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D&D 5E What kind of XP awards does your group currently use in 5E?

What kind of XP awards/advancement do you use in your 5E D&D game?

  • Monsters killed (straight up)

    Votes: 10 15.2%
  • Milestone (as described in DMG)

    Votes: 10 15.2%
  • Monsters killed, but granted at Milestones

    Votes: 2 3.0%
  • Session-Based Advancement (as described in DMG)

    Votes: 2 3.0%
  • Story-Based Advancement (as described in DMG)

    Votes: 19 28.8%
  • Something else or variation on one of the above (please explain below)

    Votes: 23 34.8%

  • Total voters
    66

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
So in the thread on the future of D&D, one of the common responses is that in some future edition of D&D XP will be a thing of the past. Now, I don't want to argue about the likelihood of this speculation but am interested in what system of XP/advancement folks use in their 5E D&D games. Thus the poll. If you have more than one group with different methods, vote for the method you prefer btwn them.

so tl;dr version: just vote in the poll. Continue if you're interested in my view/system.

One of the reasons I am interested in this topic is that over the years I have tried various methods of awarding XP in different editions. I loved 2E's addition of "story awards" as bonus XP and used that into 3E, but eventually we tried out a system based on another game (which is escaping me) which gave each player key words for personality and motives, which they earned XP for developing and playing out and could "buy-out" and change as they advanced. This was in addition to a reduced amount for killing monsters.

In 5E I have gone back to "You want XP? Kill monsters." It gets divided evenly among players (and ally NPCs if applicable) if you are present at a session. Very simple. I do still give a small percentage bonus based on how well the PCs achieved the "goal" of an adventure (between 5% and 20%) though what constitutes a "goal" is flexible erring on the side of more generous. I only give out XP at what I call milestones (at the end of a module or the completion of a distinct portion of a module - for example between the Haunted House and Sea Ghost portions of Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh) - but this number is still based on monsters defeated and some non-combat challenges. (Figuring out a way to not fight when appropriate can also count as "defeating.")

This has not been an issue in my newbie group (because they don't know any better, I guess). I have given out XP six times and they are 4th level. But in the group I was running over the summer, a player was surprised I bothered figuring out XP at all and said he'd only every played with Milestone advancement - XP granted by the DM when narratively appropriate throughout an adventure (but I also got the sense that he felt this should happen more often than I would if I used this system) not based on actual monsters defeated. Though he explained, usually DMs in his experience just grant levels at these points, not an XP award number. So basically what the DMG calls "Story-Based Advancement." If anything my system is more Milestone-like.

While there is a bit of DM fiat no matter what system you choose, I would feel weird just deciding if a PC gains a level or not - and I like the players having a sense of how close they are to leveling. But I also dislike giving XP every session (I know some people who do this) b/c I prefer to sit down and figure out XP (I use a spreadsheet) than do the math piecemeal and take time from every session for book-keeping. Furthermore, I like slower advancement because I think it is fun to get a chance to know your characters abilities well at each level and master them, rather than just adding more and more options rapidly (esp. for newbie or casual players). Also, the granting of XP becomes an event and remains "special." It also allows for a slow-burn campaign.

But anyway, this poll is to get a sense if I am really being left behind on this issue.
 

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jmartkdr2

Adventurer
I voted story-based as most of my groups use that method. Tracking specific xp awards isn't really needed or useful if the players already do the stuff you want them to do - we already fight monsters, talk to npcs, gather treasure, and complete quests - so extra incentives to do those things aren't really helping (just adding math). Story-based also allows the dm to adjust for the pace of encounters, which can get slowed down a lot of roleplaying among the party.

I am in one game that give xp per session, but for a bunch of different things - monsters, yes, but also solving puzzles and exploring and just roleplaying (engagement, really). As long as you show up and do stuff on your turn, you get points. How much you do sometimes affects how many points you get, but some sessions we just all get the same amount.

XP is a great tool for focusing players on doing certain things - that's why xp for gold is such an interesting rule. It gets the players focused on a specific activity, and encourages creative ways to do that (ie go around monsters to get to the treasure, or even bribe them if the ROI is good enough). But it also limits the kinds of things you can do (ie it fails to reward pursuing any motive other than 'get rich'), which might not be the kind of fun you want. If players are engaged anyways, xp isn't a solution to a problem you actually have, and therefore best left alone.

Another place where xp is really helpful is open-table games, like Adventurer's League (although I've been in a couple that aren't so official). Since you don't have a consistent party or players, and people join at an ongoing trickle rather than all at the start you can't really just level up everyone at once. You need to track each character's progress individually - and xp is just a quantified way to do that.

In terms of the game going forward - I don't think they'll ever remove xp entirely. It's too much of a brand identity element. It may drift into 'variant rule' status, although I expect it will remain the default method with story-based as technically a variant the way feats are in 5e.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Generally speaking, I award XP for overcoming combat (kill monsters) and social interaction challenges (make monsters/NPCs friendly). To incentivize exploration, I award it with treasure (find gold or magic items).

My upcoming campaign will effectively be gold for XP since the PCs will pay to level up.

In terms of player behavior, you tend to get what you incentivize. So I strongly recommend DMs consider how they use XP and whether it incentivizes the kind of play that is appropriate to the theme and structure of the campaign.
 

