I have begun experimenting with a little old school style gaming with my weekly Pathfinder game. First of all, the campaign is set in the Forgotten Realms in the year 1368 DR, basically the AD&D Second Edition era. Second, the factor that is a true experiment is that I am handing out experience points for gold pieces. That's right folks, I am putting my campaign into the way-back machine and giving one experience point for each gold point worth of loot the PCs manage to pick up. Extreme? Maybe, but we'll see how it goes.
I am doing this because I feel that one of the things lost in recent editions is the encouragement to explore and to find non-combat related means of resolving issues. True, the GM has some leeway in how XP is handed out, and can reward the type of game play the campaign encourages, but often this is a rather fuzzy metric and not clearly defined in the rules, or at the table. BY giving the PCs a definite bonus that they know ahead of time, they can calculate the risks and rewards better when deciding their character's actions.
There are a few issues that are apparent with this experimental XP award system. First, there is already a built in reward for finding treasure, and that ties directly into the magic item economy inherent in Pathfinder. Since we are playing in the Forgotten Realms, magic item shops are rare, but still present in a few cities. In effect, the characters are getting rewarded twice for loot, once as XP and a second time as what that loot can purchase (or in the case of found magical items, once for the GP/ XP value of the item and once for its utility). This is Ok, as what I am trying to do is encourage exploration and, for lack of a better word, 'lateral thinking'. Finding ways around the problems brought about by the plot that are not tied to the 'kill them and take their stuff' mentality. Another issue is that this increases the amount of XP a party receives, but this can be compensated for by using the slow progression column on the level table.
If you get more XP, and thus faster level progression and thus more cool powers by looting than by killing, it changes the game play. Caution becomes more important than simply charging in and attacking. Stealth and good planning replace amount of damage dealt per round as the primary means of success. Finally, since the set up for the campaign is work as caravan guards, and the PCs are allowed to do some trading of their own on the side, this double reward means that attention paid to the mercantile side of the campaign gains greater importance.