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D&D General XP Awards for -- what????

When do you award XP?

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Loves Your Favorite Game
let people have up to three inspo at a time.
This have any unforeseen consequences at your table? I've thought about doing this, so as to not lock it out as a reward if they already have it, but they're already bad about forgetting to use it in the first place, so I don't know if it'll do much.


This have any unforeseen consequences at your table? I've thought about doing this, so as to not lock it out as a reward if they already have it, but they're already bad about forgetting to use it in the first place, so I don't know if it'll do much.
None at all. At the end of each session we give out two inspiration--the DM hands out one and then the players as a group decide who gets the other. On very rare occasions, the DM will hand out an extra one. It works wonderfully, has the players RPing more, and encourages us to actually use the inspo instead of hoarding it and then forgetting about it.


I would really like to see something along the lines of an emergent and/or evolving playbook mechanic for character development. I am having trouble imaging what it would look like specifically, but conceptually, I could see that style of XP system working in a serial manner for me.

I ran a Spire campaign that wrapped a couple months ago and it had a lot of emergent mechanics for characters in the form of Fallout. When you take Stress (similar to HP damage in D&D, though each PC has five types) you risk taking Fallout. The higher your stress total gets, the greater the risk of and the more severe the Fallout will be.

Fallout is a negative consequence for your character, many of which can be permanent. As you play the game, your character will start to accrue different Fallouts, which will change your character as a result.

Their relationships with NPCs will also take Stress and risk taking Fallout. So the relationships they’ve built with different people are at risk in play.

This is not connected to XP, exactly, but it is emergent change to character through play.

Characters in Spire “level up” when they effect a change upon the setting. If they change something about the city, they get a new class ability. The greater the change, the more potent the ability.

I think this is a good example of having a reward system that drives play, but which doesn’t feel “forced” in the way you’re worried about. “Achieving change” is a pretty wide open category that can be pursued in any number of ways.

There’s no need that XP triggers need to be so specific that they become rote.

I appreciate the input. I think thats my concern, I know plenty a gamer that would force their XP triggers in every session in some rather inorganic ways.

Well, part of that should be addressed by the game, and by the group. As others have suggested, sometimes XP triggers will be at odds… @kenada and @niklinna talked about a social score in Blades in the Dark. So a Leech going for mayhem and a Cutter going for violence or intimidation don’t sound like the best ideas to bring to bear in some kind of negotiation or diplomatic mission. So do they find some creative way to use their skills without jeopardizing the score? Or do they put the crew’s success at risk for their personal growth? These are interesting questions.

Also, with Blades in particular, the decision of whether a player gets XP is up to the player. However, that power comes with the responsibility to be honest and fair about it. The book offers the player principle of “Don’t be a weasel” and it’s great advice.

I find that many players are far more stingy giving themselves XP than I would be if it was up to me to grant it to them.

I'm not that harsh on new characters - they generally come in about a level below the party's current average; or - if the party hits a lot of churn in a short time - at a "floor" that slowly rises as the party rises. I use a tweaked verion of the 1e exponential tables, thus catching up is possible.
Stock AD&D makes catching up very easy, by design. Since each new level requires ROUGHLY as much XP as all the levels before it, and XP reward is RawXP * Challenge level/Your level, then basically the higher level guys get N XP, and the 1st level guy gets N * Party Level XP, cut off at level+1 -1 XP. Assuming level up happens whenever you 'return to base', and your average PC levels up in say 4 cycles, then if you were level 1 and the party is level 6, you'd catch up in 3 adventures (I mean, you'd be 1 level behind them, doing that last bit of catching up will take a while, though due to variations in XP tracks for different classes and the breakdown of exponential increase towards name level some PCs may never catch up, and others may even move ahead!). I think, in Gygaxian play, it was also expected that most everyone would die, repeatedly, and thus any level skew would tend to get erased. If you were that one player who managed to survive every delve, well then you got to be a bit higher level than the newbs, right?

But yeah, something more akin to modern XP tracks that are less exponential and don't vary by class should mostly lead to predictable rates of catching up, but you will likely never totally catch up.


