Beyond the Shore: To Seek After Sadness
Awarding experience points (XP) is one of the DM’s most difficult jobs. The job is difficult because there are only a few rules (and a lot of guidelines) for the DM to rely on. The DM must learn nearly everything he knows about experience points from running game sessions. There is no magical formula or die roll to determine if he is doing the right or wrong thing. Only time, instinct, and player reactions will tell.
All characters earn experience for victory over their foes. There are two important things to bear in mind here. First, this award applies only to foes or enemies of the player characters—the monster or NPC must present a real threat. Characters never receive experience for the defeat of non-hostile creatures (rabbits, cattle, deer, friendly unicorns) or NPCs (innkeepers, beggars, peasants). Second, no experience is earned for situations in which the PCs have an overwhelming advantage over their foes.
A 7th-level player character who needs one more experience point to advance in level can’t just gather his friends together and hunt down a single orc. That orc wouldn’t stand a chance, so the player character was never at any particular risk. If the same character had gone off on his own, thus risking ambush at the hands of a band of orcs, the DM could rule that the character had earned the experience.
The DM must decide what constitutes a significant risk to the player characters. Often it is sufficient if the characters think they are in danger, even when they are not. Their own paranoia increases the risk (and enhances the learning experience). Thus, if the party runs into a band of five kobolds and becomes convinced that there are 50 more around the next corner, the imagined risk becomes real for them. In such a case, an experience point reward might be appropriate.
The characters must be victorious over the creature, which is not necessarily synonymous with killing it. Victory can take many forms. Slaying the enemy is obviously victory; accepting surrender is victory; routing the enemy is victory; pressuring the enemy to leave a particular neck of the woods because things are getting too hot is a kind of victory. A creature needn’t die for the characters to score a victory. If the player characters ingeniously persuade the dragon to leave the village alone, this is as much—if not more—a victory as chopping the beast into dragonburgers!
To determine the number of XP to give for overcoming enemies, use Table 31 in the . Find the Hit Dice of the creature on the table. Add the additional Hit Dice for special powers from Table 32 and find the adjusted Hit Dice.
This formula produces an experience point value. Multiply this value by the number of creatures of that type defeated and add together all total values. The result is the total XP the group earns. It should be divided equally among all of the group’s surviving player characters.
The other group award is that earned for the completion of an adventure. This award is determined by the DM, based on the adventure’s difficulty. There is no formula to determine the size of this award, since too many variables can come into play. However, the following guidelines may help.
The story award should not be greater than the experience points that can be earned defeating the monsters encountered during the adventure. Thus if the DM knows there are roughly 1,200 experience points worth of monsters, the story award should not exceed this amount.
The story award should give a character no more than 1/5th the experience points he needs to advance a level. This way the character will have to undertake several adventures before he can advance to the next level.
Within these guidelines you have a great deal of leeway. One of the most important uses of story awards is to maintain what you feel is the proper rate of advancement for player characters. By monitoring not just their levels, but also their experience point totals, you can increase or decrease the rate of character advancement through judicious use of story awards.
Finally, you can award points on the basis of survival. The amount awarded is entirely up to you. However, such awards should be kept small and reserved for truly momentous occasions. Survival is its own reward. Since story and survival awards go hand in hand, you may be able to factor the survival bonus into the amount you give for completing the adventure.
Once you have calculated all the experience points due your group of player characters (and you should do this, not your players), divide the total by the number of surviving and (at the DM’s option) resurrected player characters. This is the amount each surviving character gets.
Although characters who died during the course of an adventure normally earn no experience (one of the penalties of dying), you can allow a character to earn some experience for actions taken before he died, particularly if the character died nobly, through no fault of his own, or at the very end of the adventure. In such a case, it is simpler to give the character a flat award than to try to determine separate experience totals for those actions the character was involved in and those he was not.
As a general guideline, characters receive experience only when they have the opportunity to rest and tell others of their exploits. This means that characters collect experience when they return to their homes, stop at an inn, or the like. Since experience is, in part, increased confidence and comprehension of their own abilities and events, the retelling of the tale boosts the ego of the characters, and this translates into experience.
