It's a milestone. Get it?

3 Reasons to Use Milestone Leveling

Look, I’m not going to lie to you all. When other GMs and players used to talk about how much better milestone leveling was I rolled my eyes. I’ll stick with good old experience points, thank you very much! However, in the middle of my last campaign I started to get tired of tracking XP for every encounter. So I gave milestone leveling a try. And guess what? It turns out that I was wrong all along! Here are three reasons to use milestone leveling.

No More Murder Hoboes

Like feral cats, RPG characters present an ecological nightmare to experience based campaign worlds. In their quest for precious XP they will lay waste to any creature they fumblingly stumble upon. Bugbear out taking a stroll? Kill it. Slightly evil-looking informant? Kill them. Kindly old shopkeeper? Oh, they’re gonna die.

With milestone leveling the players no longer feel that pressure to decimate everything that they encounter. Knowing that their character will level up without having to reach some arbitrary number of kills lets the players focus on roleplaying. They may even start avoiding encounters that they know they can’t win and, gasp, retreating occasionally.

Planning for the Future

We all know that players exist solely to ruin your careful GM planning. When I design a campaign I like to work backward from the final objective and build the story that leads to that point. Part of this process is making sure that the characters will advance from yokels to bad-ass adventurers by the time they reach that end goal.

Milestone leveling makes this process much simpler. I no longer have to worry whether the players will hit all of their XP goals during each arc of the campaign. I can even adjust encounter difficulty on the fly without concern for how that will affect leveling down the road.

Math, Schmath

Do you know what the single best part of milestone leveling is? You don’t have to spend the last fifteen minutes of every game session adding up experience points for the night! No more furiously flipping through your notes counting up how many kobolds were killed. No more arguments about whether the wizard should get equal XP since they were unconscious most of the night.

The goal of every RPG should be to reduce the amount of math involved in the game. Milestone leveling achieves this goal. No matter how many enemies were killed or how many or how many princes were rescued at the appropriate point in the story everyone gains a level.

In conclusion, milestone leveling takes the cake. It simplifies things for the GM and the game. If you haven’t given this method a try I highly suggest that you open your mind to it. If I could be wrong about it maybe you could be too.





13 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Use Milestone Leveling”

  1. I completely agree with all of this and feel like my players don’t fully agree but as a DM it was the best choice I ever made.

    1. I can see why players like XP leveling more than milestone leveling; it gives them a number that they can shoot for. But, like everything else in RPGs I think explaining about milestone leveling before the campaign starts will help bring them around.

  2. Have you considered doing exp for non-combat situations to offset the milestone leveling and also offset only combat exp? I listened to a podcast recently that argued in their opinion why experience is much better vs milestones. I can link to it if interested to listen. I am researching and trying to build my own campaign and am doing research on how to best doing exp. I can see why milestones are great, but at the same time I dislike the idea of a specific place or an event determining when they level. I am trying to build interesting side quest opportunities in my campaign planning to give options for more exp but also really trying to think about how I can implement a system that can reward exp outside of combat. Perhaps if you can successfully navigate a dungeon without triggering traps or negotiate for something important.

    1. Also, I think it would be good to think of a way to do non-combat exp so it can make the players consider taking non-combat spells or skills to help in certain situations. Most players generally build their spells for combat overall, but if you can present situations that reward out of the box thinking, i think exp is a great reward (perhaps other things too).

  3. I fully agree that if you are going to use XP it needs to be awarded for more than just slaying monsters and finding treasure.Rewarding players for ocassionally using their brains instead of their swords is definitely something that all GMs should do. I could probably write a whole article about non-combat XP rewards.

  4. Overall I think there is only one difference between the two methods.

    At the end of the first scenario you want all 4 of your players to be level 2. (300 xp each)

    Milestone experience: Congratulations you have finished the first scenario all level up to 2.

    Xp award: You fought and killed those kobolds, you helped the villagers put out the fires and saved little billy from the well. You have earned 300 xp each.

    No difference at all, no need to break down what the monster gave in xp, no math apart from working out 1200/4 = 300.

    In milestone I just get the level, in XP award I earn it. Also I find throwing out 50 or 100 xp here or there for good roleplaying, making every one laugh, or a great idea good encouragement for it to happen more often.

    You were right before, now your just the worst!

  5. Gated leveling is easy on the GM/DM sure. But it takes away an aspect of what RPGs are about which is teamwork and creative thinking. If I never have to show up and level just cuz of a level gate thats pretty pathetic. The excuses for using the system are, in my opinion, due to game systems not rewarding anything other than killing. This is bad, and I maintain a house rule that allows for XP given for DEFEATING challenges not KILLING challenges.

    As for some players getting more XP than others etc., we’ll thats where teamwork comes into play. A good team will support the player and the GM/DM should offer that player chances to earn XP to catch up.

    I personally dont agree with the idea that everyone on the team has to be the same XP and / or balanced. This causes sterilization of classes and the game has NEVER been balanced so it just reinforces gimping. How about players play what they enjoy and not constantly compare themselves. Throwing numbers around at the table leads to this.

    I guess if you enjoy hack / slash and just want to hobo murder then gate it..nobody will care. But if you are into proper character development and story this should take a back seat.

  6. So I admittedly haven’t GM’d in a long, long time. But the last time I did we used a hybrid 3.5/Pathfinder and went from there. We never really “tracked XP” except to say, after an hour or three of play, we’d give ourselves levels and progression and so on.
    I’m also fairly whimiscal (>_>) so I’d grant a level to one player for an egregiously bad pun, or for being creative about a role-play solution. Vice-versa, sometimes the nutoplebas (a catoplebas with temp level-drain) might have to show up if things got too hairy. Almost never, though.

    I’m really more setting/RP focused though so I’ll just throw stuff at the players that matches their capacities then make them talk for a while.
    Levels just happen organically, like the two Balor encoutner. (<_<).

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