The Justification of Level Limits in 2nd Edition AD&D
Over the past year, no less than 4 separate times have I been asked (via email) to justify how level limits (in 1e and 2e AD&D) could possibly make any sense. Particularly on the heels of my article concerning The Gamer's Footprint, many wished to know how it could be done without revealing the Gamer's Footprint.
The Gamer's Footprint (Why Some Rules Designed For Game Balance Leave Something To Be Desired.)
First of all I'd like to say that level limits actually do a fairly poor job at maintaining game-balance, particularly in certain key areas. The most important area is found in campaigns that are run in such a way that the acquisition of experience is slow to moderate. Thus, the entire run of the campaign may easily fall below the normal level limits, perhaps even significantly so.
So, for example, if you only played a year or so and your party only reached 9th level, level limits were never really imposed on the PCs (Player Characters). As such, those who took non-human characters, and also multiclassed, probably had significantly more power and were considerably unbalanced in the game. They started out more powerful and stayed that way. This was not only due to having multiple classes, but also due to having certain other racial advantages, like infravision, longevity, better hearing, the ability to see secret doors, immunities to certain attacks, weapon bonuses, etc. It was a game-balance problem, naturally.
As you may recall, game-balance is one of the key concerns here. The limited run campaign - especially those the players knew in advance would never reach high-levels before they were scheduled to quit the campaign - could be abused then by making a choice and having PCs gravitate toward multiclass non-humans.
There is a slight downside when you have to split your xp (experience points) between two or more classes, but in a moderate game, this is not terribly slow, and having the power, skills, and resources of two or more classes can be a significant advantage over anyone who perhaps wasn't thinking about this when they made their PC - perhaps taking a single class human and always seeming to be behind the others in utility and power. And, as I mentioned, the racial skills on top of this made level limits a joke if that's how TSR intended to balance the game.
But in all fairness, I feel TSR fully intended most campaigns to run from 1st level to well past the mid-teens, so the level limits would eventually kick in and work as intended, and single class humans would eventually tend to outshine their non-human multiclassed counterparts. But before that happened, a fundamental lack of power for the single class human could become problematic.
Naturally, some of this lack of power wouldn't even bother the true roleplayer since they may have had no intention for their PC's primary goal in life to be the acquisition of power. Still, one can be made to feel left out if they fell too far behind the others. So even when power was not the goal in and of itself, it helps keep one's PC on par with the others, as well as in the game at the level of power the DM is currently tossing at the party. That is, after all, where the primary story line is to be found, more often than not. Thus, being at a lower power level, even if your primary concern and goal was good roleplaying and not raw power, had a natural tendency to deprive your PC of roleplaying opportunities by keeping them further away from, or unable to handle the current story line. (Not powerful enough, you see?)
However, many games did seem to proceed into the higher levels (eventually) where level limits did come into play, and the game-balance function they were intended to bring actually began working.
NOTE: If you know the run of your campaign is going to be short and that normal level limits will never be reached, one way to alleviate the game-balance problem for that game is to allow humans to multiclass and chuck the dual class rules. You might also allow humans - due to greater diversity and flexibility - to switch back and forth between these classes and split up subsequent xp unevenly. This would balance the non-human racial advantages, and thus things would tend to be fairer. But I digress.
Unfortunately, 2nd edition AD&D (2e for short) made the scene and the munchkin's desire for more raw power won out over more roleplaying concerns in this arena. They wanted even more power since they felt stifled when they reached their non-human PC's level limits. Never having been weaned from power gaming, and probably being the majority of players (the younger set) still likely to buy into a new edition (I'm being cynical here so feel free to ignore me if you wish), TSR gave it to them. Level limits were raised. Hurrah! (Or Boo, depending). I didn't like it, myself. (Actually, I came to dislike it later in life but thought little of it at that time).
But as you probably can guess, raising the level limits simply exacerbated the game-balance problem for lower level games and made it a problem for moderate to 'just beginning to be high' level games as well. It took even longer for level limits to kick in and make their game balancing factors felt. For any campaign whose level was lower than most level limits, non-human multiclass characters were simply unbalanced.
Yes, there were some other balancing factors, particularly the issue concerning Raise Dead and Resurrection, for example. Elves, for one, could NOT be brought back from the dead with a simple Raise Dead spell. And Resurrection was well beyond their means (and should have been) until they were already pretty high in level. That meant, realistically, playing an elf was risky since if they ever died before becoming powerful and rich, in all likelihood that was it. Time to roll up a new character and start ALL OVER again. *Sigh*
Unfortunately, softhearted DMs knew this and didn't like it, so they may have conveniently dropped them a Rod of Resurrection or allowed them to find a well-placed scroll with the Resurrection spell on it. Handy, that. Or they may have altered the rule about elves and Raise Dead and allowed that spell to work, even on elves. Or they may have simply pulled their punches quite a bit whenever the elf PC even considered knocking on death's door. Even though death was an expected part of the game, PERMANENT death was a hard pill to sallow, and yes, a hard pill to administer if you were the DM (baring killer DMs, naturally, who lived for that sort of thing).
However it happened, this game-balancing factor was often mitigated or hardly ever applied. So once again, the non-human multiclass PC was an unbalanced character.
Though humans could dual class, this option didn't really balance the books since dual classing didn't occur until moderate to high-level games (mostly by that, I mean 7th to 16th level games). So if your campaign was likely to stop short of the level limits, dual classing wasn't the answer either.
Now you may be thinking, "Hey, what gives? Wasn't he going to 'defend' the level limits of AD&D?" Yes I am.
So far I have been addressing what level limits did to and for the PCs, but I have totally ignored the NPCs (non-player characters). These NPCs make up the bulk of the DM's world, and what's happening with them is staggeringly important (even if it is often overlooked, or all too often one simply turns a blind eye to it rather than deal with its ramifications). And I don't mean just those NPCs the DM plays in the game and that encounter your PCs, but all the NPCs that must be on his world (this usually measures in the millions, if not billions or even trillions).
You see, an elf might live thousands of years (in 1e, anyway). And quite frankly, acquisition of xp to achieve high-levels (between 12th and 20th level, for example) would NOT realistically take more than a decade or two, if that. This means an elf would, while very young and still with a dozen centuries ahead of him, ALREADY be an arch mage or some other ungodly powerful being. By this time humans are middle aged and not long for this world. His creaking bones are already making him slow down and take it easy. He may seriously consider retiring, and perhaps he wishes to raise a family before it's too late, or whatever. An elf is just starting out, even after a century of adventuring, and has centuries yet to even begin thinking of doing such things or feeling the effects of his age.
A human's power will soon die with him. Not true of the non-human NPC. Yet, as an interesting game, we don't want Godlike beings populating our worlds, lest they get in the face of everything our PCs are trying to do. You'll have to trust me that having Godlike beings around whom can actively participate in more meaningful ways is really less than fun for your PCs. Either they help and there is no challenge for your PCs, or they hinder and there is no realistic way your PCs can win vs. a Godlike being (if played properly). This is where level limits come into play (even in low-level games).
NOTE: These Godlike non-human NPCs may also exist, but simply choose not to intervene, but you'd have to invent a darn good reason why not one, but literally thousands of high-level non-human NPCs refuse to get involved in most anything on your world - even vitally important, world shaking epic quests. As it is, when one thinks about it, we already sort of have to do that for the gods, lest they take an active, rather than passive hand in nearly everything our PCs do. But I digress.
Since level limits existed, it prevented long-lived races from becoming Godlike. And unless you do some serious adjustments and make some rather nasty assumptions, before an elf would die, they easily could be over 1000th level. Too bad TSR made the xp tables linear when they topped out. Otherwise, a nonlinear growth of required xp between levels past 20th might have sufficed to stop this runaway train. But even if they did that, in short order, while yet young, elves would be 20th, 25th, even 30th level or higher long before their first century as an adult expired. The human PC would likely be dead of old age by then (baring magic, naturally).
