Thursday, June 25, 2009

Experience: Let's Get Down To Business (I'm Doing It Wrong Part II)

After some thought, discussion with one of my players, and some good comments on my previous posts, (Thanks, guys!) it is time to begin tinkering with the experience system of AD&D.

First of all, I have to get this out of the way: any experience system I establish is going to be just as arbitrary as the one set down in the rules as written. You get experience for finding/stealing gold. Acquiring more money makes you a better magic-user or assassin or whatever. Combat makes you a better cleric. The DMG even acknowledges the relative absurdity of this system, but Ol' Man Gary does make a good point: a game about people who read spell books and pick pockets in the market square all day is kind of boring. With that being said...

I've heard a lot of good ideas so far, including these:

-More experience for gold. I like this idea because it eliminates the need for me to give away piles and piles of gold. Yes, I know I can tax, tithe, duty, etc. until they are broke, but clever players will circumvent this, and I don't want the entire campaign to become an adversarial contest wherein I am always trying to steal their Frosted Lucky Charms. Also,in AD&D there isn't a whole lot to buy... one cannot simply walk into Magic Sword Emporium and get a custom flaming troll bane longsword +2 and sink 30,000 gold into it. I'm currently considering how much to change it to... I'm thinking two or three at the moment.

-Experience awarded for money spent on carousing. This is an idea that has been making the blog rounds lately, and I'm in favor of it. It bleeds excess gold and it makes the characters seem more like the lovable mercenary scum that they essentially are. (I say that with the greatest of affection, by the by) One of my players called this a double dip, but I think that gold spent on carousing is gold that is not spent elsewhere, so fair play. I'm currently awarding 50% of gp value in bonus xp. It's not a lot, but it is a start.

-Experience awarded for slain monsters even if the party flees the encounter. We do learn from our failures. Typically, IIRC, running from an encounter nets zilch.

-Experience for gold spent in the pursuit of class related things. For instance, a cleric's donations to a temple, or a magic-user spending gold on magical research. I'm not entirely sure about this one...what would a druid do, for instance? The idea for this came from the party cleric, whose deity does not permit its priest to consume alcohol or drugs. (This preventing him from taking advantage of the carousing bonus) Really, this plus carousing just means that you can spend gold to gain xp, which is in fact a double dip. (Aside from the opportunity cost, but again, there isn't really that much to buy in AD&D, unless you're saving up for your 9th level stronghold)

Another approach I am considering is class based bonus awards a la AD&D2. I'm fiddling with the exact values. This is something I tried to do back when I played 3rd edition, but I could never come up with a system that didn't leave at least one player feeling like they got the shaft.

...of course, Brunomac commented that he mostly just gives experience according to whim, and one of my players suggested that I dispense with any formalized system and just ad hoc everything, but... I like everyone at my table to at least know that I do have some methodology for awarding experience. I consider myself a fair DM and I want all my players to feel that I'm treating everyone fairly. Fair is fair of course; when my players do something like split up in a cemetery full of ghouls (*cough*lastTuesdaycough*), I'm going to let the dice fall where they may. I digress...

I'm scribbling a table of possible class based awards in my notebook, and will post them when I've arrived at something I am satisfied with. Here's a very rough outline. Note that the values are not fixed yet:

*Fighters and Fighter Sub-classes: Fighters gain 10 xp per hit die worth of monsters bested in battle. The sub-classes gain 5 xp per hit die, but will have opportunity to gain xp from effective use of their special abilities. (Tracking, laying on of hands, etc.) Still working on sub-class specifics

*Thieves and Thief sub-classes: Double experience for gold obtained by plying their trade: thieves would get a double bonus for picking a locked chest or filching a gemstone. Assassins would get the bonus for payment from "services rendered," and so forth. More specific awards might be in order, particularly for spell casting for bards and use of special abilities by the various theifly types.

*Magic-Users and Illusionists: Experience for using spells in battle or to accomplish a goal: 100/xp per spell level used. Note that only spells cast with a specific purpose will net an award: casting detect magic on your room at the inn probably isn't going to net you anything. Experience will be awarded for devising a new spell or creating a magical item, but I won't worry about that until a character begins to near the level where this is possible.

*Clerics and Druids: Kind of stuck here. I was thinking about giving them the same spell casting bonuses as magic-users, plus perhaps a bonus related to the use of special abilities. (For turning undead, etc.)

Again, I stress that there is no realistic form of awarding experience. A magic-user gains experience for fighting in a combat where he doesn't cast a single spell. A holy man gets experience for bashing a bandit's face in with a warhammer. A "realistic" experience point system probably wouldn't leave much room for adventuring. If you wanted to look at it that way, a magic-user is probably going to get the most "experience" doing spell research, mixing potions, etc. An adventuring wizard might gain more survival experience and general worldliness, but a wizard who stays in the tower/lab is going to be a better spell caster. I'm not sure how I feel about experience for following the tenants of one's deity... that would definitely have to be examined on a deity-by-deity basis. Also, per my previous post on clerics, I think that such a system might discourage players from selecting what is already one of the classes that everyone seems reluctant to play.

I'll start playing around with the values and see if anything jumps out at me.


  1. All neat ideas, but I'm concerned for you as GM, that it will dramatically increase your workload and bookkeeping.

    Perhaps if you take a step back and look at what the end result of your Class-based rewards are meant to accomplish you can shave-off a few steps and lighten the paperwork.

