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Missed session catch-up XP

fil512

Villager
I've been generally playing with the rule that if a player misses a session, they get no XP. But I now find myself in a situation where one player was away for the summer and missed a number of sessions and I need to level them up a bit. Do any of you award partial XP for missed sessions? I was thinking of something like 1/2 or 1/4 XP of what the rest of the players earned... Ideally I'd create a little side session for them, but time does not permit.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
I'm of several minds about this. Let me talk about all my contradictory thoughts and maybe you'll find something that resonates.

1. I currently do "level-when-I-say", no XP even recorded. The game normally grants XP for defeating encounters, which leads to a particular mentality. If you aren't defeating encounters, you aren't advancing. So I do something closer to milestone XP, but since the players have a lot of freedom in what hooks to follow or to make up their own, I don't have defined milestones. It's more like when they are entering a new arena, a larger scope, that I level them.

2. 5e games I've played (/am playing) with several DMs have group XP - everyone levels at the same time. Penalizing someone in their hobby for having real-life intrude so they miss a session isn't fun.

2a. #2 is especially true if you don't vary XP in other ways - if no matter how well you play there's no chance to catch up, and no matter how badly you play attendance is the only thing that matters for an XP reward, what behavior are you rewarding and reinforcing?

3. Because of bounded accuracy, 5e is still decent with players a level or two apart. Perhaps give those who are not at the top level a 20% bonus to earned XP. They will be going against more difficult opponents for them then for others. This way you preserve the varying XP feel but it's not a permanent stain on their character for missing temporary thing (a single session).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
For the last three years, I've been running my campaigns with player pools, so there are more players than seats for a given session, plus players usually have more than one character (one main PC, one backup PC, usually). As such, someone (often more than one) has to sit out as does their characters. Thus, the PCs all have different XP and sometimes levels. In one campaign, I saw a level difference of 7 levels in a session. In truth, it was not an issue at all. The lower-level PC just had to be a little cautious for a couple of fights, then quickly leveled up. Bounded accuracy meant that the character could still be effective in combat and succeed in ability checks.

So really, I wouldn't worry about it. Just give the PCs XP after each time they earn it and allow, as I do, for the PCs to level up the moment they reach the appropriate amount of XP. (There is no rule in the game that requires resting or whatever.) The lower-level PC will catch up pretty fast.
 

neogod22

Villager
The situation I'm in now, I travel for work, so I'm out at least 2 weeks every month. Everyone knew this before we started so it's not a problem. We don't use exp, it's more of a milestone system, so they just level me up so I don't fall behind. I kind of see it like, my character has a different agenda from the rest of the party. While part of his plan lies within the success of the party, his goals are his alone, and may have to spend time away setting up other plans.
 

Stormdale

Explorer
I'm with Iserith, In my game no attendance= no XP. My game has a spread of about 5 levels between the most frequently attending players' characters & replacement characters for those who died. Those who attend less frequently (due to real life issues like...work) are now 2-3 levels behind the highest level pcs and it hasn't really been a problem.

I don't really get this modern "it's not fun if we aren't all the same level" type of attitude. You earn xp by being present at a session in my games (whether by slaying monsters or stealing their stuff, or my typical by getting a preset amount of xp per session no matter what happens). If you can't make it for whatever reason then tough. It is also not fun sometimes for the rest of the players to be expecting to utilise your pcs skills one week and you aren't there but we accept other things real life events/commitments intrude on game night, shrug and deal with it.

But that being said, the player most effected by crappy work hours doesn't complain about not being the same level as the highest level pc. He simply gets on with the game, rolls his dice, enjoys being present, contributes to the story/game and is not underwhelming or overshadowed by the higher level pcs by any stretch of the imagination- which is one of the strengths of 5e.

Stormdale
 

neogod22

Villager
I'm with Iserith, In my game no attendance= no XP. My game has a spread of about 5 levels between the most frequently attending players' characters & replacement characters for those who died. Those who attend less frequently (due to real life issues like...work) are now 2-3 levels behind the highest level pcs and it hasn't really been a problem.

I don't really get this modern "it's not fun if we aren't all the same level" type of attitude. You earn xp by being present at a session in my games (whether by slaying monsters or stealing their stuff, or my typical by getting a preset amount of xp per session no matter what happens). If you can't make it for whatever reason then tough. It is also not fun sometimes for the rest of the players to be expecting to utilise your pcs skills one week and you aren't there but we accept other things real life events/commitments intrude on game night, shrug and deal with it.

But that being said, the player most effected by crappy work hours doesn't complain about not being the same level as the highest level pc. He simply gets on with the game, rolls his dice, enjoys being present, contributes to the story/game and is not underwhelming or overshadowed by the higher level pcs by any stretch of the imagination- which is one of the strengths of 5e.

Stormdale
There's really no wrong answer, it's just a game. My AL characters suffer, but that's not a problem because every adventure is stand alone.
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
Is there a reason they need to level up?

I find characters in the same tier can all play together just fine.

There is a huge jump from 4 to 5 so if that is the case I can see bumping them up.

