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

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
Beholders kind of sucked, though we did take on an adventure called 'City of the Beholders' in which we killed MANY of them (but it did require our most extreme 'pull out all stops' play). I recall the final desperation ploy was when my character unleashed a Wand of Wonder into the mouth of one, and grass grew. Don't recall what got us out of that, but yes Beholders are dangerous. Still, that was only after we killed like 20 other ones, and then we teleported out. We never did make it to the end of that adventure though, it was pretty much impossible... (or DM was very evil).

Demons and devils in general are pretty problematic, and I'd class Rakshasa with them, though a little too weak to likely deal with Questioner of All Things. lol.

We pretty much ignored psionics, but I agree they are stupid nasty, unless you have them yourself, in which case they are stupid ridiculous powerful.

Dispel magic wouldn't do anything to permanent items. Yes, it would cancel Stone Skin. Flying I got from a pair of wings (yes, do adventure in Gamma World!). Things like Invisibility from a ring are ambiguous, it is a permanent non-charged item, but you COULD treat this as a spell-like effect since it has to be explicitly invoked. Anyway, I'm still flying, displaced, maybe invisible, and with an AC of -2 IIRC. You won't like the response! Heck, you're very lucky you got a shot off, few enemies did.

Obviously opposition spell casters are the main worry. We were very systematic in dealing with them.
And...
The Crazed Kobold Corps. (Be very wary of them!)
Meh, not really.
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.
AD&D is a very ambiguously worded set of rules which gives the DM virtually unlimited rope to use to 'kill people', so I wouldn't ever engage in an adventure on the basis that the DM was out to prove that he could kill the 'unkillable'. OTOH, under the conditions of what I would consider the 'Gygaxian Contract' of play, the challenge is set ahead of time, and only specifically designed against a given set of PCs if that makes narrative sense (which probably means they know what they are in for). Under those conditions our approach to adventuring as high level PCs, and given our equipment and whatnot, made us very resilient. We did find a few challenges which thwarted our efforts (very extreme ones, like the above mentioned CITY FULL OF BEHOLDERS) but nothing ever killed the core characters (we lost many lower level PCs though).

I looked at it like this, Questioner of All Things, 14th level wizard. He's a 180 IQ super genius. He doesn't make mistakes, doesn't take chances, doesn't fall for ANYTHING. So I would sit down after learning what we were thinking of doing, and come up with a systematic plan, budget, contingencies, etc. Then we would send in scouting parties, build advanced bases, cache materials, or take other similar actions, including mapping out locations we could teleport into or out of, etc. THOROUGH plans, like if you were real-world military grade types of plans. If we thought there was any special equipment, spell, item, etc. that would be valuable in the situation we acquired that. Etc.

Yes, there is the unexpected, but quite frankly if we were presented with a situation that sounded like "go somewhere unknown, without some logistically sensible backup and line of retreat" then we simply passed on it, or waited and prepared, whatever the cost of doing that was. When you approach adventuring like that, as a high-level caster, it is EXTREMELY hard to be totally caught out and outright defeated.

Of course, the bad guys were equally nasty! There were plenty of times they pulled stuff on us and we just said "OK, lets just take our losses." Even to the degree of abandoning holds and whatnot if the situation looked like some evil spellcaster you didn't have intel on was coming for you.

Again, obviously the DM could, in principle, just rule all your preparations insufficient, not carried out thoroughly, undone by some henchman, etc. to the point where you were utterly defenseless. Our DM was diabolical, but he wasn't that much of a jerk. Now and then he'd wipe the table with us, but we would get away, regroup, acquire more stuff and get stronger, and come back.
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.
Invisibility is just one 'layer' in your defense. The problem with fighters is, they lack all those layers. Yeah, they've probably, realistically, got good AC and saves, and they could have other things like wizards could have, to an extent. They just needed to find all of it. I can show you very strong fighter sheets from the day, but defeating them is much easier. Defeating a caster is a lot harder, especially if you play 'to the hilt'.
 

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Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Anecdote: Once I had a party who bickered over a 10,000 gp gem in rolled randomly for the hoard of a dragon. There was a dispute between the Magic-User who claimed he should take it since he needed more Xps to level up. The others wanted to go in town to sell it and split the XPs. It degenerated, a fight broke out and the Magic-User was killed be fighter, the thief and the cleric. The druid didn't interfere. We never saw that player again.

After that it was equal share of XPs regardless of who took the loot.
 

