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


Reeks of Jedi
I stuck with XP in 5th for a long time until I realized that it doesn’t matter when everyone levels at the same rate.

It mattered more in AD&D when each class leveled differently.

To answer OPs question, I look at the adventure, try to figure out how each section/ chapter plays out and make sure they get enough XP before they hit that point.

Also, I stopped caring and if they feel underpowered there is always side quests etc. it’s up to them when they want to proceed into a more dangerous area.
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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!
What was the D&D-ish board game where you has a card with level 1 on one side and level 2 on the other and you advanced after so many challenges. I remember that was fun the couple times I played it. I wonder if a player can keep track of XP for the PCs and the DM just says how much after each encounter and milestone. I had a harder time calculating all the XP at the end of the session, especially if we were running late or people are packing up, so just saying 400xp after a fight feels like a win to me. Kind of like handing out gold.

In our current game, the DMs have been awarding XP per session as long as the party is (and... importantly... the players are) Getting Stuff Done™️. Absent characters do not get XP.

We do have some interesting (convoluted?) math involved for determining XP quickly. Essentially, we have awarded XP based on one session to get to level 2, two sessions to get to level 3, three sessions to get to level 4, and four sessions to get to level 5.
After level 5, the XP awarded per session will be the total required to get to the next level divided by 5. For example, it takes 7500 XP to get from level 5 to 6, so each session is worth 1500 XP. Once any of the PCs hits level 6, each session will be then worth 1800 XP (since 9000 XP are required to get from level 5 to 6). Etc.


Reeks of Jedi
One thing I loved about the different xp scales in AD&D was no one was real worried about missing a session.

I’ve seen to many players just assume they get to level because it’s Milestone.

Back in the day, leveling was an award that almost came unexpectedly and not just assumed every 2-3 sessions.


Something I didn't mention in my previous post was that players got XP even if they weren't there. New players also started at the same XP total. Players didn't track the XP, I did for the whole party.


The very first few games I played were 2E AD&D and the DM gave us XP per monster. We would finish an encounter and they would break it down.

"The orcs were 50XP each, and there were four, so 200 there, the goblins were each 15, and there were six so 90 there.. The Evil Necromancer was 250xp, and each of his skeletons were 20, so another 100.. That's 640xp, for five players, we'll round up and say you each earn 150xp. " (Made up numbers)

After we got through their introductory game we went out and bought our own books which happened to be 3.5E, and my older brother ended up being our usual DM. He ended up doing kind of milestone leveling with more steps. He'd look at the XP required and usually give us fractions of a level after the session. For instance you needed to go from 6000XP to 10000xp to get from fourth to fifth level. He'd want that to take four sessions so he'd give us 1000xp each session. There were times where he'd just straight up say

"Take 1/4 or 1/8th of a level." After a while, I don't know if he heard about milestone leveling, or if he came up with it himself, but he realized he could just tell us "Level up" after certain story points, which is what I'm doing now for my 5E group. I gave them a level after the first session, and I will probably let them take level 3 after the next session which will be our third. The gap from 3-4 will probably be longer.


Morkus from Orkus
I give XP for fights, roleplaying and for adventure completion(biggest chunk). Occasionally I will award XP for some very unusual event that the PCs encounter.


Eternal Optimist
End of each session.

I award for monsters defeated, and assign non-combat encounters an XP value based on the Easy/Medium/Hard/Deadly scales in Chapter 3 of the DMG, based on difficulty of situation and length.

I discuss it a little (very little more detail) in a comment to this session post on my blog.

Characters level when they get a long rest after that.

Occasionally, I'll give out XP mid-session when a major plot event is resolved then (and then we do downtime or something similar).



Eternal Optimist
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).
Do you mean story-based advancement? :)

(Funnily enough, in Chapter 8 of the DMG, Milestone Advancement still awards XP. But it's XP for story goals)


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