What games have no mechanical reward cycle, leaving character rewards and improvements entirely within the fiction?
By "mechanical reward cycle", I mean a sub-system that:
- ties a resource gained through play (e.g., XP, bennies, hero points, karma, opportunities to test skills, etc.)…
- to a way of improving the mechanical portion of a character (attributes, to-hit rolls, resource points, level, wealth stat, etc.)…
- so that the character is more effective at acquiring that resource of advancement (those same XP, hero points, etc.).
Most games feature such a system. I'm looking for games that don't.
For clarity's sake, money counts as being within a reward cycle (for the purpose of this question) only if acquiring monetary treasure is a major point of play and treasure allows you to somehow buy mechanical improvements to your character.
- D&D 4e could arguably feature money as part of its reward cycle through the purchase of magic items, which are required for the advancement system to work as written.
- Money in shock: social science fiction is entirely fictional because it can't be used to improve the character's mechanical stuff.
- Money in AD&D is definitely part of the reward cycle since it can be traded for XP.
- Money in many AD&D 2nd edition campaigns isn't part of the mechanical reward cycle because it can't be traded for XP and can't be directly used to buy magic items, because magic items are mediated by GM fiat and not player resources.
- Money in Burning Wheel is part of the reward cycle because (financial) Resources is a character stat. Same with d20 Modern.
- Money in The Riddle of Steel isn't in the reward cycle because it's mostly fictional, and the things you can buy with it that impact character mechanics do so in ways that aren't strictly improvement, just trade-offs. For example, buying heavier armour or a bigger sword changes your fighting style so it's different but not necessarily better—money gives you different choices, not character improvement.
The mechanical reward cycle is also distinct from the social reward cycle, which can be loosely defined as, "Why this game makes us want to keep playing it," and is a much more complicated beast.
This question is inspired by some of the answers to Which RPGs primarily reward playing the role. Since the question specified games that pinned character advancement largely on roleplaying rewards, games that have no mechanical character advancement like Mars Colony don't really fit there.
Since this is a Community Wiki (CW), please give one answer per distinct game or system and feel free to give multiple answers.