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.
A lot of people were not aware of that rule. It always came at a big surprise in tournaments... It is for a few rules like these that we had made a word perfect rule cruncher. I must still have a copy somewhere...
 

Beholders kind of sucked, though we did take on an adventure called 'City of the Beholders' in which we killed MANY of them (but it did require our most extreme 'pull out all stops' play). I recall the final desperation ploy was when my character unleashed a Wand of Wonder into the mouth of one, and grass grew. Don't recall what got us out of that, but yes Beholders are dangerous. Still, that was only after we killed like 20 other ones, and then we teleported out. We never did make it to the end of that adventure though, it was pretty much impossible... (or DM was very evil).

Demons and devils in general are pretty problematic, and I'd class Rakshasa with them, though a little too weak to likely deal with Questioner of All Things. lol.

We pretty much ignored psionics, but I agree they are stupid nasty, unless you have them yourself, in which case they are stupid ridiculous powerful.

Dispel magic wouldn't do anything to permanent items. Yes, it would cancel Stone Skin. Flying I got from a pair of wings (yes, do adventure in Gamma World!). Things like Invisibility from a ring are ambiguous, it is a permanent non-charged item, but you COULD treat this as a spell-like effect since it has to be explicitly invoked. Anyway, I'm still flying, displaced, maybe invisible, and with an AC of -2 IIRC. You won't like the response! Heck, you're very lucky you got a shot off, few enemies did.

Obviously opposition spell casters are the main worry. We were very systematic in dealing with them.

Meh, not really.

AD&D is a very ambiguously worded set of rules which gives the DM virtually unlimited rope to use to 'kill people', so I wouldn't ever engage in an adventure on the basis that the DM was out to prove that he could kill the 'unkillable'. OTOH, under the conditions of what I would consider the 'Gygaxian Contract' of play, the challenge is set ahead of time, and only specifically designed against a given set of PCs if that makes narrative sense (which probably means they know what they are in for). Under those conditions our approach to adventuring as high level PCs, and given our equipment and whatnot, made us very resilient. We did find a few challenges which thwarted our efforts (very extreme ones, like the above mentioned CITY FULL OF BEHOLDERS) but nothing ever killed the core characters (we lost many lower level PCs though).

I looked at it like this, Questioner of All Things, 14th level wizard. He's a 180 IQ super genius. He doesn't make mistakes, doesn't take chances, doesn't fall for ANYTHING. So I would sit down after learning what we were thinking of doing, and come up with a systematic plan, budget, contingencies, etc. Then we would send in scouting parties, build advanced bases, cache materials, or take other similar actions, including mapping out locations we could teleport into or out of, etc. THOROUGH plans, like if you were real-world military grade types of plans. If we thought there was any special equipment, spell, item, etc. that would be valuable in the situation we acquired that. Etc.

Yes, there is the unexpected, but quite frankly if we were presented with a situation that sounded like "go somewhere unknown, without some logistically sensible backup and line of retreat" then we simply passed on it, or waited and prepared, whatever the cost of doing that was. When you approach adventuring like that, as a high-level caster, it is EXTREMELY hard to be totally caught out and outright defeated.

Of course, the bad guys were equally nasty! There were plenty of times they pulled stuff on us and we just said "OK, lets just take our losses." Even to the degree of abandoning holds and whatnot if the situation looked like some evil spellcaster you didn't have intel on was coming for you.

Again, obviously the DM could, in principle, just rule all your preparations insufficient, not carried out thoroughly, undone by some henchman, etc. to the point where you were utterly defenseless. Our DM was diabolical, but he wasn't that much of a jerk. Now and then he'd wipe the table with us, but we would get away, regroup, acquire more stuff and get stronger, and come back.

Invisibility is just one 'layer' in your defense. The problem with fighters is, they lack all those layers. Yeah, they've probably, realistically, got good AC and saves, and they could have other things like wizards could have, to an extent. They just needed to find all of it. I can show you very strong fighter sheets from the day, but defeating them is much easier. Defeating a caster is a lot harder, especially if you play 'to the hilt'.
15th level Fighter, ring of spell storing, potion of flying and right after he gets near you. Anti magic field. Nothing will stop this. Not even contingency (well, unless you specifically word your contingency for that, but that leaves the wizard open for something nastier and instadeath stuff.)