Personally as a player I would rather play through my levels rather than skip them. I missed the game, I don't want to also miss my character's progression.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
I've always used party XP. We don't bother tracking individual XP totals we just have a single XP total that is used to determine the level of the entire party, even if you miss a session or two your XP total is equal to the party XP total and you level up at the same time as everyone else.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
We are currently playing West Marches style - whoever can make the session plays and their character can earn XP. No one feels they are punished for not being there. I suppose there will come a time where the higher level characters will need to protect the lower level characters a bit more, but that just adds to the story, IMHO. The game works just fine with characters of varied levels adventuring together.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Be careful of deferred XP awards. If you are giving out a lot of quest XP or milestone awards, be careful that someone doesn't miss all the XP just for being absent on the day that the quest is finished or the milestone achieved.

Like, imagine if your party is given a quest to get a macguffin from a dungeon. You spend 4 sessions clearing a dungeon; on the 4th session you kill the boss monster and retrieve the macguffin and get a big pile of XP for completing the quest. Now imagine if Bob is there for the first 3 sessions but missed the 4th session with all the XP and treasure; that would kind of suck for Bob and seems kind of unfair.

There are numerous ways to mitigate this phenomenon, but I think it's important to be aware of, especially if you are moving away from the straightforward monsters-as-XP model.
 

Azzy

Explorer
I've always used party XP. We don't bother tracking individual XP totals we just have a single XP total that is used to determine the level of the entire party, even if you miss a session or two your XP total is equal to the party XP total and you level up at the same time as everyone else.
Same with my group.
 

Winterthorn

Explorer
For the games I've run for my friends, we treated the PCs of absent players as NPCs. They would be awarded half the XPs a PC would earn, they would be run that session by another (experienced) player, and as DM/GM I promised the absent player their PC wouldn't die unless the party was brazenly foolish - in which case a TPK would render the whole matter moot. So they would return the next game to see some XP and minor loot gained, and possibly hear a harrowing story from the other players :)
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
An interesting side point to this is where do do players and replacement characters come in?

If I join your group, what level / XP total am I? Will I forever be a junior member unable to catch up, or am I coming in at the same level as everyone else? Do at come in at the lowest of the current players - which means my character is effectively penalized by the amount the person who attended the least is since we all get the same XP. Do I come in at the highest of the players and my XP losses atre only on my shoulders - but that means I've surpassed some people who have already lost XP.

How about replacement characters? If I die and come back with more XP, what does that say? If I die and come back with less than a new player, what does that mean?

These are questions for more traditional setups of one character per player, not ones with stables of characters for each player.
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
For the games I've run for my friends, we treated the PCs of absent players as NPCs.
Have you considered just not including the PCs?

That sounds like a big waste of time. The players who showed up should have that spotlight time divided evenly instead of having 1 player have 2 characters.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
An interesting side point to this is where do do players and replacement characters come in?

If I join your group, what level / XP total am I? Will I forever be a junior member unable to catch up, or am I coming in at the same level as everyone else? Do at come in at the lowest of the current players - which means my character is effectively penalized by the amount the person who attended the least is since we all get the same XP. Do I come in at the highest of the players and my XP losses atre only on my shoulders - but that means I've surpassed some people who have already lost XP.

How about replacement characters? If I die and come back with more XP, what does that say? If I die and come back with less than a new player, what does that mean?

These are questions for more traditional setups of one character per player, not ones with stables of characters for each player.
Though it varies a bit by campaign, in general, you're always coming in at 1st-level as a new player in my games. You are therefore encouraged to create and level up a backup character by swapping him or her in from time to time as your main. Usually, players will play both characters until they're at 3rd level each, then pick one as the main and leave the other as backup. At least they get to start at 3rd with a subclass if the main bites the dust. You catch up pretty quick in my experience.

As an alternate, I've had it where the backup character earns half the amount the active character earns in a given session on the assumption they're off doing something that helps them advance. Or, as in the case of my latest game, backup characters earn XP every time a player spends Inspiration to benefit another player's character.
 

bedir than

Registered User
I've run some "email sessions" for when my players don't show. We run drop-in sessions when 3+ players can show. If players don't show they don't get XP.

When they fall way behind I'll have an email/Slack DM session with them. We'll chat about what their character was doing off table and I'll reward XP based on that.
 

Horwath

Explorer
What is this individual XP?

Maybe 10 years ago we gave up un rewarding XP, you level when there is campaign reason to level or the party did lots of things outside planned quests.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
In my game, absent PCs get half XP

A solo session *could* be interesting, but it should have some sort of impact on the game
 

Iry

Villager
Everyone has the same XP at my tables. If someone misses the game because of Real Life issues, then they have already been punished enough not being able to play D&D. Not to mention their character was probably up to some great adventures of their own during that time.

Now, if someone misses the game often enough that their attendance is an issue... then I sit down and talk to them about it. Scheduling is the bane of adult gaming, and sometimes you can’t make it work for everyone.
 

Coroc

Explorer
Normally it should be no problem at all, also for the case some PC dies irrevocable, if there are 2-3 levels of difference. BA helps immensely with that. Also if you log XP exactly, even a level one will catch up quick. I feel that this is the better way to do it, starting with a high level char seems a bit like cheating to me. It can be an additional challenge for the other players to keep the "weaker" char alive.
I see problems though, if the DM uses rules like "level up each two sessions" or such which do not exactly track XP. In these situations you might not get around introducing a new PC already leveled or keep standing PCs who could not attend up to pace.
 

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