For an NPC, that's still way too powerful for a character that intends to walk the world for centuries to come. And not just one elf, but any elf who had the stuff to become an adventurer (and didn't permanently die while doing this). And how many is that? A few? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? It just depends. And as a racial concern, there will be some high-level, Godlike elves, and they may easily lend a hand to help prevent the early demise of the young adventuring elves as well.
One does tend to feel more obligated toward helping their own race, and unlike humans who tend to be neutral, elves tend to be good, and such generosity is quite common to them. Family members, extended family members, friends, and even acquaintances, as well as simply the race in general (which may otherwise be declining due to low birth rates) would no doubt warrant this consideration. The Godlike elves would almost certainly see to it that any premature death of a younger elf would eventually receive a Resurrection spell. They even have quite a long time to learn of such a death, find the body, and cast that spell (perhaps as long as a couple of centuries, since the spell limit is 10 years/level of the caster, and the Godlike caster is 20th level or more). Eventually, about the only elves that came to permanent death would be those who failed system shock rolls. Even those elves who were lost at sea or whose bodies were not recovered upon their death could be wished home and then brought back to life. So few permanent elven deaths would occur. That's one theory, anyway. One can conceive of many reasons why this might not happen, but as is, this seems a natural conclusion.
The logical consequences of all this is this: Unless the DM invents a variety of reasons to stop or at least mitigate this, the elven population would logically hold vast power, even Godlike power over the rest of the races (even over the dwarves). Their longevity cannot be denied. At least, it would be, if not for level limits. (This is one of the reasons why 3e D&D gives me some pause; i.e. no level limits).
Even with level limits, the logical consequences would be that the vast majority of NPC elves of adventuring caliber would be maxed out at their level limits. Fortunately, if this limit is low, they are not too Godlike to play around, and even if moderate, it is usually still low enough such that the elven race never obtains the vast power of Wish or Resurrection spells. Thus, this is still rather playable, even if it might seem odd most NPC elves your PCs encountered would be older and in the mid teens as far as level is concerned.
Now don't bother to write telling me how this problem can be fixed in 3e D&D. I can think of many ways it can be fixed, too. The point is, it IS a problem and it DOES need to be fixed. And if you do nothing to fix it or you simply ignore it, your game, in my honest opinion, isn't very realistic, and I, for one, wouldn't be all that anxious to play in your world.
Fortunately, level limits fixes this problem in 1e and 2e AD&D. Unfortunately, many players never looked past what was happening to their PCs and their group and did not consider these things about NPCs too much. Otherwise, they'd see the NEED for level limits and give them a better shake from the start rather than piss and moan about them.
Alas, no. They're only likely to immediately see that level limits get in the face of their non-human PC's quest for power, so Level Limits gotta go. They make no sense anyway, right? Well, wrong, I'd have to say.
Or, rather, like all problems with revealing the Gamer's Footprint, one has to devise a way a game rule (made for game-balance) actually makes sense on the IC (In Character) level. If you don't, it can interfere with good roleplaying. And since level limits is a necessary part of the current equation of 2e AD&D (lest our non-human NPCs rise and conquer or dominate the world, QED), we look for some IC reasoning that might fit the bill. I think I found it, or one, anyway.
How Level Limits Work On My World
First, let me start with a few basic premises. To begin, I would simply say ALL races have level limits - even humans. The question is 'WHERE?'. Where a human's level limit is exactly isn't that important to know. DMs can decide for their world. Suffice it to say it is probably pretty high - probably higher than most campaigns ever reach, maybe higher than a human can realistically reach in a single human lifetime (baring magic). So, for example, making it 20th level, 25th level, 30th level, or whatever, would not be out of line. But there is a limit.
The second premise is that there is an even lower level limit, again for ALL races. I place this squarely at 7th level. Why? Good question.
AD&D more or less assumes any character about 10 levels higher than you would sort of appear to be Godlike to you. On Earth, for example, what Jesus actually did in the Bible wasn't significantly removed from what your typical 10th level cleric could do. I do not wish to offend, however, or discuss real world theology at this time, so if you disagree, I don't think the entire justification falls by the way side, and other arguments can be made instead.
