Earning Experience in Darkness Moon Chronicles | World Anvil
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Earning Experience

Experience can be difficult to earn in any campaign. Some perfer earning experience through combat alone, while others like milestones. I, Amelia Nite, believe it is possible to earn both types of experience. In the Darkness Moon Chronicles, when you gain enough experience (XP) to level up, you level up right after the battle, NOT at the end of a session, chapter, etc. Resort to the Calculating Hit Points section of the House Rules article.   But leveling up via battle is not the only method. All PCs, NPCs, and BBEGs must also win political battles (i.e., speeches, balls, etc.), go through training (at this point, everyone training gets XP), and even knocking an opponent out cold and escaping can earn you XP (usually half the amount of XP you would normally get by killing your opponent). Depending on the situation, you get to earn XP in some format and any non-violent form of earning XP has a better chance of being rewarded.

Table of Contents

Experience Points Per Level
Level Experience Points (XP)
1 0
2 300
3 900
4 2,700
5 6,500
6 14,000
7 23,000
8 34,000
9 48,000
10 64,000
11 85,000
12 100,000
13 120,000
14 140,000
15 165,000
16 195,000
17 225,000
18 265,000
19 305,000
20 355,000

  Rewards for Leveling Up without Killing
1d6 Reward for not killing
1 A Single Spell connected to your class
(if your class can't learn a spell, reroll the die)
2 Spellbook
3 Animal Companion (0 - 1/2 CR)
4 Magick Ring
5 Magick Weapon
6 Magick Armor

Experience points (XP) fuel level advancement for player characters and are most often the reward for completing combat encounters.   Each monster has an XP value based on its challenge rating. When adventurers defeat one or more monsters-typically by killing, routing, or capturing them-they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves. If the party received substantial assistance from one or more NPCs, count those NPCs as party members when dividing up the XP. (Because the NPCs made the fight easier, individual characters receive fewer XP.)  

Absent Characters

Typically, adventurers earn experience only for encounters they participate in. If a player is absent for a session, the player's character misses out on the experience points.   Over time, you might end up with a level gap between the characters of players who never miss a session and characters belonging to players who are more sporadic in their attendance. Nothing is wrong with that. A gap of two or three levels between different characters in the same party isn't going to ruin the game for anyone.   Some KTs treat XP as a reward for participating in the game, and keeping up with the rest of the party is good incentive for players to attend as many sessions as possible.   As an alternative, give absent characters the same XP that the other characters earned each session, keeping the group at the same level. Few players will intentionally miss out on the fun of gaming just because they know they'll receive XP for it even if they don't show up.  

Noncombat Challenges

You decide whether to award experience to characters for overcoming challenges outside combat. If the adventurers complete a tense negotiation with a baron, forge a trade agreement with a clan of surly werewolves, or successfully navigate the Icywind Alps, you might decide that they deserve an XP reward.   As a starting point, use the rules for building combat encounters in to gauge the difficulty of the challenge. Then award the characters XP as if it had been a combat encounter of the same difficulty, but only if the encounter involved a meaningful risk of failure.  


You can also award XP when characters complete significant milestones. When preparing your adventure, designate certain events or challenges as milestones, as with the following examples:  
  • Accomplishing one in a series of goals necessary to complete the adventure.
  • Discovering a hidden location or piece of information relevant to the adventure.
  • Reaching an important destination.
  • When awarding XP, treat a major milestone as a hard encounter and a minor milestone as an easy encounter.
  If you want to reward your players for their progress through an adventure with something more than XPand treasure, give them additional small rewards at milestone points. Here are some examples:  
  • The adventurers gain the benefit of a short rest.
  • Characters can recover a Hit Die or a low-level spell slot.
  • Characters can regain the use of magic items that have had their limited uses expended.

Level Advancement without XP

You can do away with experience points entirely and control the rate of character advancement. Advance characters based on how many sessions they play, or when they accomplish significant story goals in the campaign. In either case, you tell the players when their characters gain a level.   This method of level advancement can be particularly helpful if your campaign doesn't include much combat, or includes so much combat that tracking XP becomes tiresome.  
Session-Based Advancement
A good rate of session-based advancement is to have characters reach 2nd level after the first session of play, 3rd level after another session, and 4th level after two more sessions. Then spend two or three sessions for each subsequent level. This rate mirrors the standard rate of advancement, assuming sessions are about four hours long.  
Story-Based Advancement
When you let the story of the campaign drive advancement, you award levels when adventurers accomplish significant goals in the campaign.  

