Again using one of the alternate prompts. Since I talked about Risk yesterday, it seemed appropriate to tackle Reward today.
You can learn a lot about what a game is about by what activities it is set up to reward.
This is something that I thought long and hard about when I designed my own game, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Oz Points, the game's rewards, are granted when characters help others.
Monsterhearts takes an opposite tack, offering Strings (influence over other characters) to characters who are monstrous to other people. Experience points come from failed rolls, so action is favored over inaction, with a few character types having access to Moves that offered XP for indulging in certain shocking or grotesque activities.
Some games are very neutral about their rewards, offering XP for participation and Drama Points for making the GM laugh. A lot of generic systems are like this, such as Savage Worlds or GURPS.
And then there are the games that don't really stick the landing on what their incentive structure is. I'm going to stick D&D in this camp.
In the original game, it had a very good reward structure. Some XP was offered for monster kills (not defeats. Kills) but most of it came from treasure. Early D&D was a game of treasure hunting, first and foremost, which rewarded cleverness and creativity. Combat was less rewarded, and more likely to kill your character, so should be avoided.
Unfortunately, like many rules in early D&D, this was poorly explained, and people didn't use it much. So around the time of AD&D 2nd edition, the decision was made to remove the rule and simultaneously increase monster XP to compensate. Which totally screwed up the reward system for the game.
Now combat became the most rewarded activity. Which not only clashed with the treasure hunter/heist style of play of the early games, but also with the emerging story-based focus that I complained about yesterday. People who actually played the game the way the books said would be rewarded found themselves clashing with a more story-oriented table culture.
Am I really defending munchkinism? Not really. Just pointing out that in a different game, with a more thought-out reward structure, "playing to win" and "playing for story" are not opposed values and can, in fact, harmonize.