Monday, January 4, 2016

XP: The Big Switch, Pt. 1

Experience awards from monsters saw a big switch between Original D&D (Vol-1) and the first Supplement (Sup-I, Greyhawk). In short, original Vol-1 implied a simple linear award of 100 xp per monster Hit Die, while Sup-I changed this to a geometric-like award, increasing cumulatively per Hit Die -- and this was the system maintained in later editions like AD&D, Holmes and Moldvay Basic D&D, etc.

Let's consider the details. The very first volume of Original D&D is famously cryptic, to say the least, about XP awards. This is what it says:
As characters meet monsters in mortal combat and defeat them, and when they obtain various forms of treasure (money, gems, jewelry, magical items, etc.), they gain "experience". This adds to their experience point total, gradually moving them upwards through the levels. Gains in experience points will be relative; thus an 8th level Magic-User operating on the 5th dungeon level would be awarded 5/8 experience. Let us assume he gains 7,000 Gold Pieces by defeating a troll (which is a 7th level monster, as it has over 6 hit dice). Had the monster been only a 5th level one experience would be awarded on a 5/8 basis as already stated, but as the monster guarding the treasure was a 7th level one experience would be awarded on a 7/8 basis thus; 7,000 G.P. + 700 for killing the troll = 7,700 divided by 8 = 962.5 x 7 = 6,037.5. Experience points are never awarded above a 1 for 1 basis, so even if a character defeats a higher level monster he will not receive experience points above the total of treasure combined with the monster's kill value. It is also recommended that no more experience points be awarded for any single adventure than will suffice to move the character upwards one level.

So the truth is, OD&D fails to give an explicit rule for XP, and the best we could do is make an interpretation of this one example of defeating a troll and taking its treasure. It appears that 1 GP of treasure is worth 1 XP (and of course this is familiar from all later editions). And it also appears that 1 HD of defeated monster is worth 100 XP (as per this troll whose 6+3 Hit Dice are assessed as being "7th level", i.e., 700 XP). Of course, even this brief passage manages to be self-contradictory: initially it says that the warlock on the 5th dungeon level should have XP scaled by 5/8; but then this is overruled a few sentences later, where defeating a creature of the 7th monster level scales XP by 7/8.

But then in Supplement-I, Gygax makes the great XP overhaul. He archly writes:
Guidelines for Awarding Experience Points for Monster Slaying: (Addition)
The awarding of experience points is often a matter of discussion, for the referee must make subjective judgments. Rather than the (ridiculous) 100 points per level for slain monsters, use the table below, dividing experience equally among all characters in the party involved. (Sup-I, p. 12)

Below I've recreated that table and a chart to visualize the new awards. Here I've converted Hit Dice such as "2+1" to a decimal fraction of 2.3 (granted original d6-based hit dice, a 1-pip adjustment is worth 1/3.5 ≈ 0.286 or about 0.3 of a full hit die). In the chart, base value XP are in blue, and added points for special abilities in orange:



This visualization clarifies something that's otherwise easy to miss. There's two separate sections to the Sup-I table that should be treated distinctly (what we'd call a "piecewise function" mathematically): the low-HD section up to about 9 HD, where there is a notable curve to the chart; and the high-HD section after that, where it's pretty obvious  that the progression becomes more like a straight line. Part of the reason that's easy to misinterpret is that the XP table apparently keeps adding larger numbers in the later rows, but since these rows span multiple Hit Dice, it actually works out being basically a constant addition per Hit Die (i.e., linear).

A few side notes: In D&D, this is the same arithmetic illusion as in the Saving Throw tables that make people think that Magic-Users are better at saves vs. spells than Fighters, for example, when on a level-for-level basis they're actually not. And mathematically, this serves as a good case study that one should visualize one's data first before blindly running statistical procedures on it (like regressions or correlations) -- something which I must admit due to time constraints I don't completely enforce in the statistics classes that I myself teach. 

Having noted the switch between the two parts of the XP table, let's make a best-fit model for each section:



We see from the "Low HD" chart that the increasing numbers that Gygax selected there are essentially parabolic; that is, a formula that looks like y = kx² accounts for better than 99% of the variation from the mean. The other thing we see is that the "Additional Points for Special Abilities" is, relatively speaking, not very far off from the "Base Value" of XP. Massaging the numbers above a bit, as we are fond of doing here, you could roughly compute the base value of XP as y = 10x² (where x is the number of hit dice), and the special ability award as about y = 9x² (or, to simplify matters completely, just add a like value as per the base XP award).

