As a new DM I'm wondering Is there's such a thing as noncombat experience? For example, can PCs gain xp from finding and disabling traps, discovering secret doors, or solving puzzles? What would be an appropriate amount of XP to award a level 1 PC were I to award XP for such events?


2 Answers 2


In the 5e DMG on page 261 there are

Noncombat Challenges

You use the DC required and the risk involved in lieu of CR as a guideline to the difficulty level, and then use the combat encounter guidelines to assign the exact amount of XP. The author recommends that XP only be awarded when there is a meaningful risk of failure. Note that risk does not have to mean loss of hit points or life. It could be a major complication to the current goal.


There is also the option on page 164 to assign XP when the characters reach various milestones. A Major milestone is the same as a hard encounter and a Minor milestone is an easy encounter.

While not mentioned, this system could be used for individual awards as a character achieves personal goals.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer could be improved to include the Unearthed Arcana Three-Pillar XP. It might not be "official" but it's a great starting point for XP awards that aren't "kill the beast!" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep! It's also worth noting that official adventures (at least the Starter Set campaign, Lost Mine of Phandelver) list the XP for each encounter (each set of enemies defeated/each scenario completed), with potential bonus XP for things like capturing a certain enemy alive. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 23:30

Traditionally, experience comes from encounters, not necessarily combat. Much like real life, if you get yourself into a very difficult encounter with something or someone, then however it ended, you will probably walk away with some experience.

In other words, your group could choose to have a strong role-play game, with less focus on combat but where there are still very high-stakes encounters (perhaps involving negotiation, diplomacy, deception, etc.).

Combat encounters do not necessarily imply a fight to the death either. Your game may emphasize a play style of "prevailing" rather than "killing." For example, rather than direct combat, if the party can sneak into the stronghold and poison the big baddy. Or they use disguises to sneak into town and steal the treasure. They would win the day and gain experience, without doing much flat-out fighting.


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