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Generally, XP is divided equally when an enemy is killed. So let's say a low level party of four all fought and killed an orc worth 100xp; they all get 25xp.

But what happens if the orc kills (meaning they failed all their death saving throws, properly dead) one of the party before the rest kill him? Let's also assume that this dead PC isn't being resurrected; they are dead for good. What happens to XP division now?

Do the remaining PCs get 25xp each because they still contributed 25% of the effort, or do they get 33xp each because there's only 3 of them left at the end? I realise that this may vary from DM to DM, but I'm looking for something more general; is there anything in any 5e book, or a tweet or something, that may provide some guidance on this matter?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the player who was controlling the dead PC going to roll a replacement PC and continue on with the rest of the campaign? If so, are you going to allow the replacement PC to start at the same XP as the rest of the party? \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jan 17 '18 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac I understand this is an ancient question now, but in answer to your comment, I tend to try to keep everyone on the same level of XP, so if someone's PC were to die, their new PC would come in with exactly the same XP that the rest of the party would now have. I suppose in this case, a PC dying would slightly boost the party's overall XP if they all got 33xp. That said, my accepted answer is arguing for 25xp, so that wouldn't matter after all. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jun 17 '19 at 11:09
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Yes.

Why? Because experience represents, well, experience. Characters in a party get less experience because the encounter was made easier by the help of the other members. Just because some of them died in the fight, doesn't make their contribution any less.

It would really be up to the DM, but I would say that unless they died in the surprise round, their experience should be reduced based on the number of people helping them, not the number of people standing at the end.

Otherwise, what about unconscious characters? Do they get experience? I know I would be pretty upset if a monsters final blow knocked out my character and the DM said, since I wasn't awake at the end I don't get any experience. That doesn't seem right at all. What if they are incapacitated? Should they get less experience for being paralyzed or poisoned? How do you decide?

Remember, experience isn't like gold. It's not a fixed pot that you can divide out how you want, and you're not actually splitting the experience between people. That's just a simplification to help figure out how much each character should get, based on the difficulty of the encounter and the number of people involved.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even if they die in the surprise round, they still helped by blocking the first few arrows. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Jan 17 '18 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, there are no surprise rounds in 5e. One or more creatures may be surprised during a round (until their initiative comes up) but it is a normal round. \$\endgroup\$ – sirjonsnow Jun 17 '19 at 14:11
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From the DMG p. 260:

When the adventures defeat ... monsters ... they divide ... XP ... among themselves.

When they defeated the monsters there were 3 adventurers and 1 corpse.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As my old DM always said, "Death, in fact, is an experience." :) \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 9 '18 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ In Rolemaster you actually get XP for dying! \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Jun 17 '19 at 12:33
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I like Dale M's suggested answer as an in-game solution (I usually prefer in-game rather than meta-game solutions)... But in this case I have to make the point that this is a game and if the character were to be resurrected, even though they participated in this battle that took his/her life they would have learned nothing.

In the end they participated and arguably the rest of the party may not have won the day without his/her aid. It is not fun for a player to be punished for something he/she may not have had control over and if they do get resurrected they won't get any experience points from the time they died to the time they come back which is a double whammy for the player.

One could argue that death itself is an experience that they could learn from but in the end this will come down to the DM's call and as always mileage may vary at your table.

Personally, I always divvy the experience points among all who participated regardless of status at the end of the combat. Although, depending on when they died in the encounter it may not be as much as those that survived all the way through.

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This question and Does a PC who was KO'd earn experience for that combat? are sort of duplicates in that logically they must have the same answer. Either, characters who don't finish the fight are included in all XP calculation, they aren't included in XP calculations, or they only get XP for the monsters in the fight that died while they were actively engaged in combat.

The answer, as I see it is that XP gets divided among all characters who contributed helped in the fight. Here's why:

Death The Ultimate Experience

The death could have been caused by a player choice. If a character threw themselves at a danger to save another party member or the whole party, didn't they learn some big lessons that we should reward players for? The Character learned self-sacrifice, the player exercised roleplay, and the story just got a whole lot more interesting.

Even if the death wasn't a big heroic moment, but a Leroy Jenkins charge, then the player and character both (hopefully) learned a lot about making wiser choices.

Metagame

The player presumably damaged the enemies and helped in the fight, no matter how briefly, and that decreased the difficulty of the encounter for the other players, and XP totals should reflect that. I suppose if it was a Leroy moment, and they didn't get a single hit in against the enemies, maybe the XP should split among the living, but otherwise no.

