In DnD 3.5, the system by default only gives significant XP for killing things (monsters, vermin, shopkeepers, etc), which often leads to player characters becoming "murderhobos" in an effort to maximize rewards.

I have the 5e PHB, but it doesn't say much about how you get XP other than to point out the sample monsters are worth XP when killed.

Does the system address the murderhobo problem in any way? Do any of the design articles discuss this issue, as they have done for other classic issues?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Murderhobo has a history of being a loaded term that is used by many to criticize what many perceive the stereotypical playstyle of past edition. As with all stereotypes while it has some truth it is near useless in judging the specific of a situation or how a individual plays. I bring this up not to criticize its use but to remind people not to color their judgement when reading 5e adventure. In the two released adventure I noticed a liberal use of defeat and similar terms that I believe tells the referee (and players) that there are more options than killing. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:16

5 Answers 5


In Hoard of the Dragon Queen, the recently and first published adventure for the official D&D Tyranny of Dragons story line, it's says that you can either give out xp for killing monsters as well as the various xp given out for plot related tasks or you can use the optional 'milestone experience rule' which means characters go up a level after certain events (likely unrelated to killing things)

Character Advancement. At your option, you can use the milestone experience rule. Under this rule, you pick certain events in the campaign that cause the characters to level up. In Hoard of the Dragon Queeen, the characters gain a level after completing each episode except episode 5.

Other examples in the module say things like :

Rewards: Award standard XP for defeated foes. Aside from that, the chief reward for this mission is [SPOILER] itself. As long as [SPOILER] characters can use it... Each time they use [SPOILER] roll a d6, on a 1 or 2, [it is no longer SPOILER]


Rewards: Award standard xp for defeated foes. If using the milestone experience rules, characters reach level 6 after [SPOILER]


Rewards: The awards listed below are just recommendations; adjust them as you see fit. Characters might reach 4th level by the end of this episode, but it's not essential that they do.

  • If you are using the milestone experience rule, the characters reach 4th level.
  • For locating and disarming traps: 100 XP per trap.
  • For offering the [SPOILER] meat instead of fighting it to the death: 1,800XP ([Spoiler] standard XP value)
  • For each [SPOILER] destroyed or taken: 250XP
  • For destroying or taking only two [SPOILER]: 500XP

This assumes of course that you find the murderhobo style of swords and sorcery to be a problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this because it mentions the milestone experience rule and offers examples from a module that reward not-killing, which is basically what I was asking for. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the Milestone system is an OPTION in non-Adventurer league play - but in the Adventurer's League play, it's explicitly forbidden for use with HotDQ. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 4:59

Aside from the fallacy in the question, which I'll get to in a moment, No, it doesn't, because the problem isn't really a rules problem.

The thing is, the whole "Murderhoboes" problem isn't encoded in the rules - it's due to a common misinterpretation of the rules, and one that goes back all the way to AD&D 1E, coupled to a lack of mechanical resolution options.

There's no requirement to kill opponents to get the XP for defeating them. If you drive them off or negotiate them off, you still get the full XP for the encounter in almost every D&D rule set since 1978.

Even in Holmes, it's not just kill:

Experience points are awarded on the basis of treasure obtained and monsters killed or subdued. (Holmes, Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, ©1977, 1978, Page 11)


Monsters killed or overcome by magic or wits are worth experience points to be divided among the entire party." (ibid.)

D&D has always allowed for non-violent "overcoming" of monsters.

This hasn't changed in any edition since Holmes.

It explicitly hasn't been done away with in D&D Next Basic - from Basic DMG v0.1, p.5:

Experience Points
The number of experience points (XP) a monster is worth is based on its challenge rating. Typically, XP is awarded for defeating the monster, although the DM may also award XP for neutralizing the threat posed by the monster in some other manner.

