Consistent PC Rewards – Boons!

Players love their character getting more powerful! It’s a strong reward for play and to engage players at the table, making them keep coming back for more!

But powering up through levels can start to take multiple sessions, while speeding up leveling takes some of the enjoyment out of anticipating a new level and appreciation of the previous level gained. And once you’ve given a +1 weapon, that’s it. The only thing to go onto is +2. And soon enough the party will all be equipped with +2 and we will be strapped for what to give as a reward next, while having made the party significantly more powerful at the same time. We want to give powering up rewards multiple times in play, but there is little granulation and so the rewards give too much too soon?

Here is your answer! The following is a way of granting more power to each player regularly through play, granted in manageable increments!

Here is the first example – Defensive Boons!

[[ I’m currently developing a PDF with a number of different Boon types, offensive as well. Providing many more hours of rewards in play ]]

Defence Boons

These upgrades are found as small, magic precious stones. The magic allows them to be pressed into armour and they will magically set themselves into the item. When finding these stones, it can be fun to say to a player ‘You’ve found a precious stone – what type is it and what does it look like?’, as the magic stone will become a part of their armour latter on, once used. So they will decide the new look of their equipment!

Each magic stone represents an upgrade stage. Armour can have multiple stones, each increasing the level of boon granted upon the armour and thereby the character that wears it!

Defence Boon Levels

1 This level grants the wearer to activate the boon as a free action on their turn, and for one round (until the start of their next turn) they receive +1 AC on top of their regular armour class. This can be done once per long rest.
2 The Boon grants a bonus for two rounds
3 The Boon grants a bonus for three rounds
4 In addition to the previous effect that can be activated, the Boon now has a reactive component! When the PC would be struck by an attack, as a free action the player can choose to activate the Boon to gain +1 AC. They decide this after finding out the attack roll result! However, this bonus only applies to this one attack and then the reactive charge is spent. See the recharge rules below.
Recharge cost : 20g
5 Reactive recharge cost reduced : 10g
6 Reactive recharge cost reduced : 5g
7 Reactive recharge cost reduced : 2g
8 Reactive recharge cost reduced : 1g
9 Reactive component will self recharge for free, once per week! You can still pay for a recharge, which doesn’t reset the recharge time.

Recharging Reactions

This can generally be done in town where spell services are performed. All the strange glass jars on the walls, mystic books and stuffed crocodiles owned by the NPC magic user are part of their effects for gathering energy over time. Collected inside all these knick knacks in their magic shop, which they can use for effects like recharging the reactive Boon in the adventurers equipment! The magic user, for their expertise, time and prior investment in miscellaneous strange potion bottles and crumbling scrolls, requires a fee in gold, as described in the table. Only one reactive charge can be held at a time by an item.

Sometimes a town is grateful for the adventurers deeds or the adventurers have proven to be good souls in how they act in town. And so the magic user providing the spell casting service will offer a certain amount of gold removed from the cost of recharge, to reward the PCs or attempt to gain some favor with the PC’s.

Other times the PC might find a recharging ritual circle in a dungeon, set up by humanoid monsters (the energies were to be used for evil designs, no doubt!). They can use the energy of these ritual circles (once! Then the circle is spent!) to recharge their Boon. A circle is the equivalent of recharging a certain number of golds worth – the GM determines the amount when they create the circle. This becomes another form of treasure to be found in dungeons! Otherwise the PCs can simply pay for the service in town and receive the benefit of the Boon.

Sometimes the player might be able to buy a one use portable magic device that can be used mid dungeon to recharge their item. It costs twice as much as a regular recharge and only one such portable recharge can be applied per item per long rest. It’s also a nice thing to come across – appreciate the generosity in the GM’s world if you find one!

How to Apportion the Rewards / At what Rate to Give the Boons

If there are four players are at first level and a session is around two hours then it’s a question of whether they get to level 2 occurs in the first session.

If they will level after the first session, a good rate to start with one Boon found by a players PC in the first half hour, then another at around an hour into the session. The last hour of the session will likely be rather busy and may involve other treasure types to act as rewards, as well as the reward of leveling.

