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

Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
I felt alienated when we skipped 2e. But it filled in too many holes for my group!

we already had “kits” which were characters we conceived, Often drew and roleplayed according to our concept. No template required....

but I am jonesing for 1e. I am in my 40s, I don’t care about “alienation.” The current zeitgeist does not really embrace me anyway.
 
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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.
I beg to differ. I played and ran D&D and AD&D for 25 years, 1000's and 1000's of hours. The supposed 'synergies' are overrated on the whole. Clerics as healbots changes nothing either, I am assuming in my assessment you would be insane to vary from 4x CLW at level 1, period. MAYBE, you might sub in a Bless or Protection From Evil if you have specific reasons. I suppose any of the other level 1 spells might also be useful if you can anticipate the specific use (IE going in with a specific plan). All that does is increase their utility. As healers a level 1 cleric represents a spare 4.5x4 = 18 hit points, roughly doubling the melee endurance of the ENTIRE party (assuming a 5 PC party). Their fighting capacity is better than 80% of a fighter at level 1 (they are exactly 1 hit point shy of being a fighter, though they probably do a bit less damage, maybe the fighter gets a STR bonus to-hit, etc.). And yes, 3rd level, where they get all their 2nd level spells, including bonus spells for WIS, is a BIG power increase.

Think about it this way though. You would virtually ALWAYS be better off building a party with clerics subbed in for fighters. Yes, damage output will go down slightly, but not much, and total party hit point endurance, plus general spell casting, will improve greatly. Fighters are pretty good at lower levels, but nothing like vital. Clerics are vital. To the point that dropping in a half-elf that has a cleric 2nd class at party creation is practically a standard optimization tactic! (making the thief a MC'd thief/M.U. being another, elves are better thieves anyway).
The wizard might get double its spell allotment but there were usually more than one fight per day and fights were resolved way faster back then. This left your wizard stuck with darts and daggers for most fights. The wizards' job was to know when to cast their spells to tip the balance of hard/ key fights.
Right, and those are the ones that are high risk where you have to have that added power to win. Again, this is why standard optimization tactics for a 1e party is to sub in elf fighter/M.U., or clerics, or HE cleric/MU, etc. to get the extra spell power is so excellent a strategy. (at least at low levels) having all Magic Users won't work, but you could easily go half-and-half clerics and Magic Users, that is pretty optimum, particularly if one of the Magic Users is also a fighter, so 2 clerics, 2 magic users, and a magic user/fighter MC. Lots of spell power, plenty of melee when you need it. Remember, melee is a failure condition in 1e anyway, so what you need is the ability to survive that mistake now and then.
This is also true with the thief. A backstab was a relative rare occurrence at low level. Most of thieves' job was to find/remove trap and to scout ahead. They were not the damage dealer they are today.
No, but if they cannot deal damage effectively, they are greatly reduced in value. Also, certainly at low levels, thieves are terrible scouts! Their thief ability check numbers are rotten, unless they are elves, who can already sneak better than any thief! So why not be an elf magic user? Or even elf magic user/thief? See my point? Now you begin to understand why elves were made to be less desirable by level caps!
Also, no classes were guaranteed average HP from the get go. I have seen fighters with 18 con having a mere 40 hp at level 6 and a wizard of level 11 with barely 21 hp at 11th level... Your first level cleric might only get one additional HP for its second level. This is hardly doubling hp. Average hp on leveling was not thing in AD&D. At least not at every tables. I have seen players use a wish to reroll a bad HP roll that they had.
Yes, but I have no idea how that effects considerations of class design, which cannot really be based on what might happen in some specific case. Obviously you could have a 4th level fighter with 4 hit points. I've seen stuff like that, it is pretty sad. It isn't a reflection of the class though, particularly. Though I must say that a 4th level MU with 4 hit points will grumble and be in some extra danger, but it isn't going to cripple him...
Also, you also have to remember that a wizard was not a true wizard until he reached name level and so was it with all other classes. You were simply dabbles in your class until you reached that name level. When my players were meeting a paladin, they knew immediately that the NPC was 9th level. If it was Justicar, it was an 8th level paladin in becoming.
Again, I am not sure how this is relevant to the discussion at hand. Level titles have no mechanics associated with them, and I'm not sure why they would matter in terms of how the XP tables are organized.
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...
Sure, but that still leaves the question whether that made the game fun or not. Nobody can answer that for anyone else. I always thought the whole training thing was an interesting idea, but not well-thought-through nor especially appealing. I guess most people agreed.
 

