Morrus on ... XP

Poll: How does your group handle XP? (Check all that apply)

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  1. #1
    Titan (Lvl 27)

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    Block Morrus


    Morrus on ... XP

    How do you use experience points in your D&D or Pathfinder games? Do you use them as written, or do you houserule them somewhat?

    There are a few different approaches to XP. I've used all of them in my time.
    • Individual XP. I expect this is the most common usage. Each players tracks their XP separately, and XP awards can vary from character to character depending on what they do in that game session. With this approach, characters can level up at different times. This is pretty much the default "rules as written" approach.
    • Group XP. All XP is shared equally amongst the group. All characters therefore level up at the same time (unless you're using an older edition of D&D which has different XP tables for each class). The assumption here is that, although in some sessions some characters may do more than others, in other sessions it balances out. Plus, they're all part of it really, even if it's just healing each other afterwards or being involved in the planning, or contributing to the resources used.
    • No XP. Some DMs like to just tell the players when to level up. This helps ensure that they are the right level for the next adventure; this is probaby used most frequently when playing a pre-written adventure path style campaign where having the characters at the wrong level for any given adventure could mean extra work for a time-pressed DM.
    On top of this, we have the issue of absent players. Some groups will allow an absent player to gain XP; others will not. Some groups may allow the absent player to gain half XP, or might determine it based on the reason for absence - "I can't be bothered to drive over tonight" being different to "I was just in a car wreck and am currently lying in a hospital bed".

    We also have the concept of effort-based XP. Some DMs like to give XP to players who act in a certain way; that's most frequently evidenced in "roleplaying" awards - a player who roleplays particularly well in a given scene may get a bonus of 200 XP, for example. A player who provides a well-written character background may get XP for it, or one who provides an appropriate miniature. These XP awards are all geared towards the DM conditioning the players into playing in a certain way, and making a certain level of effort.

    Then, of course, we have the variance in timing. Do you give XP immediately? Do you give XP at the end of a session? Do you give XP at certain junctures in an adventure? And, depending on these factors, when may a character level up? Between sessions, between adventures, in mid-session?

    Some older editions of D&D put some heavy brakes on XP. In addition to having different XP progression tables for each class, often gold and time would have to be spent "training" in between levels; later editions assumed that training happened constantly and in the background and didn't need to be specifically spelled out.

    Myself, personally, I've tried most of these variations. A long time ago, I'd even make each player justify why they should get bonus XP at the end of each session. These days I prefer the simplicity of group XP, but I recognise the fun of tracking it individually. I don't think this is something that needs to be hard-coded into the rules system; each group will do it differently anyway.

    One little thing we did with WotBS was to allow a party to have NPCs (especially useful in a smaller group) which provided needed resources (healing, thievery, or what-have-you). The players would control the NPC during combat, and the DM would do so out of combat. The NPC would not take a share of the XP unless he or she became bloodied (this was a 4E game) - this led to an interesting dynamic where players used the NPCs sparingly and tried to protect them. The NPC, of course, simply leveled up automatically between adventures.

    So what about you? How do you award XP? How often do you award it? What do you award it for? What do you do about absent players? And when do you allow characters to level up?

  2. #2
    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Block Jcosby


    XP in D&D

    Over the last 34 years of playing one form of D&D or another I have changed my method of XP a great deal. In the very beginning I would award XP per encounter at the end of every session to each player based on the group's performance; pretty much standard XP. Players that were absent from that session were placed in the DM's "Bag of Holding" and magically appeared with the party at the next session, but they received no XP for the session they missed. The next thing we tried was allowing a fellow player to run the missing PC and if this was done the player would gain full party XP. This wasn't as disruptive because different classes required different amounts of XP to level and the party wasn't going to level together anyways.

    Sometime around the end of 2nd Edition and the beginning of 3.0 I started giving players "solo" and "duo" exp on different things in the game. I tried to award players for anything that would be helpful to the party. Casters casting spells would gain something like 10xp*level of spell, rogues would get XP for detecting, disarming traps and any other rogue like abilities used in support of the party. In melee anyone that killed a monster would get the "standard" XP for that kill and if just two people damaged that creature they would split the XP from the monster. Along with that, the base XP for the monster was placed in a pool as normal and divided among the party members at the end of the session as normal. This was quickly discarded as people would take advantage of this system by "tagging" a monster once to get half XP. Once wizards started "tagging" monsters that were just about to be solo'd by fighters with a single Magic Missile I realized this was a bad idea. Also, it just added a layer of complexity and numbers that didn't need to be there.

