06 July 2009

Are You Experienced?

Because of the relative dearth of valuable treasure in my Swords & Wizardry ‘Ilmahal’ campaign setting, experience points are not awarded for treasure found (gold pieces, magic items, etc.).  Instead, experience points are awarded for opponents and obstacles overcome, missions completed, and clever playing (as outlined below).

1.     Experience points are awarded for foes overcome, whether slain, subdued, fooled, dealt with diplomatically, or whatever.  (If characters unnecessarily fight non-player characters or monsters, experience point awards are reduced or even eliminated.)  The amount awarded = 100 x HD + bonuses for special abilities (d4 HD creatures = 50 exp; d6 HD = 80 exp).  ‘Challenges’ overcome without combat are assigned a ‘hit dice equivalent’ by the Game Master.

2.     Experience points should also be awarded for traps, tricks, and other life-threatening obstacles overcome.  In general, 50-1000 experience points should be awarded, depending on the difficulty of the obstacle in question (a rough guide is 100 x average character level).

3.     Finally, experience points are awarded for missions completed (typically 200 x Party Average Level).

The above awards are totalled and divided amongst all characters at the end of an adventure.  The Game Master may also provide individual experience awards for clever thinking, good ideas, etc.  Such awards normally should not exceed 100 x character level.


  1. I've never (30+ years never) awarded XP for gold or treasure found. It never made sense to me.

    "I found this magic sword on the floor. My word! I learned so much about being a Druid just now!"

    That's ridiculous. Besides, you often get points for defeating enemies which the items you find will help you do better and faster anyway.

    I have a list of things I award XP for including (but not limited to) furthering the plot, furthering your own subploy/backstory, defeating enemies creatively, doing or saying something that entertained the group, solving a riddle or puzzle, creative use of an item, spell or ability, etc.

    'Course I don't run D&D or its cousins very often so I'm not sure how well my idea translates.

    Barking Alien

  2. @Barking Alien

    I agree. Money and magical items are their own reward.

    In our current Castles & Crusades campaign, I give experience per encounter and also for monsters defeated. Encounters include combat, puzzle-solving, questioning the town's night watch, disarming a trap, etc.

    Your idea translates very well.

  3. The reason XP was given for treasure recovered is because finding treasure was the original goal of the game. Therefore, it was an index of the player's success, and encouraged players to find ways to get treasure without killing everything in sight.

    I have to say that of all the 'sword & sorcery' rules variants posted here, this rules feels the least 'sword & sorcery' to me. I have not read Fritz Leiber's books, but the Conan stories frequently have him finding great treasures, and then squandering or losing them.

    Others have proposed rules that grant XP not for finding treasure, but for pissing it away, which seems much more sword and sorcery to me. Basically, they get 1 XP per GP, but only if that GP is spent on something that doesn't materially benefit the character, like carousing, tithing, 'training costs', etc. Of course, your post is nearly two years old, so you probably aren't going to change your system now. :)

    Over all though, I really like your rule variants, and will probably adopt a few of them if I ever get the chance to run an old school D&D game again. Thanks for posting them.

    Ed Green

  4. The problem I've always had with rewarding XP for gold is not what the characters do with the vast accumulated wealth but what happens to the local economy when the characters start spending... Try living in Western Australia during the resource boom, "$7 for a cup of coffee, that's sounds reasonable..." or "Yes, one coil of hemp rope, previously 1 GP, since you lot arrived in town: 200 GP thanks very much".

    In Ed Green's example above, the first time Cornman the Barbarian pisses away a few hundred coins on loose drinks and cold women he's have a blast; sooner or later though, his returns would diminish as the economy collapses.

    It might be Swords & Sorcery or Rock & Roll but it doesn't work.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).