D&D 5E How do you award XP and how often?


Moderator Emeritus
If you do milestone leveling this thread is not for you. . . (though if you used to award XP, you can talk about what you used to do).

My question is a simple one, in your 5E games, if you use XP awards how often do you award it and do you have certain conditions under which you will give it (back in town, when the current adventure/plot is over, after a certain # of sessions no matter what else is going on, etc. . . )?

Ideally, I like to give out XP after a discrete adventure has been completed while the party is participating in downtime. However, for a very long adventure, I might award XP during a natural break in the narrative of the adventure (like after finishing up in one location and before traveling to another). Or other times, they choose to eschew most downtime and keep pushing on their various goals and hooks and I have to decide if granting XP now makes sense or hold off and just give a bigger award later.

So how and when do you do the actual awarding? Bonus question, what kinds of things do you award XP for? For example, I tally XP for monsters defeated/overcome/resolved the conflict with them, but then use a modifier based on how well the PCs completed the goals/narrative of the adventure, which can be as low as +5% and as high as +25% (I determine this modifier collectively - not for individuals) and if you aren't at a session you get no XP for that session (unless it is a situation where a make-up individual session over chat/discord is possible).
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I used to give XP for monster/encounters overcome and a set of bonus XP for completing the objective and there may be a couple of side things. An example might be adding the monster XP, adding XP for the CR of the traps or puzzles and such like they were monsters, and then the mission might be to go rescue the child from the goblins. There might be 500xp for rescuing the child and another 100 if they rescue the other captives, and another 100 if they end the threat of the goblins from taking more children. The PCs might end up killing all the goblins and saving the other children but miss completing the reason they were there in the first place.

It was mostly given after the adventure was complete and PCs could level up once they had a long rest. That generaly meant in town but there were longer adventures that I allowed breaking up. I also had a few places like a secret temple in a dungeon that allowed leveling.


Loves Your Favorite Game
At the end of each session, broken out by event. Rewarded for defeating foes, getting past obstacles, resolving problems, and completing goals. It's feels great to to rattle off a list of the party's successes after we're done playing, and reinforce the variety of actions, tactics, and techniques that they are growing from.

I give it out when they receive it, and level ups happen at the beginning or end of a session. If they haven't leveled up in 4 sessions, I usually level them up anyway. I don't enjoy DMing for the same level in 5E for an extended period of time.



With my "standard group" I'll give out xp right after its earned. I've found the group LOVES leveling in the middle of a session, so I've adjusted a bit for that!

If I'm guest DMing or the like, it's at the end of the session, usually over e-mail (assuming we bother with XP at all. In other groups I tend to run one shots or very short arcs).

I actually switched over to milestone for a long time, but I'm starting to move away from it. Mostly because of bad experience as a player, with a DM who seems to think milestone = level whenever I (the DM) want (which it's not, but that's the way it was run!). I've gotten so frustrated with it (we've been stuck at level 4 for an interminably long time and nothing seems to move the needle) that I finally spoke up about it last session. The DM seemed surprised and said something like "oh? do you guys want to level at the end of this arc?" Really not the answer I was looking for!


Moderator Emeritus
So your players’ characters stay at level 1 throughout the entire campaign? That sound dreadfully boring.

They mean they use milestone leveling or some other marker for advancement.

Also, please try not to call other people's games or preferred styles boring or other negative characterizations. this isn't marked a "+" thread, but I see no reason to be negative.


I USED to do XP somewhere around mid 3rd edition, but it was so tedious I eventually stopped and haven't done it since. I would like XP much more if it was A) smaller numbers, and B) you used it to buy upgrades rather than an arbitrary level marker.

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