Character XP for an Absent Player?


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I'm currently running a good, fun game with mature, reasonable friends. During one session, another player couldn't make it, but as he was the "meat shield" he allowed his character to be played by others with my consent.

Now the storyline has finished, and I'm awarding XP. This player has asked if he deserves XP for that particular session as his character was involved, even though he himself wasn't. What do you all think?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Most people will say he should be given half XP, as his character was involved and at risk.

Some will say that he should get none, as he was not there.

Others, like me, do not award character XP based on player attendance. Usually, we do not award XP at all, and just level the party as we see fit.


I would agree with him that he deserves at least something, since you used his character and he played a part.
Maybe nothing for roleplay or anything like that, but just how much is up to you.


I also think it is a bit easier on the Gm if they all have same xp for you to build encounters. Anyway why would you want less xp for your party members It is not like he will be absent enough for you to gain a whole level so the party will be stronger with him getting the xp.


In my experience, most people will say that he earns full XP so as not to complicate things. But it depends on whether you're a "keep everyone at the same level" kind of person. If they're already at different XP values, use your judgment. Do you want to punish the player for not being there, even though his character helped the party? After all, his character's presence affected the APL calculation regardless of whether the player was present.


People have lives outside of the game; so I don't think it is nice to force busy people to not be equal with the weekly gamers. I usually give my players a choice:

Put your character into solo or drool mode and get no experience, but have no risk of dying, or let the group play your character in combat and let me RP them and get a full share of XP, but risk them dying on a day you didn't show up. My players ALWAYS pick having someone else play them.


Was he at full risk with the rest of the party, even though he wasn't there? Then full xp. Nothing else would be fair. What would happen if his character happened to be killed while being played by someone else? Would he only be half dead? Either give him full for being played, or don't allow him to be played and give him nothing.


my group awards full xp to no-shows who's chars got used. And since i started the campaign later than everyone (and had my first char die the first or second session and i got no xp), I'll permanently be behind the group.

but i normally end up running the no-shows chars and i run them more "effecient" than the normal players so what-evs


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

We use the Character Lounge, If you are absent, then your character goes and has a seat. We do not award XP, we all level together. One campaign has differing levels due to a Deck of Many Things, but otherwise, everyone is of equal level.


I can't remember the last time I used XP. It is easier just to tell the players to level at centain points in the storyline and ignore the whole hornet's nest.


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We ditched XP. They're a dumb bean counter function that only leads to you dinging, and the GM is going to game it so the players ding when the GM wants them to anyway, so why not just ding them at story thresholds in the first place.

When folks can't make it, they're not penalized. They show up with characters leveled to the level of the party. It's bad enough trying to play an MMO with your friends when you're all different levels and can go raiding together, there's no reason to lay the same kind of grief into a table top game.

Grand Lodge

I always give full experience to players who can't make it to one or two games. Look, real life has to come first and it's not fair to punish someone that couldn't make a game because of work, family or someone they're in a relationship with who does not play.

I have a friend who sometimes misses games because he and his girlfriend both work a lot and don't get to spend a lot of free time together. I think I would be a bad GM and a bad friend if I penalized him in anyway for this. It's a game, a very fun game that requires a certain commitment, but a game nonetheless, we should strive as a community to do away with the XP penalty for missing games.

If the person is missing many, many games than it may be best to speak to them in private and talk about joining a new group that fits their time better or even in making their character a part time participant. He may not be in the main party, but he shows up from time to time to help out ^^ There are always options and I don't think punishing someone is the answer.

Silver Crusade

This is pretty much all in line with what I would say. There is absolutely no reason to penalize someone who misses a session or two (esp. if they have good reason for it); real life happens. Keep their character even with the others. To do anything else for a player who legitimately misses the session is to penalize them, which is negative reinforcement.

It outright asks them, "Do you want to tend to things that really matter in life, or do you want to keep your character up to spec?" This is what the worst MMORPGs ask of players, and the result is never good.

I have to agree with what most of the others have said; overlook the occasional absence, keep the PC on level with the others, and carry on. It can be assumed the PC was either being played by others with permission, or else the PC was 'off in the background tending to other threats.' Guarding the camp, researching stuff, whatever. It's easily handwaved.


I just level everyone together, like several others in this thread, at appropriate moments in the story. (Typically either right before or right after a climactic scene.) Not only is it easier for me if everyone stays at the same level, but, as others have said, it avoids the feeling that because something came up in your life that you lose out in-game.

