What would you do? (GMs: how to divide xp for a botched combat)


Advice


I have a rather murky situation regarding a particular combat in my last game session, and I'm going round and round with myself trying to determine the "fairest" way to divide xp for it.

Disclaimer: I'm not looking for value judgments on my general approach to xp awards for PCs whose players are not present, or how to handle such absenses, etc. etc. I understand that it is a controversial topic and I am not here to soapbox My Opinion.

Datclaimer: I am looking for intangibles rather than rules citations: opinions, experience, "what has worked for me" suggestions.

The party consists of 6 PCs of APL 13 plus two cohorts.

One of the players was unable to attend the game session and provided me with updated sheets for his oracle PC and paladin cohort.

The Social Contract with absentee players:
Throughout this particular campaign, the social contract is that when a player is absent, I the GM will play the PC in combat using the same common tactics the player has used in the past; the PC takes a back seat in roleplay situations, but will use skills and class abilities upon request from other players; the absentee PC earns a one-half share of any combat xp awarded.

The Environment: PCs are mounted (horses have been advanced and beefed with extra hit dice), riding up a steep slope, following a barely there trail through a mysteeeerious forest.

The Ambush: 6 Vrocks, 2 of which successfully summon companions.

The blow-by-blow is unimportant to my question, but here's a summary of pertinent moments:

PCs spend a couple rounds finding out these "birdlike things" have spell resistance, energy resistances, damage reduction, and immunity to electricity. The wizard finally makes a Knowledge: The Planes roll to identify the vrocks. Immediately he shouts, "BIRD DEMONS! RUN!"

They've already begun the Dance of Ruin, but he hasn't noticed it yet.

The other 4 PCs whose players are present decide to listen to the wise wizard, turn their horses, and flee. At the point of retreat, the party has managed to drop 3 of the 8 vrocks.

Through no intent of my own, the absent oracle and his paladin cohort are not in a position to flee so immediately; they were in the middle of things their player would normally have them do.

Dance of Ruin finishes (yes I know it should have stopped as soon as the first few were slain; discovered this oops after the fact). I describe cataclysmic thunderbooms and lightning flashes to the other players.

I let the players watch me roll 20d6 of electricity damage, because to not do so would be denying them a certain thrill.

Using the sheets provided by the absent player, I determine the oracle and his paladin cohort survive the disappointingly average damage roll. Using the current hit point status of the remaining vrocks and the oracle's summoned huge air elemental, I hand-wave that they could conceivably have finished off 3 more. I had already determined the Morale such that when half their number was gone, the remainder would flee by teleport.

So the rest of the group, finding no pursuit, turn back around re-approach the battle site, cautiously, to find the oracle and paladin have survived.

The question I am struggling with: how much of a share of the xp available from this encounter should be awarded to those that fled? to those that stayed?

I have a few scenarios to choose from, but I'd rather not bias anyone's opinion before you have the opportunity to consider the situation and make a fair call.

It is very much worth noting that previous experiences within this particular forest have greatly unsettled the players, making them very suspicious and apprehensive going into this combat.

So. Thoughts?

Thanks in advance.


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As a GM I would give everyone the same XP. It is the rule, and it keeps things simple for me. Even when you die you get counted as having gained XP. All it takes is participation in the fight to get XP


I no longer do combat XP (I advance levels when I see fit, and as I GM and play APs, that often means when the AP says "they should be lvl X"). But when I did, I gave the same XP to those who flee and those who fight. Anyone who was involved at any point in the fight gets the same XP, that's how I did back then


Well In my opinion first of all you should give xp for all the vrocks minus the ones that were summoned (as you do not grant xp for summoned creatures) I realize they didn't all die, but they were all defeated as they ran in the end.

For the first three killed grant experience normally full xp to those present half xp to those you had to control. Keep in mind that if any of the three were summoned you do not grant xp for them as they were summoned

For the ones that the non present PC's killed alone grant all the xp divided by 2 to the player even though he wasn't there. One big reason is that you seem the type to kill PC's even if they players aren't there because of bad luck, so there was real risk there for the PC's even if the Players weren't there to handle it. So the player still get's half xp because he wasn't there, but still get's rewarded for the risk, this seems fair to me. Keep in mind that if any of these vrocks were summoned grant no xp for those. I realize you hand waived the fight but you didn't hand waive the dance which was quite dangerous.

For those vrocks that fled you still grant xp for them as they were defeated, though not killed. For these grant normal xp to the whole party as the whole party had a part in their defeat, as they would not have fled without the efforts of the entire party. Again if any of these were summoned don't award xp.

The reason I would grant no xp to those that were physically there for the middle three vrocks, is because as they fled they were defeated by the vrocks, and defeat gains you no xp in pathfinder.

All of this assumes we follow your social xp contract. I would handle things very differently if not for that.


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All players should expect to level up at the same time.

Dark Archive

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The point of an encounter is to overcome the enemies by any means, not by fighting or defeating them in combat. So everyone should get the regular amount of XP, even though much of the group fled for the final part. They still assisted in overcoming the encounter as much as the NPC did, they just ran away so they wouldn't get hit.


I agree with Hogey

If you have already established that players aren't going to get EXP at the same rate and their is potential for players to level at different times then (again as mentioned minus summons depending on which those were) the rest of the party gets full xp for the first 3 Vrocks and last 2 and give solo xp to the oracle for the 3 he killed himself

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Give all present players their full share, and the absent players their half share. The party overcame the encounter.


