A thought that marched hand-in-glove with my tinkering with a B/X cultivator class (which took me the better part of a year to actually commit to and I can’t believe I’m admitting that ye gods), and that I kept on coming back over and over again, involved spirit stones.
Spirit stones (lingshi) are fancy mystical stones — or jewels, or crystals, or some kind of bit of shiny valuable rock/crystal/whatever — that have a pile of descriptions (or none at all, lol) in cultivation novels. They’re basically storehouses of spiritual energy, and cultivators can use them as energy sources or —
— this is the bit that I kept circling back to —
— to boost their cultivation level.
There’s even varying grades or levels of power for these stones, and apparently some series have higher powered versions also (“god stones” and the like) although I haven’t spotted those yet myself. Cultivators hoard spirit stones, use them like candy, treat them as currency, squabble over sources of them, and on and on. Sometimes they, or jewels a lot like them, get found inside the carcasses of powerful monsters or demons, even.
I bet you can see where I’m going with this ~
Spirit Stones and Experience Points
There’s a whole pile of extra bits and bobs that could get piled onto the spirit stone concept as applied to OSR stuff, but the crux that I’ve been rolling around is this:
If treasure = xp up to this point, but say you don’t want to just run a treasure hunter kind of campaign — or you can’t wrap your brain around just what the PCs are doing with that treasure to justify the xp gains, or the treasure piles are just piling up, well, why not decouple it altogether?
Have piles of normal loot for awesome normal loot reasons.
Have finding — or claiming, or stealing, or carving out — and then consuming spirit stones as the actual source of experience points.
You could even make up a set of tiers for grades of stones (type, colour, names, whatever) like in the source material; low-grade stones have 50 or 100 or whatever xp in them, sage-grade stones have thousands or more. Give them different appearances, and go to town.
– some combat encounters could give a lot of spirit stones/xp, if the target is likely to carry them. some, not so much. choose wisely.
– that said, think of the stone or stones likely to be found in the roiling innards of a mighty dragon, or condensed in the core of an ancient, sorcerous undead prince, or or or
Which brings me to notion number two!
Claiming stones from innately powerful creatures is one way to get powerful stones fast, if the GM enables that, yeah. But what if there’s a side effect of shortcutting one’s way through the shortcut, and too many spirit stones (too much xp) gained from a specific kind of source twists or changes you.
Consume too many demonic cores, start to take on demonic traits. That probably won’t go over well with a lot of people. Might be better to be cautious.
I’d probably decide on some particular ratio of “flavoured” xp vs. “standard” xp.
And yes, yes, I know, this sounds like some unholy amalgamation of “gold = xp” and “milestones” and an esoteric economy straight from satan’s arsecrack, but I’m still tempted to beat out a few more details and try it sometime, lol.
Imagine the possibilities! Players might even be tempted to slow their characters’ progressions (not consuming stones) in order to use them to wheel and deal and influence by trade/barter/etc etc. And that’s without layering on any other possible uses for the things …