Oh, YouTube algorithm, why do you mock me? As suggested to me, I watched a video on agency vs railroading by the DM Lair, and it was nothing too special. Agency good, railroad bad. The next title had me intrigued, though, Milestone vs XP Leveling in D&D.
So I watched it. Obviously this guy has an opinion that he's expressing, and that's fine. He's welcome to do that. But I find it funny that he looks like he's maybe 5 to 10 years younger than me, so while he brags about being a DM since his high school days, I can brag about being a DM since his kindergarten days. Maybe even his diaper days. :D
Dick-measuring aside, he says he played some 2E in high school but mainly played 3E and 5E in his bio. I'm guessing so, from the way he talks of XP accumulation as only something that happened for combat or story awards, and "keeping players all at the same level" to make play easier. He has the BECMI boxes on his shelf behind him, but from the way he discusses XP, it seems pretty obvious that if he ever played them, he never DMed them.
Anyway, he mentions that there is one single benefit of calculating and accumulating XP, that being that it works as a metric for players to gauge their success each session, and that it gives players a feeling of satisfaction. [Arguably that's two benefits.]
For drawbacks, he mentions a tendency to encourage murderhobo style play, the tedious nature of calculations for non-combat XP from "appropriate roleplay," awarding XP for "good play" is the same as milestone XP anyway, and that awarding XP for "good play" favors players who are better at role play which is unfair.
So his criticisms of calculating and awarding XP so far are really only valid for versions of the game that only award XP for combat plus recommend "story" awards. So WotC versions of the game/Pathfinder. Any system that suggests awarding XP for treasure bypasses all of these complaints except maybe that doing the calculations can be tedious.
He has a few more complaints. One, if you don't "budget" XP, players won't be at the right level for the next adventure. Um, that's only a problem if you're running a railroad (something he said was bad in the other video I'd watched from him).
The last problem is that sometimes players forget to add the XP to their sheet. Um, again, if you're running old school D&D, that's the player's problem, not a DM problem. And not every character needs to be the same level. Oh, but if you're playing WotC D&D, I guess you need to match CRs with party levels and design adventures for a party of 4 PCs of level X, not a party of X to Y players of levels A to B. But I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, aren't I?
OK, so moving on to his discussion of milestone leveling.
The only disadvantage he mentions is that some players don't find it fun.
Advantages? Prevents murderhobo play. Awarding progress in the campaign (AKA the same as story awards just without the math). By telegraphing the action that will gain them their next level, players know what their goal is and can measure progress towards it. [Yes, action is highlighted to show that it's in singular not plural form...again coming right off his 'railroading is bad' video, this was interesting to say the least.] Players will not "goof around" exploring the world, they'll just head on their mission to complete the milestone.
Finally, he claims that it's just easier. And yes, he admits that he is basically running a railroad campaign and doesn't care.
Well, basically, with treasure as XP, it's the measure of success. We've all been talking about this for years, but there are a few other blog posts by others I've read the past week or so talking about it, then I saw this video. Gotta jump on the bandwagon, right?
Treasure for XP discourages murderhobo play. Why fight (and possibly die) if you can get the treasure another way?
Treasure shows progress in the campaign, and PCs always know what the objective is -- get more treasure! Sure, there are other objectives too, but loot accumulation is always part of it. And players can easily measure their progress by the amount of loot they're collecting.
Finally, I'll suggest that treasure for XP is easier than his super simple milestone system for the fact that you don't need to jump through hoops figuring out what the series of milestones are that will take the players up through the levels, or how many adventures they should have at each level, or any of that. Let the players pick their battles, and level up when they earn enough XP.
So he spent a lot of time in his video talking about it. I've spent plenty of time writing about it (and watched the video twice). And his argument really boils down to one thing:
He thinks it's easier to use milestones than to calculate XP. I'm sure he's right about that, but really, all the problems he lists aren't problems with an XP accumulation system, they're problems with the systems this guy has played.