In a recent session my players triggered a trap that they didn't notice; it went off and did damage to most of the party.

I've done a rudimentary search through the Pathfinder SRD and couldn't find an answer to this: Experience points are granted for "challenges overcome," but is triggering and surviving a trap a challenge that the PCs have overcome, or is it merely one they've survived? In other words, do you only earn experience for a trap that you detect & disarm? Or is surviving enough?


3 Answers 3


There is no clear definition of what you need to do to "overcome" a trap in Pathfinder rules, but surviving is probably enough.

A search is the SRD brings no useful information: I may be missing something but it seems like Pathfinder just never clearly states this point.

However Pathfinder is built from DD3.5 where it is stated (DMG, p39) that:

Overcoming the challenge of a trap involves encountering the trap, either by disarming it, avoiding it, or simply surviving the damage it deals. A trap never discovered or never bypassed was not encountered (and hence provides no XP award).

So in 3.5 there was no ambiguity: surviving the damage was enough.

In Pathfinder, the best we have is a quote from James Jacobs in Paizo forums:

ALL XP awards in the game are handed out when the thing they're attached to is defeated. Be that a monster or a trap or a haunt or a tense political standoff. Be "defeated" akin to "killed" or "driven away" or "disabled" or "endured.

AKA: You get full XP for a trap if you detect it/disable it, if you trigger it and survive its effects, or if you detect it and avoid it. You don't get the XP more than once (so if you detect and avoid it then come back later and disable it or endure its effects, you don't get to double dip).

James Jacobs don't make authority on Pathfinder's rules, but at least his position is clear.

If you want to convince yourself about the validity of this approach you can think the following: how is disarming the trap a better solution that triggering it? Triggering it will cause penalties like hp losses, but disarming it costs time. If the PC group is one barbarian, one cleric of Sarenrae, one oracle of life and one paladin it makes complete sense for them to send the barbarian running into a probably trapped corridor and heal him rather than trying desperately to find a trap they anyway have no chance to be able to disable. In that case to me making the PC gain no XP would be the same as making them gain no XP on an encounter against kobolds because the wizard chose to use his only fireball to kill all of them in one round.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The James Jacob Quote you may have been referring to: "You get full XP for a trap if you detect it/disable it, if you trigger it and survive its effects, or if you detect it and avoid it." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, you could also ask whether you'd award XP for a monster that the players didn't defeat, but did manage to survive and run away from. Of course, there's the difference that the trap (usually) isn't going to reset itself, whereas the monster could still attack the players again. But if the monster was just a random encounter, what are the odds of that actually happening? (Not saying I necessarily disagree with your answer, just playing devil's advocate and noting that the analogy isn't necessarily that simple.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JeffC You don't get experience for disarming a trap or killing a monster. You get experience for overcoming the challenge of the encounter. If you fight monsters and they flee, and then you fight them again later you get experience twice because they challenged the party twice. Monsters and traps don't award experience. Encounters do. Anything that meaningfully contributes to a challenge that the party faces in an encounter contributes to the experience reward. Overcoming a trap without triggering it is it's own reward. You get XP either way if you survive it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Bits
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Likewise, if you fight the monsters and you flee, you might get XP if the encounter was "monsters ambush you; try to survive". But you wouldn't if the encounter was "get past the monster into the dungeon". \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also changed the last paragraph. I hope this new example will satisfy more people but anyway that's not the important part of this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 9:15


You deserver to get experience whether you detect and disarm (D&D) OR survive. Not all parties have the skills or abilities to D&D so they survive.

If the party did survive a challenge and came through it, typically hurt, bruised, and the better for the experience (see the pun?).



Wesley from The Princess Bride:

No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt - no problem. There's a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too.

(emphasis mine)

The characters now know what that kind of trap exists and what it looks like.

Though, I doubt that I would give experience for triggering the exact same type of trap again unless there were different circumstances.


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