I do think that, for most typical social dynamics, players owe it to each other to do whatever they can to make it to game night, but if someone legitimately can't make it, they can't make it. (If someone knows ahead of time that they're going to be missing more than one session in a row, we usually do try to write that into things.)


When I GM, I don't award experience and everyone advances at the same time. If one player was not there, but his character was why would he be punished? Sometimes life happens, kids, work, vacation, and you can't make the weekly, Friday night game. What if his character died, would he only be half dead? If you are willing to risk death then you should be compensated at the full rate.

If you start splitting up experience points it will become difficult to keep track. I know, its easier to level everyone up at the same time. That keeps the group harmonious and one player won't complain because he is 752 experience points away. Also, no one can say they were more utilized that gaming session...


A few years ago I abondoned the entire concept of experience. Characters level according to plot. It's easier, cleaner, more logical and much more in line with the cinematic approach to storytelling.

XP - just say no.

Liberty's Edge

I too have pretty much abandoned the idea of individual XP, and every player has the same "pool" that they use for advancement. Even that, however, is just paying lip-service to the idea of XP. I figure out how much XP the players are going to get well in advance, and they level when they level.

We've also got a group of mature, awesome players, and it would be a shame to randomly punish someone because they had to work or watch the kids. I usually give the party the option of playing the absent player's character as an NPC for an encounter (we're playing Jade Regent right now, and I do the same with the ever-growing cast of major caravan NPCs).

I've got the nostalga for XP, and I hope it stays as part of the system, but I'd like to see the ideas in this thread put into future editions of Pathfinder and D&D.


The way I distribute XP:

25% of XP goes in a 'XP Pool', while the rest (75%) is equally distributed among PCs (and NPCs if any) immediately after a fight/event/encounter.

At the end of the game session, I distribute the total of the XP pool by the number of shares each player has accumulated.

Each player gets a share just for showing up, and a player gets an extra share when he does something good during the game... Like for good role playing, has a great idea or plan, does an incredible amount of damage, etc... I even ask each player at the end to "vote" for a fellow player that they think did well or was most useful during the game, with each vote becomming a share.

With this method, abscent players still get some XP, while those present get little bonuses.

It works really well.

Ultradan


Sometimes players just don't make it. I use pot exp so that everyone levels up at the same time, and it doesn't feel like I'm playing favourites or screwing them because they had outside commitments.

Liberty's Edge

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I must be Old School: i award XP only to players who actually play their own characters at the table. I do not let players play another player's character under any circumstances. Dependent upon in-game events, a player may sometimes control his own character and an alternate henchman (who recieves a share of XP as well).


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Owly wrote:

I'm currently running a good, fun game with mature, reasonable friends. During one session, another player couldn't make it, but as he was the "meat shield" he allowed his character to be played by others with my consent.

Now the storyline has finished, and I'm awarding XP. This player has asked if he deserves XP for that particular session as his character was involved, even though he himself wasn't. What do you all think?

His character was present, his character gets XP. XP isn't awarded to the player, it's awarded to the character.


I fail to the see the advantage of uneven experience awards. Game is really designed for everyone to be at the same level.

Scarab Sages

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If you are running an adventure path then it makes sense to ditch awarding XP altogether and just level the party at appropriate points. A sandbox campaign is different - individual XP seems correct for that.

Liberty's Edge

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If a player in my campaign misses a session, it's because they were busy with something else that they couldn't move, or something came up, etc. It isn't because they just didn't feel like coming. Thus, I give full XP to absent players. I don't want to make them feel punished because their schedule got messed up.


This may be a radical concept for some but player attendance shouldn't matter. If the character was played and survived/beat the same encounters as everyone else then the character should be awarded the same amount of XP. XP is a character mechanic, not a player one. Don't punish the character for the oddities of real life.


In past home games we have had similar strategies for handling absent player XP. The question you need to ask yourself is...Do you want everyone to be at the same XP or are you ok with varying levels at the table?

If you want everyone at the table to be the same level:
Award full XP to everyone but only treasure and monetary rewards to those playing. This has worked well to keep everyone at the same level but still reward those that can make it.

If you don't care for level parity of the party:
An alternative would be to do as you say and award half XP. This can keep people at the same level as long as they don't miss sessions too much. However, you will have to deal with some players leveling a little later than others. Not that big of a deal for a home brew campaign but can be more of a challenge when your following and adventure path that expects everyone at the same level by a certain piece of the storyline.

