Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Look at Bill Webb's XP Method From MCMLXXV

When I got my Swords & Wizardry Complete Kickstarter package yesterday, it included a mismatched copy of Bill Webb's MCMLXXV low level adventure for S & W. Bill included 2 1/2 pages of his "Old School Primer" at the beginning to show how the game was played "back in the day". It's a very quick and interesting read. The one thing that truly stuck out for me was how Bill awards expo.

Now, for those of you that aren't used to "Old School Gaming", let me point out that the much, if not most of your expo comes from gold found and recovered, not from killing monsters. That Ogre may be worth 120 expo, but the treasure he carries or guards will likely be the bulk of the expo gained from that encounter.

Bill twists the expo for killing even tighter, awarding just 1 XP per HP for creature killed (x2 or x3 depending on special abilities). Even the strongest Ogre is worth only 33 XP and the avg Ogre is worth about 20 or so. In this case alone, that's a loss of about 83% of the combat expo.

As Bill states, this changes the game's focus from a combat game to one of avoidance and trickery. Why risk life and limb if you can get the vast majority of your expo with thievery and not skill of arms?

At some point I may experiment with Bill's method, just to see how it plays out "in real life play" for myself. It won't be with my current group, and certainly not the current campaign in Rappan Athuk. I think they'd be very upset to see their combat expo suddenly dry up , and I wouldn't blame them ;)


  1. Personally, I give absolutely no experience for monsters killed.

    Bounties on monsters grant experience, and alchemists can make use of essences, however.

  2. I give experience for defeating a monster. Killing it is one way. Tricking or negotiating your way past are other ways. Avoiding it completely counts as defeating it if it actually stands between you and some intentional objective.

    In theory, you can get experience for defeating the same monster multiple times, but in practice that doesn't happen often, and since monster XP is pretty paltry anyway, it doesn't really change things much.

  3. For comparison, the original method (1974) was 100xp per hit die, and that was immediately revised in the Greyhawk supplement to a method where there was a set number of xp based on the monster's hit dice and then a bonus for any special abilities it had.

    After that, with the release of AD&D, you had the Greyhawk method PLUS adding a couple of xp per hit point that the monster had. This reflected that a strong ogre, for example, is harder to kill than a weak one.

    I give XP for killing monsters, but the treasure is the real source of major xp. When the players decide whether to attack head-on or to sneak, I don't want the xp system to overly influence that decision; I want the decision to be based on fun, adventurousness, and skilled playing.

  4. I actually thought I was remembering this wrong because that is EXACTLY where most of our XP came from.. Treasure.. when we played D&D in the 80s..

  5. XP is a carrot to encourage your players through reward to do what you want. Sneaking, killing, building... whatever.

  6. Is that a big ugly sticker on the actual cover of the book?


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition