Handing out different XP amounts...

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I am curious how other DMs handle this, and how other players feel about it.

My group has some players who think much more than others. Now, personally, I believe in rewarding a player for a great idea or tactic that moves the story along in a grand way. However, I feel many players in the group would be irritated if they saw rewards going to some, but not all. Of course, the purpose for such rewards is for RP and problem solving. If they wanted to have an opportunity for this XP, and feel slighted, they can work on their playstyle.

Considering, as a DM, my job is to make the game fun for everyone, I am wondering how others deal with this. What do you do when you have one or two people playing at a level beyond everyone else? As a player, do you want to be rewarded for this level of play, or are you content with everyone being equal with XP?
My GM hands out XP on slips of paper or e-mails it. No one sees anyone else's stuff.

Players who aren't playing have the option that their character's not involved, or that they are. No experience or half EX is awarded respectively.

In our current game on the Cleric and Sorceror in the party have lagged behind.
GAMMA WORLD Wuv D&D: Beyond the RPG - Transcript This is a complete transcript. http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/22329697?sdb=1&pg=last#390668593 The audio file is in this News Archive http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4news/DNDXP 2010 D&D Product Overview (47 minutes into the Audio) http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/22329697?sdb=1&pg=last#390928045
I always hand out XP 100% evenly, regardless of what each player actually contributed. Consider:

Disadvantages of even distribution: Players are not rewarded as much for taking the lion’s share of the risk or for brilliant performance.

Advantages of even distribution: Discourages competition between players, both in and out of character, it does not insult players who may be falling behind, it encourages players to think like one group, it prevents weaker players from getting even weaker and the stronger from getting stronger thereby exacerbating the problem, it prevents arguments after the game over who did more, it encourages more freedom for role-playing since players will not be judged so directly, it annoys power gamers who feel a sense of entitlement, and it is much easier on the math portion of XP distribution.

Since bragging rights generally void the disadvantage mentioned, it seems pretty clear which is better.
Also, I forgot to mention, I never award extra XP for good role-playing. Reason: I don't want role-playing to become a cost-benefit analysis. It is often the case that good role-players will sometimes harm themselves or their party because it is what their character would logically do. Think of the LG Paladin who refuses to kill monsters who surrender or the CG rogue who insults the king by refusing to bow.

When you reward role-playing with bonus XP, aside from causing all the problems I mentioned above, it also makes players more selective about whether or not the advantages of role-playing correctly outweigh the in game costs. And it lets power-gamers slip through the cracks by playing characters who are easy to role-play but will rarely have legitimate character weaknesses, thereby getting free experience. (this is why power-gamers usually play LN: it’s easy to role-play and will never cause problems for the party.)

Players either like to role-play, or they don't. They either are good at it, or they aren't. Awarding or not awarding bonus XP will not get a player who doesn't roleplay to start.
Even distribution based on encounters that were overcome. I mark an XP total next to the start of the encounter summary in my notes and if they live they get the full value. Missing players get the same XP but last pick of the loot (not as a rule, just because people who are there pick then and there), plus they missed out on the fun. My idea is to make play as fun as I can, so punitive measures and imbalances don't really belong. I also like it if everyone is leveling up at the same time, as it collects all the question/answer and "hey, should I try this?" into one block of time.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

I'd rather that roleplaying, coming up with great ideas, and such were their own reward and that people did them for fun rather than to get a cookie from the DM.

I'm voting for the even distribution method.
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
I'm starting to lean towards the equal XP train of thought, with possibly some extra Action Points handed out for the "makes evereyone at the table stop and say 'wow'" type moments.

That said, the rules are hinted at attributing XP awards for player initiated stories, achievements and quests. It could be that these are those that include the whole party anyway ("Hey friends, care to help me hunt down the man who killed my father?") or that the rules still suggest handing out equal amounts of XP, even when they haven't had either the inclination or opportunity to make a contibution to the scene. The latter of those seems a bit "odd" though, if that were the case, and not in the same way as the "award even absent players the same share of XP" rulings.
Not an issue in 4.0, BUT...

Making magic items and some spells cost XP. How would you handle that?
GAMMA WORLD Wuv D&D: Beyond the RPG - Transcript This is a complete transcript. http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/22329697?sdb=1&pg=last#390668593 The audio file is in this News Archive http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4news/DNDXP 2010 D&D Product Overview (47 minutes into the Audio) http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/22329697?sdb=1&pg=last#390928045
XP is not the most natural cookie either. Rewarding good roleplay can often be done in game: the King's favor, the love of the people, a good friend with a potion hook-up, ect.
I do an xp breakdown, with each PC getting its own XP. I like to reward players who invest extra effort into the game because they makes it more fun for us all. Also it's a way to encourage the behaviors I like, like exploration, investigation, making contacts, etc. I try not to let any PC lag more than 1 level behind the others, artificially inflating the value of some of its actions, if need be.

