RPG Design – Theme Thursday: Quest Rewards

Quest rewardsTheme Thursday: Quest Rewards

If you’re the sort of GM (and hopefully you are) who wants players to remember their adventures, to think of them often with a fond laugh, a wry smile, or even a bitter grimace, then you may want to consider adding some better quest rewards. Nobody really remembers which part of the frost giant adventure they got their +2 frost axe from, or which level of the Abyss they found that Helm of Teleportation–indeed, in my games these are considered onerous bookkeeping activities.

The solution is to give your players rewards that are inherently tied to each adventure. Unfortunately, no one wants to bother with named magic items, because “I attack it with the sword of Dead King Jorgrim the Unyielding Warrior that we got from the Necropolis of Demondread with a +14 modifier including the magic bonus” is far too much of a mouthful. Instead, it has to be a reward that stands outside the basic rules, so that there’s no need to boil the reward down to a number. On the other hand,  adding capabilities and power to the players runs the severe risk of unbalancing the game. The solution is to make the quest rewards a one-time-use proposition; after being expended, the reward is gone forever.

Quest Rewards faceFor a long time, I’ve given out one or two action points and (with the advent of the Advanced Players’ Guide) hero points at the end of adventures or for doing heroic deeds. These work, in that players feel personally rewarded for going beyond the call of duty or for playing with panache. However, given a little time the memory of how someone got those 5 action points fades, leaving us with the mere numerical bonuses. It became a little boring.

Thus, we have quest reward power cards. These are one-use cards with unique powers and abilities on them, each themed on some part of the completed adventure. But don’t let the players throw them away once used! There may be mysterious methods of re-activating the cards for a second round–such as the expenditure of action/hero points.

I simply take a couple of index cards, cut them in half, and write the power on the lined side. On the back of the card, write the name of the completed adventure–I add a little illustration of what the power does, because I like to place the cards face down on the table at the end of the adventure and let the players each choose one based on the illustration. If you design highly tailored cards, such as spellcasting-related cards that could be drawn by a fighter type, either allow the players to trade cards or dispense with the face down idea.

It’s best to design cards without too much power, even if they are one-use. Best of all are cards that refresh power or abilities in some way, because these unbalance the game the least while giving players an enormous satisfaction.

These cards have revolutionized the game I’ve tested them in– the players are more involved, more interested, and remember the story much better than before.

Let me know what you think!


Max Porter Zasada





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