5E XP Tables Across the Editions

JohnLynch

Explorer
Looking at how much XP you got for "encounters" or "monsters" across the editions, I thought it interesting to translate those XP advancement tables to 5th edition. Here's the guidelines I've used:
  • AD&D (1e and 2e): roughly assumed each PC fought 3.33 "at level" monsters per level until around level 7 and 8 at which time it assumed you fought 6.66 "at-level" monsters per level.*
  • 3rd ed: Assumes each PC fought 3.33 at-level monsters per level from levels 1-20.
  • 4th ed: Assumes each PC fought 10 at-level monsters per level from levels 1-20.
  • 5th ed: No consistent progression. It's all over the place to emphasise certain levels over others.

* This is based on research conducted by others on these forums who have examined how quickly players progressed through certain modules and compared that to 3.5e. The research found that in both AD&D and 3.5e characters typically levelled at roughly the same amount until around 8th level and then it halved for AD&D while 3e continued consistently.

LevelAD&D XP3rd ed XP4th ed XP5th ed XP
10000
27007002,000300
32,2002,2006,500900
44,5004,50013,5002,700
58,2008,20024,5006,500
614,20014,20042,50014,000
721,80021,80065,50023,000
841,10031,50094,50034,000
967,10044,500133,50048,000
10100,30061,100183,50064,000
11139,70080,800242,50085,000
12187,600105,000314,500100,000
13243,600133,000398,500120,000
14315,000165,000500,000140,000
15390,000205,000615,000165,000
16475,000250,000745,000195,000
17575,000300,000895,000225,000
18695,000260,0001,075,000265,000
19830,000425,0001,275,000305,000
20975,000495,0001,495,000355,000
So there you go. 4th ed is the slowest progression of all. I expected it to be AD&D, but I would take this surprising turn of events to be a result of stingy DM's in AD&D not handing out as much treasure as the modules did (NOTE: If you were to include non-monster XP than the AD&D XP advancement table would multiply by 4 or 5 times).

So if you don't like how quickly 5th edition advances levels, you can use one of the above alternate XP advancement tables to emulate prior editions.
 
So there you go. 4th ed is the slowest progression of all. I expected it to be AD&D, but I would take this surprising turn of events to be a result of stingy DM's in AD&D not handing out as much treasure as the modules did
Ah. In that case, you probably need to split AD&D 1st Ed and 2nd Ed into separate columns - 2nd Ed didn't grant XP for treasure by default where 1st Ed did (it was an optional rule in 2nd Ed, and the DMG gave dire warnings that using it would break your game). As you note, that difference has a major impact on advancement.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Sorry if this was supposed to be clear; but your table has recalculated old edition tables into using a consistent monster XP value for comparison purposes, yes?

I don't get your conclusion "4th ed is the slowest progression of all". Don't you burn through much more monsters in that edition? Edit: And the level progression goes all the way to 30! I would naively have assumed you get to 30 as quick as you get to 20 in other editions, which suggest 4E is the fastest edition instead of slowest.

For AD&D, do you average Fighter/Wizard/Thief advancement?
 
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CapnZapp

Hero
So if you don't like how quickly 5th edition advances levels, you can use one of the above alternate XP advancement tables to emulate prior editions.
I wonder if you take into account how low-level monsters stay much more relevant in 5E than ever before?

Meaning that if fighting against lowly Orcs isn't made trivial as you level up, this suggest a lower rate of advancement than the mere numbers suggest. (No matter how quickly you dispatch the Orc hordes, your XP per hour played will be very low as long as it is merely Orcs you dispatch.)

Specifically: the assumption you fight X monsters always on your own level might have worked for 3E, but it risks overestimating the levelling rate of 5E.
 

JohnLynch

Explorer
Sorry if this was supposed to be clear; but your table has recalculated old edition tables into using a consistent monster XP value for comparison purposes, yes?
Yes, that's right.

I don't get your conclusion "4th ed is the slowest progression of all". Don't you burn through much more monsters in that edition?
If you look at how many "at level" monsters are required to be defeated to attain a new level in the PHB and DMG you'll see that from levels 1-20 it is consistently 10 at level monsters per PC = +1 level.

