Experience is the key to power, enabling you to discover new abilities and reach higher peaks of strength. But you don't gain experience by staying in your comfort zone—the only way to grow is to push beyond your limits and brave the dangers of the world.
With Active XP, you don't gain experience for simply killing monsters—instead, you gain experience by being active in one of three fields of adventure: discovery, recovery, and adversity.
- Discovery: Explore the world, meet new people, and uncover secrets—hidden dungeons, ancient cults, legendary monsters. The more valuable and rare your discovery, the more experience you gain.
Recovery: Recover treasure and valuables from uncivilized, monstrous, or abandoned areas—gemstones from an ancient tomb, a dragon's hoard, a hidden chest of jewels.
You gain 10 XP per gold piece (1 XP per silver piece) of recovered treasure, making this the most efficient means of gaining experience.
- Adversity: Face danger and survive perilous situations—recover from near death, challenge a red dragon, defeat a horde of orcs. The bigger the danger, the bigger your experience—if you can survive.
Leave your comfort zone behind, go adventuring in the dangerous wilds, and get into trouble—take risks, overcome challenges, and reap the rewards.
With Active XP, don't use the standard 5e leveling table—instead, use the Character Advancement table listed below. This details the amount of experience a character needs to gain per level before they can level up.
Once you've gained experience points, you can spend them to level up. If you are using the Training rules in your game, spend the experience after you have completed your training time.
Valiant, a level 1 cleric, returns to Darrowmore with 250 XP and a rare, golden goblet worth 10 GP. He donates the goblet to his church and gains 100 XP.
Now at 350 XP, Valiant has enough experience to level up. After a week of training, he spends 300 XP to ascend to level 2—leaving 50 XP remaining.
The GM is responsible for awarding XP to players. These guides will help you to determine the amount of XP a character should be awarded for their in-game actions.
Discovery & Adversity XP
Discovery and adversity rewards depend on two main factors: the Challenge Level of the area, and the Relative Difficulty experienced by the party. Follow the three steps below to determine the XP reward.
Step 1. Challenge Level (CL)
First, you must decide the Challenge Level—this is the minimum level characters are expected to be in this particular area or adventure. A higher CL implies more dangerous monsters, traps, and challenges.
Most civilized areas—villages, towns, cities—will be CL0. It's no challenge to live in a sanctuary.
The Challenge Level should be straightforward to determine for the GM—base it on the average level of the adventure or current area being explored.
Step 2. Relative Difficulty (RD)
Next, choose the Relative Difficulty—this describes how dangerous or difficult the event was for the party. Did they lose precious resources, or barely break a sweat?
A challenge is more rewarding the harder it is to overcome—trivial encounters are not rewarding at all.
|Trivial||x 0||The PCs were far overpowered|
|Easy||x 0.5||The task was no trouble at all|
|Normal||x 1||The task proved to be a minor inconvenience or obstacle|
|Hard||x 2||The party lost some precious resources and had a hard time|
|Extreme||x 4||The party lost nearly all their resources, or someone died|
|Insane||x 8||The PCs were underpowered and survived against all odds|
When choosing the Relative Difficulty, refer to the number of resources the party spent in the process. Hit points, hit dice, spell slots, valuable items, wealth—the more resources lost, the higher the relative difficulty.
Step 3. Calculate XP
Once you know the Challenge Level and the Relative Difficulty, you can calculate the experience gained as:
Character XP: Challenge Level x Relative Difficulty
Party XP: Character XP x Party Size
To demonstrate this in action, first we can see Chansi use her lockpicking skills to avoid a dangerous fight.
Chansi is currently exploring the Vault of Sorrow, an area designed for level 3 characters. To hide from a patrol of skeletons, she quietly unpicks a locked door and slips out of sight—avoiding a dangerous fight.
The GM decides to award her some adversity XP for the effort. As the CL is 3 (6 XP) and the lock was of normal (x1) difficulty, Chansi receives 6 XP.
