XP for delayed looting

I run my game in a very West Marches style, with a goal of having the PCs back at their home base when each session ends and a group of players that varies from week to week. Players also will sometimes switch up which characters they’re playing. This works really well for us in general, especially during the summer, when people are likely to miss sessions due to being on vacation.

Separate from that, my players have a tendency to go out, get into a big fight, get beaten up, and then immediately return to town without stopping to look for treasure first, then return and loot the area after they’re fully healed, in order to avoid/minimize the risk of encountering hostile monsters or trapped treasures while they’re low on HP. This is also fine with me.

While each of these things works individually, they create an issue when combined, since the characters who were present in the “kill the monsters and take most of the risks for low XP” session may not be the same characters who are present for the “bring home the loot and get a ton of XP” session.

This hasn’t actually been a real problem so far, since the “fight, go home, return to loot” has only happened in the past with intelligent humanoids, some of whom escaped and were able to evacuate the area with their treasure while the PCs were recovering. (“Nope, there’s no loot here, but you do see some scrape marks in the dirt that look like chests being dragged away…”) Last session, however, they fought hippogriffs and left no survivors (not that I would expect hippogriffs to care enough about treasure for any survivors to take it with them anyhow), so any treasure will most likely still be there when they return.

The obvious answer, and the one which I believe to be most in keeping with both the letter and the spirit of the rules in most any “XP for gp” system is that whoever brings the loot home gets the XP for it and whether they were involved in fighting the former owner or not isn’t important. However, my players grew up playing CRPGs, 3e, Savage Worlds, and the like instead of B/X or AD&D, so I don’t really expect them to react well to that - I’ve already had one complain that “the one session I missed just had to be the one where the others finally found some treasure and got 1200 XP instead of the 100-200 that we’ve gotten every other time” and he wasn’t even involved in the process of securing that treasure.

How would/do you handle the question of awarding treasure XP in cases where one group of PCs clears out a lair without looting it, then a different group of PCs claims the treasure it in a later session?

(And, yes, I recognize that there are some definite problems here with divergent expectations: ACKS and I want to focus on exploration and looting with treasure as the major source of XP, while my players instead focus on combat and expect to get a ton of XP from killing stuff with treasure as an afterthought. I’ve already been working to clarify to them that the kind of game I’m running isn’t the same as the kind of game they’re expecting. But that’s not what I’m asking about.)

Aside from the obvious answer of “deal with it, that’s how it works”, an option would be to look to the structure of how all the players’ PCs know each other. If it’s some kind of amorphous adventuring guild, switch the unit of time from “An adventure” to “a charter”.

Basically, when everyone decides to go off and attack a hippogriff lair, they all sign on to a charter that declares their involvement, partnership, number of shares, etc. When the lair is “done” the charter is fulfilled and all those signed on get the share they agreed to, regardless of if they were there at the very end (as long as they’re still alive, of course). If you end up bringing new people along for the looting session, they negotiate joining the charter and become an additional share across which the loot and XP must be divided, or possibly just the loot if the players start abusing it to try and give combat XP to a woefully underleveled alt.

Jard’s idea is as good as any I can think of!

Alternatively, you can just have players choose one or more trusted allies to run their characters, so that even if Steve misses a session, Steveblade the Righteous is still in the party and able to fight and earn loot.

I like the charter idea.

Also, it sounds like you may be assuming the lair stays empty? If so, take a look at “Populating a Dungeon” in chapter 7, Campaigns. If the players are spending campaign time on healing and travel*, I’d use that procedure for the possibility of wandering monsters to stumble across the lair/cave/hippogriff nest/room-in-a-dungeon and set up shop. (And notice the doubled chance of lairing if they find unclaimed treasure equal or greater than their average Treasure Type!) The longer you’re away healing up, the more likely you’re going to have to fight something all over again when you come back.

*And if they’re not spending campaign time, they maybe should be. As an aside, I’m finally starting to wrap my brain around the old AD&D rule that real time = campaign time, so a week between sessions means a week of down time and living expenses for your characters. It helps to manage exactly this kind of thing.

Alternately - the GM awards xp, right? He happens to award it for gold recovered, yes, but the xp award doesn’t exactly track the share payment in at least one case already, i.e. henchmen. So I can see some rare cases, where the first party does all the work and the second party just goes out, finds a major treasure and hauls it home, where the second party splits the gold however they want, but you divide the gold xp by shares: one for each survivor of each expedition, cumulative. Players in on both make out, players only there for the second get a windfall by any measure, and players only there for the first still get something.

I’m not sure how often, or even if, I’d use that myself, but its an option.

Also, it sounds like you may be assuming the lair stays empty?

I’m not assuming that, but I think some/all of my players may be. If so, there’s an orc warband which I have a feeling will be disabusing them of that notion in the near future…

But I actually think the rules you mentioned make it a little too likely for lairs to be reinhabited, though. Using those rules on a single dungeon in a hilly area over the course of 2 months of game time, it seems that 2-3 new groups of monsters move in per month (space permitting, of course), even without any loot to draw them in. How are the PCs supposed to ever get past the first dungeon level if it gets occupied by new monsters every time they go back to town? Doubly so when they’re so frequently monsters substantially tougher than what typically shows up on a “dungeon level 1” encounter table…

I'm finally starting to wrap my brain around the old AD&D rule that real time = campaign time, so a week between sessions means a week of down time and living expenses for your characters. It helps to manage exactly this kind of thing.

I don’t feel the need to do the real time = game time thing. Aside from time for healing and bed rest, we’re doing low-level domain play and the dominant player seems to have taken the rule that you get bonus population growth if you’re actively adventuring at least once a month to mean “we only should go out once a month” and trying to avoid leaving town any more often than that so that the domain can grow more quickly (in real time). That same player’s character is also a master craftsman, so he wants lots of downtime to make his own gear. Other players are starting to push to spend less time sitting in town, though, so I expect that to improve soon.

On the other hand… maybe I should consider real time = game time anyhow, not to increase the flow of game time, but to limit it. “It’ll take you two months to build your workshop, so that’s two months of real time. You can’t just burn a session to sit in town for two months and have it done by the end of the night.”

This seems like the fairest way to me.