It takes some work, but I feel that players get more psychologically out of a custom reward they feel they earned specifically.
I have always done even distribution. However I still reward good RP. The group gets an RP bonus on top of encounter XP every session. So, it behooves all the players to try and stay in character. Do some players participate more than others? Yes, but they still get an increased benefit. And when the players realize this, they start doing it on their own, not because they are jealous of each other, but because they want to level faster.

As a side note, non-xp rewards for RP are also excellent. For instance, one player pointed out how much it sucked for the CG character who doesn't bow to the king. Well, when the rest of the characters are invited to dine with the king that evening and are given a "small token of his gratitude" or "a small favor redeemable on request", and this guy misses out, he'll see that his RP actions have consequences. But thats a good thing. A character should act they way he would naturally IN SPITE of the consequences, not because of them. The same with rewards. Ideally your players will be true to the character regardless of the rewards. Thats when they get rewarded.
I always hand out XP 100% evenly, regardless of what each player actually contributed. Consider:

Disadvantages of even distribution: Players are not rewarded as much for taking the lion’s share of the risk or for brilliant performance.

Advantages of even distribution: Discourages competition between players, both in and out of character, it does not insult players who may be falling behind, it encourages players to think like one group, it prevents weaker players from getting even weaker and the stronger from getting stronger thereby exacerbating the problem, it prevents arguments after the game over who did more, it encourages more freedom for role-playing since players will not be judged so directly, it annoys power gamers who feel a sense of entitlement, and it is much easier on the math portion of XP distribution.

Since bragging rights generally void the disadvantage mentioned, it seems pretty clear which is better.

Choose the best answer:
  • Seconded.
  • What he said.
  • QFT.
  • All of the above.


All of the above.
I used to give standard XP to all players and then hand out minor bonus XP to individual players.

I've switched to just giving out XP to the party -- everybody gets the same. I might still reward a PC for doing something alone, but the whole party gets XP for it.

It's just easier that way. Everybody has the same total now (our group needs to Learn2Math). And it doesn't look like I'm playing favoritism by consistently rewarding more active players than others.
Like the other posters above I like giving experience evenly to all the players as a group. I take all the experience the party as a whole earns during a session, put it in a single pool, and divide it evenly among all the player characters after each session. I think it helps foster people working together as a group and doesn't leave anyone feeling alienated if they're not quite a strong as someone else at roleplaying or tactical thinking. And the really good players who come up with really good ideas still benefit because their good ideas can result in bonus experience that the entire group enjoys.

In fact I go a step further and keep all the player characters at the same base experience totals (less individual experience if for example someone spends experience crafting items). The reason I do this is because it means that the characters will always be on an even footing when it comes to combat balance, even if a specific player has to miss a particular session due to real life scheduling conflicts. It also means that if someone new wants to join the group, they can do so at the same basic level of expertise at the other players. Everybody knows what everybody else's base experience is, and it's really simple for me as the DM to track.

Of course that's just my personal style, so I'm not going to claim that DMs who give out individual bonuses are wrong. I'm just giving my reasoning behind the way I run things.
I give out standard encounter xp + general roleplaying xp and then i have my players vote (secretly so no hurt feelings) on who they thought roleplayed best and i give that player an extra XP bonus
Uneven XP is something I don't want to get into. The reason is, different people have different interpretations of what good roleplaying is, and when the DM starts exercising power to say what he is, he risks alienating his players who may have very different opinions.

That said, I do not believe in punishing players for attempting to play their own characters. If, due to alignment, personal ethos, or whatever else, a character suffers a substantial loss, or is killed in combat, I'm not going to penalize the player for that happening.

I actually don't agree in penalizing players for dying anyway, since the party shares victory, but for some reason 3.x decided that one player should bear all the burden of defeat.
I actually don't agree in penalizing players for dying anyway, since the party shares victory, but for some reason 3.x decided that one player should bear all the burden of defeat.

Unless it was the Cleric that went down... :D
I keep XP rewards the same. As others have pointed out it keeps things less competetive within the players and no feel bads get hurt.