Next, Valiant and Clanda discover the entrance to a secret dungeon they have long been searching for—the Shattered Underhall—and barely manage to survive a battle against its dangerous guardians.
In the Nightless Forest, a dangerous area for level 5 characters, Valiant and Clanda finally uncover a long-hidden entrance to the Shattered Underhall.
The GM awards some discovery XP. As the CL is 5 (12 XP) and they had a hard (x2) time finding the entrance, Valiant and Clanda each receive 24 XP.
Later, deep within the Underhall, Valiant and Clanda fight a near-fatal battle against its guardians—the Court of Lies. Though victorious, they spent many resources and almost died in the process.
The GM awards some adversity XP for the battle. The Shattered Underhall is CL 5 (12 XP) and they nearly died fighting an extreme (x4) battle against the Court, so Valiant and Clanda each receive 48 XP.
Characters gain experience by recovering lost treasures and bringing them back to civilization, gaining 10 XP per gp of treasure—precious gems, priceless art, rare jewelry.
The amount of treasure found on an adventure—be it in a dungeon, a dragons horde, or a vampire's vault—depends on two factors: the Challenge Level of the area, and the Threat Rating of the treasure's guardians.
Step 1. Challenge Level (CL)
First, determine the Challenge Level of the area—this establishes the base amount of treasure (for one player) that should be found throughout the adventure.
The higher the CL, the bigger the danger—but the more treasure you are likely to find.
Step 2. Threat Rating (TR)
Next, determine the Threat Rating of the treasure's guardians. If there's no threat, there's no treasure—someone else will have looted it long before you arrive.
|None||x 0||A handful of weak opponents|
|Low||x 0.5||A band of badly organized foes|
|Average||x 1||A small force with one or more notable leaders|
|High||x 2||A well-armed force with several tiers of leadership|
|Extreme||x 4||A large force with formidable strength and influence|
|Legendary||x 8||A legendary monster such as a dragon, a beholder, or a lich.|
You'll need to find and face the biggest threats if you want to recover the rarest treasures—so be bold.
Step 3. Calculate Treasure
Once you know the Challenge Level and Threat Rating, you can calculate the amount of treasure to be recovered throughout the adventure:
Treasure: Challenge Level x Threat Rating
Hoard: Individual Treasure x Party Size
To demonstrate this in action, below we see an outline for a 1st-level adventure—the Tomb of the Bone Prince.
The GM is building an adventure for level 1 characters, with a CL of 1 (7 gp) and an average (x1) threat rating—which means that characters should each find around 7 gp of treasure in the adventure (not including any random silver or gold).
The GM scatters the treasure across 7 encounters:
- Encounter: The Bone Sentinels.
- Encounter: The False Prince. Rewards a 1 gp treasure per person (some carved bone dice).
- Challenge: A secret passageway to the undertomb.
- Encounter: Madrigor, the Blind Cleric. Rewards a 1 gp treasure per person (a golden chalice).
- Challenge: A collapsing ceiling and a locked door.
- Encounter: The Bone Prince and his Retinue.
- Encounter: The Amalgam King. Rewards a treasure hoard worth 5 gp per person (well-cut rubies).
Here, we see Valiant and Chansi return to town from a recent adventure with some recovered treasure in hand.
After a brief expedition into the Rat's Nest, Chansi returns to Darrowmore carrying a jade figurine she reckons is worth 12 gp. She sells it to a local collector, exchanging the figurine for 12 gp and 120 XP.
Valiant also found some treasure—a rare book of holy scripture worth 12 gp. He donates the book to his local church, gaining 0 gp and 120 XP.
The experience gained from any treasure returned to civilization is split equally across everyone who helped obtain it—including helpers, followers, and henchmen.
Stealing or hiding treasure from the rest of the party doesn't grant you any additional XP—once you exchange it for XP, everyone gets an equal cut.
While the group wasn't looking, Clanda palmed an extra ruby from the treasure pile. On returning to town, she sells it to gain 7 gp and 70 XP. Clanda keeps the gold but shares the XP with the rest of the party.