HOWEVER here is a potential flaw. I'm using the "standard" monster XP progression for 4th ed. 3.5e I used "same CR" to work out how many monsters needed to be defeated. Is a CR 1 3.5e monster = Level 1 Standard 4th ed monster? Or is a CR 1 3.5e monster = Level 1 Solo 4th ed monster? That could explain the surprising result.

For AD&D, do you average Fighter/Wizard/Thief advancement?
The data I am working off averaged 6 classes (paladin and monk being the other two I believe).

Ah. In that case, you probably need to split AD&D 1st Ed and 2nd Ed into separate columns - 2nd Ed didn't grant XP for treasure by default where 1st Ed did (it was an optional rule in 2nd Ed, and the DMG gave dire warnings that using it would break your game). As you note, that difference has a major impact on advancement.
2nd ed handed out XP for:

  • Killing monsters
  • Contributing to the table's fun
  • Surviving
  • Story XP
  • Optionally (and what made 2nd ed XP awards unique from AD&D 1e and later editions):
    • Having a clever idea
    • Having an idea that saves the party.
    • Roleplaying well
    • Encouraging others to participate
    • XP for specific actions dependent on class

I've hand-waived all those different awards to be "probably equal to what AD&D 1e players got for XP for gold and magic items" (which was an optional rule in 2e as well as an alternative to the above). If anyone has a measurement on how much this other type of XP contributed towards people's leveling up I'd love to see it. Otherwise I'm assuming it's "somewhere between 3/4th to 4/5th of the XP for levelling up."
 

JohnLynch

Explorer
I wonder if you take into account how low-level monsters stay much more relevant in 5E than ever before?....Specifically: the assumption you fight X monsters always on your own level might have worked for 3E, but it risks overestimating the levelling rate of 5E.
Nope. Nor have I taken into account assumptions on how 3.5e adventures are being populated. When 3e first came out adventures had lots of low level monsters with few at level or higher than at level monsters. By the end of 3.5e Paizo were optimising their adventures to such a degree that they would absolutely murder a group of 2000 era 3rd ed PCs and Paizo assumed it's audience equally had the optimisation skills required to handle the adventures. Nor am I looking at how many hours could be dumped into a single fight in 4e which would mean it could take 6 months to get through a single adventure that in 3.5e would be expected to take at most 3 months.

We could make a whole raft of analyses. But at the end of the day we have guidelines from the creators themselves:
Gary Gygax expected Level 1-10 to take roughly 1 year and for progression to significantly slow down thereafter.
WotC in 3e expected Level 1-20 to take roughly 2 years.
WotC in 4e I've got no idea what they were thinking but it was a tough slog no matter how you look at it unless you extensively houseruled.
WotC in 5e expect 1-20 to take 1 year.

These guidelines (with the exception of 4th ed where I have no guidelines) seem to ring true for a lot of groups based on internet research that I've conducted. The only odd ball out is reports of AD&D being much slower than analysis of the adventures would indicate which I believe is due to the adventures being overly generous in gold that was handed out.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Okay, so the collective experience of 4E was that the advancement tables made for a noticeably slower levelling? (I wasn't aware; we've moved over to "you level when the DM says so" a long time ago*)

I mean, based on actual play experience - my only objection is that you can't conclude anything about "levels per hour played" based on xp ratings alone).

Other than that, very interesting work done. Thank you!


*) I hope you don't consider doing away with xp-based levelling "extensively houserul[ing]"? It's a houserule alright, but it certainly isn't "extensive" as in requiring a lot of rules language...
 

TerraDave

5ever
John, you seem quite confident in wherever you are getting this... but I will put my 2 coppers in regardless.

1E advancement is based on treasure. Monster XP could be tiny. There was no expectation of monsters per PC that you imply. It makes your basis of comparison problematic to say the least. I think some modules let you get a few levels a module with all the treasure found. There would be like 40 or so encounters in one of these things. (It is really amazing what they can pack in in like 32 pages). Using your rough approach, that is 20 or so encounter equivalents per level. Not all of which have to be fighting, BTW, but you will need to get most of them to find enough treasure.

However for a lot of 1E or 2E, nothing says that much treasure is there. And that was an optional rule for 2E. Those other categories don't compensate, not even, and are also optional. You needed thousands and thousands of extra XP. A lot of 1E and 2E games saw a lot of play at each level, and never got past levels 8-10.

