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I have a NPC who, when is about to be killed, uses Feign Death just before it is killed. As the point is to trick the players, do they gain XP for its death or not? And if so, the full amount or less?

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What does the NPC do afterwards? Run away, never to return? Come back the next day to be an obstacle again? – Clockwork-Muse Feb 27 at 23:04
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As a side note: if you were to not reward them, they may think that the NPC used Feign Death and kill it for good... when the Feign Death can be fun as they'll have to defeat the same foe again. – Alexis Wilke Feb 27 at 23:07
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Maybe this is why the barbarian in my party is always mutilating the bodies... ripping out a spine and using it as an improvised flail, etc. – mbomb007 Feb 28 at 5:34
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XP gain is not directly linked with killing, however killing an enemy is one way to overcome a challenge. – rom016 Feb 28 at 13:59
    
@romo16: what do you mean "not directly linked with killing" . how else do you get access to the XP gland, and suck it dry? O.o – Ditto Feb 29 at 16:19
up vote 54 down vote accepted

Yes. Your players should gain the XP for the encounter.

From the "Beyond First Level" section of Players Basic:

As your character goes on adventures and overcomes challenges, he or she gains experience, represented by experience points. A character who reaches a specified experience point total advances in capability. (Players Basic p10)

XP is granted not for killing things, but for overcoming challenges. Thus, whether your PCs kill their opponents or not, they should get the XP for each encounter they beat, no matter how they beat it.

Something else that you may want to consider (and I've thought of it as I've pondered this question this afternoon), it's better for the story (as well as right by the rules) for you to grant XP for this encounter. That's because if you didn't and told your PCs that the villain wasn't dead, you rob him of the element of surprise when they show back up, which is a great time for your villain to then reveal the spell use himself.

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Another case: It would be annoying to lose all XP from fighting a tough infernal just because he decided to leg it with a teleportation spell at the exact moment he reached his last HP. – Jan Dvorak Feb 27 at 23:41

The party gains XP for defeating their opponent. To do that they don't necessarily need to kill him/her/it. They also overcame the obstacle when the enemy surrendered, retreated, got knocked unconscious, was banished to another plane of existence, subdued and captured alive or, like in this case, faked their own death. What matters is that the player-characters overcame a challenge. Heck, you might even decide to give them the full exp reward when they overcame their enemy by talking them out of fighting in the first place through clever application of social skills.

Although you might decide to subtract some exp points when the enemy held back or ended the fight prematurely in a way which made the combat less challenging than it would have been otherwise. When your NPC was just toying with the party by not making use of their strongest abilities and then feigned their death while they still had most of their hit points, you might reduce the experience reward according to the lowered challenge. But when the NPC was fighting with full force and they didn't use Feign Death until they were already almost dead, then you should reward full exp for the combat.

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It hinges on the word "defeat". Has the NPC been thwarted in his/her goals? Was s/he trying to block the PCs? If so, then I would probably give full xp. If not (eg, if the party were trying to kill the NPC for specific reasons of their own), then no: since the NPC used feign death to trick the party it could be argued that the party was defeated and no xp should be awarded.

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"Prince, we've killed the troll that was eating goatherds that tried to cross the bridge." "Did you burn the body with fire or acid?" "No, we just killed it." (sound of crunching bones in the distance) "No XP for you!" – Ben Voigt Feb 28 at 16:53

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