How do you handle XP?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


You are the DM and have a group of people Pathfinder and you have to hand out the XP. Does it matter if its an AP or home brew?

If people show up (no matter what they do or don't do) they get equal share of the xp?

Do you reward people for whatever?

Should XP be "fair"?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

I place XP promptly in the garbage and wash my hands of it. I use the advancement guidelines of the module or AP to arbitrarily award levels when people complete appropriate sections of he module. To reward attendance, good role-playing, clever ideas or bringing cookies or other meta things that XP could be applied for I use an alternative system. For Carrion Crown I handed out little skulls, which could be exchanged for a +1 on a d20 roll. 4 skulls could be redeemed for a hero point. For Wrath of the Righteous I awarded mythic surges (but more stingily and you could only stock pile 1 bonus surge in reserve.) An alternative might be to allow someone to draw from the harrow deck and gain the effects of the harrowing spell for 24 hours. The intent to give a tangible and immediately usable reward for something that deserves it.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I too dont use xp anymore, one more bit of accounting i dont need to do. Characters level up when its appropriate for the story (I use adventure paths now, so that dictates the pace). I also always keep the whole party at the same level, the idea of punishing someone for missing a session is more or less stupid to me. They already missed out on fun with friends, that is punishment enough, and it causes way too many other headaches to be worth it in any way.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I stopped using XP years ago. Now I just level when it's appropriate to the story.

That said, I don't like the idea of awarding different amounts of XP to different characters. I prefer that all characters receive he same XP and stay in sync, XP-wise, to avoid level disparities within the group. When a player can't make it to a session, their PC is still participates, run by another player or the GM.

-Skeld


As long as they were present and part of the solution to overcoming the obstacle, they get the xp in my game. Even if its something like a Rogue disarming a trap when nobody else can even Aid Other, as long as the other party members are standing watch and protecting the Rogue while (s)he works, they helped overcome the challenge and get xp for it.

Only times that some player wouldn't get xp while others did is if they specifically were not there for it. If the Wizard wants to sit in town for a month to craft themselves a new staff, and the rest of the party goes off to kill some time without them, then the wizard isn't going to get xp for their adventure (although if the party is smart the won't do that, not good to get on a crafting wizard's bad side!). That kind of thing.


Xp is divided evenly amongst the characters that survive the encounter.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Fencer_guy wrote:

You are the DM and have a group of people Pathfinder and you have to hand out the XP. Does it matter if its an AP or home brew?

If people show up (no matter what they do or don't do) they get equal share of the xp?

Do you reward people for whatever?

Should XP be "fair"?

I have dropped XP in my games as unnecessary. However, I do acknowledge that players often enjoy a measurable indication of progress.

In the case that I were to offer XP, I would assign a group total rather than individual rewards.I prefer not to deal with parties with unequal levels. (This has been softened by my time in PFS where groups are rarely composed of evenly leveled characters.)

This does lead to players never missing XP, but if I am not providing an engaging enough game that you need another carrot to ensure your participation, I do not believe we will be gaming together for much longer. Individual rewards come in a flavor other than XP, such as in-game boons or mechanical bonuses.

"Fair" is a murky concept that must be hammered out between the players at the table. XP is fair to some and unfair to others.


Have also stop using exp.

I reward 1 level point for showing up and staying for 60% of the game session.

This rewards those player who show up to play and stay for most of the session.

2nd level cost 2 points
3rd level cost 3 points
4th level cost 4 points.

You use up points when you buy the level, so 4th level has used up a total of 9 points / game sessions.

This also make low levels go by faster, while greatly slowing the level down as you get to higher levels, which is something else i like.


My "XP" (when used) is measured directly by accomplished adventures, lately, instead of a numerical XP amount.

In effect, I grant a level for every three <appropriate [set of] encounter/adventures> the PCs play through.

What that actually means is highly variable based on the actual game itself.

For example, if there are three major "encounters" a PC will pass through, those encounters might be short adventures (such as a a small dungeon or important major social encounter) or three sections of a single slightly-longer adventure (such as a moderate dungeon, or set of social encounters; alternatively, a related set of social encounters; or a mix of the above, or some other variant of "major event" the PCs attend and go through).

This is by no means a hard rule. If something is significant enough, it increases a level by itself, for example (like, maybe, a huge fight with a major dragon that's above the PCs' power, or something), but it's the gist of what I use as a mildly-different-from-pure "I feel like it now" that just going story XP can sometimes come off as.