3E was about 12-13 encounters, this was codified in the DMG (it was not in the older editions). However, for some groups it could play a lot slower, so could be slower then 1E or 2E, but you will see huge variation here. Again, very few games made it into high levels. But there are lots of reasons for that.

4E had 10 encounters per level. In terms of just ratio of monster XP to needed XP it was the highest. It could also play a bit faster then 3E (though that depends) and was more robust at higher levels (though you could argue it was less interesting.) I think you would see a wider level range in a average campaign.

I think one issue is you are doing this "per pc" math that does not fit any edition that well. I think its easier to think in terms of number of encounters, then maybe work back to the math.

I am also not sure where monster #s come in. Old modules were not single creature fight after single creature fight. You could have dozens or hundreds of monsters in these things. (But the XP was still coming from the GP).
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Okay, so the collective experience of 4E was that the advancement tables made for a noticeably slower levelling? (I wasn't aware; we've moved over to "you level when the DM says so" a long time ago*)
It was noticably slower for me, though not as much as the raw numbers might suggest.

I mean, based on actual play experience - my only objection is that you can't conclude anything about "levels per hour played" based on xp ratings alone).
There's a rough approximation you might do - 4e was VERY tightly scheduled so that combat would take about an hour, each 4-hour session would thus have 3-4 combats in it, and with 1 session/week, you'd be leveling about once a month (3-4 weeks). One of the truly remarkable things about 4e's design was how it REALLY paid attention to play time and how that translated into levelling and the rate at which they wanted the game experience to change.

3e wasn't so tight (actual combat speed varied quite a bit more), but it was close, and its target was about 1 level/month, too.

Before 3e, I think the variance was quite a bit wider.

In 5e, I think we've got a wider variance, but not so wide as Old School. Combat speed seems pretty consistent, in line with 4e's tight design, but much faster. The intent seems to be to play through 1 adventuring day (6-8 encounters) in each session, which would fit with the overall vibe of 5e's combats being about two per 4e encounter.

It'd be interesting to see how many adventuring days it takes to get to each level in 5e. Because those use adjusted XP and not actual XP, though, things might get a little knotty - a day with 6 Medium encounters is a different XP total than a day with 3 Hard encounters. I bet there's some standardization WotC used - I'd be interested in learning it!
 

Magil

Visitor
HOWEVER here is a potential flaw. I'm using the "standard" monster XP progression for 4th ed. 3.5e I used "same CR" to work out how many monsters needed to be defeated. Is a CR 1 3.5e monster = Level 1 Standard 4th ed monster? Or is a CR 1 3.5e monster = Level 1 Solo 4th ed monster? That could explain the surprising result.
I suspect 5E CR1 = 4E Level 1 Solo (or 4 regular monsters) is a better equivalent. A level 1 monster in 4E does not translate into CR1 in other editions. A "moderately challenging" encounter in 4E is supposed to be one equal level monster per PC, and as I understand CR, a CR X creature is supposed to be a "moderately challenging" encounter for a level X party. In both cases, "moderately challenging" means that, assuming a roughly fair fight where neither side has surprise or some significant advantage, the PCs are expected to win but do so by spending some limited resources (whether it's spell slots, hit dice, healing surges, or whatever else).
 
Looking at how much XP you got for "encounters" or "monsters" across the editions, I thought it interesting to translate those XP advancement tables to 5th edition. Here's the guidelines I've used:
  • AD&D (1e and 2e): roughly assumed each PC fought 3.33 "at level" monsters per level until around level 7 and 8 at which time it assumed you fought 6.66 "at-level" monsters per level.


  • That's not right at all. IIRC an orc in 2nd edition would grant you 7 XP. A thief needed to either kill 178 orcs, or steal a lot of treasure (thieves got XP for stealing treasure, off the individual class XP award table) in order to hit 1250 XP and second level. A fighter needed to kill 19 orcs (he got 107 XP per orc, 7 XP for the orc + 100 XP off the fighter individual XP award). A wizard mostly needed to cast a bunch of spells, but if he were killing orcs with a crossbow or something he needed to kill 357 orcs in order to hit second level.

    If your input assumptions are wrong, your analysis cannot be correct. I controvert your assumptions for AD&D2--so your conclusions are probably invalid for AD&D (2nd edition).