Sometimes, this rule is not applicable, however. For example, the player characters might be on a long journey through the desert and not see a settlement or friendly soul for weeks on end. In such cases, experience can be awarded after the characters have had time to reflect upon and analyze their accomplishments. This may be as short as overnight (for small experience awards) or as long as several days. If, for whatever reason, the DM decides not to award experience points at the end of a gaming session, he should be sure to calculate and record the number of experience points each character should receive for the session and not rely on his memory.
Even once he has gained sufficient experience points, the character does not instantly advance in level simply by acquiring enough experience points. Characters are required to train before they increase in level. To train, a character must have a tutor or instructor. This tutor must be of the same class and higher level than the one the character is training for. The tutor must also know the appropriate things. Fighters specialized in a given weapon must find a tutor also specialized in that weapon. Mages seeking to study a particular spell must find a tutor who knows that spell. A thief seeking to improve his lockpicking must find a higher-level tutor more accomplished in lockpicking.
A player character who wishes to train others in his craft must take the Teaching proficiency—rules for teaching others are included under that proficiency. For the sake of simplicity and not bogging down the game, it is assumed that all NPC tutors possess the Teaching proficiency and successfully pass their Teaching checks.
A player character wishing to advance a level and who has found a tutor must spend time in training. The amount of time required depends on the instructor’s Wisdom. Subtract the instructor’s Wisdom score from 19 (to a minimum of 1). This is the minimum number of weeks the player character must spend in training—it takes his instructor this long to go through all the lessons and drills. At the end of this time, the player character makes a Intelligence or Wisdom check, whichever is higher.
If the check is successful, the lessons have been learned and the character can advance in level. If the check is failed, the character must spend another week in training. At the end of this time, another check is made, with a +1 applied to the character’s check. The results are the same as above, with each additional week spent in training giving another +1 to the character’s check. This +1 is for the purpose of determining the success or failure of the training only.
Second, the character must pay the tutor. There is no set amount for this. The tutor will charge what he thinks he can get away with, based on either greed or reputation. The exact cost must be worked out between player character and tutor, but an average of 5£ per level or week is not uncommon. The Haggling or Bargain proficiencies may aid the player character in negotiating the cost of training. Some specific schools or training camps may have standard fees not dependent on the trainee’s level.
These requirement no longer applies once the character exceeds 10th level. From 11th level and onward, the character is assumed to have amassed sufficient understanding of his profession and sufficient discipline to train by himself. In order to self-train in this manner, the character must spend a number of weeks equal to 25 minus his Wisdom score (minimum 1 week). A self-taught character need not find a tutor, does not need to spend anything (beyond his normal upkeep), and does not need to make a check.
One obvious result of the training system is the development of different academies that specialize in training different character classes. Because of their importance in the adventuring community, these academies can become quite powerful in the lives of the player characters. Imagine the disastrous effect should one of the player characters be blacklisted by his appropriate academy. Although the DM should not abuse such power, the player characters should treat such institutions with care and respect.
Individual Experience Awards:
Individual experience point awards are given for things a player does or things he has his character do. Intelligent play is worth experience; good role-playing is worth experience; actions that fit the group’s style are worth experience.
Although some of these awards are tied to abilities, giving out these experience points is purely a discretionary act. It is up to the DM to decide if a player character has earned the award and, within a given range, to determine the amount of the award. These awards are normally given at the end of each session, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule—the DM can award individual experience points any time he feels it appropriate.
Individual experience point awards are divided into two categories. First are awards all player characters can earn, regardless of class. After these are the awards characters can earn according to their character group and class.
