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My Custom XP System for DnD

This is a different sort of post than I usually make, but here you go.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends this past evening has made me realize that there doesn’t really exist an XP system with which I’m fully satisfied. Either the system is too complicated, doesn’t award XP for the things I want, or awards XP too slowly. So, I came up with my own basic system:

Overview

A player must reach 100 XP to level up to the next level. Upon levelling up, the player’s XP counter is reset to 0 and XP that went above 100 rolls over (e.g. if a player receives XP such that they are now at 102 XP, they level up and now have 2 XP). There is no increase in the amount of XP needed to level up; it is always 100 XP per level.

Assuming ample opportunity is given for the players to participate in combat or make ability checks, players should level up after two or three, 4-6 hour sessions.

Killing Enemies

XP is awarded per enemy killed. If an enemy escapes, the DM can either choose to award a fraction of the XP depending on how much damage that creature sustained or no XP.

After combat, the total amount of XP earned is distributed to each member of the party who was a part of the combat. Each player who participated in the combat receives the same amount of XP.

Example

There is a party of four players. Two of the players are level 10 and two are level 9 for an average level of 9.5. The players are in combat with two CR 3 goblins and one CR 5 troll (a medium difficulty encounter). The party kills the troll and one goblin, but the other goblin manages to escape with only a couple HP remaining.

The DM awards 5 XP for killing the troll, 2 XP for killing one of the goblins, and 1 XP for injuring the goblin which escaped. Each member of the party receives 8 XP.

Passing Ability Checks

Awarding XP for passing ability checks allows the party to gain XP for various non-combat actions such as successfully stealing something without being seen, passing a sneak check, avoiding a dangerous trap, or skillfully impressing an important character.

It’s up to the DM to decide when it is appropriate to award XP for passing an ability check so players do not attempt to “farm XP” by attempting trivial or nonsensical ability checks and so skill-heavy characters do not outpace the other party members. If an action is unimportant to the plot or the character’s development (i.e. it’s just a random thing the player decided to do for no reason), then XP should not be awarded. Ideally, XP should only be awarded for “pivotal” checks where there would be serious consequences to a failed check or the success of a check is integral to the plot.

If the ability check is made at disadvantage and is passed, the XP awarded should be doubled. If players employ Working Together, all players who participate should be rewarded half the XP amount, rounded up.

Examples

The party has been tasked with tracking a spy through the streets of a densely packed city. A player wishes to attempt scaling a slippery wall to get a better vantage point. This is a hard task and it can only be accomplished alone. If the player succeeds, they can be awarded 3 XP.

The party needs to subdue an irate man who has stolen a shield belonging to an NPC member of the party. This man is fairly strong so this is a hard task. They send in the two members of the party with the highest strength to handle the man. Working together, the two players successfully force the man to the ground and recover the shield, earning themselves 2 XP each.

The party’s thief was captured by the town guard and has been separated from the rest of the party. As the rest of the party earn combat experience by attempting to fight their way through the prison to free their comrade, the thief tries to get creative. They attempt to pickpocket the jail door keys off of a passing guard; a very hard thing to do. Should they succeed, they have the opportunity to earn 4 XP and keep pace with the XP that the rest of the party is earning.

Conclusion

From the above examples, you can see that the aim is to incentivize players to work together and to incentivize them to attempt tasks that may otherwise seem hard. It rewards creative play where players can feel that their characters are becoming more skilled the more they use their character’s abilities and ensures that players level up in a timely fashion by awarding a fair amount of XP for combat situations. This scheme also lets players who don’t participate as much in combat to catch up to other party members by performing non-combat tasks.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. I’ll be tweaking this scheme based on how it works out in campaigns I play and what other people say.

This is my thirty-fifth post for the #100DaysToOffload challenge. You can learn more about this challenge over at https://100daystooffload.com.