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I am a DM who has started my campaign with new 3rd level characters running The Forge of Fury as published in Tales from the Yawning Portal. The synopsis contains the line

It is designed for four 3rd-level player characters. They can advance to 5th level with good play.

"With good play" implies an XP-like method of determining progression, where you get more progression from overcoming more challenges. I am using XP for progression in this campaign because it works well for an open-world campaign with lots of dungeon crawling. However, counting the XP formally available in this adventure, I'm struggling to see how this sentence is true.

Going from the start of 3rd level to 5th level requires 5600 XP per character, or 22,400 XP between a party of four. (Getting to 4th level requires 7200 XP total.)

There are 4470 XP of creatures in the Mountain Door (the first level), 5600 XP in the Glitterhame and Sinkhole, and 7810 XP in the Foundry, offering 17,880 XP, which is well short of the target. If you include the final boss (which I don't because I think the party will just die if they fight it before 5th level) then the total goes up to 20,780 XP, which is just shy of the target.

How can the party get enough XP to go from 3rd level to 5th level in The Forge of Fury?

Based on DMG p.260-261, my understanding of XP is that (for combat) it is granted based on the as-written XP values of monsters, not the modified values used to determine how hard an encounter. But if I'm wrong there, then that would accelerate progression substantially.

I do grant XP for non-combat challenges, although I'm unsure if I can cram enough such moments to make up the XP difference without over-inflating their value (although maybe I'm undervaluing them).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Caleth: Don't answer in comments. Another relevant Q&A on Meta: How do we back up affirmative answers to “Am I understanding this correctly”-style questions? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 27, 2021 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ How much XP do you normally grant for non-combat challenges? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Aug 27, 2021 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cooper Some. I haven't figured out a consistent metric as I haven't been doing it that long (I probably spit-ball somewhere around Easy or Medium for getting past traps/hazards; how to evaluate how much XP to give for dealing with a trap/hazard is possibly a question in its own right). \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Aug 27, 2021 at 23:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is my answer good enough for the green check? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 24, 2021 at 13:03

1 Answer 1

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I'm showing 21,200 XP if you kill everything.

I've tabulated every hostile creature you would encounter during the adventure by area:

Area Creatures CR XP
Wait and Watch 4 0.5 400
Wait and Watch 4 0.5 400
1 2 0.5 200
3 2 0.5 200
4 3 0.5 300
4a 1 0.5 100
9 1 2 450
9 2 0.5 200
10 4 0.125 100
11 4 0.5 400
12 1 2 450
12 2 1 400
14 1 2 450
14 4 0.5 400
15a 6 0.125 150
16 4 0.125 100
17 2 0.25 100
18 11 0.25 550
19 1 2 450
19 1 0.25 50
20 1 4 1100
21 2 0.25 100
21 1 1 200
24 2 2 900
30 1 0.5 100
33 1 5 1800
36 2 1 400
36 1 2 450
37 2 1 400
37 1 2 450
39 1 1 200
39 1 3 700
41 1 2 450
42 1 3 700
42 2 2 900
43 1 4 1100
45 6 0.25 300
47 2 2 900
48 1 1 200
49 1 4 1100
52 1 7 2900
Total 21200

This leaves you 1200 XP short of having a party of four go from 3rd to 5th level. Having read through the module several times, I cannot discern any other stated sources of XP, combat or otherwise.

The Dungeon Master's Guide suggests dispensing non-combat XP at your discretion.

We see in the DMG's section on Experience Points:

You decide whether to award experience to characters for overcoming challenges outside combat. If the adventurers complete a tense negotiation with a baron, forge a trade agreement with a clan of surly dwarves, or successfully navigate the Chasm of Doom, you might decide that they deserve an XP reward.

As a starting point, use the rules for building combat encounters in chapter 3 to gauge the difficulty of the challenge. Then award the characters XP as if it had been a combat encounter of the same difficulty, but only if the encounter involved a meaningful risk of failure.

