XP is Different

( ⇪ Adventuring Variants )

I use a few variants that intrinsically change the way XP is handled. Overall, this will create fewer headaches in the long run compared to the way the original XP rules worked.

Level-Independent XP Awards

In a nutshell: don’t use the original books to determine level progression XP. (UA 213)

This variant replaces Table 3–2: Experience and Level-Dependent Benefits (page 22 of the Player’s Handbook) as a way of easing the GM’s job of adventure design and the task of experience-point calculation at the end of an encounter.

Use Table: Hit Die Benefits to determine when characters gain new levels, rather than Table 3–2 in the Player’s Handbook. To advance to a new level beyond 20th, a character needs to gain double the amount of XP he needed to advance from two levels below his current level to one level below his current level.

Experienced players may be alarmed — the XP totals on Table: Hit Die Benefits big numbers. But XP awards per monster are commensurately larger as noted on Table: Experience Award below. Regardless of a character’s level relative to the rest of the party, he gets the same numerical XP award, so the math at the end of the night is a lot easier. Table 2–6 on page 38 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is no longer used. Monsters just have flat XP awards, which are divided up among the participants.

For example, a frost worm (Challenge Rating 12) is worth 19,000 XP. If four characters defeat it, they each earn 4,750 XP (19,000 divided by 4), regardless of their level.

It still takes thirteen encounters or so to attain a new level. There’s still an automatic catch-up feature for PCs who lag behind the rest of the group; that 4,750 XP for the frost worm represents 8% of the experience points required to attain 13th level, but 14% of the experience points required to reach 11th level.

Table: Experience Award gives the award for a typical monster of each CR, irrespective of character or party level. For monsters beyond CR 20, simply double the XP reward for a monster of that CR minus 2. For instance, a CR 22 monster is worth twice as much as a CR 20 monster, or 620,000 XP.

Crafting Magic Items

If you use this XP system, note that the XP costs paid by characters to create magic items will represent a much smaller fraction of their total XP, and thus creating magic items becomes much less “expensive” overall. If you believe this to be problematic for your campaign, consider increasing the XP cost for crafting magic items as detailed in Table: Magic Item XP Costs below.

XP Costs

Spells with an XP component also undergo a change in this variant, since the costs for those spells are set using the standard D&D experience point rules. Table: Spell XP Costs below gives a quick conversion to help calculate the XP costs for spells when using this XP variant. Simply multiply the normal XP cost by the multiplier given in the table to find the new XP cost for the spell. Use a similar formula to recalculate anything else that applies an XP cost. Divide the character’s level by 2 and treat it as if it were a spell level, using Table: Spell XP Costs to find the proper multiplier.

Table: Hit Die Benefits (assuming no LA)
Hit Die XP Feats Ability Score Increases
1st 0 1st
2nd 1,000
3rd 3,000 2nd
4th 6,000 1st
5th 10,000 3rd
6th 16,000
7th 24,000 4th
8th 36,000 2nd
9th 52,000 5th
10th 76,000
11th 110,000 6th
12th 160,000 3rd
13th 220,000 7th
14th 320,000
15th 440,000 8th
16th 640,000 4th
17th 890,000 9th
18th 1,300,000
19th 1,800,000 10th
20th 2,600,000 5th
Table: Experience Award (Single Monster)
Monster CR XP Award
1/8 37
1/6 50
1/4 75
1/3 100
1/2 150
1 300
2 600
3 900
4 1,200
5 1,800
6 2,400
7 3,600
8 4,800
9 7,200
10 9,600
11 14,000
12 19,000
13 29,000
14 38,000
15 58,000
16 77,000
17 120,000
18 150,000
19 230,000
20 310,000
GM’s Note: As per the Game Clock is Different section, every encounter should have a CR “budget” one step higher than would be typical for a party of that level. As per the Monster Challenge Ratings section of the Bell Curve Rolls variant, when encountering four or more of the same creature, reduce each creature’s CR by 1 step.
Table: Magic Item XP Costs
Market Price XP Multiplier
2,000 gp or less x1
2,001 gp to 20,000 gp x2
20,001 gp to 200,000 gp x4
200,001 gp or more x10
Table: Spell XP Costs
Spell Level XP Multiplier
1st-3rd x1
4th-6th x2
7th-8th x4
9th or higher x10

