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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
(but maybe 2 since you won't get the best items).
Heh. Back during 2e I was a player in a 9 player game. We were stuck underneath a temple of Set, exploring the ruins of a temple of Osiris that the temple of Set had been built over. We found a magical longsword and didn't have any way to identify it immediately. Everyone in the group had a magic weapon. Mostly +1 or +2. I was the only exception with a +4 longsword that was an artifact that I had gained during an adventure. The only one who didn't have a magic weapon as the 2nd level Paladin henchmen of the party Paladin of Horus-Re. So we gave the weapon to her. Later we found out that it was the only +5 weapon we had ever found. Sometimes they DO get the best items. ;)
 

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Hussar

Legend
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."
Thankees sah. I KNEW that was a rule somewhere or other. Generally it usually came up when we flogged a magic item or two to pay for training - somewhat ironically. But, yeah, it was a rule we kept in our AD&D games.
 

If the average hit dice or level is 10 times greater than the average level or hit dice, there must be an adjustment of at least halving or doubling the experience point (x.p.) award as the circumstances dictate, except if the lesser group is approximately 20 times more numerous than the greater value group.

I'm sure Gygaxian prose reads better in the original Latin.
 

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...
Yes, Keotum's will detoxify poison, effectively it works the same as Neutralize Poison, at least to my reading. Slow Poison goes further, it actually retroactively cancels death from poisoning (in fact it will even do so several turns after death). AFAIK nothing else in AD&D does that, and the effects of MOST (there are a few exceptions) poisons are INSTANT, you fail the save, you are dead, do not pass go, do not collect 200gp. At that point it is TOO LATE for ANY other nostrum except Slow Poison (normally then followed by some true permanent curative). Honestly I think it is one of those readings that isn't particularly intended, but the haphazard writing of AD&D leads to a lot of these weird cases. I think Neutralize Poison is MEANT to be a more potent spell, and frankly I always ran it that way, but you cannot count on that, there are plenty of DMs who are out to rule you dead, not to cut you any slack at all.
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.
Yeah, scrolls are really kind of ridiculously expensive, but they are also super useful, so...
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.
Well, Sweetwater might also work, but that will depend on your DM being a bit friendly IIRC. Mainly it would have been nice if poison had been slightly more realistic and took at least a couple minutes to finish you off. Even a massive dose of sodium cyanide doesn't kill you in a single instant. Basically every poison monster attack does. 4e's approach of assessing poison damage each round is a bit more interesting, though few of the poisons in that edition are very dangerous.
 

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.
Agreed. I never thought it was much of a good spell unless you also have a plausible way to achieve an actual cure. If you pick up a jar of Keotum's or etc. then it starts to be more worth thinking about. Assuming your GM won't simply allow those other techniques to have the same effect (which I would for the record).
 

Yes, Keotum's will detoxify poison, effectively it works the same as Neutralize Poison, at least to my reading. Slow Poison goes further, it actually retroactively cancels death from poisoning (in fact it will even do so several turns after death). AFAIK nothing else in AD&D does that, and the effects of MOST (there are a few exceptions) poisons are INSTANT, you fail the save, you are dead, do not pass go, do not collect 200gp. At that point it is TOO LATE for ANY other nostrum except Slow Poison (normally then followed by some true permanent curative). Honestly I think it is one of those readings that isn't particularly intended, but the haphazard writing of AD&D leads to a lot of these weird cases. I think Neutralize Poison is MEANT to be a more potent spell, and frankly I always ran it that way, but you cannot count on that, there are plenty of DMs who are out to rule you dead, not to cut you any slack at all.

Yeah, scrolls are really kind of ridiculously expensive, but they are also super useful, so...

Well, Sweetwater might also work, but that will depend on your DM being a bit friendly IIRC. Mainly it would have been nice if poison had been slightly more realistic and took at least a couple minutes to finish you off. Even a massive dose of sodium cyanide doesn't kill you in a single instant. Basically every poison monster attack does. 4e's approach of assessing poison damage each round is a bit more interesting, though few of the poisons in that edition are very dangerous.
Fully agree on that. Neutralize poison should have done the same retro active thing as slow poison (and the same goes for elixir of health and Keogtom's ointment for that matter...)
Also, the goals of having these is to allow slow poison to run its course protecting the character until a suitable counter measure would be taken. I never said that any other spell would do the same as slow poison rulewise, but like you, I did and would still allow these to do the same. We had ruled that you had 10 rounds (or 10 minutes) to "save" the person dying of poison. In each instances, the person would be at one HP but alive.

