XP for Absent Players

SubDude

Explorer
For more than 30 years I've been awarding half XP for players who miss the gaming session. What are considerations for changing this approach and awarding the same XP to everyone, absent or present?

ETA: Playing 5E, don't care at all about characters all being the same level.

Part of me argues that missing some of the XP isn't a punishment since they're getting some of the reward for their character's participation, but I can see the counter-argument that the character is still facing all the same risks (indeed potentially more risk by letting someone else play the character) but getting less reward.

I'd say our usual thought process has been the second option that Kinematics listed in post 30 below. And I'm reflecting on the posts here to see if I want to change it.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I look at leveling (I don't use XP) as simply a way to tell different aspects of the story, so everyone is always the same level. I also give people a slightly reduced amount of GP and items. Basically enough to get them close to on par with the rest of the party considering money and consumables that might have been used along the way.

Missing sessions suck enough, I don't see a need to penalize the player any more, but I also do it with new players. If the entire group is fifth level, the new person starts at fifth level.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
For more than 30 years I've been awarding half XP for players who miss the gaming session. What are considerations for changing this approach and awarding the same XP to everyone, absent or present?
It's what I've been doing for a long time, it hasn't really been a problem for us?
 

coolAlias

Explorer
Which edition of the game are you playing?

In AD&D 2e, characters often varied widely in level due to the different class progressions, multi-classing, xp bonuses / penalties, etc., so in that game I'd say it doesn't really matter which way you go.

In 3e, being behind not only the level curve but assumedly also the loot curve could put characters at a serious disadvantage.

5e is much more forgiving than 3e regarding level disparity, but depending on how the frequency and difficulty of combat they could still be in for a rough time if they fall too far behind.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
Adults have busy lives and families and jobs, and punishing them for not being able to attend social occasions is weirdly manipulative.
I don't consider it punishment.

I want my character to grow and change only when I am there to play them.

I don't want to miss a couple sessions and then suddenly my character is another level and I never got a chance to play the previous level.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I don't consider it punishment.

I want my character to grow and change only when I am there to play them.

I don't want to miss a couple sessions and then suddenly my character is another level and I never got a chance to play the previous level.
I guess you could voluntarily refuse XP then.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Docking XP for absence creates parties with uneven levels, which makes encounters harder to balance, and in turn you make your players feel bad but don’t actually change their attendance habits. In contrast, giving absent players full XP makes your life easier as a DM and has no downsides.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
For more than 30 years I've been awarding half XP for players who miss the gaming session. What are considerations for changing this approach and awarding the same XP to everyone, absent or present?
It probably won't change much since you're already giving them half XP as is. What really matters in my view is what you're giving XP for as that is what will tend to influence behavior in the game. If there's a problem of sporadic attendance that is impacting the game, I recommend looking to other out-of-game solutions.

My group views XP as an incentive to do the things that give you XP. In most D&D 5e campaigns of mine that means killing monsters/NPCs (combat) or making them your allies (social). If you want treasure, you'll generally need to explore to find it. XP or gold here is not an incentive to show up to play, nor a punishment for not showing up to play. The incentive for showing up is getting to have a good time together and helping to create an exciting, memorable story.

Personally, I do not award XP for non-attendance. I've got more players than seats at the table (generally 8 to 10 players for 5 seats). If you can make it, great; if you can't, someone else will take that seat and we'll catch you some other time. I also have no cares about characters of different levels. Bounded accuracy sees to that concern and any level differences quickly vanish anyway. My current Eberron group spans 5th to approaching 9th level, and I've run games where there were up to 7 levels of difference. It all worked out fine.
 
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LordEntrails

Adventurer
I keep all my characters at the same level XP amount. Too many bad experiences with players feeling ineffective because of level differences (esp in 3.x). Besides, there is no mature reason for me to reward or punish players for attendance, playing is reward enough, absence is its own penalty.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
For 5e, I doubt there will be any significant problems. The bounded accuracy built into the system should be pretty tolerant - a character a few levels behind should still be able to contribute to any encounter, exploration, downtime, and so on.

It's the 3e family (including Pathfinder) and 4e editions that make this a bit sticky. The games have a lot less tolerance and characters off by more than 1-2 levels will probably feel the pinch.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
For more than 30 years I've been awarding half XP for players who miss the gaming session. What are considerations for changing this approach and awarding the same XP to everyone, absent or present?
As mentioned, given the incredible rate of XP gain in 5E, awarding full XP while a player is absent can lead to them missing out on significant play experiences. You risk a player coming back after a short absence and not recognizing their character. It would be less of an issue if you were playing 2E, but it would be worse in 4E.