|Player has a clever idea||50-100|
|Player has an idea that saves the party||100-500|
|Player role-plays his character well||100-200|
|Player encourages others to participate||100-200|
|Defeating a creature in a single combat||XP value/creature|
|Per successful use of special ability (class or kit)||100 XP|
|Accepted as member of an organization||500 XP|
|Becomes High Officer of an organization||500 XP|
|Per Hit Die of creature defeated||10 XP/level|
|Per Hit Die of species enemy defeated||20 XP/level|
|Defeat long-range plans of a species enemy||1000 XP|
|Making potion or scroll||XP value|
|Making permanent magical item||XP value|
|Spells cast to further ethos||100 XP/spell level|
|Spells cast to overcome foes or problems||50 XP/spell level|
|Spells successfully researched||500 XP/spell level|
|Per pound (£) value of treasure stolen||1 XP per £|
|Overcome foe with a psionic power||10xp per PSP|
|Avoid combat with a psionic power||15xp per PSP|
|Defeat a psionic opponent||100xp per HD|
|Spells cast to overcome foes or problems||25 XP/spell level|
|Spells cast to further ethos||50 XP/spell level|
|Per character changed to lawful good alignment by paladin’s direct influence||50 XP/level|
|For each significant performance of the bard’s entertaining talents||100 XP|
|For each major performance of the bard’s entertaining talents||500 XP|
Role-playing awards can be greater if the player character sacrifices some game advantage to role-play his character. A noble fighter who refuses a substantial reward because it would not be in character qualifies.
The priest character gains experience for those spells which, when cast, support the beliefs and attitudes of his mythos. Thus, a priest of a woodland deity would not gain experience for using an entangle spell to trap a group of orcs who were attacking his party, since this has little to do with the woodlands. If the priest were to use the same spell to trap the same orcs just as they were attempting to set fire to the forest, the character would gain the bonus.
Carousing (Optional Rule)
While characters earn experience for a variety of things—defeating foes, completing missions, good-roleplaying on the part of their player, etc.—one of the most historically popular ways to gain experience in D&D is by acquiring loot. In the oldest editions of the game, experience was awarded for walking off with the dragon’s horde of gold, not killing the dragon. Let me just say…That’s dumb. Treasure is its own reward, you don’t need to gain XP and gold at the same time.
However, for those willing to part with their hard-earned loot, the following rule can allow one to trade gold for experience—by spending it. This wealth must not be spent on tangibles that would aid the character in his adventuring endeavors (as we said, treasure is its own reward). Buying new armor, a better weapon, a nice horse, magical trinkets, training, or a castle are not experience-worthy expenditures. Rather, you earn experience for money spent on fleeting, ephemeral, and transient pleasures—for taking a few days for your character to rest, relax, have fun, and involve themselves in their communities.
While “carousing” (spending gold on large amounts of wine and wenches) is probably the most common way that an adventurer would expend vast amounts of wealth in a short period of time, it is certainly not the only way. Characters may earn experience in this way by spending their wealth and down-time in a variety of ways that are not directly tied to their careers as adventurers. They may go out drinking, gambling, and whoring, of course, but they may also spend their wealth on philanthropic causes, academic research (we’re talking studying the flight patterns of European swallows, not learning new spells), or enjoying fine dining.
Pursuing any of these endeavors (carousing, philanthropy3, research, or gormandizing) requires an expenditure of not less than 5£ and 1 full day of down time per 20£ (or fraction thereof) expended. You earn experience at a rate of a 1xp for 1£ spent1, and must roll 1d20 on the appropriate table below for campaign complications arising from your activities.2 Note that the campaign complication charts may change as the campaign progresses or as more results are rolled.
Note that Research can only be attempted by characters with the Research proficiency.