Creating Encounters

Encounters are the individual scenes in the larger story of your adventure.   First and foremost, an encounter should be fun for the players. Second, it shouldn't be burden for you to run. Beyond that, a well-crafted encounter usually has a straightforward objective as well as some connection to the overarching story of your campaign, building on the encounters that precede it while foreshadowing encounters yet to come.   An encounter has one of three possible outcomes: the characters succeed, the characters partly succeed, or the characters fail. The encounter needs to account for all three possibilities, and the outcome needs to have consequences so that the players feel like their successes and failures matter.  

Character Objectives

When players don't know what they're supposed to do in a given encounter, anticipation and excitement can quickly turn to boredom and frustration. A transparent objective alleviates the risk of players losing interest.   For example, if the overall story of your adventure involves a quest to deliver a priceless relic to a remote monastery, each encounter along the way is an opportunity to introduce a smaller objective that moves the quest forward. Encounters during the trip might see the adventurers accosted by enemies determined to steal the relic, or by monsters that are constantly threatening the monastery.   Some players create their own objectives, which is to be expected and encouraged. It is, after all, as much the players' campaign as yours. For example, a character might try to bribe enemies rather than fight them, or chase after a fleeing enemy to see where it goes.   Players who ignore objectives will have to deal with the consequences, which is another important facet of encounter design.  
Sample Objectives
The following objectives can be used as foundations for encounters. Although these objectives focus on a single encounter during an adventure, using the same objective in multiple encounters allows you to combine those encounters into a larger obstacle or problem the adventurers must overcome.   Make Peace. The characters must convince two opposing groups (or their leaders) to end the conflict that embroils them. As a complication, the characters might have enemies on one or both of the opposing sides, or some other group or individual might be instigating the conflict to further its own ends.   Protect an NPC or Object. The characters must act as bodyguards or protect some object in their custody. As a complication, the NPC under the party's protection might be cursed, diseased, prone to panic attacks, too young or too old to fight, or apt to risk the lives of the adventurers through dubious decisions. The object the adventurers have sworn to protect might be sentient, cursed, or difficult to transport.   Retrieve an Object. The adventurers must gain possession of a specific object in the area of the encounter, preferably before combat finishes. As a complication, enemies might desire the object as much as the adventurers do, forcing both parties to fight for it.   Run a Gauntlet. The adventurers must pass through a dangerous area. This objective is similar to retrieving an object insofar as reaching the exit is a higher priority than killing opponents in the area. A time limit adds a complication, as does a decision point that might lead characters astray. Other complications include traps, hazards, and monsters.   Sneak In. The adventurers need to move through the encounter area without making their enemies aware of their presence. Complications might ensue if they are detected.   Stop a Ritual. The plots of evil cult leaders, malevolent warlocks, and powerful fiends often involve rituals that must be foiled. Characters engaged in stopping a ritual must typically fight their way through evil minions before attempting to disrupt the ritual's powerful magic. As a complication, the ritual might be close to completion when the characters arrive, imposing a time limit. Depending on the ritual, its completion might have immediate consequences as well.   Take Out a Single Target. The villain is surrounded by minions powerful enough to kill the adventurers. The characters can flee and hope to confront the villain another day, or they can try to fight their way through the minions to take out their target. As a complication, the minions might be innocent creatures under the villain's control. Killing the villain means breaking that control, but the adventurers must endure the minions' attacks until they do.  

Creating a Combat Encounter

When creating a combat encounter, let your imagination run wild and build something your players will enjoy. Once you have the details figured out, use this section to adjust the difficulty of the encounter.  
Combat Encounter Difficulty
There are four categories of encounter difficulty.   Easy. An easy encounter doesn't tax the characters' resources or put them in serious peril. They might lose a few hit points, but victory is pretty much guaranteed.   Medium. A medium encounter usually has one or two scary moments for the players, but the characters should emerge victorious with no casualties. One or more of them might need to use healing resources.   Hard. A hard encounter could go badly for the adventurers. Weaker characters might get taken out of the fight, and there's a slim chance that one or more characters might die.   Deadly. A deadly encounter could be lethal for one or more player characters. Survival often requires good tactics and quick thinking, and the party risks defeat.   Fighting XP Thresholds by Character Level
Character Level Easy Medium Hard Deadly
1st 25 50 75 100
2nd 50 100 150 200
3rd 75 150 225 400
4th 125 250 375 500
5th 250 500 750 1,100
6th 300 600 900 1,400
7th 350 750 1,100 1,700
8th 450 900 1,400 2,100
9th 550 1,100 1,600 2,400
10th 600 1,200 1,900 2,800
12th 800 1,600 2,400 3,600
12th 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,500
13th 1,100 2,200 3,400 5,100
14th 1,250 2,500 3,800 5,700
15th 1,400 2,800 4,300 6,400
16th 1,600 3,200 4,800 7,200
17th/td] 2,000 3,900 5,900 8,800
18th 2,100 4,200 6,300 9,500
19th 2,400 4,900 7,300 10,900
20th 2,800 5,700 8,500 12,700


Challenge Rating

When putting together an encounter or adventure, especially at lower levels, exercise caution when using monsters whose challenge rating is higher than the party's average level. Such a creature might deal enough damage with a single action to take out adventurers of a lower level. For example, an gargoyle has a challenge rating of 2, but it can kill a 1st-level warlock with a single blow.


