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D&D 2E Leveling Up in 2E

SerHogan

Explorer
I grew up on 2E and DM'ed one campaign to the point where most of the characters were levels 7 and 8. I felt like once they reached that point however the XP required to get to level 9 was just a massive amount and prohibitive. If I remember correctly a PC had to collect something like all the XP he had gained to that point just to get to level 9 or 8. Getting up even higher in levels beyond 9 was seemingly impossible. I always liked to play by the letter and spirit of the rules. I handed out XP for combat (even going so far as to figure out how much XP each HP a monster had was worth), 1 XP per gold piece or treasure value collected, XP for magic items and weapons, XP for adventure or mission completion, good roleplaying, great ideas, etc. I always liked how hard it was to get up to those higher levels since there really shouldn't be so many super heroes running around in a world. 5E is not nearly as hard which is cool because it's fun to get to play those powered up characters but I miss that old school approach of making you earn it. If you got a character to level 15 or so you would have had to have played dozens and dozens of adventures in your campaign. And lived!

I was just curious how other DMs handled/handle XP and leveling up in 2E when it takes such enormous amounts of XP to level up. Aside from doing automatic level ups after adventures or just giving the PCs tons and tons of treasure or giving them huge mission complete XP rewards how did other DMs handle this?
 

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Citan Uzuki

Explorer
Leveling up in 2nd edition, while it seems tedious, is intended to promote quest exp rewards and individual exp rewards. There is information about both in the DMG.

Quest experience rewards usually are given for successfully completing some sort of adventure that the party is sent in and typically is no more than the total amount of experience given from any encounters that happened within said adventure.

Individual rewards are bonus experience points given for things such as a warrior for having helped defeat a monster, a wizard creating or researching a new spell, a cleric using spells to further their ethos, or a thief gaining treasure. Again, the DMG has information about such.

In short, while a monster may seem to give small amounts of experience, that amount adds up to help bolster quest experience and individual experience may be rewarded to each character based on what they do during the adventure.

Another method that a DM can use, that is much rarer, is to bolster monsters' stats to make them more difficult to fight but to also give them a higher experience reward. For example, a small cluster of hardier-than-most orcs might prove an actual threat to the PCs compared to the run-of-the-mill variety but would garner a much higher reward should they be defeated and/or disbanded.

Hope this helps out as a quick answer without going into too much detail. :3
 

S'mon

Legend
I was just curious how other DMs handled/handle XP and leveling up in 2E when it takes such enormous amounts of XP to level up. Aside from doing automatic level ups after adventures or just giving the PCs tons and tons of treasure or giving them huge mission complete XP rewards how did other DMs handle this?

Well, I'm running Classic, which is very similar to 2e except that the XP to level requirements top out at about half those of 1e/2e, so eg a Fighter needs 120,000 to level not 250,000 and a Wizard needs 150,000 not 300,000. The Classic Rules Cyclopedia recommends 5 sessions to level (2e I recall says 10 sessions?) which I think is a good aim point and is midway between 2e and 3e-4e-5e's indicated 2-3 sessions/level. RC suggests handing out enough gold that PCs get 20% of XP from the monsters, 80% from gold. I can't see any real reason to hand out artificially inflated amounts of gold, so instead I increase monster XP, give normal gold XP, give quest and discretionary award XP - the RC recommends these awards be 1/20 the amount needed to level, again about half the recommended amount for such awards in 3e/4e/5e.

I noticed that I could take 20-30 minutes calculating XP and it would come out within a couple hundred of what I'd have given as an arbitrary session award (eg 20,220 calculated vs 20,000 I'd have just handed out), so now sometimes I do arbitrary awards BUT I periodically do the full calculation to make sure I'm not drifting/inflating awards. I'm aiming for around 20,000-25,000 XP for a successful session, varying from maybe 8-10,000 for a light session up to around 30-35,000 for something really big. That way the PCs are leveling up about every 5-8 sessions of play currently; later as they get higher level the awards will increase somewhat and progression rate will likely increase a bit.

I would tend to recommend similar sorts of award in 2e so that the progression rate above Name
level is about once per 8-12 sessions, but you could give out twice that for faster rate and the game would still work.
 

