Some time ago James Raggi posted an entry on awarding experience. I read it with pleasure, however I found myself disagreeing with some of his points. I've thought about this post for some time and here it is:
My own mandatory XP post!
As my game is coming closer, I'm asking myself, what should I award Xp for? Should I go with monster Xp only? Maybe I should preserve the old school Gp=Xp rule?
I came up with an analogy...
My starting point is: adventurers are in many ways like rock stars. They travel a lot, spend a lot of time away form their homes, have to cope with obstacles, addictions, etc. Their goal? Mostly to become rich or die trying (Paladins are like indie musicians. Their aim is to produce something good and they might succeed, but even if they are remembered, they do die in poverty).
Just like an a group of adventurers starts from killing kobolds and later proceeds to kill orks, ogres, trolls, and consecutively more dangerous monsters, a rock band starts from playing to just themselves, then moves to playing small gigs that no one gives a shit about, then they build up an audience, go on a world tour and hopefully play great shows to thousands of people. You get the idea.
Now let's look at a well established guitarist like Jimi Hendrix.
At some point of his career Hendrix secured a one million dollar record deal - a sum unheard of for that time. Did the sum of gold pieces he was offered reflect his talent, skill and experience as a musician? Perhaps, although as we can observe on MTV - skill, experience and quality are not mandatory to make money through making music.
In my opinion, the money that Hendrix got was just a result of his adventures - hard touring, playing for more and more people, being inventive, tackling obstacles like exploding amplifiers, racist freaks, plaster casters, and so on. He got the money because he was an amazing performer and a high level musician able to do things unheard of before (in other word it's the Xp=Gp and not the other way round).
On the other hand, the fact that he had a lot of money led him to more "adventures", many of them dangerous, like being kidnapped (or maybe even murdered).
All that is supposed to illustrate two things - why I will award gig...er... monster Xp and why rather than just use the simple Gp = Xp calculus, I will make my players use the table of Extended Carousing-Mishaps whenever they want to exchange their gold for experience.
On the other hand I think that players should be rewarded for good playing - both in game decision making/problem solving, as well as role playing. I also think, that they should be awarded every time they manage something extraordinary and one of a kind, like being the first to climb Mt. Everest, or win a duel with a famous duelist.
I know it's completely arbitrary and subjective, but I am convinced that Jimi, regardless of his level, did get Xp every time he unexpectedly burst into a great, face melting improvisation.