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D&D General Experience Points & Leveling: A Brief Primer on XP in the 1e DMG, and Why It Still Matters

Anyway, was training a thing at all? Or was that just something Gary made up because it sounded good? lol.
The latter. Gary, as I've stated elsewhere, was obsessed with balance. Unfortunately, and at times, the very balance that he was attempting was due to another imbalance he'd created. So sometimes it was. "That which I fear has come upon me," reactions in the plus and minus mayhem of it all. This is not to detract from what he did right, just that sometimes in padding the rules and in attempting to rule every little facet he backed himself into such corners, that's my only explanation for such things he never used himself but felt that others would possibly need.

Nope. No training was used at all for money or time spent.
 

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I for one would be very interested in knowing which rules were changed or ignored by Gary and the rest of you.
Yeah. I mentioned this up thread, that I have a document of House Rules we used, some Gary's some mine, and I seemed to be (after long reflection) the more experimental of us. Then I would have to append what we did not use, those that were not substituted/amended through HRs. It's really not that long unless one gets into my take on spells (1975). I'll consider updating it and releasing it through TLB Games when I have a future break in the novel writing. Speaking of which... ;)
 

I'd have loved that. In 1e my DM only started at 1st level and the death rate was monstrous with low hit points. Once you added in poison, which were almost entirely save or die, and started at level one, and energy drains which started around level 4, we never got higher than 7th level and rarely past 5th. It would have been fun to play a higher level, higher stakes game.
Ward's games were full throttled dangerous, that's why he started you at 6th level. He kinda patterned the pace/action after Harry Harrison's "Deathworld" which he admires:


So do keep in mind why those extra levels were needed. :)
 




Hussar

Legend
Nice analysis. But way off in what was really happening at tables. Synergies has to be taken into account. The cleric was more or less a healbot and its true fighting capacity came at third level with silence and hold person spells.

/snip

This is why training was a thing. Yes it was a mean to relieve players of their gold, sure. But it also reflected the journey that they had started. They needed time to assimilated what they had learned and training was also to make them learn more about their profession. Contrary to modern RPG and 5ed, the starting characters were simply apprentices, novitiates in field. They were not fully formed and ready. I consider the AD&D characters as people that have learned the basic of their trade. Started to work/adventuring before fully ready and taking time to learn more about their trade in their downtime, taking time to catch up with what they have missed by going away early in their training...
It's always fun to see people extrapolate their personal experiences and try to make them universal. For example, I don't think in all the years I played AD&D and 2e, I ever saw a hold person spell cast. There were far too many times the baddies weren't humanoid. And, well, at third level, with your 3 2nd level spells, slow poison was ALWAYS the go to spell for memorization, with Spiritual Hammer being a close second.

And, well, a cleric was pretty much equal to a fighter in combat in most ways unless the fighter had percentile strength. Otherwise, there was virtually no difference between a cleric and a fighter. And, well, with the claims of "not being guaranteed average HP", I doubt percentile strengths were terribly common.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's always fun to see people extrapolate their personal experiences and try to make them universal. For example, I don't think in all the years I played AD&D and 2e, I ever saw a hold person spell cast. There were far too many times the baddies weren't humanoid. And, well, at third level, with your 3 2nd level spells, slow poison was ALWAYS the go to spell for memorization, with Spiritual Hammer being a close second.

And, well, a cleric was pretty much equal to a fighter in combat in most ways unless the fighter had percentile strength. Otherwise, there was virtually no difference between a cleric and a fighter. And, well, with the claims of "not being guaranteed average HP", I doubt percentile strengths were terribly common.
My clerics throughout all editions seem to end up as secondary front line fighters. Even back in ye' olden days. Yeah hold person was useful now and then depending on who your DM was, but a mace to the head was more consistent.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's been a long time since 1E and it's ... creative ... approach to rules. I will say that I have to laugh now and then when people complain about rules in the current edition not being entirely clear. Y'all have no clue.

