At the end of last week, amid some very fine dialogue about awarding experience, with arousing arguments and counterarguments, I was led to do some thinking about the reactions I'd received. I felt that I could organize those replying into three categories:
1) Those interested in trying the system who want more information about the particulars
2) Those not interested in trying the system who nevertheless feel curious about the system's methodology in solving experience problems
3) Those who feel the system is stupid
It would be nice if everyone answering a post would assign a number to the beginning of their comment. In that case, I could be certain if my answering the individual's question was likely to change their mind, or only inspire a further series of purposeless bear-baiting or self-satisfied condescension. But then, group 3 has nothing to gain in declaring themselves, and group 1 is very definitely clear in the way they describe their own interests.
So really its only a question of telling group 2 from group 3.
Let's take an example. The last question (as of writing this) that I received on the experience question was offered by shlominus: "... any [sic] xp for a character that sneaks into a stronghold and grabs some loot, evading any guards/traps on the way?" The full text can be found here (comment #20).
The question sounds legitimate. But there's a certain tone to the way it's asked that says to me: "No matter how you answer this question, it is not going to make any difference in the commenter's head." Now, that tone may be unintended. Several commenter's in the past have argued that I've misconstrued their intent. I don't wish to do that to shlominus. And the grammatical structure of the question does make room for my misunderstanding him.
Still, I think shlominus is going to run his (her?) game however he flippin' pleases, whatever my experience system. I feel deeply that if he were the sort of person who could change his mind about the one written in the book, or the thirty or forty other systems that are out there, he could pretty much answer his own question to his own satisfaction without my help. No one else has rushed forward to answer him (as of yet), so I think the others who comment on my blog have already decided that shlominus is a done deal.
And yet ... that damn question is there, taunting me: "Answer me, Alexis. You know you want to."
Such is the world of blogging. There are those who don't find themselves in this position because they never publish anything the least bit controversial. Or, alternately, the controversy that arises is about something that someone else did somewhere else, so none of those inventing the reason for the debate are actually present in the conversation.
I, on the other hand, appear to be struggling to tear down the established fabric of D&D one rule at a time - and there are those who stalwartly defend their sacredly held rules dogma to the last shred of rationale. So arguments start here ... with the difference that the actual originator of the thought that is challenging everyone's perception IS here - and he's a spitting, nasty, inconsiderate, condescending bastard. Except - and this is where a lot of people are really going to have trouble - I'm actually not.
Everyone has their best times, and their worst. If your neighbor got up daily, exited his side door in his skivvies and peed on your door stoop before heading back inside for his breakfast, you'd be pissed too. You'd be angry, you'd threaten, you'd cease listening to him and you'd misconstrue most of what he said. There might be some logical reason why he was doing it ... but chances are you wouldn't jump to logic as your first conclusion.
I tackle these questions I should just leave alone because, to me, it is like someone pissing on my stoop. It will dry, the rain or the hose will wash it clean, and I don't eat food off my stoop anyway. But it angers me. I'm not advancing someone else's ideas, which I have less stake in. I am passionately arguing my own ideas, my personal thoughts. This makes me much more volatile than a lot of others who really have no ideas to advance. And I am particularly volatile to those who seem to think having ideas is a bad idea. That, in fact, is a habit I picked up from before I began to play D&D ... when as a boy I demanded answers from my teachers, and not the word 'because.'
Shlominus, the answer to your question is this: it is only a 'risk' before the fact. If, after the fact, nothing actually happened to you, then no risk occurred. However, IF you had to roll dice in order to succeed, and if those dice indicated that you did succeed, then the rolling of the dice occurs produces the same circumstances as combat - and therefore, yes, you would get experience.
On the other hand, if you entered the house, and never actually had to roll a single die in order to achieve your purpose, then no, there was never any actual risk at all. The risk, one might say, was all in your head - and sorry, we don't reward paranoia.
For those who don't feel that rolling dice to achieve success at a thieves' ability is a combat roll, I wonder what you think is the fundamental difference between a saving throw (where a die is rolled to determine achievement) and a thieving ability. Really, when you get right down to it, "hide in shadows" is really nothing more than a saving throw against someone else's action - that is, seeing. I realize that seeing is a lot less volatile, most of the time, than breathing fire, but substantially both acts are, well, "acts" ... just as are paralyzing, petrifying, frightening, hitting and so on. They are all verbs in language. You may personally feel that some verbs are more important than others, but since seeing a thief invade a house directly threatens the thief's life, it falls under the heading of combat.
I can't help it if you don't feel the same. As far as I can tell, the philosophical treatises written about this amount to nix naught nothing, the university degrees offered on the subject are in the same abundance and I am quite as trained in the subject as anyone - and therefore I am just in making the call as I see it.