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D&D 5E Some XP Award Ideas

Reynard

Legend
I am (again) working on my long ruminating mega-dungeon The Hellstair and I want to build an XP reward system that actively encourages the kinds of play I think make for good dungeon exploration.

Note that this isn't really the thread for debating whether dungeons are good (there's a massive thread for that active right now). I am also not interested in "milestone XP" (in general or especially in the context of a mega-dungeon).

A few things I am trying to keep in mind:
1) Relatively slow progression compared to "standard" 5E.
2) Killing monsters should not be the (or even "a") main source of XP.
3) Individual characters gain XP at individual rates, but for participation NOT because they hogged all the XP opportunities.
4) The dungeon is a setting, a place where adventures happen. Sometimes that is a simple treasure hunting expedition, but more often than not there's an actual goal in mind.

The elements I think make for good/fun dungeon exploration:
1) Interfacing with the dungeon is primarily narrative until it is not (that is, you describe how you are doing a thing until a skill/ability check is called for, not the other way around).
2) "One more room" is a real temptation.
3) PCs should not be comfortable sleeping in the dungeon; when they have to it is because it is unavoidable.
4) Dungeons are weird and strange and full of the unexpected, but not all of that is out to kill you -- just most of it.
5) Just because it isn't cash, coins, or magic weapons doesn't mean it isn't treasure.

All that said, I am thinking that a) an XP award for a given challenge should be equal to the difficulty of overcoming it (regardless of the method they use to overcome it). So, the DC for finding a secret door might be 14. If the PCs use a wand of secrets to discover it instead of an investigate check, they still get the 14 XP. For more complex challenges --- say a complex trap that requires multiple checks of different skills at different DCs -- the total of the DCs is the XP value for that challenge. What's important here is that the XP awarded is NOT dependent on what method the PCs use to overcome the thing; I'd rather encourage creative solutions than spamming with skill checks.

As far as combat goes, I am thinking XP based on the total hit points of the enemies, even if the PCs do not end up defeating them through violence. I am not sure that results in the right number though, but I know the CR XP system is out of whack and awards way too much XP.

I am stuck on treasure. I like the idea of awarding XP for treasure acquired, but I also want the exploration to be about more than just treasure acquisition.

Thoughts?
 

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Stormonu

Legend
If you're going to use "whatever the method" for overcoming challenges, then if you give XP for treasure it should be the same - probably a per gp value.

You could modify the system the challenge XP to somehow reduce it if multiple checks are made; quickly finding a secret door on the first try could give a bigger XP value than finding it on the 3rd or 4th try, though I'd be reluctant to do this. (Could do the same for combat encounters; PCs get more XP the less hit points they lose or fewer resources they expend to overcome the obstacle - though that may result in some counter-intuitive gameplay results [i.e., novaing becomes preferred for bigger XP awards]).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Have you thought about the level range for this campaign as well as the real-time investment? With the kinds of XP amounts you're talking about, you are likely to spend a very long time in tier 2. Maybe that's something you want though.

You could do what I'm currently doing in my hexcrawl - there is no XP for overcoming combat challenges. XP comes from exchanging gold for XP 1:1 via a trainer (as part of downtime). This has the side effect of making it so the players have to balance leveling up with resupplying and also encourages them to undertake downtime activities to generate gold (at lower levels at least). Harvesting monster parts is also a source of gold, which they can then translate into XP.
 

Reynard

Legend
If you're going to use "whatever the method" for overcoming challenges, then if you give XP for treasure it should be the same - probably a per gp value.

You could modify the system the challenge XP to somehow reduce it if multiple checks are made; quickly finding a secret door on the first try could give a bigger XP value than finding it on the 3rd or 4th try, though I'd be reluctant to do this. (Could do the same for combat encounters; PCs get more XP the less hit points they lose or fewer resources they expend to overcome the obstacle - though that may result in some counter-intuitive gameplay results [i.e., novaing becomes preferred for bigger XP awards]).
I was actually initially thinking about assessing fight difficulty after the battle -- hit point damage sustained, spells slots used, and so on. Sort of based on the notion that you "learn more" from harder challenges. But that seems like it would be a lot of book keeping and might promote long, drawn out fights.
 

Reynard

Legend
Have you thought about the level range for this campaign as well as the real-time investment? With the kinds of XP amounts you're talking about, you are likely to spend a very long time in tier 2. Maybe that's something you want though.

You could do what I'm currently doing in my hexcrawl - there is no XP for overcoming combat challenges. XP comes from exchanging gold for XP 1:1 via a trainer (as part of downtime). This has the side effect of making it so the players have to balance leveling up with resupplying and also encourages them to undertake downtime activities to generate gold (at lower levels at least). Harvesting monster parts is also a source of gold, which they can then translate into XP.
I don't mind spending a long time at tier 2. It's where the game shines, IMO.