Dorian_Grey

First Post
This isn't by the book, but our group was pretty generous with the XP. Our DM used to figure out how much we would need to level up determine for themselves how epic they felt things should be, and would create a story with various 'checkpoints.' Each checkpoint, no matter how we got there, was worth a percentage of our goal towards the next level. But that was us, because we didn't feel like calculating it more formally. :D
 


Celebrim

Legend
I grew up on 2E and DM'ed one campaign to the point where most of the characters were levels 7 and 8. I felt like once they reached that point however the XP required to get to level 9 was just a massive amount and prohibitive.

Yes, a rather large amount, but no, not prohibitive. It just took a rather long time.

In 1e and 2e, roughly when you hit 10th level the game was considered more or less over. You'd won, and earned a prolonged and honorable retirement. Sure, you could keep at it until you hit 12th or 13th level, but by that point the challenges that the game could offer you were diminishing. Additionally, the increased power of gaining another level diminished for many classes. You stopped gaining full HD, for example. Fighters capped off most of their abilities around 15th level. After 17th level, most classes saves stopped improved. The game slowed down precisely because there would be increasingly less interesting things to do at very high level. The game was designed to keep you in the sweet spot. Keep in mind that in 1e, monsters were rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with each increased level of a monster corresponding to a deeper level of the dungeon and a higher level PC. Once you hit 10th level, if you had decent equipment most everything in the game was toast. Balrogs just had 8HD, for example. There was a bit of a sliding scale amongst level 10 monsters, and a careful DM could probably keep it going to 15th level or beyond, but after 10th level you were in the Epic tier.

Now, if you wanted to though, you could power level characters up to higher levels just by dumping far more treasure on the party than the treasure types in the Monster Manual called for.

I don't really approve of that approach, because by the time you get to 10th level legitimately, you've probably seen enough dungeons that you are in need of a break from them, and there is so much more you can do in D&D than dungeons. Also, you are powering your way out of the sweet spot, which makes no sense. But, it's there if you want it.

A good example of this is the GDQ adventure path, which is just stuffed to the gills with mounds and mountains of treasure to ensure that by the time you finish a module the party has been power leveled up to deal with the next one. But, again, if you look at GDQ, the initial three 'G' modules were as tough as anything in the rest of the series, and by the time the party got to the Demonweb Pits to kill Lolth(!!!), Lolth and everything else in the dungeon was pretty much a cakewalk for such powerful and well equipped parties - particularly compared to what had come before.

If I remember correctly a PC had to collect something like all the XP he had gained to that point just to get to level 9 or 8.

This was true of every level up till name level. To get to 8th level, you had to collect as much XP again as you had accumulated getting to 7th. It wouldn't generally take quite as long, because you'd earn more XP per fight, but yes, going from 7th to 8th took nearly as much time as getting to 7th and getting to 9th took about as much time as that.

I was just curious how other DMs handled/handle XP and leveling up in 2E when it takes such enormous amounts of XP to level up. Aside from doing automatic level ups after adventures or just giving the PCs tons and tons of treasure or giving them huge mission complete XP rewards how did other DMs handle this?

I joined a group playing a 1e/2e AD&D hybrid, rolled up a 7th level character with just enough XP to hit 7th, and like five years later playing 8 hour sessions 25-30 times a year I hit 12th. It wasn't about the leveling up. Leveling up was great, but it barely happened once a year. You played for the story.
 

Imperialus

Explorer
Heh. After 7 years my 1st ed group is just now hitting 9th level. As a matter of fact, it was last session that we had our first unicorn... Our magic user, who began at 1st level, dinged level 9. She died once, due to a power word kill, but by that point our Cleric had already hit 9th level so we were able to raise her.
 

Kramodlog

Naked and living in a barrel
Legendary locations and artifacts can give extra XP to the entire group pretty quickly. Bathing in the Fountain of Souls could give 10,000 xp to each players. Stricking three times the Bell of Creation could give 25,000 xp to each player in its immediate vicinity. Just make sure it is a one time thing.

Don't be afraid to give out items/events/boons that give levels. Just make sure every player gets one. Start with the classes that take more XP to progress, like the mage and end with classes that need less XP, like the bard.

