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D&D General XP Awards for -- what????

When do you award XP?


payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
So you like not knowing the milestones? Or is it more you like that the milestones are not set? That the GM can decide what they are and award a level after sufficient progress has been made.
I like it general and vague. Give me the agency to pursue the character’s goals. I’ll keep going until stuff happens and the PC levels and then I know I’m on the right track.
Sure, but that’s hopefully true of any game, right? What I’m talking about is reward systems that help propel the game. Milestone is one type.
Right, engaging the campaign conceits is the direction, not random activities.
I. think it depends on the game. With 5e, I think milestone is so common because the rules lack much in the way of XP beside killing monsters. And because it’s so open. It also allows the GM to control the pace of progression entirely.
I think the rise of adventure path campaigns is a contributing factor. Also, individual XP awards is a pain in the ass. It’s work to award, allows mixed level parties, and sucks to design for. All good reasons to leave it in the dust bin of history, IMO of course.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I find it’s opposite. The players focus too much on the specifics and let interesting paths go by the wayside, or pursue uninteresting ones to an annoying degree.

I find playing the game and engaging the campaign is it’s own reward. I don’t worry about leveling but progressing the campaign. Am I supposed to be a pirate? Ok get a ship, go sailing, find a safe harbor, etc… If it’s sandbox, I let the players drive but they need some direction to set the table. Some players/groups are much more proactive and self sufficient than others. YMMV
The bolded pretty much speaks for me as well, though "progressing the campaign" can take many forms. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Do you think the game loses something in some ways?
Can't speak to the specific game you're asking abut but in general, yes the game loses something with milestone levelling or fiat levelling or any other type of everyone-at-once levelling that doesn't take into account which characters do what and-or which characters actually deserve to level; and that's that it not only allows for but in fact rewards "passenger" characters.

In a small party this might not be a thing, but in bigger parties it certainly can be and I speak from lo-ong experience here. The passive character who hangs back, doesn't do much, and lets others take the risks shouldn't be given the same mechanical rewards as the characters who do take the risks; otherwise what's the mechanical incentive for taking risks?

And yes, it's a bit more work for the DM tracking and calculating individual xp. Tough. For me, tracking who does what during the session is trivially fast (though not always perfectly accurate - I blame beer :) ), and the calculation part (done maybe once every three or four sessions, during the week) takes maybe 15-30 minutes tops. Handing them out takes a while, as I go through and itemize what led to which xp and let them do their own adding; which is good because often players will remind me of something I missed, or ask "shouldn't [whoever] get some xp for [x-action]?".
Like, you’re headed toward a big conflict and the GM decides you guys better level up before hand.
That would indeed be a rather big red meta-flag that something big is coming up and we'd better be on our toes. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I like it general and vague. Give me the agency to pursue the character’s goals. I’ll keep going until stuff happens and the PC levels and then I know I’m on the right track.
That's exactly what I don't want - to be told I'm on the "right track" - as that's nothing more than a soft and cuddly railroad.

Solving problem X or defeating monsters Y1 through Y6 should give the exact same xp regardless of whether they're part of the adventure, red herrings, wandering monsters, or trouble we went off and found on our own.
Right, engaging the campaign conceits is the direction, not random activities.
Why? Random activities can be or become the campaign if allowed, as long as the players/PCs are proactive enough to keep going out looking for random stuff to do. Seems a shame not to reward them for it.
I think the rise of adventure path campaigns is a contributing factor.
Sadly, yes. An adventure path or series baked in as part of a larger campaign, fine. An adventure path as the entire campaign with no way out, not so fine.
Also, individual XP awards is a pain in the ass. It’s work to award, allows mixed level parties, and sucks to design for.
Work to award? Yes; it's part of the job. Allows mixed-level parties? Good. Sucks to design for? Only if the game's math is so tight that any tiny variance from expectations throws it off kilter; and that's not what I want from a game's design.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I’d say leveling has always been a goal of D&D since the beginning.

I think with 3e, perhaps the focus sharpened a bit because leveling came to mean so much more.

But D&D has always been about increasing personal power to then delve deeper and face more dangerous threats… which in turn yield greater rewards, and so on.
Playing in a B/X campaign, and I can confirm that most players in the game (mostly Gen Xers) are concerned with the gold -> XP -> leveling pipeline, and they play accordingly.

How XP is awarded is a game saying “this is what the game is about”. I like that clarity… it lets me know what’s expected and how to play well. But having that goal as a player need not limit the goals my character can have. They can work in conjunction.

I think when that synchronicity is absent, you potentially run into problems. I’d say that this is why 5e’s default XP system isn’t great and gets largely ignored in favor of milestone leveling, even in their published material.

But then the question, to me at least, is what does milestone leveling tell us about the game? What’s the game about? How can I play it well? The answers are far less clear with milestone leveling.
There are ways to make milestone leveling clear and signpost the goals, but that is often done so rarely IME with milestone leveling. It does often feel like GM's whim. Fate uses milestone leveling, but it usually signposts these in terms of (1) the end of the session, (2) the end of the scenario, and (3) the end of a story arc. These sort of out-of-game meta constructs would give some GMs here an anyeurism.

