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


As for the OP's questions (which are rather edition-agnostic, not sure why the thread's tagged '5e'):

I give xp for:

--- monsters defeated (which doesn't necessarily mean killed, talking your way past them counts too, but double-dipping by talking your way past them on the way in (and getting xp for that) then killing them on the way out is not going to work)
--- other hazards - traps, environment, etc. - defeated or avoided or rendered harmless
--- particularly creative thinking (the player does the thinking but the character gets the xp reward!)
--- the first time a character does something "big" related to its class, e.g. the first time a Cleric casts Commune or a Fighter deals a stupendous amount of damage on a crit, that sort of thing (these awards are usually kind of a token amount)
--- "dungeon bonus" at the end of each adventure (to in small part replace xp-for-gp, which I've never done)
--- things the adventure tells me to; for example, if the adventure says something like "the character who does this gets 500 xp" then so be it.

I track who gets xp for which encounters by little tick marks next to the character's name on a chart, where each column is a combat or encounter. I do the actual calculations whenever I think of it, either during a break in the session, or during the week, or if a player asks me to. Unless I've left it too long since the last time I did 'em, it doesn't usually take me very long.

I give out xp when it appears enough of a backlog has built up to make it worthwhile, and-or if I know someone is close to bumping. That said, I only give them out when the characters wake up in the morning. (ideally, every morning they'd get whatever xp they earned the previous day, but life's too short)
I'm curious that you've never done XP for gold - that was such a huge part of AD&D, though it never made much sense to me. Do you increase the XP players earn from other means, or level at a slower rate?

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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).
When I use XP, I've typically given it out at the end of a game session. Sometimes forget or don't have time to add it up, then give it out at the start of the next session.

In 5e, I wrote up my own XP system based on quests, which lets me define objectives, instead of behaviors (e.g. killing/talking). Minor quest = 10% XP needed to level up. Major quest = 30% XP needed to level up. The weirdness around 10th/11th levels is due to weirdness in 5e's default level/XP advancement chart...

LevelXP to Level UpMinor Quest
Major Quest


Moderator Emeritus
@Quickleaf - that table confuses me. How can you need less XP to get to 11th than 10th level? How can you need the same amount to get to 13th as 12th? Same question for 15th/16th and 17th/18th? And no 20th?

From the PHB (the answers to your first few questions above @el-remmen):


When I use XP, I have always awarded it at the end of the session. In hindsight, when I had a player that was routinely 1-2 hours late to the session, I should have started awarding XP after each encounter. Not long before the player in question got kicked out, one of the other players frustratedly referred to him as an "XP sponge."

As far as additional XP goes, if a PC or multiple PCs have some really good role-playing during a session, I will add some additional XP, generally 100-500, depending on level.


It depends.

If we had combat, I keep track of what was expected and have it all figured out already, so it gets given immediately after combat ends (XP).

I also allow levelling up immediately, if the party is ready to do so.

In a combat intensive adventure at low levels they may level up more than once. I don't believe in holding them back to a single level per session in 5e. If they did the XP, they've earned the level. Since the party generally levels up together in 5e, this makes it simple. We take a break and level up their characters.

Our combats move fast and many can happen in our session, which means they can earn quite a bit of XP in the game.

Extra XP that have been earned from obstacles and other items are awarded at the break (or end of that session before the beginning of the next session, if one wants to put it that way instead, even though it's the same day, just a while after we finished up that first section).

In 3e and later versions of the game, PC's tend to level up FAR quicker than they did in TSR era games. For example, my 5e group that started around September are level 16. My BECMI/BX hybrid group just hit level 5.

Anytime after an encounter is completed. Sometimes it will be every few sessions, sometimes it may be at the start or end of every session. In short, if we know we are not close to leveling, then we don't bother to award it very often. But if we are close, people are excited to see how close we are and we might even do so after each fight.
Now, levelling we do when it makes sense to us. Usually requires a long rest and we try to do it between sessions or at the start/end of one and not the middle.


Reeks of Jedi
Everyone levels at the same rate, yes, but do they always get the same xp for everything or do some characters tend to get more than others due to being more involved, luckier, or whatever?

From my experience, players aren’t to happy about losing XP because they aren’t at good as another player in certain things. Like RPing. Not to mention they can’t make the session due to adulting etc.

Probably why milestone is so popular.

Everyone levels at the same rate, yes, but do they always get the same xp for everything or do some characters tend to get more than others due to being more involved, luckier, or whatever?
Like @DarkCrisis We give everyone the same XP, regardless of if they were involved in the encounter or quest or not.
The way we reward good roleplay is at the end of every session the players vote on another player to get inspiration (with 3 inspiration slots available).

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