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One issue with older versions of D&D that heavily relied on treasure GP is that characters have to become rich to advance so that by fourth or fifth level mundane equipment costs become meaningless. Carousing rules and limits such as the Paladin's tithe have come along to address but I was thinking of going to the source.

Have you ever considered changing the ratio either in a fixed manner, such as 10xp per 1gp of treasure recovered, or a float perhaps based on level, you get 1xp per character level per gp (a fourth level fighter would recover around 4300 gp) or maybe hit dice of monster guarding it (with trap guarded being 1 or 2, maybe more for a serious trap and unguarded being 1 or less).

Edit: This is about speed or about me being someone who started at's about wealth. It was specifically spurred by some musing over at Carcosa (Geoffrey McKinney's now-defunct blog). I'm looking for solutions other than the carousing rule from an early Dragon issue or AD&D style training costs.

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I made the edition assumption based on the line "characters have to become rich very fast" (emphasis mine), implying some need to advance-and-get-rich quickly. Did you mean just that, as written, characters just do become rich fast? – SevenSidedDie Oct 4 '10 at 17:05
Okay, I had used 'fast' meaning relative to level. Historically a medieval baron treated the costs of things like armor as highly important. While I don't want to simulate that it is troubling to me that before they're halfway to name level these costs are meaningless. I have updated my question to better explain what I meant by fast. – HerbN Oct 4 '10 at 17:18
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I either use the XP for gold rule, or I eliminate it entirely.

In my earlier-edition games I prefer to see characters level organically, gaining XP as slowly or quickly as the players' choices enable them to given the opportunities presented by the DM. Taking a laissez-faire approach to the PCs' levelling removes some of the pressure on the DM to make sure they have "enough" XP from any one adventure or encounter, and puts it on the players to pressure themselves to seek out enough XP to meet their desired rate of advancement.

If an excess of treasure is a problem, consider placing treasure rarely or in very small caches. Note that the perceived value of treasure is directly proportionate to how rare it is. In a game with rare, small treasure caches, that 100gp ruby is going to be a prized find, while in a game of overflowing chests of gold that ruby is going to be overlooked.

By reducing the frequency of treasure, even while you're using the XP for gold rule, you'll immediately emphasise the contribution of other sources of XP over treasure. Not only will the PCs be getting less treasure, but they'll be incentivised to seek out those other XP sources in order to advance their characters. Potentially, this can create situations where they might choose to go after the evacuating monsters instead of stopping to search their lair for loot (and losing the monsters). Either choice is a good one, but comes with trade-offs.

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In the 1970s, D&D was played in a very abstract manner. Were you to get realistic -- such as calculating the treasure available and comparing it to local or national finance -- the result would immediately show the absurdity of the system. But that didn't matter; the point was to have fun and not worry about the details. (My how things have changed in 30 years...)

One of the features of that 'dawn of roleplaying' era was simplistic awards. Your question about XP for gold relates directly to that era and attitude.

Instead of wrestling with the innate unrealism and finding a compromise in number-crunching, you should probably pull back and consider your game more broadly, using XP awards as a tool to shape it into the form you prefer. Whatever your players' specific preferences, you will find that they respond to awards.

One approach is to decide how quickly you want your players to advance, do the math to find the total XP award per session, and use that as a baseline, modifying up or down based on their play. That will translate to more or less XP for gold, monsters, roleplaying, goal achievement, and/or other factors.

Another approach is to simply tilt the by-the-book awards, increasing or decreasing individual elements, again reaching a goal that 'feels right' to both you and your group. (Remember to communicate with players, and not rule by arbitrary DM fiat, to achieve best results.)

I'm sure you'll find that AD&D1e is easy to customize in many ways -- including XP awards -- without noticeably altering the features that make it your game of choice.

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This was sounding good up until the part about communicating with players and not ruling by arbitrary DM fiat. That is so not how we played back in the 70's/80's :) – Pat Ludwig Oct 4 '10 at 17:03
Very true. But we've learned a LITTLE bit about Fun since then. :) – ExTSR Oct 4 '10 at 17:16

For my campaigns, both back in the 80s and today, I ditched the gold for XP system. There are plenty of things that players can and want to spend gold on in my setting (like building a stronghold) so that accumulation of wealth isn't that big of an issue.

In its placed I use a roleplaying award. It is calculated as:

<level> times <xp factor> times <rp factor>

XP Factor is set between 50 to 200 for the campaign, while RP Factor is awarded from 3 to 5 on a per-session basis. Typically if a player does well roleplaying (first person, stays within character, etc.) I will award a 4. For crappy roleplaying I will hit them with a 3, and for exceptional roleplaying 5 (or maybe more).

50 XP Factor is a very slow progression with multiple levels per session. 200 XP Factor zooms the characters through low levels very quickly. Typically I set it depending on how many sessions per month we can fit.

I award normal XP for monsters. I find this system frees players from the grind of having to find treasure to advance and allows them to roleplay in my setting more naturally, pursuing goals that don't immediately lead to treasure or killing.

The only thing I may add in the future is quest awards to give when the players achieve a major personal goal.

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I often changed the XP rate to 0 for non-thieves, and 1 per 10gp for thieves. Slows things down a good bit.

For levels 1-3, it went from one level per dungeon to 2 levels per 3 dungeons.

For levels 4-6, it slowed things somewhat more. For high levels (10-15) it really slowed things down.

I've done this in AD&D 1E, Mentzer and Cyclopedia D&D, and AD&D 2E.

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When I played and DM'd 1st edition back in the day we didn't typically award any XP for gold obtained, we gained XP for:

  • monsters overcome (typically killed)
  • magic items gained
  • roleplaying bonus awards
  • quest awards
  • random awards (get the DM a drink, etc)

Advancement was slow, usually 2-3 levels per year of play for a weekly game. It worked for us back then, today I don't know if players would be content with the slower progress.

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