I recently asked a question about how to handle the contest between a large fish and a fisherman using fishing tackle, and the answers seem to mostly agree that such contests should be abstracted to at most amount of food/unit time or ignored altogether.

In games where you allow players to just succeed at fishing, or roll only for the total number of creatures you can sustain by dint of fish meat, how do you calculate the experience gain from the defeat of moderately sized (or larger) fish?

For example, the Reef Shark is a typical moderately-sized fish, and ordinarily is worth experience as a CR 1/2 creature. For a typical first level character operating independently, that's a deadly encounter worth 150 xp. Given that reef sharks hunt in packs and are fairly common in the environments where they are found, a single person can catch 6 of them in a single day without too much trouble. It seems to me like a passive income of 600 xp/day for one character but not others would prove problematic pretty quick; how have you guy's dealt with this? If you split the XP, it still seems like the levelling will be inordinately quick all the way through mid levels, and that's neglecting the wide variety of actually large fish to catch: a 10th level character who accomplishes the superhuman task of fishing up a Great White with the aid of an enchanted set of giant-sized fishing tackle will enjoy a hefty 1,800-2,700 XP per catch, it seems (though, obviously, the 'reasonable' catch rate would decline since in real life you're looking at more like 2-3 Great Whites a day in good conditions).

How should this be handled?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ This strikes me as a lot of downvotes without any suggestions/critique. Any pointers for OP and the rest of the community (present and future) to come away with going forward? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I think it's cause I asked two related questions too close to each other. While the site encourages this officially, unofficially you get lots of downvotes that way, especially if the second question stems from issues caused by practical experience with an answer to the first (which this question manages to avoid, if just barely; I haven't actually tested skipping over the Great Swordfish Hunt in-campaign yet: my players would kill me ;P). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 4:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60, my guess is that it's quicker to down vote rather than write out an answer. I chose the latter. It's not that the question itself is bad, but in my opinion, and I spell it out in my answer, the question is indicative of a larger problem with the campaign--That the players just want to have an orc chained up in a cage, they poke a sword through the bars to kill it, and expect rewards. So the down votes are likely people objecting to the play-style. Catching one fish to win a contest is fine but farming the ocean is an MMO grind and should be discouraged. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott thanks for the feedback. I'm never surprised to see some downvotes without explanation, but nine uncommented downvotes struck me as unusual.... \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 20:56

2 Answers 2


If it's not an encounter, there's generally no encounter XP

The Reef Shark in the MM shouldn't be defeated by a simple act of fishing. If you want to gain the XP for fighting a big enough creature that could harm you, you should actually have to fight it. It's not dead when it comes out of the water!

Sport vs Food

Sport fishing (sharks, etc.) is not similar to food fishing when talking about equipment. The fishing kit described in the PHB is unlikely for use in catching large fish, but more for sustenance fish.

The PHB (151) describes fishing tackle as:

This kit includes a wooden rod, silken line, corkwood bobbers, steel hooks, lead sinkers, velvet lures, and narrow netting.

This is clearly not for use in catching large and dangerous fish.

However, as a DM you can always give XP for any activity or action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The fishing tackle described in the PHB is absolutely for sport-- it's made of extraordinarily high quality materials! Plus sustenance fishing is really better done with a net pretty much all the time, and you get one of those in the tackle, too. If it's not defeated when it's unable to move and can't breathe, couldn't you just wait for it to suffocate to get the XP? If you let it bite you, is it an encounter now? What makes it an encounter? As far as I'm aware the CR of the monster, not the encounter, determines XP... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 21:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I'm not really sure what you're trying to do with this, to be honest. If you can clarify that in your question, it may be easier to provide a more directed answer. But the tools used in sport fishing are VERY different than what is used in sustenance fishing (either personal or mass, but the tools are clearly for personal). And nowhere does it state that the fishing materials give the restrained condition (or anything else.) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 21:57

This sounds more like players trying to game the system rather than actually trying to adventure. If you're the DM you need to stop giving players "XP-In-A-Box"(tm). This should not be an MMO where it's all just a grind until the party can go on raids.

Here the options I see:

  • Stop awarding XP for repeated performing the same actions over and over. You don't see a lot of 7th-level carpenters around. Especially ones that can hammer with 2 hands, cast "Make Window", or smite termites. [*]
  • Start the characters at a higher level. It seems they are just doing this to get XP; perhaps to get to a point where they have more power to play with. Just start them at 5th level and save time.
  • Enjoy a Min/Max campaign and don't care about the rules. Who cares about tackle and dice rolls and logistics? Wing it all and have a grand adventure!


[*] By this I mean that if the party is spending all their time fishing for XP (literally), then do not use that XP to advance their normal class. A fighter is not going to learn better fighting skills if they are using nets and fishing rods.

Track all the XP separately, and if they insist in staying this course create a home-brew "fisher person" class. 1hp per level, due to constant exposure to the sun their skin turns leathery and gain 1AC per 3 levels, can catch more fish, can curse in multiple languages, etc...


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