Some GMs, and the computer game industry too, seems to think gemstones, gold and magic weapons are the only way in which to reward the players. Most experienced GMs know this isn’t true, so I created this thread here to let us remind each other of the different alternative rewards a player can receive, and to have a place where ordinary item descriptions can be posted. I won’t go into magic items here (check the main site, damnit).
First I’ll sum up different possible rewards and later we can all make different detailed rewards that can be cut and pasted into your current scenario.
* Alchemical powders, gases and oils. Explosives, poisons and the like.
* Animals: Horses, Mules, Cows, Donkeys, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, Dogs, Tigers, Wyverns, Snakes, Hamsters, etc…
* Arms & Armour: Normal, ornamental, quality crafted (bonuses), legendary (not magical, but psychological benefit to the believers/Followers (a sword carried by a hero, etc.)).
* Art: paintings, statuettes, carpets
* Clothing: Capes, Furs, Boots, Gloves, pants, shirts
* Estates: Cottages, farms, mansions, castles, keeps, towers, bridges, mills, smithies, stables, brothels, bakeries, etc…
* Furniture: Chairs, Mirrors, Tables, Beds, Desks, Cabinets, Curtains, Chandeliers
* Herbal concoctions and potions. Herbal plants with special properties (healing, poisonous, speed increasing, incite berserker rage, etc…).
* Jewellery: Necklaces, rings, medallions, bracelets, circlets, tiaras
* Land /Land charters
* Money (Ordinary or might be forged, foreign, rare or obsolete currency)
* Symbolic: Flowers, Cookie, Bottle of Wine, Keg of Ale, Sheets, Feather stylus, candlestick
* Technological Equipment
* Ticket (to theatre, coliseum, opera, etc)
* Utility: Wagon, Tools, Slaves
Other benefits & player boosts
* Blackmail possibilities
* Celebration / Feast in honour of the PCs
* Coolness (Cool Heroic actions, cinematic effects to boost the PCs ego).
* Divine intervention
* Experience or skill points
* Fame & Reputation
* Followers / Henchmen
* Increased sanity
* Influence (Partaking in the King’s war council, etc…)
* Intimate gratitude
* Privileges (Right to plunder foreign ships (letter of marque), right to let your foals breed with the royal stallions, etc…)
* Characteristic increase
* Time off duty (Priests, soldiers)
* Titles: Knighthood, professoriate, nobility, slave overseer, grand Hexenjaeger, arch bishop, templar captain, guild master, etc…
* Tutoring (By a master swordsman, master orator, etc…)
Some of these rewards might seem strange, but there is a time and a place for everything. While an adventuring PC might not appreciate children, a retired PC might be met with his new children. As a matter of fact I have had great success with “family scenarios” where the PC must either play his old PC, struggling with the responsibilities of family alongside more standard problems, or another twist; to have the players play the children of their old PCs. Generational adventuring can be great fun and immerses the players deeper into your setting.
Rewards can be used to play puns on the PCs, like the forced wedding with a Prince’s ugly daughter; the GM should exercise extreme caution when taunting his players. A nice way to trick the PCs could be with a payment of forged coins, leading to yet another adventure, a completely legitimate way of rewarding the players and providing a hook for further adventure. While a keg of beer might not seem like a great reward, it could be given as a sign of gratitude by an old sailor whom the PCs defended in a tavern brawl.
Edit: Added Influence (Siren’s idea), Contacts (Kinslayer’s idea), Privileges (Scrasamax had the breeding idea), and coolness.
Coolness is situations and cinematic scenes that boost the players feelings for their character and their feeling of worth
Additional Ideas (13)
Someone new to the art of GMing would probably think that dignity is a lame kind of reward. Well, they are just dead wrong. While not expressively given as a reward, it is a by-product of their actions. Dignity could be written as a number in the GMs notes, or it could be remembered as a general thing. In any case, dignity is a powerful and often overlooked factor.
Consider everyday life. A person with a high level of dignity (as perceived by the community), will warrant quite some amount of respect from the population. The PC cleric with high dignity will be approached with reverence and polite behaviour. If someone threatens such a character, the general populace is likely to react with hostility and might even fight in the characters defence.
On the opposite, a drunkard with extremely low dignity might be beat up to the general laughter and joy of the same crowd. Of course the dignified cleric would probably interrupt the beatings of the drunk and either A) berate the thug, B) berate the thug and the drunk or C) berate the drunk for his life of sin. It all depends on the general alignment and attitude of the priest, but in any case: this truly shows the power of dignity.
In depth: Using fame and reputation as a reward
Fame and reputation is touched upon in the recent Fable videogame. A GM can use fame and reputation on a general basis, keeping in mind the general fame of the PCs, or he can keep a score sheet with data about famous actions and their radius. Indeed the PCs could find themselves the objects of many a tale across the kingdoms. The tales might even become exaggerated, creating funny situations for the PCs: "Are YOU Kalerion the mighty? Don't make me laugh, he is 7 feet tall and with a chest the size of a cave bear, and you are like 6'4" and not at all that brawny.
