Monday, March 28, 2011

Munchkins of the Old School - Revealed!

Warning:  edition gripes are imminent...

Yesterday I put up the first cut of the Treasure by Module list to help with campaign planning; I'll add more modules to it in the coming days.  A few readers pointed out in the comments that there are legitimate differences in the editions regarding experience and experience for monsters; I didn't think it could be that big, Guy provided an example, so I put it to the test.  I tallied up all monsters in the vaunted B2 Keep on the Borderlands, to see how the experience totals fared between BX, AD&D, and a few of the popular clone games.  Here goes - observations are below:

Moldvay Basic
Treasure:  31,000
Monster:  6,520
Total XP:  37,520
Monsters are 17%
Labyrinth Lord
Treasure:  31,000
Monster:  7,130
Total XP:  38,130
Monsters are 19%
Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Treasure:  31,000
Monster:  6,640
Total XP:  37,640
Monsters are 18%
Swords & Wizardry Core
Treasure:  31,000
Monster:  8,995
Total XP:  39,995
Monsters are 22%
AD&D 1st Edition
Treasure:  31,000
Monster:  10,846
Magic Items:  24,270
Total XP:  66,116
Monsters are 16%, 35% if you don't use magic item XP
You see that AD&D total?  You gotta be kidding me!  Using the various classic D&D rules sets, a group finishing the keep will be halfway to level 3 - but that will also depend on the number of henchman, attrition, things like that.  But the differences aren't that great between BX and the clone editions.

But the AD&D party doing the same adventure will be almost level 4 for doing the same work.  Not only are they soaking up more XP for monsters, but the XP for magic items is over the top.  Sure, go ahead and roll 4d6 in order, arrange the stats to get your 18/xx strength and min max like crazy, but let's double the XP too!  People need to level FASTER.

I guess I didn't see the impact of the power creep until laying it out like that.

Okay, let's forget the righteous bitching about AD&D for a minute - besides, if I looked at it 30 years ago, I would have figured it out then and the munchkinism would be old news; I'm sure plenty of folks house rule away magic item XP to restore their sanity.  I do have a legitimate campaign planning concern.  A big part of why we started a Greyhawk game last summer was to get the group to the point where we could do the G and D series of modules.  I considered it one of those bucket list items; "Someday I want to see a party of adventurers make it to the Vault of the Drow and loot the Fane of Lolth".  (And who knows, maybe by the time we're there, some enterprising OSR person will have created a fitting finale to the series, instead of the monstrosity that is Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits.  Hint hint.)

We've obviously been using a Frankenstein rules set  - core rules from LotFP, monsters and magic from BX, and a healthy does of Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition Companion for AD&D monsters; I figured AEC would help me convert those later AD&D modules.

However, since an AD&D party is getting almost twice as much experience as a Classic party doing the same work, I may have some bigger adjustments to make.  Those G and D series modules are combat heavy and magic rich, and a Classic group won't keep pace with just the gold XP alone.


  1. Wow. Never realized it before. Food for thought for sure.

  2. Some other considerations to throw out there:

    1) AD&D training costs are quite steep at low levels. All the additional xp from creatures and magic items is irrelevant if you are unable to gain additional xp because you've already qualified for the next level but are unable to pay for the training. So what appears to be a flood of xp at low levels doesn't necessarily work out that way.

    This effect is more prominent for multi-class characters than it is for single-class characters. This effect goes away at mid levels, though, because training costs scale linearly, while xp needs scales geometrically.

    In fact, this effect has been a factor in my current campaign even though I don't grant xp for magic items. (Nor xp for the gp accrued for immediately-sold magic items.) There have been multiple instances of PCs who could not gain xp in one or more of their classes until they acquired a significant amount of additional treasure just to pay training costs.

    2) In addition to slightly faster xp accrual in AD&D, it's also slightly more survivable than B/X. I'm not convinced stats are really much of a factor here (or if they are a factor, the significance depends on the type of stat rolling method used by the campaign), but greater PC hp totals, better damage against large monsters, the -10 hp cushion (which is of varying significance depending on whether the DM has death happen at -1 vs. -4 hp), men-at-arms that aren't unwilling to enter the dungeon, and retainers that don't check loyalty or leave after every adventure all lean toward AD&D being slightly more survivable.

    All that said, there's probably some counter-arguments for how B/X is more survivable, so take the above with a grain of salt.

  3. I do realize that AD&D characters need to sell a few of those magic items to cover the exorbitant training costs (assuming the DM doesn't hand wave training).

    You're right about the bigger hit dice making some AD&D guys tougher - I also remember clerics and druids had a ton of spells because of the wisdom bonuses. Power creep, baby!

    My players will read all that and will be clamoring for AD&D.

  4. Once characters reach name level, they need a lot more XP in AD&D. Fighters need 250,000 per level, in AD&D as opposed to 120,000 in LL.

  5. My Gamer ADD keeps me from sticking with a campaign that long, so I'd never know. :)

  6. Oh, but running high level AD&D is a blast! Combat is fast, furious and deadly!

  7. Pierce - The issue is that Q1 goes in a totally different direction than the G-series and the D-series.

    In the G-series, a rogue house of the Drow breaks from the worship of Lolth, throws in with the "Elder Elemental God" (EEG), and foments a plot on the surface world to gain sufficient power to take over the Vault of the Drow.

    So the ultimate enemy in those 6 modules is a Drow noble house serving the EEG; the plot has *nothing* to do with Lolth. The party's mission is to go and wipe out House Eilserv. Making the 7th module the overthrow of Lolth makes zero sense. (Note that Gary Gygax wrote the first 6, and Zeb Cook wrote the 7th). It's not necessarily Zeb's fault either, as I seem to remember Q1 was tacked on after Gary's outster from TSR (blame the suits).

    Q1 has some interesting ideas - making Lolth's domain steam-punk definitely works for me; it just doesn't belong at the end of the G and D series. I keep thinking someone will write an actual end to the series that involves overthrowing the EGG, perhaps elsewhere in the underdark.

    You'll find a lot of Greyhawkers identify the Elder Elemental God with Tharizdun (in module WG4); it's possibly the entity in the Shrine of Evil Chaos (module B2), and the original Temple of Elemental Evil (before Zuggtmoy was involved). Gygax weaved this quasi-Lovecraftian god into a number of places.

  8. Regarding Q1 - yeah, it's okay. A guy re-wrote the ending and published it at - it's based pretty heavily on MERP's Shelob's Lair. It's pretty well done - doesn't tie up the Elder Elemental ideas, but gives Lolth a less steampunk domain for the final confrontation.

  9. FWIW, Q1 was out by 1981 at the latest, while Gygax's ouster didn't happen until 1985 at the earliest. Gygax wrote a rather glowing intro for Q1, though admittedly I recall it talking more about the cleverness of the level design than about it making any sense from a plot perspective.