... now with 35% more arrogance!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Levels of Heroic Spark

Trey raised some questions on my post about levels and experience points. I'll summarize my post first: just as there are two conflicting interpretations of hit points, there are two conflicting interpretations of class levels:
  • abstract measure of ability beyond the norm;
  • concrete measure of training and competence.
I firmly side with the former, the "heroic spark" interpretation. Gygax, whatever his original opinion, added material supporting the second, "professional competence" interpretation in the AD&D DMG.

Trey raised some questions, which I'll deal with here:

"Why is it more difficult for certain classes or races to gain that heroic spark?"

I take this to refer to differences in advancement rates and level limits for races. Many of the differences depend on the local interpretation; obviously, a GM who dumps level limits, as many do, eliminate the differences in difficulty for races. The various random advancement schemes floating around eliminate differences in advancement for classes.

Since the restrictions and different advancement rates were introduced for balance reasons, you won't find many in-game rationales that will work well, although you could claim that it simply takes more of spark -- more experience -- to do the impossible (magic) than to merely excel at the ordinary (fighting.)

That's the only distinction that made sense to me, so I ditched the standard experience charts and went with only two charts -- well, three, if you include "semi-supernatural" hybrid classes. And I'm turning races into mods of classes, so they use the same rules. The races and classes now gain experience at the same rate, but a 2nd level spell (usable by 2 HD magic-user) is equivalent to a +4 to skill (4 HD Trickster) or +4 to reaction (4 HD Charmer.)

"If two characters do the same heroic deed, why do some get less benefit than others?"

I may need an example of this. I think it refers to experience bonus for high Prime Requisite scores, but I'm not sure.

"Why is it so specifically tied to killing and money acquisition?"

Is it? The killing part has been a matter of constant debate. Many, including myself, go with "defeating a monster" rather than killing -- and I count all sorts of things as a defeat, include bribery. Treasure gets debated as well: many (*not* me) ditch experience for treasure. I consider it an abstract measure of problem-solving that doesn't involve conflict with a monster. I also add experience based on ability scores needed for an action.

And again, those who use random advancement, story awards, or experience per session ditch the "killing and looting" problem entirely. In fact, story awards are pretty popular and are completely inconsistent with the "professional competence" interpretation. Why would a ranger gain competence in hunting and tracking, or a thief gain competence in picking locks, simply because they rescued the princess and prevented the villain from waking the lich-king?

Experience awards seem to me to be the one element of the rules that a GM *must* customize to fit the campaign.


  1. That was a quick response. :)

    My point on "getting less for the same heroic deed" was related to different experience point requirements for different classes to go up a level--the same deed is "worth" proportionally less.

    I think those are all really good solutions-- though it is true you modified the rules to get that sort of fit, and my points were raised in regard to the rules "as written."

  2. The problem with "rules as written" is that they've been written many ways. The LBBs only have three classes, and actually fit the "heroic spark" interpretation better: all classes have equal chances to hit at 1st level and do equal damage, and the more mundane the class, the less experience it requires. So, a character performing a "standard act of adventurousness" will advance faster if only trying to excel in mundane pursuits, but will advance slower if trying to excel in the supernatural.

    I haven't studied Greyhawk intensively, but I feel it is there that the rules start to drift towards the "professional competence" interpretation. Certainly, it's established by the time AD&D comes out.