I don't see much to be gained by denying the dead player one encounter's worth of XP earned. The player will already be behind because the party will likely face other things before they can get the dead player resurrected (at least at lower levels). The lopsidedness can be interesting unless it gets too lopsided, at which point the player who died, being miles behind the rest of the party, will begin to feel useless.

Rules

The rules are ambiguous. They read only:

When the adventures defeat ... monsters ... they divide ... XP ... among themselves. (DMG 260)

It isn't clear from that what the intent was. There is no ruling from Jermey Crawford about fallen heroes XP. The only thing we have to tell the designers' intentions is this tweet from Chris Perkins who wrote the big adventure modules like Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation. So, this isn't a official rules stance of WoTC, but his answer was:

Only if the characters directly contributed (for example, by goading the enemy to cast the spell). #WOTCstaff (https://twitter.com/ChrisPerkinsDnD/status/757940391849013248)

So, if a character contributed at all they are calculated into that division. If 4 adventures fight a dragon and 1 dies, you still divide the XP 4 ways. Each getting 1/4 of the encounter's XP.

Odd Incentive Otherwise

An odd incentive arises if you don't divide the XP among even the fallen. You create a situation where near the end of the encounter, a party member killing or letting die another party member to gain 1/nth more XP (where n is the number of party members who entered the encounter) to split among the remaining.

Think about it: the dragon is almost dead, and so is the barbarian that is right up against the dragon. The wizard's player thinks ("I can take out both of them with a fireball, and the party will split the barbarian's XP and the dragon's hoard. Sure!"), as opposed to thinking "How can a lay down a fireball so that I don't hurt my party? Or at least doing as little collateral damage as possible?"

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It depends on whether the player controlling the dead PC plans to continue on with a replacement PC, and how you plan on deciding how much XP the replacement PC may start with.

If the player does not plan to continue the campaign with a replacement PC, then there are now 3 adventurers and Dale M's excellent answer is absolutely correct.

However, if the player does plan to continue on with a replacement PC, then you still have 4 adventurers; one was merely not present for the battle in question. In this instance, I recommend simply treating the replacement PC as having been absent. The DMG continues on page 260 to mention that in general there are two ways to handle rewarding XP to absent players:

  1. Reward them with zero XP.
  2. Reward them with the same XP that the rest of the PCs received during the session in which they were absent.

If you decide to go with option #1 (no XP reward for being absent), then nothing has changed and Dale M's answer is still correct because there were only 3 adventurers present for the battle in question.

If you decide to go with option #2, however, then the replacement PC should receive the same amount of XP that the other members of the group received, in which case it would be logical to simply award the share of XP that the dead character would have received to the replacement PC.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't about being absent. This is about characters who entered the encounter, they fought the monsters and died. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jan 18 '18 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.A.Streich I would consider a dead character to be absent from the party. I mean, their corpse might still technically be there, but the situation is functionally equivalent (under the rules of XP distribution) to them not being present. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Apr 29 '18 at 9:22
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If you wanted to get really nit-picky, you could consider how many character-rounds the encounter consisted of. Say there are 5 characters, and the battle takes 3 rounds. During round 2, one of the PCs is killed. At the end of the battle, it is determined that the total XP award is 140.

The battle consists of 14 character-rounds: there were 5 living in the first round, 5 in the second, but only 4 in the third and final round. Divide the total XP by the number of character-rounds to determine what a share of XP is worth. Finally, each character (alive or dead) earns one share for each round they were alive in. The surviving characters each earn 3 * 10 = 30 XP, which accounts for 120 of the 140 XP available. The remaining 20 would go to the dead PC (who was alive for 2 of the 3 rounds), although they don't actually get the XP, being dead.

The rationale for doing something like this is that each character should get a larger share of the XP when there are fewer characters to share with. It is based on the assumption that all the XP does not materialize in one moment at the end of the battle, but represents experience accumulated during the battle. Weighting the awards in this way generalizes the idea that a solo character would receive all the XP for defeating a monster, but 2 characters split the same amount of experience equally. Instead of assuming the party has a fixed size the entire battle, you weight the XP awards by the size of each party in each round.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer could really use an explanation of why or when you should "get really nit-picky," imo. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Jan 17 '18 at 19:45

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