# How do I solve the apparent discrepancy between XP thresholds, Encounter Multipliers, and Adventuring Day XP?

I'm hoping for a RAW answer.

Point 1: In the DMG on page 260, it says that each monster has a XP value based on its challenge rating, and that upon defeating a group, the total of that XP should be split between the party members.

Point 2: On page 82 of the DMG, where it talks about building an encounter, it defines the XP thresholds for building an encounter of a given difficulty. For a PC at a given level, it gives you a rote XP amount which, when added with the other PCs, gives you a budget for an encounter of that difficult. (Say, four level 1 PCs each get 50XP for a medium encounter, so for them a medium encounter will have 200XP worth the monsters, or 50x4)

Point 3: On the same page, it asks you to add up the amount of experience for each monster in your planned encounter, and then use an Encounter Multiplier to adjust the resulting number. This is to account for the action economy. 3-6 monsters worth 25XP each will be a significantly harder fight than 1-2 monsters of the same difficulty, so you multiply the XP by 2 to get your actual budgeted difficulty for the encounter.

So from what we know so far, we can build an encounter. Say, 4 monsters worth 25xp each equals 100XP, but because there are 4, we then multiply that by 2 for a total adjusted XP of 200. This is exactly what the DMG considers a "Medium" difficulty encounter for four level 1 players. However, the players will NOT, RAW, receive 200XP for this encounter. Under Modify Total XP for Multiple Monsters on page 82 it says, emphasis theirs:

This adjusted value is not what the monsters are worth in terms of XP; the adjusted value's only purpose is to help you accurately assess the encounter's difficulty.

Point 4: On the next page (84) when talking about the adventuring day, it claims that an average adventuring day should consist of 6-to-8 medium-to-hard difficulty encounters before players need a rest, which results in a specific Adjusted XP earned per day based on a given player level. (It specifies that you can use this to estimate actual XP earned) This seems to match pretty well to the XP threshold chart at first. A level 1 PC is expected to earn around 300 XP in a day, so if they are earning 50xp in a "Medium" encounter then after 6 encounters they'll earn 300 xp. I've compared some other levels, and it still matches up, with slight alteration. Level 2 also would need 6 medium encounters, level three would need 8, but that's probably because they expect that by level three you'll start giving them some hard encounters as well.

Main point: However, this all breaks down when you realize that the XP budgeting system assumes that you will only be giving the Monster XP as stated on page 82, not the adjusted XP of the encounter. The only way that a level 1 PC will earn exactly 300XP in six encounters is if each encounter is against a single CR1 enemy, without the encounter multiplier. If, as is most often the case, the number of monsters is 2 or 3 or more, the actual experience per player will be significantly less than 50 because a third or a half of that XP is only accounting for the difficulty of the encounter, not the XP payout.

I know that the solution to this problem is probably just to ignore RAW and award the adjusted monster XP as the total XP; After all, the difficulty of the fight should be relational to the reward for the fight, but I find it a strange oversight, and would love for someone to explain how I'm understanding this wrong.

(And yes, I know that encounter difficulty in 5e can be a bit...bugged, but I'm a bit of a rule follower, and before I start breaking rules I want to understand them.)

• I fail to see which problem you are trying to solve: do you want to find ways to award exactly 300 XPs in exactly 6 encounters to make level up a 4 members party in a day, in a different way than against a CR 1 enemy for 6 times? Or are you asking if you well understood the rules? Commented Jun 19 at 6:55
• I'm attempting to account the apparent fact that, RAW, an Adventuring day, which is expected to give around 300xp at level 1 for 6-8 medium-to-hard encounters would only give these numbers if you either assume that adjusted XP is equivalent to rewarded XP, or only have the party fight single enemies, one at a time. Commented Jun 19 at 7:20
• There is no “apparent” discrepancy- there’s an “actual” discrepancy. Commented Jun 19 at 21:08
• I think that the paragraph "use the Adventuring Day XP table to estimate how much XP that character is expected to earn in a day... This provides a rough estimate of ... encounters the party can handle before the characters will need to take a long rest" is indeed conflating two different things, the XP earned (actual monster XP) and the XP budget (adjusted encounter XP). It's definitely the case that the Adventuring Day XP table is measuring approximately how much fighting the party can take on in a day, not how much you expect them to advance towards the next level. Commented Jun 19 at 21:16
• Except that, as you've quoted, it says you should use that table to estimate actual XP rewards. That section makes no distinction between XP used as a difficulty rating and XP used as a reward. On page 82 it states that these numbers are for difficulty rating only, not individual monster rewards, but in context its saying that to clarify that this XP rewards do not affect the individual XP, and therefore CR of each monster. Otherwise, players might say, "I can't have them fight CR1 monsters, because after adjusting their XP they are now a CR2 monster, which a level 1 party can't fight." Commented Jun 19 at 22:18

