... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Experience Points vs. Level

Over on the aimed blows post, I mentioned in passing a simple interpretation of standard level drain. For those who don't want to read that entire post: when a wight or wraith drains a level from a character, lower the level, but not the experience; to regain the lost level, the character has to go on an adventure and earn at least one new experience point. If a character has lost several levels, only one level can be regained per adventure (not necessarily "per session"; a character could go on several short excursions, returning to town after each combat or treasure find, no matter how trivial.)

Brendan commented "... that does mean that level and XP are not ways of expressing the same thing". But wasn't that always true? A dwarf saves at 4 levels higher, according to the original books; a more extreme example would be potions of heroism and superheroism, which give temporary level boosts. Occasionally, a monster or NPC has combat or magic ability at a higher level than would be indicated by the creature's hit dice. So, although D&D tends to stick to a strict marriage of XP and level, there are exceptions, and thus no reason not to embrace it fully. In fact, I make it a rule that experience points can never decrease, only increase; there is a correspondence between your XP and your normal maximum level, but your effective level can be temporarily lower or higher.


  1. I like this interpretation of level drain. The alternatives (lose the XP too, and maybe make restoration spells available) seem either too draconian or too easy on the players.
    When my 3rd level illusionist got drained to 1st level, months into a C&C game, I felt pretty hosed (for one thing, the wraith went straight for my AC 10 butt while all these other characters were closer!) but then getting a restoration later that session made me think, hwat was the point of all that? Knowing all my hard work was not wiped away, and after a few sessions I could regain my levels, would be a better way to make the elvel drain hurt without hosing the player.

  2. This is a good idea. I already use the opposite notion myself when it comes to falling paladins and certain other situations: they lose half their experience points, but do not lose levels. In general my campaign embraces the principle that the correlation between your experience points and experience level is one direction only, and it's only checked at the end of the session, and the xp score may only cause your experience level to go up (one level per session at most), not down. Adding this idea of losing levels without losing xp fits in my brew most excellently!

  3. I think I'd rather do this than strip various undead of their level drain ability.