Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday Figures: XP for Magic Items?


Here's another poll asked on the ODD74 forums for experienced Original D&D players. It's easy to miss but the OD&D rules do say, ever so curtly and parenthetically, that PCs should get XP for acquisitions of magic items (Vol-1, p. 18, emphasis mine):

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".

No further information is given (e.g., parameters or values for specific items). This is one of the fairly big differences between the two branches of D&D in the 1980's: The Basic-B/X-BECMI line ignored this, and never spoke of it again. On the other hand, the AD&D line dug into this deeply and more formally -- first a very few example values are suggested in The Strategic Review #2 (p. 4), and then complete XP (and gold) values were given in magic charts for every item in the game, in the 1E AD&D DMG (p. 121-125). 

So given that major bifurcation, I thought to ask OD&D players on which side of the divide their sensibilities lay? In this case (not the first time), it's an almost even split with no clear consensus. Of 21 votes cast, 11 said "yes" (they do award XP for magic), and 10 said "no".

For me, I'm pretty much still likewise split. Needing to decide, look up, and compute the values seems very burdensome and I've been avoiding it for years. Plus there's an argument that the value of the items should come from use (to get more treasure), and giving inherent XP is double-dipping. On the other hand, I fear that a major component of the OD&D XP economy depended on this factor (e.g., see in Subterrane Survey: Gygax's Castle Greyhawk, under the "Experience" section and related reader comments). What's your take currently?

22 comments:

  1. I've tried to split the difference before and said you have to turn the magic item into a faction to gain XP or a favor.

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  2. No way. Magic items are tools to get XP. Getting XP merely for finding one is double-dipping. (Obviously, if you find a magic item you can't or won't use and sell it, you should get XP for GP, much as if you were selling a piece of artwork.)

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  3. My approach is to give XP if the party sells the item without using it. I give XP based on the sale price. Depending on the specific item and to whom/where they try to sell it; they may not get the top price possible. Reaction rolls and the approach the players take are factors in the sale price being accepted or rejected.

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    1. Ditto. Works like a charm to help parties that don't find the big score level up.

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  4. I give XP for magic items, mainly as a way of keeping level progression where I want it (level every 2-4 sessions your first few levels, as recommended by Moldvay) while not having to overly adjust monetary treasure values in published dungeons I'm running (which tend to be on the stingy side relative to that advancement rate).


    For XP value of magic items, I use a hybrid of the AD&D values (tabular as you mentioned) and the Rule Cyclopedia values (which do exist, it's max 10% of the GP cost to create the item).


    I do not offer additional XP for selling magic items though. Any they can sell will net them gold they can waste for additional XP should they so choose, but the inherent XP from returning the item is gained regardless of what they do with it - and it's split evenly among the party as well.

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    1. That's an interesting note about Moldvay's advancement rate suggestion. Somewhere there's a Gygax Strategic Review article that interpolates to a level every dozen sessions, I think (I always have trouble finding it when I want). Which is weird because the extra-XP-for-magic policies are running in the opposite directions.

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    2. But that said, I *like* Moldvay's suggestion (as usual).

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  5. When I rand module T1 recently, I was frankly astonished at how much more quickly characters level up in AD&D compared to D&D. It just felt wrong, and I think that even if I were ever to run AD&D again, I wouldn't award XP for magical items at all. They're just worth too much XP. I prefer the more even-keeled pace of basic D&D's level advancement (at least for the first eight or nine levels, where OD&D and AD&D mostly keep pace with each other).

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    1. (Or at least, the tables appear to keep pace with each other, but it's deceptive.)

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    2. Well put, I agree with that. There's a few leviathan-sized differences swimming just under the surface, and that's one of them.

      Weirdly in Strategic Review #2 Gygax writes, "Low value should be placed upon magical items as far as experience is concerned, as such items will be highly useful in gaining still more treasure", but to me the values suggested seem pretty beefy -- at least at low levels.

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  6. I do NOT think magic items are a major part of "OD&D's XP economy." Adding experience points for magic items in OD&D means (overall) more x.p. for PCs and, thus, faster leveling...and I find OD&D to operate well at lower levels. Regardless, I don't award x.p. for magic items when running OD&D (as I did for most of 2020).

    AD&D is a different matter: magic item x.p. is ABSOLUTELY a part of the x.p. (and monetary!) economy. I have always awarded it when running AD&D...as I have been doing since 2021. It adds another hard choice for PCs to deal with: do I keep this precious item that will aid me (or my henchmen) in my adventures? Or do I sell it for MUCH NEEDED FUNDS necessary for training, hiring, provisioning, etc.

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  7. I run a B/X Campaign, but I've often (surprisingly) found that OD&D offers some good suggestions to improve on B/X.
    As level advancement is incredibly slow in B/X I think adding experience points for magic items is a good idea. Just as with finding gold, the recovery of magic items represent a measurement of success.

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    1. I can see that. Alternatively, what's worked for me is to switch back to the simpler 100 XP per HD of monster. (I've got a few articles here about that difference.)

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  8. I have not granted XP for magic items in the past, but this post and some of comments are beginning to make me rethink this position. Kind of on the fence at the moment.

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  9. By my best calculations, if xp is awarded for items in published modules, that xp would account for anywhere from 20 - 30% of total xp on average.

    For what it's worth, I give xp for monsters slain to fighter-types, multiplied by 10, since monster-killing xp usually only accounts for about 10% of total xp; xp for treasure returned to safety to thief-types, with no multiplier; and xp for items identified to magic-user types, multiplied by four (I also guarantee all magic-users the identify spell, usable at will as a class feature, since it has other factors that throttle how often it gets used). Like you, I don't use clerics, but if I did, I would give them the usual xp for all things, tho only for clerical magic items.

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    1. Ooh, that's actually quite interesting, I would have thought of that. Elegant!

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    2. I like that it introduces separate incentives to each major class-type. They are roughly balanced for xp earned in-play, at least by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, but fighters will "want" to engage monsters in combat, regardless of treasure reward, while thieves will "want" to sneak past them if possible, etc. It introduces new party dynamics.

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    3. I tried that with a simple 2x and 1/2 system for classes; thieves got x2 for treasure, 1/2 for combat, fighters reversed, clerics and m-u got xp per spell level cast, 1/2 for treasure and full for combat.

      IMHO it was too much work for little benefit. I also felt it infringed on player choice of roles within the party. Glad it works for others though :)

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    4. Glad to hear about both those experiences!

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