Rewards rewards rewards!

Author: Andrew /

This could arguably be the most important thing when running a D&D game. Arguably. I mean, yes, there is of course the points of balance and character development and all those things but when you're talking about keeping your player's interest and keeping them invested in the game itself, this is the biggest key on the ring. Related to the subject of the most recent post on DMing, this post is about the all important topic of REWARDS!

Now, I'm guessing that a lot of you are thinking "Well, yeah; rewards are fun!" and that's a large part of it but I don't think that it's given enough emphasis, although recently it's been paid more attention than in previous editions for sure. Heck, in the Dungeon Master's Guide, there's an entire section on it; which I was absolutely thrilled to see. But, all that said, here's the point of this all.

Players come into a game hoping for many things. They want action, they want intrigue, they want excitement, they want immersion. Players want an experience that they'll talk about until the next game. They want memorable moments and to feel like they're making a difference and to keep them coming back, it's necessary to have a reward system.

Now, when I say system, I don't mean a rigid, planned out structure. I simply mean that you (the DM) need to have a consistent flow of rewards going to the players. These can be many things; examples might be:

-Monetary rewards - any form of currency that allow for characters to purchase things
-Item rewards - any item a character can use that will add something to them
-Role-play rewards
-Anything else that may keep the player(s) interested!

Now, monetary and item rewards are classic. Your big fighter needs a better great-sword because he's getting higher level and the one he has just isn't doing the trick anymore. He's been doing a great job, been role playing well and has really been adding to the game, so at the end of the next dungeon, the boss they fight just happens to be using a shiny new +3 great-sword with a flame enchantment on it! That player knows that you (the DM) is looking out for them, paying attention to them and giving them a cool item for all their hard work.

Some rewards are also built into the game. Most common of these are Experience Points [Exp]. When a character accumulates enough of these, they reach a new level and become more powerful, gaining new abilities and becoming all around more capable. All monsters, traps, encounters, etc. that a player could run into in D&D will have some exp value attached to it. When a task of whatever sort is completed, players are awarded these points. This is a classic reward which, be it good or bad, has become standard with role playing games and usually isn't seen as a reward (although that is exactly what it is). Players expect to level up and get stronger and not allowing them that would, in most cases, ruin a game (although there are some creative approaches that keep characters at one level but reward them in other ways).

One of the coolest rewards (in my humble opinion) is the role play reward. These can take the form of many many different things but all of them tend to be very satisfying and they can usually be tied up with other rewards too. These rewards can be taking a player's character, who they've written an extensive back-story for, and spotlighting that character for a chunk of the story or giving them an encounter with their special nemesis. A role play reward could be allowing players to achieve an objective through sheer good role playing when it may have otherwise required a skill check. Perhaps a DM could even give extra exp when he sees good role playing tied into actions in the game and may tack on a bonus to basic encounter exp! (Personally, I've played with a good friend who DM'd great games and he gave out exp based ONLY on role play, and eliminated kill exp altogether! It really took the focus off just killing stuff and put it very much on story and encouraged players to invest themselves in their characters, because there was an immediate reward. He also gave extra exp for character journals and drawings, all of which were great ideas!)

To sum up this blurb, PUT IN REWARDS! Give little rewards even if it's just a pat on the back after a particulary good strategic move in a fight or a clever quip in a certain role playing scenario. Lots of little rewards, spread out big ones. If you do this, I guarantee you that your players will love you to death and will enjoy their experience that much more.

And remember, ALWAYS be creative! If you think of something else you can reward players with that isn't here, run with it. That's what the game is for. Until next time, thanks for reading and check back soon!



Magus Stragus said...

I usually reward my players that have been roleplaying well with a second chance in case of death. Good characters shouldn't die just because of a bad dice roll, and I usually let them stay alive in such events.

Andrew said...

Hey, that's a good idea. How do you go about implementing that? Do you just let them re-roll or just say "Alright you're knocked out but stabilized"? Avoidance of a character's death is a great reward but at the same time I also wonder at that being expected after a while once players figure out that if they roleplay well, that they just won't die. I would maybe allow them to dodge the bullet a time or two but the risk of death always needs to be there or that, in turn, can kill good roleplay because players will act with no fear of death, which (in most cases) is usually incorrect (unless you're some barbarian with a deathwish lol). But yeah, that's a good idea, thanks! Keep the responses comin' and tell your friends about the blog; it'd be great to hear from them as well!

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