I realize that systems in games can be counter-intuitive. For example, one would think giving experience for killing monsters makes sense-- you become more knowledgeable at how to kill a troll by killing trolls etc. But what happens is that system of reward pushes players to fight things, even things they have no reason to fight, even things they should by all rights be running from. Eventually you have players "clearing out" dungeon levels, which would be craziness in a world where living was considered a valuable thing.
The old school way of using treasure as a general, abstract reward solves that problem-- see a troll, hell run, why should I risk my life fighting it, we already found its hoard. But it makes every player out to be a treasure hunter. I've got no problem with a campaign where that is understood, but I am interested in other possibilities. Here are some ideas that I and Mah-Kuss the now-wedded brainstormed:
If rewards push players toward certain actions, you want to find rewards to push them toward actions that would work with groups of adventurers risking dungeons. But the best solution would also allow players a little choice in the goals they want to pursue. So, how about these general categories:
- Plunderer - the standard Treasure Hunter
- Collector - an artifact hunter
- Scholar - a knowledge hunter
- Defender - protects others pursuing their goals.
- Adventurer - Glory/Faith Hunter
If we see the above as being a vertical example, horizontal could work as well. For example: giant rat is common, troll is uncommon, will o' the wisp is rare.
This three level reward could apply to all the categories above: common artifact an ancient sword; uncommon, a full suit of armor; rare, one-of-a-kind magic blade.
Defender might be a little different: common everyone comes back alive, uncommon no one takes a scratch on this adventure, rare no scratches and it was incredibly dangerous.
Adventurer is a different beast altogether. I was thinking of warriors doing things for the honor of it, or perhaps clerics doing it for the faith of it it. "It" being any of the above goals. And we realized this might be perfect for new characters, because they could receive multiple experience awards early on when surviving is so difficult. For example they might earn an XP award for finding treasure, an artifact, and getting everyone back alive. But then at some level they could be required to choose one of the other more specific focuses (so, Charlie, you're 3rd level now, what do you see your character wanting?).
This would be a way that players could have compatible goals that would give them reason to venture into dungeons/tombs together and yet not force them all to be tomb robbers. Your wizard player really likes the idea of finding spells, there you go: common, uncommon, rare. Your fighter is looking for better gear: common, uncommon, rare. Your player wants to pursue some other goal that can be reached by just raising money (house, clothes, good food), fine let her seek treasure the old fashioned way.
We envisioned a story emerging from these slightly different character goals. For example the party is down in a dungeon and coming back out. The Scholar sees what looks like a roper in the next chamber and desperately wants to investigate, the Collector has the Crown of Arpas and could cares less, the Defender is happy everyone is till healthy and strongly objects to investigating.
What do you think?