Level Draining

Couple Points first:

A) Because of Restore Life & Limb, level-draining seems to be far more dangerous than anything that can just outright kill you.

B) Some low level monsters, like the Wight, can level drain you. This creature is worth 80XP. It can potentially take away hundreds of thousands.

C) Drained levels cannot be removed, short of ritual magic or wishes.

I like that there’s something dangerous that can actually hurt or even kill a PC that’s not easily fixed (most PCs above 3rd level can easily afford Restore Life & Limb).

However, I wonder if the XP value of creatures with such abilities is poorly attributed.

Shouldn’t something so dangerous to low and high level characters deliver more XP? Special abilities aren’t finely tuned for their “power level” in the game. A Giant Leech with a special ability to drain some blood each round does not really compare to losing a level or two.

I don’t know if I’d want to go through and give each specific ability and XP value, but I’m mostly just wondering if it was ever considered to increase the XP value for creatures that level drain (or have similar devastating abilities)?

One thing you could do would be to give wights extra HD equal to levels stolen… then the amount of XP they’re worth increases based on the amount of damage they’ve done to the party. On the other hand, this is a possibility that such a growing wight could wipe an unlucky party.

I’m thinking of experimenting with something I saw linked off G+, that level draining undead don’t drain whole levels but xp.

So a wight, which has an xp value of 80, drains 1d6*80 xp per hit, or something like that. I realise there’s slightly more book-keeping involved, but I think it’s less terrifyingly deadly and more terrifyingly scary. I might also combine it with the crit rules (a 20 will crit if it was also a hit) so that it’ll drain a level on a crit…

Yeah, honestly, I like the level draining aspect as I said in my original post. I just don’t think the additional XP granted (and subsequently, treasure value) is commensurate with the risk of fighting one of them.

The “growing” wight is certainly an interesting idea. But, doesn’t really do much address my initial concern.

If this is a “chalk it up to compatibility with other OSR games” then so be it. But, since there is an XP calculation system, I was wondering if this was ever looked at.

Check this out as far as xp is concerned:


Oh and just because you can return from the dead doesn’t mean you are going to enjoy the new you thanks to the Tampering with Mortality chart

Yeah, guys, I’m not really concerned about Level Drain being worse than death. I am asking about the cost of it versus other special abilities in the game. It’s far more powerful than say bonus damage or something.

Actually, I did discover that blog and found it interesting. That’s a level of splitting up abilities I wouldn’t go to. I was just thinking maybe a two-tier system. But, yeah, the counting as 3 or 4 special abilities is definitely something I wonder if the ACKS fellas considered.

First off, thanks for that!

Yeah, having written it, I will admit that it may be a bit much at the time. I need to just go through the monster manual section and prefigure everything so it’s easier to use.

However, saying that, if you were going to use something simpler, I totally agree that poison, spells, and LD should be worth ** at least.

Having thought a bit more, maybe instead of counting as a special, maybe such creatures should be worth twice base, with ‘lesser’ specials counting in the * column. Hmmm… have to give this some thought.

 Energy drain is purposefully under-valued for XP purposes. Let me explain.

The main reason energy drain is so awful in the game is to make undead terrifying. Undead are supposed to represent "a fate worse than death." To a player, the fate worse than death is losing his hard-earned experience levels. If your party doesn't have a cleric or spells strong enough to stop energy-drainers, the appropriate response is to run.

Now, if undead were valued such that the XP gained was worth the risk of the energy drain, then they would not be terrifying. Instead, they'd simply be a high-risk high-reward monster.  That would defeat the point of the game mechanic. 

I would recommend reducing the power of energy drain over increasing the XP for undead. It'll be a hard challenge to find the "right" XP curve. Too little and you've confused your players as to what the appropriate reaction to undead is. Too much and you're incentivizing a cleric-heavy party equipped with protection from evil scrolls to power level.

A good alternative to level draining is to age the character. 5 years of aging instead of a lost level is a good fit.



Good points Alex. I still think it can be increased some without taking away the dread (even 4 specials isn’t that much xp and doesn’t even begin to compensate for even a single lost level).

I don’t like the aging thing though and don’t understand why it gets traction. It’s waaaaaaay harder to come back from aging then losing XP!