log in or register to remove this ad

 

AD&D/O.S.R.I.C: Creating XP Progression for Homebrewed Classes

Hi, everyone.

When creating a homebrewed class for AD&D or OSRIC (or converting a class version from a later edition to 1E), what is the best and most proper method of coming up with the right Experience Point progression for the class?

Thank you.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Whatever you want. Seriously. It isn't as if the AD&D xp progression charts are masterpieces of design. In many cases they're AWFUL. Case in point: wizards. Huge xp wall to face at low levels when they can't do doodley squat and then much better progression at higher levels when they dominate the game. RIDICULOUS. They should have fast progression at low levels (truthfully they should be as fast or even faster than thieves) and MUCH slower progression at higher levels. THAT is a sensible approach to "balance".

What I did was to re-do all those charts from the ground up. They wound up heavily based on combat abilities but some overall subjective assessment certainly entered into it. Factors I included were the choice of weapons, the access to armor, better HD and more of them, better/worse to-hit, better/worse saving throws, powerful special abilities vs. weak and little-used abilities, spell use (not just having spells but the "power" of those spells and the number of spells the PC would be able to cast). I used the fighters as the baseline.

But that's a rather significant project. If you want a faster, but still reliable approach just take the xp chart from a class that you think is at least SIMILAR to your new class. If necessary make a few adjustments but you don't need to make it a complicated process if you don't want to.
 

Thank you, Man in the Funny Hat.

That's kind of what I was thinking and what I was afraid of. The Druid, to me, seems to advance incredibly fast. And, yes, I don't understand that Magic-User progression v. the Fighter, either.

Returning to AD&D style XP after so long with 3X and 5E, I actually expected 1E XP progression to somewhat match perceived class tiers in 3X (the more powerful the class, the slower the advancement), but that's not what I found. So, now that I'm working on a grand mishmash of editions, I was hoping to solve for some of it through the use of varied XP progressions like AD&D, but was surprised that the AD&D progressions don't seem to be solving for the power disparity between classes.

Do you have your reworked charts online so that I may view them?
 


Celebrim

Legend
It's worth noting that the basic 1e AD&D classes are not balanced even factoring in the different rates of leveling. MitFH appropriately called out Wizards XP progression as not matching the actual utility of the levels, but that's just one instance. Suppose we take the two most core classes - Fighters and M-U - as being balanced, possibly after tweaking the rate of leveling. This still leaves us with all the following problems.

a) Level caps on demi-humans are appropriate, but generally too restrictive. This resulted in kludging by the time of Unearthed Arcana of new PC races with much more reasonable level caps.
b) Thieves are still vastly underpowered even taking into account their slightly faster level advancement. Assassins are oddballs, with a power that seems more suited to offscreen play, and Acrobats are basically as useless as thieves or more so. The higher level you go, the worse it gets. The more mature the 1e system gets, the worse this gets, as every other class gets laden with yet more and more powerful abilities (weapon specialization, NWP's, better and wider spell selection), but the thief gets basically nothing.
c) As frequently pointed on it Dragon magazine articles at the time, monks are a mess. Some solutions were published in Dragon.
d) Barbarians are overpowered at 1st level, but are gimped at high levels by their exceptionally slow rates of advancement.
e) Rangers are overpowered at 1st level.
e) Cavaliers and Paladin/Cavaliers especially are plain overpowered, and almost impossible to fix. If they are retained, almost every other non-spellcasting class needs additional boosts.
f) Weapon specialization is probably overpowered unless Cavaliers are allowed.
g) Bards as a prestige class are insanely powerful if you ever qualify for it.

In general, you should compare your class to an equal level fighter, and decide whether it is weaker or stronger.
 
Last edited:

WheresMyD20

First Post
I played for quite a while in a long-running high-level 1e campaign. Here are some observations:

1) Magic-Users are definitely not overpowered at high level. Magic Resistance is common among high level monsters and saving throws are very easy to make at high level. On top of that, even magic-users with high constitution are extremely fragile when it comes to hit points. I found that fighters are not only useful in combat, they're necessary.

2) High-level bards are basically just druids with less spellcasting ability and more hit points. Speaking of clerics, I found that they are far more useful than either druids or bards at high level.

3) Thieves are not a combat-oriented class. Multi-class or dual-class a thief with a fighter if you want to be able to fight effectively.

