It can be so very easy to reward your players and their characters in TTRPGs and especially D&D with gold, magic weapons, or trinkets. What a lot of Dungeon Masters fail to remember is that the characters inhabit a living, breathing world (or it should at least feel that way) and that the actions of the player characters can have significant effects on the regions in which they travel. A good way to not only enmesh the characters further into the lore of the world they inhabit, but also to reward them in unconventional ways, is to give them treasure that can't be counted in coins or magical charges. Give them titles or honors, instead. Here are a few ideas for how to do that.
HONORARY MEMBERSHIP INTO A GUILD
One way to reward players for their adventures, especially in a big city or town, is to award them honorary membership into a guild or faction. Depending on how useful the players' actions were to said guild could advance the characters higher up into the guild or put them on a fast track to the upper hierarchy within the guild or faction ranks. Benefits could include access to guild facilities, discounts on services, and assistance from guild members when needed.
KNIGHTED BY THE KING OR QUEEN
A surefire way to keep the characters in a certain region for a while is to have the reigning King or Queen knight the characters. The benefits include being granted the title of a noble, being given land, being given followers, and even being granted the ability to command resources and personnel. This is ideal for giving characters a "home base".
HONORARY CITIZENSHIP OF A CITY-STATE
It may seem a bit tame compared to other options on this list, but being a citizen of a powerful city-state could actually be pretty useful. The benefits can range from free legal protection, access to city resources denied non-citizens, and the opportunity to become involved in city affairs or politics.
PATRONAGE AT A NOBLE HOUSE
Having a noble or two as a patron in the world of D&D is no small matter, but having an entire well-known noble house be your patrons is on another level. The benefits include financial backing, of course, but also lots of powerful connections and the potential to influence politics.
HONORARY TITLE AS AMBASSADOR
Basically, having the title of Ambassador as an honorary nets your characters the benefits of being an ambassador without the work. Benefits include diplomatic immunity, access to some restricted areas, and assistance from local authorities and diplomats.
INDUCTED INTO A SCHOLARLY ORDER
If the character in question is the scholarly type, maybe have them be recognized by and inducted into a scholarly order. Their academic achievements will not go unnoticed there, and the benefits include access to restricted libraries, assistance from fellow scholars, and the use of resources.
SWORN PROTECTOR OF A SACRED SITE
The downside is that this is an actual responsibility, but there may be ways in which the party could revolve responsibilities. That responsibility is being entrusted with the protection of a sacred site, and with that, the benefits might include divine boons and blessings, secret knowledge about the site, or aid when requested.
HONORARY ROYAL ADVISER
Being able to directly speak to and possibly influence a King or Queen is no small matter. Should your characters impress the royal court enough, they may find themselves taken on as royal advisers. As such, the benefits would be access to restricted information, a regular audience with the ruler, and participation in decision-making.
WARDEN OF THE FOREST
The players could also find themselves appointed as the wardens of a forest. This is another reward that also imparts responsibility, but being the warden of a forest has its benefits including complete knowledge of the surrounding area, the respect of local animals (and sometimes even the ability to speak with and understand them), and possibly even assistance from the forest or forest deities.
Well, that's ten ways in which to reward your players and their characters without having to give them the same old, same old gold and magic treasure. These options will also hopefully enrich the world you've crafted for your players to explore. Let us know if you like these ideas in the comments below! Thanks always for reading! - Joe