And now a return from the heady thoughts of domain- level campaigns and estimating the cost of the accountant-hirelings you need to manage your riches. Let’s go all the way back to the first level dungeon and wrestle with experience gain in OD&D. Is it too slow? For monthly games it can literally take years for a party to build to mid-levels.
I wondered what the rules-as-written allocation of experience might reveal or confirm about the rate of advancement in dungeons, hoping it would help me decide if slow advancement is a problem (for me) or not. The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures gives guidance on stocking a dungeon on pages 6 – 8. Here is a rough summary:
Thoughtfully place a few important treasures (magical items and large amounts of wealth) in out-of-the-way locations, with or without guardians and traps. Then randomly generate contents of remaining areas. 33% of rooms contain a monster, with half the monsters having treasure. Of the remaining empty spaces, 16% have treasure (likely guarded by a trap or trick).
Let us imagine a dungeon with 100 rooms on the first level. Of the 100 rooms,
- X contain non-random, DM-placed treasures and encounters
- 55 are empty
- 11 contain treasure
- 16 contain monsters with no treasure
- 17 contain monsters with treasure
Expected treasure for a first level encounter is 52 gp with additional 5% chance each for jewelry, gems, and magic . The expected value of each gem is about 233 gp . The expected value of each piece of jewelry is a whopping 3,410 gp . The distribution of treasures should look something like this :
- X “important” treasures
- 1 or 2 treasures with gold and jewelry, expected value 12,005 gp each
- 1 or 2 treasures with gold and gems, expected value 887 gp each
- 25 treasures with gold, expected value 52 gp each
This is a key element of the by-the-book DNA shaping am exploration-based game. Your party only levels by finding hoards; you find hoards through exploration and discovering out-of-the-way areas.
The rules promote periods of slow experience gain characterized by exploration, mapping, and retreat, followed by a big payoff when you find the occasional hoard. If your character is not present during the big payoff, you lose out. If this is seen as a problem there are obvious workarounds: make the average treasure bigger and reduce the size of hoards. But consider how else that may effect the feel of the game and behavior of players.
 See pg. 7
 Ignoring the specified 1-in-6 chance for each gem to be in the next higher category, because. I am using the gem and jewelry tables from Monsters & Treasure pp.39-40.
 Look! We found a Bracelet of Leveling!
 This distribution provides about 19,350 experience from treasure, about enough to level a party of 5 to second level (assuming a 50% death rate along the way and other lost exp). If we assume an additional 6,000 exp from monsters (17 encounters plus wandering monsters) the level offers about 25,000 before the DM’s specially-placed important treasures are counted. And this is a 100-room first level; a similar 50-room first level would provide 12,500, etc.