At this point I am unclear as to how to handle encounter XP. Does each surviving party member receive a proportional share or the full amount?

That is, assume a 4-character party had completed an encounter worth 400 XP. Would each party member receive 100 XP or 400 XP?


Total XP is divided amongst the players participating in the combat

Dungeon Master's Guide (1st printing, pg. 260):

When adventurers defeat one or more monsters-typically by killing, routing, or capturing them-they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly amongst themselves. If the party received substantial assistance from one or more NPCs, count those NPCS as party members when dividing up the XP.

This rewards players based on the relative difficulty of the combat rather than the empirical size of the opposition. 10 goblins is more of a challenge to 4 players than to 10 players for instance, thus each player gets a larger piece of the XP. Otherwise an army of player characters could amass absurd XP from swarming a high CR monster and all benefit as if they had single handedly taken it down.

In terms of survival, the DMG never distinguishes between alive or dead combatants for XP division. Thus XP is divided amongst the living and dead with no differentiation. By nature of being a PC, players are considered as providing "substantial assistance" regardless of their actions (so long as they participate in the combat). Survival has no affect for NPCs that provided "substantial assistance" and are still rewarded XP accordingly if killed.

Thus, each player, in your example of four players, would receive 100XP in 400XP combat whether they survive to the end of combat or not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note, it's not just surviving characters that get a share, since the word 'surviving' was in the question. Characters that die also get their share of the exp posthumously. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Jan 2 '15 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Aviose Does a dead PC really count as having "defeated" anything? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 2 '15 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie They have given "substantial assistance" to the encounter and the defeat of the creature, if for no other reason than by absorbing a hit or two from a potentially (and apparently) lethal creature. They helped in the fight, and they learned something (although they will need resurrected to use that lesson). \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Jan 2 '15 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie The Wizard nukes the horde of orcs, leaving them each with 1 hit point. Promptly gets killed in retaliation. Then the party mops up. I'd say the party "received substantial assistance from" the wizard. He earned a share of the XP. He just didn't survive to make use of it. \$\endgroup\$ – Theo Brinkman Jan 2 '15 at 19:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Aviose The DMG only gives the "substantial assistance" clause to NPCs, so yes I would assume that is the case. Will edit \$\endgroup\$ – Zer0ah Jan 2 '15 at 19:15

Short answer: the total XP of all the bandits is the XP awarded to the whole group, which is then divided among them, so they should get 110 each, yes.

Longer answer: it's easy to get distracted by the fairly complex guidelines for estimating encounter difficulty that start on pg. 81 of the DMG, but your question is more oriented toward the much shorter section on pg. 260: Experience Points. There, the rules are basically:

  1. Add up all the XP values of the monsters defeated (not necessarily killed, but captured, run off, etc.)
  2. Divide that total evenly among party members (which includes any NPCs the group got "substantial assistance" from during the encounter).

That's it; the math for estimating difficulty is a lot more complex, with multiplying the "total" depending on how outnumbered the party is, and reducing that if they're five or more, but for awards, you just use the raw amount of the monsters, added together and divided between party members.

Things that aren't RAW that you'll sometimes find DMs doing might be:

  • Awarding the adjusted experience total for the encounter instead of just summing up from the individual monsters, so that the reward is scaled closer to the difficulty of the encounter as a whole
  • Giving lower-level characters a higher share of the XP when divvying it up, because they're theoretically at a greater risk during the encounter.

...but those aren't RAW, in case you hear differently.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Adding as a comment because it's specifically not part of an answer, but it's a pretty common house rule to count the adjusted total XP of an encounter (where you scale it up or down based on the number of characters and monsters), since it's supposed to reflect a degree of danger, but that's definitely not RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – Polisurgist Nov 7 '15 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ The answer is correct, but I think its also important to note that any NPCs that offer "substantial assistance" also share in the experience. DMG pg. 260 \$\endgroup\$ – Guy Nov 9 '15 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks; I'll add that into the answer (and do some page references). \$\endgroup\$ – Polisurgist Nov 10 '15 at 0:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re “Giving lower-level characters a higher share of the XP when divvying it up”, I think the increasing XP requirements for each level up already reflect that. \$\endgroup\$ – Will Crawford Jan 25 '18 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WillCrawford - except without that, they will never catch up. They will not be far behind, but will always be behind. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jan 10 at 21:37

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