|Level image from Wikipedia
XP required by level:
- Recovering “a treasure”
- Defeating “a monster”
- Accomplishing “a deed”
Before the game starts, a rumor table could be populated with one or two of each type. The types of goals that the players pursue should be an indicator for what they are interested in (weight future rumors in that direction). The rumor table itself could be as diegetic or extradiegetic as desired (it could literally be a list of quests, or it could be communicated more diegetically via NPC conversations).
Does this mean that PCs get no XP for something like stumbling upon a treasure that they have not heard about before? Not really. Since the referee is completely in control of placement, she should have a master list or a method of randomly determining whether something constitutes a treasure of worth. The master list may or may not be completely exposed to the players. So it is perhaps possible to find a treasure prior to its rumor (in this case, you can assume character knowledge: “this looks to be the fabled blah of whatever”). This is structurally no less impartial than the traditional GP and HD XP value scheme.
- Players decide what the game is about through action (super agency!)
- No GP value calculations
- Exponential requirements = slowing advancement + continued incentive
- Ease of prep: rumors are tied to experience awards
- Engagement with setting through rumors rather than the more meta XP
How does this work with retainers? The player must divide XP between PCs and retainers, and retainers must always remain lower level than PCs. Thus, a player with a second level PC and a first level retainer must advance the PC to level three before the retainer may be advanced to level two. This maintains the “XP sponge” drawback of retainers while still providing the benefits of using retainers and not compromising the elegance of the unitary reward.
See this post on the LOZAS levelling system for part of the inspiration behind “the monster” as unit of measurement (though here the advancement is nonlinear).