To Grant XP or Not To Grant XP?


Advice


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Did you encounter the creature or hazard? Are you still alive? Yes? Then you get full XP!

*Sips coffee at his desk labeled with a sign that says "Change my mind."* :P

Where do you draw the line? Would sneaking past a sleeping dragon get the heroes closer to the next level? How about drugging the crime boss with a knock out pill and avoiding a series of encounters as a result? What scenarios would (or rather should) grant XP and which would (or should) not?


Sometimes I delay the XP because the party might encounter that foe later and I don't want to give double XP or say, "No XP for that tough battle, because I gave you the XP two game sessions ago."

My party has not received the XP for the maenad they encountered this Friday's game session, because they recruited her instead of defeating her.
MAENAD: I want to rip a person apart as they scream in terror. These captive dwarves are mine.
PARTY: We are going off to fight a hobgoblin army. How about ripping them apart?
MAENAD: Okay. But I have dibs on the dwarves in case I am not satisfied.

I have a future plot where the maenad says, "Okay, the dwarves are yours. However, I am going to stay in this village you rescued and start a blood cult to the Green Mother."


Survival, while often the party's goal, isn't always so. Some encounters are easy to survive, yet an obstacle in some other way.
And encountering without engaging (even if only to bypass) doesn't seem like much of an experience to learn from.
I tie XP to events which drive the story, or I should say stories since personal stories qualify as much as the fantastic arcs. And random monsters I toss at them (generally to signify the danger of a setting), sure, that's on me to provide XP. Random monsters they hunt merely to mine XP, nah, not a thing.

That said, now I lean much more toward leveling up at the end of significant story arcs. That way whatever gets the party to their goal(s) suffices. I don't want to penalize intelligent play (not that it's easy or even desirable to bypass crux encounters.)

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Personally I find awarding XP based on individual encounters to be unnecessarily tedious. Also it can have unintended impact if you forecast future encounters at certain challenge strengths. PCs may have too few or too many XP for your planned encounters. This of course is more applicable to published adventures as opposed to home “living” campaigns if your story is less defined and more reactive.

I’m running two APs and perhaps a third soon and I don’t award XP. Characters all level together and do so at opportune points in the story, often after a significant event. It is much less taxing, I don’t have to run mindless random encounters just to boost character levels and I don’t have to worry about too much XP being awarded too quickly. It also means I can add/subtract encounters without risk of impacting the XP distribution curve.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

No on the "You are still alive" as the only metric for a successful encounter. Each encounter should have a purpose and a goal. If the party succeeds at their goal for the encounter then they receive XP.

Sneaking past a sleeping dragon get the heroes closer to the next level? Yes, they passed through a dangerous situation and got closer to their goal, congratulations!

Drugging the crime boss with a knock out pill and avoiding a series of encounters as a result? Again, yes, they moved closer to their goals and should be rewarded.

If they sneak past the dragon to steal from his horde, but that leaves the enraged dragon to burn the village they were supposed to protect? No, you get rewarded with cash, but you failed at your actual story goals.

Drugging the crime boss with a knock out pill, but then you forgot to actually get the information you needed from him in the first place? No, you got too distracted with eliminating a threat and failed the actual important goal of the encounter.

Experience is an award. It's a way to tell your players "Good job, you're moving onward and upward." That's why I keep it in my games and don't do milestone XP.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I dont reward full exp unless the solution was as much effort as the combat encounter-- but I am fond of awarding accomplishment exp. The encounter exp is compensation for how long encounters take, in my eyes. Generally, I try to balance the two as a time investment per exp.


Xp distribution?
Two words: Quest based


It's easy to calculate imo if you are using milestone XP as well.

In your "slipping past the dragon" example i would have granted the milestone XP for "getting the thing they wanted from the dragon hoard" but not the encounter XP vs the dragon, since their actions caused the party to not actually encounter said dragon.

In a similar, but different, example, if you do encounter something, say a bandit group, and you make them flee, even if you didn't kill them, you still "won" the encounter.

---

that said, i usually prefer an approach of "i want my players to be X level when they reach Y spot" rather than calculate individual xp for each objective, battle, and miscellaneous thing they may do.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

In this case, I think I might strongly resemble this remark :p, and RD, if you want to get more explicit about the situation you should feel free. I will say that as potentially "the" GM of at least a very similar situation, it might be more appropriate to ask if you should get XP, or how much xp you should get, if you see a giant fighting another giant, and happen to come under one round of indiscriminate collateral damage, before exiting the scene?

In my case, I treated a similar, but very different encounter much more like a slightly lower level hazard (based upon similar , rather than a full encounter with the original creature). I'd explain the specific situation, but as the GM, I have knowledge that might radically change player perceptions of the original, which is why I will leave it to @RavingDOrk to decide how much detail to go into.

It is a very sandboxy homebrew encounter so no other spoiler tags are necessary, but that is why some references to milestone XP would not necessarily be appropriate to this comparison. The exact story outcomes of the adventure are at least as much defined by the players as by the GM.


Ravingdork wrote:

Did you encounter the creature or hazard? Are you still alive? Yes? Then you get full XP!

*Sips coffee at his desk labeled with a sign that says "Change my mind."* :P

Where do you draw the line? Would sneaking past a sleeping dragon get the heroes closer to the next level? How about drugging the crime boss with a knock out pill and avoiding a series of encounters as a result? What scenarios would (or rather should) grant XP and which would (or should) not?

Why would I change your mind? I agree with you.

Moreover, in reality I run (and in general the group I play with) runs everything based on story progression. The idea that the group should be a certain level at certain points in the story. APs usually make this pretty easy. So whether or not you get XP if you sneak past an enemy, or even if you never encounter them at all is irrelevant IMO. Because there's a point at which the story demands "Hey, this group is level 5 here, before they get to their next encounter which we've designed on the group being level 5."

It's progression to the story that matters, not what you've done up to that point.

The only time I can see XP as a useful tool is when you don't have a story arc in mind and are simply letting the players play in a sandbox and coming up with challenges on the fly. See you don't have a real progression arc planned it's hard to say when a group should level.


If the party took an action (any kind) to bypass the obstacle, then it merits XP. If they skipped an encounter because they never went down that hallway, then they get nothing.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I've never believed that a party needed to "win" an encounter in order to receive XP from it.


Ravingdork wrote:
I've never believed that a party needed to "win" an encounter in order to receive XP from it.

The phrase you are looking for is "overcoming an obstacle", which may or may not include "winning the encounter".

So as long as the party does not omit the obstacle it should not matter if the party fights, talks or sneaks its way past.


It seems that AP's assume you get XP from most any way you could engage with an encounter.

Example being a certain goblin dog encounter:

Kill them = you gain XP
Feed them = you gain XP

Would stand to reason that stealthing past them would also grant XP, but returning later to kill them would then Grant you nothing.

I started out doing levels tied to certain points in the story (ie. The book says party should be level x before entering a certain place), but when we started AoA I decided to try the by-the-book style of granting XP per kill/obstacle overcome, I find that the party is always a little underleveled (and My players are adamant completionists + I add homebrew encounters along the way and grant xp for those as well).

It's not way off, but if the books say they should be level 8 before attacking a specific place, they won't be until they kill the final baddie in there...

Sorry if that became anecdotal and off topic. Sufice to say, I Grant XP like Oprah.

Paizo Employee

1 person marked this as a favorite.

XP is based on encounters, not creatures, so as long as the encounter ends with pretty much anything other than the PCs running away or being TPK'd, they get the full XP in my game (assuming I'm using XP at all and not just using milestone leveling).

Frightened away the dragon and two kobolds for at least a day while killing the remaining three kobolds? Full XP for completing an encounter that included a dragon and five kobolds.

Talked down the orc warband presented as a combat encounter and turned it into a social event that involved trading goods and information before partying through the evening and parting ways the next morning? Full XP for completing an encounter against an orc warband.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Really,the only danger of awarding XP in these situations is making sure parties can't double dip. You don't get XP for befriending the dragon and then get XP AGAIN for killing it in its sleep.

But generally I've gone milestone leveling all the way. I have a recent exception because the last chapter of this AP says the party should be level 18 before the end of the AP but doesn't specify if that is before or after the final boss battle, which feels important. So when they hit 17 I turned the counter back on. If they reach it before the boss, it also means they did a bunch of stuff to weaken her infrastructure which is ultimately good for story progress too.


Tweezer wrote:

I started out doing levels tied to certain points in the story (ie. The book says party should be level x before entering a certain place), but when we started AoA I decided to try the by-the-book style of granting XP per kill/obstacle overcome, I find that the party is always a little underleveled (and My players are adamant completionists + I add homebrew encounters along the way and grant xp for those as well).

It's not way off, but if the books say they should be level 8 before attacking a specific place, they won't be until they kill the final baddie in there...

I give XP for overcoming obstacles, but sometimes the story has its demands. I ran the first module of Jade Regent with 8 players, and the party ended that module at 3rd level due to sharing the XP among all the PCs. Over the summer break, three players moved to another state and one decided to stay home with his newborn son. I told the returning players to level their characters up to 4th level before the 2nd module.

In the Lords of Rust module in Iron Gods, I overplayed the reputation of the Lords of Rust. My players decided to avoid the Lords of Rust until they reached 7th level. Encountering the Lords was supposed to be the final one third of the module, bringing the PCs up to 7th level for the next module. I had to invent filler material, carefully designed "random encounters" that would level them up, in order to continue the quest.

