Orcs & Tyrannosaurs
– 100 XP / HD (pt. 2)

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about the idea of using the original OD&D rule of a flat 100 experience points per monster hit die. I gave three reasons in favor of this: simplicity, ease of advance at lower levels, and making hoards of lesser creatures “measure up” in terms of combat ability to lone high-level monsters.

It takes 800 orcs in Second Edition
AD&D to equal the XP value of one
Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The example I gave, as a sort of extreme contrast of basic fighting monsters (i.e., no magic or special powers) was the orc vs. the tyrannosaur. To the right is how the lowly 1-HD orc measures up to the tyrannosaur in some of the various versions of the game, with the last column showing how many orcs it takes to equal the XP award of a single T-Rex.

Now, does anyone really think that defeating 800 orcs is the equivalent of defeating 1 tyrannosaur? That 12,000 XP value is just plain whacked. Even at the lowest ratio, 200 orcs vs. one tyrannosaur, is way off.

In the 100 XP per hit die system in Labyrinth Lord, 22 orcs would equal one tyrannosaur. I fought two simulated battles of 22 orcs (1 leader and 17 footorcs with long swords, 4 archers with short bows) against one tyrannosaur. The orcs won the first fight in 8 rounds, the second fight in 10.

My son then said that all a 1st level fighter has to do is kill 20 orcs and he gets to 2nd level. I said if a 1st level fighter can beat 20 orcs in a row, he deserves 2nd level. So we played it out. I used our house rule of max PC hit points at 1st level, a rather common mod, and rolled for the orcs. The fighter won 15 of the fights, which is exactly what I predicted. However, he never won more than four in a row. Under standard Labyrinth Lord rules a fighter would need to defeat 200 orcs in a row to advance to second level.

This comparison has actually strengthened the idea that 100 XP per hit die is a workable system. I certainly think it’s worth considering as a quick and simple replacement for the standard system.

Additionally, I found that both Sham and Jeff Reints are fans of the system.

In any event, I still think that 75% or more of a typical PC’s experience point total should come from treasure, not combat.

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9 Responses to Orcs & Tyrannosaurs
– 100 XP / HD (pt. 2)

  1. Under standard Labyrinth Lord rules a fighter would need to defeat 200 orcs in a row to advance to second level.

    I take it then that this statement doesn’t figure in XP from treasure? Because in LL a lair of orcs has, on average, 30 to 40 individuals, and has more than a 50% chance of yielding 4,000 or more XP.

    This is all crazy-talk anyway, since we old schoolers all know that it’s only the XP from treasure that matters – XP from monsters is just a little icing on the cake. ;D

    • Kilgore says:

      Yes, I don’t mean to imply that one should ignore XP from treasure. In my games, players usually see about 75% of their XP from treasure.

      Since I don’t mean to fiddle with the treasure levels, I didn’t include anything specific about treasure XP in this. I’m just wondering about the viability of using the 100 XP/ HD for combat experience.

      I am going to look at this some more and see what treasure would do to the numbers as a part of keeping the big picture in mind.

  2. sean wills says:

    I’ve only ever used the 100XP/HD method because it works for the plucky low-level PCs brave enough to take on the goblin war party as well as the high-level PCs, where (in my opinion) it’s more about the consolidation of wealth and power rather than just about killing monsters.

    • Kilgore says:

      My expectation would be that a switch to a flat 100 XP/HD would make low-power monsters worth a lot more and high-power monsters worth less. This would probably mean that mid-power monsters would be more or less pretty close either way.

      This would mean that advancing the first few levels might be slightly quicker for PCs while advancing beyond middle levels would be slightly slower. I wouldn’t have any problem with that at all.

  3. JB says:

    Man, I don’t know…just finished two different B/X sessions and, if I was using the 100XP/HD rule the PCs would have gained a LOT of XP compared to the comparative challenge of the session.

    Not that I have anything against speedy advancement (I AM a fan of high level play, after all, and would like PCs to advance quickly). But just as an example, a sleep spell can take out 1600 XP of enemies in one shot (average 900 XP) with your advancement scheme. Combined with the regular combat, and treasure, our 2nd level characters would have made quite a haul, XP-wise.

    Though I suppose the real issue is, I DO think downing a T-Rex should be worth about 200x the experience of an orc. Aside from the heavy damage the bite inflicts (enough to wipe-out many mid-high level characters), aside from the average 90 hit points (which will mean several rounds of combat before the thing falls), the T-Rex is a 20HD creature! That means it hits AC 2 on a “4” (in B/X play anyway). Even a fighter wearing magic armor is going to be hit (and take damage) just about every round.

    I am guessing that in your simulated combat, the T-Rex killed an orc every round. Fortunately for them, there were 22 of ’em. Most parties are smaller than that. Smaller parties would be hard pressed to do as much damage every round as 22 orcs. And the T-Rex will be hitting them (with that vicious bite) every round. It is an EXTREMELY dangerous encounter, even up to 10th level or so. 22 orcs on the other hand will have a hard time hitting fighters in even normal plate armor, and every round the parties attacks will diminish the damage output capacity of the orcs.

    Anyway, I guess I don’t fully dig the idea. (what would a spectre be worth? 600XP? ‘Cause I’d sooner face six orcs than 1 spectre).

    • Kilgore says:

      You are totally correct about the inherent weakness of low-HD monsters to mass kills. My son said the same thing, and wanted me to run a simulation of 22 orcs against a party with a fireball-casting magic user and the same party against the tyrannosaur. The sleep spell (way way way over-powered for a 1st-level spell IMHO but that’s a different discussion) delivers the same thing.

      I’ve got some different simulations I want to run through to study things a bit more.

      For the record, I don’t fully dig the idea either. I don’t want to come across as the guy who’s “defending” the 100 XP / HD system, because I’m not. I’m not even using it right now, and up until recently thought it was a crock. However, I’m now wondering if maybe it deserves a look and that’s what I’m doing.

      All the excellent feedback is making that look a much better one. Thanks to all for commenting.

  4. Pingback: Tyrannosaur Cleans Up –100 XP/ HD (pt. 3) « Lord Kilgore

  5. Sham says:

    Charm Monster, Polymorph Other and Disintegrate show how magic is often the great equalizer, just as Sleep and Fireball do. Those first three spells won’t help much against the Orcs, but might end the T-Rex encounter instantly. Remove magic from the equation and the Orcs probably become the fiercer of the two encounters.

    Interesting series. I used the AD&D method for over 25 years, then found I liked the original system better.

    Perhaps a home brewed XP system would work for you; not quite as elementary as the 100xp/HD version and defintely not as complicated as the subsequent system. Something as simple as an XP Doubler for special powers or great size, or even a revised value like:

    50/HD for 1-4
    100/HD for 5-8
    200/HD for 9-12
    300/HD for 13+

    It sounds like you enjoy the simplicity of the original, but want more balance. Tinker away and let’s see the results!

    • Kilgore says:

      Perhaps a home brewed XP system would work for you; not quite as elementary as the 100xp/HD version and defintely not as complicated as the subsequent system….It sounds like you enjoy the simplicity of the original, but want more balance.

      That’s EXACTLY it. In fact, I started on this path by trying to work out a middle ground and ended up wondering if it was worth even that effort if they 100 XP/HD was good enough for my purposes.

      I didn’t intend this to become a series of posts (or it would have been, you know, organized a little bit or something) but it’s been very thought-provoking. And running all the simulated combats between tyrannosaurs and various opponents has been fun.

      My plan is to cook up an alternative simple system and at least post it for feedback before deciding which way to go.

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