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I'm currently reading the LMOP scenario. I was thinking about adding some encounters if the PCs want to explore the forest or other side-story zones that aren't considered in the book.

But actually I don't want them to earn too much XP from these, plus I've never DMed before so I'm not aware at all what XP quantities represent.

The reason I'm concerned with giving them XP is that:

What I've already thought about:

Within the scenario, each encounter is specifically awarded with XP, so I might only give XP for scripted encounters, but it might look a bit disappointing for players.

On the other hand, if I award them with the full XP given in the monster's stats blocks, it might end up with one of the problems I mentioned above.

Given prior experiences as a GM or player (especially with LMOP in particular), how can I give PCs XP for encounters that aren't scripted without changing too much of the scenario level expectation?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you decide to go with no XP for these extra encounters, just let the players know beforehand that you will be running things that way, and then make sure to provide other types of rewards for the encounter. That could be as simple as just a bit of extra cash, some unique equipment (not powerful, or magical, just memorable), or information that could make the next scripted encounter a bit easier. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Apr 11 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelRichardson as I commented in both answers, I guess I'll just ask them which system they do prefer, then just use it so they'll be aware of it. For me both answers are a good way to deal with it, so I'd like to let players choose which one they prefer. \$\endgroup\$ – Zoma Apr 11 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not an answer to the XP bit so I'll leave it as a comment: if you're concerned about the PCs trying to farm XP, just put them under some pressure. Players dawdling? letter from the Black Spider giving them N days to deliver some cash or he'll start killing the hostages (other motivations are available) \$\endgroup\$ – walrus Apr 12 at 10:15
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I'm going to challenge your premise a bit - why not drop XP-based levelling altogether and use milestone levelling instead? In my time as a DM and a player, I've found milestone has a few advantages:

  • Less resource management. Counting all your XP is a bit tedious.
  • Less DM work. You can tailor encounters that are fun and play to your party's strengths, and you don't need to come up with XP rewards for everything.
  • The party levels up when they need to. The DM decides when the party has gained enough experience to level up, which means the party doesn't have to go encounter-scumming to get those last few hundred XP needed to level up before they embark on the next adventure. Similarly the party won't get over-levelled by going out of their way to get XP!

If you still want to reward the players for completing the side-encounters you can reward them with items, clues or gold instead of XP.

In general, choosing where to place milestones is an art rather than a science. If I'm running a homebrewed adventure or a sandbox campaign, I will usually use my "gut feeling" to decide when PCs have done enough to merit a level up, or use major character goals to help decide. For published adventures I will look through the book to see what levels the writers had in mind for each chapter. As for LMOP in particular you should be able to award one level per chapter, which I've based on the following:

  • "allow them to advance their characters to 2nd level before continuing the adventure" p12 LMOP (end of Chapter 1)
  • "At some point during part 2, the characters are likely to advance to 3rd level" p26 LMOP (end of Chapter 2)
  • "This part of the adventure is designed for characters of at least 4th level" p42 LMOP (start of Chapter 4)
  • "By the end of the adventure, the characters should be 5th level." p51 (Conclusion of Chapter 4)
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the rpg stack..? Seems you have been here a while actually. Excellent answer though. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Apr 11 at 9:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really nice answer (especially the reward part, don't know how I didn't manage to think of this). But the scenario doesn't have these milestones past the first chapter, so how could I define where are they ? \$\endgroup\$ – Zoma Apr 11 at 9:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zoma I've added a bit at the end to show where you could add milestones based on the adventure, I haven't ever played it all the way through so I can't offer personal experience specific to LMOP I'm afraid! \$\endgroup\$ – jambrothers Apr 11 at 10:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PierreCathé I don't think it's the same at all - OP would be giving EXP for no encounters, so the side encounters wouldn't be less rewarding (in that respect) than the main ones. This answer also suggests alternative rewards that can make the encounters feel worthwhile in and of themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrzej Doyle Apr 11 at 12:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jambrothers thanks a lot for thess precisions, much valuable. I guess I'll ask my players what they do prefer and adopt the associated answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Zoma Apr 11 at 12:03
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Make subsequent encounters harder

Disclaimer: this is based on my experience as a GM running my own adventures, not LMOP

It seems like you're afraid of giving your PCs too much power, allowing them to breeze through the end content of the module. This is a valid concern, as the players might get less engaged in the game. If you see that this is the case, then it is your prerogative (and duty) as the GM to make the later encounters harder.

If the encounters are too easy for your players (regardless of their level, as some players have better optimisation/tactics than others), there are several things you can do to make them tougher. Your adventure module should already contain some tips on how to make combat encounters harder, and as the GM you can do whatever you feel is right.

Options include (but are not restricted to):

  • increase the number of enemies
  • add some thematically appropriate foes
  • tweak the stats of existing enemies to make them scarier
  • add interesting terrain (pits, rubble, cover, whatever feels appropriate)
  • use tactics beyond "hit closest PC"
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  • \$\begingroup\$ While this is a nice answer, my problem isn't that scripted encounter are too easy. I just want to add more encounters, not to make the scenario harder, but to add flavour for PCs who wants to explore a bit more than what the scenario expect. If that isn't evident in my question I can edit it. If you meant to say I should make additional encounters I could add harder, can you add more details on how make additional encounters harder could help me with EXP distribution ? \$\endgroup\$ – Zoma Apr 11 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zoma You say you fear the PCs gaining too much XP (which would make them stronger). What I am suggesting is you let them gain that extra XP and make the scripted encounters harder to account for that. I'll edit for clarity \$\endgroup\$ – Pierre Cathé Apr 11 at 11:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the edit, I didn't get what you meant, but it's much clearer and even more valuable with these precisions. I guess I'll ask my players what they do prefer and adopt the associated answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Zoma Apr 11 at 12:03

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