On the other hand, we note that in the "High HD" chart, a straight linear regression does indeed account for more than 99% of the variation from the mean in the base award, and over 96% of the variation from the mean for the special ability award. Again simplifying the numbers from the true regression, we could approximate the base XP award as about y = 120x − 400, and the special ability award as about y = 100x − 400.

Or, to make a significant observation that would provide an even greater simplification -- The numbers in the "High HD" part of the table are very nearly a simple 100 XP per Hit Die (e.g., 9 HD gives 900 XP, 11 HD gives 1100 XP, 20 HD gives 2000 XP, etc.). Exactly the same as the original Vol-1 rule! 

So we might interpret this observation as saying: The altered XP rules in OD&D Sup-I (and hence throughout later rulesets, like the entire B/X and AD&D lines) really only change things for lower-level monsters and PCs, i.e., those up to about 9 HD, greatly depressing the monster XP awards there -- while leaving awards at higher levels very nearly the same. Then the question we might ask is: Which approach is really better? More next time.

49 comments:

  1. So here's the question that immediately jumps to my mind: assuming that as monsters climb in HD, they will *usually* have special abilities commensurate with their challenge-level, is there an XP formula that we can use that doesn't require us to account for special abilities separately, but still reflects the more or less modal awards for monsters at those levels?

    Now I have an urge to go through the Appendix of the DMG and calculate the average XP award for monsters at each HD for all the listed monsters...

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    1. That's a good question. My current intuition is that might be a reasonable approach in OD&D, with the smaller monster list, which does act about as you say (higher level monsters correlate with more special abilities). But in later stuff like AD&D, with a larger and more variegated monster list, abilities don't track so neatly with level and this would break down. But even in OD&D you have to observe/handle the fact that Trolls are more dangerous than Hill Giants, as one example (e.g., compare point values in Chainmail for these types, etc.)

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  2. It's also worth noting that the XP requirements to gain a level follows the same pattern when graphed. Not sure if the lower level (ie: 1-9) actually come out parabolic or some other non-linear function, but above name level it's definitely linear. Is it possible Gary decided to change to XP for monsters to more or less match the XP required to level up?

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    1. The XP requirements for levels all start out as exponential functions based on powers of two - for example, the fighter requires 1000 * 2^(Current Level) XP to advance to the next level. For the fighter, this progression continues until name level, with only a slight variation in the middle, but other classes switch over to lesser (but still greater than linear) XP requirements earlier in their careers.

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    2. This is a good point, and it's possible that was all or part of the intention. If EGG was still with us, I'd definitely be asking him that exact question today (i.e., "Can you elaborate on why you thought that the original XP awards were 'ridiculous'?").

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  3. It seems to me like starting with Greyhawk, EGG had become significantly less enamored with granting XP for killing monsters - possibly he would have preferred to eliminate it altogether, but wasn't willing to go quite that far. To my mind, it seems like a precursor to the method of granting levels by DM fiat after the party completes a major quest or makes a significant accomplishment. It's just that in this case, the quest is the same each level - haul an exponentially increasing amount of treasure back to town.

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    1. That's certainly the end-result of this switch, but only for lower levels (at higher levels it remained effectively unchanged, as above).

      It's particularly interesting in this regard to note the switch in the other direction with 3E D&D, where XP is awarded only for monsters, and none for treasures by default. So that's an enormous change in game sensibilities. Is it still the same in 4E/5E, I wonder?

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    2. In 4E, the default system is that XP is awarded for overcoming obstacles - which may be monsters, traps, or skill challenges - or as quest rewards. At it's core, though, the system is equating other game elements to one or more monsters, so a particular hazard might be a "Level 6 Obstacle" that's worth the same amount of XP as a 6th-level monster, or a "Complexity 3 skill challenge" is worth as much XP as three monsters.

      5E is back to the 3.x standard of only providing XP values for monsters, and the DMG only mentions in passing the possibility of awarding XP for non-combat encounters.

      Neither one provides explicitly for Gold-As-XP.