As for sweet water... Nah... it is to neutralize poison in a well, in wine or whatever. I would not allow it to neutralize in a body. I don't think it was the intended use.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Huh? Can you explain what you mean here?
I’m saying that giving different XP tables to balance progression requires giving a numerical value for a given set of abilities. A 5th level wizard is with 10,000 XP. A 5th level cleric is worth 7,500 XP. If you are capable of calculating these precisely enough to do this, give a cleric 2,500 XP worth of abilities and keep them balanced. [For what it’s worth I don’t think you can be that precise so the idea of using XP to balance development is flawed from day one.]
Player, or character.

If a character does more then damn right it should get more xp. Pretty much non-negotiable, that.

What a player does shouldn't enter into the xp equation at all. Bring beer? That's nice, but it won't get you any more xp.
For this purpose it’s interchangeable. D&D is a team game. The team achieves things, and even when they do something by themselves how much of that would have been possible without the rest of the team supporting them. When a player gives another player advice, or reminds them of a fact. Or just gives up their own game time so that player can have their moment in the sun, they are supporting. Rewarding individualism is not what I want to encourage in the game.

D&D isn’t granular enough to have players levelling up at different rates. Players on different levels is one of those fundamentally unfair imbalances. If Player A dies because they took a hit from a monster, that was a hit player B didn’t need to take. Punishing player A by having them restart a level, or several levels lower sucks.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
It feels bad, but the extent to which it really sucks depends on a number of factors.

Among them:
1. How wide is the power scale, and can they still meaningfully contribute with a lower-level PC until they level up?
2. How does the XP system work and can they catch up?
3. If they can catch up, how quickly does that happen?
4. Is this an open table where not everyone attends all the sessions and so folks are naturally more comfortable with different characters having earned more xp and stuff if they've attended and survived more sessions?
5. Do your players enjoy the feeling of "yeah, we can really die" and how it increases the tension and excitement of the game sufficiently that this overall enhancement to the excitement outweighs the feel-bads of having a character die and your new one lagging behind the power curve for some period?

In my experience of old school games online over the last year, for most of the folks interested it does seem to add up to the balance of fun being in favor of individual xp and starting from 1st. Combat feels more exciting, all advancement feels more earned, and the group still functions as a team.

That being said, I do think there's some merit in starting above 1st once factor 1 hits a certain point, and the 1st level character isn't meaningfully helping anymore.
 

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.
I also didn't really try to talk about magic items. It is a very difficult thing to evaluate. All classes do get them, and they are helpful to everyone. There are both minor type items, mundane-but-really-useful magic items (rings for instance), and then a few 'big ticket' items. Overall my feeling is that thieves were overall the most likely to be underrepresented in really good items. Also the protective items good for light/non armor using classes are really sought after. After all, a bracers of AC2 is just as valuable to a fighter as it is to a wizard or rogue! I guess you could say "magic armor, weapons, and shields are also valuable to many" but clerics are mostly the only ones that compete with fighters for most magic armor. Fighters are pretty close to unchallenged on the more significant weapons. OTOH clerics and magic users have a really awesome set of things they can use which are really powerful and some of which are common enough (wands for example) to expect to get fairly often.

So, my feeling is that assessing items doesn't change much, except to show how thieves are kind of shortchanged in most aspects of classic D&D...
 

Fully agree on that. Neutralize poison should have done the same retro active thing as slow poison (and the same goes for elixir of health and Keogtom's ointment for that matter...)
Also, the goals of having these is to allow slow poison to run its course protecting the character until a suitable counter measure would be taken. I never said that any other spell would do the same as slow poison rulewise, but like you, I did and would still allow these to do the same. We had ruled that you had 10 rounds (or 10 minutes) to "save" the person dying of poison. In each instances, the person would be at one HP but alive.
Right, as a Cleric I just wouldn't bother with Slow Poison. It isn't a terrible spell, but on its own all it does is delay the inevitable. By level 3 you are probably deep enough in the dungeon/wilderness that getting back to town is not in the cards before it runs out. There are simply better spells that you can take that are more likely to avoid the situation in the first place, like Find Traps (talk about stepping on the thief's toes...).
 


