After a player's character has bravely set out and survived his first
adventure, the player will have experienced the entertainment of role-playing games.
But what will the character have gained? If the character never improves, he will
never be able to survive, let alone overcome the powerful dangers that fill
the AD&D game worlds.
Fortunately, this isn't the case. Every time a character goes on an adventure
he learns something. He may learn a little more about his physical limits,
encounter a creature he has never seen before, try a spell as yet unused, or
discover a new peculiarity of nature. Indeed, not all his learning experience need be
positive. After blowing up half his party with a poorly placed fireball, a
wizard may (though there is no guarantee) learn to pay more attention to ranges
and areas of effect. After charging a basilisk, a fighter may learn that caution
is a better tactic for dealing with the beast (provided the other characters
can change him from stone back to flesh). Regardless of the method, the character
has managed to learn something.
Some of the information and skills learned in the game can be applied directly
in play. When a wizard toasts his friends with a badly cast fireball, the
player learns to pay more attention to the area of effect of a fireball. Though the
player made the mistake and his character only carried out the actions, the
player's friends will also learn to keep their characters well away from his.
The reward for this type of learning is direct and immediate. The characters
benefit because each of the players has a better understanding of what to do or
where to go
However, a character also improves by increasing his power. Although the
player can improve his play, he cannot arbitrarily give his character more hit
points, more spells, or a better chance to hit with an attack. These gains are made
by earning experience points (XP).
An experience point is a concrete measure of a character's improvement. It
represents a host of abstract factors: increased confidence, physical exercise,
insight, and on-the-job training. When a character earns enough experience points
to advance to the next experience level, these abstract factors translate into
a measurable improvement in the abilities of the character. Just what areas
improve and how quickly improvement occurs all depend on the character's class.
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