So my the "play loop" I am looking to encourage is: PCs get a quest or develop a goal of their own (again, sometimes this might just be a treasure run) that will take them down into the Hellstair. They negotiate their way through one of the entrances (most are controlled by a gang or guild or other powerful entity in the towns) and delve toward their goal. They deal with traps, hazards, haunts, curses, weirdness and the occasional fight along the way. Once the goal is achieved or they decide to back out, they return to the surface. They have to pay their "taxes" on the way out and can then look to fence treasure they found, research secrets they uncovered and so on, as well as "turning in" whatever their quest was. In that process the things I most want to encourage are poking around in the nooks and crannies to discover the fun weirdness of the Hellstair, and achieving their "mission" goals.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't mind spending a long time at tier 2. It's where the game shines, IMO.

So my the "play loop" I am looking to encourage is: PCs get a quest or develop a goal of their own (again, sometimes this might just be a treasure run) that will take them down into the Hellstair. They negotiate their way through one of the entrances (most are controlled by a gang or guild or other powerful entity in the towns) and delve toward their goal. They deal with traps, hazards, haunts, curses, weirdness and the occasional fight along the way. Once the goal is achieved or they decide to back out, they return to the surface. They have to pay their "taxes" on the way out and can then look to fence treasure they found, research secrets they uncovered and so on, as well as "turning in" whatever their quest was. In that process the things I most want to encourage are poking around in the nooks and crannies to discover the fun weirdness of the Hellstair, and achieving their "mission" goals.
It seems like hiding treasure in the nooks and crannies (as opposed to on the corpses of monsters), then trading gold for XP would achieve your goal.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I don't mind spending a long time at tier 2. It's where the game shines, IMO.

So my the "play loop" I am looking to encourage is: PCs get a quest or develop a goal of their own (again, sometimes this might just be a treasure run) that will take them down into the Hellstair. They negotiate their way through one of the entrances (most are controlled by a gang or guild or other powerful entity in the towns) and delve toward their goal. They deal with traps, hazards, haunts, curses, weirdness and the occasional fight along the way. Once the goal is achieved or they decide to back out, they return to the surface. They have to pay their "taxes" on the way out and can then look to fence treasure they found, research secrets they uncovered and so on, as well as "turning in" whatever their quest was. In that process the things I most want to encourage are poking around in the nooks and crannies to discover the fun weirdness of the Hellstair, and achieving their "mission" goals.
If the primary loop is completing missions in Hellstair, why not give the PCs XP for completing their missions and not bother with XP for creatures, traps, treasure, etc? You could also let players determine individual missions each session, giving them additional XP if they completed theirs as well. You can also give partial XP to people who help each other with their individual missions.

I’ve done that in the past (except for the assist XP, which comes from WWN and is something I want to try when we switch play a one-shot to decide whether to stick with OSE), and my players really liked it. I also used group consensus to decide whether any particular goal was completed, which removes the feeling of unfairness when the GM and the player disagree on whether something counts as “completed”.
 

Reynard

Legend
If the primary loop is completing missions in Hellstair, why not give the PCs XP for completing their missions and not bother with XP for creatures, traps, treasure, etc? You could also let players determine individual missions each session, giving them additional XP if they completed theirs as well. You can also give partial XP to people who help each other with their individual missions.

I’ve done that in the past (except for the assist XP, which comes from WWN and is something I want to try when we switch play a one-shot to decide whether to stick with OSE), and my players really liked it. I also used group consensus to decide whether any particular goal was completed, which removes the feeling of unfairness when the GM and the player disagree on whether something counts as “completed”.
Interesting. I think if you have all the "lesser" XP sources -- challenges, treasure, etc... -- then they would be motivated to find a "mission" for any given run in order to up the XP reward for what would otherwise have been just a treasure run.
 

Reynard

Legend
Another thing I have to start thinking about, especially if I am going to give XP for treasure, is how to build the treasure economy in the boomtowns above the Hellstair and what PCs can/should/must spend money on. I am ambivalent about training costs.
 

not-so-newguy

Adventurer
As far as combat goes, I am thinking XP based on the total hit points of the enemies, even if the PCs do not end up defeating them through violence. I am not sure that results in the right number though, but I know the CR XP system is out of whack and awards way too much XP.
There's a 5E supplement at DriveThruRPG called Into the Unknown that tries to model the B/X game. The game does gold for XP and combat for XP, along with higher xp requirement for gaining levels (e.g. it took 1,250 xp to get to 2nd level). The game is broken down into 5 booklets costing about $5 each in PDF.

Aaanyway, my point to this post is to provide a potential way to calculate xp through Combat using that game's method:
For every 1 H.P. damaged caused, the player gets 5xp.
For every 1 H.P. lose, the player gets 10xp.

I've used it before as a DM and, yes, it was slightly fiddly but still manageable.
 

Reynard

Legend
There's a 5E supplement at DriveThruRPG called Into the Unknown that tries to model the B/X game. The game does gold for XP and combat for XP, along with higher xp requirement for gaining levels (e.g. it took 1,250 xp to get to 2nd level). The game is broken down into 5 booklets costing about $5 each in PDF.