Victoria Rules
Stock AD&D makes catching up very easy, by design. Since each new level requires ROUGHLY as much XP as all the levels before it,
With a hell of a lot of variance (have you ever looked closely at 1e MU progression by RAW?), and becoming much more linear after about name level as each class goes to a "[fixed number different for each class]-experience-points-per-level thereafter"
I think, in Gygaxian play, it was also expected that most everyone would die, repeatedly, and thus any level skew would tend to get erased. If you were that one player who managed to survive every delve, well then you got to be a bit higher level than the newbs, right?
Never mind people would lose levels, and Restoration wasn't perfect; and sometimes also randomly gain levels via Tomes or other effects.

That may help stave off tyrant GMs, but it still leaves that caricaturized issue I have. Where everyone just waits for the part of the session where your character yells out, "DNYO-MITE" before enacting their explosives trait or whatever. I view it as enacting the same play over and over like you would expect on a sit-com or episodic television program. These XP systems often lack nuance and depth so the gameplay comes out static. I am, of course, being overcritical of the style of play, but its often the impression I am left with. Some may find that style engaging and the point of playing. YMMV.

For reference, here are is a smattering of End of Session xp rewards for some recent games I've GMed (including the Blades game that has been mentioned):


Beaker XP

Addressed a challenge with technical skill or mayhem: Yes. Blew up the guards, made a mess of things with his binding oil, distracted Bluecoats with tweakers. 2 XP

Expressed your beliefs, drives, heritage, or background: Took himself out with a flashback (belief: take care of your crew). Protected Mistress Kember (and made her a friend). 2 XP

Struggled with issues from your vice or traumas: Unfortunately, Beaker got reckless after he did the crazy things. 0 XP

Tal Rajan XP

Addressed a challenge with conspiracy or calculation: Took part in a binding ritual in order to secure arcane aid against the Haloed Ones. Ensured Ghost Faced Killers were on hand to help handle that Scurlock business. 2 XP.

Expressed your beliefs, drives, heritage, or background: Tal's first instinct when faced with a threat he was not sure how to handle was to turn to House Anixis and bind himself to the demon prince, Ixis. Why not turn to the Ankhayat instead? Tal seems to increasingly seem to use others to do the work for him rather than get his own hands dirty. 2 XP.

Struggled with issues from your vice or traumas: Tal was quick to order the Bloodguard to murder the stewards in cold blood right in front of the Deathlands Scavengers (Vicious). His use of adherents of She Who Slays in Darkness to help bring down the Haloed Ones nearly led to division in the crew in the middle of the score. 2 XP.

6 XP to Playbook Track.


* Did we learn more about the world or its history? -
Cullen- Yes, we learned about the Hillfolk tribes and a little about Titan Bones

* Did we defeat a threat to Stonetop or the region? -
Cullen- No, Gavin and Dap did when they saved Sigard from the seduction of the Darkness Underfoot, but the Hillfolk tribe is still a threat to the Garretts and maybe Stonetop so Cullen and Trys have work yet to do.

* Did we improve our standing with our neighbors?- Cullen- Yes, I think he improved standing with the pilgrims from Marshedge as being fair and honorable.

* Did we make a lasting improvement to Stonetop, or tangible progress towards doing so? - Cullen- No, we made progress toward hopefully saving the Garretts and bringing a family of horse breeders and their horses to the town, but they're still in peril.

* Say how your relationship with or opinion of a PC, NPC, or group has changed. If you can, mark XP. - Trys. Dad is acting weird and I know he's in a process of... seeking redemption. Which is something I want to not interfere with. He did step up to working together on the engineering problem I presented to him. So I think my opinion of my dad is tentatively and cautiously trending up.

* How did you demonstrate or struggle with your instinct. If you can, mark XP. - Dap. His hope was reinforced by everyone pulling together for Stonetop to deal with the rain, and the heroes all acting with kindness and restraint for (the possessed) Lief, even when he didn't earn it.