After that, one Boon per half hour of play for a group of four! Also on that half hour, roll a D6. On a 6 a second Boon is found! Occasional extra rewards lends more spice to play!

At that rate and in terms of armour, that covers about 15 hours of play at one reward per half hour. The players will probably upgrade their armour at some point, needing to start again with new Boons in the new armour (The old Boons cannot be transferred over, they are a part of the previous armour now!). So this will cover around another 15 hours of play!

[[ The PDF version of this play support will have a table for various group sizes and what rewards to give, more information on level 1 and Boons that go up to level 12 in strength! ]]

But how do I make sure PC’s get a Boon at the right time?

Boons can come to the player, they don’t have to wait in a specific location until found – did they look in a draw that’s empty? It’s not, it has a Boon in it! Did they just open a door or make a turn in a corridor into an area they haven’t seen? Well, there’s a small chest there, with a Boon inside! Freed prisoners, thankful villagers – all can have a stash they give up to the PC’s.

[[ In the PDF there will be a table with over a dozen entries to choose from or roll on when the real life time has come to determine where a Boon could be found ]]

How does the group distribute them?

Really the PC’s might be drawing straws. In real life, the players can roll off (or you could make straws to draw, to add immersion!). Only players who have not yet received a Boon roll off to see who gets the highest roll (equal highest roll off again until there is only one left!) – once everyone has received one Boon, then a new round begins and with the new round everyone rolls to see who receives the next one. And so on, distributing the Boons evenly!

A basic guide to splitting the party

Let’s look at how it can be done fairly neatly.

Say you will be playing for two hours and there are four players.

We could slice that into 30 minutes per player!

So if one player splits off from the rest, they get around 30 minutes of solo play.

“But everyone has to wait for thirty minutes as one PC does their thing!?”

No one said that!

You can take that thirty minutes and breaking it into 5 minute chunks. Mark down the time when the solo PC starts their time. The solo PC gets to do stuff for roughly 5 minutes.

When done, note a five minute chunk has been used up, until they’ve used up their full 30. Do about 15 to 18 minutes with the main party, then the solo player again.

Try to end on a ‘not sure what will happen next!’ cliff hanger with the solo player at the end of each five minute chunk, to keep them hanging on for more. Try not to finish off with ‘Okay, you bought a sword…now back to the main party!’. Sometimes you will end up having to do this, but if you can stop at four minutes on a cliffhanger, don’t resolve it to do the full five minutes.

Sometimes a player wont even want to use their full time and will rejoin the party after completing their business. Though sometimes the PC is just not part of the party anymore – they are their own faction in the game world, as much as the party is. Though with more members in the party, the party is more likely to survive or spend less time sneaking, figuring ways to sneak or retreating!

“But I don’t want to watch that PC even for five minutes!”

Something has gone wrong here – you should be interested in your fellow players characters. Why did you invite the person if you are not interested in their creations?

“I don’t really like that other gamer!”

But you’re gaming with them anyway!? For goodness sake…it’s not splitting the party that is dysfunctional, it’s the social context of your games that is dysfunctional. More exactly the lack of social context!

I’m…I’m just going to go back to the functional groups and speak with them…

“But a split party gets in the way of my plot!”

Argh!

Okay, I’m going to just link to a post I found recently here

 

What if the Main Quest became a Side Quest?

What if? Here we’re talking about the idea of playing in a sandbox or something like that. But maybe you’ve brought a Main Quest in…anyway?

But say in video games like the elder scrolls series, some people play them and never engage the ‘Main Quest’. They play, do the things they want to do – and those things they do are, by dint of the player just wanting to do those things, the Main Quest! Then they stop playing or they stop playing that character and start the game again with a new character, happy either way. And whatever was the Main Quest as intended by the designers becomes a side quest. And more than that – a side quest never done!

Could players take over the steering wheel on what is important?

But you made it about saving the world, didn’t you? So they can’t just ignore your Main Quest, for if they do, the world blows up and destroys everything they did – ie, it destroys everything they found important. So it’s just a waiting game – the players can mess around with their Side Quests for ages – but they have to get to your Main Quest eventually, or doom all their side quest accomplishments to destruction. The steering wheel is firmly in your hands. It’ll just be awhile before you can turn it.

