Guild Wars 2 offers quite a few unique mechanics and one of those can be found in how the game handles normal questing and rewards. Instead of hordes of NPCs with question marks floating over their heads, Guild Wars 2 has a more centralized system of questing known as Renown with rewards in the form of Karma. To fully explain these mechanics, Guild Wars 2 Hub offers this intro guide to Renown and Karma.
We're all used to the standard MMO fare of grabbing quests from multitudes of NPCs in an area and then running off to do them. Guild Wars 2 handles this aspect in a different way. Instead of multiple NPCs that give quests, there are a handful of fixed locations in every zone that are known as Renown Hearts.
These are marked by heart-shaped icons on your map and will be highlighted by any scouts (people marked with the telescope icon) you interact with, along with what is need to complete each Renown Heart and its level. Each Renown Heart is associated with a specific NPC (those with hearts floating over them), and those NPCs will ask the players to help them. However, a player does not need to talk to the NPC to get the quest as just moving into the area will have it automatically show up on your screen.
To help a Renown NPC in Guild Wars 2, the player will need to perform a variety of tasks. Being able to fulfill a quest by different means is a refreshing change from the typical MMO. In the image below, you can see that I'm involved in helping Farmer Diah. The various ways that I can help her are shown along with a bar showing how much I've completed for this Renown task.
As you will notice, I can gain progress by watering corn, stomping wurm mounds, feeding cattle, and defending the fields. Each task you do will increase the total in the progress bar. You can choose to do the same task over and over again (allowing for respawn) or do a multitude of different tasks. It does not matter which task you choose and the choice is up to you.
Once you've completed the Renown tasks and filled up the bar, you will get rewarded with some XP and Karma. You will then also receive a letter from the NPC that includes some money as a reward. Fulfilling a Renown Heart also counts towards the total completion of your map.
Once you have finished the Renown tasks associated with a specific NPC, the heart floating over them, as well as on your map, will be filled. Once this is accomplished, the NPC becomes a Karma Merchant, which leads us to...
Karma is a form of currency in Guild Wars 2 that you can spend at Karma Merchants for a variety of goods. Every Renown NPC becomes a Karma Merchant once you've completed all their tasks, but there are also other Karma Merchants scattered throughout Tyria. For example, there are Karma Merchants located in each major city that will sell you a variety of crafting materials, and even certain crafting trainers, such as the Chef trainer, will sell materials for Karma.
You can gain Karma from completing Renown tasks, dynamic events, and through personal storylines (both yours and other players if you're grouped with them). Karma Merchants can sell everything from weapons and armor to potions to food. Usually, the items that a Karma Merchant carries is of higher quality than items dropped by creatures of a relative level range. Naturally, the better the item, the higher the cost. Below you can see some items carried by a Karma Merchant in lower level zone in Guild Wars 2.
As you can see, Renown and Karma go together, hand-in-hand. Completing Renown tasks rewards you not only with XP and money, but also with Karma points and the ability to spend those points from the NPC you've just helped. Overall, the Renown and Karma systems in Guild Wars 2 is a different take on the quest/reward mechanic.
Instead of running willy-nilly all over a zone looking for quests, you automatically know where to go, what you need to do, and what level the challenge is for the Renown tasks. Wasting time is irritating and Guild Wars 2 really keeps that to a minimum. Now get out there and start making those hearts glow!