In Defense of Milestone Leveling

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
What about when they make decisions to fight or retreat based on how many hit points they have remaining?

If you and they are able to justify why that doesn't "break immersion" (usually by giving a fictional justification), then the same is possible for making decisions based on the XP award.

Which is not an argument for using XP, mind you, just not eschewing XP because it might "break immersion."
Fair point. This is always going to be a game, and there will always be points to track of different varieties and flavors, and they each have the potential to break immersion. All I'm sayin' is, one fewer is a big step in the right direction.
 

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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I like milestone leveling too, but the idea that only violence awards XP is a red herring. A GM can award XP for whatever he/she wants, and some published adventures even remember to put in XP totals for non-combat events. It is true that this doesn't happen often enough in published material, though.

Last night, I ran my players through DDAL04-02, "The Beast." They were able to talk the werewolf down at the end, rather than fighting her. I gave them full XP for the encounter.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Fair point. This is always going to be a game, and there will always be points to track of different varieties and flavors, and they each have the potential to break immersion. All I'm sayin' is, one fewer is a big step in the right direction.

I don't think so. Immersion isn't everything. If it were we wouldn't be playing D&D but some other RPG or shared story telling experience that's quite a bit more immersive than D&D. Instead we are playing D&D. A game about playing a character that encounters all kinds of nasty things in the world in search of whatever it is the character desires. Now that can be fairly immersive in it's own right at times but it's also more of a game than many. The fun from D&D comes from 2 parts, roleplaying and overcoming challenges. If you remove any incentive for overcoming challenges then all you have left is roleplay and that takes maybe half the fun out of the game for many people. Now players may still face and overcome challenges even without incentives and such players will be just fine in your milestone leveling game. However, other players will take the lack of incentive for overcoming challenges and instead outright avoid many of the challenges they could have fun overcoming. I suppose you can still reward characters with gold but unless you implement magic item shops then gold isn't really much of an incentive either.

TLDR: XP allows a DM to incentivize players for overcoming obstacles which is a large portion of the fun for many D&D players. Meet a challenge, overcome the challenge, get rewarded.
 

Oofta

Legend
I don't think so. Immersion isn't everything. If it were we wouldn't be playing D&D but some other RPG or shared story telling experience that's quite a bit more immersive than D&D. Instead we are playing D&D. A game about playing a character that encounters all kinds of nasty things in the world in search of whatever it is the character desires. Now that can be fairly immersive in it's own right at times but it's also more of a game than many. The fun from D&D comes from 2 parts, roleplaying and overcoming challenges. If you remove any incentive for overcoming challenges then all you have left is roleplay and that takes maybe half the fun out of the game for many people. Now players may still face and overcome challenges even without incentives and such players will be just fine in your milestone leveling game. However, other players will take the lack of incentive for overcoming challenges and instead outright avoid many of the challenges they could have fun overcoming. I suppose you can still reward characters with gold but unless you implement magic item shops then gold isn't really much of an incentive either.

TLDR: XP allows a DM to incentivize players for overcoming obstacles which is a large portion of the fun for many D&D players. Meet a challenge, overcome the challenge, get rewarded.

If I can't incentivize my players to have their PCs overcome obstacles for the sake of fun, role-playing and story telling, then we're not playing the right game.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
TLDR: XP allows a DM to incentivize players for overcoming obstacles which is a large portion of the fun for many D&D players. Meet a challenge, overcome the challenge, get rewarded.
I agree. Borrowing my example from earlier, the challenge is escaping from the dungeon by any means necessary, and the reward is a level of experience. I guess you could say that I'm giving a single, large reward for the completion of a single, large obstacle...not a series of smaller rewards for smaller obstacles.

Hopefully this will motivate the players to complete whole missions, rather than merely surviving battles.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I agree. Borrowing my example from earlier, the challenge is escaping from the dungeon by any means necessary, and the reward is a level of experience. I guess you could say that I'm giving a single, large reward for the completion of a single, large obstacle...not a series of smaller rewards for smaller obstacles.

Hopefully this will motivate the players to complete whole missions, rather than merely surviving battles.

Maybe. I think it could have that effect. If you drive a pretty tight story on rails then it might be great as it could incentivize players to continue on your rails. It could also have the opposite effect where they get disinterested because only rewarding them for following your rails might not appeal to them.
 

I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I always divvy up experience points evenly between the party unless one party member sat at home and refused to participate in the adventure. As long as everyone in the party did something then I feel that everyone should get an even share, in part because I don't want the party bickering over how important "their role" was, and in part because I don't want to sit down and analyze who had the harder assignment.

You came, you participated, you aided in the success of the table, you helped everyone have a good time, even split.

