GM Tips: Adventure Rewards
"Treasure Bath" by Dean Spencer
One thing to think about at this stage is what sort of rewards your players can expect for all their hard work. Players in such games are adventurers and are therefore motivated by finding money, treasure, technical gadgets, magical items and more powerful weapons. Many adventures that they will embark on will have some sort of cash reward, a bounty or payment of gratitude on completion but there are other benefits to be had too. A campaign where players wander around with a whole arsenal of magical weapons and mythical relics is going to get dull fairly quickly when any encounter or obstacle can be beaten or avoided through the use of a magic item. Similarly, a campaign where the players have spent days exploring an abandoned alien cruiser and all they have to show for it is a new power pack for their torch and a 12 pack of screen-wash for their ATV's windshield is one where motivation is going to slip away very quickly.
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Magic items/Tech should be placed in the players' path sparingly, though not so sparingly that the risks of trying to obtain them far outweigh the rewards. Magical items should have a back story. Even a humble +1 longsword can be more than just a statistic. It isn't just a sharp weapon with a bit of an advantage in battle, it is the Sword of Glamos, (or a ceremonial light-sabre that was earned on graduation from the naval academy) a blessed weapon wielded by the captain of the city guard of Rankha, as you can tell by the inscription on the handle. And now you have something else to add to your world's history. How did it find its way to its present location? How did the captain die? Is one of his descendants looking for it? Now you have an interesting idea for a random street encounter somewhere in the future.
One way of limiting magical rewards without diminishing the game is to introduce more community-based benefits. Returning a long-lost item to a local mayor could result in one of the players being made head of the town's militia, a position of privilege and allowing them to command a small band of soldiers to help them achieve their future goals. A wizardly player could find themselves as a court advisor, Clerics might be given their small temple, and rangers become custodians of a sacred glade. In the far future, characters might be elevated to bodyguards of a local dignitary or lieutenants in the mob. It isn't always about money or magic, honor, reputation, power and prestige can be just as important and a lot more interesting to the ongoing narrative.
Rewards can take all forms. The acquisition of power is much more interesting than a pile of material items, magic weapons, tech and treasure clogging up the spare room. As the characters rise through these positions, as more doors open, as real enemies are made, you will find as Gamesmaster that your storylines and narratives begin writing themselves.
How do you approach magic items and adventure rewards for your players? Let me know in the comments below!