Voadam

Legend
I currently mostly run either one shots or Paizo Adventure Paths in 5e so I either don't award xp or I level up at suggested milestones/story points suggested in the APs to match the projected challenges and expected pacing. Uniform xp charts was one of the great innovations of 3e and I have been happy to level up groups at what feels appropriate times ever since in 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, and 5e campaigns I have run (I would have for 4e as well but I only ran one shots in that system).
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
At the end of each gaming session, I award XP for traps and monsters defeated, but that's only about half the total XP that the players earn. At the end of each adventure or at pivotal points in the story, I also award XP (such as "500xp for clearing out the goblin nest at the edge of town, plus an extra 100xp for each NPC they rescue. Award an extra 500xp if they return the stolen gold to the merchant guild.") And I award bonus XP in the moment, for excellent roleplaying and such (things that would normally grant Inspiration, which we don't use.)

Monster-hunting is still the biggest source of XP in my games, but it's not so big that the players want to ignore everything else.

(Edited to clarify when, as well as how, I award XP.)
 
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the Jester

Legend
I voted for "monsters killed", but that's only part of the story- I sometimes award xp for other things or in other ways, provided that the things in question endanger the pcs.

This poll should really be multiple choice in my opinion; I'm in multiple groups, and each does it slightly differently. One of the groups I am in awards monster xp, plus roleplaying xp and bonus xp. I've considered using many alternate systems, including xp for spending treasure frivolously; xp for roleplaying only; an xp system that awards xp based on a quick and dirty assessment of how difficult an encounter was, rather than monster CR; etc.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I voted for "monsters killed", but that's only part of the story- I sometimes award xp for other things or in other ways, provided that the things in question endanger the pcs.

Yeah, basically how I do it, too So far I am the only person who voted for "Monsters Killed but awarded at Milestones," but technically (as described above) I do modify the XP base derived from challenges overcome (mostly monsters, but only only) based on story considerations.

This poll should really be multiple choice in my opinion;

I considered that, but it can be hard to parse results that way, so decided to ask people to choose their preferred methods if they use more than one for different groups.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
When I'm awarding XP according to combat and social interaction, I award XP immediately after the challenge is resolved and, if character advancement is indicated, the player may level up the character right then and there.
 

We're currently giving experience each session. We're using the Karen Pryor method and giving out rewards for the kind of behavior we want to see at the table.

With this in mind, I (sometimes) give out experience for killing monsters, interacting with non-player characters, solving mysteries, telling stories, and showing up on time. I use the experience point entry for monsters as a guideline and reward players whatever I feel is prudent.

We want to feel like our actions matter to the story we're telling, and I am trying hard to make sure our actions do matter. At the same time, we don't want to feel like killing opponents is how our characters progress. If killing things is how we progress then killing things is what we'll do (but, we're not doing that).
 

CydKnight

Explorer
I've used both encounter and Milestone. Even when simply awarding XP based on the encounters/sessions I've often made milestone adjustments (always positive) to keep the levels appropriate based on what's to come in the campaign going forward.
 

Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
I award XP based on enemies killed or for coming to alternative solutions to the problems enemies represent. But I also will just give out the minimum additional XP for people to level up if it seems an appropriate story beat and they haven't levelled up in a while. I don't like going with pure milestone because then it seems overly based on how closely the party follows an intended plot.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
When I'm awarding XP according to combat and social interaction, I award XP immediately after the challenge is resolved and, if character advancement is indicated, the player may level up the character right then and there.
Oh, interesting! I usually award XP at the end of the session (though I call out each award and what it’s for specifically) and have players level up between sessions.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As they occur?
If I understand the question, see above. Awarded at the end of the session, but with each award called out at that time (so, for example, “everyone earned 25 experience for the encounter with the goblins, 50 for navigating the maze, 25 for talking your way past the gargoyle, 25 for the encounter with the bugbear, 75 for the boss fight, and 50 for recovering the McGuffin, for a total of 250 experience.”) I find it to be a nice way to recap the session, and it insures players know what they’re getting awarded for, without interrupting the flow of the adventure to adjust the numbers on the sheet.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
If I understand the question, see above. Awarded at the end of the session, but with each award called out at that time (so, for example, “everyone earned 25 experience for the encounter with the goblins, 50 for navigating the maze, 25 for the encounter with the bugbear, 75 for the boss fight, and 50 for recovering the McGuffin, for a total of 225 experience.”) I find it to be a nice way to recap the session, and it insures players know what they’re getting awarded for, without interrupting the flow of the adventure to adjust the numbers on the sheet.

Nice. I just give lump sums and everyone present in a session gets the same amount for the session. So the only way to not get XP is to not be present at all (and even that I'd re-consider if there was some unforeseen emergency that made a player not able to make it last minute and give them something to keep them close to the rest of the party.)
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Nice. I just give lump sums and everyone present in a session gets the same amount for the session. So the only way to not get XP is to not be present at all (and even that I'd re-consider if there was some unforeseen emergency that made a player not able to make it last minute and give them something to keep them close to the rest of the party.)
The problem I have with lump sums is they obfuscate where the XP is coming from. It’s still more psychologically satisfying than story-based advancement because you have the progress bar to watch filling up, but it’s less satisfying than seeing the direct correlation between your actions in the game and the XP you earn for them. It also squanders the ability to use XP as an incentive. If the players see that they gain XP for doing a particular thing, it encourages them to do that thing more. But if they just receive a lump sum without knowing what they did to earn the XP, the only thing they’re encouraged to do is keep showing up every week. It ends up being about the same psychologically as session-based advancement.
 



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