4) Single-class thieves are not terribly useful at high levels. The thief class in general works much better as part of a multi-class or dual-class with either fighter or magic-user. The Fighter/Magic-User/Thief triple-class, however, is spread too thin to be effective at high levels. The xp requirements for a triple-class are very high after name level and a triple-class character will lag way too far behind a single-class character.

5) The design of 1e is such that the classes are like positions on a sports team. Clerics, fighters, magic-users, and thieves all play a role on the team that can't be filled by any of the other three classes. Saying one is over- or under-powered compared to the other three is kinda missing the point. It's like saying a forward is over-powered compared to a goalkeeper. It's a bit nonsensical since you need both on the team and they fill different roles.

6) Sub-classes are usually less powerful than their associated base class. Paladins and rangers are the exception. They're a bit more powerful than plain fighters at high levels, but they have steeper xp requirements (which have a bigger impact after name level) and role-playing restrictions to deal with.

7) Unearthed Arcana should be handled with care. The new races and classes are problematic. The new spells and magic items are, for the most part, fine. The book is still worth having. However, the DM should carefully cherry pick the parts he'll allow in his campaign if he's going to use the book.
 

Celebrim

Legend
1) Magic-Users are definitely not overpowered at high level. Magic Resistance is common among high level monsters and saving throws are very easy to make at high level. On top of that, even magic-users with high constitution are extremely fragile when it comes to hit points. I found that fighters are not only useful in combat, they're necessary.

While I agree that fighters are extremely powerful in 1e, I don't agree with your assessment of M-U's. Only two things really kept them balanced. First, that they had only limited spell selection. Second, that they generally had so few hit points that they could be one shotted. Unearthed Arcana tended to address both problems quite well. And that's before we get to the fact that high level M-U's tended to be able to bypass spell resistance and saving throws with a bit of creativity.

High-level bards are basically just druids with less spellcasting ability and more hit points. Speaking of clerics, I found that they are far more useful than either druids or bards at high level.

Clerics are a quite potent class, but I think you are underestimating the Bard here. This is a fighter/thief/druid with potentially more HD than any other class in the game.

Thieves are not a combat-oriented class. Multi-class or dual-class a thief with a fighter if you want to be able to fight effectively.

Thieves aren't an anything oriented class. The class literally has no purpose. At low levels, you are an inadequate fighter. At high levels, you are completely overshadowed by spell-casters. Sure, you can multi-class or dual-class as one, but not to very much purpose except style points. The main problem with the triple class fighter/M-U/thief, is that anyone that could qualify for it will max out their fighter levels very early and there after be gimped in advancement. A typical elf would max out their fighter levels at something like 5th level. If you could take the fighters level up to at least 10th, then the glacial slow advancement in the less important levels after 10th would matter less.

5) The design of 1e is such that the classes are like positions on a sports team. Clerics, fighters, magic-users, and thieves all play a role on the team that can't be filled by any of the other three classes.

Thieves don't play a role of any utility. At best, they occasionally save a spellcasting class a spell slot, but rarely to the degree that you wouldn't prefer to have another spell-caster. This is why you pretty much always played something like a multi-class thief/M-U. At low levels, you wouldn't be as bored as a single class M-U, and at high levels you were a spellcaster only a level or two below what you'd be without the thief class.

Unearthed Arcana should be handled with care. The new races and classes are problematic. The new spells and magic items are, for the most part, fine. The book is still worth having. However, the DM should carefully cherry pick the parts he'll allow in his campaign if he's going to use the book.

There is almost nothing in the Unearthed Arcana that won't break the game hard in one fashion or another. Weapon specialization makes fighters overpowered. Access to new spells like Stoneskin makes M-U's overpowered. The cavalier is OP right out of the box, and combined with Paladin even more so as the Paladin is now generally better than the Fighter at both low and high level (somewhat mitigated by weapon specialization).
 

dagger

Explorer
Most of what has been said about XP Tables, and classes being unbalanced is just opinions. So take it all as you will. At my table all the normal PHB classes seem balanced enough.

Another thing to balance Magic-Users that you forgot is the actual acquiring of the spells, which is controlled by the DM. In my 1e/2e games there are no spell fast food chains or unguarded spell books lying around. Also, wizards rarely allow others to copy spells from your spell books for various reasons.