    Perhaps something like:

    PC Level x 500 XP per session, plus

    * Fighter +10% overall
    ** Sub-class +5% "

    Technical Skill Use (inc. SpecAbil.)-
    * Thief +10% overall if they played a part in advancing the Party's adventuring, or if a side-action was particularly daring.
    ** Assassin +5% "

    Spell Casters-
    * Cleric or MU +10% overall if they meaningfully cast spells to further the Party's goals, or their own/god's in a particularly cool way.
    ** Illusionists and Specialists of other sorts (Deathmaster, etc.) "

    Using a Percentage increase requires less math and less bookkeeping, and also requires les micromanaging for the same end result.

    I'm just looking out for ya' :D

  2. Well, I do appreciate it, ma'am. I have a tendency to over complicate things.

    So, you are basically suggesting a flat rate of experience gain with a 10% bonus for basically acting according to class, yes? Would this replace the experience gained normally for treasure and combat?

  3. Ryan,

    Don't we all? :)

    No, in addition to-.

  4. Under my draft Labyrinth Lord house rules players can opt to earn some extra XPs by carousing. At the beginning of a session if a PC is hanging around Ye Olde Village Inne with nothing better to do, they can roll 1d6 and spend 100gp times the roll on spreading their religion/pious acts. The character gains experience equal to the gold spent. The d6 x 100 standard applies to villages only. A PC could travel to a town or city and debauch much more efficiently. Towns are worth d8 x 150 gp/xp and cities d10 x 200. The city of Hautville is worth d12 x 250 owing to its extreme wickedness. Evangelising occurs at the beginning of a session and normally only characters that ended their last adventure in a town or city can take advantage of the bigger dice and higher standard of other people living sinfully. Clerics who are members of the local church can spend 50gp more per pip if they so desire, while their friends can spend 25gp extra. Being mobbed up gets you first crack at the really good converts, etc.

    If the die roll is equal to or less than the character’s level, the result is a rousing good time and no harm done. Rolling above the character’s level indicates things got out of hand one way or another and the poor sucker must roll d20 and consult the chart below. If a character cannot afford the Evangelising they have rolled, they also must consult the chart and they only gain XP equal to half their money (though all the money is spent). Fellow PCs can chip in to cover a character’s donation tab, but henchmen only do so to avoid the imprisonment of the PC and then only if a loyalty check is successful.

  5. Evangelising Mishaps

    1) Make a fool of yourself in public. Gain no XP. Roll Charisma check or gain reputation in this town as a haranguing fanatic.
    2) Involved in random brawl. Roll Strength check or start adventure d3 hit points short.
    3) Minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll Charisma check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 25gp. Failure or (inability to pay fine) indicates d6 days in the pokey.
    4) Romantic entanglement. Roll Wisdom check to avoid nuptials. Otherwise 1-3 scorned lover, 4-6 angered parents.
    5) Donation losses. Roll the dice as if you evangelised again to see how much you lose. (No additional XP for the second evangelising roll.)
    6) Gain local reputation as the life of a party. Unless a Charisma check is failed, all future evangelising in this burg costs double due to converts and other wellwishers.
    7) Insult local person of rank. A successful Charisma check indicates the personage is amenable to some sort of apology and reparations.
    8) You help poor disease ridden peasants. Roll Constitution check to avoid disease.
    9) New relic. 1-3 it’s actually pretty cool 4 it’s lame 5 it could have been badass, but something is goofed up or misspelled 6 it is an out and out fake and any expert who sees it will look down on you.
    10) Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.
    11) Donation binge. Lose all your gold, gems, jewelry. Roll Wisdom check for each magic item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.
    12) Exhausted from your good deeds. First day of adventuring is at -2 to-hit and saves. Casters must roll Int check with each spell to avoid mishap.
    13) Target of conversion turns out to be a witch. Save versus polymorph or you’re literally a swine.
    14) One of us! One of us! You’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve been initiated into some sort of secret society or weird cult. Did you really make out with an emu of was that just the drugs? Roll Int check to remember the signs and passes.
    15) Invest all your spare cash (50% chance all gems and jewelry, too) in some smooth-tongued merchant’s scheme. 1-4 it’s bogus 5 it’s bogus and Johnny Law thinks you’re in on it 6 actual money making opportunity returns d% profits in 3d4 months.
    16) Donate all items and clothing carried to local temple not devoted to your diety to show superior piety of your faith. 1-3 the clerics are majorly pissed off 4-6 they smile and thank you for stopping by.
    17) Major misunderstanding with local authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling d6 x 1,000gp paid. All weapons, armor, and magic items confiscated.
    18) Despite your best efforts, you fall head over heels for your latest dalliance. 75% chance your beloved is already married.
    19) When praying before bed you asked your god(s) to help out some poor shmoe. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving their sorry ass, you’re under the effects of a quest spell.
    20) The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire! Accidentally start a conflagration. Roll d6 twice. 1-2 burn down your favorite church 3-4 some other place of worship is reduced to ash 5-6 a big chunk of town goes up in smoke. 1-2 no one knows it was you 3-4 your fellow worshipers know you did it 5 someone else knows, perhaps a blackmailer 6 everybody knows.