    Fast forward another 10-15 years and now I don't even award XP as per normal. I do keep a running total to myself and when the party is close to a level and I decide that the time is good I will award the party a level between sessions. So I guess I use XP but I never even tell the party where they are until they reach a level. I don't want XP to be the be-all end-all driving force behind my adventures.

    Last edited by Plane Sailing; Saturday, 3rd March, 2012 at 10:16 PM.

  3. #3
    My general philosophy is that the more important something is, to the story and focus of the campaign, the more concrete the mechanics should be. And that if something doesn't have concrete mechanics, it shouldn't be important.

    I don't think XP is important, and so I'd rather just leave it to DM fiat. And I consider myself a power-gamer, and greatly enjoy character advancement and building, so that might seem odd, but I say so because it never feels like it's important to the story, or to the characters, because it doesn't have much meaning. It's not something that characters can really "pursue", instead of other things. It's ultimately something that is incidental to whatever the character is doing. So, while "leveling up" is important to me, and what a character gets when they level up should be codified, when the level-up happens doesn't concern me all that much.

    A character that wants to "get rich, and find powerful magic items" makes a lot of sense in-character. It's something that impacts the actions they take, what kind of adventures appeal to them, what they're willing to risk their lives for, etc. A character that wants to "get XP" doesn't make as much sense. What is it that the character is actually looking for, in-character? Training? Monsters to practice their skills against? Are they willing to undertake adventures with no rewards, other than the opportunity to kill monsters to gain XP? That feels incredibly bizarre.

  4. #4
    It's really a hold-over from older editions and groups where the membership was less stable than now, but I always give 1/2 exp for absent players. I don't want to penalize them too much because it's always a good reason, but when their character is at zero risk for the session, they're really not earning it.

    I actually like it when characters don't advance at the same rate; feels more organic to me.

  5. #5
    Superhero (Lvl 15)

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    Block FitzTheRuke

    I've done all that stuff. (Other than letting players level-up mid-session. Never done that.)

    These days, though, I do it entirely story-based. My PC's level-up at the end of a story-arc, usually after defeating a mini-boss or finishing with a location. Lately I've been doing it (what I would consider) quickly too, with story-arcs lasting 3 or 4 sessions (we only play for 2-3 hours, so I'm talking around 8 hours of play per level)

  6. #6
    Magsman (Lvl 14)

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    Block Incenjucar

    I grant a level for every 8 encounters, give or take, which comprise a "Chapter." I only use XP to determine the rough difficulty of those encounters so those 8 encounters provide sufficient challenge and with enough variance to keep things unpredictable.

  7. #7
    I only voted for PC XP. NPCs are different

    EDIT: Also, all XP is by Class by Character

  8. #8
    Lama (Lvl 13)

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    Block kitsune9

    Here's what I do:

    I run Pathfinder so awarding XP based on defeating monsters, traps, or anything with a CR gets XP. This is a group XP in which is it divided up by players. Players who are absent can arrange to have their character played by someone else, but assumes all risk just as if he were at the session himself playing. If so, they get full XP. If not, their character is absent and gets nothing.

    I provide special rewards only for certain roleplaying encounters in which the players take on additional roles of counter parties, allies, or enemies and then the outcome decides where the adventure proceeds. For example, one of the players had his paladin go on trial. The other players took on the roles of a judge, prosecutor, and defense barrister. For everyone involved, their "real" characters got XP, but the paladin's fate would be up to the judge based on the compelling arguments.

  9. #9
    This really varies a TON by campaign. In one campaign I ran, each adventure took place a year after the last, and players leveled once between adventures. (May have stolen that from the Excalibur RPG.) In other campaigns, I've given XP by the book or by arbitrary amounts that matched the pace of the campaign (e.g. "OK, good session tonight, folks. Everybody gets 500 XP"). In some cases, I've given XP awards for clever thinking, funny lines, brave deeds, etc. The venerable "that was awesome!" award.

    XP, like encumbrance, is one of those rules sub-systems that is easily replaced or ignored, even if you're not playing in a "modular" system.

  10. #10
    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    Block OnlineDM

    No XP. PCs level up as appropriate, as determined by me. We'll level up between sessions only.

    Getting rid of XP tracking has made my game much, much better.

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