Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Arduin's Experience Point System

The Arduin Grimoire is one of those rule sets that is hard to take seriously, and yet hard to dismiss. The Arduin Grimoire, Volume I -- the first of nine Arduin Grimoire volumes -- was introduced in 1977. The series chronicled the gonzo Dungeons and Dragons house-ruling of Dave Hargrave. The Arduin Grimoire is notable not only for its odd fusion of fantasy and sci-fi, and being the first published house-rules for Dungeons and Dragons, but also its early disagreement with the "experience points for gold" system employed in OD&D.

Hargrave had this to say about the awarding of experience points, in Volume I of his Arduin Grimoires:

"In the Arduin Universe, the ability to advance to higher levels is based on earned merit and not on the acquisition of treasure. Therefore, points are given for many reasons, but NOT for gold or other treasure. After all, it is the act of robbery, not the amount stolen, that gives the thief his experience." (page 2)

Hargrave had little to say, in the first Volume of the Arduin Grimoire, about experience for monsters killed. Presumably, he agreed with awarding experience for defeating monsters. However, he did provide an alternate experience points chart to replace the "experience points for gold" system, which I provide, below.

Death (with successful revival), reincarnation, curse changed into another type entity -- 400 xp

Being sole survivor of expedition, acquiring the mightiest of artifacts (Satan's own pitchfork, nuclear weapons, phasers, etc.) -- 375 xp

Defeating in single combat, demi-gods or major demons (above and beyond the normal points) -- 350 xp

Defeating in normal combat, any creature that is four times your size or is 20 hit dice or larger (whichever is greater) -- 325 xp

Acquiring a major artifact (machine gun, explosives, staff of black wizardry, wish rings with 5 or more wishes, etc.) -- 300 xp

Doing spells of tremendous magical import (the conjuring of major demon, using a gate spell, raising the dead fully and the like) -- 275 xp

Being cursed, acquiring a cursed item, dying but being regenerated back to life, using spells of major magical import (astral body, teleporting, prismatic wall, etc) -- 250 xp

Acquiring most staffs, major rods (lordly might), using a single wish, acquiring +5 weapons or armour, and doing heavy magic spells (wind walk, phase door, cure disease, raising the dead, regenerate manna points or limbs, etc) -- 225 xp

Acquiring items that are +4, magic items that are unusual (wands of wizardry, slaver's lash, etc), doing difficult spells like: limited wishes, all psychically draining one like: ESP and the like -- 200 xp

Acquiring +3 items, wands, most rings and amulets, and doing spells such as transmuting rock to mud, monster summoning and the like -- 175 xp

Being point man, acquiring +2 items, lesser rings, amulets, etc, doing spells like dimension door, deactivate traps, polymorph self, and the like -- 150 xp

Acquiring single or limited use items (single shot, spell storing rings, etc), +1 items, doing spells like: wizard eye, or throwing a thunderbolt that kills the B.E.M. just in time to save the party -- 125 xp

Being expedition leader, coming within one point of dying, acquiring potions (100 points per dose), scrolls (100 points per level/use), and for doing spells like: create food and water, mass invisibility, etc -- 100 xp

Being rear guard, doing simple detection spells -- 75 xp

Figuring out a trap, tripping one and taking damage, all lesser spell use (locks, knocks, winds) going over half damage, doing extra dangerous and uncalled for acts (checking for secret places, when you know there are traps, etc -- 50 xp

There's lots that can be said about Dave Hargraves alternate experience points system. At the higher levels, the experience points awards seem meager compared to the risks and accomplishments. 375 experience points for recovering Satan's own pitchfork? 300 experience points for acquiring the staff of black wizardry? Apparently Dave was pretty stingy with his experience awards.

On the other hand, there are some interesting observations here. Giving extra experience to the expedition leader, point man, and rear guard is a good idea. Experience for figuring out a trap -- assuming it was done with "player skill" -- is also appropriate. Experience points for magic spells cast is more problematic for me, since it is a character skill, and players already get experience for monsters killed by magic.

Other than slowing down the awarding of experience, all that the Arduin experience point system has done is to replace experience points for gold with experience points for magical treasure. If one can criticize xp for gold as being unrealistic, would the same criticism not apply to xp for magic items?


Timeshadows said...

Less so, I would think, due to the apparent scarcity of Magic Items versus raw coinage or the like.
--Arguably, in the Arduin universe(s), those items are more common than in 'average fantasy' worlds, but still, obviously less common than 'mere treasure'.

But, I must agree with him that the stunt of pulling off a heist of great difficulty, even if the amount taken is small, should be greater.
--For instance: stealing a feather from a demon's pillow should be more Notorious than stealing a 5,000 GP candlestick from a pawn shop.

You know what I mean?

Aaron E. Steele said...

Even if it was Satan's own feather, or perhaps The Flying Dutchman's dining-sock? [sadly, you may not get the reference to that, unless you're familiar with spongebob]

What the heck is a 5,000 gp candlestick doing in a pawnshop!

I grok what you're saying, I just think that DH replaced one 'seemingly' bad reward system with another 'seemingly' bad reward system. Story-based experience awards are fine (steal a feather from Satan's pillow and you get 5,000 xp) but aren't those story-based experience awards as equally arbitrary as saying Satan's feather is actually a golden feather worth 5,000 gp?

Casting spells for experience and acquiring magic items for experience don't make any more sense to me than experience for looting treasure. But you know how I can be sometimes!

It's interesting to look at Bogg's Dragons At Dawn. Boggs tries to recreate the original experience awards system employed by Arneson. There are elements in the D@D xp system that make sense.

Aaron E. Steele said...

@TS: to be fair, though, one of the criticisms of OD&D's experience for gold system (valid, I think) is that treasure does double-duty, both as wealth and experience.

That's why we see so many old-schoolers giving experience points for squandered treasure only.

Timeshadows said...

I think the squandered GP as XP is only appropriate for the emulation of S&S clich├ęs, and that it would be wholly inappropriate in Urutsk, for example, where saving things for the future (including multi-generational descendants) is the name of the game, as it were.

In the end, I don't use any hard and fast system, but gauge things based upon the point in the game in which they occurred; whether the Players deserved it; and whether the action merited more APs, fewer, or none at all.

I have also toyed with the idea (in play it proved deliciously irksome to the Players) to allow them to burn un-spent APs to perform unusual actions or to speed processes like crafting items.
--The Players liked having the option, but hated using it.
---Ha! ;D

So, I don't really know what to say other than that.
--Best to you in your quest. :D