Monday, February 10, 2014

How Do You Award XP in Your Campaigns?

I was listening to an episode of the Roll For Initiative podcast on the drive to work this morning and the topic of awarding XP came up.

Give XP for gold or not? Full value or modified?

Give XP for magic items found?

Give XP for overcoming obstacles?

Give XP for attaining goals?

Give XP for overcoming monsters?

Other methods?

I award for overcoming adversaries, recovering gold, ad hoc XP for attaining goals and overcoming obstacles. Session write ups award a 10% expo bonus.

I also award a small bump in XP awards to my once a month group compares to my more regularly meeting group. Not a huge bump, but it it there.

How do you award XP in you campaigns?


  1. In my DCC Game I don't award XP. I just hand out level-ups as I feel appropriate. I did the same in my Pathfinder games as well.

    1. This is how our DM does it. I think it actually removes a level of stress for us "older" gamers (we're 40-somethings, more-or-less).

    2. I've done this before, in a group that had been playing together for a while, and it worked out great. Noone missed the XP Accounting Exercises and we were able to level at logical points in the story.

    3. Ditto. I find calculating and awarding XP to be time-consuming and mostly a farce, so I don't. I level up characters when I think it's appropriate. No complaints.

  2. I award XP for doing things that would make them better at doing things. Killing monsters should give them practical experience in fighting or working as a team, casting spells or beseeching their deities in a frightening, tense situation. I award experience for planning, ideas, quick reaction to situations, trying new things. XP given for in game the real-game world experiences the characters would learn from.

    I don't give XP for finding a pile of metal coins or items. It is a false reward for the players and an obvious game mechanic that is easily abused. It is the DM wasting the value of a game reward for the players doing absolutely nothing. This is a game of paper tigers. Gold is merely a number, but the actions of the player characters has a taste of reality. When a DM turns XP into just another number based on finding another number you rob the game of that taste of the real and devalue the involvement of the players in the game.

  3. I always begin a campaign awarding XP by the book, whatever rulebook I'm using. Usually though, by the third or fourth session, I pass it out in whatever amount "feels" right. I'd prefer to stick to a system, but I guess I'm a lazy GM.

    (Disclaimer: I've only ever refereed three campaigns, and each was relatively short-lived.)

  4. Exp for behaviours I want to encourage.

    Exp for treasure recovered means they seek out dangerous places and don't get much reward for just killing enemies.

    Exp for exploration (hexes travelled/landmark discovered/adventure locale found/etc) means they are more willing to travel around my map in search of adventure and poke around in dangerous places.

    Exp for carousing means they're more likely to get themselves into more trouble.

    Exp for other stuff like overcoming obstacles, solving mysteries, and completing goals (judged on an ad hoc basis) mean I can enshrine their achievements in the Exp-You-Got-For-Last-Session document.

  5. Exp for money spent on risked in gambling (highest pot of the night), training, research, gifts, property/construction, and sacrifice. Easy money doesn't get you reputation and experience spending it on your improvement, contacts, and resources does.

    100 exp per level HD for foes defeated. Half for foiling the foe.

    No exp for magic items themselves, destroying cursed items and dangerous items does earn folks exp as does gifting magic items.

    Exploration awards: 100 exp per dungeon level for party members that are in first session to breach a dungeon level. Wilderness locations and holy sites have an exp award. Unusual hazards, traps, and features visited, survived,defeated, or exploited earn awards too.

    Bonuses for behavior and goals as well as makign the game better for everyone at the table.

  6. I tend to stick to the guidelines as written, although I did, for a while, give 'bonus XP' to the player who struck the killing blow against a given monster/opponent, which occassionally ended with some funny moments when the fighter spent several rounds chopping at that umber hulk and taking ungodly damage... then the elf cast 'magic missile' and plinked the Umberhulk on the end of it's snout for those last two hitpoints, killed it and the elf and got the bonus XP.
    Players also get the bonus XP for ability scores... that is added onto the top, not taken from the total.
    I tend to give XP for monsters and treasure and occassional 'bonus XP' for doing things like destroying the altar used by an evil cult, etc. XP is divided equally between PCs and NPCs get a 1/2 share.
    I try not to give XP as an 'award' for people playing their characters 'well' or whatever because I think that tends to encourage suck-upitude towards the DM and rewards some styles of play over others... if a player wants to talk in funny voices, etc., or he just says, "My character will do X," they get the same XP... I just think rewarding someone with XP for talking in a put on voice is too much like playing favorites --- after all, I don't want to penalize someone who doesn't have the urge to consider every elf game as an opportunity to show off their amateur thespian talents. If the player finds it more fun to talk in a put on accent, then that fun is his reward.