Slow Burn

Hyperion Voyages campaigns are meant to move along at a slower XP rate than normal and thus give out less XP for each encounter. This would normally be a huge problem for crafter-type characters, but the Craft Points system described below mitigates that concern.

Essentially, the amount of teamwork, synergy, effort, luck, and ingenuity that was displayed by the party during the encounter determines what percentage of the encounter’s normal XP award gets distributed to the party. If the players themselves give a rote, unimaginative, selfish, lazy, and routine treatment to the encounter, it will result in the party only getting a fraction of the encounter’s normal XP award. This scales between 50% and 100%. Naturally, stomping a combat encounter in the first round (a.k.a. “Rocket Tag”) will generally result in the party only gaining half of the normal XP award.

The Slow Burn method’s intention is to penalize bad behavior. If the players are being as good or effective as they think they can considering their inexperience with the game or setting, give the party 100% XP and give advice on how to be more effective. If you’re teaching the game to a new player, consider giving out a somewhat reduced party-wide XP percentage for a few sessions so that the party doesn’t hit level 2 too fast and gain even more complexity (which might frustrate a new player even more).

XP Bonus Pool

I award bonus XP to players based on clever ideas, roleplaying their characters especially well, and, frankly, entertaining the group.

If anyone particularly distinguishes themselves during an encounter (or in the time before an encounter), I put a checkmark (called an “awesome-mark”) by the character’s name on a sheet. When someone does something particularly inventive or interesting in any situation, they get a check mark, too. In the rare case where someone really obstructs play, I might erase a mark. I do not award awesome-marks for getting lucky on a damage roll or being the one to finish off a creature in battle.

At the end of an encounter (I always award XP by encounter), I count up the total amount of XP to be awarded, and I total up the number of marks by each person’s name. I multiply the total XP award by 75% and divide that out equally (assuming everything else about the encounter was equal). The other 25% of available XP goes into a bonus pool.

When I divvy out the XP in the bonus pool, I split it up proportionate to how many awesome-marks each person earned during that encounter. I try to always tell players why their characters got bonus XP. “Good job with that puzzle trap by the dungeon door,” or even, “Hey, great job roleplaying your character’s grouchiness when the high priest was healing everyone for free.”

If the campaign uses action points, players who distinguish themselves in a session recover action points. The person who won the most XP that session immediately recovers two action points (to a maximum of “5 + 1/2 ECL”). The runner-up recovers one action point. Action points are a minor but useful intangible award that enables objectively-awesome players (based on how much bonus XP they got) to use their action points more frequently. In the highly unlikely event that there are ties for a place, each person in the tie recovers one less action point than normal (so a tie for the runner-up means neither get any action points).

Craft Points

This is a copy of the original craft points system but with some exceptions. No one ever needs the “Craft Masterwork” feats. Treat the number of craft points that you earn from HD and feats as a “Craft Points Maximum”. Your number of craft points cannot exceed this number for any reason. Encounters can inspire your ability to craft. After every encounter, if something the party crafted played a significant role, everyone in the party that has an item creation feat will regain some craft points in compensation for lost XP from the Slow Burn method. Further, the primary creator of an item can trade in 2 craft points for 1 XP for the purposes of crafting. Remember that the XP Costs for magic items and spells can be more expensive than what’s listed in the normal rules.

GM’s Note: Craft points can reduce the time to craft, but cannot reduce the required number of Spellcraft or Psicraft checks (you roll all of the required checks at once).

XP is Different

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