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D&D 1E How/How Often Did you award XP in 1E AD&D?

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Note the TAG. . . this question is about 1E (though anyone who played B/X or BECMI is welcome to chime in - not interested in later editions (for now)).

So I started a poll thread about awarding XP (or not) in 5E because I wanted to see how people did it and if I was as much of an outlier as I thought I might be and the answer (so far) is that I was even more of an outlier than I thought I was in actually tabulating XP and giving out that amount (mostly for monsters killed) at what I consider milestones (either at the end of an adventure or after a definitive part of a long module before moving on to the next part). Thus I give out XP every 3 to 6 sessions (at most). (I usually only award XP during downtime).

So once I realized I am the odd man out in what I considered the "typical" way, I started wondering why did I think this was the typical way? And then I wondered, did I get this tack from my earliest days playing B/X and 1E?

So that is my question, if you played 1E back in its heyday how often was XP awarded back then and under what conditions? I know back then treasure was also a big part of XP as was magical items (in some groups). Am I just taking the idiosyncratic approach of the groups I started with as standard and that was not all that common at all?

If you still play 1E (or its offshoots) regularly now, you can also chime in - but I am most interested in back in the day (let's say approximately from 1977 to 1989)
 
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Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
I still run 1e, and my method is to award XP when a scenario is done and the characters are safely back at a port of haven where they can tabulate rewards and treasure, regardless of how many sessions it takes.

That gives players the chance to discuss loot division, which will affect how much XP is earned by the individual characters.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I still run 1e, and my method is to award XP when an scenario is done and the characters are safely back at a port of haven where they can tabulate rewards and treasure, regardless of how many sessions it takes.

That gives players the chance to discuss loot division, which will affect how much XP is earned by the individual characters.

Do you have a sense if this was a common approach ("when a scenario is done and the characters are safely back at a port of haven") back then?

Also, even when I awarded XP for treasure, I divided it equally among the group no matter how they divided the actual treasure among themselves. I imagine that might cause either heated discussion or finagling of who gets treasure in order to bump them a level?
 

pogre

Legend
In the 1970s and early 1980s I used to occasionally go to the gaming club hosted at the University of Illinois. It was a heady time as there were luminaries of gaming dropping in all the time - Frank Chadwick was a frequent attendee from GDW over in Bloomington-Normal, Judges Guild guys from Decatur would drop in, Tom Wham stopped by a few times - you get the idea. As a young adult I just thought this was how it was everywhere.

There were tons of D&D games going back then and you could bring a character to almost any of the tables. We frequently took the same character and played in multiple D&D games with multiple DMs. This meant experience points were awarded by the DM (referee) after each session.

My experience was that this practice carried over when games became more set with the same group of PCs staying at the same tables.
 

Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
Do you have a sense if this was a common approach ("when a scenario is done and the characters are safely back at a port of haven") back then?

Also, even when I awarded XP for treasure, I divided it equally among the group no matter how they divided the actual treasure among themselves. I imagine that might cause either heated discussion or finagling of who gets treasure in order to bump them a level?

Well, that approach is by the book, so I imagine it was used by people somewhere, though back in the day even my own groups did it at the end of each session. I came to appreciate this way as being superior and easier for various reasons.

I am not a fan of interjecting to players how they divvy the loot - it's purely on them. Part of the fun and strategy is letting players figure out the math and decide who gets what and make choices. They usually try to keep things equal or fair, but once in a while a situation comes along where it won't be, usually if a powerful magic item is involved.

Case in point - my group years ago came across a wand of polymorph, and they could have sold it for enough cash to level them all up twice each. But they opted instead to let the wizard keep it so they'd have the power. He got the XP value of the item, everyone got their monster XP, though it was a hit compared to the vast reward they would have gotten. In the end that wand saved their lives so many times that any lingering doubt about the choice vanished.

Situations like that are as much a part of the game as anything else, and I love seeing it all play out.
 


Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
1981-84 AD&D 1e. By the book at first but we got tired of the going back and forth to a safe heaven to earn the XPs. I started handing them out during the game after each encounter. Players really loved that. Later, let them level up in the dungeon, no training in town.