Also with the way spell disruption works, it really can put a hurt on M-Us.

I disagree on the thief and fighter being overshadowed. If so, why do people keep running them into high levels at my table?

Again, at our table, we use the UA level limits and even then, beyond that you can continue to advance with double XP or Wishes.

We don't use classes from the UA (except Acrobat), and the spells are controlled by the DM. We do allow Weapon Spec, and have not seen it be overpowered.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Most of what has been said about XP Tables, and classes being unbalanced is just opinions. So take it all as you will.

My advice is that if you are planning to reengineer 1e AD&D, and if you are planning to add homebrew classes to 1e AD&D, you spend a lot of time reading old issues of Dragon magazine dating from the 1980's when people were actually playing and discussing AD&D. You'll get very detailed mathematical explanations of why some classes just don't work, and why some classes overshadow some others. Read letters to the editor. Read articles that attempt to fix the math. Then you'll actually have an informed opinion.

[quoteOne thing to balance Magic-Users that you forgot is the actual acquiring of the spells, which is controlled by the DM. In my 1e/2e games there are no spell fast food chains or unguarded spell books lying around. Also, wizards rarely allow others to copy spells from your spell books for various reasons.[/quote]

In 1e AD&D spellbooks were definitely some of the most important treasure you could acquire. Likewise, scrolls very often ended up copied into spellbooks. But the only way to really control this in the long run is not use NPC M-U's, because as soon as you do, you provide access to large numbers of spells via their spellbooks.

Also with the way spell disruption works, it really can put a hurt on M-Us.

This is certainly true, and is the reason that you can't really make an all M-U party. You have to have a front line of about 2 fighters per M-U.

I disagree on the thief and fighter being overshadowed. If so, why do people keep running them into high levels at my table?

Who said anything about the fighter being overshadowed? Arguably, the fighter and its subclasses are the most powerful in the 1e game. But I'm prepared to prove in detail that the thief has no role in a party beyond color or flavor.

Again, at our table, we use the UA level limits and even then, beyond that you can continue to advance with double XP or Wishes.

Which more or less concedes many of my points in and of itself.

We don't use classes from the UA (except Acrobat), and the spells are controlled by the DM.

Which more or less concedes another block of my points in and of itself.

We do allow Weapon Spec, and have not seen it be overpowered.

In general, a fighter of nth level with weapon specialization will defeat in single combat a thief of twice that level. They'll tend to also have better AC, more hit points, a better chance of hitting, and do more damage per attack. Weapon specialization just furthers skews any possibility of balance in this. But more to the point, weapon specialization tends to nearly double a fighter's expected damage compared to a fighter of the same level without weapon specialization. And in doing so, it ensures that a fighter of a given level instead of taking down a foe in 3-4 rounds, takes down that foe in 1-2 rounds. This is why I frequently say that once you add weapon specialization to the game, it's only a matter of time before the most important roll in combat is the initiative roll. Parties with cavaliers and weapon specialized fighters tend to just wreck monsters of equivalent level. Monsters in 1e AD&D have rather low hit points, and were balanced with certain expectations that did not include weapon specialization. To compensate, DMs generally start throwing monsters at the party that are above their expected level, and probably start cracking down hard on available equipment. But this results in just about everyone, excepting fighters with high CON scores, being glass cannons.

Is it fun? Sure, potentially. I played this way for about 15 years. But is it balanced? Ha!
 

dagger

Explorer
It is balanced and that has been the experience at my table and others I have played at. Your experience maybe different. Its no different with 5e, people complain a feat, spell, or class is over/under-powered constantly on here, but its pretty subjective most of the time.

Lets just agree to disagree, but for the record in my experience, by the book or not, 1e is fine as is (tweaks or not).
 

Celebrim

Legend
We can certainly agree to disagree, but balance is not a subjective thing. How balanced things need to be to be good enough, or how important you want balance to be to design are subjective things. But balance itself is objective. You can measure it in various ways.

