Classic Review by Crothian
The game of D&D is built for combat. The easiest way to gain levels is by killing things and the DMG does suggest getting XP in other ways but really fails to say exactly how that can happen. I would have thought that someone would have come out with rules for this type of thing years ago. But the long wait is over, or so it seems. Challenges and Rewards is a PDF that has ways for gaining XP through skill use, breaking things, and other actions out of combat.
Challenges and Rewards is a small PDF by Bards and Sages. It is written by Julie Ann Dawson and Josh Benton. The PDF is one of the smaller I have seen coming it at only seven pages. And with the OGL taking up two pages, the front cover and a page for the table of contents and then art on most of the pages this is actually much smaller then those seven pages might suggest. There are no book marks in the PDF though they really are not needed for a one of this material and this size. The art is okay. The layout is in a rare single column format that is also just okay.
The book starts with skill checks for experience. It has an equation for how to figure out what the CR of a particular task is based off the DC of the skill check and potential rolls of the skill check. The book does stress that not every skill check should award XP. Only those that are rather important like swimming to save drowning and important NPC or picking a difficult lock. It does not give the DM guidelines for figuring out what is important or what is not; so the DM will have to make some judgment calls with this. The equation seems to work but I am sure there will be some odd instances especially at higher levels where it can break down.
The breaking things section is really simple. I am not going to reprint the equation they use but it should be simple to use and the CR’s determined by this will be low and at higher levels the PCs will not gain XP from just breaking things. And that seems to be about right as breaking things at higher levels is not all that impressive.
Gaining XP from contests is similar to the skill checks. The equation is the same and even though contests are usually opposed rolls of some type there is enough similarities between the two that allow this to work. It can potentially have the same problems at higher levels but I think that is less likely to happen in these types of contests.
Creating magical items is an odd way to get XP since in making them one uses XP. I like the idea here though because it is not just making magical items for the party and player; this is making magical items to help people or give away or fix the broken holy sword of a famous NPC knight. The CR’s here look like they can get pretty high at higher levels but I like the idea behind this way.
The last way is through sacrifice. This usually involves money like making a large donation to a church or actually returning a merchant’s stolen gold to him. Of course the key here is it has to be a true sacrifice of a gift and be meaningful to the character and possible to the campaign.
Overall I like the idea here of awarding XP for non combat activities. The attempt here is good. Some of the equations could be a little simpler and at higher levels I can see some of these breaking down a bit. This is a product for DM’s who have a good idea on what XP should be awarded for like important activities and not just climbing az random wall.