But back to the typical rambling OP ;) I don't use XP and haven't for a couple decades now and I'm not about to look back. To me, any rules for XP are always going to be arbitrary whether that means only counting XP for monsters killed, bypassed, gold or magical items. The reason we have character levels is to have PC growth and to tell different aspects of a story.

Motivations for the PCs vary depending on campaign and tone. Sometimes it's to save the town and then the valley and then the kingdom or region. Other times it's because the PC is curious what's over the next hill and having fun amassing a fortune. By not using XP it's not about being a murder hobo that has to ask the DM if we could pretty please just hunt down a few monsters for the sole purpose of gaining a level because we only need another 50 XP to go up a level.

If decisions are made based on PC motivations and what makes sense to the character instead of the player trying to get to the next level, I think the game tends to focus more on story and immersion. Besides, I don't want (or need) a meta-game carrot to entice the players into certain activities. That's what Blarg the Destroyer threatening the PC's home base is for.
 

Shrug, your bug, my feature. different xp tables based on class was a balancing mechanism, so making all classes use the same table but changing nothing else? That would cause even more problems with how PCs were balanced.

Zero to hero is also a feature for me, not a bug. And it fits the living world preference I have.

that being said, xp rules in 1e were all over the place. Many of the reasons have already been given. It's pretty odd that you could look at XP values for monsters, look at the table that told you how to assign xp for monsters, and realize that the math almost never added up. shrug

As someone who played 1e as my go-to game from 1981 to 2012, I think somewhere around 1983 we ignored the training time frame requirements and costs (even though we understood that gold was meant to be spent, and that's a way to do it). We allowed leveling up when you got enough XP and there was a good break in the game to do so.

I am very much a fan of xp for treasure over monsters, because it fosters a more creative style of play. if most of your xp comes from monsters, then every encounter will be treated like you have to fight it. That gets boring and repetitive. By contrast, if you get most xp for treasure and mission accomplishment, and encounters have a high risk (which they did in 1e compared to later editions), it encouraged more creative ways to get past the monsters other than fighting them.
I too played mostly 1e into the late 90s. I had so much fun...

what people find poor design was fine for me...for years.

man we lusted for gold—-it mattered. When you got a treasure it was exciting. Not only did it help advance you, but you needed it!

I am playing 5e. It’s my second favorite iteration of D&D. Heck, some things are perhaps the best for me.

but overall I am missing the old motivations. I honestly don’t care about treasure much anymore in 5e. I don’t always fight for my share....probably not religious about writing it all down—-magic or useful items excepted.

I am not debating what is smoother. I find the focus on smooth and good design at times supersede what is “fun.” (For me).

the feeling of getting a trove in 1e is just gone from 5e and some who did not play 1e probably cant relate. Only natural.

My group is all in for 5e. I am really thinking about playing some 1e again, however. No law against being in a 5e and 1e campaign simultaneously.

they scratch different itches for me. But we never felt like it was a problem in 1e. Like others we also did what seemed right.

on a long adventure the DM might say that stopping to train was not necessary “this time” if we were in the wilds. It was a quest!

I don’t even think Gygax would have disagreed.
 

David Howery

Adventurer
Figuring out treasure xp at the end of the adventure is/was common enough (if only because you need to get it evaluated to know what xp it'll give you), but I've never heard of holding back monster xp like that.
shrugs, I dunno, it didn't really seem to matter. Not having to stop and add up XP in the middle of it all kept the flow of the game running smooth (well, as smooth as 1E ever ran). XP for monsters was a 'bookkeeping' detail that we generally didn't want to bother with during the game, letting the DM figure it all out afterwards....
 