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.
I will admit that it was almost entirely campaign dependant but often, if the town was near enough and a cleric of high enough level close, the slow poison spell was taken. A bit higher, and you could see scrolls of slow poison.

The tactic with slow poison is that it stalls all poison damage instances. No matter how many of instances of it you had on yourself. Consider it as a temporary poison immunity for the duration of the spell. Strange wording allowed that and the spell neutralize poison would cure all poison as well as the Keogtom's ointment. So why waste valuable neutralize poison and ointment on each occurrences where slow poison allowed you to go on poisoned for a few hours? And then, a neutralize poison would remove all poisons from your system, no matter how many of them you had... efficiency was the motto here.

As for the silence spell, it was, as Vorlons say, a three edged sword. It could shut down enemy spell casters but it could also shut down yours. The best use my players found for the spell was to prevent the dreaded:"Alarm!!!!!" An alarm was often the death of a group...
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Think about it this way though. You would virtually ALWAYS be better off building a party with clerics subbed in for fighters. Yes, damage output will go down slightly, but not much, and total party hit point endurance, plus general spell casting, will improve greatly. Fighters are pretty good at lower levels, but nothing like vital. Clerics are vital. To the point that dropping in a half-elf that has a cleric 2nd class at party creation is practically a standard optimization tactic! (making the thief a MC'd thief/M.U. being another, elves are better thieves anyway).
I've seen many parties at a wide range of levels where the Clerics were also the front line.

All too often the experiment ended both a) quickly and b) not well. :)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I will admit that it was almost entirely campaign dependant but often, if the town was near enough and a cleric of high enough level close, the slow poison spell was taken. A bit higher, and you could see scrolls of slow poison.

The tactic with slow poison is that it stalls all poison damage instances. No matter how many of instances of it you had on yourself. Consider it as a temporary poison immunity for the duration of the spell. Strange wording allowed that and the spell neutralize poison would cure all poison as well as the Keogtom's ointment. So why waste valuable neutralize poison and ointment on each occurrences where slow poison allowed you to go on poisoned for a few hours? And then, a neutralize poison would remove all poisons from your system, no matter how many of them you had... efficiency was the motto here.
Yeah. If you were right on top of or in town, it was useful at 3-4th level. We were rarely that close, though.
As for the silence spell, it was, as Vorlons say, a three edged sword. It could shut down enemy spell casters but it could also shut down yours. The best use my players found for the spell was to prevent the dreaded:"Alarm!!!!!" An alarm was often the death of a group...
And given that they were many tentacled Vorlons, it was probably also a three handed sword.
 

I beg to differ. I played and ran D&D and AD&D for 25 years, 1000's and 1000's of hours. The supposed 'synergies' are overrated on the whole. Clerics as healbots changes nothing either, I am assuming in my assessment you would be insane to vary from 4x CLW at level 1, period. MAYBE, you might sub in a Bless or Protection From Evil if you have specific reasons. I suppose any of the other level 1 spells might also be useful if you can anticipate the specific use (IE going in with a specific plan). All that does is increase their utility. As healers a level 1 cleric represents a spare 4.5x4 = 18 hit points, roughly doubling the melee endurance of the ENTIRE party (assuming a 5 PC party). Their fighting capacity is better than 80% of a fighter at level 1 (they are exactly 1 hit point shy of being a fighter, though they probably do a bit less damage, maybe the fighter gets a STR bonus to-hit, etc.). And yes, 3rd level, where they get all their 2nd level spells, including bonus spells for WIS, is a BIG power increase.

