How to handle XP in a combat-light D&D game?

23 posts / 0 new
Last post
Hi all. My group and I want to try a combat light campaign of D&D. Whilst this is in itself easy (just don't do as much combat...) how would you handle XP? Even though we may want to keep the swords in the scabards, I'm guessing people will still want to advance. Is it even possible?
well... yeah.

the DMG itself states that any encounter gives out XP, an encounter being not just a combat thingy, but pretty much any time there is conflict. 

when creating your adventures plan certain junctures/events to have greater influence/importance to the plot, where while swords aren't necessarily drawn, there is a chance of loss (wealth, status, political power, the enemy's plot advances, etc...). the players get XP for overcoming these events.
3rd ed SRD, character sheets, errata & free modules 4th ed test drive - modules, starter rules, premade characters and character builder & character sheet, errata Free maps and portraits, dice, printable graph paper, campaign managing website, image manipulation program + token maker & zone markers

"All right, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back. GET MAD! I DON'T WANT YOUR **** LEMONS! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THESE?! DEMAND TO SEE LIFE'S MANAGER! Make life RUE the day it thought it could give CAVE JOHNSON LEMONS! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! I'M THE MAN WHO'S GONNA BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN! WITH THE LEMONS! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that's gonna BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN!" -Cave Johnson, Portal 2
Simple.  Throw XP out the window. 

Level the group up at whatever time it feels right, by whatever conditions you want.  Every 3 or 4 sessions.  After every story arc.  When everybody unanimously agrees to.

All XP is, is a pacing mechanism.  It sets level advancement as occurring approximately once every 10 encounters, nothing more.  Since you can no longer lose or spend XP, there's no real need to track it because everybody should have the same amount.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Thanks - p.s., Love the signature, Salla.
Both of the above ways will work.  One is ruled by what players should get "in an encounter in any form" by the rules in the DMG, and if your players are peaceful but also XP hounds, this would be the way to go.

If, however, your players couldn't care less about XP, it is in fact a pacing mechanism.  Use a chapter based leveling concept, perhaps.  That being that each "chapter" of the story levels up the characters.  How big a chapter is is then up to you.
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
fun quotes
58419928 wrote:
You have to do the work first, and show you can do the work, before someone is going to pay you for it.
69216168 wrote:
If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Simple.  Throw XP out the window. 

Level the group up at whatever time it feels right, by whatever conditions you want.  Every 3 or 4 sessions.  After every story arc.  When everybody unanimously agrees to.

All XP is, is a pacing mechanism.  It sets level advancement as occurring approximately once every 10 encounters, nothing more.  Since you can no longer lose or spend XP, there's no real need to track it because everybody should have the same amount.



For this group that your running, I think this is the best idea. While my group is heavily storybased we have enough situations with XP. But yours sounds like you need a more straight forward system like Salla there proposed. I second that idea.
-Make the combats bigger. They'll take longer, but they give you more experience.
-Give them XP based on social encounters. If they "win", they get experience equal to an encounter of their level
-Use lots of quests. It'll keep them doing things, and giving them XP
-Just have them level up when you feel like they deserve it.

Simple.  Throw XP out the window.

Level the group up at whatever time it feels right, by whatever conditions you want.  Every 3 or 4 sessions.  After every story arc.  When everybody unanimously agrees to.


All XP is, is a pacing mechanism.  It sets level advancement as occurring approximately once every 10 encounters, nothing more.  Since you can no longer lose or spend XP, there's no real need to track it because everybody should have the same amount.


That was one of the suggestions I was going to make.

The other is to take a page from HackMaster 5e. It assumes that only half of the experience each level comes from combat (roughly 15 level-appropriate encounters since combat flows so quickly). The rest "should come from 'story rewards' given for meeting the objectives (interim and final) of [the party's] mission. This provides the GameMaster with a reward system that encourages clever and focused roleplay rather than relying solely on a bodycount."

About.me

Drive like you love your children

Through faith you have been saved by grace and not by works. -Ep 2:8-9

Grammar Made Easy – now there's no excuse for sounding like an idiot online.
Games From the Mind of fewilcox – my blog about writing; games, including, character sheets and other roleplaying accessories; and game design.

I don't have my books with me at the moment, but I am sure that either DMG 1 or 2, states as an example that every hour of roleplaying should be the equivalent in defeating one standard monster of your level. Hope that helps as a guideline.

Honestly, though I agree with Salla and the others. Since so much of 4e is designed to work in a chapter/act style format, it is probably better for characters to simply level when they need to as you determine appropriate per Act. Use XP in the background to help you determine when those chapter breaks might come, but don't be a slave to it.
Hi all. My group and I want to try a combat light campaign of D&D. Whilst this is in itself easy (just don't do as much combat...) how would you handle XP? Even though we may want to keep the swords in the scabards, I'm guessing people will still want to advance. Is it even possible?

Leveling almost exclusively gives combat ability.  4E really isn't the right system for combat light games, particularly if you want to also feel like the characters are advancing.

@mikemearls don't quite understand the difference

I don't make the rules, I just think them up and write them down. - Eric Cartman

Enough chitchat!  Time is candy! - Pinky Pie

WoTC might not like my suggestion, but consider purchasing the world of darkness (nwod) rule book. They have a really nice system for stats/abilities and it is easily moldable. It is especially nice for roleplaying intensive games or roleplaying games where people just play ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. You can still hack in different abilities for combat if you want. The rules are pretty simple and you only need one type of die.
Within the 4E rules, there are five ways to get XP. Killing monsters, traps, hazards, skill challenges, and quest rewards. My suggestion? Halve the monster XP, and double the XP for the other four. You can make most NPC interactions skill challenges, which helps a lot with this kind of thing...
I have to disagree with punkrabbitt respectfully. I think that it will get stale very quickly to have most NPC interactions be skill challenges, also the encounters games give xp for roleplay. So my advice inside of 4e would be to give xp for roleplay. I also like the idea of no xp and just bump their levels at appropriate times - this is actually what I am doing for my two person party runthrough of a heavily modified Scales of War adventure path. Xp tends to make PCs feel like they need to involve themselves in combat sometimes. I tend to like Xp per goal reached. This way if a PC can avoid combat altogether then good for them.
Conflict is central to all stories and its definitely the element that is gamed ie "advancing" is going to be about increased ability of handling conflict  of whatever kind your characters are encountering.

