Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Experience

If I were doing a Holmes and Cook amalgam according to the advice given in Cook, figuring experience would be straight forward and simple — follow Cook. I am not doing that, however. In order to give Holmes precedence over Cook (while heavily relying on Cook for higher levels) some math needs to be done.

Holmes states:
all halflings and dwarves are members of the fighter class, unless they opt to be thieves.
Elves progress in level as both fighting men and magic-users, but since each game nets them experience in both categories equally, they progress more slowly than other characters.
The only one of these that Cook follows is halfling fighters. Cook's dwarves require 10% more experience per level than normal fighters; Cook's elves progress as their own class that requires 500 less experience at 2nd level than if they were combining fighter and magic user requirements; and Cook (of course) has no rules for halfling or dwarven thieves.

I have to admit that I agree with Cook when it comes to dwarves. In a game where 14th level is the highest level covered, being limited to 12th level isn't much of a disadvantage compared with all of the extra abilities that a dwarf has. Therefore, there is little incentive not to be a dwarven fighter or a dwarven thief. An extra 10% experience per level makes some sense.

Halflings, on the other hand, are only limited to 8th level and only get d6 hp per level as fighters. Therefore advancing them as normal fighters makes sense. However, they would have significant advantages over human thieves without the reduction in hit dice. Therefore I would apply Cook's 10% experience increase for halfling thieves.

When it comes to Elves, I understand Cook's reasoning (4500 xp to get to 2nd does seem a bit steep), but I agree with Holmes — they should need an experience requirement of both a fighter and a magic-user. Doing some math, I think I can do this without requiring such an onerous amount.

Cook does not follow any kind of consistent pattern when it comes to assigning experience; however, there is a suggestion of one. Roughly speaking, each class doubles their experience requirement from 2nd to 3rd level and every level beyond until they reach 8th level. At this point the total requirement at 8th represents the amount of experience needed for each subsequent level.

For example: Fighters need 2000 xp to reach 2nd level. This is doubled to 4000 xp for third etc. A fighter needs 120,000 xp to reach 8th level. For each subsequent level of experience, a fighter needs another 120,000 xp — 240,000 for 9th level, 360,000 for 10th, etc. This math isn't exact (64,000 xp at 7th level is not exactly doubled to get to 120,000 xp), but it is close enough.

The magic number at 8th level for clerics is 100,000; for fighters is 120,000 and magic-users is 150,000. The math breaks down a little bit for thieves, because they also have 120,000 like fighters, but their initial experience requirement at 2nd level skews everything. In fact, there is an anomaly in the Thief progression I do not like — more experience is required to get from 9th level to 10th level (140,000) than 10th level to 11th level (120,000).

In order to fix this anomaly, to help make elf progression a little less onerous and to make the math more clean, I am going to start with those magic numbers at 8th level and work backwards. If one divides by two at every level one arrives at these experience requirements for the three core classes at 2nd level:

  • Cleric = 1563
  • Fighter = 1875
  • Magic-user = 2350

Thus, elves would need 4225 xp for 2nd — reasonably close to Cook's 4000 while still adhering to Holmes' description as progressing "in level as both fighting men and magic-users."

In Cook, the thief 2nd level requirement (1200 xp) is roughly half of the magic-user requirement (2500 xp). If this pattern is adhered to more exactly, Thieves would require 1175 xp. Therefore, they would need 150,000 at 9th level at which point they would need 120,000 xp for every subsequent level. This gets rid of that anomaly in Cook where 9th to 10th level requires more experience than 10th to 11th.

At this point, it is simple to add an extra 10% per level for Dwarven fighters and thieves as well as Halfling thieves.


  1. Thanks, again, for these posts. Combining Holmes and Cook has long been an idea of mine, too, but I've been too busy to give it any serious attention, so this series has been a godsend.

  2. @James
    Thank you (again) for the inspiration and the encouragement.