It happened to me - the decision to give experience for sites, not monsters, in the 52 Pages rules never came about in my own games. I kept on with a version of the 100xp/ hit die rule from the oldest version of the D&D, the one that has worked well and given a decent rate of advancement of the last four years of play (together with xp for treasure, carousing and occasional story awards for momentous acts that deliver none of these) .
You could argue that writing a rule you don't play reflects a failure of playtesting; in my case, more like a mistrust of playtesting. Why deviate from something that works? Experience, and a look at the AD&D DMG, gives two main reasons.
1. Misguided realism. The driving force of blogs and heartbreakers - the need to install a system that more accurately models some process. These fail for a number of reasons.
- The GM finds it hard to use the rule on the fly. See AD&D grappling and any number of "Rulemaster" procedures.
- The rule makes the game more difficult and less transparent for the players. Many rules that give combat options have this fault. Tactics shift to knowing which attack option or power move to use at which time, rather than common-sense ideas based on movement and positioning.
- The rule takes away focus from the main action of the game. In 52 Pages I found that recording where on your body you kept each piece of equipment, although consequential for play, was not appropriate to an adventure game. Encumbrance is just fine as a list-based "you're carrying too much stuff" consideration.
- The rule misunderstands the way the players want to interact with the setting. If you want nasty element like disease or sexism in the game, it's better to present examples in the game (plague-ridden towns to be avoided, female NPCs having a hard time) rather than mechanically restricting or punishing the players with random disease chances or gender limits.
|There are other ways to save the peasants.|
2. Misguided control. This kind of rule tries to use carrots and sticks to motivate player behavior, but ...
- To encourage something that players do anyway (like giving benefit points for roleplaying).
- To discourage something that really isn't a problem (like players killing monsters "just for the experience points")
- To discourage something that really should be handled by better campaign management or interpersonal skills (like player misbehavior towards others, or characters gaining excesses of treasure from the system.)
My experience points rule fell into the latter category. It treated my players like cow-killing, rat-farming murderhobos when they really weren't --and when in any case there were easy fixes available, like awarding xp only for hostile attackers and awarding less xp for "overkill" of much weaker foes. More on that next time.
The advantage of having experience come from concrete achievements rather than abstract geographical goals? It's adaptable to using other people's adventures -- I don't have to go through Temple of the Iron God or Castle of the Mad Archmage putting little stars in key rooms. It also feels less arbitrary to give out experience through things that exist in their own right. The only feature I would consider adding would be to give some kind of reward for bypassing traps, and that is easily enough figured - say, 50 xp for each 4 points of average damage, with more for unavoidable or lethal designs.
So next time I'll explain the one innovation that I used in coming up with my new experience rule, to deal with a specific problem implementing it. Will it be destined for the dustheap? Let's see ...