I can't remember what version of the the New Content I was playing in 2012, though it won't have been NC8 since that only came out in 2013. If I recall correctly, it was one of the first where Deities and Demigods was present as a quest, and the level 10+ XP fix wasn't in place at that stage (i.e. characters continued to earn XP as if they were 10th level right up to level 20; simply running through the War of the Golden Skull would net you around 4 or 5 levels of advancement, with no opportunities to rest and learn new spells). You could call this an exploit if you like, though the option not to take the extra XP wasn't available at that stage. As I state in my original post, this was an organically-grown party built to beat the various dungeons in the game (hence some slightly odd choices off class etc), primarily via melee combat as I had already done the whole magic-heavy thing. For comparison, my recent games have been limited to 4-5 characters in total (PCs + NPCs) and I rarely hit level 11 before arriving in Verbobonc; if I play through to the very end I'm generally just about hitting 17th level when I run out of things to fight (Gods and Demons included). I'd kind of assumed that getting to level 20 was now only acheivable by level-sqatting on solo runs.