Thursday, August 15, 2013

My reward is food and real estate?!?

Ever get bored of handing out swords, rings, money, and such to players? Ever thought that maybe you can change things up with alternative rewards? How about a recipe for a lovely stat boosting dish that the players can cook up on their down time for temporary bonuses? Yes, it is very much a JRPG (Tales of...) idea but it's also hilariously good. It doesn't have to be food, but that's the basis of my example. Any Shadowrun player knows the fun of feeding a contact favors for more information. Or perhaps you have a Patron advantage and from time to time you have to quest to keep the advantage giving out gear and training?

The idea is actually pretty old. In Lord of the Rings one of the nicest gifts the Elves gave to the Hobbits was Elven Bread. Bread that didn't go bad, fed you with minimal loss of supplies, and tasted wonderful. (unless it's all you've been eating for months.) Everyone remembers the cool cloaks, but a lot of folks forget the rest of the supplies.

How about a Bard learning a old song with loads of clues for future missions? With the 3.X era Bards get a 'bardic knowledge' roll and are assumed to pick up songs and lore on the fly. But what if you changed the way such skill checks worked. The players have to learn the songs (at least their characters do) in game and the skill relates to how well they relate the tale or verse? I know they simulate this sort of by allowing a bard to learn spells that are empowered by their lore and music but what if you freely gave spells as a bonus for finishing a quest, ignoring the maximums of class knowledge. It's something I always preferred about a skill based mechanic. Learn the song, unlock the lore associated with it.

I try to avoid giving out property to parties that keep on the move. This is different however in games like Exalted where having a Manse base of operations is actually a good thing. But you reach a point of diminishing returns when you already have 3 other Manses under your control. What if there was a 'base' merit that had nothing to do with magical places of powers. Instead the players earn a shop front end they can operate from? I did this in one Pathfinder campaign. The group was given as a gift for their last adventure a large villa outside of the town they were next going to operate from. It allowed to set themselves up as local nobles, and *snicker* consulting detectives. The players really loved the idea of base building and I had them doing it from level 5.

In fact if you look at Star Wars games set in Edge of the Empire, the party gets a ship DAY 1. And that Ship is important as both a mode of travel and home. Now fantasy games don't quite have this option, but the party wagon(s), or their little fort/tower/bar might serve as both a money sink, HQ to rest and plan from, and a great way to get them invested in a town or location in the game. In an Eberron game I once handed out a small spire home to the PCs, just to give them a place to stay. Turns out, I gave them their eventual airship dock and secret 'storage' room. All added later by the PCs.

Whatever your group's desires you have to consider just how unconventional rewards change the game. Mind you, odds are they won't inflate the parties power right away. If anything it will give them a richer desire to explore just what other strange things they can claim. Yes, the prince/princess's favor. A lovely spa they are now part owners of, or maybe a forge to upgrade their gear!

So many fun and different things to hand out. Try it and see how your players react!