My wife is new to DMing and D&D as a whole.

We had our first game yesterday and one of my friends raised a concern about how she was awarding XP as she was giving the XP to the person that got the killing blow. He felt, and I agree, that this was unfair to the people playing a support role i.e. our Bard and Druid.

Any suggestions on how I should bring this up without it sounding like a criticism or that I’m trying to take over?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Feel free to take our tour to learn more about us. I'm not certain this is the best site for a question like this, as we try to avoid open-ended questions like this that make finding the best answer difficult. You may be able to reformulate your question to better suit the site if you focus on a concrete problem you foresee in discussing the topic with your wife. In any case, good luck :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25, 2019 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on What should a player do if the DM doesn't know the rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 25, 2019 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Doreilly: Note that this question is perfectly on-topic here; personally, I think it's better to ask here, as it's a phrasing/communication question that people with RPG expertise are perfectly suited to answer. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 25, 2019 at 22:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok Please don't answer in the comments. Comments are only for suggesting improvements to the question or asking for clarification. Use the answer field below for posting things related to solving OP's issues. See here for our policy \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2019 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CodeswithHammer please use comments only for requesting clarification or suggesting improvement. See my comment above. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2019 at 14:18

5 Answers 5


By the Book

I'd start by suggesting she review Chapter 8: Running the Game, Experience Points. Hopefully, the part she'll realize what she's doing wrong after reading this:

Each monster has an XP value based on its challenge rating. When adventurers defeat one or more monsters — typically by killing, routing, or capturing them — they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves.

The character advancement system is not seeking to model mythical accounts of battle, where the killer gets the glory for finishing off the enemy and nobody can remember the name of any of the other people who made it possible. Killing a creature is not the only way to gain XP. It should be possible to get XP with no killing at all. That clearly makes it unfair to award it for a kill - the non-lethal contributions can be just as important, if not more important, than raw damage. Unless the enemies are being played as unintelligent bags of blood and loot, it's even possible to win an encounter without killing anybody.

A Question of Fairness

If needed, you could highlight unfairness of XP-to-the-Killer by pointing out a scenario like this: What happens with something like a rogue sneak attack critical hit or a paladin crit smite leaving an enemy with single-digit hit points, and somebody else taking it out? The rogue or paladin did the vast majority of the damage. Why should the last hit point be more important than the thirty, fifty, seventy, or more that came before it? Remember, experience tracks ability, not renown.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I realize your closing question is rhetorical, but I've read blog posts by GMs who award a small amount of damage XP for all (non-spell) hits and a larger kill XP award which goes entirely to whoever lands the killing blow, on the basis that this models mythical accounts of battle - you get the glory for finishing off the enemy, not for weakening them. Everyone knows Bard the Bowman brought Smaug down, but can you name of any of the other warriors who attacked the dragon without killing it? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2019 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman That works for a story (except of course that it's renown you are now tracking, not ability, which xp and levels usually model) but it only works for D&D to a point. That is, it creates a very specific type of campaign that deviates from the "default" D&D experience. Definitely not something I would recommend for a new DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Mar 26, 2019 at 10:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ You could technically make things fair by giving support classes XP for non-combat actions (Cleric healing, Bard inspiring, etc). But at that point you are just over complicating the whole XP share mechanic. Otherwise there is really no reason to play anything other than a group of muderhobo comabt PCs \$\endgroup\$
    – D.Spetz
    Mar 26, 2019 at 14:21

Just politely point to the rulebook:

DMG pg 260 (emphasis added):

When adventures defeat one or more monsters ... they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Per our subjective citation guidelines, Good Subjective answers tend to be longer, not shorter. They explain "why" and "how" and are backed up by experience. As a general rule answers should almost always be longer than a sentence. Indeed "point to the rulebook" is a component of a solution, but is not really walking the querent through negotiating the larger conversation this action would be a part of. Please expand on this answer or it may be removed. Also, please treat your fellow members with respect; I have removed some comments. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2019 at 19:29

Ideally this would have been established beforehand

I've played with new GMs before and these situations can be tricky, and even more so with certain personality or relationship dynamics at the table. It's helpful to establish beforehand a method to address concerns so all players, including the GM, feel comfortable. At a new GM table (and at any table) I ask on the first day of the group meeting how the GM would like the players to address rule concerns. Let the GM guide you on what works best for them.