A mage could read a book that gives levels, a fighter could train with the ghosts of the knights of a ancient order, a ranger could be blessed by a fey queen, a cleric could drink from the fountain of the faithful... Just make them fit with your story.

Extra XP is great, but this can be a way to deal with some dead levels. Level 10 and 11 are dead levels for mages and are real grinds. An extra level at that time won't hurt.
 


Galadrin

First Post
I handed out XP for combat (even going so far as to figure out how much XP each HP a monster had was worth), 1 XP per gold piece or treasure value collected, XP for magic items and weapons

Uh, are you sure you were playing AD&D 2e? This sounds an awful lot like 1e to me...

The by the book way to give out more XP is with story awards. The DMG recommends that this should no more than double the XP earned from monsters in the adventure (including monsters the players may not have encountered, presumably) and should not be more than 1/10th the experience needed to get to the next level. If you want, you can throw out these rules and give major story awards (like 1,500 xp for each character in a 1st level party), but I wouldn't give them more than one new level per experience point gain (another DMG recommendation that is much more lenient than the 1/10th rule).

My personal practice? I don't divide combat XP among players (if they kill an ogre, they all gain 420 XP individually) and I give major story and minor roleplaying awards. The story awards are only given out at major milestones in the adventure storyline. Roleplay awards are given out at the end of every session. I don't give XP for anything else. Characters level up about once per adventure, in practice (about every 5 to 8 sessions).

In my experience, the rate of advancement is FAR more dependent on your campaign structure than it is on XP award strategies. XP is always, always dependent on what your players can actually get done in a four-hour sit down at your house (who am I kidding? In mom's basement). If you have them stuck in some dungeon week after week fighting little mook battles, then you have a serious problem. When I set up a dungeon, I make sure it has no more than seven or eight rooms (sometimes far fewer). There are a couple of mook battles for flavour, and then the boss fight and they're out in time for tea. Let them finish quests and you will find the story awards come rolling in. If they are low level, you can more than challenge them and push their resources with a small handful of tough fights.

If I had to put numbers to it, I'd say dungeons of 3-10 rooms with most of the session spent outside dungeons, 2-3 mook fights for each sub-boss fight, 2-3 sub-boss fights for each big boss fight (if the story warrants it), and a small adventure done in three or so sessions (medium adventure in five to eight sessions, long adventures ongoing as long as is necessary). Don't drag feet with throwaway battles... Let the players gather the clues for how to solve the adventure and then let them solve it (with fewer, tougher battles). The story awards will come in regularly this way.
 
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GenghisDon

First Post
I grew up on 2E and DM'ed one campaign to the point where most of the characters were levels 7 and 8. I felt like once they reached that point however the XP required to get to level 9 was just a massive amount and prohibitive. If I remember correctly a PC had to collect something like all the XP he had gained to that point just to get to level 9 or 8. Getting up even higher in levels beyond 9 was seemingly impossible. I always liked to play by the letter and spirit of the rules. I handed out XP for combat (even going so far as to figure out how much XP each HP a monster had was worth), 1 XP per gold piece or treasure value collected, XP for magic items and weapons, XP for adventure or mission completion, good roleplaying, great ideas, etc. I always liked how hard it was to get up to those higher levels since there really shouldn't be so many super heroes running around in a world. 5E is not nearly as hard which is cool because it's fun to get to play those powered up characters but I miss that old school approach of making you earn it. If you got a character to level 15 or so you would have had to have played dozens and dozens of adventures in your campaign. And lived!

I was just curious how other DMs handled/handle XP and leveling up in 2E when it takes such enormous amounts of XP to level up. Aside from doing automatic level ups after adventures or just giving the PCs tons and tons of treasure or giving them huge mission complete XP rewards how did other DMs handle this?

I see this sort of complaint often, but never understand it fully.

OK, in ALL the AD&D & classic D&D games, pretty much every class/level progression is a doubling of XP per level, up until "name level", THEN it becomes a static (large) number thereafter. For most classes, the difference between 10 & 11 or 17 & 18 are the same. Thus, VHL play is NOT slower, it picks up in pace, actually (face greater challenges, requirements the same).