Grand masters trained in the martial arts, for example, with Nth degree black belts (or whatever) are pretty impressive. But are they (the best Earth has) far removed from mere 7th level AD&D monks? Well, no. So, whether 10th level or 7th level or some other arbitrary but reasonably close level to this, mankind (and I'll assume most non-human PCs and NPCs as well) reach a limit beyond which they cannot pass without divine help.
On Orlantia (my primary AD&D world), no mortal PC or NPC can surpass 7th level without a solid connection to some God or Godlike power.
I absolutely love this approach for a variety of reasons. It makes religion a much more important part of the game (even if you're not particularly religious, as I am not, it works well in a game where gods are not a matter of faith, but one of fact).
Many feel this is fine for clerics and priests, but they'll be damned if their mage or their thief or even their fighter depends on any God. (Interesting choice of words, eh?) Yet, why not? I particularly like the fact this may give the cleric class a greater and more important role in both party and community.
Still, one need not cow-tow or suck up and prostrate oneself before God. Not all gods have this Christian or even Lawful Good flavor. Gods of nature, gods of magic, gods of darkness, gods of light, gods of thieves, gods of war, gods of love, etc. all can exists together. AD&D already has a God or gods for virtually everybody and anything, and the polytheistic nature of AD&D quite simply cannot be denied. I genuinely feel your campaign is lacking if only the cleric class takes notice of these things and every other class couldn't give a rat's ass about the gods or the after life. I simply find atheism in such a society where the power of the gods is demonstrably present on a near daily basis to be incredulous. As such, I think all PCs would be fairly well concerned about some theological matters and the upcoming afterlife. But adventurers, in particular, no matter their class, will have even more immediate need of God (whatever God they may choose).
Now, it isn't important or necessary that PCs follow the God (or the alignment) of the party cleric. That isn't what I'm saying. But each of them, no matter what their class, would (by 7th level) pick a God they admired, feared, worshiped, etc., for all the normal reasons, and this God will allow them to surpass their normal mortal limitation (like 7th level, in this case).
In you do not pick a God and TITHE to them (that means at least sacrifice 10% of their liquid income, like coins, gems, jewelry, though most magic items are exempt, unless you sell them), then one cannot pass 7th level until they do. In short, they have reached their NATURAL level limits. This is true of ALL mortal races.
NOTE: Tithing may take several forms. Services to the church, or just keeping the money aside to build shrines, statues, temples, etc. or aiding the community, or any number of other ways. Ask you local DM for details on your PC's God and religion.
By praying to this God, one sacrifices personal power (a naturally regenerating, hard to define quality of the spirit or soul. The STAT to which this power is most closely tied is Charisma. The gods accept your PC's sacrifice in power. The more people (creatures) that worship a God, the more powerful that God is on that planet. After a time, this power naturally regenerates and you may sacrifice more power again. This power may be sacrificed during daily prayers, weekly mass, monthly rituals, or however a particular god does it. Again, not just clerics, but ALL classes would do this, so you better get used to the idea of wizards and rogues being more religiously minded than you might have guessed before.
This sacrificed power is accumulated and used by God in their works, and disseminated amongst their followers in times of need. It takes the form of luck, advanced warning, intuition, omens, etc. Or in more game mechanical terms, it takes the form of hit points and levels and skills beyond 7th level.
It is important to understand that God is not denying a natural ability to those who do not worship him. Nor is he actively preventing a character from rising above 7th level should they fail to worship him. Not at all. It is a naturally occurring fact that no mortal can surpass 7th level without divine help.
Similarly, God is not preventing you from flying. Gravity does that, a natural function of universal law. But if God granted unto you the ability to fly, that is a gift from God. If you didn't get this gift, you'd be wrong to think God TOOK AWAY your ability to fly. You simply never had it. So, too, does no one have the ability to surpass 7th level without divine help.