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You've got to follow the rules you laid down. This is super simple. The party defeated 8 Vrocks. It's irrelevant that after 3, most of the party ran. The party still overcame the encounter.

Even if the party wasn't there for the defeat of the final 5, they still contributed to it. I mean, surely they did some damage, or provided battlefield control, or soaked some of the hits while they were still there, right? The Oracle didn't solo the last 5, the party took him halfway there.


Most people are going to say to give the all of the present players the full share, to include those that ran away. That is also what I was saying in my last post.

I would not expect much deviation from that.

However if you do come up with another houserule then I would not apply in this case. I would just inform the party of the new rule so they know what happens if they run away next time.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Keep in mind that if you dock players for running away, you are encouraging them to NEVER run away.


Jaunt wrote:

You've got to follow the rules you laid down. This is super simple. The party defeated 8 Vrocks. It's irrelevant that after 3, most of the party ran. The party still overcame the encounter.

Even if the party wasn't there for the defeat of the final 5, they still contributed to it. I mean, surely they did some damage, or provided battlefield control, or soaked some of the hits while they were still there, right? The Oracle didn't solo the last 5, the party took him halfway there.

This, save that they defeated six Vrocks; the summons don't count for exp.


Naturally. I was just saying that all 8 Vrocks are defeated. That is, it doesn't matter whether the runners were the summoned ones or normal ones. It's only that the summoned ones are worth 0.


EXP is given for SURVIVING an encounter, overcoming it (such as via skills), or defeating it.

This falls into the first. Everybody gets their full share of EXP (or in the case of the two absent players, their pointlessly halved share).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The players are trying to go from A through B to C. The Vrocks are B, standing in the way of reaching C. Did the players successfully get past them and are now continuing or able to continue on to C? If yes, then they deserve their reward.

To illustrate my XP policy, imagine a hallway with a trap in the middle:

1.) Successfully identify and use Disable Device (or any other method of negation, including but not limited to flying over it or digging through the wall around it) to pass.

2.) Trigger the automatically resetting trap and get hit, but then disable it to pass.

3.) Trigger the automatically resetting trap and get hit, then continue.

4.) Trigger the one-use trap and get hit, then continue.

5.) Successfully identify the trap but fail to disable it, then go home.

6.) Trigger the automatically resetting trap and get hit, then go home.

7.) Trigger the one-use trap and get hit, then go home.

I would award the same XP for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7, but deny XP for 5 and 6.


Personally I'm in the "Don't use XP" camp, so my opinion might not matter so much here.

I'd be more likely to award everyone XP (half for the missing player). I agree with TriOmegaZero:

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Keep in mind that if you dock players for running away, you are encouraging them to NEVER run away.

Having said that, I've already said I just level the party up together and ignore XP, so TriOmegaZero's comment is probably the closest to how I feel (XP is bad in that it encourages certain behaviours).

To me it seems like these are the main points:
1. The Oracle did most of the work. Does s/he deserve most of the XP?
2. The Oracle wasn't present. Giving bonus XP to the player who wasn't there might cause resentment in the players who were there
... but ...
3. The Oracle was in genuine danger of dying. If the character can die when the player isn't present, it should be able to gain any benefits as well.

For me, points 2 and 3 kind of cancel each other out, 2 says "don't" and 3 says "do".
Point 1 is really a question... really it's THE question. If you can answer this one, I'd call it the "tie-breaker".
Remember though, that awarding different XP to different party members can (and often does) result in players trying to impair their comrades, rather than working together. This is fine for Evil/Chaotic parties, but for most parties it's just going to end badly. For this reason, I wouldn't give bonus XP to the Oracle, but again I wouldn't use XP to begin with, so my opinion might not be super helpful here.

Just my 2 cents, I hope it's helpful.

(PS, sorry if I sounded "soap-box"ey, I was simply trying to tell you where I was coming from with my arguments. I wanted to be clear that if you disagree with my philosophy, this may not work for your group)


I calculate total XP, then give eacht player a modifier,
times 0.5 if they flee
times 1.5 if they are extremely heroic...

and anything in between (like *1.05 for good roleplay...


First off, thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts! :)

Second, I fully realize I over-analyze things sometimes, but it all comes from a desire to be fair to everyone and ensure everyone is having a good time.

Third, I also fully realize that my approach to absentee XP is not fair, and I plan to rectify this (with player input of course).

Some minutiae if you care:

Some clarifications:

I made a promise to my players from the beginning that I will not kill a PC when the player is not there. It just so happened that the oracle and his paladin cohort survived without needing any GM Fiat intervention.

I kept track of which vrocks were "original" and which were summoned. Every PC and cohort was present for the killings of the first 3 vrocks, all of which were "original". After the mass retreat, the absent oracle, his paladin companion, and his summoned huge air elemental appeared healthy enough to take down 3 more (already damaged) vrocks, so I hand-waved that they did; based on the positions of each mini on the map, I decided they defeated both summoned vrocks and 1 more "original" vrock, which then caused the remaining 2 "original" vrocks to flee.

MrCharisma wrote:
(PS, sorry if I sounded "soap-box"ey, I was simply trying to tell you where I was coming from with my arguments. I wanted to be clear that if you disagree with my philosophy, this may not work for your group)

No worries! I appreciate your considered opinion.

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Keep in mind that if you dock players for running away, you are encouraging them to NEVER run away.

That was one of my primary concerns. Running from a fight in order to survive is not an inappropriate reaction.

I appreciate everyone's viewpoints, thank you for sharing them.

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