I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 2004, the height of 3.5E's rule. In nearly every game I've played in, or even ran, we used small amounts of Experience Points, XP, as a reward for things like: excellent roleplaying, entertaining ideas, or even bringing food. In 3.5E, the rules allowed for players to be slightly behind or ahead of the others with mechanics referring to the Effective Level, or EL, of the party.
Before I continue, yes, it is not that big a deal for DMs to compensate for. If a character is only one level ahead for maybe one or two sessions, it is not a problem. Frankly, you may not even need to compensate for it. However, consider this happening over an entire campaign from heroic tier to epic tier and there is that one player who is quiet or just there to hang out and play a game, the Watcher type of player. That person's character is going to eventually end up several levels below the rest of the party, breaking the balance of the party.
After much thought, this was the best reason to keep implementing DMAPs into my game. The benefits include:
- The EL of the party remains equal to the individual character level.
- Parties that travel great distances between encounters can still use and enjoy the Action Point mechanic.
- The DM saves time planning the games to come since he no longer has to worry about not killing the lowest level character.
- Players are encouraged to get more creative and involved when they are rewarded with the chance to do more in one round than usual.