I am 100% sure that I would get you. As for your beholder city...
How did a wizard survived this? (or even a group for that matter) You could never get a spell off. The beholders would just chew you up and their minions (as they always have some) would simply hit your now non magical arses (you and your friends) to kingdomcome. But each table ran differently. Let's just say that 1ed was generally more dangerous than 5ed.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.]
Precision is the enemy of good enough, here, and trying to balance it down to an exact number is futile. But having one class bump generally faster than another isn't a problem at all, and can be a fine overall balancing mechanism.
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.
I do. I'd much rather have players (and thus, characters) able to feel free to think independently rather than feel they're constantly expected to follow some sort of groupthink and-or just do what they're told.

From the broad perspective of what the party accomplishes, it's a team game. That said, I see nothing wrong in the slightest with striving to be the best individual within that team.
D&D isn’t granular enough to have players levelling up at different rates.
For 3e and 4e, you're right. 0-1-2-5e are all much better at handling level variance within the party.
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.
So it sucks for a while. Next month it might just as easily be Player B whose character dies, and we're back to level. Never mind that particularly in 5e revival effects are easily available at as low as 5th level (vis Revivify), so unless you're playing at very low level anyway if Player A doesn't get revived it's usually by choice, not necessity.

Also, keep in mind that things like sudden level gain and-or sudden level loss (either of which can happen from, say, a Deck of Many Things draw or a divine blessing/curse) are very much a thing in not just my game but many people's, and that's before even thinking about things like level-draining undead (which I also have).
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Precision is the enemy of good enough, here, and trying to balance it down to an exact number is futile. But having one class bump generally faster than another isn't a problem at all, and can be a fine overall balancing mechanism.

I do. I'd much rather have players (and thus, characters) able to feel free to think independently rather than feel they're constantly expected to follow some sort of groupthink and-or just do what they're told.

From the broad perspective of what the party accomplishes, it's a team game. That said, I see nothing wrong in the slightest with striving to be the best individual within that team.

For 3e and 4e, you're right. 0-1-2-5e are all much better at handling level variance within the party.

So it sucks for a while. Next month it might just as easily be Player B whose character dies, and we're back to level. Never mind that particularly in 5e revival effects are easily available at as low as 5th level (vis Revivify), so unless you're playing at very low level anyway if Player A doesn't get revived it's usually by choice, not necessity.

Also, keep in mind that things like sudden level gain and-or sudden level loss (either of which can happen from, say, a Deck of Many Things draw or a divine blessing/curse) are very much a thing in not just my game but many people's, and that's before even thinking about things like level-draining undead (which I also have).
It sounds about as much fun as starting a game with only 2/3 the cards as other people. You do you though. You’ve not yet given a way being different levels actually improves the fun. It just seems to be your way of doling out justice.

There is a reason permanent level drain is no longer a thing in D&D. It too sucks.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
The 10th-level 1e Fighter who happens to share my username here might want a word. :)

That said, one thing I've noticed is that if one wants to try building a stronghold, doing so pretty much involves retiring the character from adventuring - probably for years in-game - to oversee and-or help with the process. I tried this with Lanefan, he'd just barely got started when in effect he lost it (long story), but it did mean he pretty much had to either retire from adventuring or turn the whole process over to others and risk not getting what he wanted as an end result.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It sounds about as much fun as starting a game with only 2/3 the cards as other people. You do you though. You’ve not yet given a way being different levels actually improves the fun. It just seems to be your way of doling out justice.

There is a reason permanent level drain is no longer a thing in D&D. It too sucks.
Of course it does. That's the point: it's a hard-loss condition that the character (and by extension, player) has to overcome.

What about permanent level gain e.g. the first character to eat of the Nectar of the Gods gains a level on the spot? Any proble,s there?
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Of course it does. That's the point: it's a hard-loss condition that the character (and by extension, player) has to overcome.

What about permanent level gain e.g. the first character to eat of the Nectar of the Gods gains a level on the spot? Any proble,s there?
Yep. It sucks for everyone else. Not a problem at the end of the last session in the campaign. Never before then.

Similar to when the dm plays favorites and gives one player a +5 holy avenger when everyone else is yet to find a magic weapon. It’s decisive.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yep. It sucks for everyone else. Not a problem at the end of the last session in the campaign. Never before then.

Similar to when the dm plays favorites and gives one player a +5 holy avenger when everyone else is yet to find a magic weapon. It’s decisive.
So something that's somewhat random counts as the DM playing favourites?

Sorry, not buying that.

