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XP or Milestone Advancement? Which one and why?

By DMJustJace

Got any more of those Experience Points? Oh, those juicy, delicious XP, the craving of all players looking to level up! ☺ As DMs, we all like to reward our players for accomplishments and defeating foes; however finding a balance is somewhat of a challenge. Combat XP is easy to calculate. Each monster has an XP value based on its challenge rating. When adventurers defeat these monsters, they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves. If anything like my game groups, this mechanism will turn yours into the fabled murder hobos so oftenly spoke of. Milestone XP provides a chance for the DM to set goals for the party and use the narrative or number of sessions as a factor. It tends to alleviate the blood thirsty party issue (mostly☺) and can ensure the party is leveling up together consistently but does have its fair share of veteran detractors. This week in the DMR it was asked:

 “Do you use milestone XP or monster XP mechanism and why? As a new DM I am struggling to decide and would like to seek some advice here.” - Leung H.

Let’s read what members of Dungeon Master Resources had to say about it:

Richard D.
“I use milestones because I find it better for the narrative experience.”
Christopher R.
“I manually calculate monster xp, quest reward xp, bonus xp for impressive feats or roleplay.
Absent players only receive 30% of a session's average xp gained.
New players or guest stars come in at 80% of the exp of the highest level player.
I like manual calculations because it allows me to reward players who are more active and present. Players knowing they get bonuses for strong rp, clever tactics, etc encourages engagement.”
Michael P.
“Milestone. I know my players. If I assign every living (or not) thing an XP amount, they'd be running around killing everything they can shake a shortsword at.”
Charlie L.
“I use both, depending on the group. Newer players get milestones. My more seasoned vets really want to track XP.”
David S.
“I use milestones because I often assemble encounters on the fly for combat, social, and exploration. I also don’t abide by the adventuring day of 6-8 encounters.
I haven’t found clear guidelines for rewarding XP given how I run things.
XP however is good if you more closely follow the standard rules and do more advanced prep. It gives the players a more incremental feeling of progress for their level.”
William P.
“XP. So actions matter, party feels rewarded, and earning levels isn't just a participation trophy.”

Owen H.
“I played & DMed with XP for decades, dating back to AD&D (yes I'm ancient lol). But I switched to milestone a few years ago and haven't looked back. As busy as I am with family life and work, anything that can simplify my work as a DM is a plus. Also, I like being easily able to tie level advancement to key points in the story and important accomplishments by the players.”

Jared T.
“Giving XP for individual combat encounters makes the players want to spend time hunting everything in a forest for the sole purpose leveling up instead of playing through the game.”

Amazing insights from veterans and beginners alike. While it seems Milestone is the favoured method of level advancement, truly it is up to you to find your balance and enjoy the game. The full thread can be read here: Until next time, happy gaming!

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