In most circumstances fame is a useful trait. The PCs will find that doors are opened which were previously closed and they might be able to affect the population in various ways. A famous PC might even rally a fleeing army and assure their return to the battlefield. Fame has its upsides.
Remember that fame is a delicate state of existence. Hand in hand with fame, at least wartime fame, comes infamy. When ushered into fame, the fall from grace is a constant threat. Anyone who witnessed the US election in 2004 saw how Kerry's wartime record was turned into something shameful by ingenious republican tactics. The PCs could find themselves in a similar situation, where a nemesis spreads false rumours and stains their honourable record. Enemies in high places are a dangerous thing indeed. In addition it should not be forgotten that a general famous for his victories, will be infamous among the enemy, unless he is most chivalrous (like Saladin), he should not expect favourable reactions from the opponents.
Fame is a powerful influence and should be used sparingly. It will affect everything, from love to income to influence. In many ways life will become easier, but discretion might be harder ("Look! Sneaky Samuel is breaking into the museum!"). Of course the celebrities of today is not a good match, as television increase their fame exponentially. In a fantasy setting most people will only have heard tales and rumours, and won't have much of a clue as to his appearance (unless it is easily distinguishable).
Giving players land can be both good and bad. It can be good because they can construct a home-base of sorts, and they can be considered a sort of minor lord. Their fame will be increased when their name is recongnized in conjunction with the land, and this adds prestige.
However, giving land can also seem to encourage players to settle down, reducing possible adventures due to sitting around on their land. They can also be caught up in managing the estate, which can irritate players and waste time.
I use something similar to the above. Reputation is a simple percentile-based mechanic, but could--and perhaps should--be expanded. Statuses are descriptive labels. Reputation is if they know you, status is how they know you. The mechanics are linked as the number of statuses is added to the effective reputation score.
Both mechanics are used as rewards for players, and can easily be used as a back-handed reward, such as a thief or assassin becomming too well-recognised, or statuses that don't seem like nice labels (e.g. Unholy, Untrustable, or Vengeful). Statuses are also used for climbing the social ladder. In some areas, nobility can be earned by having certain statuses, and higher levels achieved with additional.
This can be anything from the password to get past the assassin's guild sentries next week, to the plans for a high-tech/magic wigit, to the knowledge that the king's True Name is Paul Weedbert Jogger Shrubbery the Fourth, to the next quarter's military procurement list.
Valuable information can come in passing, it can be specifically fought after, or it can be a specific reward, but it should always be valuable, either for what it allows access to, what it allows to build, potential blackmail material, or a host of a thousand other things.
For tempering info as reward:
Information may be time sensitive: The warplans of the neighboring kingdom are only good if you act on them, and the most valuable information of all is almost always the information of what someone else /will/ do. Unlike a magical artifact, when the time limit's past.. this is toast.
Information may be incorrect: The equivalent of a cursed reward, we all know the adventures and the wrecks that can come out of red herrings. And the comedy!
Contacts can have useful skills, beneficial positions (not necessarily the person in charge), important information, monetary aid (and the willingness to lend it), material resources (e.g. a ship for the group to travel fast & cheap), political support, or even useful contacts of their own.
This is also good for the GM as plot hooks, because the relationship works both ways. If the players ask their contacts for favours, then the contacts may ask the pc's for favours in return. This adds to the immersion in the game, and helps maintain a long-term flow of the campaign by including recurrent NPC's, as opposed to simply stringing together adventures.
Marriage.We all know that marriages are important tools to cement ties with allies,since it makes the other party a member of the family,thus making it something of an obligation to come to his aide.I can imagine that in a high level campaign,a PC involved with a great cause would welcome the hand in marriage of the daughter of a strong chieftain or powerful lord.Tell me what you think of this.
Perhaps one of the players is musically inclined, and thus you hand him a score of music by a master composer. Perhaps that score of music is actually a bardic spell of some noteworthyness, or perhaps the notes within contain a secret message he only discovers when memorizing the song.
"I..N..E...E..D-H..E...L-P...Huh?" (Obviously not "true" musical notes, but something to consider. A fantasy world might not use our system of musical notation, thus presenting the opportunity for secret messages or such. The Cult of Music...hmm...)
Not-so-in-depth - "Intimate Gratitude"
~There's something to be said for a player getting intimate gratitude from someone. Yeah yeah, there's the obvious "I'm a player" thought to it, but really, think about it. If you really save the princess and she throws herself at you, but you tell her that you don't want her like this, she might go to some extreme lengths to "have" her savior, including royal interference of some form of another.
Of course, this also opens up possibilities for the GM, as always. What? You actually got laid by the princess? Well, her father walks in on you two. BAM! You're a fugitive from the crown. What? He didn't walk in on you? Well, the princess just got kidnapped, and since you were the last one seen with her sneaking into the gardens, guess who's the prime suspect? Now you have to find her before the guards find YOU.
In-depth? Mebbe... "Sainthood"
~Yeah yeah, there's at least one thread about it by AG, but think about it. If you become a saint as it were, there are lots of benifits. Mother Theresa was loved by just about everyone in the world, and known the whole world round. That'll give your characters a boost in ego. Also with this comes special privileges and other thingies.
