1. Given that the modern rate of play is weekly or every other week, it really should not take more than 10 sessions to reach 2nd level, and I'm ok with it even being twice as fast as that.
2. I like giving xp both for killing monsters and gaining treasure. Not so much for gaining magic items.
3. I know the arguments for balancing in favor of treasure but find in practice that leads to unwieldy amounts of treasure, quickly overwhelming the options for equipment purchase.
4. I reject many of the classic solutions for cash glut like magical items for sale, PCs creating minor magic items, venal miracle-mongers charging four-figure resurrections, exorbitant training fees.
5. I think about 5th level is when players should think about starting to build a name-level legacy and throw money around for influence and ultimately stronghold privileges.
6. I'm OK with levels taking more sessions to obtain the more the players play.
With these criteria in mind let's build a dungeon rich in exploration and non-combat problems, where the combat is with squads of 5 orcs at a time. And send a party of 5 in. The assumption here is that our heroes are going to run into and beat about the equivalent of two such squads before the session ends (and this has nothing to do with the 15 minute adventuring day - it's usual for parties in my exploration-heavy dungeons to split one expedition over two game sessions). The question then becomes, assuming we want them to level up in about 6 sessions, how much treasure should we have them take away on average each time?
Orcs are 10 XP and although classes vary, the fighter is a good benchmark and will level at 2,035 xp (I wonder what intensive playtesting led to such a precise figure ...) Thus, 10 x 10 / 5 = 20 xp from monsters will be gained by each member on each expedition. After 6 expeditions our fighter has 120 xp from monsters; fair enough; it's an explicitly treasure-weighted system. But the fighter will have to end up with 1915 gold pieces if and when he makes second level - enough to buy a suit of plate mail for himself and two henchmen!
Other Old School Clones
OSRIC and Swards & Wizardry are a little more generous, clocking in at 15 XP (on average, in the case of OSRIC) per orc, but this doesn't make an appreciable dent in the huge sums to be had. Lamentations' orcs and fighters are much the same as LL's.
My House Rules
In the current incarnation of my house rules I give xp at the rate of:
- 100 per adjusted hit die (adjusted for special attacks and the like) of monsters that are equal to or higher than the average party level,
- half that if one lower,
- and 1/10 that if two or more.
Now, this system is tailored to my preferences, which skip a lot of the familiar tropes of D&D and aim for a lean, hungry kind of game. I've seen a lot of these preferences expressed by bloggers, but not always with an appreciation of how monsters, experience and treasure exist in a delicate balance. I'm just wondering how this balance works in other games with the wealth of house rules out there.
Next I'll consider the question of what there is to spend money on, under a game aesthetics that avoids the computer-game staple of the well-stocked magic equipment store.