Salomon's House in the original is supposed to be a place where scientific experiments are conducted - it is sort of a blueprint for the modern research university - but in my version it would be about sending adventurers forth into creation, to discover monsters, strange beings, divers creatures and magicks, wondrous places, and mysteries of the universe. Things of that nature. Basically, a guild of sages who send groups out into fantastical wildernesses, ruins, and other planes, to bring back whatever they can for sages to study and analyse.
This would require rejigging the XP system, I think: the aim is not to gather gold and advance that way, but to gather knowledge. So XP would be awarded for mapping new locations, finding new archives and bestiaries, capturing new creatures, bringing back the bodies of bizarre life forms, exploring new experiences, eating new foodstuffs, trying new drugs, shagging new alien races, or whatever. This could just map to gold for XP, ultimately (the sages pay money for all this information) but I also quite like the idea of people doing it for the sake of knowledge. A little like a mixture of the Fraternity of Order and the Society of Sensation in Planescape, but more cerebral than the latter and more chaotic than the former. Perhaps a forerunner of the empiricists, though more interested in cataloguing and enumerating than experimentation. So you might have a system of XP awards for the importance of the discovery and the risks associated with it.
Naturally, this would make extensive use of random generators, so the DM is partially in on the act of discovery too. It would also have different character classes, because most of the standard D&D ones don't fit. Handily, Bacon supplies us with different categories of sages working at Salomon's House who have ridiculously cool 17th century names:
- Merchants of light
- Interpreters of nature
I don't know about you, but if I could play a character class called a "mystery-man" I would be all over it like a rash.