Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Doing It Wrong!

The pace at which my AD&D players are gaining experience is unbelievably slow. As the DM, it is my responsibility to rectify this situation. So far, I've been awarding 100 experience at the end of the evening for showing up and for entertaining play. (And thus far the play has been quite entertaining, especially the player who is playing his fighter's 6 intelligence to the hilt) I do the awards for monetary treasure extracted from a dungeon or other location, and for any non-money treasure sold. I also assign the usual experience for monsters bested... and still it seems paltry. There isn't a lot of combat because the characters are smart about their capabilities and don't push on if they've been badly hurt. I even award an extra 50% on gold spent on "wine, women, and song."

I think I need to give it one more session. There are a few larger treasures sprinkled around my setting that the characters could come to possess if they play their cards right. I'll say no more, as I know at least three of them have read this blog before, and one of them seems to read it regularly.

Perhaps I need to start giving more bonuses for clever ideas, or for the ingenious use of spells or tactics... but I was always of the mind that a well executed plan rewarded the players by allowing them to accomplish their goals more easily.

I've got to think about this.


  1. Perhaps 50% of what a combatant would be worth if defeated, but for avoiding the contact (by being smart)?

  2. I would be almost tempted to give them more... I do like this idea. It is especially appropriate for the thief and fighter/thief in the party.

  3. The quickest way to up the experience gained is to increase the treasure/loot available. If you're worried that the PC's income will get out of hand, you can always tax the hell out of it (or require them to spend it on training, upkeep, and expenses) when they're back in town.

    Portable treasure (gems, jewelry, etc.) is easy to stuff in pockets or belt pouches...try sprinkling some of this in with coin piles and money boxes.

    Monster XP in AD&D was always fairly paltry (though some hordes could add us with all those XP per hit point), compared to treasure. Treasure is the way XP gets awarded for overcoming traps, tricks, and monsters (whether in combat, cunning, deceit, or negotiation). If you're players are doing well, give them a REAL reward: more treasure!
    : )

  4. I'd go to K&K and take a look at some of the related discussions there.

    I had a similar problem. Although the players were having combats aplenty, they were gaining XP very slowly - splitting results 8 ways is tough. I even award the old OD&D 100XP per HD method and it's still slow. Then I was told that 75% of XP should be treasure, 25% should be monsters - which gave me a better metric.

    I don't award for quests or RP, although I do give 1XP for the "Line of the Game" (usually something very funny).

    (Funny, my word verification is 'exper')

  5. This is something I've been dickering with, too. I'm going to UP the XP award for gold to 3XP per GP. This should allow a decent rate of advance without requiring mountains of gold.

    Though I haven't tried it, I'm also a bit fond of the "extra XP for gold spent on carousing" ideas.

  6. Add a treasure map with some real treasure at the end. Let them avoid combat and find the treasure. Instant XP, a different kind of adventure, etc. It is sometimes said that old school depends on players picking their fights. But you need rumors of big loot and treasure maps to help them find it. Can't make smart decisions without information, after all.

  7. In my AD&D 1st ed. I evolved into awarding experience based almost entirely on my own whims. I got tired some time in the late 80's doing all the number crunching based on what monsters were worth. And the question of experience for smartly avoiding encounters would come up a lot.

    So I jot down notes on things characters are doing as the session goes along. Combat, theiving, spell-casting, whatever. I also award a points for fighting to those who did the most of it.

    Later, while pondering the game, I add in experience for exceptional role-play, staying in character, and entertaining me in general.

    Plus I like to give a little extra for being a trouble-free, non-pain in the ass player that evening.

    OH, I also ask players to write in the trip ticket how much exp. they need for the next level. I adjust the experience logged a bit depending on that.

    I guess the short way of saying all the above is "I make it up as I go along."

