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News video games 08 May 2024, 01:46

author: Jacob Blazewicz

Baldur's Gate 3 Dev Reveals the Origin of a Key Gaming Abbreviation

Lawrence Schick worked on Baldur's Gate 3, but he is also the author of an acronym from more than 40 years ago that any fan of games, not just computer games, will recognize today.

Source: Larian Studios.

We have known for a long time that Larian Studios attracts fans of "tabletop" role-playing games. However, there are also people in the team who are directly responsible for the creation of the entire genre. A certain dev of Baldur's Gate 3 is even the creator of one of the most recognizable abbreviations not only in RPGs, but in games in general.

Lawrence Schick, lead narrative designer at Larian Studios, was one of the collaborators of the famous Garry Gygax - the developer of Dungeons & Dragons, and therefore of "paper" role-playing games as such. The American revealed in an interview for Eurogamer how he came up with the idea of shortening "experience points" to "XP."

Who is Lawrence Schick?

This term appeared in 1979 while Schick was creating White Plume Mountain, one of the so-called modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, an updated edition of the original D&D upon which all contemporary versions of the game are founded. It's worth mentioning that the module was so popular that it was refreshed as part of the 5th edition.

Of course, Schick could not have been aware of the future significance of his creation. For the American, it was just a ticket to employment at TSR (the then developer and publisher of D&D before the brand was taken over by Wizards of the Coast). One of his first responsibilities after landing a job was to edit the first edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide (a handbook for game masters).

EP unavailable, glory to XP

The problem arose during the discussion about the abbreviation under which "experience points" should work. The simplest solution would be "EP"... except that Gygax insisted that these were reserved for "electrum pieces." Currency, which - as Schick noted - was never actually used by players in practice. Nonetheless, the dev insisted on his decision.

In the end, Schick opted for "XP" and it wasn't a decision he had been considering for a long time. As he put it, it took him "about 20 minutes on a Thursday afternoon" but that was the charm of what they developed in those years:

Oh it was just like 20 minutes on a Thursday afternoon.

We were inventing a whole art form at the time. Everything we did was new, and so it was routine to come up with stuff that nobody had ever done before.

And a lot of it was temporarily useful and is now lost to history and didn't turn out to be important, but we were also making up stuff that did stick and that did go on to become part of the creative lexicon, and not just of games.

"XP" is not the only term and concept coined in the late 70s and 80s, without which it is difficult to imagine board games and video games today. "Leveling", or gaining levels, and the very idea of "role-playing" and creating stories by the players themselves are perhaps the most important features, without which we cannot talk about RPGs.

Baldur’s Gate 3 wouldn't have achieved great success without them, and Schick also played a part in it (although he joined Larian Studios quite late, several months after the start of early access). There is no doubt that these elements from over 40 years ago will also be found in the team's future projects - even if they won't be directly related to D&D.

  1. Baldur's Gate 3 Review: BG3 Is Great, But I Hoped for Greater Miracles
  2. Baldur's Gate 3 - our guide

Jacob Blazewicz

Jacob Blazewicz

Graduated with a master's degree in Polish Studies from the University of Warsaw with a thesis dedicated to this very subject. Started his adventure with in 2015, writing in the Newsroom and later also in the film and technology sections (also contributed to the Encyclopedia). Interested in video games (and not only video games) for years. He began with platform games and, to this day, remains a big fan of them (including Metroidvania). Also shows interest in card games (including paper), fighting games, soulslikes, and basically everything about games as such. Marvels at pixelated characters from games dating back to the time of the Game Boy (if not older).