View Full Version : What constitutes winning an encounter for XP purposes?

2011-04-09, 06:50 PM
How much, if any, XP should you give players when they "drive off" an enemy but do actually come close to killing or even defeating it?

The situation came up in the following scenario:

I had a situation where the players were invading the dungeon stronghold of an evil sorcerer. The sorcerer took a direct hand in the defense of the dungeon, and whenever the players engaged the dungeon's defenders the sorcerer would assist them. He did this by throwing out a few buffs on his minions, summoning reinforcements, or occasionally throwing out a few direct damage spells. After a few rounds of this (or sooner if he was directly threatened) the sorcerer would fall back to the next group of monsters in the dungeon and repeat.

Eventually the players had killed all of the sorcerer's minions and cornered him in his sanctum, where they engaged the sorcerer, now nearly empty of spell slots, directly. After a few rounds the sorcerer was dead and the dungeon was cleared.

Everyone was happy until I calculated XP. I gave the players XP for defeating the sorcerer as normal for an NPC of his level. However, the players insisted that as he had engaged them nearly a dozen times throughout the dungeon, each a separate encounter, they were entitled to XP for defeating him a dozen times. I told them they were being ridiculous, but they pointed out the section of the DMG that states you get XP for defeating or driving off a for rather than just killing it, and they had obviously driven the wizard off repeatedly.

I put my foot down and said no, and all my player's got mad at me and claimed I was screwing them out of their rightful rewards with rule 0, and there was bad blood all around.

How should I handle this situation in the future?
It could have played out even worse, I now realize, if I had, for example, had a much higher level opponent testing or toying with the players, or intentionally disguising his true strength as part of a deception, and they had demanded full XP for an opponent they had no chance of defeating on their own when he decided to spare them.

2011-04-09, 06:53 PM
That is silly, considering each time they faced the sorcerer prior to the final defeat he wasn't facing the at his full CR, rather being a supportbot for his minions.

Not to mention the fact that their final battle with him had him at greatly reduced power due to burning his spells earlier.

It might have helped if you just spread the sorcerer out over each individual encounter, trying to determine how much harder (if at all) he made each individual encounter due to his efforts.

2011-04-09, 07:16 PM
I'm inclined to agree with Sarco_Phage, but for a different reason. Each encounter with the sorcerer was part of the same sorcerer encounter, in addition to whatever minions they were facing at the time. I would slightly up the exp because the sorcerer was using better than average tactics (guerrilla warfare is brutal, even if it was a mild variety), but it's still one sorcerer encounter and a bunch of other encounters.

2011-04-09, 08:06 PM
You fell into that one. The DMG is very clear about it.

They also have a quite reasonable case. Normally in an encounter spellcaster foes are just gonna blow five or six spell slots before it ends.

Obvious solution, give the other encounters some sort of bonus. Not a full bonus, but some bonus to represent the fact that he was there, and give them the bonus for defeating him.

2011-04-09, 08:47 PM
Yes, the Sorceror's presence and casting of spells raised the CR of those other encounters. However the encounter with the Sorceror lasted across all of those encounters.

2011-04-09, 09:16 PM
Generally, if my players drive off an enemy and never see that enemy again (or don't see him/her until a later adventure), I give full XP for defeating the enemy.

If, however, they drive off the enemy and face him/her again, I give full XP for one of the encounters, and partial (10-50%, depending on how often they face the enemy and how hard it was each time) for all their other encounters. So far, I haven't had players have problems with it.

In your situation, I probably would have given 10% XP for each of the encounters prior to the final showdown (I'm assuming at least 5 encounters; if only two or three, it'd probably be more) and 80-90% XP for the final showdown (because the sorcerer was significantly weaker than he should have been).

2011-04-09, 10:30 PM
I would give them XP once. The encounters leading up to the big fight may have been higher CR due to his presence, but in the final encounter he was little more than commoner. Are they going to complain that they effectively got double XP for killing someone who was not a thread? Unlikely. The XP gained from that final fight (which was far over-CR'd) makes up for the XP they lost from all the other fights (which were minorly under-CR'd).

This is also why I prefer XP rewards for the adventure/session. You do XP for doing something meaningful, and don't get extra rewards for doing stuff stupidly (although you wouldn't want to put it that way to players).

2011-04-09, 10:44 PM
As far as the question itself, I would have also counted this as a single encounter as the sorcerer didn't have a chance to rest and regain spells, they didn't beat him over and over again they beat his minions over and over and beat him once.

As far as the rest, most of the time bitching of this sort (and any other sort) is actually a matter of the players perceived vs actual gain. They're not actually complaining because they want multiple XP for this guy, they're complaining because they don't think they've gotten what the adventure as a whole is worth. Look at the current amount of XP the party currently needs to level. The players are going to want to see a not insignificant chunk of this disposed of when they overcome a major plot point. I would in general say that any major encounter should move this mark about 5-10% and any major plot point should net between 20-60% (depending on how major)

If the players see enough XP to feel like they've made meaningful progress towards their next level they're much less likely to complain.

2011-04-09, 11:20 PM
I agree that the sorcerer's presence in the other encounters merits an increased reward, but I don't agree that they get full XP for his CR at each of his appearances. Besides, was he even worth his CR the last time they encountered (and killed) him?

2011-04-10, 12:49 AM
They defeated the sorcerer once, as well as his lot of allies. The combats with the allies were merely of the straight combat type, where the sorcerer was using clever hit and run tactics and exploiting a favorable advantage, up until the last fight. As such, a +1 or +2 to the CR of the sorcerer that takes the edge he had in the scenario into account should be fine.

On other notes, dropping formal combat XP entirely in favor of a system of leveling per certain number of sessions would have fixed the issue entirely.

2011-04-10, 01:56 AM
Depends on how influential he was in the fight. I'd say increase the CR of the highest creature by 1 or 2 for their reward

Weasel of Doom
2011-04-10, 05:21 AM
I think you made the right decision, the sorcerer made the early fights harder but the fight with him at the end was much easier because he had hardly any spell slots.

Stricly speaking they're probably right and each time he ran from them would count as winning an encounter against him but because he was running early the challenge was much lower and so the xp they'd get would be much lower as well. You'd then also have to reduce the xp they gained at the end because that wasn't much of a challenge due to his low spell slots. I would've done as you and just considered it one long encounter (probably a bit harder than his base challenge rating because he was using hit-and-run tactics and they couldn't focus on attacking him due to the mooks) just because it's simpler.

Generally I'd consider any time the pcs get an enemy to stop attacking them is winning but the xp award depends on the challenge. Making an enemy run away isn't as much of a challenge as killing them, in most cases, so it gets less xp. This also might not end the threat (if the pcs try to stop some goblin raiders then making them run away doesn't really deal with the problem because they can just regroup in a few days and continue raiding) so that's another reason for lower xp. Convincing the enemies to ally is often harder than killing them so it would get a little more xp and they then have the help of their former foes (because I'd like to encourage that sort of behaviour).

2011-04-10, 09:24 AM
I agree that the sorcerer's presence in the other encounters merits an increased reward, but I don't agree that they get full XP for his CR at each of his appearances. Besides, was he even worth his CR the last time they encountered (and killed) him?This is pretty much my thoughts on it.

Definitely not full exp for each so-called "encounter", but certainly some bonus that would total more than normal for sorcerer + separate mob groups.

In the more general sense, I would still award experience points for them hitting pre-set "retreat" points for the enemy, depending on degree of success, though probably not full experience points in most cases.