This one is up to you. 1200 XP is not a lot of XP, so you should be able to make it up with 2-3 good non-combat challenges somewhere in the module. I won't recommend which, that's for you to figure out.

It is likely the characters are already a little ways into 3rd level.

It seems quite likely that the party didn't start at exactly the XP required to reach 3rd level. Quadratic Wizard pointed out in a comment:

Note that part of the 1,200 XP difference may be accounted for if the party did not start at the minimum XP for level 3; e.g. if they had played an earlier adventure which took them from level 1 to 3 with some XP left over. The original Forge of Fury for D&D third edition was written with the assumption that you may have already played The Sunless Citadel.

With only 300 XP over the threshhold for 3rd level, simply killing everything will be enough to get the party to 5th.

An understandable miscounting nets an additional 1300 XP, which could explain the discrepancy.

This is getting into educated guess territory, but there were two particular cases where I first miscounted something, and those two cases account for 1300 XP on top of the 21,200, yielding a total of 22,500 XP.

The Wait and Watch section describes two parties of 4 orcs worth 400 XP total arriving two and five days after the player characters. I have included them under Wait and Watch in the table. However, Area 5 mentions them again:

When the second orc raiding party returns (five days after the characters arrive at the Stone Tooth), they take up residence here. Add four orcs to this room after their return.

Someone tabulating the total XP available in the module could understandably count both parties in the Wait and Watch section, and then count on of them a second time when reviewing Area 5.

The second mistake I made initially was to double count the gricks encountered in Area 24. They are first mentioned here:

Creatures. Two gricks lurk in the 20-foot-high rockfall that spills down from area 26, at the place where the path leading east comes closest to the slope.

However, they are mentioned again in Area 26, again in a "Creatures" block:

Creatures. The two gricks hidden in the rockfall (see area 24) make their lair at the end of a passage that winds north from the ledge. They are encountered here if they retreated to attack characters who got past them.

A careful enough reading makes it clear that these are the same gricks mentioned in Area 24, but if I am quickly tabulating XP available, I may miss this and double count them. Each Grick is 450 XP, so counting each of them twice nets another 900 XP.

While XP is not mentioned, it is suggested that training is available in Blasingdell.

In the sidebar "Mining Town of Blasingdell", we read:

Although it isn’t close enough for the characters to use as an overnight rest stop while they explore Khundrukar, Blasingdell is still useful as a place to purchase equipment, stock up on supplies, and train be­tween excursions into the caverns.

So while XP is not mentioned here, it is suggested that some sort of training is available, which could be used to make up for the 1200 XP difference between what is available in the module and what is needed for 5th level.

You can also murder the whole town (or just the important people).

It makes up for the difference, but would probably be a less than agreeable move at most tables.

Conclusion: It's close enough.

Yeah, the raw XP count of the module comes up short of the total XP required for 3rd to 5th, but it shouldn't matter. But there are lots of ways to make up the difference, and the difference isn't large enough for that to be difficult. And if they did make a mistake counting the available XP, it's understandable - I made the same mistake when I first tried tallying things up.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be worth adding that 1200 XP only accounts for a handful of encounters, and if this dungeon is dropped into another adventure rather than being run completely standalone, it's possible (and extremely likely) that a 4th level party would already have a few hundred XP already? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Aug 27, 2021 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that part of the 1,200 XP difference may be accounted for if the party did not start at the minimum XP for level 3; e.g. if they had played an earlier adventure which took them from level 1 to 3 with some XP left over. The original Forge of Fury for D&D third edition was written with the assumption that you may have already played The Sunless Citadel. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 27, 2021 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also of note you don't have to "kill everything" to get the xp. You can negotiate with the Roper and the Duergar and thus "overcome" the challenge and thus gain the experience. Also worthy of note is that this was a rewrite of a 3.0 module and the xp totals were different. As with all rewrites they just ported things over without any thought so the text doesn't necessarily apply to 5E. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Aug 29, 2021 at 20:20

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