    By my math above, since orcs are 100 XP in 5E instead of 7, an AD&D2-ized 5E thief needs somewhere between 0 and 17,800 XP to hit second level; a wizard needs between 0 and 35,700 XP; and a fighter needs 1900 XP.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
AD&D had nop assumptions about on level monsters and you had to kill around 200 Kobolds to level up (vs 12 in 5E).

Without optional rules 2E was about the slowest levelling version of D&D ever. With optional rules thieves could level very very quickly (200xp per use of a thief skill IIRC).

BECMI/1E you levelled a little bit slower than 3.5 if you played the adventures which had copious amounts of treasure in them. Homebrew and stingy DMs you would level around the same speed as 2E. Playing 1.5 hours a week in BECMI in the school year in 1994 (30 sessions total probably) we hit level 4 as the DM was not giving xp for treasure.

The fastest we leveled in 2E was a Spelljammer game over summer holidays 95/96. 2-3 months with 10 hour + sessions almost daily games and a bit monty haul but the PCs were also clearing out entire ships of beholders/illithids and the like which also got a lot of treasure including random treasure where you could roll a book or whatever that gave you a level. One PC made it to level 19 another got to level 14/14 or so as a Fighter/Cleric. When the DM (me) is the eldest at age 17 and the other players are 15-17 years old it was a bit monty haul.
 

ccs

40th lv DM
That's not right at all. IIRC an orc in 2nd edition would grant you 7 XP. A thief needed to either kill 178 orcs, or steal a lot of treasure (thieves got XP for stealing treasure, off the individual class XP award table) in order to hit 1250 XP and second level. A fighter needed to kill 19 orcs (he got 107 XP per orc, 7 XP for the orc + 100 XP off the fighter individual XP award). A wizard mostly needed to cast a bunch of spells, but if he were killing orcs with a crossbow or something he needed to kill 357 orcs in order to hit second level.
And an orc (HD=1d8) in 1e granted 10xp+1xp per HP. For a max of 18xp.
If our thief were trying to hit lv.2 solely by orc slaying in 1e he'd need to kill 15.79545455 of them (assuming he qualified for the +10%xp bonus for having high stats) (2nd lv = 1251xp for 1e thieves)
He'd need slightly more without the stat bonus. And if he were multi-classed he'd need double or triple - so 32-64 orcs:)
And it goes up each lv.
No matter what, that's a lot more than 3.333/6.666 creatures per lv.
And that's the # of orcs needed for ONE character, with the fastest advancement chart, to reach lv.2

But that ignores that the bulk of xp gained in 1e came not from killing monsters, but from treasure. 1GP value = 1xp.
 

mellored

Explorer
If you doubled everyone's hit points, hit dice, spell slots, ki, action surges, second wind, rages, ect... you could face triple the number of monsters. Which is more or less what 4e did.

It was designed closer to diablo, where you could crush monster after monster.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
If you doubled everyone's hit points, hit dice, spell slots, ki, action surges, second wind, rages, ect... you could face triple the number of monsters. Which is more or less what 4e did.

It was designed closer to diablo, where you could crush monster after monster.
I agree that you can kill many more monsters in 4e without resting than any other edition. But just the other day I watched my son kill about 200 demons with a giant red laser in Diablo III in the time it would take me to finish my turn in 4e; it's multiple orders of magnitude different than any version of D&D. Saying 4e is more like Diablo is like saying compared to your charcoal grill, your electric grill is a lot more like the sun. :)
 

GX.Sigma

Visitor
I don't get your conclusion "4th ed is the slowest progression of all". Don't you burn through much more monsters in that edition?
Okay, so the collective experience of 4E was that the advancement tables made for a noticeably slower levelling? (I wasn't aware; we've moved over to "you level when the DM says so" a long time ago*)

I mean, based on actual play experience - my only objection is that you can't conclude anything about "levels per hour played" based on xp ratings alone).
Anecdotal: 4e has the slowest progression of any game I've played. (No, not "edition of D&D" or "tabletop RPG," but "game.")

In 5e, for example, encounters often go like this:

DM: "You see 20 goblins approaching."
Player: "I cast Fireball!"

That's it. Flawless victory. 1000 XP.

In 4e, each battle (1 monster per player) takes an hour or more. The game is designed so that each level lasts 10 encounters. Therefore, each level takes at least 10 hours of gameplay, assuming you're doing nothing but back-to-back combat. And with my group, each fight started taking 3+ hours by the time we were level 10. That's when I quit that group. Since then, I've run two full 5e campaigns (1-15) in a row, and got halfway through a third one, in about the same time.
 
