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I have played in multiple campaigns but in no way am I a seasoned Dungeoneer. In a couple of the campaigns we have earned what the DM would call "near death XP": when you fall to or near 0 hp, you earn XP after the session.

The current campaign is with a different DM. There was a mission that brought most of us to 0 hp and we were "bleeding out". After the session, when we gained XP I asked, "Do we get near death XP?" and the DM looked at me like I was crazy.

Is there anything in the rules that mentions the possibility of earning experience from nearly dying, or is it that just one DM's house rule?

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Characters gain XP by overcoming encounters. Just being near death is not sufficient.

Dungeon Master's Guide, page 120

Characters earn XP for every encounter they overcome. The XP reward for completing an encounter is the sum of the XP values for each monster, NPC, trap, or hazard that makes up the encounter.

What counts as overcoming an encounter? Killing, routing, or capturing the opponents in a combat encounter certainly counts. Meeting the success conditions of a skill challenge is overcoming it. Remember that an encounter, by definition, has a risk of failure. If that risk isn't present, it's not an encounter, and the characters don’t earn XP. If the characters accidentally trigger a trap as they make their way down a hallway, they don't get XP because it wasn't an encounter. If the trap constitutes an encounter or is part of an encounter, though, they do earn XP if they manage to disarm or destroy it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to add that there exists some narrow circumstance where that could work - if the characters wanted to get beat up and the enemies actively avoided it (I don't know how the latter part would work though) or if the enemies beat the characters up and then went on their merry way (in which case it could count as overcoming an encounter as the enemies are no longer an obstacle; somewhat like sneaking past an encounter but with more resources expended). \$\endgroup\$ – Urist McDorf Jan 23 '17 at 21:24

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