  8. I generally agree with Brunomac on a system based on game play and the whim of the GM. Reading through the rest of the comments, I am fairly opposed to using treasure to advance the characters. What did they do to advance their skills and abilities by picking up a bag of gold? What makes more sense to me is attach xp values to getting to the treasure. Okay, perhaps if the treasure is calibrated to the difficulty, the current system will work there.

    My other thought is to reward the total creature xp to each player that participated in the battle. This would include anyone who did healing after the fact or battle planning ahead of time. That would speed up the entire process some what.

  9. @Post - the difference is in what the game was emphasizing. Older editions were about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in order to gain loot - a much more pulpy S&S feel. The XP rewards reflected that philosophy. Later versions have been more oriented to superheroic/story-driven games, therefore the XP mechanics support that.

    "What did they do to advance their skills and abilities by picking up a bag of gold? What makes more sense to me is attach xp values to getting to the treasure. Okay, perhaps if the treasure is calibrated to the difficulty, the current system will work there."

    The skill of survival - older editions could be very deadly - and the skill of surviving the underworld was to gain the gold. The endgame of OED&D, strongholds and land ownership and rule over armies, required gold and experienced people to do such things.

  10. Thanks for all the comments, everyone... you input is welcome. Some thoughts:

    JB- I'm starting to come around to the idea that the majority of xp should come from treasure, which itself is the hallmark of a successful adventure. (In theory, anyway) If you think about it, the source material of rpgs, and the character of other media typically do not seek out monsters to fight because they know it will make them better warriors or whatever. My only concern is the sheer amount of gold I'll have to give out, given the party of six. If they find 1,200 gp, which I believe is quite a haul for 1st level characters, everyone gets a mere 200, which is 10% or less what half the characters in the group need for 2nd level. I would, in fact, have to tax the living daylights out of them. The characters have already grudgingly solicited the services of a jeweler to cash in some of their gains. Unfortunately, the usually glib elven fighter/thief was unable to bypass the 10% fee. >: )

    Chgowiz- I will have to check that out. I had heard of the OD&D 100/HD formula, but the oldest version of D&D I have (not including retro clones of older versions) is the Cyclopedia, where each monsters has a given xp value that seems to have been determined arbitrarily. I thought it was 100/HD with 75 per "asterisk" (denoting special attacks or defenses) which adds up with a specter (6 HD, energy drain, immunity to normal weapons) but falls flat with the snake entries on the previous page. (The sea snake has 3 HD and poison and is worth a mere 50 xp.)

    Lord Kilgore- I'm looking at 2 xp/gp. What made you settle on 3?

    Alex- I have provided some rumors of treasure, including an NPC who seemed to have actually found some of this rumored treasure. I think a map might be a good idea, but I'm certainly not going to give it away. :) Even if there is no combat, there will be something that keeps the treasure from being taken easily.

    Brunomac- I have been handing out a little ad hoc xp, but I'm kind of fussy about these things and feel the need for something consistent. That being said, I do think I need to be a little more generous with the ad hoc/non-RAW experience, but this is not to say that in the end I won't just throw my hands up in the air and wave them like I just don't care, which is to say, to go with a mostly on-the-fly system. I've found that no matter what you do in the manner of standardized xp, someone always feels shafted.

    Street- The 1st edition DMG actually addresses your beef with gold granting experience. The book makes no apologies about the highly arbitrary nature of gold to xp, but posits that most of the activities that actually would advance a character's abilities would occur during downtime between adventures. I think we have to interpret this as gold=successful adventure=advancement as an adventurer. I'm not going to throw out experience for treasure since I consider it as one of the core conceits of the older editions. I believe gold granted experience until AD&D 2nd edition (though thieves and bards still got some for it) I remember some confusion among my friends when we first started gaming, because back then D&D and AD&D2 were being published simultaneously, and while you still received xp for gold in D&D, you did not in AD&D2.
    On the monster front, I think that two characters who battle an ogre should receive more of a reward than eight characters and their six NPC henchmen fighting that same ogre. (Just for an extreme example)

    (A note: Street is one of the players participating in my AD&D campaign.)