We had long discussions about the XP system. Every decision was made by the group.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
There were tons of D&D games going back then and you could bring a character to almost any of the tables. We frequently took the same character and played in multiple D&D games with multiple DMs. This meant experience points were awarded by the DM (referee) after each session.

My experience was that this practice carried over when games became more set with the same group of PCs staying at the same tables.
I played a little in that era/expectation, too - but I seem to remember that if a character was still in the middle of an ongoing adventure at one person's table I would not bring them to another game with a different DM - but maybe that was just my own honorable sense of verisimilitude. ;) 🤣
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
I still run 1e, and my method is to award XP when a scenario is done and the characters are safely back at a port of haven where they can tabulate rewards and treasure, regardless of how many sessions it takes.

That gives players the chance to discuss loot division, which will affect how much XP is earned by the individual characters.
This is the way we ran things as well.

Nothing tabulated until an adventure/module was complete. For longer adventures that might be 5 or 6 sessions. Then the DM handed the players a list of all the treasure acquired. While the players carried out a draft of treasure and magic items, the DM tabulated XP from treasure and monsters. By the time the treasure draft was complete, the DM would announce the XP reward (which would be different for PCs depending on which magic items they took). There was much rejoicing if PCs levelled up.

We didn’t see any point in handing out XP mid-dungeon because you had to be in a safe location to train in order to level up anyway. The way treasure and XP are so tightly linked in AD&D it just made sense to divvy them up at the same time. And it felt right for this bonanza of treasure and XP to be awarded all at once and as the capstone for finishing an adventure, rather than dolled out incrementally.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
This is the way we ran things as well.

Nothing tabulated until an adventure/module was complete. For longer adventures that might be 5 or 6 sessions. Then the DM handed the players a list of all the treasure acquired. While the players carried out a draft of treasure and magic items, the DM tabulated XP from treasure and monsters. By the time the treasure draft was complete, the DM would announce the XP reward (which would be different for PCs depending on which magic items they took). There was much rejoicing if PCs levelled up.

Back in 1E days I divided XP for magical items among everyone who could use it, regardless of who got it.

Curious, if a magical item got traded later on in the game, would the new owner also get XP for it?

For example, I join an ongoing game and someone says "Here have my shortsword +2 because I tend to use my shortsword of speed instead these days," would my character get the XP for the shortsword +2?

And it felt right for this bonanza of treasure and XP to be awarded all at once and as the capstone for finishing an adventure, rather than dolled out incrementally.

Yeah, that is still my feeling about it.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Once I rolled a 10,000 gp gem on a random table. There was a big fight about who should get it. It turned into a character brawl. The wizard, who insisted on having the gem and not splitting the XPs, was killed. He never came back to play.

Not our most glorious moment. After that it was agreed to split all XPs equally regardless of who took the item.
 

Well, that approach is by the book, so I imagine it was used by people somewhere, though back in the day even my own groups did it at the end of each session. I came to appreciate this way as being superior and easier for various reasons.

I should clarify that we handed out the XP at the end of each session, but it never did anything until we completed the adventure and got back to town to "train" (though we rarely actually made people find trainers). You were capped at 50% of the way through the next level; if you earned more XP than that without leveling up it was lost. We rarely leveled up during an adventure, with the exception of reaching level 2 because your survivability was so bad at level 1.

Although when you had enough XP the player would ask to level up at the end of every session. Kind of annoying, but people want to level up!

I am not a fan of interjecting to players how they divvy the loot - it's purely on them. Part of the fun and strategy is letting players figure out the math and decide who gets what and make choices. They usually try to keep things equal or fair, but once in a while a situation comes along where it won't be, usually if a powerful magic item is involved.

That mostly matches us. We eventually had an unspoken rule that players could not hide loot from the other players (unless there was a curse of some kind at work). The game got too competitive or selfish if you don't do that. Someone will play a thief, find a bunch of loot, and then not tell the party about it or keep some for themselves and then expect a "fair share" of the rest of the loot. Then the thief player has the gall to be upset when the other players kill their character when they inevitably discover the stolen loot. It's a bad play pattern all around, but that was middle school and high school D&D.

Case in point - my group years ago came across a wand of polymorph, and they could have sold it for enough cash to level them all up twice each. But they opted instead to let the wizard keep it so they'd have the power. He got the XP value of the item, everyone got their monster XP, though it was a hit compared to the vast reward they would have gotten. In the end that wand saved their lives so many times that any lingering doubt about the choice vanished.

