Originally posted at : https://lastredoubt.substack.com/p/incentives-for-traveller
In my previous post on Pathfinder, I’d discussed how the emphasis of killing monsters for XP warped the game and took options off the table, and discussed a few advantages of XP for gold.
I’d also glossed over one of the more common complaints about “XP for Gold” - what about “achievements?” aren’t you just encouraging them to be murder hobos?
OK - I never claimed it was perfect. It absolutely doesn’t even try to account for nebulous things like “role playing” or “achievements.” Merchants building a trading empire will get absolutely zero advancement for doing so - though leading an expedition to clear out a stretch of wilderness to make it safe for a caravan may be rewarding. Aside: AD&D1ed doesn’t give you rules for markets and trading, ACKs makes it easy.
The thing is, any rule can be gamed. Any rule can have false positives and negatives. XP for gold reduces the opportunities for gaming the Game Master, while providing a clear cut standard that forces the characters to put their necks on the line to advance civilization or chaos, to go out into the wilderness and face the monsters.
But what about games without levels, like Traveller?
To put aside a common complaint, Traveller may not have levels, but it absolutely does have advancement.
Skills and stats
You can spend down time studying and training, and over the course of a year or few, acquire a new skill, or raise your education or strength. This takes time - and given the time scope involved, is maybe the strongest argument other than jump engine behavior for running Traveller as strict 1:1
The characters in Traveller, a game notorious for killing them off in creation, can also build an empire, merchant or literal. Sure, that will take more than a little luck, but getting jobs done involves going to interesting places. Success as a trader or mercenary means finding interesting things, and hopefully making money. Invest that in a ship, or whatever else, and carve out your own little world, without having to advance to some level to do so.
Travel, trading, building, survival, all involve money. And contacts. Adventurers that retire to a day job may make a living, but they are no longer truly player characters except in the most boring and pedantic sense. Adventurers that don’t get paid, or strike it rich, will starve. Those that do get rich, well, how about that private research station you always wanted, or the military outfit you always wanted to lead?
What stops real people in the real world from being a murder hobo? And historically, looting the bodies was a reward for the victor in any war or sack of a city. Not pretty, but it’s likely ever to be thus, even among the stars.
If one played D&D without levels, but instead hit up dungeons for fame, pulled off heists, ran from the law, carved a holding from the wilderness, researched arcane spells, built fantastical feats of engineering, and put down a zombie army, what would they need?
Money for weapons, henchmen, transportation, food, stone, exotic materials, and anything else to achieve those goals.
Would it truly matter if they got the gold by heisting a lair or killing the inhabitants first?
The point is, for its imperfections, XP for gold incentivizes gathering the resources needed to be more than just a wandering badass. You can be more than just a fighter or barbarian or crusader - you can be a conqueror, or a king.
There might even be an RPG system title in that concept.