      As for the XP per monster being relatively similar at high levels between LBB and Greyhawk, I don't dispute that, I just found it relatively insignificant. When you need 125k XP to level up, killing a monster worth 2k is nearly as trivial as the 10 XP that a 1st-level party gains for killing an orc.

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    3. Daniel, thanks for that info on 4E/5E. From my perspective, they both sound practically the same as 3E (e.g., the default was some monster encounter, but traps were also given equivalent encounter levels by default for XP purposes). Anyway, clearly nothing post-2E gave treasure XP as the default and largest component, which is another big switch indeed.

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    4. Even 2E didn't have it as the default. That was the edition my group was playing when I started DMing; before that I wasn't really aware of where XP came from and just accepted the awards the DM gave without question, as I hadn't read the DMG and the original AD&D Monster Manual didn't include XP values for the creatures, but I digress. What I was getting at is that in 2E, treasure XP was an optional rule; Zeb Cook was all about the story awards and role-playing awards. By default, those were supposed to account for the majority of XP earned.

      Unfortunately, the guidelines on meting out such awards were sparse and fiddly, so anecdotally I hear that a lot of people ignored them and either used treasure XP, or else only got XP from killing monsters and suffered from a glacial rate of advancement as a result.

      One interesting fact about 2E, though, is that they did streamline the monster XP quite a bit, as well as increasing it by a fraction at low and high levels. In the way of streamlining, each monster special ability simply counted as a certain number of bonus hit dice - so for example, a 6 HD creature with a breath weapon (+2) is considered an 8 HD for the purpose of experience awards. As far as increasing (as well as streamlining) the awards, here's the lowdown:

      Up to 1/2 HD - 7
      1-1 to 1 HD - 15
      1+1 to 2 HD - 35
      2+1 to 3 HD - 65
      3+1 to 4 HD - 120
      4+1 to 5 HD - 175
      5+1 to 6 HD - 270
      6+1 to 7 HD - 420
      7+1 to 8 HD - 650
      8+1 to 9 HD - 975
      9+1 to 10+ HD - 1,400
      11 to 12+ HD - 2,000
      13 or more HD - 3,000 + 1,000 per additional Hit Die over 13

      Getting rid of the per-HP experience and separate accounting for special abilities was a great improvement over 1E, in my opinion. It greatly reduced the bookkeeping when awarding experience for killing eight orcs, three orogs, and two ogres when you didn't have to add up the hit points of each time of monster, multiply by different coefficients, add that to the basic award, and then add a "special ability" bonus for the ogres' great strength (which funny enough, granted them a +2 bonus to melee damage rolls, same as in OD&D, despite the fact that per the description of Gauntlets of Ogre Power, they canonically had Strength 19 in AD&D and that should grant +7 damage according to the ability score tables).

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    5. Holy crap, I totally overlooked that! You're right 2E had only monster awards by default, which would be microscopic using those same basic numbers. Even the special abilities bumps of a few hit are way too low by my analysis (e.g., +1 HD for regeneration is way, way off). Awarding XP for treasure is relegated to part of an optional rule, and even then only for rogues! Do not agree with that system at all (like much of 2E, which is why I almost entirely avoided it); thanks so much for the correction on that.

      The other of course is that the per-hp adjustment is one of those lunatic bridge-too-far things that Gygax added to AD&D (sometimes I think of what he did there as similar to late-era George Lucas). That's not in OD&D (even Sup-I), and I wouldn't touch per-hp calculations with a 10-foot pole these days.

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    6. In Zeb's defense, he does mention the original "1 XP per GP" rule; it's just not in any of the tables. If you look at the very bottom of the section subtitled "Group Awards" - page 69 (*juvenile chortling*) of my revised copy, YMMV if you're looking at a 1989 printing - he does say the following:

      "As an option, the DM can award XP for the cash value of non-magical treasures. One XP can be given per gold piece found. However, overuse of this option can increase the tendency to give out too much treasure in the campaign."