Aaanyway, my point to this post is to provide a potential way to calculate xp through Combat using that game's method:
For every 1 H.P. damaged caused, the player gets 5xp.
For every 1 H.P. lose, the player gets 10xp.

I've used it before as a DM and, yes, it was slightly fiddly but still manageable.
Did you notice people throwing themselves in the way of fireballs to get greater XP rewards?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Interesting. I think if you have all the "lesser" XP sources -- challenges, treasure, etc... -- then they would be motivated to find a "mission" for any given run in order to up the XP reward for what would otherwise have been just a treasure run.
The way I did this (since it was focused on player goals) was to start the session out asking them what they wanted to accomplish. My players can be bad at deciding what they want to do during the session, so this would give them a little more structure and take some of the pressure off. If they weren’t sure, they could look at their notes for a reminder. I also made it a point to never write these things down because they were primarily for the players’ benefit.

The way I did it previously was to ask for two goals per player. If you completed the first, you got XP. If you completed the second, you got some kind of perk (hero points, inspiration, etc). People usually completed one goal but not always. Since it was decided by group consensus, no one felt like they got screwed out of XP.

Using a group goal is something new I want to try. I think a group mission can be more like a multi-session goal (e.g., the current adventure). It’ll work within the same framework (consensus, etc). It may seem superficially like milestone advancement, but since it is determined and rewarded by the players (via consensus), it should feel very different in play.
 

not-so-newguy

Adventurer
Did you notice people throwing themselves in the way of fireballs to get greater XP rewards?
Lol, no. My players joked about doing that, but it never happened. It was much safer to try to get the treasure. According to the writer, combat should account for about 25% of total XP.
 

Hmmm. I'm not sure if this is what Reynard is looking for, but I would probably just use this XP award system from DM David and then divide by two to slow down progression.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Another thing I have to start thinking about, especially if I am going to give XP for treasure, is how to build the treasure economy in the boomtowns above the Hellstair and what PCs can/should/must spend money on. I am ambivalent about training costs.
What you can do is allow the PCs to buy magic items as a downtime activity and then have higher level adventurers doing the training for 1 GP:1 XP. Do I buy this +1 sword to deal with the fiends on Level 5 or do I level up?

These NPC trainers are also adventurers so they use the gold they make training lower-level adventurers to buy more rare magic items for themselves so they can delve deeper.

To tie this in even further, allow PCs to undertake the Work downtime activity and a work activity can be training adventurers a tier below them. Their ability check result on this downtime activity can net them a certain amount of gold for being a trainer (the higher the roll, the more gold they get). You'd just have to make sure that the amount they earn doing this isn't as much as delving would earn them. Time constraints can be implemented in the form of opportunity cost. If they stick around town for too long, Level 5 is cleared out by someone else and takes time to repopulate.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Since you want to encourage doing quests, exploring, and gathering treasure, I would think awarding XP for those three things would be the most intuitive approach. XP for gold (or gold value) on a 1:1 basis, XP for completing quests, and XP for new locations discovered. Maybe a certain amount whenever they reach a new level of the mega dungeon and a certain amount whenever they find a hidden area or something. Obviously give more XP for harder quests and for harder to reach/find areas.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
What you can do is allow the PCs to buy magic items as a downtime activity and then have higher level adventurers doing the training for 1 GP:1 XP. Do I buy this +1 sword to deal with the fiends on Level 5 or do I level up?

These NPC trainers are also adventurers so they use the gold they make training lower-level adventurers to buy more rare magic items for themselves so they can delve deeper.

To tie this in even further, allow PCs to undertake the Work downtime activity and a work activity can be training adventurers a tier below them. Their ability check result on this downtime activity can net them a certain amount of gold for being a trainer (the higher the roll, the more gold they get). You'd just have to make sure that the amount they earn doing this isn't as much as delving would earn them. Time constraints can be implemented in the form of opportunity cost. If they stick around town for too long, Level 5 is cleared out by someone else and takes time to repopulate.
This sounds really cool.
 

I use a system you might be somewhat interested in. You'll probably need to modify it for your desire for slower advancement, but it should give you a starting point. The premise behind it was to reduce the desire to jump into combat just to get XP, while rewarding players for non-combat challenges overcome.

All experience is broken into the following categories: Exploration Experience (EXP), Monster Experience (MXP), Quest Experience (QXP), and Social Experience (SXP). MXP is the normal xp, but cut in half to make the risk/reward worse. SXP can equal MXP (if monsters are negotiated with instead of fought) or equal to a full party challenge (easy, average, hard, or deadly) based on the average DCs and quantity required for success. EXP is equal to a partial party challenge, depending on the number of PCs involved; traps usually only affect a handful of PCs, for example. QXP is reserved for the completion of a quest that doesn't have a built in reward of its own, as a way of encouraging PCs to follow through. All of them are only given out with success, except for tricks and traps (EXP) which can be awarded after simply enduring them.

I start each adventure by figuring out how much XP it's worth by normal XP rules. I then cut the amount in half and use it for the remaining challenges. This way the total amount of XP given out isn't any more than it normally would be; I've simply shifted the way they get it.
 


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