For example, the current holy order doesn't like you and declares you a heretic. When the knights come storming in to take you away, the people uprise and defend their "savior/symbol". You can get away with a lot more stuff when the law can't touch you. Of course, that puts your sainthood in peril if you do stuff wrong, but them's the risks.
Empowerment. If people really start to worship you as a saint, their prayers might start giving you enhancements. Check the godhood threads and such, I'm too lazy to go over it all here.
Responsibilities. With respect comes responsibilities. People expect you to help them too. If you're a reknowned freedom fighter, the people who defend you darn well expect you to keep up the good fight! A healer of the sick? Suddenly everyone and their brother show up on your doorstep with their aches and pains. See the issues? Lots of GM fodder here. Use your imagination.
Be a good poster! Post!
After posting, I read it over again, and the thought occurred to me that after being set up for sainthood, you'd also be given offerings from followers. This might take the form of other loots on this list...Darn zero variables that set you into an infinite loop...
Oh yeah, royalty. If the princess mentioned above was truly determined, she might ask her father for her savior's hand in marriage, or she might apply pressure to him to make him let the PC in question go or something...Or youcould take the Chrono Trigger route and make her run off with the PCs, then when they finally return from the adventure imprison the "savior" PC for kidnapping her. That one is a plot within a plot within a penguin. *nods*
A necromancer loved books, not just spellbooks, but classics of literature, juicy diaries, histories, cypher workbooks, everything. Eventually his collection became large enough to be used as a library. This is due in no small part to my adding a book here and there, or a shelf full, as part of the loot. The character was happy, the player was happy, and I got a nifty new library added to the game world.
Another character had an interest in art history. This alone was used as a plothook on a few occasions. At various times he was an art dealer, part-owner of a gallery, and a fence for stolen paintings.
A third character liked adding to his armour. This Shadow Lord was almost constantly adding a new spike or three, adding bits of skull or other bone, or looking for new ways to keep his armour in good repair (and appearance) while in the field.
One apprentice wizard collected knowledge. This isn't the typical "arcane lore" stuff; he just loved trivia. My adding informative bits of dialogue from an NPC about a culture, or an historic era, or just about anything, was enough to keep this pc from whining about insufficient funds.
A teenaged alchemist loved animals. These weren't really "monstrous," with the possible exception of the mountain lion she rescued as a kitten, and it wasn't used as a combat aide, being kept only as a pet. Over time, various other animals slowly were added to the mix, before it was apparent that she would need special travel and sleeping accomodations for her growing menagerie.
I will offer cross-class training as a special bonus at times.
It enables PC's to shift the abilities of their characters to adapt to unforseen weaknesses in character knowledge or abilities after some time has elapsed in a campaign.
I usually throw in a neg to keep things interesting, like:
Barbarian fighter class character wants an advantage dealing with the undead. Allow him to train with monks to gain holy attack/defense capabilities, but the monks require a magically binding vow... (silence, celibacy, poverty, etc.).
It makes the game a lot more fun for those players that chose poorly when writing up their character.
C.) With Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti
One excellent reward for a job well done is Revenge. If your villain is suitably odious, your players will get a great deal of enjoyment just from taking him down. This feeling is especially strong when they were impotent to strike at the villain in an earlier scene or adventure. A little bit of frustration early on can pay off greatly when the tables turn in the finale. I've seen players come to their feet cheering when a particularly nasty villain went down.
I have recieved health restoratives listed on a scroll as follows:
hope you don't mind me listing this Kamina!)
Take a quarter of very fine cinnamon selected by tasting it, and half a quarter of fine flour of cinnamone, an ounce of selected string ginger, fine and white, and an ounce of grain of paradise, a sixth of nutmegs and galingale together, and bray them al together.
When you would make your hippocras, take a good half ounce of this powder and two quarters of sugar and mix them with a quart of wine, by Paris measure.
Note that the powder and sugar mixed together is the Dukes powder.
It is beneficial to restore a fatigued man and to fight malaise.
Take a ratl of strong vinegar and mix it with two ratls of sugar, and cook all this until it takes the form of a syrup.
Drink an Uqiya of this with three of hot water when fasting:
It is beneficial for fevers of jaundice, and calms jaundice and cuts the thirst, since sikanjabin syrup is beneficial in phlegmatic fevers: make it with six uqiyas of sour vinegar for a ratl of hone and it is admirable.
Syrup of Pomegranates
Take a ratl of sour pomegranates and another of sweet pomegranates, and add their juice to two ratls of sugar,
Cook all this until it takes the consistency of syrup , and keep until needed.
Its benefits: it is useful for fevers, and cuts the thirst, it benefits bilious fevers and lightens the body gently.
Syrup of Lemon
Take lemon, after peeling its outer skin, press it and take a ratl of juice, and add as much of sugar. Cook them down to thick syrup, in which form they will keep, without refrigeration, for a very long time.
To serve, dilute one part of syrup in 3 to 6 parts of hot water.
It is beneficial for soothing the throat.
These are not only historicly accurate, but they actually taste good (I keep Simple Sikanjabin in the cabinet at home).
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