Think about it this way though. You would virtually ALWAYS be better off building a party with clerics subbed in for fighters. Yes, damage output will go down slightly, but not much, and total party hit point endurance, plus general spell casting, will improve greatly. Fighters are pretty good at lower levels, but nothing like vital. Clerics are vital. To the point that dropping in a half-elf that has a cleric 2nd class at party creation is practically a standard optimization tactic! (making the thief a MC'd thief/M.U. being another, elves are better thieves anyway).

Right, and those are the ones that are high risk where you have to have that added power to win. Again, this is why standard optimization tactics for a 1e party is to sub in elf fighter/M.U., or clerics, or HE cleric/MU, etc. to get the extra spell power is so excellent a strategy. (at least at low levels) having all Magic Users won't work, but you could easily go half-and-half clerics and Magic Users, that is pretty optimum, particularly if one of the Magic Users is also a fighter, so 2 clerics, 2 magic users, and a magic user/fighter MC. Lots of spell power, plenty of melee when you need it. Remember, melee is a failure condition in 1e anyway, so what you need is the ability to survive that mistake now and then.

No, but if they cannot deal damage effectively, they are greatly reduced in value. Also, certainly at low levels, thieves are terrible scouts! Their thief ability check numbers are rotten, unless they are elves, who can already sneak better than any thief! So why not be an elf magic user? Or even elf magic user/thief? See my point? Now you begin to understand why elves were made to be less desirable by level caps!

Yes, but I have no idea how that effects considerations of class design, which cannot really be based on what might happen in some specific case. Obviously you could have a 4th level fighter with 4 hit points. I've seen stuff like that, it is pretty sad. It isn't a reflection of the class though, particularly. Though I must say that a 4th level MU with 4 hit points will grumble and be in some extra danger, but it isn't going to cripple him...

Again, I am not sure how this is relevant to the discussion at hand. Level titles have no mechanics associated with them, and I'm not sure why they would matter in terms of how the XP tables are organized.

Sure, but that still leaves the question whether that made the game fun or not. Nobody can answer that for anyone else. I always thought the whole training thing was an interesting idea, but not well-thought-through nor especially appealing. I guess most people agreed.
Nice theory crafting. Guess we ran things differently. It all depends on party size. Mine were usually around 6 players with a few henchmen. Having two clerics was not that uncommon and would open up the possibility of taking a bless spell or two. A full party of adventurers could be anywhere from 6 to12 people. Most henchmen were falling behind as the group rose to higher and higher levels but as the players were stronger, new strategies would open up and henchmen would go down in usage and would go down to one or two for a high level party.

As for party composition, I do not doubt your analysis, but to each his own and sometimes you have to make do with what you got. Not all party are build with optimisation in mind, and the rolls might not go your way.

As for thieves being terrible scouts at low level. Yep. Most thieves were elven. But human thieves and halflings thieves were also a thing and from level 6 an on, they were very good, or at least good enough to make them worthwhile as they rose in level faster than any other classes. Your MU/T quickly fell behind in thieving capacity as you neared level 9. At that point, you mu/t would simply use improved invisibility and haste to backstab any opponent to kingdomcome.

As for the training rule
We used them. The only mod was that we allowed exp to go up to half the next level. So if you rose to level 2, you could accumulate half the experience for level 3. It was usually enough for everyone.
 

I will admit that it was almost entirely campaign dependant but often, if the town was near enough and a cleric of high enough level close, the slow poison spell was taken. A bit higher, and you could see scrolls of slow poison.

The tactic with slow poison is that it stalls all poison damage instances. No matter how many of instances of it you had on yourself. Consider it as a temporary poison immunity for the duration of the spell. Strange wording allowed that and the spell neutralize poison would cure all poison as well as the Keogtom's ointment. So why waste valuable neutralize poison and ointment on each occurrences where slow poison allowed you to go on poisoned for a few hours? And then, a neutralize poison would remove all poisons from your system, no matter how many of them you had... efficiency was the motto here.

