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I am making a boss fight. The boss can cast animate objects, a spell that can animate statues.

The spell gives information for, eg., 1 Large Construct:

Large - HP: 50, AC: 10, Attack: +6 to hit, 2d10 + 2 damage, Str: 14, Dex: 10

How much XP should I award for this Large construct?

I'm estimating CR1 (200XP) each.

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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] How does the summoning ability affect the encounter difficulty? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14 '18 at 0:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know an answer has already been accepted and everything, but... will this boss animate the constructs and then leg it, so that the constructs are actually the current boss fight, or will the boss stick around to take part in the fight as well? I feel as though this detail impacts which answer is actually correct... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Aug 14 '18 at 7:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dulkan See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14 '18 at 8:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you already include Spellcasting in the CR calculation? And this is a question about a specific spell? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 10 '21 at 17:10
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Your intuition is (mostly) correct

Defensively, the construct has 50 HP, placing in the CR 1/2 category. However, its AC of 10 is 3 points lower than the suggested AC for a CR 1/2, so its defensive CR is reduced to 1/4.

Offensively, the construct is expected to deal 13 damage per round with its one attack, placing it in the CR 1 range. Its attack bonus of +6 is 3 points higher than suggested, so its offensive CR is bumped up to 2.

Taking the average yields a value of 1.125. This rounds down to the nearest overall CR, 1.

However...

The animated object has several drawbacks compared to a normal creature:

  1. If the caster looses concentration on Animate Objects, then the objects revert to an inert state.
  2. The caster must use his/her bonus action to direct the animated object, otherwise it does nothing.

These drawbacks mean that an encounter with the boss+ animated statues from Animate Object will likely be easier than an encounter with the boss+ (insert CR 1 monsters here). I can't say how much easier, since that would depend a lot on the boss's abilities.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer does a nice job of answering from a game mechanics perspective, and also puts the potential for the CR/XP benefit into worthwhile contrast to the monster that summoned it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14 '18 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please note that the other answers contradict this answer and have a very strong argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Aug 14 '18 at 10:36
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Zero XP

If your boss can cast Animate Objects, that’s already factored into the boss’s own CR. Spells are always part of the caster’s CR, including spells that can add new opponents, whether by summoning, conjuring, creating, or animating them.

Since XP awards are derived from CR and the animated statues don’t contribute, they don’t affect XP awards.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, the most upvoted answer there says it is not factored into the CR, or am I misunderstanding? \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Aug 14 '18 at 0:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint That answer has… methodology issues. Anyway, the intent wasn’t to cite it, just add a related link. That’s not obvious though, so I’ve removed the link and made it a [related] comment. :) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14 '18 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hate to say it, but if you can add support to this where the rules say this, it'd be a great addition and close the loop. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 5 '21 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Not sure that's possible. There are many things in the rules, but an exhaustive list of what's not true about the game isn't one of them. The absence of rules or guidance on adding XP when an opponent uses certain spells is about it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16 '21 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'd say the answer covers that, with "[spells are] already factored into the boss's own CR". The question lacks details that would make it clear if this is a homebrewed opponent, an opponent with a modified spell list, or a stock opponent, and the answer might be slightly different in each case (i.e., still no extra XP for the summoned critters; adjust the boss's CR instead; good luck with how to do that), but I'm happy assuming the default (a stock opponent with stock CR and spell list) given the lack of details to the contrary in the question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16 '21 at 19:59
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It isn't clear if summoned creatures add experience at all

So, you are jumping to "How much does it add", but we don't even have the answer to "Does it add?". Check How does the summoning ability affect the encounter difficulty? - note that we actually don't know if the summoned creatures are expected to be considered in the creature's CR already, if it should be added or what.

From my point of view, a creature that can cast Animate Objects shouldn't, at least not without playtesting, have a higher CR than other spellcasting creatures that can cast other 5th level spell, with the same stats. But there is also the fact that increasing the number of enemies changes the action economy fundamentally, since now there are more enemies.

Possible Mearls talking:

In ENWorld, I've found this thread that mentions an answer by Mike Mearls, stating:

Q: For monsters that can summon in help, like the pit fiend, do the summoned monsters count toward the pit fiend’s XP, or must they be accounted for separately when building encounters?

A: If a monster can summon other creatures, that ability will be accounted for in the monster’s XP value, so the DM won’t need to make any adjustments.

Sadly the link is broken, so I can't verify. Also, Mike Mearls answers are not official, even though he is a developer.

Current DM's Basic Rules

From the DM basic rules, in the Experience subsection:

Unless something tells you otherwise, a monster summoned by a spell or other magical ability is worth the XP noted in its stat block.

Animate Objects doesn't state a CR, though.

Conclusion

For now, it's not clear that we should add any experience at all. Personally, I don't see why a creature casting Animate Objects should give more total experience than one casting Cone of Cold or Cloudkill. So, essentially, zero.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Given how often Mearls' answers are off the cuff, it's a tough sell to use his responses on a rules point. On the other hand, he's not short of vision in terms of "what the game can be" and the art of the possible, which is reflected in 5e design principles. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 14 '18 at 2:12
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Regardless of any rules, I recommend against awarding any experience for summoned creatures, because it incentivizes players to metagame your encounters with summoners.