However, it IS fairly slow in general at the "top" levels. The "top levels" are more or less 10+. Now, you seem to have used most, or all, of the optional 2e XP methods, and having played that game a great deal, I simply cannot understand how advancement would be slow that way. It should be fast enough for anyone. If somehow it is not, you could double amounts perhaps. I think you ought try what you say u did before though.

L15 characters probably HAVE died a few times. 24+ adventures for L15? probably/possibly.


When I play 2e I use the options, individual class options, and NOT GP=XP (classic & 1e are GP & monster only, I use that there). Seems fast enough for me/my players. A major factor, for any of those older games, is that we play a pretty rapid paced, conflict heavy game. They lend themselves to such. Way less options for combat, forget moving figurines about, smaller numbers to work with, it all leads to much more getting done. I cannot speak to 5e at all, but for, say, 3.5e, yes it advanced quickly too, as each encounter gave a much bigger % of the way to the next level, but we'd only get a tiny fraction as many encounters done in the same time period. It was different, and just as good, in a different way. Actually, it advanced a bit too fast, as players never got anywhere near as good at playing their character as they do in slower advancing games, because one is always adding new abilities/changing considerably.

Players are terrible at knowing what will make a good, satisfying game; rules & ideas on that they might have are almost always wrong headed. People think they want X/getting X will make them happy, but it's not that simple. Most modern players would be better served being slowed down some regarding level advancement. They are always hungry for more levels, XP, etc, but that doesn't mean you try to fill the glutton's gut as fast as u can.


EDIT: and yes, xp per hp is definitely a 1e thing. Not that it's all THAT different overall, but 1e had fine advancement rates too IMHO.

On the retiring at L10 or so...yes, that's what Gary & company did back in the early days (mostly). We NEVER did that, EVER. I never had a player that scratched & clawed their way to power & then didn't want to flex/use it. Frankly, anyone playing AD&D would never guess to stop at L10 (or so); yeah, OD&D & early classic D&D games pretty much had nothing for higher level play, but AD&D sure as heck did. My players wanted to try those L6, 7, 8 & maybe even L9 spells! They wanted to face demon lords, liches & so forth.
 
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Igwilly

First Post
On the retiring at L10 or so...yes, that's what Gary & company did back in the early days (mostly). We NEVER did that, EVER. I never had a player that scratched & clawed their way to power & then didn't want to flex/use it. Frankly, anyone playing AD&D would never guess to stop at L10 (or so); yeah, OD&D & early classic D&D games pretty much had nothing for higher level play, but AD&D sure as heck did. My players wanted to try those L6, 7, 8 & maybe even L9 spells! They wanted to face demon lords, liches & so forth.

Someone understands me!
I mean, I don’t dislike low-level play, but my dream-goal is to run a high-level campaign. I don’t want to face (both as a player and a DM), goblins, kobolds, orcs or even drow. I want to face powerful fiends, dragons, archfey, and as the climax, gods themselves – or something just as powerful.
I never did because:

  1. Didn’t reach those levels. In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to run such a constant campaign.
  2. Players in general don’t go well when you put 20 levels at once on their backs. At least in the games I currently know it’s a lot of stuff; especially for beginners: most of my players are just learning how to play tabletop RPGs, so let’s not throw at them tons of abilities and bonuses.
 

Igwilly

First Post
Once we’re talking about XP, I want to share my experiment:
Basically, for the next game I DM – and possibly for every other one – I’ll award XP by completing missions. And that’s it. I will calculate how much XP they need to level up and how many missions I want them to complete. After that, I distribute that XP among missions and, as they fulfill their objectives, they earn up XP.
I want to do that because that’s how I want the game to be: fulfilling objectives is more important than slaying many monsters for no reason or finding treasure. Sure, I like combats, and money will always be powerful, but XP? Missions will do that.
I will report here the results. Wish me luck!
 

GenghisDon

First Post
Someone understands me!
I mean, I don’t dislike low-level play, but my dream-goal is to run a high-level campaign. I don’t want to face (both as a player and a DM), goblins, kobolds, orcs or even drow. I want to face powerful fiends, dragons, archfey, and as the climax, gods themselves – or something just as powerful.
I never did because:

  1. Didn’t reach those levels. In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to run such a constant campaign.
  2. Players in general don’t go well when you put 20 levels at once on their backs. At least in the games I currently know it’s a lot of stuff; especially for beginners: most of my players are just learning how to play tabletop RPGs, so let’s not throw at them tons of abilities and bonuses.