hmm... under every DM I had way back in the day, you couldn't 'level up' in the middle of an adventure.... we generally calculated all XP from monsters and treasure at the end of the adventure... we always had one player whose job it was to keep track of all the things we slew, and another who kept a list of the treasure, and figured it all up after we got back to base... as you might guess, that is when PCs would hit the 'you got too many XP', and lost some of them.
Training was something we handled on a strictly 'off the record' matter.... if you had the cash, the party was assumed to be on downtime between adventures, and whoever needed it got the training done...
I think the ACTUAL SOP in the groups I ran, and pretty much in the ones I played in, was to tally combat XP on the fly. Then at the end of the 'delve' treasure XP would be tallied up based on the shares earned. Lets say you were a brand new fighter, you could earn up to 4000XP (one point short of 3rd level) at that point, and any excess to that would be lost. You would then level up to level 2, and any more XP earned in the next adventure would put you over the top (and now you could earn up to one point short of 5th, at most). Any actual leveling always happened 'in town', or at the very least in a 'safe base' of some sort. Some DMs had various rules about things like getting new spells for Magic Users (maybe you had to get them from your master or another higher level M.U. unless you wanted to pay to do research, and that required an actual library). Other than that, maybe a fairly well-secured base camp would suffice, and the actual leveling process wasn't generally delayed. I don't recall any DM who did more than toy with the training rule in practice. It just wasn't that much fun. I also don't recall that most campaigns had anything like the amounts of treasure that the treasure tables implied. Hiring people, supplies, taxes, spell components, etc. would all suck up lots of money anyway.

In any case, I don't recall our higher level PCs really caring too much about piles of money. Most of them were fairly rich, and getting cash wasn't usually the big issue. Really expensive items and such were not really feasible to make anyway, and buying them was not something our groups usually thought was likely to work, except maybe if you wanted some pretty trivial item. Most wealth was in items, land, etc. anyway, and we all just did trades. By the time you were 9th level or so you could pretty much be assumed to have whatever mundane 'stuff', ordinary hirelings, etc. made sense logistically, the money was just not worth tracking.
 

It's always fun to see people extrapolate their personal experiences and try to make them universal. For example, I don't think in all the years I played AD&D and 2e, I ever saw a hold person spell cast. There were far too many times the baddies weren't humanoid. And, well, at third level, with your 3 2nd level spells, slow poison was ALWAYS the go to spell for memorization, with Spiritual Hammer being a close second.

And, well, a cleric was pretty much equal to a fighter in combat in most ways unless the fighter had percentile strength. Otherwise, there was virtually no difference between a cleric and a fighter. And, well, with the claims of "not being guaranteed average HP", I doubt percentile strengths were terribly common.
And you do the same. However how many groups have you played with? For me it's well over a hundred different groups/people (and yes I am counting tournaments) Hold person was a great spell with 1-4 targets with the added bonuses of having a -1 to save for two targets or a -3 for opting to have only one target. It was a save and suck spell that could easily tip the battle. Did they have dozens of them? nope. One or two was usually enough. Even wizards would use it. As the most dangerous opponents were not humanoids, but evil NPC groups!

Most cleric were second line fighters guarding the back of the group. High AC, relatively good HP (even if average HP was not a guarantee, a high roll could be there, a low roll was not an automatic thing. The laws of probabilities still apply mate). TClerics could usually hold their own if push came to shove. A good mace was always a plus, especially if it was magical.

As for percentile strength...
No they were not common. That is why spells such as Strength were there for. When your fighter does not have a high strength score (in 1ed that is at least 18.76) then that spell was a must. With that in mind, having the characters find gauntlets of ogres' power was not something so rare and very often, a girdle of giant strength could be found. A lot of the gold savings of a fighter was to gain magical items that would enhance his strength or his AC. Except that these were obtained through high level magic user that would require a quest from the petitioner. More than once have I seen a fighter pick up a wand or rod as his share of treasure to trade such an item to a high level wizard to get gauntlets of ogres' strength or a girdle of giant strength. (I also saw girdles of dwarven kind being sought after...)

As for the spell slow poison. Yes it was a very essential spell. But at a bit higher levels, neutralize poison would be the go to unless the group would be very friendly with an alchemist that could provide Keogtom's ointment or simply bought/created scolls of Neutralize poison (depending on the level).