As for the silence spell, it was, as Vorlons say, a three edged sword. It could shut down enemy spell casters but it could also shut down yours. The best use my players found for the spell was to prevent the dreaded:"Alarm!!!!!" An alarm was often the death of a group...
Right, there were a few tactics to use with Silence. It is also great as a way to help the party approach a particular area quietly. It can also be cast into an enemy group from a distance, or cast upon a sling stone or something and then carried, thrown, or slung into the enemy. Even non-casters can be pretty messed up by it. Imagine a fusillade of flaming oil flasks arriving, with silence cast on one into the middle of your camp. Now try to coordinate a defense! The downfall of many a bandit group or enemy party.

Slow poison is a vital spell. Note that poisons have INSTANT EFFECT in AD&D (generally, unless noted otherwise) so normally once someone is poisoned, they're dead, before you can attempt any sort of response. ONLY Slow Poison will actually get around this fact, nothing else. Neutralize Poison will work on a PC, but only if the poison was slowed first, because it lacks the same "come back from the dead" feature. So actually saving someone from something like a poison spider bite requires TWO spells, Slow Poison to reverse their already factual 'death', and THEN Neutralize Poison to permanently fix the problem. The description of Keotum's Ointment is more ambiguous, but to be safe you should always pack Slow Poison.
 

I've seen many parties at a wide range of levels where the Clerics were also the front line.

All too often the experiment ended both a) quickly and b) not well. :)
If the clerics couldn't cut it, then it is pretty unlikely that some fighters were going to fare much better. I mean, assuming you got some incredibly lucky die rolls and got a % strength, AND a better than 16 CON, then sure, you are probably substantially stronger in melee than most clerics. OTOH a cleric with a 17 to thrown into STR or CON (since the 18 will be in WIS) won't be a wimp either. Obviously if you roll a lot of high hit die rolls, with the high CON, you could have some pretty stupid hit points for your level too, and again that's great, but you have to assume equally exceptional characters on both sides of that comparison.

So, yes, some individual fighters will be 'better at melee than any cleric', but most will just be slightly better on average. Then factor in that the cleric heavy party is always healed, and once you hit 3rd will also have a bunch of other utility 'buffs' and such. You can construct corner cases, but when putting together a party you don't mostly go with corner cases, you go with "what normally works, and will handle the unexpected well" and that kind of party ALWAYS has more casters.
 

Right, there were a few tactics to use with Silence. It is also great as a way to help the party approach a particular area quietly. It can also be cast into an enemy group from a distance, or cast upon a sling stone or something and then carried, thrown, or slung into the enemy. Even non-casters can be pretty messed up by it. Imagine a fusillade of flaming oil flasks arriving, with silence cast on one into the middle of your camp. Now try to coordinate a defense! The downfall of many a bandit group or enemy party.

Slow poison is a vital spell. Note that poisons have INSTANT EFFECT in AD&D (generally, unless noted otherwise) so normally once someone is poisoned, they're dead, before you can attempt any sort of response. ONLY Slow Poison will actually get around this fact, nothing else. Neutralize Poison will work on a PC, but only if the poison was slowed first, because it lacks the same "come back from the dead" feature. So actually saving someone from something like a poison spider bite requires TWO spells, Slow Poison to reverse their already factual 'death', and THEN Neutralize Poison to permanently fix the problem. The description of Keotum's Ointment is more ambiguous, but to be safe you should always pack Slow Poison.
I fully agree on that.
But Keogtom's ointment is pretty clear that it will clear poison.
DMG p149 about Keogtom's ointment...
Placed upon a poisoned wound (or swallowed), it detoxifies any poison or disease.
That is pretty clear to me.
At a price of 10000 gold for five jar each with 5 uses that means a mere 400gp for each use of the ointment. That is pretty cheap compared to having a caster cast neutralize poison on a character (1000gp, DMG p104). If it could be possible...