As a game consideration, this works well for my style of play. I like to get to know the player and their character for awhile first before insisting on more or less permanent choices. By not forcing most players to chose alignment or God at character generation, but giving them time until 7th level to pick an alignment as well as a God, I feel they haven't been forced into anything. Naturally, clerics, paladins, and certain other characters are an exception since they must pick alignment and God by 1st level (before 1st level, really, but why quibble?).
For most PCs, however, before they surpass 7th level, I really want them to give serious consideration to these issues. Until then, I let them get used to me, my world, and let their PC's actions, whatever they wish them to be, help determine their PC's alignment rather than making their alignment determine their PC's actions. This is more naturally how it is supposed to work anyway, so I can't help but like how this all smoothly falls into place.
Certain problem arose, however. "What if my God is killed? Do I go straight from 16th level to 7th level? What if I change alignments and gods?"
Well, that hardly ever happens. Still, further refinement was in order.
When a God grants a character the ability to surpass 7th level, they enable them to use SUPPLEMENTARY skills and abilities. This means, not everything above 7th level comes from God, but part of it is yours naturally, and together what you have and what God gives you makes your skills above 7th level.
For example, I may have hydrogen on my own, but only when God gives me oxygen may I make water (H-O-H). Not a fan of chemistry? OK. I may have sugar and flour, but only when God gives me eggs may I bake a cake. OK, ok, that's still technically chemistry. I may have lots of wood and a hammer, but only when God gives me nails may I build my house. I may have an electric fan, but only when god allows me to plug it into his socket may it run properly. Anyway, I think you get the idea. Part you, part God.
The point of supplementary skills is that much of what you learn beyond 7th level is incomplete by itself and will not work as well as it should without God's help. But they are innate to you and will not simply totally vanish even if you abandon that God or vice versa. However, enough of it will vanish that your levels will be diminished (perhaps as alignment damage which is manifested as lost xp), and probably steadily decline unless or until you soon atone, or you find another God or Godlike power to supplement your innate half of those skills. You would certainly not gain any more levels until this 'problem' was rectified. Therefore, since these skills, maybe even most of these skills, are mostly your own, they will not just simply vanish. And, if it's important, this connection to God is divine and not easily severed. Anti magic will not do it. Being on other planes of existence will not do it; even a plane that is diametrically opposed to your God's home plane will not do it. About the only way it can be done is if God abandons you or you Him.
On the other hand, God may be displeased with you and withhold PART of this supplementary power (hence some penalties) until you atone. That's normal enough AD&D for you, isn't it?
Anyway, should some calamity befall your alignment or your God, normally one just begins the worship of a new and appropriate deity (there are still lots to choose from who'd be happy to accept your sacrifice of power and increase their own worshiping base).
Of course, this power that God gathers unto Himself is not always with your PC, but it will always be made available to your PC in times of crisis. But this matter concerns a problem akin to cash flow and bookkeeping on the divine level, so one need not worry too much about that. God is always getting more power from ALL his worshipers than He ever needs to lend out to one worshiper at any one time, so He's flush with it. He is God, after all. Even little worshiped Gods who are still important, and greater Gods, may get some of their power second hand, as tribute from the other Gods. For example, Zeus may get some of your power even if you don't worship Zeus (a god of air and ruler ship) since you worship Apollo, and He (Apollo) owes Zeus some of His power (His cut, so to speak). Divine power structures is not really the topic at hand, however, and your PC rarely ever needs to know such details (whatever the DM may decide they are).
And in case it didn't dawn upon you, when I say 'God,' I do not mean one supreme being here, but any old immortal or Godlike being capable and willing to do this. For me, I figure it takes a worshiping base of at least 10,000 sentient creatures to ascend to deity hood, but I digress.
It stands to reason the more worshipers a God has on a particular planet, the more powerful they are on that planet. This will be the primary distinction between greater gods, lesser gods, demons, devils, angels, and a host of other supernatural beings. There are others, but that's the biggest consideration.
Back to level limits. OK, we can now surpass the natural 7th level barrier with a God's help, but by how much? Mostly it will depend on how powerful that God is and how thinly he must spread what finite power he has. Other factors are involved, like the differences between spirits and souls, however. What is this?
