Here’s a topic which is touched on from time to time, but until recently I haven’t put much thought into. However it’s a subject which is always a source of debate and opinion. Teh question is, what do you do when a player doesn’t show up to the game? Now I’m talking about kicking him or her out of the group, but more from an experience standpoint, or magic item standpoint. For example, common logic, and even the game rules say that in order to get XP, you have to play through the encounter. Previous editions have clarified that being in an encounter qualifies as either “being a viable target”, or “participating in the encounter” which usually meant combat. In the 20ish years I’ve been DM’ing I’ve always kept players XP separate according to what they earned. That meant, first and foremost, that the player had to show up. Secondly it meant that the player had to be involved in the encounter where the XP was earned. So if Bob, decided to sleep at an inn, and Joe & Sue decided to go through the sewers and ended up fighting large rats, and Bob missed out on the XP.
This has always been a bit of extra book-keeping, but it also afforded me the ability to award XP for RP, and other intangibles. Like showing up on time if I felt that was an issue. (not to be a prude or anything, but I’ve seen XP handed out for buying the DM food before, so don’t judge me too harshly) Anyway, with 4E I’ve recently decided to try something a little different, and simply keep the entire party the same level, no matter who shows up, or who does what. It certainly has made bookkeeping simpler, but not by much really.
Now I know, that a player or two in my group will read this blog and think I’m posting about them directly, (particularly if they missed this last session) but the fact of the matter is, this new style of “lets all stay together” XP wise, is (I think) the exception to the rule. I’ve walked into many campaigns where I started at the lowest leve in the party, which in some cases has meant that some characters were 1-5 levels higher than I was. Previous editions XP tracks were weighted based upon the encounter and the level of the character. Ergo lower level characters would catch up to higher level ones over time. However in some unique cases, they could even leapfrog higher level characters too! (which was a glitch in the matrix).
As we know, 4E does not use this type of scaled XP. In fact I haven’t really seen any example where an encounter is worth more to a lower level character than a higher level character. This harkens back to older editions where Monsters and traps were worth a flat rate XP no matter what. This makes it pretty simple really, and I like that. There was nothing worse in certain editions than having to fight garbage mobs who were worth ZERO XP.
The only thing one has to worry about with 4E is that if a player misses too many sessions, they could really fall behind. So the question is, what do you do? Sometimes my party wants to “play their character for them”, but in this case to they deserve full XP? half XP? Plus this usually only applies to the big Fighter, or the Cleric, and seldom to the other characters, and I will scale the encounter to their number, but they usually insist they want the Fighter and the Cleric.
The second part of the question regards treasure. I am currently running the Scales of War saga for my players, and treasure has specific locations where treasure is handed out. Well, as luck would have it, I’ve been trying to hand out a specific treasure on more than one occasion, and the player to whom it was supposed to go too, doesn’t show up. So what would you do? The easy answer is to give it to the player even though they weren’t there. But in my opinion this isn’t earned, nor does it feel earned, and other players may resent it. The next easy answer is to hand it to them after the next fight. But again if the treasure was from a dragon and something you would expect from a dragon, and the next three encounters are all against goblins, and kobolds, and rat swarms, then it seems silly to toss out the really kick ass treasure from such panzy mobs.
At the moment I think I am leaning back toward doing separate XP tracks like I used to do. But I though I’d toss this out, and see what other people thought. How do you handle XP and treasure when your players go missing?