CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Don't Look a Gift Horse

Giving Your Players Non Experience Point Rewards

If you follow my exploits on the many Facebook RPG pages I comment on, you're well aware that in games like Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons I've since stopped using XP. This article isn't going to be about me extolling the joys of doing away with experience points, but what other rewards you can give whether or not you are using XP in your game. Players tend to enjoy rewards that are tailored directly to them and the actions they perform in your games.

Due to the limited amount of free time I have, I tend to run a lot of premade adventures. At this point I'm running the Shattered Star Path from Paizo. Even though boxed adventures assume you're going to run off the rails a little, I find one of my players favorite perks are side story arcs that have to deal directly with their characters.

Sometimes it's as easy as adding things to the pre-existing plot; a lost family heirloom, changing the kidnap victim to a friend or family member, or making the enemy someone they remember from childhood. Other times adding a small side adventure that is not in the book makes the players feel rewarded for their character’s actions leading up to this excursion.

One of the other rewards I like to give are recurring NPC contacts the players can use to their advantage. Again in my Shattered Star campaign the players have longstanding arrangements with the not-quite-always-legit Princess of Sails, a drug addicted harrow card reader, as well as a not-quite-all-there street transient who in his lucid moments has his finger on the pulse of the city. These characters help make the game feel more alive and rewards the players for the deeds they perform in aiding these NPCs.

Handing out gold is probably the second easiest way to reward characters next to granting experience points. So instead of handing out direct amounts of money as rewards, I like to award personalized items; Little magic items that will help with player specific abilities, family heirlooms that do something special, or anything you can think of that will give a character a special connection to a given item. Gold pieces and plus one swords are all well and good, but the handmade rune-carved dagger given to the player after a test of skill ensures acceptance by the lizardfolk tribe will resonate more with your players than anything else.

Something that may not seem like a "reward" but players love having is nemeses and recurring villains. In my Shattered Star campaign there have been two such villains and the players have loved every minute of trying to outdo these foes. When they finally captured one of them, the feeling of accomplishment and joy the players showed at the end of the session demonstrated how much of a boon these recurring bad guys can be to a party.

Lastly, a big thing that can be a great reward for characters is permanent places in the cities or towns they live in. The current character I am playing has acquired a small island near town that was at one point inhabited by a mass murderer. His goal is to rehabilitate the image of this island and help the town recover from the evil deeds that were committed there. These kind of in game rewards allows your players to feel much more connected to the world and the story than XP ever could.

What sort of non-XP rewards do you give your players? Why do you think these bonuses work well for your group? How do you determine what and when to give these rewards to your players?

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