In contrast, my problem with story-milestone leveling up is that my players generate their own story. They are in Fangs of War, 2nd module in the Ironfang Invasion adventure path. The plot is that the players will visit three forts of the Chernasardo Rangers to discover why the Chernasardo Rangers did not show up to stop the Ironfang Legion. At the second fort, the one nearest the mining towns of Redburrow and Radya's Hollow, two new players joined the game. Their characters brought news that the town of Redburrow had just been conquered by the Ironfang Legion, as a justification why the characters sought out the fort. The players decided to save Radya's Hollow, the home town of one party member. Thus, I am inserting 3rd-module material into the 2nd module and changing it from liberating the town to preventing its conquest. Where would the milestone XP from the 3rd module fit into the 2nd module?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Mathmuse wrote:
Tweezer wrote:

I started out doing levels tied to certain points in the story (ie. The book says party should be level x before entering a certain place), but when we started AoA I decided to try the by-the-book style of granting XP per kill/obstacle overcome, I find that the party is always a little underleveled (and My players are adamant completionists + I add homebrew encounters along the way and grant xp for those as well).

It's not way off, but if the books say they should be level 8 before attacking a specific place, they won't be until they kill the final baddie in there...

I give XP for overcoming obstacles, but sometimes the story has its demands. I ran the first module of Jade Regent with 8 players, and the party ended that module at 3rd level due to sharing the XP among all the PCs. Over the summer break, three players moved to another state and one decided to stay home with his newborn son. I told the returning players to level their characters up to 4th level before the 2nd module.

In the Lords of Rust module in Iron Gods, I overplayed the reputation of the Lords of Rust. My players decided to avoid the Lords of Rust until they reached 7th level. Encountering the Lords was supposed to be the final one third of the module, bringing the PCs up to 7th level for the next module. I had to invent filler material, carefully designed "random encounters" that would level them up, in order to continue the quest.

In contrast, my problem with story-milestone leveling up is that my players generate their own story. They are in Fangs of War, 2nd module in the Ironfang Invasion adventure path. The plot is that the players will visit three forts of the Chernasardo Rangers to discover why the Chernasardo Rangers did not show up to stop the Ironfang Legion. At the second fort, the one nearest the mining towns of Redburrow and Radya's Hollow, two new players joined the game. Their characters brought news that the town of Redburrow had just been conquered by...

Are you planning to have Rayda's Hollow be a side quest before resuming book 3, or are you planning on letting the players just get hooked into book 3? Because I feel like there's an answer to your (probably rhetorical) question, and it depends.

Also, are you planning on adjusting encounters or running them as written? I can't remember which town Rayda's was or the exact encounter composition, but I know that chunk of the book had some dangerous ones to be under leveled in.


I've always played if they beat the encounter in some fashion whether combat, sneaking buy, negotiation, or what not, they get the xp. If they accomplish the goal of the adventure section even if they bypass by happenstance the majority of the area, I give them the xp to advance. Xp is an abstract concept like hit points.


Captain Morgan wrote:

Are you planning to have Rayda's Hollow be a side quest before resuming book 3, or are you planning on letting the players just get hooked into book 3? Because I feel like there's an answer to your (probably rhetorical) question, and it depends.

Also, are you planning on adjusting encounters or running them as written? I can't remember which town Rayda's was or the exact encounter composition, but I know that chunk of the book had some dangerous ones to be under leveled in.

I hope the players will next go to the third fort in Fangs of War. However, that is up to them. Maybe they will visit Redburrow instead.

Radya's Hollow:
Radya's Hollow is section I in Assault on Longshadow, pages 11 to 16. It consists of rescuing surviving townsfolk sent to dig in a dangerously haunted mine.

For the surface of Radya's Hollow, I copied the town of Crosswych from the game Elder Scrolls Online and strengthened its walls. The party has already reached the outskirts of the town and is fighting 4 hobgoblin soldiers (creature 1), 4 hobgoblin archers (creature 4), 3 morlock miners (creature 4 ported to PF2 from the module), and a dig-widget (creature 5). That is a Severe encounter for a 6th-level 7-member party.

This is the 3rd day of the Ironfang Legion assault on Radya's Hollow. The town cleric died on the 1st day, so they sent some people into the mine closed a decade ago to retrieve a trove of healing potions stored on the lowest level. Those people did not return. That will be my excuse to send the party into the mine. The quarrygheists in the mine might be a tough challenge.

I will use section J. RIDGELINE CAMP, pages 16-19, as the Ironfang Invasion force trying to conquer Radya's Hollow.

They had the encounter with the maenad Tromaki, C. FOREST PARTY on page 6-7 of Assault on Longshadow on the way to Radya's Hollow. It is summarized above. I had to port the maenad to PF2 and I based her more on Greek mythology than the PF1 version.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Second Edition / Advice / To Grant XP or Not To Grant XP? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Advice