Tuesday, October 2, 2012

XP for Magic Items

The way I’ve always played it, characters in my games never got XP for getting a magic item. In my Rules Cyclopedia games, players can sell it for gold, if they can find a buyer, and gain the XP from that, but only if they sell it right away.

In my 3e days XP came from defeating monsters and completing quests. Gold was just used to buy stuff. My 4e game is pretty much exactly the same way.

But Nick the Pike has played in a several different 1e games, and in those games he has acquired magical items, and XP for retaining them! This has been backed up by the AD&D Players Handbook which states:
“Magic items gained and retained have only a low experience point value, for they benefit the character through their use.” AD&D PHB pg. 106

This is further reinforced explicitly in the random determination of treasure section of the DMG, pg 121.
The suggested experience point values are for characters who keep the items.

Immediately following this are the magic item lists that contain the XP value of items kept, and the GP value of items sold.

The first time a character of mine was handed XP for getting a magic item my mind was blown. I’m pretty sure I questioned the DM about it, and his response was “This is AD&D.” It was this that caused me to hunt down a copy of the 1st edition DMG. I’d read a copy of it many years ago, and hadn’t really thought I was missing anything not having it in my collection. Well, it seems I was wrong!

I do find it curious that XP for magic items seems to appear in AD&D, and then disappears. I certainly don’t remember it from 2nd edition. So I’m curious how many of you give XP for magic items. Poll is off to the right!


  1. If you don't award XP for magic items in AD&D advancement is snail's pace slow ... especially applying the rules as written for advancement fees.

  2. Magic items have XP values in 2E as well. It makes sense - treasure is treasure, after all.

  3. Hi,
    I didn't know about that rule either. The 2e DMG has the gp to XP trade as an optional rule, and allows to trade the cash value of non-magical items the same way (2e DMG p.47.) It lists an XP value for magic items, that is only gained by the character who creates such items (2e DMG p.135). I guess, I'll get a copy of the 1e reprints some time. Sounds interesting.

  4. I did something like that in our Barrowmaze campaign, run with a mash-up of OD&D and B/X D&D. To get my reasoning behind that, consider the following.

    First, I award XP for gold (and jewellery and gems) plundered from the dungeon, immediately upon returning to civilization at 1 XP per 1 gp ratio, divided equally between party members.

    Second, gold spent on carousing earns XP, again at a 1 per 1 ratio.

    So, gold may earn XP AND you can use it for your good or earn double. Thus, magic items need to provide the same thing: XP upon finding and use by either as is (i.e. keeping it) or by selling it (i.e. spending its gold value on other things). The latter option can also be used to make much XP out of a magic item, by finding it, selling it, and then carousing.

    In my upcoming campaign, however, I intend not to award XP for purely finding magic items; but that's a whole other story.


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