    1. If the players suck-up attitude to the DM involves them buying the pizza and brew then I do everything I can to encourage it.

    2. I guess it's hard to honestly argue with that...

  7. I like to keep XP awards 100% objective, so 1 XP per GP and monster XP by the book - period. I want no part of subjective DM awards for specific actions. If the players are "playing smart" they'll collect more loot. As for giving XP for "roleplaying" (which in this context usually means reciting some stupid catchphrase at regular intervals or spending part of each session whining about how their imaginary character's imaginary parents were murdered by imaginary orcs - ugh) I want no part of that either. Play your "role" right and you'll gain more treasure and hence more XP. XP for gold was one of the most elegant systems Gary ever devised, so it really blows my mind that people want to replace it with some makeshift Frankensteinian procedure where they hand out dozens of little awards. WHY?

  8. More specifically (assuming I'm running 1st edition AD&D as usual):

    *1 XP for each GP that a PC personally gets (so this is based on how the players choose to divide the loot)

    *XP for a magic item goes to the PC who keeps it, so this is again based on how the players choose to divide the loot (if the magic item is sold, which is only possible in major cities, XP depends on how the players divide the proceeds of the sale)

    *XP for all monsters killed, divided evenly among all surviving characters

    That's it. If players want more XP, they need to fill more body bags and empty more treasure chests.

  9. When I don't try and overhaul a game's XP system from scratch because, you know, why the Hell not, I do standard XP for kills and end-of-campaign stuff, but gold gets no XP because, and this is where I diverge, I use a system of societal position which gold directly translates to. It's nice and simple and it creates a separation for the whole "XP equals authority" thing which crops up often in PCs but NPCs don't seem to need to follow. Roleplaying awards no bonus XP, just the satisfaction of knowing you did something cool that you came up with.

  10. These days, in my GURPS game, for loot, with minor bonuses for being awesome or for doing really interesting stuff.

    In my previous GURPS game, for roleplaying and accomplishing goals.

    In my D&D days, whatever the book said.

  11. 100% depends on the campaign - but generally I award by the book for whatever game I'm running. Although with some games I'll increase the amount handed out if the game is expected to be a short campaign.

    I've also occasionally run by an entirely different XP scheme than standard - I ran a 12-session "high speed D&D" campaign using the B/X rules.


  12. XP for gp/treasure, and XP for monsters slain/defeated, as per AD&D or B/X.

    Also XP for magic items, but rationalized as conventional treasure value as a consequence of their materials or workmanship. Not all magic items end up being worth XP; only those with material/workmanship value.

    XP for treasure & monsters eliminates any sense of entitlement. It gives players a default motivation ("we want to try to _advance_ today"), and yet does not inhibit other motivations in play. It allows the DM to communicate about the potential for advancement with in-world language (instead of meta-game language), including the presentation of tempting situations/gambles. Plus the conceit is something most everyone can relate to, because who _wouldn't_ want more money?

  13. How I award XP is entirely based on what the players want from the game. They want challenge then I sick to objective measures. If they want to to go all "story" on me, then XP will be based on story progress. So, I have no real preference.

  14. In my Swords&Wizardry game, I give XP only for defeating monsters (not very much xp) and money (1gp == 1xp). Individual players can earn XP, and those "% bonuses for STAT of X or better" tweaks are all in place. But I'm trying specifically to evoke a particular feel to the game - the feel of the early 1980's D&D scene as I experienced it.

    In Pathfinder, I award CR based XP only, and treat RP encounters as normal "APL" CR. Since leveling is uniform, I tend to just keep a running total in my notes and inform the players when they've leveled. I do let them know their XP count though, so they can try to "metagame" their XP acquisition if they wish.

    In our 4e game, the GM does not hand out XP, he just lets us know when we've leveled.

  15. I give XP for gold, on the standard 1gp=1xp basis. In my experience, it encourages players to be inquisitive and try to find the most efficient sources of gold rather than making the game a monster grind. I also give Moldvay style monster XP, but it's not a huge source.