Once players catch on to the fact, that you reward XP for every summon, they may try to extend encounters to get the summoners to use all of their summoning abilities. They can defeat the summoned creatures for extra experience. It's low-risk for them, annoys you, and extends encounter duration unnecessarily.

You are then forced to revise your policy regarding summon XP or redesign your encounters to discourage this extension of the fight, neither is a good situation.

I'd also like to echo HellSaint's statement: Why should the same caster be worth more experience when he spends his spell slots on summons instead of damage spells?

(Note: of course, there are plenty of players who will not try to exploit this situation, but you can never be sure what type of player someone is, when you don't know them.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Even though WoTC recommends awarding XP for summoned monsters, you recommend against. Unless something tells you otherwise, a monster summoned by a spell or other magical ability is worth the XP noted in its stat block. (Under Experience) You have not explained why it is wrong for players to be awarded experience for defeating monsters, be they summoned or otherwise. I don't understand the "DM as victim" presumption in your first and second paragraphs. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15 '18 at 12:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Follow up: you can never be sure what type of player someone is, when you don't know them Do you actually DM for a group, or are you guessing here? This answer is perplexing, unless one buys into the assumption of "Player versus DM" as the prevailing mind set at the table. Have you had actual experience of people doing that, at the table, in the game, this "metagaming to get more summons for XP" behavior? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15 '18 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yes, in fact I'm a player who would try that. I like min-maxing and if I know I can get easy experience by killing summoned creatures with low risk, I certainly would jump at the opportunity. The explanation why players shouldn't get XP for summons is the 2nd paragraph. It has nothing to do with a "player vs dm" mindset, it just allows the players to reap extra rewards for little effort at the cost of holding up the game. Which is why I started the answer with "Regardless of any rules". I'm actually baffled as to how WotC could miss this obvious exploitation potential. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dulkan
    Aug 15 '18 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, it's an interesting answer that seems to miss out on a rather salient point (in my experience) in that nothing requires the DM to summon another monster for the players to farm XP. ;) Your second paragraph assertion is why I asked if you are a DM; as a DM of long experience, I found that sentence funny. *You are then forced to revise your policy ... * Actually, no, you aren't forced to do anything. This edition isn't built to be Player versus DM. Didn't vote either way, I was just trying to understand what is behind this answer. Thanks for explaining. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15 '18 at 12:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Further that point, the DM doesn't somehow lose when players get XP awarded. In any case, I hope you have lots of fun ... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15 '18 at 12:49
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This is a good mental exercise for learning about DND combat encounters...that's for sure.

I don't know the "actual answer", except maybe "If you defeated the spell caster, then no". But, if you're reading this looking for a path toward a practical solution in the case where the party does not definitely defeat the spell-casting enemy in combat.....analyze the Treant and the Galeb Duhr. See what comparisons you can make and what insights you can glean....

A Treant is roughly a CR 6 without it's Animate Tree ("AT") action, but in actual fact it has a CR of 9 due in large part to the max. damage/round boost AT gives it (or, AT applies an XP Encounter Multiplier of 1.5-2x, as you go from facing 1 monster to up to 3 monsters).

Galeb Duhr is another monster we can apply the same thought process to, which as an action can cast Animate Boulders ("AB"). Without AB, the Galeb Duhr has a CR of 3 or 4. Again, because of the jump in max. damage per round, it's a CR of 6 (or, AB applies an XP Encounter Multiplier of 2x, as you go from facing 1 monster to 3 monsters). Though I believe this is a concentration spell for the Galeb Duhr (it's not for the Treant).

Thoughts:

For a party of 13th level adventurers, combat against a Treant without AT is of "medium" Encounter Difficulty (this is all "in my estimation", looking at the DMG pgs 82 & 274-5). However, with AT, the Encounter Difficulty is downright "deadly". So, instead of 2,300 XP as a CR 6 without AT.... with AT, as a CR 9, it imparts >2x the XP (5,000 XP).

Key questions

Without Animate Objects, how much damage is the enemy spell-caster able to inflict? What's its best damage concentration spell, otherwise?

If you killed the 2 Animated Trees, but failed to kill the main spell-casting Treant, would your adventurers gain any XP? If so, how much? Why?

If the Treant was somehow unable to cast Animate Tree effectively (no trees within 60 feet, say) would you still get the full 5,000 XP for the kill? Likely yes.

If the Treant was an ally NPC, and assisting the party in battle but was unable or refused to use AT, would the DM still give the Treant the same cut of XP gained from the encounter compared to if it had used AT?

*What does putting another 3-10 enemy targets (@ 5th lvl), or adding an additional 10d4+40 max damage/round *(as in the case of animating 10 "Tiny" objects that do 1d4+4 damage each...with ACs of 19 & +8 to hit, a fly speed of 30 and darkvision....) do for the enemy?

How dangerous is the enemy without that ability, in the context of the combat encounter (the enemy caster could be 500 feet away, still giving commands to the constructs...!)

