Tuesday, July 8, 2008

OD&D: Awarding Experience

I’ve subscribed to the OD&D rules of 100 XP per HD of slain monsters. I am, of course, using the 1 XP per GP rule (this is what we did in AD&D for all of those years, and it promotes the fact that treasure should be sought out by any means possible, even if it entails avoiding monsters who might possibly KILL you).

The 100 XP per HD OD&D system actually evens out at higher levels, when slaying a 10 HD Dragon only yields 1,000 XP. Under those rules, that monstrosity could easily kill an entire party of 10th Level PC’s, and the reward is miniscule. It’s cash reward, though, might be worth ten times that. Fitting in my opinion. Look at a Vampire in AD&D. The average Vampire in AD&D yields 4,268 XP. In OD&D, a Vampire yields…800 XP. It encourages players to actually AVOID a Vampire. Who in their right mind wants to face a foe that can drain two full levels of experience from you in a single hit?

There’s nothing inherently *wrong* with the OD&D rules. When I say the OD&D method of 100 XP per HD, I am referring to the original Vol. I-III set up. Gary Gygax, in Supplement I, Greyhawk, refuted the original system as ‘ridiculous’, and set forth the model for what would become the AD&D experience system. So, if you play OD&D, you either using the proto-AD&D Greyhawk experience system; or the one I use.

One of the reasons I enjoy the original experience system is it’s ease of use. For the majority of the first session, there were 10 characters. Talk about a simple system. “OK, you dispatched 11 Zombies,” I mighty say after a melee encounter, “That’s worth 1,100 experience, or 110 points each.” After a character death, we had to engage in actual math, dividing everything by nine. Still, it seems so simple.

There's no complex system for Base XP, XP per HP, XP for Special Abilities nor XP for Exceptional Abilities. Might some monsters be a bit more powerful but yield that same flat 100 XP per HD amount? Yes. Look at a handful of the OD&D 4 HD monsters; Ogre, Wraith, Medusa, Gargoyle. Should all four of these monsters yield the same amount of experience? If played properly I'm of the opinion that each is powerful in it's own right, but there's no doubt that the Medusa could crash a party fairly easily, let alone the Wraith with it's defense and special attack. If one adopts the OD&D method, one must accept that certain monsters pack more lethality per XP than others. It might be a good idea for adventurers to avoid or retreat and regroup when faced with the lethal monsters. After all, it's the treasure the characters should be after in the first place.

The OD&D system will clearly promote faster advancement to Levels 2 and 3, but as noted above, the Greyhawk/AD&D method and the OD&D method equal out somewhere along the way to level 6, and from that point on, OD&D advancement is downright slow.

Another quirk which always bothered me with AD&D was the 'and one' experience tables. I attribute this to an error in editing. In OD&D, the experience amounts were expressed in such a way to show how much experience was needed for the levels, while in AD&D, experience point ranges were given on tables. Thus, a second level Cleric in OD&D needs 3,000 XP to advance to third level; while in AD&D, that same Cleric needs 3,001. Yep, 'and one'. It's on all of the AD&D tables, and I always found it annoying.

While none of the characters earned enough experience to reach second level, I am mulling around the idea of doing away with “training”, and allowing characters to advance in level mid adventure. I’ll have to revise my Cost of Living rules, and also reconsider how cash and items yield experience.

I can fine tune the experience rules as the campaign progresses, and if I end up agreeing with Gary that the 100 XP per HD method is unbalanced, I can address it then. I think the players will enjoy surviving the trials and tribulations of first level, and reaching second level after slaying 200 Orcs or Zombies, instead of 2,000 of them. This of course discounts experience from treasure, but so far they’ve only looted a single treasure trove. Said trove was in the 500 gold piece value range, that’s only 50 XP per man so far from treasure.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Anonymous said...

I use 100 xp per HD plus 100 xp per significant combat ability. A 1 HD spider with a save or die poison would be worth 200 XP.

- Zulgyan

Sham aka Dave said...

I guess I'm a cruel referee. The two Giant Spiders encountered by the party in session one yielded 100 XP each. Perhaps a save or die or life drain power might be worth the 100 per HD bonus.

For now, times are tough, and the monsters are tougher. If you want some second level characters, you'll have to take the good with the bad.

This, as with all things OD&D and Solstice related, could change at anytime, though. :-)

Jeff Rients said...

I like the 100xp per hit die rule. It's dirt simple, favors the poor low level punks over the high level elites, and it actively encourages players to think about whether a given conflict is worth the effort. Knowing a wraith is worth no more points than an ogre ought to make some players think twice.

Sham aka Dave said...

Aye, this echoes my own feelings, and is why I am happily using this simple method.

Philotomy said...

I, too, use this rule. The only "danger" is making wandering monsters valuable for their XP, which goes against the normal use for wandering monsters (i.e. they deplete your resources for little or no gain). So far, I've haven't found it to be a big problem, though.

Also, it helps that OD&D parties tend to be large, with men-at-arms, henchmen, et cetera. that help distribute all that XP! ;)

Sham aka Dave said...

Yes indeed, Philotomy. I know as soon as the player characters gather some gold they'll be hiring some Men-At-Arms. Probably Kobold ones, at that.

It's probably best that I had a couple no-shows and one cancellation for session one, since the party was around 10 all night. I was looking at 18 characters at first!

The 99th Problem said...

I use the default rule, as it seems to shorten the length of time PCs spend at the "fragile" levels and extend the length of time they spend at the "fun" levels. I've only been playing OD&D a short time, but I like the default rule very much so far.

If most of the wandering monsters are vermin or assorted goops with irritating abilities like poison, disease, or armor corrosion, that mitigates the "xp's on the hoof" issue and restores them to their rightful place as resource drains and potentially deadly nuisances.

cr0m said...

Re: Philotomy's comment about wandering monsters.

You could always rule that wandering monsters are worth 1/10 normal xp, or even nothing.