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?


3 Answers 3


Total XP is divided amongst the players participating in the combat

The "Experience Points" section of the Dungeon Master's Guide says (p. 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 among 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 effect for NPCs that provided "substantial assistance" and are still rewarded XP accordingly if killed.

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

  • \$\begingroup\$ Should it work the same when it comes to non combat encounters? - For example: Party encounters trapped statue with mechanism that opens door to secret room with treasure. Only one player decides to investigate and eventually untrap and manipulate the statue to get to the reward without needing help from others who get to wait for him till he is done. It would make sense to give experience for removing trap and finding the room only to the chracter who went trough all the trouble to get it solved. Or am I wrong? \$\endgroup\$
    – pppddd
    Jan 3, 2015 at 3:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pppddd that's probably why the "substantial assistance" clause only applies to NPCs. Face it, in a "traditional" party, at most two of the four CAN help in a trap situation. I get that 5e isn't quite as hidebound in its roles for each party member and such, but really, if you can find a non-combat situation the entire party is near-equally proficient at handling, then your entire party is the same class. You shouldn't punish the Fighter for taking the class that's primarily useful in combat; the Rogue needs him up front to soak those hits so she can live long enough to reach the traps. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2015 at 7:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless the player is resurrected in a manner that includes loss of memory, I would say a contributing player whose character died during combat would get XP from any foes they contributed to defeating after they are resurrected. \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    Apr 4, 2018 at 16:37

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.

  • 3
    \$\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\$ Jan 25, 2018 at 10:11
  • 2
    \$\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, 2020 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wyrmwood after about level 4-5 the XP to level threshold has been equalized. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2021 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AntonioCiolino Nothing in the rules set "equalizes" XP. The increasing difference in XP-to-level will bring them closer together if they are vastly different to begin with, but they will never catch up without DM fiat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Jan 30, 2021 at 21:28

Every previous answer is correct from what I've been able to tell... still remember that if you are the DM you can make a separate call on those things.

For example, if an NPC did an extreme amount of damage and dies still that might deduct from the XP of the main players. Alternatively, if the battle takes a tough turn, but they somehow survive it with some amazing rolls you can award them bonus XP.

This is loosely discussed in the Dungeon Masters Guide and pertains mostly to making the game fun for the players... some feel rewarded by certain things more and less than others.

5e Rules discuss this on pages 4-6.

It's good to stick to the rules, but it's also exciting when the world begins to become unique and your own and crafted uniquely to the players.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to our stack! Please take the tour to learn more about how we operate and you can also visit the help center for more information. You'll also find this guidance on our answer support expectations helpful and you may want to consider adding support to your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 28, 2021 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: referring to "previous answers" - note that the default answer sorting is based on votes, so post rankings can change. In addition, answers should generally stand alone as an answer to the question. You may want to summarize what the other answers are saying is the answer to the question before you add additional commentary. As written, your answer seems to be more intended as a comment on other answers rather than an answer to the question itself; the answer doesn't really say anything new about whether encounter XP is split among the player characters, just other info about giving XP. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 28, 2021 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ In addition, you say: "Alternatively, if the battle takes a tough turn, but they somehow survive it with some amazing rolls you can award them bonus XP." - This is already addressed in the rules themselves, and other answers point this out already. NPCs that provide "substantial assistance" in a fight already get an equal share of the XP for the fight. (Also, you say "5e Rules discuss this on pages 4-6.", but it's not clear what this means - are you talking about the basic rules PDF? the PHB? the DMG?) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 28, 2021 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the opposite of a "warm welcome" everyone. I would expect nothing else from this community. I'll try and refrain from sharing what I've learned. \$\endgroup\$
    – jhawes
    Apr 30, 2021 at 18:44

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