David Howery

Adventurer
So what I'm learning here is... Fighters always got the shaft compared to casters?
Maybe if you look at it from a purely XP/level advancement/mathematical standpoint. But people were always willing to play them. And mages, in spite of their frailty at low levels. And thieves in spite of the less than glorious selection of magic items available. Because, in the end, all three are rather fun to play. Way back in my 1E gaming days, I always saw that people were least likely to want to play clerics. Because they don't get flashy MU spells or swords. Half the groups I was with had NPC clerics along just to have the healing power. Personally, I tried just about every class and subclass (except assassins and druids, never got into those) at one time or another, and had fun with all of them....
 

So what I'm learning here is... Fighters always got the shaft compared to casters?
LFQW was a real thing, even in TSR D&D, yes. I mean, fighters get some nice stuff. It might even seem like in some games this is making them equally good and useful, but there are a few real issues:

The fighter needs magic items simply to keep doing his job. Imagine a hypothetical level 12 party with no items. The fighter's AC is the same as level 1, his damage output is 3x higher because of 3 attacks/round, but he probably cannot hit the really threatening creatures well at all! His THAC0 is now 9, but he may well be fighting creatures with AC as low as -4 (or even better) and they can hit him on an 8. He cannot really do anything he couldn't do at level 1, literally. Yes, he'll have about 10x the hit points, but the monsters he's taking on also have 10x the hit points, probably do 5x the damage, and have many special abilities. He can stand in front of the party and be a blocker, and will certainly kill lesser threats moderately well (his saves are really good too). Meanwhile the casters have gained radically increased and entirely novel capabilities, now having access to 6th level spells! The lack of items will make them vulnerable to attack as well, but they can avoid or negate attacks by casting. While items are gold to any PC, the casters are much less dependent.

The fighter's supposed main advantage, a 'stronghold' and followers, doesn't actually do THAT much for him in terms of practical personal power. The followers are mostly FAR below his level, so they serve little purpose in an adventuring sense. The stronghold itself may be fun, and play into another power dynamic, but many campaigns, probably the vast majority, do little with this element. In fact, the stronghold is likely to be a 'trouble magnet', an obvious point of pressure for the DM to apply to the PC! Magic Users actually get far more real utility from their towers, they can store libraries and house potent henchmen there who can help with item construction, spell research, scroll manufacture, etc. While the tower might also prove troublesome, it has genuine level-appropriate advantages. To add insult to injury, clerics get strongholds too, and they are also potent casters...

Frankly, at 12th level, again, a party is better off made entirely of casters with the role of melee defense taken up by a carefully cultivated cadre of henchmen and NPC associates. The main purpose of such being simply to insure that the casters don't need to melee and to perhaps deal with some secondary threats directly. This also supplies needs for things like scouts and whatnot (not to say it isn't fun to play a PC who is in that role, they could then have an NPC caster as a henchman too). But that just shows, the best tactic for a fighter would be to hire a Magic User when he's maybe 3rd level and make sure that sucker gets protected and fed some decent items. That way, at high levels he'll have a caster at his back who is nearly his level. The obvious alternative tactic being the ever-popular Elf Fighter/Magic User, though at 12th level the value of that option does start to decline, assuming you play that high.

I mean, my experience, with a reasonable amount of items and players who played hard and used every advantage (and DMs who were consequently diabolical) was that straight up fighters pretty much disappear from parties after name level. My 14th level wizard for example would have basically no use for a fighter. He's flying, invisible, stone skinned, displaced, wearing a robe of eyes, has an AC below 0 most of the time, etc. He's got multiple items that can generate medium to high powered attacks, so he is unlikely to run out of spells or need a 'clean up guy' to save him from using them. Sure, his hit points are in the 30's, but no DM has ever yet caught him in AoE. I am pretty sure he's got some sort of fire resistance, though I don't recall exactly what that was. If things go really pear-shaped there is always Contingency :). Considering that the other PCs he'd be with on any dangerous mission would be equally powerful, well there are things like classic D&D demon lords which are downright nasty. We did kill one of those once, but it was stupid hard. Still, what would a fighter do against Demogorgon? There is a 0% chance he'd ever get to melee range unless he was loaded with magic, and probably that would involve the MUs helping out. Given old 2-head's AC and hit points, I don't think melee is going to be a decisive tactic, especially considering his extreme mobility (limitless tactical teleport, fun stuff).
 