You refused to participate in the quest because you felt it went against your knightly oath, well okay you still get the "participation and role-play XP" but none of the XP from killing monsters, completing the quest or getting the loot.

For a more mathemtical breakdown: I tend to halve the usual amount of XP that monsters give you to discourage grinding. I make up that difference with quest rewards. Killing goblins is great. Having Random Townsfolk give you a quest to kill goblins is better.
Everyone who shows up and helps the group have a good time gets "participation" XP (about 10% of the XP needed to get to the next level).
Quests can have bonuses for completing certain other objectives, usually monetary, but usually requiring you to kill more monsters.
Killing people/monsters who don't need to be killed is negative XP, a particularly murderous or careless character can earn the party negative XP if the party doesn't take some action to stop them.
There are lots of quests to do things that reward money and little XP.

The end of every session usually sees my players earning about 1/5th to 1/3rd of a level, depending on the quests they took, how well they did on them, and how many monsters they killed in the process. I run the option for a lot of downtime, the players don't have to do anything, but they're going to get minimal XP for going on a shopping trip today instead of clearing out the ghosts in the haunted mansion.

I have no problem with milestone leveling, and I also mix it in with XP-based leveling when the players complete certain "stages" of a campaign. They can earn levels quickly this way if they stay task-oriented on a specific campaign, and I'm likely to use milestone leveling more often with an intrigue and politics game than an adventure and exploration one. More often than not, I'll just convert "you gain a level" into "you gain the XP needed to get from level A to level B, even if you're half-way there.

I've run strict milestone leveling before, mostly because I don't want to calculate XP.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
What about when they make decisions to fight or retreat based on how many hit points they have remaining?

If you and they are able to justify why that doesn't "break immersion" (usually by giving a fictional justification), then the same is possible for making decisions based on the XP award.

Which is not an argument for using XP, mind you, just not eschewing XP because it might "break immersion."

Except hit points reflect something a PC might recognize - how beat up/exhausted they are (albeit in a crude and not too precise way). There is no equivalent for an XP scale. A PC at 75% might feel there’s still a lot of fight in him, at 50% maybe thinking of an exit strategy, and at 25% - panting and aching - feel they need to get some rest. There’s no real feel for being halfway to improving their skills.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
I like milestone leveling too, but the idea that only violence awards XP is a red herring. A GM can award XP for whatever he/she wants, and some published adventures even remember to put in XP totals for non-combat events.
Absolutely. This is an important reminder (and great advice) for everyone who prefers to use the default Experience Point rewards system. If you don't like awarding XP for combat, award it for something/anything else. You don't have to abandon XP completely, and milestones aren't your only option.

Last night, I ran my players through DDAL04-02, "The Beast." They were able to talk the werewolf down at the end, rather than fighting her. I gave them full XP for the encounter.
That's an excellent way to do it. (I would have awarded double XP for my group--I can't even remember the last time they diffused and deescalated a situation instead of gleefully painting the walls with monster-blood...)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I feel compelled to point out that most editions have awarded at least some xp for non-combat stuff. 1e and earlier had xp for gps; 2e had class-based extra awards; 3e had guidelines for xps for traps and roleplaying; 4e had skill challenges; and 5e has (optional) guidelines for awarding xp for non-combat situations (e.g. traps in DotMM).

That said, milestone xp is great at what it's great at. But for it to work well, your campaign has to have a storyline, and it needs a consistent group of pcs of the same level. If either of those things aren't part of your playstyle- for instance, if you run a sandbox with no main storyline, or if you let pcs of mixed levels adventure together- then milestone xp becomes less useful. After all, if there's no storyline, how do you decide when you've reached a milestone? And if the pcs are mixed level, how do the lower level characters catch up?

So yeah, milestone xp is okay, but limited in its usefulness to an old-skool sandbox DM like me.

Most DMs I’ve seen use Milestone XP simply give xp for overcoming a challenge, making progress on a goal or quest; finishing same, going through an important or intense narrative arc, or just doing something rad.

Works fine for low story sandbox, bc exploring a new area, fighting stuff, avoiding an ambush, talking your way out of a fight, bartering in town with your loot, spending time getting to know townsfolk, making a road safe for vehicles, getting through hazardous weather, and pretty every other thing you can do in a sandbox that has a chance of failure and consequences for same, can result in XP.

I disagree. Milestone leveling is mostly just a progression slider the DM controls. Milestone XP is quite a bit different. It still allows the DM to incentivize certain behaviors if he desires. It gives the players a better sense of progression. As such It serves a greater purpose than just keeping everyone all leveled up for the content at hand which is what milestone leveling boils down to.

Milestone Leveling can simply be leveling the party when they have gone through X number/amount of situations where failure is a possibility with significant consequences, or accomplished or made real progress toward personal or group goals or quests, or had moments of significant character development.
 

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