Around level 5, summon monster strategies would start to appear. Summon monsters, make them rush into all pit traps and open all chests and voilà! Thief is now safe. Unfortunately, this strat was also a bit dependent on luck as you would need humanoids to open doors... But it was a sound enough strat to be used. The duration was relatively short, (usually 2 round +1 round per level or so) but when players suspected that a corridor was too long for its own good... you get the picture. Also, spells such as Bless, chant, prayer or aid (UA, so this one was a bit late but those that had access to it would use it) could also help the thief do its job. Chant was especially good as it could last a long, long time (in fact, as long as the cleric kept chanting...) This meant that if the group was almost sure that the level/sector/area had been cleared, the cleric could chant to give the thief a nice bonus to save.

It is easy to dismiss the "experience" of others. But with so many people using the same strategies over the years, I do think that my "experience" of what I have seen and heard about over the years was not so far off of what was actually played.

One last note: Rings of protections could be passed along as "attunement" was not a thing. The thief would receive these items when doing checks. The most valuables were of course the +3 variety but the +1 and +2 were also not that rare (almost every published adventures features at least one). A fetish of proof against poison was also a highly sought item.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
As for the spell slow poison. Yes it was a very essential spell. But at a bit higher levels, neutralize poison would be the go to unless the group would be very friendly with an alchemist that could provide Keogtom's ointment or simply bought/created scolls of Neutralize poison (depending on the level).
It's really odd how experiences differ. I never once saw Slow Poison memorized, let alone cast. Hold Person, though, was in every Cleric's prepared spells once they hit 3rd level. The reason for this was that Hold Person was useful. Slow Poison on the other hand just delayed death for 3 hours at 3rd level, and out in the wilderness or in a dungeon, the odds of finding a cure before the 3 hours were up were right around my winning the lottery tonight, and I haven't even purchased a ticket yet.
 


D
And you do the same. However how many groups have you played with? For me it's well over a hundred different groups/people (and yes I am counting tournaments) Hold person was a great spell with 1-4 targets with the added bonuses of having a -1 to save for two targets or a -3 for opting to have only one target. It was a save and suck spell that could easily tip the battle. Did they have dozens of them? nope. One or two was usually enough. Even wizards would use it. As the most dangerous opponents were not humanoids, but evil NPC groups!

Most cleric were second line fighters guarding the back of the group. High AC, relatively good HP (even if average HP was not a guarantee, a high roll could be there, a low roll was not an automatic thing. The laws of probabilities still apply mate). TClerics could usually hold their own if push came to shove. A good mace was always a plus, especially if it was magical.

As for percentile strength...
No they were not common. That is why spells such as Strength were there for. When your fighter does not have a high strength score (in 1ed that is at least 18.76) then that spell was a must. With that in mind, having the characters find gauntlets of ogres' power was not something so rare and very often, a girdle of giant strength could be found. A lot of the gold savings of a fighter was to gain magical items that would enhance his strength or his AC. Except that these were obtained through high level magic user that would require a quest from the petitioner. More than once have I seen a fighter pick up a wand or rod as his share of treasure to trade such an item to a high level wizard to get gauntlets of ogres' strength or a girdle of giant strength. (I also saw girdles of dwarven kind being sought after...)

As for the spell slow poison. Yes it was a very essential spell. But at a bit higher levels, neutralize poison would be the go to unless the group would be very friendly with an alchemist that could provide Keogtom's ointment or simply bought/created scolls of Neutralize poison (depending on the level).

Around level 5, summon monster strategies would start to appear. Summon monsters, make them rush into all pit traps and open all chests and voilà! Thief is now safe. Unfortunately, this strat was also a bit dependent on luck as you would need humanoids to open doors... But it was a sound enough strat to be used. The duration was relatively short, (usually 2 round +1 round per level or so) but when players suspected that a corridor was too long for its own good... you get the picture. Also, spells such as Bless, chant, prayer or aid (UA, so this one was a bit late but those that had access to it would use it) could also help the thief do its job. Chant was especially good as it could last a long, long time (in fact, as long as the cleric kept chanting...) This meant that if the group was almost sure that the level/sector/area had been cleared, the cleric could chant to give the thief a nice bonus to save.