It's not too late

Just because you've started playing without establishing how to address concerns it doesn't mean you can't still do it. Until you do, let this specific situation lie. It's more important that you establish clear lines of communication that everyone is comfortable with than rushing into solving this specific problem. It's much easier to fix some misappropriated XP than bad feelings at the table.

At your next meeting when you're all at the table, but before game play, ask the GM how she would like the players to address any concerns they have. Listen to what she says and then take her lead. (She may also need time to do research or consider what would actually work best, in this case give the GM the time she needs to figure it out.)

It's worth noting that a new GM may not know what would work best for them, or the group, here. So be flexible if they decide to change it up later down the road.

Be Patient

Learning to GM takes time. There are a lot of rules, and there's a lot to manage. Even experienced GMs slip and need to be corrected. Like any new player, a new GM needs an enjoyable first experience to build confidence and appreciation for the game. Any time a concern comes up ask yourself, "is this so important that it affects my level of enjoyment at the table?"

If it doesn't affect the level of enjoyment and it's just rules for the sake of rules, let it lie. I have found that when I let go of my sometimes rigid expectations around rules the game opens up in new ways and can be more fun than I ever imagined. If it does affect the level of enjoyment address the concern using the method established by the GM.


I am reading into your question a bit when I say that it seems like your personal relationship with the DM causes some uncertainty, or maybe even fear, that she may take a correction the wrong way. I will presume that you know your wife much better than I do, and that your fear in this case is (correctly) based on prior experience.

On one hand, I want to say "Don't be afraid to correct your spouse in a caring and respectful manner." On the other hand, I am fully aware of how silly little things like this can become huge issues when there are gaps in expectations.

However you handle this specific situation, I would also recommend clarifying your spouse's expectations when it comes to DMing. Was she wanting to do things her own way, even if others don't like it and it goes against the formal rules? Even if it's going to result in a major breaking of gameplay? What is the best way to bring rules to her attention? What does she want to get out of DMing?

When you clarify what her expectations are; the question of how to proceed may answer itself; whether that means bringing it up in the moment, or waiting, or whether she fully expects to fly by the seat of her pants and create rules based on whims (and crashing/burning or coming close to it); in which case it might even be fun to suggest the concept that reality itself breaking apart or experiencing strange ripples.

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    – V2Blast
    Mar 26, 2019 at 20:31

We have had a very similar problem in one of our campaigns and the DM decided the group to put it to the group. It felt very collaborative and everyone agreed.

The problem was the splitting of XP but it had more to do with when people were present at the table. Some of us could only arrive half-hour after the adventure had started; some of us had to leave a hour or so before the end. This created a problem. The DM was brilliant at weaving into the story our appearances and disappearances, but the problem was XP.

For example, some of us spent say 3 hours doing exploring, adventuring and role-play and then had to leave; while the others who had arrived later, could stay and killed the Big Bad Boss - which usually came at the end. So, slowly but surely, this started making a difference in PC progression. The ones who arrived late ended up levelling up much quicker and ended up nearly two levels above those who had to leave early. So, all of the "mugs" who turned up on time but had to leave early became resentful of this.

We had a proper chat about this OOC and we agreed as a group that the XP would be equally divided and given at the end, for the whole session - this included XP for the mobs. The ones who left early got a message in our group chat to let them know how much XP the got. This worked really well and avoided resentment. It meant that those who could not arrive early or leave late progressed their characters evenly along with the others. Also, the DM changed the way he awarded XP and included much more the adventuring, exploring and role-playing side of things - not just combat and mob-killing.

Happy days!

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's our solution; RL lives have an impact on participation ... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2020 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for citing experience with this problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Apr 6, 2020 at 16:28

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