Monday, December 28, 2009

Playing With Experience Part I - Simplifying

Some months ago, I posted on the Heresy of Uniform Level Progression and followed that up with five, off-the-cuff ways to avoid counting experience points by using that style of advancement. Although I incorporated Uniform Progression into Under the Dying Sun, I didn’t heed my own advice on simplifying xp counting. So far, I’ve been working under the idea of standard xp accumulation as per the Spellcraft & Swordplay core rules. But I’m beginning to rethink that. Not because there is anything wrong with those rules--there isn’t. But, as I said in my earlier posts, as a Referee, I kind of hate counting up experience points.

So I cast my mind back to the Matrix of this Old Game i.e. D&D Volume 1: Men and Monsters. And there I am reminded that the original rules had a much simpler system in re killing things: 100xp per Hit Die. Now that is simple. Sure, the Blessed Gygax would later renounce this system as too generous, but I’m not bound by that recantation. Plus, I don’t think it’s too much. A character in UtDS needs 2,000 to make 2nd level. That’s 20 HD of beasties if he works on his own.

Alert, imaginary readers will note that I have left treasure out of the equation. I do intend to give experience for treasure, but UtDS is a game about scarcity among other things. Wildmen of the Hills don’t carry sacks of coins on their persons and monsters of the desert don’t crouch on piles of gold and jewels. This is a metal-poor world where most commerce is handled by barter or by money whose value derives solely from the strength of a City’s tyrant. This is a setting where access to a well is a legitimate reward at the end of the session; after all, water is worth more than gold to a man in the desert. That’s not to say that there isn’t any treasure to be had, but I expect it to be far less common than in the default game of dungeon-delving. So that while I think that I’ll maintain the 1xp per coin standard, less experience will derive from that source.

The 100 xp per Hit Die partially makes up for the loss of treasure. But doesn’t that encourage a game of killing things and strive against the old-school idea of running away and stealing when you can? In part. But I have some more thoughts on that which will be revealed in the next installment.


  1. I've been using 100xp per HD in my Classic games, along with 1xp per 1gp. So far, the players haven't been gunning for monsters for the sweet xp, and they've just recently begun to realize how much treasure xp there is out there. For a standard D&D game that gets played about once a month, it seems to work.

    For a gold poor game, either xp for gold piece value of things like access to a well or some sweet junk that might be worth trading in the next settlement might make up for that. But if the lion's share of xp does come from monsters, then expect the players to start hunting.

  2. A) Have you read Jeff Rient's blog pot about xp for exploration? Very, very cool.

    B) There's some Dune vibes going on in today's post, I suggest experimenting with turning the Arrakis knob up to 11...

  3. @Lord Gwydion--I'm just starting here and hope that killing things won't be the best investment when I'm done.

    @Blair--Ooooo yeah. That was actually the genesis of this whole experience thing I'm plotting out now. See Part 2.

    If you mean the water-thing in re Dune, then I'm doing something right. I think that this game should be much more about basic survival than standard hex-crawls. In my play-test scenario, the entire objective is for the players to make it to a well in the center of a seemingly abandoned outpost in the wilderness.

    I probably ought to post up the current draft of the game, which makes this much clearer than the first draft did. Thanks for the continued interest.


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