Even a scroll of neutralize poison does not come cheaper. 100xp x4 (4th level spell) X 3 or 1200gp. As per DMG p121. And that is if the caster does not charge the 1000 gold for casting the spell for the scroll creation. And you need an 11th cleric to scribe scrolls... I do not think that a high priest will not charge that additional 1000 gold. At least not in my games.

The last possible solution would be an elixir of health from the Unearthed Arcana. At 2000 gold, it is even costlier than the scroll option. Healing solutions beside having a cleric in your party would not come cheap. The best solution is the ointment, yet, you need a nice friendly alchemist and e en these do not come cheap. Many groups were pooling their resources to get these. Often making quests for the alchemist or the church.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Slow poison is a vital spell. Note that poisons have INSTANT EFFECT in AD&D (generally, unless noted otherwise) so normally once someone is poisoned, they're dead, before you can attempt any sort of response. ONLY Slow Poison will actually get around this fact, nothing else. Neutralize Poison will work on a PC, but only if the poison was slowed first, because it lacks the same "come back from the dead" feature. So actually saving someone from something like a poison spider bite requires TWO spells, Slow Poison to reverse their already factual 'death', and THEN Neutralize Poison to permanently fix the problem. The description of Keotum's Ointment is more ambiguous, but to be safe you should always pack Slow Poison.
Sure. I'm talking about those levels before you can cast Neutralize Poison. The vast majority of the time you simply won't be close enough to make a difference with Slow Poison.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If the clerics couldn't cut it, then it is pretty unlikely that some fighters were going to fare much better. I mean, assuming you got some incredibly lucky die rolls and got a % strength, AND a better than 16 CON, then sure, you are probably substantially stronger in melee than most clerics. OTOH a cleric with a 17 to thrown into STR or CON (since the 18 will be in WIS) won't be a wimp either. Obviously if you roll a lot of high hit die rolls, with the high CON, you could have some pretty stupid hit points for your level too, and again that's great, but you have to assume equally exceptional characters on both sides of that comparison.
Basic fighter vs basic cleric in melee anytime after about 1st level is going to favour the fighter. Better to-hit, a few more h.p., but most importantly better weapons to do damage with especially vs large opponents, because after mace a cleric's weapon options are kinda thin. Chuck weapon spec. as written* on to that fighter as well and there's no comparison at all.

* - assuming non-extreme Con. Fighters get a better per-level bonus once Con gets to 17 or higher.
** - we use a modified version of weapon spec. where the benefits come in gradually as you level up and never get as good as UA has them, and even that modified version makes a difference.
So, yes, some individual fighters will be 'better at melee than any cleric', but most will just be slightly better on average. Then factor in that the cleric heavy party is always healed, and once you hit 3rd will also have a bunch of other utility 'buffs' and such. You can construct corner cases, but when putting together a party you don't mostly go with corner cases, you go with "what normally works, and will handle the unexpected well" and that kind of party ALWAYS has more casters.
Our usual rule of thumb is that you can never have too many fighters. You can also never have too many clerics, I suppose, but if your party's mostly thieves and mages with no starch then the first area-of-effect damage you meet could wipe you out.
 

Hussar

Legend
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.
My problem is @Hellditch - you started out with dismissing the experience of others. Your very first words were to dismiss anyone who had a different experience than you.

For example, you talk about how HP aren't guaranteed. That's true. Then you talk about the fighter with less than average HP. Thing is, it is EXACTLY equally likely that a fighter would have MORE than average HP. So, with all your experience, you should have seen exactly the same number of characters with more than and less than average HP. One would be no more likely than the other and neither would be particuarly noteworthy. Yet, you make it sound like most characters had less than average HP with your examples.

Now, I will absolutely agree on the rings thing. Fair enough. At least you're not banging the drum that no one ever found magic items in AD&D. That's a pleasant change.

But, again, my point is, your first claim - "Nice analysis. But way off in what was really happening at tables." is simply confirmation bias. The plural of anecdote is not data and it doesn't really matter what you experienced. Let's actually keep to what's in the books shall we?
 