Maybe if you look at it from a purely XP/level advancement/mathematical standpoint. But people were always willing to play them. And mages, in spite of their frailty at low levels. And thieves in spite of the less than glorious selection of magic items available. Because, in the end, all three are rather fun to play. Way back in my 1E gaming days, I always saw that people were least likely to want to play clerics. Because they don't get flashy MU spells or swords. Half the groups I was with had NPC clerics along just to have the healing power. Personally, I tried just about every class and subclass (except assassins and druids, never got into those) at one time or another, and had fun with all of them....
Yeah, now see, I agree with this. OTOH I found that the 4e approach of "make them all fun AND equal" was at least as good. I mean, why not? There was the objection that "4e doesn't have a stupid simple class to play", which I guess is a subjective sort of thing (Ranger is pretty dirt simple for instance) but OK. Anyway, we all played a variety of PCs. I did have one decent high level cleric, but I agree the class seems a bit less exciting than the fighter and magic user. Thieves are fun, but just WEAK. I did have an Assassin that got to decently high levels (9th or 10th, I forget) but he was just basically a fighter with some extra skills. I don't recall personally ever having a fighter that reached even name level, but I did play a couple of them in 4e and then it was more interesting.
 


LFQW was a real thing, even in TSR D&D, yes. I mean, fighters get some nice stuff. It might even seem like in some games this is making them equally good and useful, but there are a few real issues:

The fighter needs magic items simply to keep doing his job. Imagine a hypothetical level 12 party with no items. The fighter's AC is the same as level 1, his damage output is 3x higher because of 3 attacks/round, but he probably cannot hit the really threatening creatures well at all! His THAC0 is now 9, but he may well be fighting creatures with AC as low as -4 (or even better) and they can hit him on an 8. He cannot really do anything he couldn't do at level 1, literally. Yes, he'll have about 10x the hit points, but the monsters he's taking on also have 10x the hit points, probably do 5x the damage, and have many special abilities. He can stand in front of the party and be a blocker, and will certainly kill lesser threats moderately well (his saves are really good too). Meanwhile the casters have gained radically increased and entirely novel capabilities, now having access to 6th level spells! The lack of items will make them vulnerable to attack as well, but they can avoid or negate attacks by casting. While items are gold to any PC, the casters are much less dependent.

The fighter's supposed main advantage, a 'stronghold' and followers, doesn't actually do THAT much for him in terms of practical personal power. The followers are mostly FAR below his level, so they serve little purpose in an adventuring sense. The stronghold itself may be fun, and play into another power dynamic, but many campaigns, probably the vast majority, do little with this element. In fact, the stronghold is likely to be a 'trouble magnet', an obvious point of pressure for the DM to apply to the PC! Magic Users actually get far more real utility from their towers, they can store libraries and house potent henchmen there who can help with item construction, spell research, scroll manufacture, etc. While the tower might also prove troublesome, it has genuine level-appropriate advantages. To add insult to injury, clerics get strongholds too, and they are also potent casters...

Frankly, at 12th level, again, a party is better off made entirely of casters with the role of melee defense taken up by a carefully cultivated cadre of henchmen and NPC associates. The main purpose of such being simply to insure that the casters don't need to melee and to perhaps deal with some secondary threats directly. This also supplies needs for things like scouts and whatnot (not to say it isn't fun to play a PC who is in that role, they could then have an NPC caster as a henchman too). But that just shows, the best tactic for a fighter would be to hire a Magic User when he's maybe 3rd level and make sure that sucker gets protected and fed some decent items. That way, at high levels he'll have a caster at his back who is nearly his level. The obvious alternative tactic being the ever-popular Elf Fighter/Magic User, though at 12th level the value of that option does start to decline, assuming you play that high.