|Die Roll||Carousing Side Effects:|
|1||Make a fool of yourself in public. You gain no XP (but still lose the time and cash). Make a Charisma check or gain a reputation as a drunken lout.|
|2||You got involved in random brawl. You are reduced to 1 hit point (can be healed normally).|
|3||You have a minor misunderstanding with local authorities. Roll a Charisma check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6£. Failure or (inability to pay the fine) indicates 1d6 days in prison.|
|4||Romantic entanglement. Roll a Wisdom check to avoid having gotten married while in a drunken stupor. On a successful check roll 1d6: 1-3 scorned lover, 4-6 angered parents.|
|5||Gambling losses. You loose twice the amount you spent carousing (you gain no additional xp for these loses). If you don’t have the cash to make up the difference, then you gambled away one magic item (selected randomly).|
|6||Gain local reputation as the life of a party. Unless a Charisma check is failed, all future carousing costs double (1xp per 2£) due to barflies and other parasites.|
|7||You couldn’t really see the rash in the candlelight. Roll Health check to avoid venereal disease.|
|8||New tattoo. Roll 1d6: 1-3 it’s actually pretty cool, 4 it’s lame, 5 it could have been badass, but something is goofed up or misspelled, 6 it says something insulting, crude or stupid in an unknown language.|
|9||Insult local person of rank. A successful Charisma check indicates the personage is amenable to some sort of apology and reparations.|
|10||Beaten and robbed. Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.|
|11||Nothing interesting happened…|
|12||Hangover from hell. First day of adventuring is at -2 on attack rolls and saves. Casters must roll a Reason check with each spell or trigger a wild magic surge.|
|13||One of us! One of us! You’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve been initiated into some sort of secret society or weird cult. Roll an Intelligence check to remember the signs, passwords, and location of their hideout.|
|14||You gain some piece of information that could be useful in a current or future adventure.|
|15||An influential NPC is now a regular drinking buddy.|
|16||You are dared to do something outrageously brave (DM’s choice). If you succeed at the endeavor, you gain a permanent +1 on NPC reaction rolls in that city and earn back the money you spent carousing.|
|17||An influential NPC was your sexual partner last night and will be an ally for as long as you maintain the relationship.|
|18||Feeling sentimental, a profoundly drunk NPC presses something into your hands. If you succeed at a Charisma check, it is a minor magic item, otherwise it is some small trinket worth 1d6£.|
|19||When in a drunken stupor you asked your god(s) to get you out of some stupid mess. Turns out they heard you! Now as repayment for saving your sorry ass, you’re under the effects of a quest spell.|
|20||The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire! Accidentally start a conflagration. Roll d6 twice. 1-2 burn down your favorite inn, 3-4 some other den of ill repute is reduced to ash, 5-6 a big chunk of town goes up in smoke. 1-2 no one knows it was you, 3-4 your fellow carousers know you did it, 5 someone else knows and will probably blackmail you, 6 everybody knows.|
|Die Roll||Philanthropy Side Effects:|
|1||Recipients of your charity are a front for some sinister organization and you are their dupe.|
|2||Your donations attract the attention of the local thieves’ guild.|
|3||Your donations arouse envy—you make an enemy of an NPC of high standing.|
|4-5||Your donations arouse envy—you make an enemy of an NPC of moderate standing.|
|6-7||Your generosity irks the pride of the receiving group. Your gift is accepted, but you may not practice philanthropy in this location again.|
|8-13||Nothing interesting happens…|
|14||You gain some piece of information that could be useful in a current or future adventure.|
|15||You gain a reputation as a local do-gooder. You gain a +1 bonus on all NPC reaction checks within a specific location.|
|16||You gain a local resident of modest standing as an ally.|
|17||You gain a local resident of high standing as an ally.|
|18||You gain a local ruler or governing official as an ally.|
|19||A local organization honors you with a celebration and considers you an ally.|
|20||Your name a a philanthropist is known throughout the whole region. As #19, and gain +1 on NPC reactions against members of the organization anywhere in the Realms.|
|Die Roll||Research Side Effects:|
|1||You have a sanity-shattering revelation. You lose the amount of XP you would otherwise have gained, but you now know of some terrible immediate or future peril.|
|2||Your research goes off in a completely useless direction. You suffer a permanent -1 penalty to your Research proficiency score.|
|3||Your research attracts the attention of those that would rather keep the truth hidden. You gain the experience, but either you are attacked, or your library/research facility is burned and destroyed (50% chance of either).|
|4||Your curiosity arouses suspicion. You gain a local NPC as an enemy.|
|5-6||Your results are misleading or just outright wrong. The DM is free to feed you false information at some unspecified point in the near future, regardless of the results of any knowledge or research related checks you make.|
|7-9||Dead end. You may not gain XP from research at this location again.|
