Foundation III

There’s an interesting post about XP at Delta’s Hotspot, where he discusses levels and XP and why it’s built that way and whether wizards should require more XP than fighters and how the crap are people still talking about this shite like it’s the fucking Bible? Sure, there’s a lot of discussion about earlier editions of the game, but so often they feel like everyone involved is just nodding their heads, going, “Yeah, good stuff, interesting how they designed that,” and never stopping to say, “You know… when you think about it.” I know this will be shocking to many, but a reality check is part of growing up: Gygax sucks at D&D. Just like Lucas sucks at Star Wars. They both had great ideas with piss-poor execution. The XP tables from OD&D and AD&D are a prime example, and Delta recognizes this in his post:

An open question would be: Why? The fact that Gygax maintained this asynchronicity in both OD&D and AD&D seems to suggest that it was intentional — that Magic-Users were intended to get accelerated advancement compared to Fighters at higher levels. Perhaps this was an amplification of the idea that Magic-Users will be weak at low levels and need assistance, but increasingly more powerful at high levels.

We’ll likely never really know the answer, but one way to look at the question is to consider the cleric’s progression and skill set, as compared to other classes. Clerics have always had it good in early editions of the game. (They had it best in 3rd though you could argue that druids had it even better.) Personally, I suspect it was due to that whole alignment thing. You know, that rules artifact that enabled DMs to dictate a player’s actions because he was a dick… I mean, because the character’s alignment wouldn’t allow it any other way. In a similar way, the relationship between a character and his/her deity seemed to condone the same kind of control dynamic: “God” says you have to do it this way because that’s what your deity wants. Except, you know, the deity doesn’t exist and the DM does so it’s really the DM being a dick. I suspect that Gygax realized, on some level, that DMs were being pricks to the players and he gave clerics an easier progression as a way of saying, “see? It isn’t all that bad,” much like an abusive boyfriend buying his girlfriend flowers after ordering her around…

So does it follow that clerics should get less XP than fighters or wizards or anyone else? Well, another way to answer the question is the methodology I outlined in my previous post. And, as of right now, I don’t see any reason to discard that process. So let’s apply it to the cleric and see what we get.

To do this, we need to answer a question about spells: what is an individual spell worth in terms of our XP modifier? I posited that we could assign 1/32 of a point to a 1 point to-hit improvement and, using the cumulative total, determine the XP modifier for a class’ THAC0 progression. What if we do the same for spells? But there’s a difference with spells, in that once you use one, you can’t get it back until you rest and recover. You can swing your sword all day long; the ability never goes away. Cast a spell, though, and you can’t cast it again until the next day. This isn’t a bad thing in terms of balance or mechanics. Spells are game-changers. They literally reshape the world around your character, allowing you to dictate how physics and the laws of the universe should function. So if we’re going to compare a single spell to a single to-hit bonus, we need to remember that as a spell’s level increases, so too does your ability to control the world. Fortunately, the numbers are already there: a single spell slot is worth 1/32 of the spell’s level. So, for example, a 4th-level spell is worth 4/32, or 1/8 of a point. And, like with THAC0, we keep a cumulative total.

Cleric Spells XP Mods
…well, that’s a nice coincidence. Math is hard…

Huh… Looks like giving spells to the cleric very nearly equals the entire skill set of the fighter. Now let’s compare the other skills:

  • d8 hit points per level (up to 9th) (+2)
  • +2 hit points per level (after 9th) (+0.25)
  • Good THAC0 progression (2 points ever 3 levels) (+2)
  • Armor proficiency (all types) (+1)
  • Shield proficiency (+0.5)
  • 2 weapon proficiencies (at 1st level) (+0.2)
  • +5 weapon proficiencies (by 20th level) (+0.5)
  • -3 non-proficiency penalty (+0.125)
  • Turn Undead (+1)
  • Good saving throw progression (best right behind the fighter’s) (+2)

This gives us a total XP modifier of 22.575, which produces an XP chart like this:

Sample Cleric XP Chart

Well, would you look at that? Seems all the critics have been right this entire time: if you stack the cleric against the fighter, using the same standard to measure their power, you find that the cleric is much more powerful than the fighter. Maybe it should take more XP to level…? Almost like there was a good idea somewhere in the beginning of the game, but its creator didn’t realize it…

(I hope I’ve impressed upon the reader that this is all a work in progress. None of these figures are definitive until such time that the DM says, “This is good,” and introduces it to the players. What I hope you take away from this is that it’s possible and desirable to create a rational process, a methodology, or even an overall paradigm, that presents a consistent, applicable and knowable rule set to the players. Your game will be all the better for it.)


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