This game has several different forms of Advancement and its complicated so I'll just sblock this in case you or anyone else is interested:

  • Keep track of how many Fate and Persona you have spend (not just earned). When you begin a Town Phase, see if your totals earn you a new level.
  • Gain the appropriate class benefit for your new level.
  • At Level 3, you gain a reputation that adds +1D to Circles in your home town.
Skills, Stats, and Town Stats
  • Improving a Skill or Stat
    • For every skill and stat, keep a list of Pass and Fail marks.
      • When you test your skill/stat, mark a Pass or Fail depending on the outcome. Some other means, such as the Mentor skill and the Winter Phase can also give marks.
      • For a skill/stat of rating N, you advance when you have N Pass marks and N-1 Fail marks.
        • There's no point in tracking more marks of either kind then you need.
      • Providing Help doesn't earn marks, unless you spend 1 check. If you do, you earn the kind of mark the primary roller does.
      • Advancement happens immediately. Erase all marks for the skill/stat.
    • Ob 0 tests don't help you advance.
    • Rolls without a distinct Pass/Fail status don't count toward advancement.
      • Disposition rolls in conflicts
      • Ties (if you break a tie with a stat, the mark goes to the state)
    • You can choose any 1 test from a conflict to mark down, but only 1.
    • Special Rules
      • Nature advances based on its maximum rating, not its current, taxed rating. If you are taxed when it increases, gain 1 to both maximum and current rating.
      • Might doesn't advance.
      • Resources can only be advanced once per Town Phase.
  • Learning a New Skill
    • When you use Beginner's Luck with a skill you don't have, add a mark (there is no distinction between Pass and Fail for this) for the skill, not for Health or Will.
    • Once you have as many marks as your maximum Nature, you learn the skill with rating 2.
  • Mentoring
    • Test Mentor when in town. If successful, you may give your student a passed or failed test for advancement. It’s your choice. Or grant your student a test toward a skill being learned.

However, it does have End of Session which is essential for gaining Fate and Persona (which you must spend to gain Levels). This is for working toward your Goal, fulfilling your Goal, acting on your Belief, acting against your belief, having a crisis of Creed, Gallows Humor, Teamworker, and MVP.

I don't have examples of each of the above, but here is an example of the last 3:

Gallows Humor (fate): "I thought elves liked trees (making a wise crack about Awanye burning a fir tree to drive off wolves)" - Jakob

Teamworker (persona): Jasper for summoning his rare (and brief) Mage Light (the flickering flame of a candle) when darkness was crowding in and our torchlight waned.

MVP (persona): Awanye for helping us all recover from the weight of our injuries and conditions in Camp phase with ancient, elvish spells of healing (Singing).

I've never experienced the issues you're speaking of. Games have never degenerated due to these approaches to xp. Quite the opposite in fact. Play is deeply dynamic (both gamestate and fiction) for every participant involved (for myself, the GM, especially as I’m constantly responding to dynamic player decisions forcing me to dynamically create new situations in response). Players play thematically boldly, aggressively pursuing their dramatic needs and these things dictate the trajectory of play (in part because it propels their own actions and, in large if not larger part, because these things inform my situation and consequence framing).

I'll be starting a new game of Dogs in the Vineyard this week. Characters change as a result of both Fallout (post-conflict advancement and attrition...both short-term and long-term) and Reflection (which is just like these End of Session xp evaluations except they're long term advancement/attrition that players have entire control over).
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The corollary aspect to all this, not yet mentioned, is that xp and-or levelling up their characters are the primary (and occasionally, only!) goals for some players, while others aren't as fussed about levelling and see it as no more than a pleasant side effect of the game-play they'd be doing anyway. Some players even see levelling as an annoyance if it happens too often and-or before they've established comfort with the powers etc. the character already has.

3e-4e-5e, with their very fast advancement rates in comparison to 2e and (if xp for gp is dropped) 1e, really lean hard into the levelling-as-focus side of it; along with promoting the character-build aspect of the game that such a focus on levelling brings with it.
I don't think 4e was ESPECIALLY designed for slow advancement. Lets assume you do one full-up combat per session. Each level consists of 10 'tranches' of XP (exactly 10 at-level encounters). However, each PC should receive something like 20% of their XP from quests (I'm assuming each PC completes one minor and one major quest per level, which makes sense). Encounters are also often higher than PC level, either combats or SCs. There's no advice on ratio of SC to combat, but the DMG claims you should have 1 level + 3 encounter, 3 level +1, 3 at-level, and one level - 1. That would indicate 9 per level, so we can assume 4 sessions would be required, maybe 5 per level (as I would actually assume more like 8 total encounters per level, given minor quest XP which isn't mentioned in the summary). Thus 4 combats. In some cases you might get through things faster too, so this seems like a MINIMUM progress rate.