Or what if we avoided ‘save the world’? And a campaign finishes on what the players found it important for their PC’s to have completed or attempted to have completed?

But what do players find important for their PCs to complete? Do the PCs have any goals the player has made up for them?

The too clear moral choice

I think some moral choices can have an answer which is too clear – to much of an expected result. Do you save the bus load of orphans or instead spend your time eating a cheeseburger? And indeed players will probably have a character who will eat the cheeseburger sometimes, since they ostensibly get a choice about their choice.

One moral choice situation I read recently was where your group has a pressing mission elsewhere, but a deal you’ve done is with a guy who turns out is probably going to do some bad things to some strangers. Stay and deal with this, but potentially jeopardize your mission, or leave.

There’s a few issues with this – with relatively good characters, the outcome is pretty clear cut.

Another thing is that it is ambiguous – something going to be jeopardized? What? It’s ambiguous. What is actually, definitely going to happen and be a change in the game world if we stick around?

Finally, its kind of walking away from action – with action being the stuff a lot of people actually find super fun and engaging.

So let’s workshop this!

The Good Guys Problem – I think adding a third option to the mix alleviates the automatic response here. See, you can be the devil and tempt the PC’s – say for example the PC’s could drop off armamentss for the threatened strangers to use to defend themselves, then the PC’s leave. That’s nice. But what if the PC’s would just shrug and do it – it’s still too clear cut. So increase the costs of the armaments, for example. Or that the strangers are ill or old and/or very young. But be careful you don’t swing the other way and make it clear cut the other way ‘OMG, child soldiers! We have to stay and fight for them’. The situation can be primed to make the choice agonising! This is the sort of agony you want to inflict on your players, because you hate them (in a good way!), because you’re the Devil Master…wait, I said Dungeon Master, right? Right! *shifty eyes*

Anyway, it can take fine tuning until you nail a real bitch of a moral problem to deliver. though keep in mind sometimes the problem still misses – you think it’s really difficult to answer, but then a PC just instantly decides, like they are Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot in twain! It happens – and frankly when its unexpected clear cut decision making, it’s entertaining. It’s only when you can see the decision in advance does it raise the question ‘Is this really worth gaming?’

The Ambiguity Problem – To me, it’s too easy to go ‘Wooo, something might go wrong at some unspecified point in future if you don’t go back to the mission’, but then the GM completely wimps out ’cause he loves you and your PC’s so much (likely if playing good guys) he’d rather just kinda forget about doing anything in regard to that whole threat thing. But screw that, I want things to blow up. Okay, we stay and fight the villain – what concrete, objective thing gets wrecked? Maybe if we don’t get back, tankers of fuel will be stolen. Not might – WILL! Maybe add a moral component – and the oil for fueling heaters in the village. How many ill or elderly will die when winter comes (OMG, it’s coming!). But then again that might be making the choice too clear cut ‘We can’t let granny die! We go to the mission!’. Damn, too clear cut. Okay, maybe people will get sick rather than die during winter. It’ll be miserable. But then again these strangers might die? What to MFing do?

And then once you have a concrete effect, STILL add on ‘and it might jeopardize the mission…in other ways as well!’. Leave yourself that blank cheque for adding bad stuff latter, which themselves are just excuses for more moral choices. Maybe, or maybe you’ll leave it because you love the group and PC’s and you’re soft and wont twist the screws…just admit it! >:)

The Walking Away From The Action Problem – This is probably the easiest – going back to the mission has to have some defined action we are going to. When faced with action now or ambiguity, players and their PC might just choose action automatically. Again, it’s too clear cut. But we don’t have to be fancy here – if we make sure choice A: is action and choice B: is action, then we are choosing action no matter what. So now were kind of perfectly even, it makes sure one choice doesn’t outshine the other by dint of having action when the other doesn’t.

~~ And there are some ideas on making moral choices less clear cut and more agonising!