One of the fundamental problems the thief class faces, is that if you try to define its role in the party, what you almost immediately run into is the problem that even if the whole adventure concerns what you would assume would be the thief's schtick, it turns out there are almost no points in the thieves progression that you wouldn't prefer a different class with the same XP. That is to say, if your scenario involves something like, "There is a corridor with a 10' deep pit trap in it.", then generally speaking you'd be better off with a fighter than a thief. Or if your scenario involves something like, "There is a trap filled tomb", which you'd think would be the thieves forte, it turns out at you'd actually prefer when solving that problem to have another cleric with Find Traps, Augury, Divination, Commune, and so forth, or another M-U with a wand of secret door detection, spider climb, fly spells, and a variety of divination spells. Not only does the other class solve this scenario more effectively and more reliably, but in all the other scenarios you might encounter, the alternative PC vastly exceeds the thief in competence at handling that scenario as well. This might in theory be offset by the thief's accelerated advancement, but it turns out that the amount of advancement the thief receives is rarely nearly enough to be balanced. For example, you might take a 2nd level thief in some cases over a 1st level fighter, but that only lasts for 800XP.
 

Legatus Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
AD&D 2e had an optional rule for "Creating New Character Class" DMG 1989 page 22-23.

Then, if you really wanted to, re-create the main classes using that chart as you would your new classes. This way your campaign would have all classes "balanced" with each other.
 

WheresMyD20

First Post
Clerics are a quite potent class, but I think you are underestimating the Bard here. This is a fighter/thief/druid with potentially more HD than any other class in the game.

I'm speaking from my personal experience. I played in a high level 1e game where one of the characters was a max level bard. He was underwhelming. The thief skills, like you said, are not very useful at that level. The seven fighter levels (max a bard can have) gave him an extra half attack and extra hit points. His druid thaco was much better than his fighter thaco (9 vs. 14). Even that was much worse than pure fighters who have a 4 thaco at that level.

In total, he was basically a druid with a ton of hit points, but no 6th and 7th level spells. His ability to fight was slightly better than a cleric or druid, but much worse than a fighter. His spellcasting was much less useful than a magic-user or a cleric. Druid spells at high level are far less powerful than cleric or magic-user spells and on top of that, the bard is missing the two highest levels of druid spells. His thief skills were not terribly useful.

The bard class sounds really powerful on paper, but it's meh in practice. I'd recommend just being a standard druid instead. You get fewer (but still quite decent) hit points, slightly less fighting ability (which is best left to pure fighters at high level anyway), but better spellcasting and much faster advancement.

There is almost nothing in the Unearthed Arcana that won't break the game hard in one fashion or another. Weapon specialization makes fighters overpowered. Access to new spells like Stoneskin makes M-U's overpowered. The cavalier is OP right out of the box, and combined with Paladin even more so as the Paladin is now generally better than the Fighter at both low and high level (somewhat mitigated by weapon specialization).

The Stoneskin spell in Unearthed Arcana only protects against a single attack or attack sequence. It's much less powerful than the 2e version, which protects against multiple attacks. I didn't find the UA version of Stoneskin to be unbalancing.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I'm speaking from my personal experience. I played in a high level 1e game where one of the characters was a max level bard. He was underwhelming.

That may be, but that's not how you analyze a bard.

The thief skills, like you said, are not very useful at that level.

Agreed, but again, that's not the relevant comparison.

The bard class sounds really powerful on paper, but it's meh in practice.

Yeah, but it's not where you end up but how you get there. The appropriate comparison is for characters with an equal amount of XP. By the time you hit max level in Bard, 1e AD&D is long over. What makes the Bard so powerful is what it's like playing a bard compared to playing another class.

Consider where you are as a 9th level fighter, a newly minted lord with 250,003 XP.

Your bard companion at this point has spent 70,001 XP obtaining 7th level fighter, 70,001 XP obtaining 8th level thief, and still has 110,001 XP left over to hit 10th level in Bard. You are only slightly less potent of a fighter, you have thief skills, and you have spell caster ability on par with an 8th level druid. You have a total of 16 HD to your friends 9 HD so even though you aren't a pure fighter you have more hit points, plus a couple of nifty abilities like fascination/suggestion basically at will, and legend lore basically at will - most importantly at this level a 35% chance to detect a cursed item without even touching it. That's why Bard rocks. Bonus points if you can use libram's to advance your fighter or thief class above the usual maximum.

The Stoneskin spell in Unearthed Arcana only protects against a single attack or attack sequence. It's much less powerful than the 2e version, which protects against multiple attacks. I didn't find the UA version of Stoneskin to be unbalancing.