A spirit is a universally, naturally occurring entity (perhaps all created at the beginning of time, or maybe new ones are still being made somehow). If you think I'm going to define it further than that, you have another think coming. A soul, on the other hand, is a special construct a God makes out of a spirit, permanently changing it and altering its fundamental characteristics.
Normally, spirits tend to be naturally recycled (reincarnated). They live one life, perhaps very long-lives, but eventually pass beyond for a time until they may enter a new born being and then live yet another life (usually forgetting all previous lives while they live their current mortal life). This is a virtually endless cycle. There is much more that can be said about this, particularly as it may relate to life's lessons, increasing one's karma, and ever rising and being reborn as higher and higher beings (unless you slip and come back as an ant or something).
A soul, however, once altered by God, has a single chance (its next and last lifetime) to please God, where he will determine - upon the mortal body's permanent death - if they are worthy or not - a quality product, or defective merchandise. If you pleased God (and depending on the God, this could be by following good, evil, neutral, lawful, chaotic, etc. ideals), then you may be seated at the right hand of the father when you permanently die (Whatever).
Well, actually, the better you pleased God, the closer you are to him when you go to your great reward, the more responsibilities and duties you'll have, the more involved you are in HIS plan, whatever it may be, the more you will bask in His greater glory and be a member of THE TEAM (whatever they may be doing).
A failed soul, on the other hand, is discarded, and perhaps never sharing in all that glory is hell enough. Ghosts, cursed undead, who knows, the mind boggles. Or, they may be taken by some other powerful being and used (maybe even used up and permanently destroyed) as that power sees fit. Who can say? Theology is such a tricky subject. But I theologically digress.
On most game worlds (due to the need of them being human centric, else being too far afield from our normal experiences, casting us adrift into the quagmire of unknown speculation about what things really may be like), we find humans are in the majority. Higher birth rates, mostly, will account for this. Also the ability to borrow from others, work well together in larger communities, their tendency to spread out and conquer any terrain in any climate, and a few other traits tends to give them higher populations than most other species, who work less well together, prefer only certain climates and terrain, and often are engaged in endless civil wars amongst themselves, or in endless bitter struggles vs. another race such as a sworn enemy.
And therefore, since human populations are the highest, human worshiped gods generally have the most power, and generally can disseminate this power better, more widely, and through a soul (ostensibly a better conductor of such energy) rather than a spirit. This is the justification for why the human level limit is so much higher than the non-human level limit - more population, more power, more souls and better use of this power.
Also, it helps justify why souls are easier to work with and reunite with the body (Raise Dead) as opposed to more difficult subjects which just want to go about their normal reincarnation cycle, thus taking at least a Resurrection. Finally, it also helps explain some of the differences in longevity. A soul burns hotter, brighter, and for shorter periods than a longer lasting spirit. But this is all not entirely relevant to the topic at hand.
Non humans, soul or spirit, for one reason or another, have smaller populations. Even though their God may be a greater God, even if they have souls, the energy is just less for a variety of reasons that may or may not be known to the worshipers. And because of this, they will reach their level limits sooner. The limited amount of energy only can stretch so far.
It is important to realize that the gods are not really choosing to withhold greater power from non-humans, but these non-human worshiped gods simply do not have it, or cannot disseminate it as effectively. However far it will go, however far they may be able to spread it out, this will be the level limit of those particular non-humans for those particular classes.
I will say, however, that other factors are, or at least may be, involved. Simply because your PC isn't privy to all the mysteries of the universe or the afterlife doesn't mean this fact alone reveals the Gamer's Footprint. So not every factor involved here needs to be found and explained. Just in general, we begin to grasp most of the major factors. And, of course, the DM may adjust level limits for any race/class combination to fit the needs of their world.
One small problem. What about non-humans who chose to worship a deity normally worshiped by humans? If they have a spirit, this is not a problem since the less efficient nature of the spirit to conduct divine energy will account for their level limits just as before. But if this non-human has a soul, such as a dwarf worshiping Athena, for example, then why are they still limited in certain classes?
