I should sit here and write about something else. So here I am, writing about something else instead ... But did you ever think that the reputation D&D has for being about killing things and taking their stuff is unjustified? I did and there is yet another odd thing about the D&D Rules Cyclopedia that could shed some light on why that is so.
Just killing monsters and taking their stuff?
No, definitely not. Sure, you get xp for treasure and for defeating monsters and that makes a good portion of the low to mid-level game. But the fact of the matter is that you'll need far more juice than what you'll get for killing and looting once you enter, say, level 10 or higher. Actually, one wizard'll need to kill the equivalent of 455 red dragons or loot 4.350.000 gp (mix and match, of course) to reach level 36. That's ONE character. Just isn't happening by killing and looting alone.
On the contrary. Chapter 10: Experience is very illuminating in that regard. For starters, by concluding an adventure or quest, characters will get the amount xp they gained for defeating monsters during that quest again as a bonus. So just murderhoboing around won't double the monster xp like that. Finishing adventures does. And I agree,
killing overcoming is still a motivator here. But the story gets a major highlight with those rules, so there you go.
And it doesn't stop with that. A character furthermore gets 1/20 of the base xp he needs to reach next level for "good role playing". A thief, for instance, needs 120.000 xp from level 16 to level 17 (incidentally that's also the level range between all following levels). 1/20 would mean 6.000 xp just like that per session. "Good role playing" covers a lot of ground here and you only get it once per session. But it shows the emphasis of the game towards playing a character well. And since it's individually connected to level, it's a bonus far easier to get on higher levels than killing beasties (a group of four characters without help would have to kill a monster worth 24.000 xp to get that kind of xp ...).
And here is the kicker. Characters also get 1/20 of the base xp they need to reach next level for Exceptional Actions, or in other words, clever play. It's also an award you can get more than once per session. Saving allies from harm or clever skill use are just two examples here. It sure is not an easy thing to achieve, but possible once per session. Especially in high level games, where wrong decisions will have a far bigger impact.
The book also advises to aim level advancement to every 5 sessions (with no indications how long one of those sessions might be ... I might have to check on that). Going with simple math here and the assumption that an experienced player is able to gain at least 1/10 of the base xp he needs to reach next level through role playing and clever play per session. And that means half the xp we'd need in 5 sessions (5/10) are not for fighting and killing and looting.
That'd be 60.000 xp for the thief mentioned above. The rest comes from defeating monsters, gaining treasure and fulfilling quests. If we take a third each here, that'd mean 20.000 xp for killing, quests and loot each. All in all killing and looting makes a third of the game, experience-wise. Two thirds is what you get for good and clever role playing and going on quests.
|That's his 1/10 to reach next level right there!|
The new equipment was a nice bonus, too ... [source]
Here is one last thing: Defeating Monsters and Gaining Treasure do not necessarily mean killing and looting. You don't need to kill a monster in D&D to gain the full xp award for overcoming it as a challenge. Actually, even losing a fight against a monster will net the characters a quarter of the monsters xp value just for facing it!
Now that's some stubborn rumor, I'd say!
I'm not saying there's no killing and looting in D&D or that it isn't fun (or can't be, anyway). But it is not what the game is about. Not by a long shot and not going by the rules. I'd think a DM might actually hurt his game, if he insists to reduce the game to it. It might work for the first couple of levels but it will get very difficult later on as the game shifts gears with huge amounts of xp between levels. That's the moment when those other aspects, like good role playing or going on quests, gain traction and need proper rewards.
You see, if the assumed mode of play as described above isn't established from the beginning, it'll be experienced as a different game as they hit mid-level and the players could lose interest because of that. Might very well be the reason why many campaigns won't last beyond levels 6 to 10 and that's a well known problem.
Anyway, this is a great experience system, allowing for several different ways of play and it's somewhat odd that people keep insisting on saying D&D 1e is nothing more but this or that. It's actually way more versatile than later editions managed to be (especially 3 and 4e) and not at all geared towards combat as ultimo ratio.
So what can we take away from this? How a DM rewards a game will give players an impression what sort of play is the most beneficial at the table and they'll start playing accordingly. It's something a DM needs to communicate as clear and careful as possible. Much of the same goes for a system: how experience is gained will have a huge impact on how a game is played. In case of the D&D RC I'd say play it as written and see what happens. It won't be the D&D some would make you believe it is.
If you liked this post, you might want to check out the other oddities in this series. Comments are, as always, very welcome. Especially if they praise the Rules Cyclopedia :)