      It's just a bit awkward since it's not in one of the gray called-out text boxes that most of the optional rules are contained in. That said, I will add the caveat that its impact is significantly lessened if you go strictly by-the-book, for the simple reason that large treasure hoards are much harder to come by, this being in the middle of the industry-wide backlash against "Monty Haul Campaigns." This manifested in an odd way, making the treasure tables into a kind of lottery game; most treasure types had a variety of large payouts, but with only a 5 to 50 percent chance of that payout actually being present. For example, a goblin lair has Type C treasure, which includes the following (note that there are absolutely no guidelines for placing treasure not associated with a particular monster, and admitted failure of the rule set):

      20% chance of 1d10x1000 CP
      30% chance of 1d6x1000 SP
      10% chance of 1d6x100 EP or PP (DM's choice)
      25% chance of 1d6 gems
      20% chance of 1d3 art objects or jewelry
      10% chance of any 2 magic items

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    7. By the way, the whole Experience chapter is worth a read, in my opinion. Cook also replaces EGG's fiddly "fractional experience" idea with the simple and elegant "if there's no risk, there's no reward" paradigm:

      "A 7th-level player character who needs one more experience point to advance in level can't just gather his friends together and hunt down a single orc. That orc wouldn't stand a chance, so the player character was never at any particular risk. If the same character had gone off on his own, thus risking ambush at the hands of a band of orcs, the DM could rule that the character had earned the experience."

      Also the first that I'm aware of to put in writing that defeating a monster is not necessarily synonymous with slaying it:

      "A creature needn't die for the characters to score a victory. If the player characters ingeniously persuade the dragon to leave the village alone, this is as much--if not more--a victory as chopping the beast into dragonburgers!"

      I know I'm including a lot of quotes here, but I'm a big fan of Cook's more casual writing style as compared to Gygaxian purple prose. Also, bonus points for his section on Story Goals for making the example "rescue the prince" instead of the tired old "rescue the princess."

      As for the special ability bumps, I think if you looked closely you'd find that they work similarly to the Supplement I figures overall. A few particular abilities (e.g., regeneration as you've noticed) may be rated too low, but many of the most important ones are worth +2 or +3, doubling or tripling the XP value of the monster - at least until you reach very high number of hit dice, at which point the math flattens out. Also, many of the 2E special abilities that are considered worthy of a +1 modifier are things that wouldn't garner any modifier at all in Supplement I, so while they may be worth a lesser percentage increase than a Greyhawk monster special ability, they're actually bonuses that never would have been received at all under Greyhawk definitions.

      In summary, I do concede that guidance on granting XP and treasure is somewhat weak in 2E, but in a lot of ways that forced me to spread my own wings. I'm also fond of decoupling treasure from level advancement, as it made financial goals relevant for my players prior to name level - commissioning a custom suit of plate armor to fit the minotaur PC, being able to afford a couple extra healing potions (not to be confused with extra-healing potions) to bring along on a tough delve, stuff like that. It also made it that much sweeter for them once they got up to level 8 and 9 and started bringing home some truly impressive hauls.

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    8. Sorry for the triple reply, but I'll also note that for specific monsters with stronger-than-usual abilities, the adjustments are higher. Our star example is the troll; it has 6+6 HD, but it ends up being worth 1400 XP - an effective +3 HD from special abilities, and triple the base 420 XP that a "vanilla" 6+6 HD creature would be worth.

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    9. Daniel, those are some great details about the 2E system that's helpful for me to learn about better. I must say that while I really like what Zeb C. did in places like the D&D Expert book or Star Frontiers, the way that 2E worked out was really not to my taste. I tend to think that open-ended discursions are not very helpful; the hard and valuable part is crafting a good mechanical system. So in that way I must say that 3E's analysis of numerical pros-and-cons did a better job of opening up the possibilities of the game for me, much as 2E did for you.

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    10. I think 3E had some great ideas, and I'm a fan of Monte Cook's work on Planescape and Call of Cthulhu d20, it just wasn't what I was looking for as a DM. I only had two players out of a stable of 6 to 8 who would have been highly motivated to deal with skill ranks and feats, and one of those two had a tendency to power-game to the point of making it no fun for others (in point of fact, I stopped playing Magic: The Gathering because it was no longer fun when I lost on the fifth turn EVERY TIME). Since 3E had some widely talked-about exploits to create super-characters, I was understandably leery about it.

      As I alluded to, I started as a player with a hybrid of 1E and 2E, and I personally think that 2E gets an unfairly bad reputation. I thought that most of the changes compared to 1E (since 1E was my baseline) were straight improvements. For example, we've already discussed the issues with the systems for granting XP, but at the end of the day monster XP was greatly simplified compared to 1E - as well as being generally higher at low and high levels. Initiative was similarly straightforward, unlike the notorious mess that is 1E initiative.