## RAW are not clear

It depends on how you interpret this paragraph:

For example, if an encounter includes four monsters worth a total of 500 XP, you would multiply the total XP of the monsters by 2 , for an adjusted value of 1 ,000 XP. This adjusted value is not what the monsters are worth in terms of XP; the adjusted value's only purpose is to help you accurately assess the encounter's difficulty.

One way to read this is that this means that the monster's statistics in its stat block do not change, just because the monster is more dangerous in the encounter. XP are part of the creatures statistics, listed in the challenge rating for a monster, for example here is the entry for a goblin

Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

If you changed the actual XP for the creature, this would change its challenge rating, and there are other game features that interact with the challenge rating, for example polymorph can only transform a creature into a beast of equal or lower challenge rating. A goblin shaman with polymorph could not transform another goblin into a worg (CR 1/2), just because there are 3 or more goblins in the encounter (so their XP budget value is doubled to 100 XP, or CR 1/2).

### Evidence for assigning adjusted XP

If you take this bolded quote to mean that you should award only the base monster XP for the encounter, then you will end up with a contradiction, as the following sections demonstrate that as these rules are written, you are indeed expected to award the adjusted XP for those encounters. There are four steps in the procedure

1. Determine XP thresholds [for each character]
2. Determine the Party's XP threshold [summing up the character thresholds]
3. Total the monsters' XP [as given in the stat block]
4. Modify Total XP for Multiple Monsters [by applying multipliers]

Building encounters on a budget (p. 84) makes it clear that the XP after multipliers are the "adjusted XP":

Just remember that groups of monsters eat up more of that budget than their base XP values would indicate (see step 4). [...] If you want a pair of monsters, each one will count for 1.5 times its base XP value. A pair of dire wolves (worth 200 XP each) have an adjusted XP value of 600, making them a medium encounter for the party

This is followed text on page 84 that tells you that

For each character in the party, use the Adventuring Day XP table to estimate how much XP that character is expected to earn in a day. [...] This provides a rough estimate of the adjusted XP value for encounters the party can handle before the characters will need to take a long rest.

That table contains the adjusted XP, so which means that the XP the characters earn are the adjusted XP, after multipliers, not the base monster XP. In addition, doing the math for them as you did also shows that it only works out if you hand out adjusted XP, further supporting this. However, the sentence about what the party can handle points seems to suggest this is concerned only with overall encounter challenge. Note that the designer intent is also that you would only assign base monster XP.

So where does that leave us? The rules and underlying math are indeed not clear, and there is no really good RAW answer here. I think the closest is assigning adjusted XP, as that at least can be squared depending on how you read the section about base XP, but it is going to require a DM to make a decision how they want to run this.

P.S. All that being said, everyone I know does what you suggest and just assigns base monster XP for encounters. In fact, in my experience is is unproblematic to ignore those multipliers of step 4 entirely, even when designing encounters, and that is what we do.

• Commented Jun 19 at 7:03
• Despite your note on designer intent, I'm still fairly convinced that at least the person who wrote the adventuring day block on page 84 was operating under the understanding that AdjustedXP = RewardedXP for the purposes of that mechanic. The Adventuring Day XP table can only be usefully reckoned with the XP Threshold table if we start from that assumption. Add to this the fact that the Adventuring Day XP table is clearly using AdjustedXP numbers, and clearly states that these numbers should be used to estimate actual rewards, and I think that it is quite cut-and-dry--despite word of god. Commented Jun 19 at 8:05

# There are lots of inconsistencies

I'll try to address some of them.

## The multipliers are important.

For example, spells like Conjure Animals don't consider the multipliers. This means, according to the spell, one CR 2 beast is equivalent to eight CR 1/4 beasts. According to the Monster Manual, one CR 2 beast is worth 450XP. A single CR 1/4 beast is worth 50. Eight of them are worth 400, or 1000 using the multipliers. If those modifiers are accurate, then you are summoning 2.5 times the challenge for the enemy. Which do you think most players usually summon?

