After some thought, discussion with one of my players, and some good comments on my previous posts, (Thanks, guys!) it is time to begin tinkering with the experience system of AD&D.
First of all, I have to get this out of the way: any experience system I establish is going to be just as arbitrary as the one set down in the rules as written. You get experience for finding/stealing gold. Acquiring more money makes you a better magic-user or assassin or whatever. Combat makes you a better cleric. The DMG even acknowledges the relative absurdity of this system, but Ol' Man Gary does make a good point: a game about people who read spell books and pick pockets in the market square all day is kind of boring. With that being said...
I've heard a lot of good ideas so far, including these:
-More experience for gold. I like this idea because it eliminates the need for me to give away piles and piles of gold. Yes, I know I can tax, tithe, duty, etc. until they are broke, but clever players will circumvent this, and I don't want the entire campaign to become an adversarial contest wherein I am always trying to steal their Frosted Lucky Charms. Also,in AD&D there isn't a whole lot to buy... one cannot simply walk into Magic Sword Emporium and get a custom flaming troll bane longsword +2 and sink 30,000 gold into it. I'm currently considering how much to change it to... I'm thinking two or three at the moment.
-Experience awarded for money spent on carousing. This is an idea that has been making the blog rounds lately, and I'm in favor of it. It bleeds excess gold and it makes the characters seem more like the lovable mercenary scum that they essentially are. (I say that with the greatest of affection, by the by) One of my players called this a double dip, but I think that gold spent on carousing is gold that is not spent elsewhere, so fair play. I'm currently awarding 50% of gp value in bonus xp. It's not a lot, but it is a start.
-Experience awarded for slain monsters even if the party flees the encounter. We do learn from our failures. Typically, IIRC, running from an encounter nets zilch.
-Experience for gold spent in the pursuit of class related things. For instance, a cleric's donations to a temple, or a magic-user spending gold on magical research. I'm not entirely sure about this one...what would a druid do, for instance? The idea for this came from the party cleric, whose deity does not permit its priest to consume alcohol or drugs. (This preventing him from taking advantage of the carousing bonus) Really, this plus carousing just means that you can spend gold to gain xp, which is in fact a double dip. (Aside from the opportunity cost, but again, there isn't really that much to buy in AD&D, unless you're saving up for your 9th level stronghold)
Another approach I am considering is class based bonus awards a la AD&D2. I'm fiddling with the exact values. This is something I tried to do back when I played 3rd edition, but I could never come up with a system that didn't leave at least one player feeling like they got the shaft.
...of course, Brunomac commented that he mostly just gives experience according to whim, and one of my players suggested that I dispense with any formalized system and just ad hoc everything, but... I like everyone at my table to at least know that I do have some methodology for awarding experience. I consider myself a fair DM and I want all my players to feel that I'm treating everyone fairly. Fair is fair of course; when my players do something like split up in a cemetery full of ghouls (*cough*lastTuesdaycough*), I'm going to let the dice fall where they may. I digress...
I'm scribbling a table of possible class based awards in my notebook, and will post them when I've arrived at something I am satisfied with. Here's a very rough outline. Note that the values are not fixed yet:
*Fighters and Fighter Sub-classes: Fighters gain 10 xp per hit die worth of monsters bested in battle. The sub-classes gain 5 xp per hit die, but will have opportunity to gain xp from effective use of their special abilities. (Tracking, laying on of hands, etc.) Still working on sub-class specifics
*Thieves and Thief sub-classes: Double experience for gold obtained by plying their trade: thieves would get a double bonus for picking a locked chest or filching a gemstone. Assassins would get the bonus for payment from "services rendered," and so forth. More specific awards might be in order, particularly for spell casting for bards and use of special abilities by the various theifly types.
*Magic-Users and Illusionists: Experience for using spells in battle or to accomplish a goal: 100/xp per spell level used. Note that only spells cast with a specific purpose will net an award: casting detect magic on your room at the inn probably isn't going to net you anything. Experience will be awarded for devising a new spell or creating a magical item, but I won't worry about that until a character begins to near the level where this is possible.
*Clerics and Druids: Kind of stuck here. I was thinking about giving them the same spell casting bonuses as magic-users, plus perhaps a bonus related to the use of special abilities. (For turning undead, etc.)
Again, I stress that there is no realistic form of awarding experience. A magic-user gains experience for fighting in a combat where he doesn't cast a single spell. A holy man gets experience for bashing a bandit's face in with a warhammer. A "realistic" experience point system probably wouldn't leave much room for adventuring. If you wanted to look at it that way, a magic-user is probably going to get the most "experience" doing spell research, mixing potions, etc. An adventuring wizard might gain more survival experience and general worldliness, but a wizard who stays in the tower/lab is going to be a better spell caster. I'm not sure how I feel about experience for following the tenants of one's deity... that would definitely have to be examined on a deity-by-deity basis. Also, per my previous post on clerics, I think that such a system might discourage players from selecting what is already one of the classes that everyone seems reluctant to play.
I'll start playing around with the values and see if anything jumps out at me.