It's been a very long time and many editions.
 

WheresMyD20

First Post
That may be, but that's not how you analyze a bard.
Disagree strongly. Seeing the class operate in live play alongside other classes is a much better gauge of its effectiveness than raw theorizing.

Yeah, but it's not where you end up but how you get there. The appropriate comparison is for characters with an equal amount of XP. By the time you hit max level in Bard, 1e AD&D is long over.
We played weekly for over a decade. The game was nowhere near "long over" at max level. The bard was being played weekly at max level for years. At any rate, the bard was lackluster long before reaching max level. It certainly never seemed overpowered.

What makes the Bard so powerful is what it's like playing a bard compared to playing another class.

Consider where you are as a 9th level fighter, a newly minted lord with 250,003 XP.

Your bard companion at this point has spent 70,001 XP obtaining 7th level fighter, 70,001 XP obtaining 8th level thief, and still has 110,001 XP left over to hit 10th level in Bard. You are only slightly less potent of a fighter, you have thief skills, and you have spell caster ability on par with an 8th level druid. You have a total of 16 HD to your friends 9 HD so even though you aren't a pure fighter you have more hit points, plus a couple of nifty abilities like fascination/suggestion basically at will, and legend lore basically at will - most importantly at this level a 35% chance to detect a cursed item without even touching it. That's why Bard rocks. Bonus points if you can use libram's to advance your fighter or thief class above the usual maximum.
Or, like I recommended, you could play a druid, who at 250k xp is 11th level, has access to 6th level spells, and is only 50k away from getting 7th level spells. You sacrifice some combat ability and hit points, but you already have 6th level spells and are on the verge of 7th level spells, neither of which a bard will ever get.

Another, even better, option is to play a fighter/druid dual-class. Get 7th level as a fighter for 70k xp and switch to druid, which leaves 180k xp for your new druid class. That makes you a 10th level druid, good enough for 5th level spells and you're only 20k xp away from 11th level and 6th level spells (again, which a bard never gets). You lose out on thief skills (big deal), but you have just as good fighting ability as the bard example and you get much better spellcasting (5/4/3/3/2 as opposed to 3/3/3/1) as well as a higher ceiling for everything except for hit points, which as a fighter/druid are quite good already.

Also, if you go the fighter/druid dual-class route, unlike a bard, you are not forced to stop at 7th level fighter. You could go higher before making the switch. It might not be optimal, but you have more options and more control.

You could also go the fighter/cleric dual-class route. You'd have the same fighting ability, access to much better armor, turn undead, and cleric spellcasting. You'd be a 8th level cleric, good enough for 3/3/3/2 spellcasting. Cleric spells are much better than druid spells, especially at high levels. You lose out on a nice shapeshifting ability, but not much else of value. You'd advance almost as fast as a bard (225k vs. 200k per level), but have far superior spellcasting while maintaining fighting ability parity. You lose out a bit on hit points, but fighter/clerics (especially dual-class ones) are no slouches when it comes to hit points, and you have access to the best armor to help offset the difference anyway.

The myth of bards being overpowered probably comes from their dual-class nature. Dual-classing in general is quite powerful. It's one of the few advantages of being human (the other big one being unlimited level advancement).
 

Celebrim

Legend
Seeing the class operate in live play alongside other classes is a much better gauge of its effectiveness than raw theorizing.

I agree. Part of the reason I've been hesitant to agree with your bard is lackluster assessment is it wasn't clear to me that you didn't start the game at 1,000,000 XP, and wasn't sure you'd actually experienced leveling up the bard alongside other classes. If you were going to play an end game, let's build the most powerful character we can build for 2,000,000 XP or more, then bard while pretty decent probably wouldn't be even a 5th choice.

You could also go the fighter/cleric dual-class route.

Which, yes, would be one of the more optimal builds you can make, assuming you have the 15+ Str, 15+ Wis to pull it off. It's also one of the better builds you can play if you don't get at least one 16, and don't have the overall good but not great stats to qualify for Ranger.

The myth of bards being overpowered probably comes from their dual-class nature. Dual-classing in general is quite powerful. It's one of the few advantages of being human (the other big one being unlimited level advancement).