That said, I've used Story XP and it's a good thing, especially with things like the APs that have the rough timeline of advancement guesstimated out for you - that way, as GM, I can just do that more objectively than my own feelings (which lends an hint more of PC-accomplishment to the whole thing by having minor distance between GM and level-up process).

XP isn't bad, and I can enjoy it, but since it is effectively inviolable in PF - your XP is purely a number that increases, and can never be touched, once acquired - I've found it mostly bookkeeping rather than adding much of anything to the game.

Liberty's Edge

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My group skips XP as well. We either guesstimate and say "Well, now seems like a good time." or we do it based on story points.

On the whole, XP is only important to "track" if doing an AP or something that takes at least 3 levels to finish. Even then the DM can just break out some important goals and say that at points X, Y, and Z, a level is gained. For a sandbox game you can say how many goals are needed (in any combination).

Good RP can be rewarded with intangibles, like allies, titles, and high-fives. Okay, that last one is technically tangible, but you get the idea.


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I love XP..its like a little christmas present between games, I enjoy the progress..and the expectation of a new level, and everyone I play with expresses the same.
And we do git slight variances on our earned exp based on rp and involvement..and journal entries ( I suspect the journal entry bonus is due to the GM enjoying reading them)

I have played in "level when the Gm says " games..and I found it lacking in this one simple pleasure for me as a player.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Skeld wrote:

I stopped using XP years ago. Now I just level when it's appropriate to the story.

That said, I don't like the idea of awarding different amounts of XP to different characters. I prefer that all characters receive he same XP and stay in sync, XP-wise, to avoid level disparities within the group. When a player can't make it to a session, their PC is still participates, run by another player or the GM.

This is what I do as well.

One of my table rules is that if you're not present, the GM runs your character as an NPC. Players have to acknowledge that a PC could die during a player's absence. (I've never actually done that, but it's a possibility...)


I don't use it. It serves no real mechanical purpose; it's just a pacing mechanism ('you should have X fights before levelling up').

When I did use it, everybody got XP, present or no. They're already being penalized; they aren't getting to play. No reason to pile-on, plus the game just works better without level disparities.

Shadow Lodge

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I use simple XP.

In summary, an average challenge is worth 2 XP. This includes most combat encounters and any long social encounter in which something significant is achieved.

A minor challenge, or one with little risk, is worth 1 XP. This includes easy or nonlethal combat encounters, traps, puzzles, or short social scenes.

A major challenge is worth 3 XP. This mostly includes boss fights, though really impressive high-stakes social maneuvering could qualify.

I will also sometimes reward 2-3 XP as a completion bonus for a longer running goal. For example one character wanted to recruit a particular NPC apprentice, which took a few minor social scenes spread over several sessions (1XP) and earned 2XP at completion.

Level every 30 XP (about every 15 encounters).

Since the PCs help each other even with personal side-quests I see no need to give out separate XP. I used to give half XP for missed sessions but I've decided I don't like the effect of spreading the group out. I used to give out small amounts of roleplay XP but my group doesn't exactly need motivation to RP and I've found it's best rewarded through in-game effects.


Since it seems like people don't use XP all the much what do you do when you have a player who does almost nothing. They are like murder hobo or something close to that. Then you have the player who does extra things like draws a pics or has a deep background for the character.

Do you have rewards for that? What are they?

I had one GM who would reward with Universe Questions. You could ask the universe any question or favor and you get it with no questions ask and no GM trickery.

It was also hard to get them and you really couldn't bank them to use them later.


I'm running an AP, so I level them when the AP says so.

For sandbox, I do use XP and award for encounters, use of Skills or Feats creatively and add bonus XP for epic, party-TPK-saving, timely critical successes or unusually creative ideas/roleplay.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Fencer_guy wrote:

Since it seems like people don't use XP all the much what do you do when you have a player who does almost nothing. They are like murder hobo or something close to that. Then you have the player who does extra things like draws a pics or has a deep background for the character.

Do you have rewards for that? What are they?

I had one GM who would reward with Universe Questions. You could ask the universe any question or favor and you get it with no questions ask and no GM trickery.

It was also hard to get them and you really couldn't bank them to use them later.

If I were inclined to give out extra rewards (which I'm not), I think I would give out something like a Hero Point as a prize.

If i had a player that was a lazy "murderhobo" (which I don't), and talking to them didn't work, I'd be inclined to not invite that player back for subsequent campaigns. It's usually not worthwhile to play with someone that either uninterested in the game OR has a much different playstyle.

