Towards the end of last year, I began to think hard about how I wanted to award experience in Under the Dying Sun. When I left it, I had a lot of ideas, but nothing concrete. I've made a lot of progress on this though recently. Alert, imaginary readers no doubt picked up on this in my recent posting of some locales, such as the Ruined City of Thanjivar and the City of the Crocodile God, which included XP awards for visiting them. This idea was cheerfully stolen from Jeff Rients, who has entirely too many cool ideas and therefore won't miss it. I find the idea of giving experience for exploration just so mind-blowingly right that I can't believe it never occurred to me. And the idea is so expandable; after all, exploration need not be geographical. I love the idea of giving XP for reading ancient tomes, for instance.
So, here's the current draft of the Experiences Rules for Dying Sun. I expect that most will find their way into my more usual D&D games as well.
Characters earn experience somewhat differently in than in the Spellcraft & Swordplay core rules. There is comparatively little treasure to be garnered under the Dying Sun and victory in such a world is accounted for by living another day. In addition, character’s progress by visiting new places and expanding the boundaries of their rapidly contracting world.
Surviving in the Wilderness: 100 XP/day
Visiting A New Place: 100-1,000 XP depending upon difficulty and strangeness
Deciphering Artifacts: 100 XP base + additional 100 XP/difficulty modifier
Encountering a Monster for the 1st Time: 50 XP/Hit Die + 50 XP/special ability
Defeating Opponents: 100 XP/Hit Die + 100 XP/special ability
Defeating Sorcerous Item in Ego Struggle: 100 XP/item CHA
Mind-Altering Experience: 100-1,000 XP depending upon extent of alteration.
Surviving in the Wilderness is one of the key ideas of the setting - the struggle of Man vs. a brutal Nature.
Visiting A New Place relies on Referee fiat to determine how difficult the journey and strange the locale. A truly notable locale, such as the Ruined City of Thanjivar or Devil Lake are worth 1,000 XP. A new village never before seen is worth 100 XP. As the wording implies, this XP award can only come once, the first time the place is visited.
Encountering a Monster for the 1st Time reflects the strangeness that the word “monster” is supposed to imply. Unlike other iterations of the game, “monster” is not equivalent to “non-player character”.
Defeating Opponents is not restricted to killing them; any time the character denies the opponent his goal in a dangerous conflict, the experience is earned. Thus, knocking them out, getting them trapped, or cleverly avoiding them are all viable means of earning XP in all fight. But this award goes further: defeating an opponent in a duel of wits, foiling their plot to assassinate someone else, denying then the appointment of general are all examples of defeating an opponent.
The Referee will determine what constitutes a “dangerous conflict”, but essentially any contest in which substantial harm could accrue to the character or allies if he loses qualifies. For example, winning game of chess is not usually a dangerous conflict; however, if the character is playing a game of human chess in order to save his companions lives would count.
A final note: defeating an opponent should never be decided upon a simple die roll, but should, instead, involve some player choice. In the above-example of the chess game, if the player wins the game because the Referee lets him make an INT Throw to play better than his foe, no experience is earned. On the other hand, while combat is resolved through the process of rolling dice, it usually involves more than one throw and definitely involves choices on the player’s part as to strategy. That is an acceptable case of defeating an opponent.
Mind-Altering Experience is a catch-all category for anything that might change the character beyond than the previous categories. Reading a technical manual of the ancients, finding an army of cryogenically-preserve True Men, telepathically touching the Universal Mind, discovering the truth about the Grand Tyrant of Hajal - all of these would be candidates for experience awards.