I would not go with no XP/No treasure as I find this creates a large disparity in party level and leads to some players feeling overshadowed and useless compared to others. Nothing is worth creating actual player frustration within your home group.


I frequently see accusations hurled on multiple threads that a poster or commenter is a "controlling GM" because of something like disallowing a druid from having an animal companion that doesn't exist on the druid's continent...

Yet the single most "controlling" activity a GM can perform is to disproportionately hand out experience points based on their own arbitrary desires to promote certain player behaviors, and yet I see a large number of posters and commenters routinely discuss how they use XP awards to control player behavior, and this is never called out as "controlling behavior" even though that is exactly what it is.

It's these sorts of things that make me smile as I navigate through these boards...


Is his character in the game and at risk of dying? - Full XP


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Full XP.

My group is 5 guys plus me, the DM. The youngest is my just turned 18 year old grandson, then his dad (late 30's). Everyone else is 30+ or older, so none of the "children issues". However, there are occasions when only one will not be here and it is usually vacation, or work trip, or jury duty, etc. One of the players had jury duty all fall of 2011 and was either late or missed 4 sessions.

I also level the party up as appropriate. Now, I do keep track of XP as I have a spreadsheet where all I do is enter the opponent and CR and it automatically calculates everything. I do this just to make sure we don't get too out of whack for level points.

Also, they split loot pretty evenly. I "customize" most weapons / armor / etc. to specific individuals so even though the Ranger got the +2 fey bane greatsword last night, the rest of them know that their turn for something really nice is coming.

-- david
Papa.DRB

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Owly wrote:
What do you all think?

Whenever a player has to be absent from one of my campaign sessions, I always have another player play that character and award XP has if the player had been there. After all, XP is for the character, not the player.

Award anything other than a full share will do nothing but create bookkeeping problems for the you as GM anyway.

-Skeld

PS: As an aside, I ditched XP a long time ago. I just tell the players to level whenever it is appropriate to the adventure/module/campaign.


I don't award xp any more, nor does my party's current dm. Im completely in favor of announcing when its time to level up or going story based.

I'm also in favor of leveling up every character at the same time. Its fun for the group and honestly what is gained by penalizing certain players?

But a good question also is what does your group expect? Your group has a culture/chemistry of its own, and its important to respect that. I played in a group years ago where every player got a folded slip of paper at the beginning of the session for xp earned at the previous session, so individual xp was given It seemed perfectly normal at the time.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

If you both have time, you could run a solo session with him for a side adventure that would effectively "catch him up" with the rest of the party.

I've done that before and it works well. Mind, I usually also award party XP rather than individual XP so they'd level with the party one way or the other, but I like still doing this if someone has to sit out.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

The way I do it "officially", as per my campaign home-rules document:

PCs with non-present characters are run as NPCs by the GM, to the best of the GM's understanding of the PC's personality, goals, alignment, etc. PCs run in this way get 75% XP of the normal XP award. PCs run as NPC are never eligible for "great scene" or "awesome play" XP bonus awards.

The way I actually run things:

I give out XP awards so that the players have a feeling of incremental advancement, and also to check the pacing of the adventure path as a whole. However, I will give story awards at the end of chapter breaks to bring the whole party up in level, effectively starting over at the start of a new chapter. I think that strikes the right balance of sense of advancement, storyline, and game mechanics consistency.

--Hal


In case of Pathfinder? Like many other posters above I ditched the XP completely - the party levels when I want them to, so the story and their choices can take them against harder challenges.

In case of other games, with free form experience instead of character levels, I usually find excuse for the absent player's character for being not involved and don't grant them experience.


Haladir wrote:


The way I actually run things:

While I do go through the XP calculation exercise as a check on the pacing of advancement, I give out story awards at chapter breaks to make sure that the PCs are at the right level for the plot at all times. Effectively, I just level them up when they need to be leveled.

So... why not just make "the way you actually do it" the "official way?"

It was this bizarre re-balancing of the party so they could handle level-appropriate challenges such that all of my clever use of XP to manipulate player behavior was undone when I had to arbitrarily "fix" the inevitable level imbalances that led me to scrap XP entirely.

If I want to reward players in game I do it now with very specific, immediately useful things, like a token for a +1 to any attack roll, or a +2 to a skill check or other things. I find that the players like this much more, it is game impactful and there is little if any lingering suggestion of favoritism since the reward is bestowed, used and forgotten by the end of the session.


This topic always bugs me a little.

Frank : Sorry I wasn't here guys but thanks for the flowers you sent to the funeral home. My mother loves roses.

GM: No problem man, sorry about your lose. Hey by the way your a level behind everyone else now and were not in a point of the story where you can do a solo to catch up so... yeah sorry.

Frank : Its ok. (Thinking... this is B. S. this is.)

__________________________

THIS being said. I understand that my play-style is not others, AND if I am at someone else s table I follow their rules. If I am willing to be behind then obviously there GM'ing is making it worth my time.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

In our games, we have some constraints on what can be done. Many of the players are very attached to being awarded XPs, and most of the players would object to having their characters played by somebody else. So the usual approach taken is as follows:

1) If a player is absent, his character disappears with no explanation. The character returns the same way when the player returns.

2) An absent player earns no XP. However, if a player returns to a game where the highest level player is more than 1 or 2 levels ahead of him (exact number varies with game), his XP total is automatically bumped up to keep him within the campaign's minimum level difference. (Note that it is a point of pride among the more regular players to avoid receiving "unearned" XPs -- if you show up enough, you will never fall that far behind.)

3) Players who are present obviously get first choice of treasure over players who are absent, but they will often hold items for players who missed the current session but who are expected to come back later.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Dr. Gradgrind wrote:
A sandbox campaign is different - individual XP seems correct for that.

No more correct than keeping everyone at the same level until the DM is ready to up the party. You can do a lot of sandboxing in a single level.


2) An absent player earns no XP. However, if a player returns to a game where the highest level player is more than 1 or 2 levels ahead of him (exact number varies with game), his XP total is automatically bumped up to keep him within the campaign's minimum level difference

This is pretty reasonable


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Adamantine Dragon wrote:


So... why not just make "the way you actually do it" the "official way?"

[I hit "Post" instead of "Preview" and had to edit my previous post because what I wrote didn't match what I'd meant to say.]

Re: my amended previous post: My players like the sense of incremental advancement, and I like to give a direct reward to excellent role-playing (my "Great Scene!" award), or pulling off cinematic tactics (my "Awesome Play!" award).

Our last few campaigns were essentially episodic and had little-to-no overall plot, so there was no plot-focused need to have characters at level X to take on the next challenge. The GM just adjusted the next dungeon or wilderness encounter for the PC's current level. Incremental, codified advancement was both expected and appreciated.

But I'm running an Adventure Path (Rise of the Runelords), so the PCs need to be at, say, level 5 to start the Misgivings section of The Skinsaw Murders. At the same time, I want the flexibility to add some amount of extra/homebrew content in the AP, AND to keep a feeling of constant incremental advancement.

So, to balance the two, I'm running the AP at the "Medium" progression rate, even though it's geared to "Fast." I'm filling in the gaps I've introduced with extra content, and I'm using the XP advancement to both pace how and when to add the extra content and to keep the PCs at the right level for the main plot.

So, in some sense, the XP award level is more for my own practical benefit than for the players. For the players, it primarily serves as an abstract accounting of "progress." And that's important to my players.

--Hal


I find it problematic when you have XP difference between players. Basically as it goes on some players characters fall behind and this reduces the APL of the party. Then you end up with Balance issue where the higher level characters are finding the challenge lacking but low level PC are struggling if you up the challenge. Depending on the class this can have bigger or less impact.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I am currently running Serpent's Skull by the book(s) and hand out XP after every session to everyone who attends. But we have agreed that the PC of a player who couldn't make it to the session remains in the background and simply isn't acknowledged at all by anyone or anything. Thus no XP for absent players at my table.
The XP are also a way of ensuring that every player tries his best to clear space in his schedule to make it to the session. So no attendance, no cookies.

A little off-topic:
I also love the sense of accomplishment in the eyes of my players when I give out a large sum of XP for a very challenging encounter so even though it would be very comfortable to just level the party every now and then I much prefer the bean-counting. It's also a great way to ensure that people stick to their PCs and have them resurrected rather than roll up a new PC because they don't lose anything (mechanically speaking)

Liberty's Edge

I'm glad to see that many GMs go with an XP pot or have discarded XP altogether, but I have a question for GMs who don't give absent players XP (or or those who give reduced XP):

When a player's character dies, how many experience points does their new character start with.

I've run it a few ways over the years. When it was "party's average XP" or "just enough XP to reach current party's average level" I found that a player had little incentive to keep a character alive after missing a few sessions. Their current PC is weaker, more likely to die, and less useful to the party, and their new character will be stronger, less likely to die, and more helpful to the party.