IME we played 4 or so sessions per advancement at lower levels, but it seemed like higher level play went faster in 4e. With 30 levels to get through for a full 'start to apotheosis' campaign, you might expect to do it in 1-2 years. I think that is a LOT faster than most AD&D games advanced, though the rates there could vary hugely depending on the GM and how you ran combats and such.

Personally I found that the most fun seemed to be had with a rate of advancement of about 1 level every 2 or 3 sessions. You got a power, you learned how to use it, you had some real fun with it, then you got a new one! Play for maybe 20 sessions, move on to Paragon, etc. I always found that AD&D got bogged down with slow advancement, it just gets boring to be eternally the same level (especially if that is like 1st through 3rd which seemed to be pretty common).

Being in the same game with @kenada, I can say that it's much more interesting when XP triggers conflict—as in, you can't reasonably max out your XP in a session. To pursue your playbook triggers might ruin the score (which is a crew rather than character XP trigger, but still an XP trigger). Expressing your character's beliefs might conflict with struggling with vices (a stretch to be sure, but I've seen it happen). And conflict as such isn't even necessary; sometimes a given XP trigger just doesn't come up, or it would feel very forced to try to bring it up. In the very session @kenada mentions, things just kind of barreled along and I didn't get to bring up my character's vice or traumas, even though I'd had an idea for how that would likely happen before we started. But we had a surprise twist that changed the whole dynamic of the situation.

One more thing: While it does feel great to max out your possible XP—when you manage it too often, it starts to feel like a cakewalk. I've had a couple stretches like that and might even up my standards for what counts as meeting a given trigger condition!
Right. I think, judging from comparing all our character sheets, that I have habitually been a bit leaner in awarding XP to my character. Or maybe I just don't do as good a job of going for desperate checks, I'm not sure (desperate position checks are what get you XP in your attributes, which is then used to add pips to your skills). You get playbook XP for 'RP considerations', which vary a bit per playbook. Those are used to pick Special Abilities (like class abilities in D&D-ish games).

Like last session I only ended up with, IIRC, 1 desperate check! So I got one Prowess XP for that. I did pick up several playbook XP though. I think technically you can get up to 6 playbook XP per session, though that would be unlikely IMHO, I think I've given myself 2-3 most sessions. Technically there's no real limit to how much attribute XP you could theoretically earn, but given that desperate checks are most likely to eat away at your stress track and Harm fairly quickly there are practical limits. I think maybe 4 or 5 points would be about the max desperate rolls you will likely survive in our games! Although picking up ways to use armor boxes, getting better at resist rolls, being more potent at defending your allies, having more and better allies, etc. does help with that. OTOH when you take on master level threats that do AUTOMATIC consequences to you every 'round' that stuff doesn't last long. That and level 1 and 2 harm definitely cuts your effectiveness down a bit.

Overall I think BitD character advancement is working well. Its not super slow, but its also not as steep a power curve as something like D&D. I guess if you were Tier V, had 10 special abilities, all your attributes were 4's and you had 3 or 4 in many skill tracks then you're going to be maybe 10x more effective than a starting character. I think you could easily play for a year before you got there, depending on how great the risks you want to take are. I think our current gang is pretty gonzo and regularly takes things clean to the hilt. Like my PC has defeated several higher tier master level combat threats. In fact he seems to find one every score... Still, even with all that we are just barely getting to the top of Tier II now.

Anyway, Blades has a lot of OTHER sorts of resources that matter. Like you really need to develop your NPCs and contacts with NPCs and relationships to get far. Resources are pretty key too, you need to come up with good equipment and cohorts (henchmen basically), and less defined things like places to hole up! There's also an entire game of Long Term Projects and Coin. I think there's actually a few strategies you could follow to become a powerful PC. XP is going to be a big part, but I could see a character that is really well supplied with cash, and uses it effectively, punching pretty far above their Tier.

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