2019-04-25 Experience for Killing

A few weeks ago, as I was thinking about episode 21 of my podcast, I started wondering about experience points (xp). I’ve been using the very old system of 100xp/HD for a few years, now. I did this because of something I had read on Jeff Rients’ blog:

The Tao of XP: “First, and most importantly, 100xp per hit die is brain dead easy. I can do all the math in my head for parties of 6 characters or less and with a jot or two on some paper I can handle more.”

Recently I’ve seen some more blog posts talking about this, but I can’t find them all. Stupid, Simple Way to assign Milestone XP's in OSR games, Workshop: No Sense Makes Sense, Random D&D Notes, probably more?

@gdorn recently wrote A history of gaining experience in D&D and he concludes: “D&D really wasn’t about killing things and taking their stuff until 3e (to some extent) and beyond (to a much higher degree). Granted, it was often about taking their stuff.”

I was most interested in his analysis of the 100xp/HD rule:

Low-level characters facing a typical group of low-level monsters, say a lair of kobolds, would earn XP primarily from slaying the monsters themselves, and a comparatively small amount of XP from the treasure obtained. A small (!) lair of 40 kobolds would yield around 200gp in treasure (140 from the 1d6-per-enemy, and around 60, with wide variance, from the level 1 lair treasure expected to appear in any room containing a monster). That’s 4000xp from monsters and 200xp from treasure. – George Dorn



I’m running Barrowmaze using AS&SH, which also gives XP for magic items. After 13 sessions, here’s a breakdown of XP sources:

  • 5,614 XP for kills
  • 10,545 XP for valuables
  • 12,300 XP for magic items (one big ticket item at 4k XP was a Ring of Protection, which grants AC 2, damage reduction 2, and +1 to all saves; the rest was a few +1 weapons and potions)

Gold and magic items have provided 80.27% of their XP so far. If we disregard the XP for magic items, though, then treasure “only” contributed roughly 65.26% of their total XP - and this was in a game where a ghoul is only worth 68 XP!

Ynas Midgard 2019-04-25 10:50 UTC

Thanks for that breakdown! I keep forgetting about XP for magic items.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-25 11:06 UTC

For Into the Unknown, I use 1 gp of treasure spent (frivolously) = 1 xp. Some XP for wondrous experiences, as per Jeff Rients.

And XP for facing danger according to this formula:

You will need to keep a running total of how much damage the party as a whole suffers and deals out (or, if you dare, have the players keep track). At the end of the session, convert the total damage taken and dealt by the party (including henchmen) according to this formula: XP = Damage taken x 10 + Damage dealt x 5 And sum it. Then distribute XP shares evenly between the party members and henchmen.

I don’t award XP for magic items as they are reward enough in themselves.

Anders H 2019-05-02 09:30 UTC

Ouch, that sounds like a lot of bookkeeping! Then again, perhaps the damage dealt by the party is easier to track assuming all the monsters are dead: just sum up all the hp you had before combat starts and assume it was all dealt as damage... Hm.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-02 10:15 UTC

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