This chapter contains instructions for determining specific experience awards. It also gives guidelines about awarding experience in general. However, it does not provide absolute mathematical formulas for calculating experience in every situation.
Awarding experience points (XP) is one of the DM's most difficult jobs. The job is difficult because there are only a few rules (and a lot of guidelines) for the DM to rely on. The DM must learn nearly everything he knows about experience points from running game sessions. There is no magical formula or die roll to determine if he is doing the right or wrong thing. Only time, instinct, and player reactions will tell.
The Importance of Experience
It is often said that the AD&D game is not a "winners-and-losers" game. This is true. The AD&D game is not a game in which one player wins at the expense of the others. But at the same time there is winning and losing, based on how well the group plays and how well it achieves the goals set for it.
This does not mean that individuals in the group compete against each other (winning and losing) or that different groups of players compete against each other (as in football). If anything, an AD&D game player competes against himself. He tries to improve his role-playing and to develop his character every time he plays.
Experience points are a measure of this improvement, and the number of points given a player for a game session is a signal of how well the DM thinks the player did in the game—a reward for good role-playing. As with any other reward system, there are potential problems.
Too Little or Too Much?
If the DM consistently gives too little experience to players, they become frustrated. Frustrated players don't have fun and, usually, quit the game. Even if they don't quit, players can develop an "It-doesn't-matter-what-I-do-so-why-bother" attitude. They stop trying to do their best, figuring they will only get a measly amount of experience whether they play their best or just coast along.
On the other hand, players can be given too many experience points too quickly. Players in this situation develop an "It-doesn't-matter-what-I-do-because-I'm-going-to-win" attitude. They quit trying to be inventive and clever, and they just get by.
Consequently, the DM must take care not to give characters too little experience or too much. The best approach is to vary the awards given from game to game, based on the actions of the characters. Players should be rewarded according to how hard they try and how well they accomplish various goals.
Every game session should have a goal. Some goals are constant, applicable to any AD&D game. Others are dependent on the individual campaign, storyline, character levels, and specific adventure. All goals should be clear, understandable ones that players can see or decipher from clues they get during play.