There are ways to do it; experienced players need not play up from L1. However, those just learning/starting should NEVER be treated the same way. There is major magic in learning/playing up, playing those first games, first campaigns, etc. And yes, they'd be crap at VHL play anyway. Enjoy the group you have, and give them the best experience you can in the formative period! Good luck.
 

HexMaker

First Post
Level up? I played years of 2nd Ed as a kid in the 80s and I never once managed to get beyond Level 1! Probably because my brother was an evil GM and my favourite part of the game back then was writing new character sheets and selecting equipment from the player's handbook. I still use alternating blocks of 3 white and 3 grey lines in my spreadsheets at work!
 

Dorian_Grey

First Post
We used story awards heavily. Personally I used this approach:

1. Design an overall "idea" - Players have to go to the far away mountains and restore the magical fortress of Dead Forgotten Guy
2. Target a general level range: i.e. if the average group level is 12, then this is going to be really challenging. If the average group level is 14 it will be fairly easy.
3. Write out the adventure and break it into divisible parts. Now, you can do this anyway you want, but I then determine how much each part represents from the overall adventure. What I did was estimated time to complete, which is better than word count. A puzzle chapter (i.e. "Determine the way to open the magic door on the side of the mountain") might take three or four hours of time, but only require a two paragraph write up, while battling the swamp necromancer requires five pages but only takes the characters two hours.
4. Take the average XP amount to get from target level to the next level and then distribute that XP based on percentage of the chapters. So a fighter and a cleric go out on an adventure. To get from 1 to 2 would represent 2,125 xp on average. There are four chapters in the book. The first chapter takes 10% of the total time (you can adjust at the end too), and that would be 213 xp. The next chapter takes 25%, so that would be 531 xp.

You can still apply individual awards. Chapters can also be sessions too. Surviving each session gets you X amount of XP based on the number of sessions planned for the adventure.
 

I grew up on 2E and DM'ed one campaign to the point where most of the characters were levels 7 and 8. I felt like once they reached that point however the XP required to get to level 9 was just a massive amount and prohibitive. If I remember correctly a PC had to collect something like all the XP he had gained to that point just to get to level 9 or 8.
If you look at the xp advancement charts for the classes EVERY level requires about double the XP as the one before it. 2000, then 4000, 8000, 16000, 32000, etc. A few bumps higher or lower here and there but that's pretty much the pattern UNTIL about 9th or 10th level. Then it actually goes FLAT - same amount of xp needed for every level after that.

If you then study the xp reward chart you'll see that the amount of xp you get for monsters pretty well keeps pace with that doubling of xp needed to level up. The xp award for monsters by HD doesn't double, but then the ability of PC's to handle monsters of much higher HD than their own increases as well so that in general the pacing remains the same no matter what level.

2E xp and treasure awards are about the same as in 1E. 2E has OPTIONS to have PC's earn individual awards, but I never used them for long as it just seemed to make tracking xp more work than it needed to be for BOTH players and the DM. It DID seem to me that those individual rewards made for slower progression though, so maybe that's what you want.

I was just curious how other DMs handled/handle XP and leveling up in 2E when it takes such enormous amounts of XP to level up. Aside from doing automatic level ups after adventures or just giving the PCs tons and tons of treasure or giving them huge mission complete XP rewards how did other DMs handle this?
It wasn't a problem because it wasn't an enormous amount of xp (which is to say that although the NUMBERS got larger the PACE remained much the same). XP for killing monsters. XP for treasure. Both adjusted according to the degree of actual challenge. If I felt like I was giving the PC's a LOT of treasure at any time then I gave them a lot less XP for it. If fights seemed like they were more difficult than usual (which may have been as simple a matter as me having hot dice and the players having cold dice) then they got more xp than was normally indicated. I added some occasionally as a "story" award, especially at times where there wasn't much treasure to speak of or monsters to fight, but the PC's were nonetheless reasonably occupied with doing stuff.

That's pretty much how I handled it in 1E as well as how I handled it in 3E and how I once again handle it now playing 1E again.
 

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