I think the rise of adventure path campaigns is a contributing factor. Also, individual XP awards is a pain in the ass. It’s work to award, allows mixed level parties, and sucks to design for. All good reasons to leave it in the dust bin of history, IMO of course.
But this is where I think that 5e would benefit from a more structured leveling system like in Shadow of the Demon Lord. Characters level after they finish an adventure. Adventures are created for level tiers of play. The game has ten or so levels, so there are adventures for Starting Characters (lvl 0), Novice Characters (lvls 1-2), Expert Characters (lvls 3-6), and Master Characters (lvls 7-10). Ten completed adventures means reaching tenth level.
 

M_Natas

Hero
At the moment the campaign I'm running since 2018 uses Milestones. But in the next Campaign I will switch to XP.
The XP rules:

1. The whole group gets XP, even when Single players do something XP worthy. This way players don't try to steal kills, the ayers stay the same level and players have less problems with other players getting the spotlight.
2. XP is awarded for overcoming challenges and solving problems, either trough combat, skill or social interaction.
3. If the players create problems (like Murderhoboing) no XP.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
There are ways to make milestone leveling clear and signpost the goals, but that is often done so rarely IME with milestone leveling. It does often feel like GM's whim.
This has unfortunately been my experience as a player with Milestone in 5e. It didn't even feel like they were tied to progress or significant, well, milestones. Honestly, it felt like it was based on the DM either wanting to give us some excitement, or they felt like it had been "long enough." Now granted, that's just two specific DMs. If I were to use that system, I think I'd either want the players to know exactly what degree of progress would trigger it, or use the XP chunks as milestone as mentioned upthread.

But I'm happy with XP right now. I've never seen any XP chasing behavior from my players, I like seeing the number tick up closer to the known point at the end of each session, and I'm also a fan of being able to highlight each individual success, no matter how small it may be.
 

Aldarc

Legend
This has unfortunately been my experience as a player with Milestone in 5e. It didn't even feel like they were tied to progress or significant, well, milestones. Honestly, it felt like it was based on the DM either wanting to give us some excitement, or they felt like it had been "long enough." Now granted, that's just two specific DMs. If I were to use that system, I think I'd either want the players to know exactly what degree of progress would trigger it, or use the XP chunks as milestone as mentioned upthread.

But I'm happy with XP right now. I've never seen any XP chasing behavior from my players, I like seeing the number tick up closer to the known point at the end of each session, and I'm also a fan of being able to highlight each individual success, no matter how small it may be.
A mixed milestone/XP system or something like clocks could work. You complete certain things in the game world or adventure path, then it works towards a chunk of unlocking the next milestone level. So something less granular than XP but also less whimsical than "GM says milestone!" D&D could key these milestone clocks to certain events or things in the adventure path.
 

I've posted this before in another thread.

Our current system - characters are 13th level currently in our campaign.
Required to gain 14th Level is the earliest of:
(a) Completion of 7 Sessions and the use of 14 Inspiration points (milestone and XP variant) OR
(b) Obtaining a Conch of Teleportation (achieve a great feat in the storyline) OR
(c) Attending the 4th Council Meeting (timeline event)

*Gaining an Inspiration point requires one connecting with their Ideals, Bonds or Flaws.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
That's exactly what I don't want - to be told I'm on the "right track" - as that's nothing more than a soft and cuddly railroad.
You completely misread that then. I dont want to be "told" anything.
Solving problem X or defeating monsters Y1 through Y6 should give the exact same xp regardless of whether they're part of the adventure, red herrings, wandering monsters, or trouble we went off and found on our own.
Exactly, engaging the game and finding the right path is what I'm after.
Why? Random activities can be or become the campaign if allowed, as long as the players/PCs are proactive enough to keep going out looking for random stuff to do. Seems a shame not to reward them for it.
Boring. I dont want aimless weekly dungeon crawls that never lead to anything larger than a kid who fell down a well type game. If you like that playloop and you can repeat it over and over more power to you.
Sadly, yes. An adventure path or series baked in as part of a larger campaign, fine. An adventure path as the entire campaign with no way out, not so fine.
I actually have come to prefer specific campaign paths, I want to see being X evolve into all its stages and grow to a setting wide proportion. I don't want conveniently wrapped up weekly dungeon crawls. I want to discover grand conspiracies, ancient mysteries, leave a mark on the world. Even in a sandbox, I prefer a large campaign long goal placed before the PCs at the beginning. They have to work session after session towards it. This alleviates the "no way out feeling" even though I think more blame is to lay at the material and GM feet if players want to bail. YMMV.
Work to award? Yes; it's part of the job. Allows mixed-level parties? Good. Sucks to design for? Only if the game's math is so tight that any tiny variance from expectations throws it off kilter; and that's not what I want from a game's design.
No, its not supposed to be a job, its supposed to be fun. Admittedly, BA allows for mixed parties better than several of the latest iterations of the game, but I don't see the appeal. While I agree with the sentiment of your ideas about individual XP getting all players involved in the game, I think making folks compete individually in a group based game is a bad way to go about it.
 

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