Another "Friday fun post" extravaganza...that I have about 50 minutes to write before I need to pick up my kids (last day of school).
*sigh* Why do I get myself into these things?
[actually, I know the reason. Playing, running, thinking about, and discussing Dungeons & Dragons is about the only thing that keeps me somewhat sane these days]
Over at the Pedantic Gaming discord server, there was a little bit of a 'back-and-forth' over a statement or two made by moi regarding AD&D training costs in which I wrote (in part):
I do not fault a person using the training costs...they function fine. They become less necessary (or easier to fine tune) with strong world building. Doing away with them completely withOUT the world building, however, can lead to collapse...which is one of the reasons Basic games (B/X, RC, BECMI, etc.) are not suitable for long-term campaign play without extensive modification/addition.
This as an addendum to the fact that I don't use training costs in my game these days.
Naturally this led to some pushback from some and (amusingly) others coming to my defense from inference that I was using Gygax's stipilation (p. 86 of the DMG) that "training must be conducted under the tutelage of a character of the same class and profession...the tutor might possibly accept some combination of gold and service for his tutelage, at the DM's option" to justify that Little Ol' Me was still playing By The Book, RAW, and simply tying players into NPC factions/organizations through "service."
Nope. I just don't require training for characters to advance in level. When they earn enough x.p. they get the new level, new abilities, new hit points...just automatically.
As this will no doubt cause consternation to some, I thought maybe I should take a moment to elaborate on the WHY of my excising this (fairly fundamental) part of the Advanced D&D game.
A while back (August of last year) there was a lively discussion at Princes blog about the various "upkeep" costs foisted on AD&D players; at the time I wrote the following, specifically with regard to training:
Anthony Huso is as big a proponent of Rules As Written as anyone on the internet, and even he has modified training costs…he uses the same rate, but in SILVER pieces, rather than gold. For me, I’ve tried running training As Written, I’ve tried using it with (Huso’s) silver mod, I’ve tried running it with ONLY for characters wanting to learn new spells or special abilities, and (at this point) I’ve dispensed with training costs completely.
Here’s the thing about AD&D training: it’s not really about sucking $$ out of the players’ coffers. Let me repeat that: TRAINING IS NOT A MECHANIC FOR SUCKING MONEY OUT OF THE PLAYERS. Especially as characters progress in level, training costs become MINUSCULE compared to the amount of treasure coming into the party.Training costs exist to SLOW THE PROGRESS OF THE CAMPAIGN. Advanced D&D is designed for the “long haul” campaign. Training draws out game play by 1) extending the length of time PCs explore/experience low levels (as they have to acquire enough treasure to level up), and 2) by forcing PCs to experience periods of inaction (i.e. taking them out of active play for weeks while training).Why do we want to enforce periods of inactivity? Because it is assumed the game will still continue AND SO the player with the missing PC will have to CREATE A NEW PC FOR ACTIVE PLAY. Why is this desirable? Because it keeps the game “fresh” for the player! Playing a cleric for some dozen+ levels is likely to get tiring…but when the cleric has to train that allows the player to break out his/her halfling thief or elven fighter-mage! As the campaign goes on, MOST players will develop a stable of different characters…some favorites and foundational pieces of the campaign, some just to be played for a lark now and then. AD&D is designed to be played in the LONG FORM…and training rules are one of the things that help this go.Why don’t I use “training costs” in my own game? Because I don’t need to at this point in time. My players are young enough that EVERYTHING about the AD&D game is interesting (and difficult) enough to keep them enthused. They’re also dying a lot and thus creating new PC types so they’re getting lots of chances to play different things…but generally, 6 months SEEMS like a super-long time for a kid of 11 years, unlike a 30/40-some year old adult. At this point, I’m not interested in “slowing down” the game play…I’m making up for lost time (the years when I didn’t have an AD&D campaign going).
And this remains my stance. However, I'd like to elucidate even further:
My campaign is just that: an on-going campaign. While I seed my game world with various "dungeons" cribbed from published adventure modules, I'm not running the thing in truly episodic fashion (i.e. you go to a dungeon, 'complete' the adventure, then go to the next dungeon). Instead, my players live in the campaign world. There is "adventure" between every dungeon, within every town and village, on the road, etc. just as a matter of existing in the imaginary environment. My game is always "on;" it doesn't focus on the highlights of a delve, players are under no (out-of-game) geas to participate in an adventure, and they can leave adventure sites at any time. Likewise, the PCs are free to podunk around in a town or wilderness section as much as they want, exploring the world...though, as a DM, it is my job to offer hooks and incentives that are enticing enough they don't linger over-long. And fortunately, players being players, they tend to bite at ANY adventure hook...because, in an Advanced game world, PCs are always short of money and looking for the next "big score."
Consequently, PCs are often 'on safari' and nowhere near a place where one might find a tutor, training hall, "adventuring guild," or whatever when they come to a point of leveling up. If I'm running I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City and the players have bivouacked in a ruined building while exploring the place, who is going to train them? If they are in the middle of the Desert of Desolation when they hit their level cap are they forced to remain at 4th or 5th level when the dungeons still remaining to be plumbed are increasing in deadliness all around them?
For my game (YOU don't have to do this), I have the take that experience points earned represent just that: experience. And when a character hits a breakpoint, their level has been earned...no longer is the character the farmboy getting pwned by a lone sand-orc (Luke Skywalker) but now a more capable character with a bit better fighting ability a few more hit points, the ability to cast stronger enchantments...whatever. Advancement always involves a period of rest and reflection (i.e. at the end of a game session), but I don't force the PCs to return to town to engage in weeks of training. As I wrote: training is a method of regulating the pace of the campaign. And, at this point, I want my campaign to continue moving along at a steady clip.
Besides which, my players have enough money issues as is...I don't need to suck their purses dry.
As a precedent for my take, I refer to Gygax himself in module S4: Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, in which he wrote:
During the course of several games sessions, players may accumulate enough experience points to qualify for an increase in level. Because the caverns are so far from anyplace where characters can train, the DM may allow player characters to advance without prior training, provided that the quality of play has been very high...if you choose to allow player characters to advance in level without training, it should be because of their playing skill, and the special circumstance of this module. Advancement without training should be regarded as a reward for excellence, rather than as a normal part of the campaign.
Keeping in mind that S4 is no more "special" than say other extended adventure module (Gygax's own GD series, for example or I1 or I3-15), and that "quality of play" and "excellence" are wholly subjective measurements on the part of the DM (and, thus, arbitrary), I could take this as Gygax's implicit blessing to discard training altogether, regardless of his protestation that doing so shouldn't be a "normal" part of campaign play.
That is, I could take it that way...if I considered EGG's words sacrosanct. Which, really, I don't anymore (though I respect the hell out of him and [much of] his work).
I run a fairly 'hard' campaign...at least, by the standards of the last 30 years or so. No fudging. Characters die regularly (sometimes in droves). Adventures are not "toned down;" big rewards mean big dangers (and vice versa) and players are pushed to risk themselves if they want big scores. SURVIVING, in my game, is evidence of "excellence" and "high quality of play." And even when a modicum of luck is involved...well, for the most part my experience has been that players make their own luck. And welcome to it...the bad luck always comes around, eventually!
SO...no. I don't require player characters in my AD&D game to train. All "training" occurred long before the characters set off on their first adventure, when they were learning the skills that made them 1st level adventurers. "Levels" earned by PCs are a measure of how experienced they are in their profession. The characters aren't learning new skills...they're simply getting better at the skills they've already learned.
All right. Happy Friday, folks.