The issue arises from it being easier to kill than capture by force (which is actually not unrealistic), and from no mechanical way to overcome by talk, excepting Comeliness 25+ characters in AD&D 1.5 (AD&D 1 + UA).

Essentially, the problem arises not from the rules, but from the nature of people... who tend to do what there are rules for doing more than what the GM has to invent or make wild judgements about.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem occurs in other RPG systems that don't even have experience points or character levels. \$\endgroup\$
    – bgvaughan
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 22:58

To answer this question, let's briefly examine murderhoboism. This is an affliction where players do nothing but wander around killing NPCs and taking their stuff. But muderhoboism is really about what players are not doing. They're not roleplaying, they're not getting involved in the plot, they're not becoming productive participants in the world the GM has established for them.

I'd argue that 5e takes a positive-feedback approach to the murderhobo problem. Rather than denying players XP for monster kills (which would be a sweeping departure from D&D tradition), it gives them incentives for roleplaying well. 5e gives all characters detailed character backgrounds that encourage you to think about your character's history in the world, complete with keepsakes from your past adventures. It encourages you to devise flaws and bonds during character creation that connect you with the world and the rest of the party. The rules for Inspiration provide DMs with an easy way to provide characters with mechanical benefits for good roleplaying.

So rather than punishing players for playing D&D "the wrong way", the new edition gently guides them into the Path of Roleplaying by encouraging good behavior. I think that's a good approach to take; murderhobos wouldn't adopt a system which did otherwise.


Not really. And at this point it certainly does it less well than 4e did. However, we only have Basic, so it may improve as we see the DMG.

The number of experience points (XP) a monster is worth is based on its challenge rating. Typically, XP is awarded for defeating the monster, although the DM may also award XP for neutralizing the threat posed by the monster in some other manner. (BD&D DM book p5)

This is in marked contrast to 4e's description which used the verbiage "overcome" and took a more nuanced approach describing it in several paragraphs to talk about what "overcoming" a challenge means (Though to be honest, 90% of the time, 4e, like 3.5 devolves into muder hobodom, so how meaningful this section is should be up for debate).

So while 5e leaves room for 4e's nuance, it seems clear that it's default mode is muderhobo.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Notice that currently the DMBasic rules are only rules about monsters, and don't give you rules about running games in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 12:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm having a hard time understanding the nuanced difference between "overcome" and "defeat" overcome is part of the definition of defeat, and defeat is part of the definition of overcome. :( \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob if you stealth your way past an encounter, you've overcome it, but not necessarily defeated it. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ That would be neutralizing the threat in some other manner. I'm not seeing the distinction you're making. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 6:25

In the D&D Starter Set the included adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelver, explicitly includes XP for completing significant tasks. Also includes the award of XP for resolving a encounter rather just for outright killing.

from Page 24 of the Lost Mine of Phandelver

Divide 450 XP equally among the characters if the party defeats the nothic or negotiates a truce with it.

My opinion is that the award for killing monsters is only a part of a larger system of awarding XP. This is based on reading the various Legend Lord articles on what yet to come the recently released D&D 5e Basic DM Guidelines, and two adventures that been released so far.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are also several spots in the Lost Mine adventure where you only get XP for killing the monsters. Don't have it with me, but I found it jarring. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle, note the liberal use of the word defeat instead of killing. For example the party gets 150 XP for defeating the Skeletons in room 4 (The Crypts) on Page 22. It doesn't say kill but defeaut. If the party was of evil alignment and seized control of the skeletons that is a defeat as much as the Paladin and Cleric of Life smashing them to bits. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RSConley A more lighthearted campaign with more intelligent undead could even have the players negotiate with the skeletons, perhaps provide a supply of Skinny Larry's Bone Polish in exchange for safe passage. (Though that would likely require a combination of bluff/intimidate and diplomacy in order to convince the skeletons that they are better off not trying to kill the players for the polish.) \$\endgroup\$
    – JAB
    Commented Apr 7, 2016 at 17:35

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