I've also run it was "begins at one level below party average, but that leads to players unhappily dragging their characters along until just before the rest of the party levels.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is this:
Gaining XP is not the reward for showing up to play. A session of fun roleplaying is the reward for showing up to play.

If the only (or primary) thing getting players to your table is the accumulation of points, then there's a problem. And players, especially adult players with jobs and commitments and whatnot, won't show up for points - they'll show up to have a good time.

Almost unrelated side question: Anyone who's played systems that don't use XP, how did you handle absent player's advancement? Inquiring minds want to know!


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
brreitz wrote:

When a player's character dies, how many experience points does their new character start with.

Exactly as much is needed to reach the APL.

brreitz wrote:
I found that a player had little incentive to keep a character alive after missing a few sessions.

It takes at least 3-4 sessions at my table for the group to gain a level so a single missed session doesn't hurt that much. If someone in my group has to miss a couple of sessions in a row we always work something out to not let him fall behind. In the long run everyone is going to miss a session now and then and it evens out.

"brreitz wrote:
Gaining XP is not the reward for showing up to play. A session of fun roleplaying is the reward for showing up to play.

It's not a reward for showing up, it's an incentive.

"brreitz wrote:

If the only (or primary) thing getting players to your table is the accumulation of points, then there's a problem. And players, especially adult players with jobs and commitments and whatnot, won't show up for points - they'll show up to have a good time.

There's no problem if everyone agrees. But in any case, my games are not about accumulating points. And all of my (adult) players have busy schedules but that is *exactly* why I like to have the additional incentive of per-session XP.

Silver Crusade

Nullpunkt wrote:
"brreitz wrote:
Gaining XP is not the reward for showing up to play. A session of fun roleplaying is the reward for showing up to play.
It's not a reward for showing up, it's an incentive.

If you're going to a game to play because the XP is incentive, then it must be a pretty boring campaign, or the company musn't be that great.

A good story and good friends are incentive enough.


It's interesting to me how my attitude about XP has changed just in the last few years. I used to be very much an XP focused GM. I used XP to reward what I considered to be "excellent role playing" or "awesome performance" or "cool ideas" as well as using it to "encourage" players to attend gaming sessions. And I did that for 28 years or so. So it's not like my opinion of XP changed because it "wasn't working." It worked fine.

But once I played in a campaign where the party leveled up equally and by story, instead of by XP, I realized a lot of very surprising things.

1. The players were no longer focused on XP. They were focused on the story.

2. We never had a gimped PC in the party just because someone had a birthday party they needed to attend.

3. Our encounters were much easier to plan and much more consistently executed from a challenge perspective. We had a lot fewer blowouts and a lot fewer potential TPKs.

4. I no longer saw how the "role play dude" in the group consistently bagged "extra role play XP" moving his character ahead of the rest of the group because of what the player did.

5. I no longer saw players literally dropping out because their character was always gimped and it was virtually impossible to catch up just because they had a more difficult personal life situation to deal with.

6. Any in game impact of the loss of XP as a measure of success was invariably positive. There was NO negative impact to the game. But there was significant positive impact.

I now consider XP to be an archaic concept sort of like THACO or dwarves and elves as classes. A bitterly clinging artifact of an earlier, less refined version of RPGs.

If you haven't yet tried it, I highly recommend throwing XP out with your fish heads and eggshells.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
If you haven't yet tried it, I highly recommend throwing XP out with your fish heads and eggshells.

Can't do it, man. I couldn't play in a game where it wasn't awarded.

Shadow Lodge

Bet you could.

You just don't want to.


loaba wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
If you haven't yet tried it, I highly recommend throwing XP out with your fish heads and eggshells.
Can't do it, man. I couldn't play in a game where it wasn't awarded.

Experience points aren't "the game" they are just a tool to help determine "score." There are lots of ways to "keep score". Experience Points are most definitely not anything the character is interested in, since they are purely metagame things. So you seem to be saying that you, as the player want to accumulate experience points.

I was that player who almost always got the extra XP awards for role playing or for solving the puzzle or doing the crazy thing... so abandoning XP meant my characters no longer tended to be the first to level up.

And, you know, I ended up being fine with that. Better than fine. I like it better that way.


Also if I am a player that is not absent do I want my freind and fellow player not to get xp so we can both level up and do awesome combos together and have a time when we are both having fun. I would definitely want the party bard to get more xp so he can buff me if I am the fighter.

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