Although I’m a fan of how Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition uses xp budgets to build encounters, the system for handing out experience for character advancement is unfortunately broken. I describe the problem and offer a solution. I also discuss handing out xp for roleplaying and traps.
Episode 82 – To XP or Not to XP, Random Encounters & Should the Players Always Win?
Episode 84 – XP & Random Encounters Feedback
How Encounter-Based XP is Broken & My Proposed Solution
I think it’s interesting that in a recent AMA on Reddit, Mike Mearls said he doesn’t hand out xp, but just levels the PCs every other session.
Combat Encounters On-the-Fly
Here’s a gem from Mike Mearls from that same AMA. If he needs a quick fight for the PCs on-the-fly, he does the following:
If he wants multiple opponents, he throws no more than 3-5 monsters/NPCs at the party with a CR ½ or less of the party’s level. I think something to keep in mind here is economy of action (as far as deciding how many to use in the 3-5 range). Generally speaking, less NPCs than PCs will be an easier fight (although multiattack can alter this), and more NPCs than PCs will be a difficult, or even deadly, fight. It all comes down to how many actions each side has.
If he wants a single opponent, he uses one with a CR equal to or less than the party’s level.