I'm not sure it is a myth. Yes, they pick up the benefits of dual-classing (or actually, triple classing in this case), but that's an argument for their power not against it. The power of the bard comes from the fact that once switching to bard, they level up at about twice the rate of other classes resulting in a very rapid accumulation of HD and obtaining 'name level' at about the same time as their peers despite working on their third class. After they max out their HD, sure, they start to lose ground compared to full-caster classes, and as you apparently played until max level, then by then if you were competing with 17th+ level casters in the party and 15th+ plus level fighter subclasses, the bard probably felt a bit lackluster. But that doesn't change that Bard is one of 1e's 'valid builds', that you should be aiming for when you build a character. For one thing, if you went 1-23 straight up, it probably did take 10 years playing weekly and very few campaigns last that long. I joined a preexisting campaign when it had hit 7th level and 5 years later I'd hit 13th.

But I still see 1e AD&D as largely over by 10th or 11th level without heavy DM improvisation just because nothing in the game that was published at the time really can adequately challenge the players. By 15th level, you are ready for pretty much any end game you'd want versus any BBEG you'd want, and really you've probably needed to move over to dynastic/political/military play. A party of 6-8 15th+ level characters can easily generate 400 damage a round unless the DM has kept exceptionally tight control on the available equipment, PC ability scores, and so forth. The sort of things that can challenge PC's of that level are very limited, and the DM would be forced to make a lot of stuff up. Sure, I've beat up junior high kids 33rd level paladins with just a few simple monsters, just to show them that their was more to the game than flipping to entries in the Deities and Demigods and beating up foes in a 30'x40' room with a flat floor, but those were very young players with limited experience that hadn't really 'earned' their characters.

I'd honestly love to hear about adventuring at 23rd level. I've only ran into one other person at EnWorld that claimed to have a positive experience with 1e AD&D in a campaign at 18th+ level, and that was in a group that eschewed Unearthed Arcana and had a DM that kept magic items very tightly in check. (He was shocked when I showed him the math on what optimized builds could do, especially post UA.) Even so, by that point he was up against the Demon Lords and other most potent published foes in the game. What were you doing playing at above that level for years?
 

dagger

Explorer
There is more to do than raid dungeons at high levels (and low/mid), and you can add me to the list of people that had a good campaign at high level. Also, I never considered and still don't consider AD&D over at 10th level. Who cares about what was published in June 1978 (when I was 3) when the PHB came out? Our main game (which was 1e) we played from about 1987 to 2000 (at this point it was 50/50 3rd edition and 1e), we had more than enough stuff to challenge us, and we had 2e books/modules as well. We still do actually, but 5e is our main game now.

The things we did at high level are the things we did at most levels to varying degrees, combat, politics, questing for specific items, making items, kingdom/castle/temple building, spell research/creation, and other stuff. Granted high level we had less combat, but it still happened.

If you are worried about too many magic items at high level start using the by the book item saves for failed saving throws against fireballs and the like. What Monty giveth, Monty taketh away.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The things we did at high level are the things we did at most levels to varying degrees, combat, politics, questing for specific items, making items, kingdom/castle/temple building, spell research/creation, and other stuff. Granted high level we had less combat, but it still happened.

Sure. But I'd already anticipated that response at several points of the thread. Yes, by all means you can after name level transition to kingdom building dynastic play. I've played that game. We had a two car garage with a city layout and something like 4000 chits representing battlesystem units. We had a grand naval battle with dozens of ships hurling shot and ballista bolts at each other.

Besides which, by your own admission, you weren't even playing 1e AD&D, but a hybrid 1e/2e/3e game. Third editions 'monsters are people too' innovations are largely reactions to 1e AD&D's inability to scale well (since monster THAC0 progression was capped at 16HD, monsters didn't have Constitution scores, monsters didn't have Dexterity scores, and so forth). Likewise, 3e openly affirmed what had only been hinted at by the 1e books, that the DM was perfectly in their rights to double or triple the HD of foes - something that I'd started doing inspired by Talos the triple strength Iron Golem.

If you want to see a good example of abusing the 1e/2e rules set to challenge high level players, see 'Axe of the Dwarven Lords', which from Korred to Shambling Mound to Thessalhydra is an almost perfect listing of the sort of monsters that had play at higher levels via quirks in the rules or harsher than normal design. Also, the full 1e RBDM would happily abuse misprints in the rules, "Why yes, a Jann Lord is 83HD. Says so right here." But again, it's not hard for a 1e party to generate 400 damage a round.

