Thursday, December 2, 2021

Orcs and XP through the Ages

I have been working on a booklet about humanoids and found some interesting tidbits about XP ratios and humanoids through the editions (and this also touches on treasure). The main simple distillation of what I found can be seen in the ratio of the number of orcs a party must kill/defeat before rising from 0 XP at 1st level to 2nd level.

After almost 40 years, I now understand why I always thought AD&D was more of a grind than B/X, which I think is a major element in my preference for B/X...

Party of four adventurers: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief; XP required to get to 2nd level:

OD&D: 7,200
GH: 7,200
B/X: 7,200
AD&D: 7,254
5E: 1,200

XP Value of One Average Orc (5 hp):

OD&D: 100 xp
GH: 10 xp
B/X: 10 xp
AD&D: 15 xp
5E: 100 xp

Number of Orcs a Party must Kill to rise to 2nd level (not including Treasure XP):

OD&D: 72
GH: 720
B/X: 720
AD&D: 484
5E: 12

Average Treasure per Orc, including Individual & Lair Treasure (except 5E), ASSUMING MAXIMUM COINS in treasure (not counting gems or jewelry) and Orcs per Group:

OD&D: 26 gp (TT D: 8,000 gp/300 orcs)
GH: 26 gp (TT D: 8,000 gp/300 orcs)
B/X: 133 gp (TT D: 8,000 gp/60 orcs)
AD&D: 16 gp (TT C, O & L: 4,860 gp/300 orcs)
5E: N/A

Number of Orcs a Party must Kill to rise to 2nd level (including Treasure XP, except in 5E):

OD&D: 58
GH: 200
B/X: 51
AD&D: 234
5E: 12


  1. I've viewed the change to the ratio of monster XP/XP per level less about how much of a grind the designers expect it to be and more about how much emphasis within play should be on defeating monsters. In B/X I know that XP is primarily a matter of monster XP and treasure XP, and this is true to an extent in 1E AD&D (with the bonus of XP for finding magic items) but in later editions XP is given as rewards for completing quests or storylines, and I believe that in 5E monster XP can be ignored and the entire party goes up 1 level when they reach certain milestones in big adventures. Even in earlier editions, DMs can always modify the treasure found to speed up or slow down the rate at which PCs gain experience, usually to move quickly onto the higher level adventures the DM wants to run.

    1. Well, of course you can always change the rules.
      But then you're no longer comparing the actual rules.

  2. In AD&D you avoid the orcs and fight the NPC adventurers - they are the ones with the tons of magic items, which means tons of XP, especially if you sell the gear instead of keep it.

    Likewise the only MM humanoid/demi-human types worth fighting are the ones where Leader types have a 5% or 10% per level chance of magic gear. That usually means Men.

  3. One thing about OD&D and AD&D RAW is that XP is reduced for threats below party/character level, AFAIK BX-BECMI has no rule like this, 5e certainly doesn't. If applied, this makes OD&D-AD&D even more grindy.