Situations like that are as much a part of the game as anything else, and I love seeing it all play out.

Hm, this is interesting. When we got magic items, even if we sold them we only got the XP value from the magic item itself. We didn't have to keep the item in order to get the XP for it. I think this is because some of the DMs liked to give out powerful items and didn't want us to jump a huge amount of XP like that.

Also, except for the class-based rewards (which I think came from 2e) we didn't really do individual XP rewards. Again, we tried it for awhile but found that either DMs would favor one player or one player would get luckier with last hits or one player would get really far ahead of everyone else. It made the game feel too competitive, again. Some of the players like that, but the guy who was usually the DM hated it and always gave out shared XP. When I DMed, which wasn't often then, I didn't like tracking who killed what or who did what. It just seemed so arbitrary and like too much bookkeeping.
 


Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
I should clarify that we handed out the XP at the end of each session, but it never did anything until we completed the adventure and got back to town to "train" (though we rarely actually made people find trainers). You were capped at 50% of the way through the next level; if you earned more XP than that without leveling up it was lost. We rarely leveled up during an adventure, with the exception of reaching level 2 because your survivability was so bad at level 1.

Although when you had enough XP the player would ask to level up at the end of every session. Kind of annoying, but people want to level up!

Yeah, as DM I do keep the running tally, I simply don't award it until the adventure scenario is done. I use all the btb leveling rules - training at each level, performance ratings, XP freeze until you train etc... and I have found that waiting on the awarding of XP is preferable rather than the nickle and diming - especially if a player would get enough to level early in a scenario and is frozen in XP until they can get somewhere to train.

That mostly matches us. We eventually had an unspoken rule that players could not hide loot from the other players (unless there was a curse of some kind at work). The game got too competitive or selfish if you don't do that. Someone will play a thief, find a bunch of loot, and then not tell the party about it or keep some for themselves and then expect a "fair share" of the rest of the loot. Then the thief player has the gall to be upset when the other players kill their character when they inevitably discover the stolen loot. It's a bad play pattern all around, but that was middle school and high school D&D.

Our group is pretty okay with this sort of thing. One thing that we always stress is for players to take nothing personally, so once in a while a sneaky jerk will try and steal from the group and everyone's cool with that because the flip side is that getting caught means bad news for the thief.

That said - I certainly wouldn't recommend it unless your group is all on the same page about it.


Hm, this is interesting. When we got magic items, even if we sold them we only got the XP value from the magic item itself. We didn't have to keep the item in order to get the XP for it. I think this is because some of the DMs liked to give out powerful items and didn't want us to jump a huge amount of XP like that.

They basically have the choice of selling for the gold and getting that XP, or keeping the item. The character that keeps the item gets the XP.

I am lenient in that I will hold back the XP for an item if a group is undecided for a time, I simply keep a list of items where the XP hasn't been awarded. Once they choose I remove the note and award the XP appropriately. They do, of course, risk losing those items to potential circumstance the longer they wait... but they know this.

I certainly see why DMs would want to streamline how they award XP to keep it more equal, or just easier, but I like the extra nuance of players thinking through their decisions and weighing the options of sacrificing money and XP for useful items and such.
 

Mannahnin

Explorer
I run a B/X / 5TD variant. I don't require training, and generally award xp once they get safely back to town, but during an extended expedition far from civilization I'll award it when they get a chance to break for an overnight rest.

I've never awarded XP for magic items, though if the party sells items in town rather than holding onto them, I'll grant xp equal to the GP value they liquidated the item for, because it's functionally monetary treasure at that point. Same with money paid as a reward for a mission; I count that as treasure earned by adventuring for xp purposes.

I currently divide XP for treasure recovered evenly among the party, unless a given party member does some side thing and finds a bit for themselves. I'll let such rogues benefit from their sneakiness, but so far it's been infrequent.

I am a bit intrigued by the idea of letting the PCs divide treasure unevenly and thus the XP unevenly, as a strategic move. "Let's give half the treasure to the new Cleric this time; that'll give him enough to gain a level, which will help us all!" is an interesting game decision, albeit one which seems kind of metagamey and challenging to justify in-fiction.