One thing I like about 5e is that, even as it captures the feel of the classic game, it neatly inverts the speed at which you leveled.

In AD&D, the 'sweet spot' started at 3rd level and ended by double-digits. Between the kinds of monsters you could expect to fight and treasures they'd likely have at the various levels, and the weighting of the exp charts, 1st level could be an interminable grind, especially if you had to replace dead PCs, and the next couple of levels not a lot better. Then, just as the game started getting playable, you'd start blowing through levels as you could take on more, juicier-exp monsters and get bigger treasures, up until 'name level,' when you'd slow to a crawl again as the chart ballooned into 6-figure exp targets... just as the game started to fall apart.

5e neatly evokes the classic sweet spot, the perilous nature of 1st level, the heroic/capable but still easily challenged mid levels, and the over the top, potentially boring high levels. But, it intentionally has you zip through 1st level in as little as one adventuring 'day' (which you just might be able to get through in a longish session), through the rest of apprentice tier almost as quickly, putting you in the Sweet Spot ASAP, then slowing down to let you savour the good bits, before speeding up again and racing to PC retirement before you can get too crushingly bored with your high-level uber-PCs.

As to the OP's chart, I can't imagine what kind of statistical contortions it required to compare such disparate exp systems, but they certainly don't match up to 'reality' IMX.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Like everyone else, this is only my anecdotal experience, but AD&D was my preferred edition from 1981 to 2012. In my experience, I look at it like this. What level ranges did I spend the majority of my game time.

In AD&D, that was level 1-5 or 6. By the time we got to level 9 or 10, it was after long campaigns and they retired.
In 3e, the level range was 5-13. We got to those low to mid levels pretty quickly, and leveling didn't really slow down.
With 5e, it's about 5-11. One of the fastest leveling versions I've played. Largely because of the level after every scenario/chapter model they have going. There is no slowdown. Contrasted to AD&D, where we retired our characters at name level (9th level), we don't do the same in 5e until we're about level 15 or so.
 
And an orc (HD=1d8) in 1e granted 10xp+1xp per HP. For a max of 18xp.
If our thief were trying to hit lv.2 solely by orc slaying in 1e he'd need to kill 15.79545455 of them (assuming he qualified for the +10%xp bonus for having high stats) (2nd lv = 1251xp for 1e thieves)
When I do the math I get 64 18 XP orcs needed, not 15. 64 x 18 x 110% = 1267.2 XP, enough to hit level 2.

Anyway, as you said, clearly it's not 3 orcs per level, it's way more than that. Just interesting that everyone seems to be erring the math on this subject.
 
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I suspect 5E CR1 = 4E Level 1 Solo (or 4 regular monsters) is a better equivalent. A level 1 monster in 4E does not translate into CR1 in other editions. A "moderately challenging" encounter in 4E is supposed to be one equal level monster per PC, and as I understand CR, a CR X creature is supposed to be a "moderately challenging" encounter for a level X party. In both cases, "moderately challenging" means that, assuming a roughly fair fight where neither side has surprise or some significant advantage, the PCs are expected to win but do so by spending some limited resources (whether it's spell slots, hit dice, healing surges, or whatever else).
This.

3rd edition only required about 3.3 monsters per PC to level, but each of those monsters was an average encounter unto itself, requiring 13.3 encounters for the assumed 4 person party.

Conversely, while 4th required each PC to slay 10 monsters per level, the average assumption was one monster per PC each encounter, resulting in only 10 encounters per level.

Of course, that doesn't take into account how long each encounter takes to play. I'd say that 5th has both editions beat in that regard, hands down. 4e encounters could easily take an hour at any level, and by high levels 3rd was much the same in my experience. In stark contrast, the players in my 5e campaign just hit 19th level last session, and even at such high levels deadly encounters probably take an average of 30 minutes to resolve.

5e definitely feels like the fastest leveling edition to me. My campaign has been running for almost a year now, every other week, for roughly 4-6 hour sessions, and they're on the cusp of 20th level. Full disclosure, I do reward extra XP for good roleplaying and clever ideas, but I've been doing that in every edition since 2nd so it arguably evens out.
 

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