The Levellers

Posted: 6 April 2012 in Reflections

In my last post, I mentioned the level adjustment factor in EPT; something similar was also present in original D&D, although frankly I never knew a DM who enforced it.

Just for the fun of it, here’s a comparative table… I had to do some estimating for numbers of sessions under EPT; based on personal experience, I reckon in a typical session you killed a monster of your own hit dice three times, and that monster-slaying represented about 10% of your overall experience gain.

I wanted to do this for OD&D as well, but in the Rules As Written if the PC’s level exceeds that of the dungeon or monster level, experience is multiplied by dungeon or monster level and then divided by PC level, so it just got too complex.

EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE

Level Raw XP Sessions Adjusted XP Sessions
1 0 0 0 0
2 2,000 1 2,000 1
3 4,000 3 4,000 3
4 8,000 4 8,000 4
5 16,000 7 32,000 10
6 32,000 11 64,000 18
7 64,000 18 256,000 47
8 120,000 30 480,000 92
9 240,000 50 2,400,000 292
10 250,000 68 2,500,000 478
11 260,000 86 5,200,000 824
12 270,000 102 5,400,000 1,152

We were playing these games at University, getting in at least three sessions per week, 30 weeks per year; call it 100 sessions per annum. So, if you ignored the “gearing down” effect of (e.g.) only getting half experience at 4th level, it was feasible to reach 12th level in a year’s dedicated play. If you applied the Rules As Written, after a year you’d be partway into 9th level, but then you would have finished your degree and moved on before you completed 10th level, and it would take over a decade to reach 12th. I expect most people would have followed the author’s advice and retired their PC at 9th level, starting a new one selected from his entourage of minions.

In hindsight, if I were doing it again, I’d apply the Rules As Written; but that’s just me. After playing for this long, I finally understand what the authors were trying to do, I think; the focus was on the PC’s rise to power, not the bureaucracy and intrigue that would follow – you’re Conan, Fafhrd or the Grey Mouser, not Ned Stark. Later versions of EPT moved away from the class and level approach altogether.

D&D 3.5 AND 4th EDITIONS

I intended to put comparative tables for D&D 3.5 and 4E in this post, but as I recall, levels and experience points are one of the parts of 3.5 that the OGL forbids one to publish, and there is no equivalent of the OGL for 4E to my knowledge. So let’s not.

Those two games, though, explain clearly how many encounters and sessions it takes to level up. At the 100 sessions per year of my misspent youth, one would reach the end stop very quickly; 8 months to 20th level in 3.5, and 11 months to 30th level in 4E.

At the more sedate 3 sessions per month of my current campaign, a year’s play would get one to about 12th level in 3.5, reaching 20th after about 21 months. In 4E, a year’s play at this rate would reach 13th level, and it would take two and a half years to reach 30th level.

CONCLUSIONS

It used to take me about a year to get to 12th level in the 1970s, and it still would; admittedly that is largely because sessions are less frequent now.

The “ski-jump” experience curve of the 1970s has been replaced by a more uniform slope and more rapid advancement through the levels; perhaps because of this, the number of levels in the rules has increased, leading to finer gradation between levels. (To be fair, the number of levels expanded in Basic and Expert D&D.)

And by the way, Happy Easter, everyone!

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