Similarly, you need to consider the multipliers when gauging an encounter or you may end up with more challenge than intended.

## CR is a bit broken

Unfortunately, it's as if all institutional knowledge with respect to challenge and experience points was lost with 5th edition* and they just created a completely new system that is, in my estimation, fairly broken. There are a number of creatures that are rated to high for their level of challenge and a few party killers rated too low, like the Will-o'-Wisp.

All CR since its inception in 3rd edition has failed to accurately capture challenge, especially when it comes to special traits and features that can dramatically affect the challenge. The 5th edition DMG has rules for creating a monster, but they do not reflect the monsters in the Monster Manual. Whether that's because they didn't have the DMG rules when determining CR or just ignored them is unknown. The blog of holding did an excellent analysis on this and created a table based on the Monster Manual numbers. This is more useful for creating monsters, but also for analyzing existing monsters.

## Reprints

Also, if the monster shows up in Monsters of the Multiverse, it's likely it has been adjusted to closer match the Challenge Rating, so you may want to use the newer version.

## To the rescue

Trekiros, a gaming youtuber created a pretty cool tool, battlesim which I've used to gauge encounters. It ignores CR entirely and simulates a battle. I don't put the party's characters in, just 3-4 basic party members and if the players win in four rounds with no more than one dropping, I have a pretty reasonable encounter for most folks.

The other very bizarre result of 5e's experience system is, as you've pointed out, the multipliers aren't rewarded, which means if you had a deadly encounter with a singe foe, or a deadly encounter with eight, you'd earn 2.5X less experience for the latter, meaning, you're characters will need more encounters to level when using multiple opponents. I've never understood that logic, but that's not how I determine level. Why? Because even ignoring the multipliers, it doesn't make any sense. For example, according to the Player's Handbook Character Advancement progression and the Dungeon Master's Guide XP Thresholds by Character Level, you have this strange outcome of the number of medium encounters to level starting at about 6, doubling at 3rd level to 12, then 15, but then, it starts going down again, with a notable exception of level 10 (which requires 17.5 encounters), then around 9-10 from there on out. What??? Really bizarre and as mentioned, encounters with multiple creatures will be rewarded less than their challenge, driving up the already awkward number of encounters to level.

## Inconsistent tables

There are several tables that combine for challenge, experience and character level.

For a system intended to be easier, this is both not simple and not internally consistent. I've touched on the first item, where you determine difficulty using the multipliers, only you don't award the higher value. This will mean your characters will need to overcome more encounters to level for the same CR, if the encounter is made up of multiple creatures. The second inconsistency, also touched on, is the rate of encounters. However, there is a further inconsistency, because the CR table and the XP Budget tables are different.

Level # Equal CR encounters Medium encounters to level
2 6.0 6.0
3 5.3 6.0
4 10.3 12.0
5 13.8 15.2
6 16.7 15.0
7 15.7 15.0
8 15.2 14.7
9 14.4 15.6
10 12.8 14.5
11 14.2 17.5
12 8.3 9.4
13 9.5 10.0
14 8.0 9.1
15 8.7 10.0
16 9.2 10.7
17 8.0 9.4
18 8.9 10.3
19 8.0 9.5
20 9.1 10.2

I understand the desire to have nice round numbers in the tables, but I would rather have consistency.

## Number of encounters to level

However, we can generalize, about two easy or medium, two hard and one deadly encounter make up an Adventuring Day, analyzed here. You can then generalize advancement by number of adventuring days, keeping it at one for rapid advancement, or two or more days for slower advancement. You can also have it increase by Tier, such that one adventuring day is required to level at Tier 1, two at Tier 2 and so on. This sort of system is what I've been using since I started playing 5e.

## Rest

The amount of rests taken between encounters has a tremendous impact on encounter difficulty. In general, the DMG assumes the entire adventuring day before a long rest, with perhaps two or more short rests. In practice, I generally see many fewer encounters per day as a player.

As DM, I do try to use the guidelines, but I enforce them with the story - essentially, you can take short rests as often as you like, but you will run out of Hit Dice after two or three short rests, and then I require a "save haven" for a long rest. You're welcome to take them whenever you want, but you often have to retreat back to a safe area, like a town or nearby grove of allies.