This is perhaps the most potentially controversial rule modification that I envisioned for use in an unexplored wilderness setting, so I’ll get it out of the way early to see if I’m completely off the beam here.
I want to introduce a new form of experience points in the setting. These points are completely unassociated with experience rewards for treasure and slaying monsters, and are instead awarded for successfully navigating and surviving the wilderness. They are kept track of separately from normal experience and are abbreviated “FXP” or “Frontier Experience Points.”
FXP is a method to determine how much acumen each PC has regarding the outdoors. As a character earns FXP points, he gains small bonuses and modifiers to accomplishing tasks associated with frontier life and survival. Examples of these bonuses include a +1 bonus to hunting or foraging rolls; a +1 bonus to saving throws to survive outdoor calamities (avalanche, frost bite, lightning strike, etc.); a base chance to craft survival tools in the wild; a base chance to set traps; a bonus to avoid becoming lost, and even a potential +1 gain to Wisdom or Constitution scores.
Each bonus would be gained when the PC reaches a particular number of FXP, but, unlike character classes, there is no actual “level gain,” merely the acquiring of a new bonus and the adding of a new notation to the character’s record sheet. Right now, I’m thinking of using the progression table from 1st edition Gamma World as a base to determine when new bonuses and modifiers are acquired. This breaks down to the following:
Continuing with Gamma World as base model, I’ve also decided that the modifier each character gains upon reaching each tier of Frontier Experience would be randomly determined by rolling on a table. Thus, one character might gain a bonus to hunting roles upon earning 3000 FXP, while another might enjoy a bonus to outdoor saving throws. While I think the random method helps maintain the illusion that the PCs are picking up knowledge and survival skills through “in the field” learning rather than by formal instruction, I must admit I also just enjoy a good random PC table too.
So how does one earn FXP? The answer is: By survival, exploration, and successful completion of frontier tasks. What follows are examples of FXP rewards based on completed tasks. I’m not wedded to these numbers at the moment and they’re just serving as placeholders, but it will give you an idea of what I’m thinking.
Exploring and mapping one 5-mile hex (requires 1 full day of activity): 100 FXP
Successfully bringing down game for food: 20 FXP per Hit Die of the animal
Trapping animals for profit: 1 FXP per gold piece value of pelt
Surviving an outdoor calamity (landslide, avalanche, blizzard, forest fire, etc.): 50 FXP
Discovering a Point of Interest (borrowed from an idea by J. Rients): Variable based on accessibility and prestige
“Going Wild” (survival in the outdoors with no gear other than a knife): 25 FXP per day
There could be more categories added as inspiration hits.
I enjoy the idea of rewarding the PCs for surviving in the wild, but not advancing them in levels. This way, I can also have crazy prospectors and trappers in the wild who might only be 2nd or 3rd level NPCs, but still able to survive the challenges of wilderness living.
So what do you think? Too crazy of an idea or just crazy enough to work?