It is often said that the AD&D game is not a “winners-and-losers” game. This is true. The AD&D game is not a game in which one player wins at the expense of the others. But at the same time there is winning and losing, after a fashion, based on how well the group plays and how well it achieves the goals that have been set for it.Cook, 45
This does not mean that individuals in the group compete against each other (winning and losing) or that different groups of players compete against each other (as in football). If anything, the AD&D game player competes against himself. He tries to improve his role-playing and to develop his character every time he plays.
Experience points are a measure of this improvement, and the number of points given a player for a game session is a signal of how well the DM thinks the player did in the game – a reward for good role-playing.”
Since I began learning AD&D 2e one of the things that has often caught my attention is how much of the game was a judgement call and how much of it was essentially a “feeling” rather than a hard, fast rule. The discussion of experience points in the edition is a prime example of this. Here the DM is tasked with judging not only the award prescribed for monsters, treasure, and such standardized reward measures, but also for the ability of the players to complete their goals and the improvement in play of the players.
I find this sort of judging – the assessment of a players improvement in play – fascinating.
The goals within play that a player might have can basically fall into three categories: immediate, intermediate, and grand. Immediate goals are easily accomplished tasks that can be completed in a session or two (this could be something as mundane as capturing a local thief who pick-pocketed them as they were walking down the main street). Intermediate goals are tasks that may take five or more sessions to accomplish (such as slaying the dragon who burned down their favorite inn). Grand goals are the things that drive their character forward (like hunting down the murderers of their parents). This form of “goal oriented” award for experience points is left largely up to the individual DM to decide how much to award for the goals.
I like that a lot.
Cook, David “Zeb.” Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Dungeon Master Guide. TSR, Inc. USA, 1993. page 45