|13-14||You gain some piece of information that could be useful in a current or future adventure.|
|15||You gain some piece of information that gives you an advantage in local intrigues or politics.|
|16||You gain 1 free non-weapon proficiency slot (must be spent on an Intelligence or Wisdom based proficiency).|
|17||You gain a local scholar as an NPC ally.|
|18||You discover the whereabouts of something valuable (ancient ruins, lost treasure, rare book, etc.)|
|19||You learn something of real value (a spell, the recipe for a potion or magic item, a psionic wild talent, etc.), DMs choice.|
|20||As #19, but the discovery is something completely new or lost to the ages.|
|Die Roll||Gourmandizing Side Effects:|
|1||You develop a supernatural food allergy. The DM chooses a food (secretly). Any time you eat that food or something that contains it, you must make a save vs. poison or be affected as if by a wild magic surge).|
|2||You develop a food allergy. The DM chooses a food (secretly). Any time you eat that food or something that contains it, you must make a save vs. poison or take 1d6 points of damage per two levels you possess (round down).|
|3||Bad food hygiene. Make a save vs. Poison or permanently lose 1 point of health.|
|4||An enemy poisons you. Make a save vs. Poison or take 1d6 damage per level you possess (this can be healed normally).|
|5||You have sharp words with a dining companion. You make an enemy of a local NPC.|
|6-8||The wages of gluttony. Make a Health check or be incapacitated for 1d4 days.|
|14-15||You gain some information from a dining companion that gives you an advantage in local intrigues or politics.|
|16||You gain some piece of information that could be useful in a current or future adventure.|
|17||You gain an NPC ally of modest standing over dinner.|
|18||You save a powerful NPC from choking and earn his eternal gratitude.|
|19||You have a truly unique culinary encounter with a most unusual food. You gain a permanent +1 bonus to a random ability score (roll 1d12).|
|20||You discover that a specific food has unpredictable magical effects on you. Choose a food (i.e. apples). Any time you eat that food you gain the benefits of a random potion.|
1 If you come by a financial windfall and want to rapidly level using this method, remember to leave yourself enough cash to pay for the training costs associated with actually going up in level once you earn the experience.
2 This is intended to fill in gaps in chronology without taking away from the focus on the adventuring portions of the game (literally “I go carousing, I spend this much”). You are free to submit a write up (either e-mail, adventure log, or forum post) describing what you did and how the complication arose, if you are so inclined, and may be subject to additional bonus role-playing experience if the results are particularly fun.
3 Money that you are required to donate due to your class or kit (i.e. a paladin’s tithe), does not qualify as Philanthropy. It must be money that you are free to do with as you please.
Leveling Up Mid-Adventure (Optional Rule)
There are times when experience is easier to come by than time or gold—especially time. Sometimes you just have to keep pressing on through an adventure, even when you have obtained enough experience to level—perhaps someone has been kidnapped, the evil wizard is about to complete a ceremony, or an army is baring down on you.
When downtime is at a premium, it may be worth it for players to take drastic steps to ensure their characters advance as quickly as possible. If a player character has earned enough experience to level and then some, they may choose to lose excess experience points to level spontaneously (requiring only 1 full night’s rest, rather than weeks of training). Basically, they’ve gained so much experience through active use of their skills and exposure to new tactics through adventuring that they do not need a tutor to walk them through the advanced options associated with their new level.
Rapid leveling in this way require the character to lose a number of excess experience points equal to the difference between their starting experience total of their current level, and the number of experience points necessary to reach the next level (according to the chart below). After spending these excess experience points, the character must still have enough experience to meet the requirement for the level he is advancing to.
For example, a 1st-level fighter would need to “spend” 2000 experience points to rapidly advance to 2nd level. Since he must still have 2000 experience points left to qualify for 2nd level, his total (prior to making the expenditure, must be at least 4000 experience points). A 3rd level fighter, wanting to advance to 4th would have to spend 4000 experience points (the difference between 3rd and 4th level on the chart), and have 8000 left to qualify, meaning that his total prior to the expenditure would have to be 12000 or more.
Consistent use of this method of spending XP means that the character will require a character to earn roughly double the experience that a character who takes the time to train would, but in certain cases, the faster leveling may be worth the expense.
Experience Requirements by Class
See individual class entries to see what experience chart your class(es) use. They are presented together here for ease of comparison.
|Level||Fighter||Warrior||Wizard||Cleric||Specialty Priest||Rogue||Lone Wolf||Psionicist|