Hussar

Legend
I do have a question though. Back in the day, we did use training, but, we always had the PC's continue to gain XP, until a maximum of 1 point of xp below the next level. Where did we come up with that house rule? Was that a house rule? I know you cannot gain 2 levels, but, I always thought you'd continue gaining xp but, then hit a ceiling of one less than the next level beyond.

Where did we come up with that? Was that a B/E D&D rule? I was pretty sure it was a rule. And it was certainly how we played. And, it was something that never got questioned when I started playing with other groups too, so, it seemed to be a pretty common house rule if it was.

I'm just not sure where it came from.
 

My problem is @Hellditch - you started out with dismissing the experience of others. Your very first words were to dismiss anyone who had a different experience than you.

For example, you talk about how HP aren't guaranteed. That's true. Then you talk about the fighter with less than average HP. Thing is, it is EXACTLY equally likely that a fighter would have MORE than average HP. So, with all your experience, you should have seen exactly the same number of characters with more than and less than average HP. One would be no more likely than the other and neither would be particuarly noteworthy. Yet, you make it sound like most characters had less than average HP with your examples.

Now, I will absolutely agree on the rings thing. Fair enough. At least you're not banging the drum that no one ever found magic items in AD&D. That's a pleasant change.

But, again, my point is, your first claim - "Nice analysis. But way off in what was really happening at tables." is simply confirmation bias. The plural of anecdote is not data and it doesn't really matter what you experienced. Let's actually keep to what's in the books shall we?
Both yes and no. I simply did what you did. Take time to read the other posts and you will see. At some point, if you do something; You allow others to do the same.

While your analysis is generally good. Some spells would be chosen beside CLW. Henchmen were a thing, especially at low level. I showed how a group would evolved. And that Hold Person was also a must at all level since the most dangerous enemies were opposing NPCs party. Bless would bring a fight to an end much sooner as a bonus to hit and save is desirable.

It is simply a matter of balancing pros and cons of having this or that spells.
 

I do have a question though. Back in the day, we did use training, but, we always had the PC's continue to gain XP, until a maximum of 1 point of xp below the next level. Where did we come up with that house rule? Was that a house rule? I know you cannot gain 2 levels, but, I always thought you'd continue gaining xp but, then hit a ceiling of one less than the next level beyond.

Where did we come up with that? Was that a B/E D&D rule? I was pretty sure it was a rule. And it was certainly how we played. And, it was something that never got questioned when I started playing with other groups too, so, it seemed to be a pretty common house rule if it was.

I'm just not sure where it came from.
It was a common house rule. But the DMG p86 clearly state that once you got the exp for your next level, you no longer gain any experience.

It was in a Dragon Magazine article that this rule was seen for the first time if I recall correctly but I can put my finger on the right one as my memory is a bit fuzzy on which issue it was.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Games that start above 1st level. Also 4e was less zero to hero and more hero to demigod.
Ha ha, that is true. Though of course every campaign can start at higher levels.

4e is like a stretch in prison. I don’t talk about it, though it has made me into the man I am today. 😂
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
To 'solve' the training problem (returning to town/stopped gaining XPs) one of our DMs put a level in a mega-dungeon with group of adventurers who set up a training facility for other adventuring groups passing by. It was weird.
 


Nice theory crafting. Guess we ran things differently. It all depends on party size. Mine were usually around 6 players with a few henchmen. Having two clerics was not that uncommon and would open up the possibility of taking a bless spell or two. A full party of adventurers could be anywhere from 6 to12 people. Most henchmen were falling behind as the group rose to higher and higher levels but as the players were stronger, new strategies would open up and henchmen would go down in usage and would go down to one or two for a high level party.
I just repeat experience. I mean, sure every table did some things differently, nobody is going to dispute that. We had many idiosyncrasies in our play, although we did stick pretty closely to the published rules, aside from a couple of things like training, and maybe being a bit loose with tracking every single minor component expenditure and whatnot (I seem to recall that for a long period of time, probably more in 2e timeframe, we used something pretty close to 4e's "generic power source component" rule).

