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Monday, February 10, 2020

Magic Item XP: Yea or Nay?

There’s been a discussion elsewhere on which GMs award experience for magic items. I don’t, unless the item is sold, but I may change that. However, let’s go over what is known in OD&D.

The only place in the LBBs where awarding experience points is discussed is in Men & Magic. There, we see this sentence:
As characters meet monsters in mortal combat and defeat them, and when they obtain various forms of treasure (money, gems, jewelry, magical items, etc.), they gain “experience”.
It goes on to explain that characters get 1 experience point for every gold piece of treasure value, adjusted for how risky it was for the characters to gain the treasure. There is no list of XP awards for magic items, so the conclusion I reach is that the XP value of magic items is equal to the monetary value of the item.

The Greyhawk supplement changes the way experience points are awarded for monsters, but makes no changes for treasure or magic items. The Holmes basic booklet uses different phrasing, but agrees with Men & Magic. It’s not until AD&D that we see lists of XP awards for magic items. Because Holmes basic was edited and altered by Gygax himself, I interpret this as a change in procedure for the AD&D branch, not a clarification of some overlooked rule.

When I GM, I interpret experience points as a form of status combined with self-confidence. Villagers see how much money you bring back from an expedition and hear tales of your exploits, and that increases their opinion of you, which boosts your confidence in your own abilities. So, although I haven’t awarded XP for magic items before, I’m thinking that displaying and using enchanted gear ought to boost your reputation as well. But the award should be much less than if an item is sold.

What I’m thinking now is: the XP award for most items, excluding single-use items like potions and scrolls, should be similar to the XP award for monsters. Use the spell level equivalent for magical effects as the hit dice rating. If there’s a magical bonus, as for weapons and armor, add that to the dice rating. If there are two powers, use the highest power to set the dice rating, then add 50%. If there are three or more powers, double the dice rating.

Since the XP award will probably be pretty low, it’s OK to always award this XP, regardless of whether the player keeps the item or not. If they sell the item, they also get XP for the value of the item.

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  1. Not unless they sell it immediately. If they start using it, then it’a gear and not treasure.

    1. That's what I've done in the past, but here, I'm suggesting not worrying about it. Merchants might offer less if they can tell the item's been used, though.

  2. No xp for magic items in my game: I feel they are their own reward. Perhaps if I had magic shops where people can buy and sell magic items – but I don’t.

  3. FYI Gygax did elaborate on XP for magic items in the FAQ in strategic Review #2 from 1975 to the extent of exact amounts of XP for some items.

    I don't really know if I think it is a great idea to give XP for magic items. As I see it, the rule exists for two reasons. First, to make sure that all magic items will be treasured even by players who already have equivalent or better items. And second, to make division of treasure fairer. If one player gets the only magic item, the other players can fairly divide all the money between them and everyone will still get XP. In my game, however, my players seem to just give magic items to whomever seems most fit for the item anyway so it hasn't really made a difference.