Sunday, August 27, 2017

AD&D Rules I've Overlooked or Misunderstood: Henchman Experience

I've been rereading the first-edition AD&D books since I finished rebuilding my lost collection. As I'm reading more carefully and closely than I ever did as an adolescent, I'm noticing rules I previously overlooked or misunderstood. As I come across more of these, I'm going to post them here.

My first installment is on Henchmen Experience (PHB 39, DMG 85).


According to the PHB, "you should expect that your character’s henchmen will get about 50% of the experience points which their share in the slaying of opponents and garnered treasure actually totals" (39).

The DMG gives an example of this, indicating that the total XP is divided equally amongst all participants, PCs and henchmen, and then the henchmen have their XP halved (85).

The way I consistently misunderstood this when running AD&D in the past was that I read that 50% as "a half share" which is not quite the same thing as what is written. In essence I treated each henchman as "one person" and each PC as "two people" for purposes of calculating XP shares. In fact, the rules as written say that a full share of XP is counted out for each henchman, and that full XP share is subsequently cut in half.

To see the difference, let's say a party of one PC and two henchmen earn a total of 1200 xp for killing monsters.

In my old not-by-the-book way, I would divide those 1200 xp by 4 (2 shares for the PC and 1 share for each of the two henchmen), and come up with 300 xp per share. So the PC (with two shares) would get 600 xp, and the henchmen would each get 300 xp. So the henchmen each get half as much as the PC.

But if you do it by the book, you divide the 1200 xp total by 3. Then you cut the henchman shares in half. So the PC should actually get 400 xp, each henchman gets 200 xp, and the other 400 xp (200 for each henchman) are simply lost. That's right, they just disappear. Nobody benefits from them at all.

Of course I left treasure xp out, since that will vary according to whatever payment agreement the PC has made with his/her henchmen. But the principle still stands. In effect, the henchmen will receive ½ xp for each gp in their respective shares, meaning half of the henchmen's treasure xp will be lost as well.

From a purely game-mechanic perspective, I find my corrected reading of the rules to be intriguing. Using henchmen at all literally wastes xp. So players have a greater incentive to not rely on henchmen unless they really need to. This may not be a bad thing.

21 comments:

  1. Interesting. I don't think I like it. I'm not sure why experience would fade into the vapor. They way you were running it makes more sense and less mathy. I'm all for less mathy.

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    1. I haven't decided whether I like it or not yet, but I do find it interesting. I do see how XP would fade into the vapor though -- I observe it every day in my classroom. Every student in the room gets the same exposure to my presentation, to class discussion, etc. Some students (the PC types) get all that can be gotten out of a particular class session, some (the henchmen types) don't, even though the content of any given session is the same for everyone present. Some of the benefit just goes "poof" and disappears into the ether. So in that sense I'd say Gary's rule as written is a pretty good simulation of reality.

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    2. I should add though, that my "not-by-the-book-way" makes sense in its own way. The PC gets even more XP at the expense of the henchmen: which is logical given that the PC also bears the responsibility of command, and this arguably could add to his/her XP.

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  2. My guess is the idea that it means there is less risk the NPCs will over-shadow the PCs and also that since they are not fully autonomous adventurers they learn less from their exploits.

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    1. Definitely. My own "not-by-the-book" calculations had this effect too, but not to the extent that the R.A.W. have it.

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  3. Having started playing LABYRINTH LORD not all that long ago, figuring out henchman XP shares was not intuitive for me. I finally found a good example in BASIC FANTASY (3rd edition, version 107, page 42) that really clarified it. And it's exactly what you outlined as your "old not-by-the-book way." I like it quite a bit. The AD&D method, as Tim noted in the comments, doesn't make a much sense to me.

    I will say that having come to the OSR very late (i.e.: not as a lapsed gamer coming back to D&D after playing it as a kid), I found XP in general not incredibly intuitive. For me, at least. Probably sounds dumb to D&D veterans, but for a newbie, it took awhile to wrap my head around it.

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    1. I get the impression that OSR XP not being terribly intuitive is not uncommon. I have a feeling that for those of us who were introduced to it young, it sunk in easily because there weren't alternative ways of doing it really at the time, and we didn't think too much about it. That was "just the way it it's done" (and when I was 12 I just didn't think about it too much). So no, you don't sound dumb at all -- on the contrary!

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    2. All I can add is that I'm really, really thankful to have a spreadsheet to help out. Calculating XP with a calculator and a scratch sheet doesn't strike me as much fun! :)

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  4. There is a clear explanation and example of this rule in B2, FWIW. Henchmen just don't benefit as much from adventuring because, presumably, they aren't doing anything but following the PC's lead.

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    1. Thanks! I just reread the passage in question, and you're right! It's right there again. XP divided evenly and only then do the henchmen have their XP halved. I'm glad you pointed that out. It's amazing how many times I've read this and missed it there, too.

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  5. I don't think that the RAW could be what Gary meant. Could he have meant that half a share of XP could be wasted, but only if there are an odd number of henchmen? Could he have meant that each henchman wastes a half share?

    It seems impossible. I think you have been doing it right despite being slightly at odds with RAW.

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    1. I wasn't sure myself, so I compared the PHB rule with the example in the DMG, p. 85, where it says: "A party of 12 characters encounters monsters; in the ensuing battle all characters fight, 2 are slain, and the x.p. for monsters killed total 4,300, so each survivor gains 430 — adjusted for difficulty and for being actual player characters or halved for henchman characters." So it does seem pretty clear he intended for equal division of XP, and only subsequently taking away half for the henchmen (so in this example 430 for the PCs and 215 for the henchmen).

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    2. Ah, and Peter V. Dell'Orto, in his comment above, just pointed out another such example in module B2 (p. 5) where half the henchman's XP are indeed simply lost.

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  6. yeah we never used henchmen because we didnt want so split xp!

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    1. Yeah, I can totally understand that.

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    2. How much XP do you get when dead?

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    3. That is the conundrum, isn't it? :)

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  7. I'll be curious what you think when you get to the surprise rules and the effect on missile weapon rate of fire.

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    1. Interestingly, I remember those, though now, after years of playing games that don't necessarily give multiple segments (rounds) of surprise with multiple missile shots, I do have a new appreciation for the deadliness of an ambush.

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  8. Interesting. I have never followed that rule either.

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    1. I am realizing more and more I'm not alone.

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