How to split up experience with a party of differing levels?

As a sort of continuation to this question, how should experience be distributed in a party of varying levels?

In the basic rules for creating an encounter, it poses the scenario of 1 bugbear and 3 hobgoblins. The base experience granted for this is 500xp. Add a mutiplier of x2 because there is between 3 and 6 monsters, gives this encounter a difficulty of 1000xp.

Let the party be made up of 4 characters, level 5, 4, 3, and 2.

The experience thresholds for this party are:

• Easy: (250 + 125 + 75 + 50) = 450
• Medium: (500 + 250 + 150 + 100) = 1000
• Hard: (750 + 375 + 225 + 150) = 1500
• Deadly: (1100 + 500 + 400 + 200) = 2200

This places this encounter right at Medium difficulty. However, the bugbear, being a base 200xp monster, is deadly for the level 2 character in the party, and the 3 total hobgoblins are an easy encounter for the level 5.

If we apply the multiplier to these base numbers, then the single bugbead becomes a Deadly encounter for the level 2 and 3, and the 3 hobgoblins just squeeze past as a Medium encounter for the level 5.

With this in mind, the characters (assuming a let's kill everything in sight mindset) would likely split up to take on the challenges. It's probably not smart for the level 2 to go straight for the bug bear, as even a basic attack with it's morning star (avg. 11) would cripple the character. So, the higher level characters would likely focus on the bugbear, and the lower on the hobgoblins.

Assume now that they are successful in killing everything. Some bruises here and there, but overall everyone is okay. From the previously mentioned question, all characters should receive 125xp from the encounter (500 base xp / 4 characters).

Is there any rule that determines that the experience should be split up differently? Since the combat was more difficult for the level 2 and 3 characters than the 4 and 5? What if the gap was wider? Say a level 10, 9, 8, and 3, but the level 3 character never had a chance to attack, because the previous 3 characters essentially disintegrated whatever was there.

• Don't forget about Encounter Multipliers in your example. An encounter with 3-6 creatures (According to Page 82 of the DMG) has a 2x experience multiplier. – D. Sorrim Dec 16 '15 at 1:24
• its a 2x experience multiplier for calculating the difficulty of the encounter, but it doesn't modify the reward experience. – ohmusama Dec 18 '15 at 3:23

Divide XP evenly.

The level spread you're describing is pretty big; I generally don't have my players at widely different levels because of the survivability issue. New PCs get to come in at the average party level. I definitely wouldn't ever have the 10, 9, 8, 3 spread you describe.

However, if you're in this situation, note two things:

1. The fight is harder for lower-level players, because it's far riskier, and
2. The XP counts more for them, as it's a larger fraction of what they need for their next level. 125 XP is not much for the level 5 character, but it's about 1/5 of what the level 2 character needs to reach level 3.

Give the low-level characters credit for surviving, and the high-level characters credit for keeping them safe. Split the XP evenly.

In cases where players attend sporadically, I still keep everyone at the same XP total. I either run their PC or have their PC do something "off screen" that earns equivalent XP to whatever the attending PCs are doing. I'm not interested in punishing players for poor attendance.

• If you continue to do this, the gap between the characters will shrink to a negligible amount. I see this as a very good thing. – Derek Stucki Dec 15 '15 at 23:03
• @DerekStucki is right, but it may take several levels... which is why I advocate skipping those levels of mismatch and just keeping everyone even. – Gregory Avery-Weir Dec 15 '15 at 23:38
• How does this work with casual players that might not come every week, but rather once a month? For example, a core group weekly, a few every other week, and a few more once a month – user23647 Dec 16 '15 at 0:02
• @Zymus If you want answers to tackle that point, you must put it in the question (use the edit button), not in a comment. Thanks! – SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '15 at 1:17
• @MrLemon If that is the intent, yes. I get the impression that it's more "really just split it evenly? But doesn't that not work for casual players?" I get the sense it's a disbelief of the answer expressed as a question, rather than a stand-alone question. (But if it's standalone, yes, a new question would be best!) – SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '15 at 15:10

You can always follow the rules (DMG p.260) (what a radical idea!):

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.

Split the XP evenly. The XP requirements for each character level are scaled so that each XP point is worth more to a lower level character than a higher level character. This is designed this way to provide exactly the effect you are looking to achieve.

My perspective is they can have distinctive experience by a little range if 10 - 200 experience is sensible gathering passes a test one player comes up short he ought not get the same experience for coming up short however here ought to still level inside of the same session as other people battle experience ought to be split uniformly yet test ought to be a blend of gathering and individual if one player just shakes it they ought to be compensated if on player fizzles they ought to have that reflected in there prize still remunerated for living through it. Only a player getting caught in a collapse while the rest escape then save him they ought to be above him marginally not definitely perhaps a distinction of 10 or 15 encounter yet allow them to make it up.

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