It also creates a bizarre incentive for players to not show up. After all, it's not like you're going to kill off their character when they aren't even there. If something dangerous is on the horizon, they can just skip the risk and still gain all of the reward. I'd rather not give players any reason to skip a session, if they can do anything to avoid it; after all, if too many people miss at once, then the whole game falls apart.
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
It depends on the type of game I want to run. In some games where players are a collection of individuals who sometimes work together which is often the case for old school games individual experience makes more sense.

If a game is more centered on players who are a team that works together to solve problems I think having a group experience pool makes the most sense. When I run Pathfinder 2 this is going to be my approach even when it comes to experience for individual accomplishments. I think that will encourage players to help each other accomplish their personal goals.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It also creates a bizarre incentive for players to not show up. After all, it's not like you're going to kill of their character when they aren't even there. If something dangerous is on the horizon, they can just skip the risk and still gain all of the reward. I'd rather not give players any reason to skip a session, if they can do anything to avoid it; after all, if too many people miss at once, then the whole game falls apart.
If you players are searching for reasons to skip a session, maybe ask why your game is a chore to be avoided?
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
If you players are searching for reasons to skip a session, maybe ask why your game is a chore to be avoided?
Like you said, adults are busy people. They have a lot going on, and a lot weighing on each decision. Every week, they have to choose between my game, putting in some extra work at the office, visiting with relatives, and catching up on their sleep. The choice is not always an obvious one, and I don't want to discourage anyone from playing by giving them in-game rewards for not showing up.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I look at leveling (I don't use XP) as simply a way to tell different aspects of the story, so everyone is always the same level. I also give people a slightly reduced amount of GP and items. Basically enough to get them close to on par with the rest of the party considering money and consumables that might have been used along the way.

Missing sessions suck enough, I don't see a need to penalize the player any more, but I also do it with new players. If the entire group is fifth level, the new person starts at fifth level.
This.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The question is not whether the player is there, it's whether the character is doing useful things in the party; as xp are a reward for what the character does, not the player.

Which means, if the player's not there things go on as normal - with, if any are peovided, the player's instructions kept in mind. And 'going on as normal' can include...
It also creates a bizarre incentive for players to not show up. After all, it's not like you're going to kill of their character when they aren't even there.
...death, if that's the way the dice fall.
If something dangerous is on the horizon, they can just skip the risk and still gain all of the reward.
They don't get any reward if the character skips the risk with the player present, why would I change that if the player is absent?
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
I always keep the party the same level, if someone misses out, they still get the same XP as everyone else. Even when someone new comes in, they start at the same level and with the same XP total as everyone else.

I normally use XP as a pacing mechanism ever since 3e anyway since now that everyone levels at the same rate, it doesn't seem worth keeping track of individual XP.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
If characters can die while their players aren't present, then that's incentive enough to show up. Nobody wants their character to die when they aren't there to prevent it.

And if you accept the risk for facing the challenges, then you definitely deserve the reward for overcoming those challenges, regardless of whether or not you're on auto-pilot at the time.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Depends on the system I suppose.

In 1st and 2nd ed, You cold have a character at 9th level when I start mine at 1st. By the time you hit 10th level, I'll be 9th.

Sounds weird, but that's the way the EXP per level worked. In that situation losing a session's worth of EXP means almost nothing, unless the players are in a race for power (which is another problem altogether.)

3.5's advancement is the same as Pathfinder's "fast" progression, and that's another kettle of fish.

In our 3.* games we handle disparate character levels by scaling Exp: The system awards more EXP to the lower level character for the same challenge, since it was harder for them to handle, so if I give appropriate EXP to each PC based on their individual level, again the level gap tends to self correct. A bit more work, but it does handle the problem.

I've seen games where some conniving players try to play "EXP leech", having their characters show up for a scene, but hang back and do nothing/take no risks when the kettle comes to a boil. They want matching EXP, but no risk and guaranteed PC survival. I like to discourage that, personally.

Over all, I don't award Exp when a player/character skips a session, and I award bobus Exp or penalties for characters who perform above and beyond or below and beneath the call of duty. When they miss a game entirely it means that the encounter EXP is being split amongst fewer PCs, so everyone else's share goes up a bit.

But that's just me
 

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