It is easy to dismiss the "experience" of others. But with so many people using the same strategies over the years, I do think that my "experience" of what I have seen and heard about over the years was not so far off of what was actually played.

One last note: Rings of protections could be passed along as "attunement" was not a thing. The thief would receive these items when doing checks. The most valuables were of course the +3 variety but the +1 and +2 were also not that rare (almost every published adventures features at least one). A fetish of proof against poison was also a highly sought item.
Damn I want to play 1e again.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The most common 2nd-level Cleric spell I generally see cast is Silence.
Silence was another big one, but I tended to see that at 4th level. The people I played with were a bit more aggressive and Hold Person was more direct. Also, Silence didn't discriminate, so often you eliminated party spellcaster ability due to the size of the spell.
 


However at 1st level a MU isn't that much worse of a warrior than a Fighter, at least when it comes to offense, so they can at least try to bring the pain a bit as long as someone's there to take care of any incoming blows. Yes they can pretty much only use staff or dagger, but that don't mean a thing: in a session I DMed two weeks back a combat saw a 1st-level Illusionist absolutely roll up the line using just his staff! Fight of his life, that was.
Yeah he is. With any reasonable ability score assumptions, 1st level M.U. less than 5 hit points, AC10. 1 attack per round, 1d6 damage (staff, the best weapon), THAC0 21. 1st level Fighter AVERAGE of 5.5 hit points, frequently more (CON is a good stat), AC4 (or possibly even 3 with good gold roll or on 2nd delve). 1 attack per round, 1d10 damage (usually with a bonus for STR), more if attacking large creatures, or if you ditch the shield. THAC0 20 (reasonable chance of a +1 bonus too).

The AC is the critical part. An Orc needs a 9 to hit an M.U. and its AVERAGE damage is almost 2x the average hit points of said M.U. The MU can only hit the orc on a 16, and on average it will take 2 hits to kill. The orc needs a 15 (maybe 16) to hit the fighter, and on average requires 2 hits to kill. The fighter hits on a 15 as well and on average kills in one strike. The probability of an M.U. beating an orc is maybe 20%, at best. The fighter has about a 75% chance of winning that fight, straight up.

Any rational wizard will simply run from melee, unless pinned in a corner and forced to fight, or possible if it is mop-up and the rest of the party is also taking shots at the same target. Of course tossing darts is a bit of another story, but given the low damage, short range, and poor chances of hitting, it is likely it will only meaningfully contribute to victory a small percentage of the time. You might manage to kill kobolds now and then, or even a goblin, but that's about it.

Anyway, were we to assume that Magic Users DO have some significant marginal combat ability, that just makes the XP tables even MORE off as a balancing mechanism than they already appear to be.
Several things here.

