AD&D Slows Beyond Name Level and Ends at 20th

Related to my previous post about whether each level on your PC is equivalent to one normal man, look at the benefits for gaining a level below name level (9th or 10th usually). You get a full HD of HP plus CON bonus, your saves might improve, your attack matrix / THAC0 might improve, you get access to new levels of spells, your Thief skills go up sometimes as much as 5%, etc.

What happens after name level? You get 1 to 3 HP depending on class, no CON bonus. Your saves keep getting better and your attack rolls get better. Rangers and Paladins get some spells. Thief skills keep improving but as they reach 99% they stop. You’re definitely getting less per level than you did from 4th going to 5th for example.

Now let’s see how each class winds down. Druid ends hard at 14th and that last level takes 750k XP! At the same XP level the Druid ends, the Thief also stops earning skills and saves / attack rolls at 17th. Assassin likewise ends at 1.5m XP and level 15, his class maximum.

The Fighter gets his last new ability at 12th when he gets two attacks per round. After that he’s just collecting saves and attack bonus until he hits 17th at 2.25m XP. At about the same time Ranger hits 17th at 2.6m, getting his last spells and attack bonus. Paladin grinds on until 20th at 3.975m XP collecting his last few spells.

Monk ends a hard road at 17th with 3.25m XP, his maximum level.

After these either end with a screeching halt or continue collecting in vain for an extra HP here and there, the Cleric / M-U / Illusionist soldier on gaining new spells per day. They’ve already attained the best spells they can ever cast, but getting more spells per day is still something, right? By this time they’ve probably learned as many spells per level as they can based on INT. And of course many spells give an effect based on level and don’t have a level cap such as was introduced in 2E. Illusionist gets his last memorization improvement at 26th with 3.96m XP and Cleric is close behind at 29th with 4.725m XP.

M-U continues grinding on until 29th with 7.125m XP.

So let’s see the XP values at which each class completely caps out:

Druid / Thief / Assassin 1.5m
Fighter 2.25m
Ranger 2.6m
Monk 3.25m
Illusionist 3.96m / Paladin 3.975m
Cleric 4.725m
M-U 7.125m

Let’s say you start a game with one PC of each class, all humans. The players with non-Thief demihumans would hit maximum level quickly and maybe stick around for more magic items or to complete other goals in-game. By the time each PC gained 1.5m XP there would be no demihuman who hadn’t capped and the humans Druid / Thief / Assassin would be finished. Sure the Thief can get 2 HP every 220k XP, so maybe he sticks around for a while.

The PCs Fighter / Ranger hit their cap together and some time later the Monk / Illusionist / Paladin hit their caps around the same time. At this point everyone is looking at the Cleric and M-U thinking they want to start a new campaign (the demihuman players already switched to human PCs).

How in the world does any Cleric or M-U gain enough XP to reach the end of their spell charts? Why did the game designer bother to extend those two classes so far beyond the rest?

And purely from an editor’s standpoint, why extend the M-U advancement chart to 18th just to include the “Mage” and “Archmage” level titles?!

One could argue that the magic items in the books and monsters represent examples only, and you could expand them for your game, which is what almost everyone does. Increase in magic items can improve PCs other than M-U and Cleric so they’re still interested in playing the same character. But the player has been concerned with XP until then and will probably feel like he’s spinning his wheels waiting for an unlucky Disintegrate save to come along.

By the way, this slow progression is part of why in some/many games Demihuman level limits don’t matter. One level of difference at low levels is worth about the same as three levels of difference above name level. So if you have a Dwarf Fighter level 9 he’s not going to be much behind until the Human Fighter rises to 12th. That said, many demihumans have very low level limits and that really sucks if your game goes above that level.

I don’t think this is a problem (except it would have been nice if characters ended around the same time). Most games have boundaries. I wonder if the 3E design decision to continue epic character advancement to infinity was a good move. Everything flourishes and then decays, circle of life, heat death of the universe, etc.

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