Sunday, March 27, 2011

We came, We Saw, We Leveled Up

Thoughts on treasure, experience, and rate of advancement in published modules.

One observation I've found myself dropping into my reviews has been the amount of treasure available in the published module.  All of the old school rule sets have kept 1 XP = 1 GP for treasure recovered, and most of a party's experience will come from treasure.  One of the things I notice is whether an adventure is over or under saturated with treasure.  That will determine the party's rate of advancement, and whether I need to tweak it up or down for the campaign.

In a bout of OCD yesterday morning, I started compiling a table of treasure-by-module for most of my favorite TSR era adventure modules, as well as OSR modules I've reviewed and played.  Then I realized it would be even cooler if I circled back and added in some metrics for encounter density.

Okay - take a quick look at this partial chart and I'll post some notes down below.


Treasure:  31,000*
Levels: 2.5
Density: 80% (55)

*Excludes robbing the Keep itself


Treasure:  71,000*
Levels: 3.75
Density: 63% (37)

*Extra 10,000gp if the group overthrows Gorm,
Usamigaras and Madarua


Treasure:  9,500
Levels: .95
Density: 30% (8)


Treasure:  24,000
Levels: .25
Density: 28% (21)


Note how the Keep of the Borderlands has a density of 80%.  Exploring the Caves of Chaos is just fight, fight, fight - very little exploration.  Compare that to the two OSR modules, with density of 30% or lower, and you can see there is a lot more space for exploration and problem solving without the grind.  Moldvay's dungeon stocking tables suggest putting monsters in about 33% of the rooms - Tom didn't follow his own advice when making the Lost City, which comes in at 63%!

So the first thing the table will quickly tell you is whether the adventure is weighted towards exploration or fighting.

For levels, I took the average (fighter experience) needed by a party of 5 for the recommended levels.  This doesn't include monsters - monsters will typically add another 25% or so on to the total.  And no, I won't be going back and calculating monster XP in these modules encounter by encounter.

Going back to the chart:  A party will be almost 3rd level by the time they finish the Keep.  A party will be almost 4th level after finishing the surface levels of the Lost City (especially when you bump it to include some monster XP).  For a combat heavy module like the Keep, monster XP will be even higher than 25% (bump the treasure amount by 33%).  Advancement through the Lost City is fast - the Keep nets you an average of 563 gp per fight, the Lost City 1919 gp per fight.  If you need to run a fast moving campaign with folks that are used to leveling every few weeks (like the 4E crowd), or kids, the Lost City could be a good way to go.

The two OSR modules are a little light on treasure and leveling up, but are also quite a bit shorter - Stargazer only has 8 combat encounters (compared to the Keep's 55).  The number after the density percentage is the number of encounters.

Below is the table I used for determining the rate of advancement.  I assumed a party of five, and a typical party member needs 2,000 XP at first level (fighter experience).  Your game of choice may adjust the XP tables slightly (fighters are different between Moldvay Cook and AD&D 1E for instance) so this is just a guideline.  Henchman will suck away some XP, as will character deaths.

I'll post the rest of the table tonight - it includes the 6 or so OSR modules I've reviewed and my favorite 20+ TSR era modules.

Party Level / Experience Needed

1  10,000
2  10,000
3  20,000
4  40,000
5  80,000
6  160,000
7  320,000
8  640,000
9  1,280,000
10 1,280,000