  16. I'm currently running a Castles & Crusades game and award XP typically for the big 3 here:

    1. Defeating Monsters. Pretty much RAW for C&C from Monsters & Treasure (M&T)
    2. Magic Items. Whatever it's xp value in M&T or in the module.
    3. Gold. 1 gold = 1xp

    I have a few other things I give XP for.

    4. Quest completion. This is kind of arbitrary, but after reading Paizo's Kingmaker, I like the their ideas assigning XP for accomplishing certain tasks. Kill the wild vicious boar or collect the 4 plants of a rare herb. This is also similar to World of Warcraft quests, but it works.
    5. Explorer Quests. Taken from Dungeons & Dragons Online, as a party explores a hex or finds a particular area of emphasis, I'll grant them XP. I'm intending to try out the idea more in A1: Assault on Blacktooth Ridge where I'll award them an increasing amount of XP (divided among the party) for doing the side quests and finding various areas or encounters.
    6. Carousing Rules (from Jeff's Gameblog). Spend Gold and roll for XP from partying like freewheeling adventurers. Just don't have a mishap. Though offered no one has yet to bite. I'll likely make up a Charity Rule, that will do the same thing - but in this cause be wonderful, kind and charitable adventurers, just don't have a mishap.
    7. Best Role-player. I make the table vote for the best game play of the session. Again arbitrary and it could be for rolling high (or low), acting in Character or just doing something ridiculous.

  17. Usually, I go by the book. Whatever it says is good with me. That said, I think that I'm going to drop the XP for Magic Items thing in the AD&D game I'm (perennially, it seems) setting up.

    Also, because I apparently hate players, I think I might give a small bonus per session (say, 100 x current level, maybe modified for long or short sessions) voted on by the players (who won't be allowed to vote for themselves), ties broken by roll-off. That way, the players can encourage whatever behavior suits them, plus the normal behavior of getting money.

    Oh, and Rients's carousing rules, plus maybe offerings (money donated to a temple counts for extra XP, which I can do because I don't have an "anything goes" pantheon).

    Plus, I'm still wavering on whether to go with ACKS, AD&D, or The Arcanum as the basis. Whichever way I end up, though, I will probably incorporate bits of the other two.

    1. Also, I give arbitrary XP in most games for visiting "Places of Interest" for the first time. I like to encourage travel. It broadens the mind.

  18. I mostly play AD&D 1e, and I award experience points by the book (overcome monsters, treasure and magical items); the only difference is that I sum up all the experience points earned by the group and share them equally among the characters, rather than, for example, calculating separate xp values for magical items based on the characters who actually get to keep and use them.
    I recently re-discovered this paragraph by GG (AD&D 1e DMG, pag. 85):

    Players who bolk at equating gold pieces to experience points should be gently but firmly reminded that in a game certain compromises must be made. While it is more "realistic" for clerics to study holy writings, pray, chant, practice self-discipline, etc. to gain experience, it would not make a playable game roll along. Similarly, fighters should be exercising, riding, smiting pelts, tilting at the lists, and engaging in weapons practice of various sorts to gain real expertise (experience); magic-users should be deciphering old scrolls, searching ancient tomes, experimenting alchemically, and so forth; while thieves should spend their off-hours honing their skills, "casing" various buildings, watching potential victims, and carefully planning their next "iob". All very realistic but conducive to non-game boredom!

    And that was in 1979!

  19. Mostly by the book in my Whitebox game, although I increase the awards for defeating monsters by an amount equal to their HP totals multiplied by their HDE (borrowed in concept from AD&D). I also give a "session reward" -- 100XP per character level just for showing up, and occasionally duplicate that award for story goals (completing quests, overcoming major/complicated obstacles, etc.)

    While I think immersion is the whole point of the hobby, I don't go anywhere near rewards for "role playing." Fortunately (from my perspective), none of my players seem inclined to use funny voices, and I would be the last person to reward them for doing so (although I wouldn't go out of my way to discourage it -- let me be clear). And even though I *love* it when players step up to update the adventure log or contribute an imaginative character background, I let those activities be their own reward. I want the guy for whom making time to show up each week is a major achievement to feel just as valued as anyone else at the table.


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