you don't want to punish players for a bad string of rolls, but rewarding inefficient play is not desirable either. So, a 5% penalty per round over par is fair, I think. The challenge is in properly gaging the par.
Experience tells me most CR equivalent encounters (a single monster with a CR = to the average level of the characters) should be par 4. From a time management standpoint a 4 round combat with 4 players should take about 40 minutes to get through (2 minutes per turn, 5 turns per round, 4 rounds of combat).
There are a lot of considerations that go into increasing an encounter's par, and I haven't yet done all the math on all of them. If there are multiple opponents the par should increase by one to three depending on how many there are and how powerful they are. In theory resistances are factored into a monster's CR, but I'm not sure if it would alter the par of an encounter. For instance if you have two monsters of equal CR is it expected they should take the same amount of round to defeat, or is it expected the monster with resistance will extend the encounter? If the players have disadvantage that will certainly lengthen the encounter since they will miss about 40% more often, the same is true with advantage. So, there should be a +/- 1 to 2 to the par if conditions exist that gives advantage or disadvantage. If there is healing available to the monsters via spells or regeneration how much should that affect the par, this is another case that in theory these things are factored into the monster's CR, but CR isn't how you would determine the par of an encounter.
Avoiding combat can also be rewarded in this system, either through negotiation, or scouting and planning. I would give at least half the birdie bonus for it. Also, retreating should count for "ending" an encounter. Retreat should always be an option, however, they shouldn't get the monster's who value (say half). So, if the encounter is worth 5000 XP and they retreat in the third round on a par 5 encounter should get them 3000 XP [(5000*0.5)*1.2].
Finding the par is important for time management stand point. If you have an expected number of rounds the combat should take you can account for how long it should take so you can plan your session better. I budget 2-3 minutes per player's turn, this assumes the player knows what they are doing on their turn and is just measuring distance, rolling, confirming and then rolling dice for damage and calculating that as well. If you have a player like Marisha on Critical Role, or our very own Tim, their turns can take longer as they either need a refresher on what the state of the battlefield is, or shakes their dice for 60 seconds at a time (I've counted them in editing). So nothing is full proof but if you want to know "Did I prepare enough for tonight's 3, 5, or 8 hours of game time?" This could be a handy tool.
If there is interest in it, Alex will probably help me double check my math. Let us know what your experience is, and if you think this is a useful tool, or did I waste my time? Is the XP bonus even needed?