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I am planning a small scenario where the PCs must travel down a narrow corridor to reach the enemy at the other end. The enemy raises skeletons along the corridor, as a moving, attacking barrier.

I would like to reward the PCs based on how fast they take down the enemy, not how many skeletons they destroy. I am unsure how to structure this given they will, rightfully, expect XP for defeating the skeletons. How could I structure the XP rewards in this kind of scenario?

I am running D&D 3.5 in this case, hand waving the component costs of the caster in order to create a puzzle/trap as part of a story component.

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Summoned monsters are part of the summoner's CR and XP award, and don't give XP. Make it very clear that the summoner can keep doing this for a while and they should get the point. Then use a story award to give bonus exp for a fast kill, especially if you find a way to hint at that in-world (or just plain state it at the table).

For animated creatures and other permanent creations, a general guideline I go by personally is that if the creator didn't become less powerful in the encounter by making them, the players should get XP for them. So undead created anywhere between "yesterday" and "a million years ago" should give XP, because the necromancer is at full power AND has skeleton backup when the players face him. If he created the undead that morning, though, he's missing spell slots he could have been using to oppose the players. It's even worse if he's summoning/creating/animating them right there during the encounter - he's not only spending spells to get them, he's spending actions, in a system where action economy is a Pretty Big Deal. Count those skeletons as part of the necromancer's class abilities, not separate monsters that deserve their own XP awards.

Inspired by other answers or comments: I previously mentioned story awards, but they work even better with something else to attach them to instead of being for just winning fast. Depending on the tone of your game, the necromancer could have anything from undisturbed bodies to kidnapped children he's using to make these skeletons. Award XP for each one that goes undisturbed/is rescued instead of an XP award for "winning the fight in three rounds". Give the players a noticeable time limit, so that the enemy will escape if the skeletons hold them off long enough. There's dramatic gold to be mined here.

Side note: It doesn't directly answer the question, since you specifically ask about XP rewards, but if your necromancer is actually spamming Animate Dead every turn, he's throwing away tons of valuable gemstone. Maybe track how much he has so the PCs also get more loot if they kill him sooner? In 3.5e, it costs 25gp worth of onyx per HD of the animated creature, and he can animate twice his level in HD per turn, and his level has to be at least 7th to get that spell. 7x2x25 gives us 350gp in gems he's burning per turn, assuming he's the minimum level to cast the spell. I'm guessing you're handwaving some of that, but still, the material component reward might be significant, too.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Raised skeletons are not summoned creatures in most editions, and are worth experience points. That being said, making it clear that the encounter is a puzzle isn't a bad idea. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Aug 22 '14 at 5:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ If your answer has to include phrases like "in most editions," where "most" might not include the querent's situation, it's probably best to wait for clarification before answering. This looks like a good answer if it applies to the question, though. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 22 '14 at 5:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, I've never played 1st (I'm assuming it exists, but I've never seen it) and very barely touched 4th, that was a clarification of my personal inexperience with every DnD system. As far as GMJoe's comment, if he's making them right there as the PCs are fighting him, he's using a class feature rather than having additional monsters support him. As a DM, I'd skin it as summoning them so he's not throwing away thousands of gp of onyx during the encounter, and just fluff it as animating them. (Technically, "raise" is never the right terminology here.) \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Aug 22 '14 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like that, the image of the necromancer grabbing a gem from a pile, dropping into a brazier and watching it go up in smoke would drive most PC's in a frenzy of avarice induced creativity. \$\endgroup\$ – Nat Aug 23 '14 at 6:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ It does sound like these are summoned skeletons. This corridor would have to be an incredible boneyard for this to be actually raising them. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 23 '14 at 15:38
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A few ideas:

  • Make it clear that it's the same skeletons raising over and over again (there are glowing little runes etched all over the bones), or alternatively, the same Evil Spirits possessing a new pile of bones every time (so when the skeleton "dies", you see the spirit float out and go back to the necromancer so he can be put in a new body, pacman style); the players should reasonably expect that they don't get extra XP for killing the same thing over and over again.

  • A time limit: the necromancer is at the end of the corridor, and is making his escape in a way that the characters can expect to catch him if they're fast enough; for example, he's doing in incantation in some kind of circle that will teleport away; a magic check will determine what he's doing and how much time is left (and possibly what might distract him)

  • Exponential skeleton growth, such that if the players don't solve the source quickly they'll be dead meat (sounds risky).

  • Different time limit: the players are in hot pursuit of the villain who has the princess (or the ring or the treasure or whatnot) and need to catch up fast.

  • Another time limit: the Necromancer is busily destroying a bookshelf full of valuable magic books (to cover his traces and/or make sure they don't fall in the wrong hands, or even as a cost for his ongoing skeleton schtick), the sooner the players stop him, the more loot they get.

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Personally, I would use multipliers to determine it. So if the amount of XP for the skeletons is equal to X, multiply that by Y (say 5) and then subtract 1 from the multiplier for each unit of time that passes.

i.e. Skeleton XP200 Multiplier 5 -1/round.

Round 1 win: 1000XP (if all skeletons are defeated). Round 2 win: 800XP

etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Please take a look at the tour and the help center; they're a useful introduction to the site. Could you make the reasoning behind this idea clearer? Why would you do it this way? Have you seen this done successfully in the past? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 22 '14 at 5:19

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