 
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

how would you handle XP?

I have not used XP since 3.5 came out. The party levels when my adventure arc is ready for themn to level. No bookkeeping, no "I missed the session" disparities,  no mid-session advancements.

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Hi all. My group and I want to try a combat light campaign of D&D. Whilst this is in itself easy (just don't do as much combat...) how would you handle XP? Even though we may want to keep the swords in the scabards, I'm guessing people will still want to advance. Is it even possible?

Lots of people just do away with experience points entirely, but you don't have to do that.

First of all, use lots of "quest" XP. If they're not fighting monsters, then they're probably still getting plenty of stuff accomplished, so put XP values to that as suggested in the DMG. The baseline assumption is that this XP will pad out what they get from regular encounters, but there's no reason it can't be the entire focus of the game.

Then of course there are skill challenges. Now me, I'm a big fan of them and I've had lots of success with them. If you want advice let me know or visit the 4e Skill Challenges group: community.wizards.com/skill_challenges_4... Anything can be a skill challenge, and it's a very workable way of delivering XP commensurate with a challenge to the PCs and a risk of failure. They do take some thought to get right, but not more than you have to put into a non-combat encounter anyway.

Best of luck.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

how would you handle XP?

I have not used XP since 3.5 came out. The party levels when my adventure arc is ready for themn to level. No bookkeeping, no "I missed the session" disparities,  no mid-session advancements.

Do people actually give out experience during sessions? We prefer to keep all of the bookeeping for the end of each session. It seems like players having to update their experience totals several times each session would disrupt the game even if no one levelled up so I don't see what you could possibly gain from it.

About.me

Drive like you love your children

Through faith you have been saved by grace and not by works. -Ep 2:8-9

Grammar Made Easy – now there's no excuse for sounding like an idiot online.
Games From the Mind of fewilcox – my blog about writing; games, including, character sheets and other roleplaying accessories; and game design.

how would you handle XP?

I have not used XP since 3.5 came out. The party levels when my adventure arc is ready for themn to level. No bookkeeping, no "I missed the session" disparities,  no mid-session advancements.

Do people actually give out experience during sessions? We prefer to keep all of the bookeeping for the end of each session. It seems like players having to update their experience totals several times each session would disrupt the game even if no one levelled up so I don't see what you could possibly gain from it.


It motivates all of my players to see their XP go up by however much it goes up after a battle.  It's their consistent reward.  However, if they want to "level up" at that point, the session would effectively end for them to "level up".

Then again, since I am the only one with the CB or books we use, we'd need a session to level up anyways.
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
fun quotes
58419928 wrote:
You have to do the work first, and show you can do the work, before someone is going to pay you for it.
69216168 wrote:
If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Do people actually give out experience during sessions?

I don't (obviously), but I know plenty of people who do, including quite a few who have indicated so on these Boards. I know some folks who give out XP after each encounter, and a few who even "ding" with each kill, during combat.

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Hm... after each encounter would help with bookeeping.

I always liked giving out XP during non combat sessions based on what the characters were doing. There would be a hard XP amount, say 400 xp for convincing the local tribe's leader to let them explore the dungeon. Then there would be generous mini awards. 10 xp for finding the rope bridge. 25 xp to the player that comes up with a better way to cross the river. 20 XP for the player who searches and finds a plant that's never been seen in their homelands.
Show
Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author's opinon an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. (AD&D) is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek the use of imagination and creativity.... In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which an fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously. For fun, excitement and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed.As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe or even as a reflection of midieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the later must search elsewhere. - Gary Gygax. 1e DMG.
Do people actually give out experience during sessions?

I don't (obviously), but I know plenty of people who do, including quite a few who have indicated so on these Boards. I know some folks who give out XP after each encounter, and a few who even "ding" with each kill, during combat.

That gives me a headache just thinking about it. Our group ranges from math geek (my wife and I; she's working on her math education degree) to barely capable of doing simple arithmetic without a calculator (which, surprisingly, does NOT include our youngest player (13) but does include his older siblings (15 and 27)). The latter group would make giving out experience that often a nightmare; it takes them long enough to add it up at the end of each session. *shudders*

About.me

Drive like you love your children

Through faith you have been saved by grace and not by works. -Ep 2:8-9

Grammar Made Easy – now there's no excuse for sounding like an idiot online.
Games From the Mind of fewilcox – my blog about writing; games, including, character sheets and other roleplaying accessories; and game design.

Lots of people just do away with experience points entirely

fwiw: even the RPGA does that now for Epic levels... PC's just level after every three sessions. Even before that PC's levelled pretty much exactly after every three sessions anyways (and the RPGA has always been very "by the book" when it comes to XP).

I've done simplified XP (1 'mark' per encounter) and also just done away with it. now I just do away with it and generally level people after half a dozen encounters. My own group only meets every 2 weeks at best, so it seems for the best to ignore XP largely. We don't penalize for not showing up either, but it's not really an issue for us.

In hind sight over the 30+ years I've been playing, XP has only been useful as a tool to manage younger players, including myself. I just didn't feel it was needed in the last 15 years for me.