In terms of henchmen. Getting 1/2 XP is not that big a deal. Given the arithmetic series nature of XP tables you are only 1 level behind 'master' (but maybe 2 since you won't get the best items). That certainly makes such characters reasonably valuable at all levels. Hirelings obviously become useless past 3rd level or so however, though they might serve some clever purposes if you hire 100's of them (IE a small army). I think their main intended use at high levels was more to 'hold down the fort' or carry around the less generally useful spells and equipment that you might want to trot out now and then.
As for party composition, I do not doubt your analysis, but to each his own and sometimes you have to make do with what you got. Not all party are build with optimisation in mind, and the rolls might not go your way.
I would think that most parties were NOT built with optimization in mind. Many were piecemeal assembled in increments. Suitable ability score arrays of course mattered, though we pretty much always used Method I, so you were likely to be a passably good instance of one of the 'big 4' classes at the least. And obviously the various subclasses would appear and factor into things to a degree, though none of them is so radically different that it makes a huge difference. I think the Druid was probably the biggest oddball there, as they are not so good in melee but have an interesting spell load, yet lack healing right off the bat. Adding one to the party at 1st level is probably reducing capability a bit, but they are almost like a MC MU/Cleric past 2nd level.
As for thieves being terrible scouts at low level. Yep. Most thieves were elven. But human thieves and halflings thieves were also a thing and from level 6 an on, they were very good, or at least good enough to make them worthwhile as they rose in level faster than any other classes. Your MU/T quickly fell behind in thieving capacity as you neared level 9. At that point, you mu/t would simply use improved invisibility and haste to backstab any opponent to kingdomcome.
Yes, halflings are another good option, though they lack the +1 to-hit, magic resistances, and good infravision of the elf, a stout can see in the dark pretty well, and they do have a stealth rule, as well as dwarf-like resistances and some 'stonework skill'. Probably the best dungeon thief overall, though elves being able to see secret doors is pretty awesome.

Again, being a multi-class is not that much of a hindrance. You are 1 level behind in each class vs the other single-classed PCs, which is not a HUGE disadvantage. Demi-humans (non-thief ones) are borked at high levels anyway, so the "drag your dead maxed out class along" problem rarely matters much. Certainly in 1e the elven Fighter/Magic User is pretty nearly the ideal character. Obvious reason why 2e tried to nerf them a bit with their armor-casting rule (it worked somewhat).
As for the training rule
We used them. The only mod was that we allowed exp to go up to half the next level. So if you rose to level 2, you could accumulate half the experience for level 3. It was usually enough for everyone.
Yeah, I have seen that rule too. SOMEWHERE there were printed rules of this ilk, I swear. I know I read somewhere a rule about 1XP short of gaining 2 levels at the very least. It might have been some article or was it maybe in UA? Or maybe it was officially a 2e rule that we had just been using for a long time before 2e came out (2e is mostly codification of someone's house rules I have to assume, plus a but of tinkering).
 

Voadam

Legend
I do have a question though. Back in the day, we did use training, but, we always had the PC's continue to gain XP, until a maximum of 1 point of xp below the next level. Where did we come up with that house rule? Was that a house rule? I know you cannot gain 2 levels, but, I always thought you'd continue gaining xp but, then hit a ceiling of one less than the next level beyond.

Where did we come up with that? Was that a B/E D&D rule? I was pretty sure it was a rule. And it was certainly how we played. And, it was something that never got questioned when I started playing with other groups too, so, it seemed to be a pretty common house rule if it was.

I'm just not sure where it came from.

Moldvay Basic Page B22:

"MAXIMUM XP: A character should never be given enough XP in a single adventure to advance more than one level of experience. For example, if a beginning (0 XP) 1st level fighter earns 5000 XP (a rare and outstanding achievement), he or she should only be given 3999 XP, enough to place the character 1 XP short of 3rd level."
 

Awfully Cheerful Engine!

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