      As I said before, I also enjoyed the tone of the books, making them a pleasant read for me. On top of that, 2E was the first time that I really felt like the information was organized in a reasonably logical manner; while that's not a feature of the system itself, the layout really helped me to master the rules. One of my biggest complaints with White Wolf rulebooks was always the nigh-useless chapter titles, lack of subheadings in the table of contents, and the invariably shoddy index.

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    11. Sorry that I have no useful information to contribute, but this little exchange reminded me just how much I loathe AD&D2. (Apparently Dan and I share the impression that AD&D2 is Zeb's worst RPG? No offense of course, it must have been a horrible job to begin with!) I really should have my head examined for playing AD&D2 every week for 3+ years now. But I guess that just goes to show that playing SOMETHING is much more important than what you're playing...

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    12. ^ And I do agree with that, too. :-)

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  4. In my current D&D campaign, I’ve been doing 100xp/HD for monsters defeated (interpreted liberally). No adjustment for special abilities. 1xp/1gp. And freeform awards for accomplishments. It has worked well. If anything, I might like them to progress a little bit faster than they have.

    But I have great players. They didn’t even ask about how I was figuring XP for a long time. And even after they did, they just keep playing their PCs rather than worry about earning maximum XP.

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  5. Regarding the "self-contradiction": I believe the idea was unguarded treasure would award experience according to the dungeon level. Not sure if the troll overrides that simply because it's a guardian, or if it's due to being an exceptional one (that is, would a lone orc adjust the award downward?)

    I'm inclined to believe Gygax was merely clarifying the rules rather than re-writing them, and that 100 XP per HD was merely a common interpretation at the time. He did, after all, write about the subject in early issues of The Strategic Review and GPGPN (which I'd kill to see a copy of)

    I've been out of math classes for awhile now, and don't have any regression analyses programs, so I won't be much use on that front, but I couldn't help noticing base value low HD function has a root of about -1.7 (kinda funky. Maybe the extra pips have something to due with it). Maybe we should be adjusting the hit dice downward before squaring. That would cause issues with the lowest values, of course

    Also, while doubling awards for special abilities works great for monsters with over 4 HD, lower values should instead be bumped up to the next hit die, just like Gygax's advice in The Strategic Review

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    1. Two comments: The charting/regression/correlation functions are built into any spreadsheet program (e.g., MS Excel, or the free LibreOffice Calc, which is what I use).

      Secondly is that the early advice on adding a few hit dice increments for special XP purposes (also in STRV #2, e.g. gorgon 8 -> 10 HD, etc.) is, in my assessment, insufficient to properly account for powerful abilities; note this is much less than doubling the XP. In this regard the later special awards were more on target, although they could be simplified to basically some multiplier (compare to note on Sup-I, p. 13, which recommends nearly triple base XP for a gorgon).

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    2. Interestingly enough, ProfessorOats, this became the default in AD&D 2nd Edition. A breath weapon bumped a creature up +2 HD, energy drain was worth +3 HD, poison +2 HD, petrifaction +3 HD, etc.

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    3. Ah, thanks for letting me know. I thought I'd need some expensive software like we used in an econometrics course I once took

      Also, I kinda goofed. You'd have to bump the value up to the next category, not hit die. So, for example, a 2 HD monster with a special ability is equivalent to a 2+1 HD monster. Again, this is only for monsters with up to 4 hit dice

      Daniel, I swear I've seen something similar for estimating Challenge Ratings in 3.0, though I can't seem to find it in Savage Species (which seems the most obvious place to look). I've long thought that system was based on guidelines in earlier editions, like Mentzer's APL/TPL system, and that they didn't fully account for changes in 3e, hence why so many felt the numbers were wrong. If that's the case, the Challenge Ratings might actually work better with older editions!

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    4. To me, a big part of the problem with Challenge Rating is the assumption that the party will use about 20% of its resources per encounter. The trouble, of course, is that not all resources are created equal - for a modern-sized party of 4 or 5 characters at 1st Level, a gang of 10 kobolds is trivial if your magic-user has a sleep spell memorized, yet constitutes a potential TPK if he's already used his spell for the day. Even for a Golden Age party of 6 to 10 characters, the 10 kobolds have a good chance of killing 2 or 3 people.