If you are worried about too many magic items at high level start using the by the book item saves for failed saving throws against fireballs and the like. What Monty giveth, Monty taketh away.

High level characters rarely fail saves, and their items also rarely fail saves even when they do. If you really want to harsh the players this way, cast disintegrate at them a lot, since that's one of the few item saves powerful (metal) magic items will likely fail.
 
Last edited:

WheresMyD20

First Post
I'd honestly love to hear about adventuring at 23rd level. I've only ran into one other person at EnWorld that claimed to have a positive experience with 1e AD&D in a campaign at 18th+ level, and that was in a group that eschewed Unearthed Arcana and had a DM that kept magic items very tightly in check. (He was shocked when I showed him the math on what optimized builds could do, especially post UA.) Even so, by that point he was up against the Demon Lords and other most potent published foes in the game. What were you doing playing at above that level for years?
Part of what we did was political/kingdom stuff, part of it was extra-planar adventuring. The campaign was heavy on demons and devils, but we only had one fight against an arch-devil and none against a demon lord. We ran into Geryon on his home plane, got beaten badly, and had to flee. We had six 20+ level characters, but Geryon had quite a few other devils backing him up. We were overwhelmed. A party at that level can take down one of almost anything pretty easily, but is still challenged if they're outnumbered. I remember fighting a dozen beholders in their lair and it was a real challenge.

Extra-planar adventuring works well with 20+ level characters. Traveling across planes weakens magic items, so it's a convenient built-in way of limiting magic items at high levels. We actually had to start acquiring magic items native to other planes to try to offset this. It was kind of like a soft reset on magic items. We ended up trying to build collections of Hell gear, Abyss gear, etc. Some spells don't work as well or at all on other planes. Clerics may not be able to recover their mid-to-high level spells on some planes. Enemies on other planes tend to be tougher than the ones on the prime plane.

Fights were apocalyptic with lots of magic getting thrown around. It was common to have to make at least one saving throw a round, sometimes more. Saving throws were really easy to make, though. High level magic-user and cleric spells that did not allow a saving throw were very valuable. Dispel magic was cast a lot in order to take down magical defenses and suppress magic items. Fighters were vital since a lot of enemies had both magic resistance and great saving throws. Often times the best strategy for magic-users and clerics was to cast spells to buff the fighters while they did the attacking.

Death was actually pretty common, but not too problematic. It was really only a problem if a character died on another plane and the party had to flee the plane before he can get raised, or if the character's soul got imprisoned by a demon, devil, or other powerful creature/spellcaster. It was less common to permanently lose a character, but it did happen a few times.

I think the Elric saga is sort of how our 20+ level game of 1e AD&D looked. Lots of planar travel, dealing with god-like beings, lots of demons & devils, and getting embroiled in a cosmic struggle.
 

Celebrim

Legend
A party at that level can take down one of almost anything pretty easily, but is still challenged if they're outnumbered. I remember fighting a dozen beholders in their lair and it was a real challenge.

Beholder would probably make the list of things you could challenge high level characters with. Fighting two dozen of them reminds me of my general maxim that the best way to challenge a party is pit each PC against two things that are each slightly weaker than the PC. So, I guess at 20+ level, that's 12 beholders, 12 adult dragons, 12 vampires, 12 pyro-hydras...

Traveling across planes weakens magic items, so it's a convenient built-in way of limiting magic items at high levels.

That answers the question of how you keep magic items in check. Taking stuff away is a classic Gygaxian move to deal with some of the challenge issues. The tool chest of items per plane makes me smile.

Enemies on other planes tend to be tougher than the ones on the prime plane.

I'm wondering now how much Mines of Bloodstone influenced your DMs choices and rules. For example, in the H series, many of the fiend lords were boosted to 400hp when on their own plane to give them some chance of survival. Even backed up by say 12 pit fiends, I'm having a hard time imagining an unbuffed Geryon daunting a 20th+ level party, as he's hardly one of the more fearsome fiend lords. Then again, maybe by 'overwhelmed' you mean, "One of Geryon's Legions arrived.", in which case did combat sometimes get sloggy and how did you deal with it? Twelve beholders is after all a lot of ray attacks per round.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top