And I can't speak for your game, but were a party with no magic to find a +5 holy avenger* here there's no way in hell one character could afford to claim/buy it from treasury; hence it's ironclad guaranteed it'd be sold during treasury division and the proceeds shared out.

* - a magic item I have never yet DMed lo these 37 years.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
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.
That's....not my experience. Hold Person has always been a 2nd level instant death spell in my experience.

Contrarily, I've never seen anyone pick slow poison because you usually ended up getting the poison anyway.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
So something that's somewhat random counts as the DM playing favourites?

Sorry, not buying that.

And I can't speak for your game, but were a party with no magic to find a +5 holy avenger* here there's no way in hell one character could afford to claim/buy it from treasury; hence it's ironclad guaranteed it'd be sold during treasury division and the proceeds shared out.

* - a magic item I have never yet DMed lo these 37 years.
In your hypothetical "+1 levelling apple" scenario, effectively rocketing a single character sessions ahead of the rest because of serendipity does strike me as poor GMing. It's not the same as GM favorites, but it is in the same zip code.

I already know we play very different games....but in our games when the party is gearing up to head into the Abyssal Maw to fight some demon hoardes...they don't go to town and pick up some 1st level scrub to follow behind them meekly in hopes they pick up enough scraps of knowledge and treasure so that they can maybe do something useful once in awhile. They go to town and look for someone to add them in their quest as a meaningful full party member.

The world is populated by millions of individuals, some of whom are experienced adventurers. When a player introduces a new character after a PC death they are playing one of those already experienced individuals....not some mage fresh off the factory floor....unless the rest of the party is also factory fresh.
 

TerraDave

5ever
So GP means XP. Once you have enough XP (based on GP) you can exchange GP for a level advancement.

Why not cut out XP entirely? "Advancing to level X will cost you Y amount of GP. Go out and find some!"

So yes, the way you squared this circle was known, back in the day, as the wine, women, and song rule and it basically worked just like that, XP for money spent. Though, as the tag implies, it did not have to all be spent on training.
 

TerraDave

5ever
Also, you needed the high level fighter to take out high level opponents with magic resistance, easy saves, and probably additional damage resistance and immunities.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In your hypothetical "+1 levelling apple" scenario, effectively rocketing a single character sessions ahead of the rest because of serendipity does strike me as poor GMing. It's not the same as GM favorites, but it is in the same zip code.
Still not buying it, sorry.

Then again, I view luck as a big factor in the game - sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't.
I already know we play very different games....but in our games when the party is gearing up to head into the Abyssal Maw to fight some demon hoardes...they don't go to town and pick up some 1st level scrub to follow behind them meekly in hopes they pick up enough scraps of knowledge and treasure so that they can maybe do something useful once in awhile. They go to town and look for someone to add them in their quest as a meaningful full party member.
Of course. If your party's averaging 10th level on a 9-12 range then unless something really weird happened the lowest anyone* would come in at would be either high 8th or raw 9th. I don't make everyone start over at 1st once the party average gets to about 3rd.

If it's an adventuring NPC you're recruiting and you're honest enough to spell out what the proposed mission is, you're not likely to get any interest from lower-level types who realize your mission's way above their pay grade and even if you do your own PCs ought to be able to winnow them out by declining their offer to volunteer.

* - except henches, who are always a few levels lower.
The world is populated by millions of individuals, some of whom are experienced adventurers. When a player introduces a new character after a PC death they are playing one of those already experienced individuals....not some mage fresh off the factory floor....unless the rest of the party is also factory fresh.
Again agreed. It's merely a matter of how experienced vis a vis those characters already in the party.
 

Yep. It sucks for everyone else. Not a problem at the end of the last session in the campaign. Never before then.

Similar to when the dm plays favorites and gives one player a +5 holy avenger when everyone else is yet to find a magic weapon. It’s decisive.
But if that player had his character search something nobody else thought to do, and had a random roll of that weapon, so be it. Eventually things will even out. Or not. But no matter how many chances you give for loot to be gotten, players have to actually try for it.
 

So something that's somewhat random counts as the DM playing favourites?

Sorry, not buying that.

And I can't speak for your game, but were a party with no magic to find a +5 holy avenger* here there's no way in hell one character could afford to claim/buy it from treasury; hence it's ironclad guaranteed it'd be sold during treasury division and the proceeds shared out.

* - a magic item I have never yet DMed lo these 37 years.
One of my players found a vicious longsword last session. Nobody else was in a position to even halfway claim it, so it is all his.
 

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