As with supplementary powers, not everything is ALL from God. Certain differences, for example squat legs, may also help contribute to the limit (such a frame simply cannot perform these maneuvers). There are other factors, not all of this is only from God, and there is no reason to think the PCs would be able to demand answers or even perform research to reveal all life's mysteries or discover all laws of the universe or even know God's ultimate plan and his administrative problems.
The thought that 'God' made one in His own image may come into play here. Perhaps they are more closely related than many realize. For example, Athena may be based on humans, so human worshipers naturally may use power designed for humans better than ever a dwarf could, even if that dwarf worshiped Athena - hence the dwarf has a level limit, not being created in Athena's image, so to speak. Regardless of the facts behind the scenes, the PCs need not be privy of these facts to accept there are good reasons for the way things are.
Thus, in order to hide the Gamer's Footprint, some IC reason must be perceived and accepted by the PCs as plausible so they do not spend their lives looking into the mystery of who made that glaring footprint. And the differences between souls and spirits, populations, worshiping bases, proper image, etc., and just what God is capable of doing, or working with what He's got, is all the reason anyone should need to justify what their PC can see on the IC level.
This is no where near the same as simply saying 'God Says So.' There ARE reasons, they make sense, and it is NOT arbitrary favoritism. Even if your PCs never learn each and every factor that limits them, just knowing generally what is involved helps a great deal.
Finally, one must divest themselves of the notion that any God is omnipotent (all powerful) or omniscient (all knowing) in the AD&D universe. It simply doesn't fit and will lead to problems. However, those problems are well beyond the scope of this article.
NOTE: As an aside, I would probably say that even when a non-human reached their level limit, each time they acquired enough xp to go up a level (as if they didn't have this limit), I'd still allow them extra weapon proficiencies, non weapon proficiencies, and continued learning. It just won't take the form of further hit dice or actual levels, improve Thac0, or better saving throws. But they are still capable of learning some skills, nevertheless. I might even allow them to add further classes, but it would take a long time. For example, I might say go ahead and start acquiring this third class, but it will take 10 or 100 times the normal xp, and you don't get more hit dice or hit points, even if you do eventually gain more skills. However, even the long-lived will eventually reach a limit such that they no longer have the time to practice and maintain all their skills. Anyway, whatever the DM allows is fine.
NOTE: Another point of my system is I do use realistic time constraints. I have never been of a mind that assumes once your PC acquires a skill, that it sits on the shelf until it is needed. Disused for perhaps even decades, though you haven't done such and such in years, it would be unrealistic to expect this skill to be razor sharp. You may even have forgotten most of it. Thus, due to inactivity, xp begins to degrade. But mostly, even if one does keep up the practice necessary to maintain these skills, there are only so many hours in a day, only so many days in a week, only so many weeks in a year, and one will eventually acquire more skills than they have time to maintain. Fortunately, this rarely happens to PCs during a game, though it is an important consideration for a world's long-lived NPCs. It also helps justify why old elves do not have 13 classes, all maxed out at their level limit for that race, with each skill or feat at 95% or better. Even that's too Godlike. But now I'm seriously digressing.
So, is my system perfect? Does it explain ALL? No, but I feel it does an excellent job at concealing the Gamer's Footprint, allows us to partially balance the game, both for PCs and NPCs with worldwide ramifications for those who can see past the nose of their own party, and has the added bonus of neatly explaining several other oddities in and around AD&D, which I also won't go into here.
In short, I think I have done a pretty decent job. However, if you think otherwise, or you would simply like to make comment, feel free. I'm always interested in the opinions of others. I can't promise not to defend my point of view if I feel what you say is off base or you have missed my point, but I'm sure any discussion has the potential of improving the article and perhaps correcting any nagging flaws you may find in my thinking.
Email Jim Your Comments (Send Praise, Critique, Complaints, Suggestions, Ideas, Corrections, Or Submissions).
At any rate, may God be with you, or at least, may a God be with your PC ;-)
Happy Gaming ;-)
© September of 2001
James L.R. Beach
Waterville, MN 56096