Courtesy of TT forum member hellibrarian comes this tight, simple alternate XP system — I have to give this a try!
I’ve been making the non-combat stuff in my Star Wars d20 game as important as the combat. When I come up with the plot of the adventure/mission I usually create one long or hard enough that if the players hit everything they get enough xp for someone of the group’s average level to go up one level. Then I make half of the xp dependant on non-combat plot points, some are really easy: like taking the bait, some not so much: like not killing the attacking Sith Alchemy mutated children they came to save.
If they are in a hack-n-slash mode of play they will miss out on up to half the xp. They are well aware of this system. I have a pile of black poker chips I use as a physical representation of these plot points. When they see me take a chip from my pile and put it in theirs. At the end of the mission I can easily count up the chips in their pile and give the players their xp right them.
This may be harder to do if you are using adventures someone else wrote.
Don’t miss the rest of the thread, either: Alternate experience reward system for D&D?. hellibrarian’s system gets tweaked, other options are suggested and, despite the title, much of it is applicable to non-d20 RPGs as well.
Apart from its portability, what I especially like about hellibrarian’s system is that it shows your players what’s out there for them to earn (“We have to explore this warehouse — we might miss out on a chip!”), gives them a “personal best” to shoot for and signals how important the adventure is to the current story arc or to the campaign as a whole (“Wait, tonight’s pile is 20 chips, and it’s usually only 10…”). Nice work, HL!