First, there's a bit of a built-in assumption (IMO anyway) that Thieves and Clerics won't get involved in as many xp-earning situations as will Fighters and MUs. My own experience tells me different, particularly for Clerics, but there it is.
Given the XP rules for 1e I don't know why anyone would assume that. As long as they participate at all, they will get a share. Clerics are pretty solid melee guys, they can wade in, and probably should unless there's some spell casting they need to do. Either way, they should always be getting XP. Thieves... Well, they have missile weapons, lol. Obviously they will also get pressed into battle, and the idea of setting up a backstab of a singular monster as a tactic is certainly a good idea. Personally I was always pretty generous with the backstab rules, feeling that the idea should really be "if the situation is at all conducive, you probably should get one shot per melee." In any case, even if you discount backstab entirely, it is hard to see these classes as likely to get less XP. Especially if you give any out for "doing your class thing" (I know that was more official in 2e, but it was pretty common in 1e as well).
Second, if the MU is so pathetic at 1st level then a 100% gain in ability at 2nd doesn't mean much, as it's 100% of a very small number. For example, if we say on an open-ended scale that a 1st-level Fighter's ability is a 6, Cleric's a 5, Thief's a 4, and a MU's is 3, then at 2nd level they've gone to 9, 10*, 6**, and 6 respectively.
Except I wouldn't say that. I mean, the problem with gauging Magic Users is, what spell do they have? An MU with Sleep is REALLY effective! That is pretty much an 'I Win Button' at level 1. Spells like Burning Hands, Enlarge, Charm Person, Friends, Hold Portal, Pro From Evil, all pretty effective directly in combat (MM is pretty Meh, but also works, as do Shocking Grasp and Push sometimes). Sure, you could have a worthless M.U. who has just some utility spells, but even those could be pretty powerful in an exploration/RP sense. Anyway, I'm not saying MU is better or worse at level 1, but baseline they are all fairly close. Then you add a level, and the MU basically doubles in power, and again going to 3rd, and then realistically again going to 5th. Plus he's likely gaining entries in his spell book all along, which are huge increments of added power that aren't even accounted for in the progression.
So the Fighter's still better than the MU, but instead of being twice as good she's now only 1.5x as good. At 3rd level using the same ratios the numbers become 14***, 15, 6, and 12. The Thief's really lagging now and never does catch up, the others are much closer to parity than they were. However - and here's where the staggered bump points come in useful - the Thief is probably going to get its next bump way sooner, meaning it won't be as far behind.
Right, but my argument is just that the bumps for MU come way too soon relative to their power increase. Thieves should probably bump a bit sooner, Magic Users and (possibly even more so) Clerics get them way too soon. I'm just using fighters as a baseline, but of course you might also argue they could be tweaked downwards.
* - using a 100% increase for the Cleric; it could be 80% which would make it a 9.
** - can't translate 35% in such small whole integers so I was generous and gave the Thief 50% for this level.
*** - rounded 13.5 up to 14.

So, taking that into account, if the Fighter needs 2000 xp to go from 6 to 9 (a gain of 3) then the MU should also need 2000 to go from 3 to 6; the Thief would need 1333 to go from 4 to 6, and the Cleric needs 3333 to go from 5 to 10. (or 2667 to go from 5 to 9).
Yeah, we are just obviously not rating spells the same. IME they are really the key to the game, even at lower levels. Because they can package a huge advantage into a sudden single action they tend to be 'leverageable' to a degree that just doesn't exist for non-caster abilities (at least any we are discussing here). Yes, a party in the levels 1-4 range can probably live without a Magic User, they won't really want to, and it isn't making the party stronger, for sure.
Given the treasure amounts in most 1e modules, a Fighter who hasn't got plate after (or even during!) her very first adventure hasn't got the sense gawd gave a goose.
I noted that fighters probably have AC2 after 'their first delve'. Anyway, I'm assigning ZERO melee value to Magic Users, and considering fighters to be '100%' of a melee character in essence. At that standard, a cleric is at least 75% of a melee character (they will have the same AC as fighters, why not, 80% of the hit points, and 70% of the base damage output). Thieves are really the ones that are dinked, they have a crummy AC which they cannot improve, only 60% of the hit points of a fighter (less than enough at level 1 to survive a level 1 monster attack) and their special abilities are effectively worthless (yeah, you can try to use them, some could pan out now and then, but many of them are too risky to even use). Anyway, AC2 vs 4 for the fighter isn't changing a lot.
A long time of doing this stuff tells me that certain classes rock at certain levels, and I'm pretty much fine with that. I would like to find a way of overall beefing up the Thief somehow; that's on the agenda for the next rules go-through before I start my next campaign...if and when I ever do; the current one's still got lots of life in it yet. :)
Exactly! And people were arguing that the XP tables reflect that. My argument is A) they don't reflect it very well at lower levels, and B) (which I didn't really develop) they are UTTERLY BONKERS WRONG at higher levels. If XP charts per class was intended to balance classes, it is one of the most miserable failures ever. It would actually be better overall if there was a single unified XP chart IMHO. It would have been simpler and worked just as well. If at that point some classes seemed weak and progressing slowly, then by gosh they should have been beefed up! THAT would be game design. lol.
 


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