I am a very inexperienced DM. I have here what must be an obvious question, but I can't seem to find any solid clarification.

How is XP rewarded after a combat encounter? Is the total monsters' XP given to each player, divided between the players, awarded depending on which player killed each monster, or something else?

Or can anyone recommend discarding the XP system altogether and levelling up everyone when appropriate? If so, how exactly should that work?


6 Answers 6


According to the rules, the XP to be given to each player is the sum of the Monsters' XP, divided by the number of players. See the Dungeon Master's Guide page 120, under Earning XP:

Characters earn XP for every encounter they overcome. The XP reward for completing an encounter is the sum of the XP values for each monster, NPC, trap or hazard that makes up the encounter. You noted or assigned this number when you built the encounter, to judge its difficulty against your players. [...] Divide the XP total for the encounter by the number of players present to help overcome it, and that's how many XP each character gets.

That said, as long as everyone agrees on how to do it, then there is no wrong way to hand out XP. In fact, having players level up as a quest reward might promote a less "kill everything that moves"-style of play, if that is what you're looking for.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The only concern that exists for me with abandoning the XP system is making sure enough treasure is awarded between levels that your party does not fall behind in the red queen's race that is attack and defense stats. This can be alleviated, but it requires additional measures. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Apr 4, 2013 at 10:26
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle this problem stems from the two-axis powerlevel of characters; XP and Wealth. If you just give players the appropriate aount of loot before level up, it shouldn't matter much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Undreren
    Apr 4, 2013 at 11:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't DMed 3.5 yet, but under AD&D I tended to aware experience mostly for completing quests (or at least substantial subgoals in the quest). It reduced bookkeeping and emphasized problem solving rather than seeking out combat. It depends on your playstyle though. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 4, 2013 at 21:09

As written in DMG P41:

Experience Points: You can give characters XP at the end of every encounter, or wait until they take an extended rest, or wait until the end of the game session. Simply divide the XP total for the encounter by the number of characters present.

Please note, that you can give the XP rewards after the session as well.

About second part of your question - removing XP in general. I am actually doing this in my game too. I like it a lot more, story wise, that PCs grow in strength after reaching certain milestones in my game. This questions answer explains it in greater detail

Unrelated - my first answer here. It feels good to be contributing.


In D&D 4E the experience point system is extremely simple, but they can be confusing if your new to RPGs so I will clarify for you. I don't currently have the rule books so I can't quote things but I played 4E for 5 years.

The XP for an encounter is added up, then divided up into equal parts per player in your group.

Example: You have 5 players of 1st level so a standard encounter for their level would be 500XP, now we pick some monsters, we'll pick 3 kobold skirmishes (300XP) and two kobold slingers (200XP) for a grand total of 500 XP now your players come in to the room and defeat all the kobolds, since there are 5 players everyone would get 1/5 of the total XP for the encounter, so everyone would get 100XP.

If you have 3 players everyone would each get 1/3 of the total XP for the encounter, so in this case everyone would get 166XP if you have 3 players.

You can also just have your characters level up about every 10 encounters or so where a Hard encounter (2 levels above the party level) counts as two standard encounters and where two easy encounters count as one standard encounter.

This method works better if you don't really like keeping track of XP but you should talk to your players about which method they prefer, some players enjoy getting a reward after every encounter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If someone who actually has the rulebooks could add a page reference that would be great. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antonio
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:27

You total the monsters XP together. Then you divide it by how players there are. Similar to treasure division. Or if you wanna be cold hearted only reward XP to the person who killed it (evil laugh). Don't forget to scale the xp to their level.

I think it table on page 178 of the DM's Guide, if the monster is harder in anyway they have changes in the values. Such as being the boss, or fighting solo.

Side Note: I understand the whole new DM thing, I started with 3.5 last year, just be glad you are starting on 4. This site is alot of help though and I'm glad I found it last week.


In reference to the final part of your question about discarding the XP system entirely, that is very easy to do in 4E and works reasonably well.

The first observations to make are that by the core rules players all advance at the same rate (give of take various solutions to players missing sessions) and the game is balanced for players all at the same level.

With that in mind, advancement can be tuned to what ever rate makes your game most fun. Just be aware that encounters will need to scale as well. And because the game is balanced assuming item bonuses in line with what should have been acquired by a certain level, treasure and magic item rewards will also need to be accelerated or decelerated to keep in step with level gain.

For my campaign, I started awarding XP and loot by the book, but by the time the part hit about 5th level, couldn’t be bothered. We then spent about the next 10 levels advancing fairly slowly - perhaps 30h of play per level - as the game felt in its sweet spot, and then we massively accelerated. By the time the PCs hit level 30, we were probably doing no more than 4h of play per level as we just wanted to pound through to the end of the campaign.


Above has been mentioned the official way to award XP. The Dungeon master guides 1 and 2 also suggest awarding the players for out-of-the box play. In my campaign if somebody thinks of doing something unorthodox I will give them either a temporary skill bonus, or if the idea works then I will include an XP bonus to that single character.

By doing this I have not only improved the overall fun of the players in the party as we all laugh at the various uses of a grappling hook, but also get to find fun ways to be involved as a group.

While I may have diverted a bit from just discussing XP it is important to think of other things to award characters that will keep your player characters constantly trying to out-do everyone else.

I try to award one player with an XP bonus for the "move of the day". If someone uses a daily power to finish off a large number of creatures or describes in great detail how they crush their opponent.(usually no more than 50 xp)

one title awarded to a player per 5 encounters. (such as Dinrithor "The underminer" to a dwarf who spent nearly the entire encounter digging through a cave wall to avoid a magically trapped and locked door.)

one random item (I will point out objects in the room and describe one or two with more detail to attract their attention. It is funny how easy you can turn your heroes into packrats full of book collections that 'could possibly be worth a princely sum to an avid collector of the Herminger's herbolopedia series'

Let me know if any of this helps give you something to enhance your gameplay.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Remember to accept an answer (click the check mark to the left of it) if it properly answered your question. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2013 at 19:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! While your post is interesting, it doesn't answer the question. The asker is curious about combat encounters specifically. Please make your answer pertinent to the question and not just chatty. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Apr 6, 2013 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LitheOhm I resent your downvote, especially because he asked input on how to find alternate means of awarding XP, which is discussed. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2013 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your resentment is noted and disregarded? I still don't feel this answers the question. If you'd like to discuss this further then please join chat :) \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Apr 7, 2013 at 2:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .