Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rewarding your Players

And to put my mouth where my money is at, Here's a bit from the Red Eft Game Master's Guide on rewarding your players....

Everyone loves a treasure hunt, but far too often treasure in an RPG is treated like treasure in a video game. Characters come upon a chest of gold coins, it rings with a bright bling noise as it is hoovered up by a sack of holding and then it becomes nothing more than a score at the top of the screen. Treasure becomes a number we think fondly of because we have been raised to think that way. Treasure rarely comes back into the game and when it does it often makes the game less interesting by making everything too easy. Powerful weapons and magical items can so dramatically unbalance a game that they can actually be a threat to your campaign. The notion of “Rewarding Your Players” is a dubious matter at best.

Frick'n Ingrates. First and foremost, your players should be happy just to be playing the game. It is not often so many people can take so much time out of their lives to come together and entertain each other by rolling dice and pretending to be elves. However, reprogramming your friends is not an option.

If your players get a gleam in their eye when you mention large rubies worth untold fortunes then you should ride that desire as best you can. This doesn't mean you should actually let them have it, but it is perfectly legal to dangle it in front of their noses like a carrot to get them to move.

You should certainly not let treasure disappear into a bag of holding only to re-emerge whenever the PC's need to buy a shank of mutton. You do not have to forbid easy magical storage devices, but do your players really know where all that wealth is going? How do they know they can trust such amazing once-in-a-lifetime wealth with a magical sack? It may be working now, but what happens when they open it up and nothing is there?

If the PC's choose to carry their booty around the old fashioned way, that chest full of gold coins is going to be heavy and hard to haul. When they drag it into a local village everyone is going to turn out to take a look and hopefully get a bit of it for themselves. Things can get quite ugly when the local thieves guild and/or tax agency gets wind of it. There is a very good reason why pirates bury their treasure and closely guard the maps leading back to it. Players should feel those forces and maybe even pushed to do the same.

To Kill Boredom, Kill Repetition. What is often meant by “Rewarding your Players” is actually “How do I keep my players from being bored?” If your players are becoming bored there is a reason for that and you need to find it and kill it before it ruins your game.

The most common cause of boredom is repetition. You can only fight a goblin horde so many times. Some repetition can be tolerated as the nature of the game, especially if the players themselves are the cause of the repetition. However it is always a good idea to try to get your creatures to react in such a way that avoids doing the same things over and over and over.

Action movies are good about this (at least the good ones are). Often an action movie is nothing but one fight scene after another but it is not too hard to see the director pulling strings to make sure the film does not seem like one fight scene after another. The same thing never happens twice in a row. If you just had a bare knuckle brawl then make sure anything else happens aside from yet another bare-knuckle brawl. If unavoidable then change the nature of the brawl itself – different creatures, different weapons, different settings – just so long as it is not the same thing as what you just did.

Another common repetition problem comes from making too many action checks for a single situation. No one wants to make twenty action checks for a single activity. It will wear the corners off your dice! If the PCs are chasing some villainous cretin through a volcanic cave, leaping from one unsteady pillar of rock to the next, have them make one agility check for the initial leap and if they succeed let it cover all the other leaps made until they come upon one which is obviously harder than the rest. Or, if they scored a little or normal success while the villain scored a great success let them try to improve their success in an effort to keep up with him.

We often think of an action as lasting only as long as one roll of the dice. You make the roll. It succeeds or fails. Then it is gone. Another way of looking at it is to picture an action as causing success that lasts until the game changes on it. If a character is in a library researching one thing or another a whole day could be spent among the shelves but just a single research check should suffice. There is no reason to do another check until perhaps the character leaves the library and goes to a different one.

Of course, some times the problem is simply too much dice rolling. Which is more fun? Walking into a library and making a willpower check, or walking into a library, talking to the librarian and being led down into the basement to a secret room where large dusty tomes are kept, chained to the walls and almost seeming to pulse and burble where they sit on shelves, shelves inscribed with strange arcane symbols....

Changing Levels. Another way to avoid boredom is to let your character's level up. This is often seen as a reward by other games. It makes the characters more powerful so they can then go on to encounter more powerful creatures, which doesn't make it much of a reward at all.

The true reward to be found in levelling up is that it changes the nature of the game. Heroic-level characters may cover the same terrain as Mortals and Demi-Gods but they will experience it in a vastly different ways.

The catch with leveling up is that once your characters increase in level they are not going to want to come back down. This leads to one of the biggest ironies in level-based role playing games. Some of the most challenging and enjoyable games are Mortal level games. By the time the PC's become Dieties they are often too powerful and overwrought to be of any interest to anyone.

Venture Elsewhere. Admittedly, sometimes it may be the game itself. You can have too much of a good thing. Maybe it is time to put the Red EFT aside and go try one of the thousands of other tabletop games out there. Just be sure to come back. You will be missed if you don't.