I mean, my experience, with a reasonable amount of items and players who played hard and used every advantage (and DMs who were consequently diabolical) was that straight up fighters pretty much disappear from parties after name level. My 14th level wizard for example would have basically no use for a fighter. He's flying, invisible, stone skinned, displaced, wearing a robe of eyes, has an AC below 0 most of the time, etc. He's got multiple items that can generate medium to high powered attacks, so he is unlikely to run out of spells or need a 'clean up guy' to save him from using them. Sure, his hit points are in the 30's, but no DM has ever yet caught him in AoE. I am pretty sure he's got some sort of fire resistance, though I don't recall exactly what that was. If things go really pear-shaped there is always Contingency :). Considering that the other PCs he'd be with on any dangerous mission would be equally powerful, well there are things like classic D&D demon lords which are downright nasty. We did kill one of those once, but it was stupid hard. Still, what would a fighter do against Demogorgon? There is a 0% chance he'd ever get to melee range unless he was loaded with magic, and probably that would involve the MUs helping out. Given old 2-head's AC and hit points, I don't think melee is going to be a decisive tactic, especially considering his extreme mobility (limitless tactical teleport, fun stuff).
Only a few things would make a wizard die fast.
Beholders
Rakshasa
Mind Flayers (as psionic was not magic...)
A high level fighter
A cleric with a nice dispel magic (no more protections)
A lich or Archmage with spell reflection or Mordenkainen's disjunction.
A group of adventurers
And...
The Crazed Kobold Corps. (Be very wary of them!)

Over the years, I have killed my share of "unkillable" wizards and groups. Sometimes with NPCs and monsters that were way lower than the "supposedly" invicible characters.

And magic items were there exactly to give the fighter a "fighting" chance to shine in the group. Magic items were not common, but could be found in enough amount to give a 12th level figther an average AC of -2 for 3 attacks and 1 for the rest of the attacks (Plate +2 and Shield +2 would be good). Then add a ring +2 and the AC is now -6/-1. Nah... the fighter was the shmook you seem to think he was. And with a flying potion he could reach your friendly wizard. And with a mere 11 of intelligence, your lowly 15th fighter had a 55% chance to know, yep, know the exact location of your invisible flying wizard. The higher the HD/Level, The higher the chance. Even at 12th level he'll have 25%. And once spotted/attacked, he only suffers a -4 to hit. And the rule do say that once attacked, the creature can always defend/attack the invisible creature albeit with a penalty to hit. Invisibility was not the perfect thing most people make it to be. (for the invisibility, DMG1e p.60). Many DM ignored this rule and that table.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And magic items were there exactly to give the fighter a "fighting" chance to shine in the group. Magic items were not common, but could be found in enough amount to give a 12th level figther an average AC of -2 for 3 attacks and 1 for the rest of the attacks (Plate +2 and Shield +2 would be good). Then add a ring +2 and the AC is now -6/-1.
Why does AC drop after 3 rounds? Shouldn't plate +2, shield +2 and Ring of Protection +2 be -4 AC the entire fight?
 

Voadam

Legend
Why does AC drop after 3 rounds? Shouldn't plate +2, shield +2 and Ring of Protection +2 be -4 AC the entire fight?
Attacks per round, not combat.

AD&D PH Page 36:

"Armor types are given on the table below. Note that the inclusion of a shield raises armor class (AC) by a factor of 1 (5%), but that assumes attack from the front where the character can interpose it between himself and a blow.
— A small shield can be counted against only one attack per melee round.
— A normal-sized shield can effectively be counted against two attacks per melee round.
— A large shield is counted against up to three attacks per melee round.
Attacks from the right flank and rear always negate the advantage of the shield."
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Attacks per round, not combat.

AD&D PH Page 36:

"Armor types are given on the table below. Note that the inclusion of a shield raises armor class (AC) by a factor of 1 (5%), but that assumes attack from the front where the character can interpose it between himself and a blow.
— A small shield can be counted against only one attack per melee round.
— A normal-sized shield can effectively be counted against two attacks per melee round.
— A large shield is counted against up to three attacks per melee round.
Attacks from the right flank and rear always negate the advantage of the shield."
Okay. Gotcha. I don't think we ever noticed that rule, or else we chose to ignore it early, because we certainly never played with it.
 

Undrave

Hero
I'll have to take your word for that one... don't know a thing about 4E, never read any of the material....
The lore in 'The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea' is amazing! If you want to have adventures in the realm of the gods, it's probably the best source of inspiration. It's FULL of adventure and campaign ideas. And the cosmology is really cool.

I also like the lore in Primal Power, but it's probably too crunchy for a casual read.
 

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