I do give out XP for RPing, I do this my own way. I have experienced players who are really good at Rping, I also have my daughter who is 12 1/2. Tweeners are not going to RP as well, in general, as 30 somethings with 20 years of RP experience behind them. This is not to say that my daughter can't roleplay or come up with good ideas. She can and she does, she does exceedingly well at times, IMO. But to have a scorecard, she would feel like she was lagging behind her "uncles". This would be no fun for her, and not encourage her RPing.

So I give out RP points, rather ad hoc in my own way that feels right. What I do is take notes immiediately after a session and say self, Hey that was a good idea. That was a great stratedgy. That was some great character acting. and dole out points for it. Then I take the total of the points and split them evenly between the players. Everyone has the same XP total, so no one feels left out or slighted. They all know I am giving out XP for performance and RPing and such so the players encourage others, as it helps them all equally. This way the group can help blossum the newer players, experienced and outgoign players are not ahead of the pack and newbs or less outgoing players are not left in the dust. It really is the only fair way to give out rewards. D&D is a team sport afterall.


On a side point, people have mentioned absentee players. WE generally try to have everyone availible. If somethign comes up the absent player's character is ran by the group in kind of a "bot" fashion. OR we just try to reschedule. Let's face it we all have work, families, school, and other infringements on play time.

Asecond side point, magic item creation... This one our group decided that the XP put into the magic item could come from each of the PCs equally. I know not exactly RAW, but it seems more fair. Example: The party wizard has craft weapon feat. Obviously, a wizard would not be using a +2 Keen Battle Axe, but his freind the barbarian would. The Party Ranger may have the skill craft weapon and make a MW axe for the barbarian. She in turn mixes some of her blood into the molten iron as the wizard casts his spells over the forming axe head. There, everyone has shared in the experience of making the weapon. Sure the Barbarian has a shiny new toy in her hand at the end, but her having that axe will help the whole group out in the end because now she will hit more often, overcome more DR, have more chances for crits, ect.ect. This is a boon for the entire group. why not if XP is divided out as it is earned equally, why not let it be spent equally too? Again this way everyone feels they are a group of teammates and not competitors. This game has lots of competition for the players, players competeing with one another can only end in tears. TPK, RW conflicts, hurt feelings, et all.

Well enough ranting. That is my twin coppers. Great topic, btw.





~Swash~
I give extra XP for effort. If you are a crappy role-player and you don't have great ideas that's fine as long as you are trying.

I have a few players that just seem to sit there and wait for others to roleplay. I see no advantage to giving them the same XP as the ones who are actually trying to be a part of the game.
"god! this is the 21st century, where is my "Choke someone through the internet" button?" - Herrozerro
I give extra XP for effort. If you are a crappy role-player and you don't have great ideas that's fine as long as you are trying.

I have a few players that just seem to sit there and wait for others to roleplay. I see no advantage to giving them the same XP as the ones who are actually trying to be a part of the game.

That is an excellent point, smacintush, not trying is not fun or helpful for anyone. The best remedy for this is to put it back on the players. "Sorry guys you got less XP than you could have had last time...." Dont point fingers, dont elaborate or berate. But then next time, hey guys you had some great ideas, I loved the way you guys bluffed your way into the city gaol past teh sergeant of the watch last time; so I kicked you guys some extra XP, just enough to level up." (Note they may have leveled with or without said bonus XP, but if they feel like thier cool ideas/RPing kicked them over the goal line then they will be encouraged to continue such activity in the future.) "Oh, hey I love that your strong silent ranger type only mumbled a few words to the barmaid who was trying to chat you guys up, but then ran to her rescue when the goblins raided the village." (Remeber, good RPing of a character concept does not always mean doing the most talking. Playing within the personality of the players character concept even when it is silent, is still good RPing. ((Well alright, making a character concept of the silent monk just so you can read Harry Potter books until the combat starts is not good RPing, but trust me you as a DM and your players can tell the difference.)))

IT doesn't take long and they will all start to get it. The really good RPers will try to kick thier game up a notch, but you have to give ample chances as the DM to get the less RP minded a chance. Also, the Great RPers should not get the group as many points as the less outgoing ones. Those with talent will dominate the game that way. But if you are consistant, and your players pay attention, soon they will see it is far better from a XP stand point to get input from ALL the players for ideas, RP encounters, everything.

The number one way to run off a newb or a less outgoing player from your table is to make them feel like they are a drag on your other players. If they dont feel welcomed or useful, they wont be having fun. But the players can and should share the part of raising newbs to equality with the group's level of play.


~Swash~
Choose the best answer:
  • Seconded.
  • What he said.
  • QFT.
  • All of the above.


All of the above.

Why thank you, comrade. Communism may not work on a large scale, but for XP, perfect equal distribution is much better.
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