Part of the fun of early D&D was choosing what class to play. Each had unique abilities that the others did not have. Each had its own “character” and personality.
But abilities were not the only thing distinguishing the various character classes. Over at Grognardia yesterday, the question was raised why different XP tracks were created for the classes in older versions of D&D (OD&D, B/X D&D and BECMI D&D), and also by implication in AD&D. James Maliszewski proposes the theory that perhaps higher XP requirements to reach 2nd level were consciously made to dissuade players from choosing to play the ‘cooler’ classes (fighters and magic-users). Then farther down I think he hits the nail on the head:
I should note here that all of the above is pure, undiluted ex post facto rationalization for a bunch of XP benchmarks that were, in all probability, made up without any rhyme or reason…
I agree with this, especially looking at AD&D. Magic-Users, for example, start leveling up slowly. But suddenly around Level 6 or so they start leveling up much faster relative to the other classes — precisely when they’re starting to learn 4th and 5th level spells! (Isn’t this around the time they started to surpass the martial classes?) Meanwhile, nearly every other class is still doubling every level until they hit name level.
The XP tracks in B/X and BECMI D&D were no less random. Here are my theories for each class’s 1st-level XP goals in B/X D&D:
Fighter? He’s the default in the game world so let’s give him a nice even number. 2,000 XP.
Cleric? They don’t even have spells yet! Let’s get them to 2nd level faster. (Of course, this gets forgotten in AD&D where they often cast 3 spells a day at 1st level.) 1,500 XP.
Magic-User? They’re the weakest class and eventually become much more powerful, so let’s make them extremely weak longer! 2,500 XP.
Thief? You suck because you have only 1-4 HP and can only do things 10% of the time even though you specialize in them. We’ll throw you a bone. 1,200 XP.
Dwarf? They’re like fighters, but a little cooler cuz they see pit traps and such. So they need what fighters get, but a little bit more. 2,200 XP.
Elf? They’re like fighters, plus they do what magic-users do! It’s like two classes in one, so let’s double what elves have to earn! 4,000 XP.
Halfling? Who plays halflings anyway?
I like Gygax’s organic “tender loving care” approach to crafting the various classes and races in AD&D, and there’s a charm when every race or class has a different “feel” due to an uneven application of rewards and restraints. But when it came to larger system-wide considerations, the early versions of D&D reflect his ad-hoc adjustments and add up to a jumbled mess. It was only when D&D 3rd Edition rebuilt the game’s foundations that this changed. (For better or for worse? Another topic for another day.)
So for you, what do you think about early D&D’s XP tracks? Weal or woe?