As we eagerly await the release of the updated version of revised 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons in 2024, it’s an opportune time to re-examine some of the core systems that make our beloved TTRPG tick. One such system that often sparks debate among players and Dungeon Masters alike is the method of character advancement. In light of the recent surge in views on my previous articles discussing the benefits of using experience points (XP) in D&D, I thought it would be valuable to delve deeper into this topic and explore how XP-based advancement can enhance your gaming experience.

I’ve seen a big increase in traffic to my two previous articles on how Experience Matters in DnD, and the Zen of Awarding Non-Combat Experience. So I thought it was worth updating and revisting my thoughts on the topic.

Image of a DM looking anxious.
Let go of the anxiety and embrace XP

The Case for XP

Using XP as a means of character progression offers several unique advantages that can greatly improve your D&D campaign. First and foremost, XP creates a tangible connection between the characters’ actions and their growth. Every monster slain, puzzle solved, and social encounter navigated rewards the characters with XP, reinforcing the idea that their choices and accomplishments have a direct impact on their development. This sense of agency can be incredibly satisfying for players, as they witness their characters become more powerful and skilled as a result of their own efforts.

Furthermore, XP-based advancement allows for a more organic and flexible pacing of the game. Rather than adhering to a rigid narrative structure, XP enables the story to unfold at a pace that feels natural and responsive to the players’ actions. Generally, XP based advancement moves a bit slower than other forms. I consider this a good thing because some games level so fast, players never have an opportunity to get use to their new abilities before advancing. In particular, 5e D&D can become an entirely different game as characters level up. So if your sweet spot is lower level play, or you just want to linger a bit more to tell the kinds of stories that fit into that tier of play, you’re out of luck with other forms of advancement.

Particularly for newer players, having XP directly related to thier character actions is a soft way of promoting active gameplay. This has the added benefit of incresaing player agency from the start, as players learn that choices and action are the heard of the game. Though, as I point out in the next section, DMs should be careful not to create the impression that combat is the only way to earn XP.

Awarding XP for Non-Combat Encounters

One common misconception about XP-based advancement is that it solely rewards combat encounters. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As I discussed in my article “The Zen of Awarding XP for Non-Combat Encounters,” there are numerous ways to grant XP for a wide variety of in-game accomplishments. Here are a few examples:

  1. Roleplaying Encounters: Assign difficulty ratings to significant roleplaying encounters based on the stakes involved and the potential for world-altering consequences. The higher the difficulty, the more XP awarded.

  2. Exploration and Discovery: Reward players for uncovering hidden locations, solving intricate puzzles, or obtaining valuable information. The XP granted should reflect the complexity and importance of the discovery.

  3. Skill Challenges: Design multi-step challenges that require players to utilize a variety of skills to overcome obstacles. Successful completion of these challenges should yield XP proportional to the difficulty and creativity involved.

By diversifying the sources of XP, you encourage players to engage with the game world in meaningful ways beyond just combat, fostering a more immersive and well-rounded roleplaying experience.

A Log of Memories

One often overlooked benefit of tracking XP is the creation of a de facto campaign journal. By noting down the sources of XP, you inadvertently document the major events and turning points of your game. This record can serve as a nostalgic reminder of the party’s shared adventures, allowing players to look back on their journey with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

For an alternative take on how to award experience in your D&D Game, check out these articles but other bloggers.


As we stand on the cusp of a new era in D&D, it’s crucial to recognize the enduring value of XP-based advancement. By connecting character growth to the players’ actions and providing a flexible framework for pacing and rewards, XP can greatly enhance the immersion, engagement, and overall enjoyment of your D&D campaign. So, as you prepare for the exciting changes that lie ahead, consider giving XP a chance to breathe new life into your gaming experience.