-Skeld


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Fencer_guy wrote:

Since it seems like people don't use XP all the much what do you do when you have a player who does almost nothing. They are like murder hobo or something close to that. Then you have the player who does extra things like draws a pics or has a deep background for the character.

Do you have rewards for that? What are they?

I had one GM who would reward with Universe Questions. You could ask the universe any question or favor and you get it with no questions ask and no GM trickery.

It was also hard to get them and you really couldn't bank them to use them later.

I use a variant on hero points.

Ways to earn a hero point? (no maximum, unlike paizos version)

1. Write a background for your character
2. Draw/create/obtain a character portrait representing your character
3. Create a free standing nametag integrating your character portrait and your name that can be seen and read across a table
4. Painting/obtaining a specific miniature that represents your character
5. Writing an in character journal entry recounting the events of a session.
6. Be particularly helpful to the dm in some fashion (judgement call, but things like going out of your way to pick someone up, picking up stuff, bringing something I need to the game, putting in extra effort at setup and cleanup, etc)
7. Do something especially awesome or amusing in game.

Things you can do with a hero point.

1. Change any player rolled die to a value of your choosing. The player must consent to this change.
2. Prevent any character from dieing, they are unconcious and stable instead.
3. Get a hint or other guidance from the gods in line with some current task.
4. Make some minor narrative alteration to a situation, like stating that you remembers your bow, even though its usually slung on the saddle of your horse that you didnt bring. Or that obviously you keep your extra lockpick in your boot. Or, clearly you wouldnt have gone to the formal ball without changing out of your dirty bloodstained adventurers closed. Stuff like that.


I came up with a good method for XP management when the whole group doesn't always make it.

I track all experience in the campaign that the party got at the party level. At the start of every session I divide by the number of people that show up. Then everyone's minimum level is based off of this. This helps balance to module while rewarding PCs for victories.

I do have RP experience rewards so some people may level sooner then others but no more then two fights earlier.

I am running Jade Regent with six PCs. Last session only three PCs made it. So those three PCs went from level 11 to 13 at the start of the session. Now they will be stuck at 13 for a long time but session balanced out well. With no extra treasure the extra levels don't break the game when all the players are at the table. The limited number of actions leveled out the power level for the session. This works really well after level 2 and has been used for the entire campaign with no hiccups.

We have only lost two PCs and one of those was to a slaying arrow, almost a guarantied one shot kill.

It does help that the healer is an Oracle with a cleric cohort thanks to the leadership feet so the group can heal through the bad stuff.

My DM philosophy. Knock unconscious one PC every other sessions equals challenging, fun, sessions with few PC deaths. Less then that I may be going to easy. Try not to kill more then one PC every five levels. More then that I am going to hard and the PCs need some help (i.e. gear or levels).


We recently went back to XP. We have an old system we use, I won't get into details, but we've adopted two new rules which I like.

1) Anytime someone earns XP, everyone earns XP. If player A gets a bonus for roleplaying and entertaining the table, everyone earns the reward.

2) Whoever has the highest experience total earns XP normally. Anyone below that total earns double XP until they catch up. This has made it easier for our friends who show up less often, or can't make whole sessions, stay relevant to the party.

I'm not huge on XP, but these changes have made it better for us IMO.


I scrap XP entirely. Characters level up when it is story-appropriate.


If you base your XP on the AP or when its story-appropriate when would you do this? After the adventure? Before (so XP from last session) Or maybe something dramatic like a level increase right before the big boss battle?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

XP does nothing for the game.

Even this "little present" idea, is just the same as leveling, which can be handled without XP.

It's a false reward.

The real reward is leveling.

The game actually improves, as players have no concern about earning XP.

Progressing the story becomes the focus, as that's how you will level.

No boiling ant hills, or searching to fight everything nearby.

Less murderhobo, more roleplaying, better story.


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blackbloodtroll wrote:

XP does nothing for the game.

Even this "little present" idea, is just the same as leveling, which can be handled without XP.

It's a false reward.

The real reward is leveling.

The game actually improves, as players have no concern about earning XP.

Progressing the story becomes the focus, as that's how you will level.

No boiling ant hills, or searching to fight everything nearby.

Less murderhobo, more roleplaying, better story.

we have exactly zero of those things happening in our campaign for exp..its a kingdom maker sandbox environment with no "story" other than the ones we are pursuing.

