A perspective on Leveling ad Experience from the Tao of D&D
Over the decades, many folks within the RPG hobby have observed critically that Traveller is lacking for having no XP or advancement. This presumes that level-based games are the standard, and Traveller is the exception. No, it is another paradigm that has held up just as well. Traveller is only 3 years younger than D&D, and has survived and flourished along side it for four decades.
I quote here from the post referenced above although his main point is about something else. It is a good argument against D&D having levels. It also works as a defense of Traveller for not using a leveling system. This was also the first time I'd heard a fan of that game questioning the importance of the leveling system. Maybe there are others, I just haven't encountered them.
Begin quote, emphasis added:
This is my problem with circumventing rules about distribution or reward for the sake of 'fun' or ensuring that player entitlement to rise up a level every two or three sessions is ensured. It isn't a reward any more. It isn't even a measure of relative game play. After all, what if the characters never went up? What if the level was perpetually 5th, without any experience whatsoever? Would it mean there were no goals to fulfill? No achievements? No threat from battle? No reason to play?
Or is it possible, just possible, that we could all agree not to care about levels? Suppose the game simply had no sense of improvement, the players just acted upon their agency or in the stories the DM fabricated. . . would it be any less of a game?
. . .
Play as a 5th level forever or as a 15th level forever, the sense of overcoming obstacles, solving problems and achieving triumph would be the same, would it not?
What is it that makes the level matter?