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    5. My problem with CR is simply that I found it no more accurate than using HD for the same thing in AD&D.

      Although, I suppose that amounts to the same thing.

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    6. I agree in large part with you Robert, though I do think CR attempted to do something worthwhile by specifying concrete adjustments when fighting multiple monsters. I do say "attempted," though, because the system given broke down at very low and very high CRs.

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    7. I do really like the fact that 3E EL's specified a logarithmic adjustment for multiple monsters (i.e., twice as many monsters is worth +2 EL), which worked out surprisingly well when I tested it in a simulator. I actually still use that as my measure for creating encounters in OD&D (based on HD), although I haven't yet gotten around to re-testing it for OD&D.

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    8. The system I've had the best luck with has been BECMI's HD* system, which is like a fun house mirror version of the first 3 editions' systems. Special abilities are noted with asterisks after the HD (the most I've seen is 9 asterisks for the Great One, Ruler of All Dragonkind - it already has 40 HD base, so it counts as a 220 HD creature). Each asterisk adds half the creature's hit dice (so a 6+3* troll would count as 10.5 hit dice - 7 for the 6+3 and 3.5 for the *). The total hit dice in the encounter are divided by the total party level. Spellcasters have a big effect - take the highest level of spells that can be cast, divide by two, divide by the number of characters in the NPC group, round up, and add that many asterisks.

      Ratios of 0.3 to 0.5 are considered a good fight that should be roughly half of all encounters, while .5 to .7 is challenging and .7 to .9 is a quest finale. Lower than .3 is basically a speed bump and higher than .9 runs a risk of TPK.

      Monster experience uses a more granular version of the Sup 1 chart, starting with "Under 1", "1", and "1+", and then having entries for every number up to 9 with both "X" and "X+," then switching to "9+ to 10," "10+ to 11," etc. It goes up to 21 HD at 2500 XP + 2000 per *, and says each hit die above that is another 250 XP to both categories. XP for gold is explicitly called out all the way through the Rules Cyclopedia.

      The Sup-1 style XP chart with the balancing system of Adjusted Hit Dice divided by Total Party Level works well for me.

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    9. Interesting, I never put that system in practice, nice to hear your experience has been good with it.

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    10. Stephen, I'm curious about this part:

      "... take the highest level of spells that can be cast, divide by two, divide by the number of characters in the NPC group, round up, and add that many asterisks."

      So magic is valued less in a larger group of enemies? At least the way I'm reading it, it would mean that a solitary archmage type NPC who could cast 8th-level spells would have four asterisks, but if he was in a party with three other NPCs then he would only have one asterisk.

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    11. Daniel, I apparently left out a very important bit - "...add that many asterisks" is to all the creatures in the encounter, so in your scenario, a lone caster with 8th-level spells would get four asterisks, while in a party of four, all four characters would get one asterisk each.

      Note that in a party of six, all six characters would still get one asterisk (due to rounding up), so on the one hand, it does reflect that magic-users become harder to handle when they have ablative meat shields to protect them. On the other hand, it doesn't truly account for level - that lone mage would be a 54 HD encounter (level 18 is when 8th-level spellcasting is attained). Put that spellcaster with three level 2 fighters, and the encounter drops to a 36 HD encounter (27 + 3 + 3 + 3), while if the entire party of four was 18th-level, it would be a 108 HD encounter (27 x 4). My house rule was that the total encounter level couldn't be lower than the solo spellcaster, specifically because of edge cases like that.

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    12. Thanks for the clarification, that makes a lot more sense now! That's also a good house rule, I would probably have come up with something similar.

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  6. The revised rules look like a reaction to players gaming the system by seeking out and killing numbers of low-level monsters rather than picking on someone more their size. In typical fashion Gygax also throughout OD&D (as you show) and AD&D toyed with a more direct scaling-down of xp awards from low level monsters at high party levels. When put together this would mean that a high level party would get really inconsequential amounts of xp, compared to their exponentially increased advancement requirements, for killing ten orcs or so.

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    1. That's a pretty good interpretation that I hadn't considered.

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    2. Except high level parties are only getting a fraction of the XP of low level enemies anyway. A fourth level party would be getting 25 XP per orc but would get the full 400 XP for an Ogre.