Or, put another way, what's the CR of that particular enemy without Animate Objects?
& For the particular combat Encounter, how significant is the impact of Animate Objects on the total Encounter Difficulty?

Final Thoughts

If you kill or successfully defeat the spell-casting enemy, I don't see a legitimate reason to count XP from defeating the animated object constructs.

However, if the party makeup is such that it faces a significant degree of difficulty and successfully vanquishes the animated object creatures, and accomplishes some goal/side-quest -- even despite failing to kill or otherwise defeat the enemy spell-caster for whatever reason -- then I think XP should be awarded and tied to the combat.

If you have 11 enemies on the battlefield (Spell caster + 10 constructs), that's an XP Encounter Multiplier of 3. If you figure each one is worth even just 10 XP....10x10x3 = 300xp? Sounds good for a 3rd-4th level party who needs to extract a valuable item from a castle guarded by 10 "tiny" animate object constructs, but clearly isn't @ a high enough level to defeat the evil wizard controlling the constructs.

Maybe they escape by the skin of their teeth with the treasure, after defeating the constructs in a 10 round combat session, just before the wizard arrives in person to destroy them (but was several hundred feet away, in another part of the castle). Nail biter, worthy of combat XP.

Again....

This is a good mental exercise for learning about DND combat encounters...that's for sure.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ On the flipside, does that mean if a PC casts animate objects, that they'll need to share encounter XP with those objects? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 1 '21 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nautarch Nice! Interesting thought, I like it. I would say no, since you're the one concentrating the spell and giving the commands. I think I'm being consistent still...? No matter which side you're on -- using them to kill, or killing them -- there's room to gain some XP. Just not additional XP if you kill both the object-creatures & the spell-casting enemy that is ultimately their source, above and beyond the XP associated with the CR of the spell-casting enemy. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2 '21 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think that's consistent. If it's enough to earn xp, it's enough to take it Away, no? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 2 '21 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you split XP with a 5th level elemental servant (called forth using Conjure Elemental) or an elemental with a CR of 2 (summoned using Conjure Minor Elementals) that assisted you in earning XP from a Combat Encounter? No. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 '21 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ So then why would you get XP for killing it as well? You seem to have an uneven comparison against whether someone's getting XP or losing XP just by which side of the bar they're on. If it's impactful enough to earn XP it's impactful enough to share xp. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 3 '21 at 20:00
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Assuming it is an additional ability added to a creatures Stat block beyond what it normally has, about 3000XP or less, at your discretion.

I agree with SevenSidedDie's Answer, provided the creature already has the ability to cast the spell. However, if you are adding the spell to the creature's repertoire, we will have to look at some examples that already exist of creatures that have two forms, one with spellcasting and one without.

There are no creatures in the various source books who have access to solely the Animate Objects spell, and from my digging I found just one creature with access to the spell, but that does not mean it cannot be used by any creatures; the mage stat block is more of a guide for what CR would be appropriate for a spell caster with access to 5th level spells. Switching out one spell for another of the same level and spell list should not change the difficulty (theoretically).
For the purposes of determining the XP, I will assume that the creature casting animate objects is given a full list of spells up to 5th level. There are not many monsters that have a casting and non-casting form, but I've shown a few examples below.

Hags

Hags in a coven require at least 3 hags, and have access to 6th level spells, as well as the Hag Eye ability, so the resulting boost to their XP would likely be more than if a creature were to just have access to 5th level spells.
Green Hags move from CR 3 (700XP) to CR 5 (1800 XP), a boost of 3300XP for the whole group.
Night Hags move from CR 5 (1800 XP) to CR 7 (2900 XP), also a boost of 3300 XP for the encounter.
Sea Hags move from CR 2 (540 XP) to CR 4 (1100 XP), 1950 XP, a notable outlier.

Vampires

Vampire Spellcasters, on the other hand, are quite cut and dry. A CR 13 (10 000XP) Vampire who is given Spellcasting becomes CR 15 (13 000XP). 3000 XP to become a spellcaster with access to 5th level spells.

Drow

The Drow Mage is a little harder to compare to a 'base' version, but it seems comparable to the Drow Noble from Out of the Abyss, with the differences being the parry reaction of the Noble, and the spellcasting and Summon Demon ability of the Mage. the CR change from 1/8 (25XP) to 7 (2900 XP) makes a total XP gain of 2875 XP.


Of these examples I think the Vampire is the best fit, but use your judgement about what other spells your creature will be able to do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that you can change out a monsters spell, is this answer for adding spellcasting or just changing a spell to give them animate object \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 10 '21 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nautarch Adding spellcasting \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 '21 at 17:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that this is a custom monster, if it already has spellcasting as part of it's CR calculation (I'll ask OP), then this isn't really applicable. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 10 '21 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @korvinstarmast mm p.177 “ Covens. A green hag that is part of a coven (see the "Hag Covens" sidebar) has a challenge rating of 5 (1800XP).” The individual’s challenge rating is changed. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 '21 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonAristotle hmm, so if my party defeats an entire cover they get 5400 XP? 😮 \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10 '21 at 17:25

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