Recently, I've seen a number of posts that - as a game design - propose exchanging experience points for things, such as character prestige, stats, girlfriends, magic items and so on. I understand the value of this; experience points are gainable with reasonable ease, thus trading them away is not too damaging to the player's character, and at any rate if I'm seventh and I drop a few thousand on something, its not as though I've gone down a level or anything.
I'm curious as to how this works out logically, however. Not that I feel the game has to be 'logical,' but since experience points represent, well, experience, how exactly does one become LESS experienced in the process of gaining a better strength or a nice new gnoll knee knocker? Um, sorry, that's a halfling club +2, gnoll slayer.
Is it required for one to take one's shoe off, or one's hard metal helmet, and beat oneself in the head long enough to gain the attention of the local lord, which one can trade for by piecing out a set amount of experience? How stupid - or rather, suddenly forgetful - do you have to actually become if you want to be the 8th Lord of the Limbic Lands of Ladswashall? Because this is all the experience really is ... memory. I remember having wiped out those three orcs near the village of Gagsdoodle, which was when I learned to use the mace a lot better, which then I used later on in fighting the Seven Krights of Needing. I know how to use this mace. I remember swinging it just so to mash heads ... oh, wait, I've forgotten which is the fat end.
As I say, mechanically this experience exchange thing is a good idea. I guess. On the whole it reminds me of the way many people view their house equity ... as a sort of money storage pit which they pull from in order to go off on vacation or throw a nice wedding for their fourth daughter. Now this is all fine and all for equity - I think people should be issued a credit card with their mortgage that has a picture of their house on it, for quicker ease of never paying the mortgage off - but its a little silly where it comes to something your character is supposed to have learned. No?
The real reason why experience is reached for is that it just seems so darn convenient. There are all those built up points, like tickets at a Chuck E. Cheese, not actually doing anything. My, that seems like an awful waste. We ought to put those tickets to use, so players can buy really neat stuff from the inventory kiosk we've conveniently located at the front. And it is nice to trade things for things ... so here's a thing we can trade! No matter what it's purpose was or what it means literally or even the lack of sense in how trading this for that actually works.
I urge game designers to think about the transmutation of experience as a "measure of effort" into a pecuniary value that can be traded for 'stuff.' It is a somewhat exhausted game methodology; it cheapens the climb to level, which is very substantial to the game ... and on the whole it presses Dungeon Masters to award more experience to players in order to be traded for more stuff, rather than simply awarding players the stuff upon successfully completing a given task that logically could grant them whatever they'd trade for.
In short, it's a game short cut. Rather that actually having to work for the item in the good old real world, its only another way for players to circumvent all the inconvience of adventuring and roleplaying and thinking and designing plans by jumping straight to the Kiosk of Happy Having. Worse, its a way for DMs to circumvent all the bother of DESIGNING adventures and presenting a GAME in exchange for mollifying players with a lot of cheap, shiny objects. What fun.
I'll step aside and let Chuck E. sing the song now.