We have characters creating families..building bee farms (giant bees), doing espionage missions...trade routes etc.
And we still enjoy tracking exp.
Not every campaign has specific moments that a bell goes off and the players become more powerful.
Hell sometimes we go several sessions without combat and its all RP exp..so different strokes for different games..

Sovereign Court

Chalk me up as another good bye XP. I use the advancement track when running an AP. I have 5 players at 20 point buy. I tend to hold them back a level at about level 5 going forward and it works out great.

I reward all players evenly. I don't place more importance on one game element over the next. I do have playstyle expectations which is part of the social contract. I screen my players for to make sure we are a good match before launching long term campaigns. The secrets to my success.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Distributed evenly among characters, taking inspiration from AP, I give xp for roleplaying encounters or making significant/important choices.

Xp given at the end of each session, and level up appropriately.

Grand Lodge

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My group uses a super simple modification of PFS advancement, which we've found works exceptionally well for our long-running E6, revolving DM campaign.

Every session you attend, you earn 1 experience point. Progression is as follows:

1st level - 0 sessions (new characters start at 1st level)
2nd level - 1 session (after your first game, you level up)
3rd level - 3 sessions
4th level - 6 sessions
5th level - 10 sessions
6th level - 15 sessions

This tops us out at 6th level after the exact same number of sessions it would take to get there in PFS: 15.

Beyond that, characters get an additional feat every 3 sessions to continue the E6 progression.

Our campaign has been going on for two years now and I can't rave enough about how awesome it is or how well this all works.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Fencer_guy wrote:
If you base your XP on the AP or when its story-appropriate when would you do this? After the adventure? Before (so XP from last session) Or maybe something dramatic like a level increase right before the big boss battle?

I have my players level their characters when they hit the level point I've designated. Sometimes, this is at the end of the session and sometimes, the middle. If I think there is a good chance they'll level somewhere in the middle of the session, I give them a heads up so they can be prepared ahead of time.

-Skeld


Is there an issue with handing out XP for those of you who don't? What if it was handed out between sessions?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I find XP as written to be a whole lot of extra math to answer the question 'when do the players level?' and I prefer to make it far far simpler on me than the system presented in the rules. Pathfinder Society is a good example of simplification of the process. This admittedly loses some advantage in flexibility, as you can't really give bonus XP or anything when all it takes is three points to level up. But I don't find that too big of a loss.


I'm one of the 'level when I say so" GMs... I had a player who would only show up for one session every third or fourth game... If he wasn't getting xp he would have fallen WAY behind and stopped showing up completely.

The reward for showing up is getting to play... and treasure. My group sometimes divides treasure to account for missing players, but not always...

I tend to allow my players to level up every 3-4 sessions, though often much faster at lower levels (one or two sessions per level at levels 1-3, for example).

The only time there is a disparity in levels in my group is if someone changes characters without a good reason. I bump them down a level, because I had one player who would change characters every few sessions and would always expect to have starting gear for his level, allowing for more optimization than an existing character would have.

Sovereign Court

Mark Hoover wrote:
Is there an issue with handing out XP for those of you who don't? What if it was handed out between sessions?

The problem I was running into is my players wouldn't do/explore/investigate things that their characters would like to do in favor of doing things they thought netted the most XP. It was a big ol metagame bummer for me. Since removing XP they are far more likely to be adventurous and follow up on leads and do things that their characters would be interested in. So XP be gone and stay gone I say.

So the issue is less about giving it out at certain points or dividing it up (which honestly I dont miss that extra work as a GM)and more about improving my table. I say my table because I know XP is a huge part for some folks and I am cool with that. Though one popular reason for XP is to say players achieve something and it makes them come to gaming sessions. For my table we love to be there and are loathe to miss a session so I don't need the incentive or the penalty to convince players to show up. As for achievement, well leveling and being there are the only rewards my table needs.

I am glad the XP system is in place because I think it provides a good baseline for the game. Its helpful to know what type of challenges the players should face and how often they are going to level. I just personally think that system works best when kept under the hood. YMMV.

Grand Lodge

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Fencer_guy wrote:

You are the DM and have a group of people Pathfinder and you have to hand out the XP. Does it matter if its an AP or home brew?

If people show up (no matter what they do or don't do) they get equal share of the xp?

Do you reward people for whatever?

Should XP be "fair"?

I use XP, but I run 2nd edition AD&D, so having characters of varying level is not a concern, as each class levels at different times, and the DM is encouraged by the rules to give out individual XP rewards.

