Rewards Beyond Experience

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on May 22, 2009

You’ve just defeated the powerful red dragon. Now it’s time to reap the rewards. As expected, the DM hands out treasure according to the treasure tables and provides experience points. The PCs take an extended rest and then they move onward towards the next challenge. This tried and true system has served us well for years and provides as the primary measuring stick for a PC’s success. Although this is the normal and expected means of progression for the game, there are other ways to reward the PCs beyond heaping new magic items on them or giving them enough XP to level.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the other ways that DMs can reward the PCs. Looking back at previous campaigns I’ve played in, my favourite character is one who received rewards and accolades that were only available through role-playing and the natural progression of the campaign. To give you a better idea of what I mean, here’s the official announcement that would be made whenever this character would enter a room in any sort of formal setting.

“Introducing Chas Lockwood, Warden of the North, Commander of the King’s Own, Companion of the Ghosts, Champion of the Giant War, and Hero of the Orc Conflict.”

Just typing that title brings back a flood of memories. Without turning this into a “let me tell you about my favourite character” article, it’s worth reviewing how this Dwarven Ranger ended up with such an unlikely and grand title.

  • The last two entries deal with specific arcs in the campaign and are fairly straightforward.
  • The Ghosts was the name of the elite military unit our PCs belonged to. (I think we were all playing a little too much Ghost Recon on Xbox at the time and that’s where the name originated from.)
  • The King’s Own was the military unit that the Ghosts belonged to and at 6th level I took the leadership feat (3e don’t forget). The DM felt this was enough to promote this PC up the ranks in the game and it was nice to receive a role-playing reward for a choice made while advancing my character.
  • As for Warden of the North, well the character eventually became King and selected the title of Warden.

Rewarding the PCs with intangibles is a great way to enhance the role-playing and intensity of the game. Not only can such rewards be beneficial to the PCs, but they may provide the DM with new directions for the campaign. Granting PCs admission into a prestigious organization may seem like a great honour, but those who oppose the group now consider the PCs their enemy. A war hero decorated in one nation may be despised in another.

Reward Hard Work

Some players spend a lot of time developing very intricate back-stories for their PCs. As the DM, feel free to take this, use this and reward this. If the player is willing to spend time creating a detailed living character, the DM should take the time to weave elements of that back-story into the game. This accomplishes two objectives: first it says thank you to the player for taking the time and committing to the campaign; second, it is a great compliment to the player that you are taking part of their story and adding it to the larger tapestry that is the campaign.


In a previous Eberron campaign I played a Bard who happened to be a professor at Morgrave University in Sharn. One of the character’s ambitions was to eventually teach at Wynarn University in Aundair. While this hasn’t happened yet (because that campaign is on hold), I’m still holding out hope that it may eventually happen. There are countless organizations that exist in the official campaign worlds from WotC and rewarding your PCs with an invitation to join one will be recognized as a great honour. A +2 circumstance bonus to certain skill checks because of the PC’s new affiliation may not be out of line as long as it adds an additional element to the role-playing, but don’t feel obligated to provide any additional in-game benefits. Whether the organization is a sect of a religion, a secretive organization, the town guard or an explorer’s league, there are countless opportunities to offer this kind of reward to your PCs.

Orders, Medals and Other Honours

Awarding the PCs with medals or other accolades is another way to provide recognition beyond the usual rewards. Almost every country’s military awards medals. The criteria for winning these medals are easily researched online, or you can just make something up. After all the PCs are the heroes of their world and probably qualify for any type of medal that you want to create. This could also lead to the PCs being inducted into some form of knightly order. The British Empire has many different Orders associated with it. Here are just a few examples:

  • The Most Noble Order of the Garter
  • The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle
  • The Most Honourable Order of the Bath
  • The Royal Victorian Order
  • The Order of Merit

Other countries have had similar systems in place throughout their history. Taking one of these orders and applying it to your game world is a great way to add intrigue, mystery and recognition.

What ways have you rewarded the PCs in your campaign beyond treasure and experience? We’d love to hear what creative ideas you’ve developed.

1 Dungeon June 17, 2009 at 3:10 pm

I love that idea! too few DMs really do that.
Like, back in 3e, remember the Knight class? I made them EARN the “Sir” or “lady” in front of their names.
To give them praise and honor for playing in your campaign is a great thing.
I still do that, and i wish other Dms would also.

“Hey, i got 5,000gp more than you. ”
“who cares? I have the Honorary title of Sir Mordred, let’s see you buy that for 5,000gp!”

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