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  7. I just thought of something rather awkward about the OD&D rules as printed; specifically, regarding the "scaling-down" section of the rules. If read literally, that would make it altogether unrewarding to fight humanoids in the wilderness. By the time an adventuring party is reasonably capable of defeating a camp full of 100+ orcs or bandits, they'd only be receiving one-fifth experience from 1st-level monsters and the treasures they guard.

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    1. I've got to admit that I never like the scaling-down rule and I've never applied it. As a back-of-the envelope calculation for that example, a group of 8 5th-level PCs would get maybe 2000 XP each before the level adjustment, or about 400 each after. Or in other words the design choice is: Should they level up after 8 such encounters, or 40?

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    2. My thoughts exactly. The only workaround that I've thought of in the meantime is that perhaps one could count the level of the encounter as being the highest of any monster present; then the high-level leader types present at a humanoid dwelling would keep the XP gained on a 1-for-1 basis until the party reached very high levels.

      Also, looking back at Monsters & Treasure, I find it interesting that even then, before the advent of variable hit dice and weapon damage, the use of polyhedral dice was clearly implied by the Number Appearing column. How else could you encounter 2-24 ghouls besides rolling 2d12?

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    3. Right about the dice, one of the main uses of unusual dice in OD&D was monster numbers and treasure types (where there's a lot of d4, d8, d12 mechanics). It's interesting in OD&D Recommended Equipment (Vol-1, p. 5) it suggests a pair each of d4, d8, d12, d20, but "4 to 20 pairs 6-sided dice", so they game initially was very d6-oriented (like for batches of hit dice, and possibly still Chainmail combat mechanics).

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    4. It was mostly a revelation to me because I hadn't really gone through the OD&D books with a fine-toothed comb; I was born many years too late to have played it when it was current, so when I later read them it was more of a casual read as a source of inspiration. As a result, I didn't catch every nuance; at first blush, the system seems to use only d6 and d20 rolls, or possibly solely d6 rolls if you don't use the alternate combat system. The uses of the other polyhedral dice are tucked away in less obvious places.

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    5. Right. I'm also a latecomer: I never had OD&D in my hands until 2007 (i.e., first post of this blog), but I liked it so much I switched all my own games over to it. Partly using d6's for monster hit dice and damage (instead of d8's, etc.) was something that seemed immensely more efficient.

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    6. When I look at the XP scaling business in isolation it seems like a sensible thing to do. But I think it's "double-dipping" as it were because XP requirements increase exponentially anyway. Sure, the level 1 fighter "only" has to kill 20 orcs to gain a level, but the level 5 fighter would have to kill 160 orcs. That's *eight* times as many already, more than XP scaling would call for. (Besides, killing 160 orcs is not actually THAT easy unless the DM has them all bunched up in one place, ready to receive a fireball.)

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    7. ^ Right, totally agree with that.

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    8. You know, I'm glad I read this thread, even thought it is 9 months later. I never thought of the scaling down vs. the increased XP requirements like that. I have been scaling down, and you present a really good reason why not to do that. Thank you.

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    9. ^ Glad you saw it, Michael!

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  8. ...or we could simply use damage as a guide for awarding XP.

    Every 1 point of damage received by a player results in 20xp. Every 1 point of damage dealt by a player results in 10xp. At the end of combat, all players receive an additional XP award equal to the total XP awarded to the group divided equally among the survivors.

    In other words, the XP discussion, especially across editions, is interesting but only insofar as we actually achieve a better understanding of the game. The only way to know that we've achieved a better understanding is to implement rules that improve the game.

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    1. That's an interesting system seems like a fair amount of record keeping but seems like it could work. Do you use it and what keeps players from masochistically seeking to take damage to gain xp?

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    2. There is record keeping, sure, but it's easily managed by having one or two players use laptops/tablets present. These days it's not much of a stretch to expect that players have some kind of mobile tech available. It also helps keep players engaged in the fight - it's in everyone's interest to keep the DM honest.

      I have had problems with players taking a "self destructive" approach but they tend to stop when they realize that I'm not as forgiving when it comes to healing. Basically, it takes time - like, a lot of time - to heal naturally, even given optimal conditions, and only clerics and druids have magical healing (and that's mitigated by a spell system that limits how frequently a caster can regain their spells). In other words, on paper, it seems that the XP rules would let a player advance really fast by subjecting themselves to injury. In practice, this increases the risk that they die. Generally, that's a bad thing...

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