I am not a believer of "missing a session is punishment enough", but then, I don't think it's fair to get something I did not earn. And my players are of a like mind in that regard...

So, to answer your questions:

1 - I use XP no matter if I am using a published module or something of my own design.

2 - Players only receive XP if they show up.

3 - I use individual XP rewards for a variety of things that a player might do in-game (though I never hand out XP for out-of-game reasons, like bringing snacks or what have you).

4 - I give out group XP for group activities (e.g. defeating monsters and for story awards), so I think XP should be fair as far as that's concerned. But like I said, I will give out individual XP, so I do not think that every character should receive an equal share of all XP that is handed out during a session.

I will also use gold for XP depending upon how fast I want a particular campaign to progress (but this varies from campaign to campaign).

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mark Hoover wrote:
Is there an issue with handing out XP for those of you who don't? What if it was handed out between sessions?

I find XP to be constraining. With XP, encounter math determines the pace of the game, while I prefer that the story determines the pace of the game. It lacks flexibility and I want to be flexible because that just fits my style better.

-Skeld

Dark Archive

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Fencer_guy wrote:

You are the DM and have a group of people Pathfinder and you have to hand out the XP. Does it matter if its an AP or home brew?

If people show up (no matter what they do or don't do) they get equal share of the xp?

Do you reward people for whatever?

Like DE, I don't run PF anymore but when I did I gave out xp under the following criteria:

1) Xp is given out on managing encounters - avoiding, talking through or fighting. If for example they encounter a group of orcs - they get xp for evading, fighting or talking themselves out of the encounter. You don't get points for circumventing the orcs because you chose Path B over A, but if you go down Path A (orcs) and get past them without a fight, yes - you "beat" that encounter.

2) Xp for encounters are for the encounter - if they fight that group of orcs and half the orcs flee - then they get the whole allotment of xp for dealing with that encounter. Doesn't need to be a body=xp formula (imo). In many cases capturing or even just talking through encounters instead of fighting yields more - you get the xp and the info.

3) If a player could not make it but we still game and run their character in fights/encounters/exploring - they get xp for the session for those events. They do not get special xp.
If a player cannot regularly make it to the sessions and it becomes an issue, I don't deal with a passive/aggressive xp dynamic - they are just dropped from the game and the group (until they resolve their schedule issues).

4) Special xp: This is done in two ways. First, I award xp for exceptional gaming - crazy ideas, good roleplaying, daring maneuvers with some lucky rolls....and daring maneuvers with some unlucky rolls. Yes, I reward some bad ideas and bad luck - if the intent was good. NPC'd PCs (players who miss sessions) do not get this xp.
Special xp part II: I let players petition for themselves or other players for small exceptional awards. These can be actions, ideas or even theories (that turned out to be true) that I, as the GM may have missed.
I do not reward xp for "whatever". Even when I reward bad actions/bad luck it is when it was memorable and entertaining for all. There is no - "here is xp just because you are here".

5) Xp awards are done at the start of the next session as sort of an opening of the meeting. This serves multiple functions:
A) Grabs everyone's attention (away from phones, other conversations, distractions) and gets them into a game mindset.
B) It helps serve as a re-cap for last session (we game every other week, so we need this). Some memories get jogged and again, it gets us (even me) back into the right frame of mind and what is going on in-game.

I run mostly open sandbox and somewhat non-linear/non-railroad games - so I feel tracking xp works for that style of game since I need to measure tasks/actions as markers vs. story progression markers. And just for the record - I have no problem with railroad games - I think it is a viable playstyle and adventure design and has its own merits and (good) value. I would have no problem running a heavy linear game.

Fencer_guy wrote:
Should XP be "fair"?

No. But my opinion on the matter is in the minority over here.

I do think that xp should be awarded evenly to playstyles. Let me explain the last one:

If I have a -
Combat Player
RP Player
Trader/commerce player who likes shortcuts/workarounds
Group player (heavy inter-party support and interaction)
Research/Egghead

I should reward each for what they do when they do it.
I, as the GM should not just focus on combat encounters and xp. I should be focusing on combat/encounter xp, RP xp, smart ideas xp, group interaction xp, and research/using resources smartly xp. In a sense - I should be trying to hit these areas as challenges evenly. It doesn't always work out that way - but I try. If there has been a lot of combat and then one research section comes up, I let that research player milk that time and I play it out with as much attention as anything else.

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