In addition, some monsters have features that might be difficult or impossible for lower-level characters to overcome. For example, a rakshasa has a challenge rating of 13 and is immune to spells of 6th level and lower. Spellcasters of 12th level or lower have no spells higher than 6th level, meaning that they won't be able to affect the rakshasa with their magic, putting the adventurers at a serious disadvantage. Such an encounter would be significantly tougher for the party than the monster's challenge rating might suggest.


Evaluating Encounter Difficulty

Use the following method to gauge the difficulty of any combat encounter.  
  • Determine XP Thresholds. First, determine the experience point (XP) thresholds for each character in the party. The XP Thresholds by Character Level table below has four XP thresholds for each character level, one for each category of encounter difficulty. Use a character's level to determine his or her XP thresholds. Repeat this process for every character in the party.
  • Determine the Party's XP Threshold. For each category of encounter difficulty, add up the characters' XP thresholds. This determines the party's XP threshold. You'll end up with four totals, one for each category of encounter difficulty. Record the totals, because you can use them for every encounter in your adventure.

Example XP Threshold

If your party includes three 3rd-level characters and one 2nd-level character, the party's totaled XP thresholds would be as follows:

Easy 275 XP (75 + 75 + 75 + 50)
Medium 550 XP (150 + 150 + 150 + 100)
Hard 825 XP (225 + 225 + 225 + 150)
Deadly 1,400 XP (400 + 400 + 400 + 200)
  • Total the Monsters' XP. Add up the XP for all of the monsters in the encounter. Every monster has an XP value in its stat block.
  • Modify Total XP for Multiple Monsters. If the encounter includes more than one monster, apply a multiplier to the monsters' total XP. The more monsters there are, the more attack rolls you're making against the characters in a given round, and the more dangerous the encounter becomes. To correctly gauge an encounter's difficulty, multiply the total XP of all the monsters in the encounter by the value given in the Encounter Multipliers table.

Example Monster Multiplier

If an encounter includes four monsters worth a total of 500 XP, you would multiply the total XP of the monsters by 2, for an adjusted value of 1,000 XP.


This adjusted value is not what the monsters are worth in terms of XP; the adjusted value's only purpose is to help you accurately assess the encounter's difficulty.


When making this calculation, don't count any monsters whose challenge rating is significantly below the average challenge rating of the other monsters in the group unless you think the weak monsters significantly contribute to the difficulty of the encounter.


Encounter Multipliers

Number of Monsters Multiplier
1 x1
2 x1.5
3-6 x2
7-10 x2.5
11-14 x3
15+ x4
  • Compare XP. Compare the monsters' adjusted XP value to the party's XP thresholds. The threshold that equals the adjusted XP value determines the encounter's difficulty. If there's no match, use the closest threshold that is lower than the adjusted XP value.

Example Encounter Threshold

An encounter with one giant spider and three giant wasps has an adjusted XP value of 1,000, making it a hard encounter for a party of three 3rd-level characters and one 2nd-level character (which has a hard encounter threshold of 825 XP and a deadly encounter threshold of 1,400 XP).

Party Size
The preceding guidelines assume that you have a party consisting of three to five adventurers.   If the party contains fewer than three characters, apply the next highest multiplier on the Encounter Multipliers table. For example, apply a multiplier of 1.5 when the characters fight a single monster, and a multiplier of 5 for groups of fifteen or more monsters.   If the party contains six or more characters, use the next lowest multiplier on the table. Use a multiplier of 0.5 for a single monster.  
Multipart Encounters
Sometimes an encounter features multiple enemies that the party doesn't face all at once. For example, monsters might come at the party in waves.   For such encounters, treat each discrete part or wave as a separate encounter for the purpose of determining its difficulty.   A party can't benefit from a short rest between parts of a multipart encounter, so they won't be able to spend Hit Dice to regain hit points or recover any abilities that require a short rest to regain. As a rule, if the adjusted XP value for the monsters in a multipart encounter is higher than one-third of the party's expected XP total for the adventuring day (see "The Adventuring Day," below), the encounter is going to be tougher than the sum of its parts.

Cover image: by Amelia Nite (Canva)


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