Even more intriguing is the prospect of unequal distribution based on who got magic items. I remember reading Frank Mentzer's explanations of different treasure distribution schemes in his Basic set when I was a kid; the idea that someone who got a magic sword might forfeit their share of the monetary loot (or most of it) has very interesting implications when gaining power in the form of a magic item means losing out on the XP from the monetary treasure which is going to everyone else!
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You know, until reading this it never once occurred to me how treasure division could mess up xp awarding, as despite gobs of 1e or 1e-based experience I've never in my life used (or played in a game that used) xp-for-gp.

How do I give out xp?

Combat or significant encounters: tracked individually, thus if characters A, B and E are the only ones involved in a particular encounter, characters C and D don't get any xp for it. After each encounter I just put a tick next to the name of each character who was involved, and a note as to what the encounter was; sometimes I'll note "half" if someone's involvement was only peripheral or if the character died during that encounter.

Every now and then I go through, do all the calculations, and hand out xp; if nobody's close to bumping it can be a fair number of sessions between xp batches. PCs can only gain xp after a night's rest. If I know someone's close I'll give 'em out each in-game morning, which can sometimes mean more than once in a session.

Dungeon or adventure bonus: after the end of each mission or dungeon or adventure I give out a bonus. In a small way this kind of makes up for not getting xp for treasure, and its intent is to reflect the xp earned for all the little mundane-ish things e.g. finding water, making camp, mapping, etc. that would be just too tedious to track all the time. The amount each character gets is usually about in proportion to how much of the adventure that character was around for, thus a character that came into an adventure halfway through would only get half bonus.

Bonus is only given out after the adventure is finished; and characters who died partway through still get their bonus share, which leads to the odd situation of characters occasionally bumping while they are dead!

There's no real hard-and-fast formula for calculating the actual bonus amount; usually I'll start with about 1000 x [the party's average level] and adjust up or down from there based on adventure size/length/importance, how xp-rich or not the adventure has already been, how successful the mission was (for a mission-based adventure), etc., etc. - i.e. there's a lot of 'eyeball' involved. :)

Situational: this is a catch-all for other things. Thieves get xp for what they steal (sometimes including from the party but only if they don't get caught; and this does not include skimming off of found treasure). Goodly types get xp for doing goodly deeds outside of adventuring. Sometimes casters get xp the first time they cast a significant spell e.g. Raise Dead or Commune. Just about anyone gets xp if they happen to meet a deity or other uber-important being and survive the experience. Etc.

After you bump: characters get partial benefits right away when they bump, most notably they roll their new level's hit points on the spot and get access to half right then; with the other half (and most other level-up benefits) coming only on completion of training. Unlike RAW 1e where advancement stops dead on bumping, here it can continue as normal for a while; but if you get 1/3 of the way through your new level without training you start taking a 1/3 penalty to further xp earned; make it 2/3 through and that penalty increases to 2/3.

Training takes a week or two, once you can find a trainer (exception: after about 9th level characters can self-train), and can't usually be done in the field as it requires access to facilities e.g. a lab for mages, a gym and sparring partners for fighters, etc.. It also costs a fair bit - rule-of-thumb is about 1000 g.p. per level being trained into, with a small random variance. If you've gone far enough into the new level to hit xp penalty, training costs come down a bit as you've already done some of it the hard way.

For the most part, the way I do it now (as outlined above) isn't really different at all from they way I did it in 1984 when I started DMing, other than I probably pay more attention to 'situational' xp now than I did back then.
 

Erekose

Eternal Champion
From what I can remember awarding XP didn’t change from B/X through 1E. XP was awarded at the end of every adventure (which could take several sessions).

Magic items and gold were treated differently - it never occurred to anyone to compensate players with “lesser” or no magic items with extra gold!
  • magic items were distributed as found in the adventure but people were very flexible with one use items like potions,
  • gold, gems, etc. were evenly distributed as found (larger items that had to be sold had the gold distributed upon sale).
As we were (are) friends and as the magic item distribution evened out over multiple adventures no one had a problem with it.
 
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Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Another thing I did was round up XPs if the PC was within 100 xp of gaining a level after awarding the last XPs of the session. Didn’t want some one levelling up at the beginning of a session.
 

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