But yeah, there was this guy who I’d totally primed to stop the mugger. He had all sorts of super powers, but he just wanted to be a wrestler. So he ignores the mugger, saying ‘It’s what my character would do!’ – which is something only ‘that guy’ says, am I right? That character was going absolutely no where in terms of story, that’s for sure!

Sorry, just finishing off by having a bit of fun of the idea if someone wanted to make a player take a certain choice. But no one ever does that, right?

Dungeon Traversal Mishaps!

Dungeons are rough places – and perhaps players should start to feel that? Just by themselves they present a threat of personal injury, discomfort and loss, let alone once monsters enter the picture!

So here are a series of dungeon mishaps that can happen just by walking along corridors and through rooms. These are made in mind that even if you have dark vision or similar, simply making out one thing from the other in a haphazard, chaotic environment can be difficult and things can catch you by surprise. If you can’t see in the dark and are seeing by the light of a swinging lantern or light spell, it’d be even harder!

Each roll affects one PC. The XP amount is a suggestion to start off from. It might be worth raising the XP for each event to 10.

Roll 1D6 when the PC’s are traveling through largely uneventful areas and the dungeon needs to make the players feel something!

  1. Uneven ground – uneven and hard to make out and a stone, over decades, has raised above the rest of the floor. The PC makes a DEX check DC: 12. 2 Damage on a fail, 1 Damage on a pass. XP: 5. Or if the PC feels their PC would avoid such traps, then they will miss out on the XP as well.
  1. Unseen stalagmite – Over time drips from the ceiling deposit minerals on the floor, leaving spikes called stalagmites. They can be tucked away in all sorts of corners and can hook and drag on carried equipment without the adventurer even realising it as the PC’s press through tight corridors or even through doorways. Roll 1D4 on the following chart:
    1. 50 feet of rope hooks around the stalagmite and is left behind
    2. 1 day of provisions is knocked loose or knocked out of a bag by bumping into the mineral deposit and is lost.
    3. A dagger or javelin is jostled free of its holding by bumping against the stone and is lost.
    4. Bedroll is lost

XP: 5. If the player feels they just couldn’t have lost an item that way, then they don’t get the XP either.

  1. Stalactite – now these are the ones that cling ‘tite’ly to the ceiling! The exact position of them can be hard to make out – you might duck one, go to stand up and run into a second that was hidden behind the first. Or they are there as you round a corner, unexpectedly. The PC makes a WIS check, DC: 12. 2 Damage on a fail, 1 Damage on a pass. If they have a helmet they get advantage on the check. XP: 5. If the player feels they wouldn’t run into anything, then there isn’t any XP gain as well!
  1. Pothole – not a pit trap, but can be just as invisible. Just a hole in the ground – perhaps subsidence created it, perhaps a burrowing left it. Maybe leaves or mould or detritus covered the top. Player makes a CON check, DC 12. On a fail their movement speed is reduced by 10 feet, as they have twisted an ankle badly. On a pass their speed is reduced by 5 feet. This lasts for two hours or until they complete a short rest. XP: 5. If the player doesn’t think this could happen to their PC, then neither does the XP.
  1. Swarm of bats – Or something that roosts in dark holes under the ground! They swarm out, startled and fly into one PC in particular as they escape! The PC makes a WIS check against DC: 12. On a fail they take 1 point of Damage and their perception and initiative suffers a -3 penalty for an hour, as their senses are disorientated. On a pass they just suffer the perception and initiative penalties. XP: 5. If the player thinks bats wouldn’t have any effect on their PC, then they don’t get the XP either.
  1. Chilling drip – Often dungeon tunnels have issues with water slowly dripping through roof of their corridors. Sometimes a droplet hangs for some time, building up, until any nearby movement makes it finally break away. Other times there’s a continual small shower from the roof to press on through. Some might just get a PC’s clothing slightly damp, but sometimes it gets right down the back of their clothing, chilling them to the bone! Make a CON check, DC 12. On a fail they are at -1 to hit for an hour and take 1 Damage unless they have a chance of under clothes (fabrics worn under armour) and take a minute or two to change. On a pass they are just -1 to hit for an hour. XP: 5. Again, if the player can’t imagine their PC being affected by this, then they wouldn’t receive the XP either.