“Your reward for rescuing the Duke’s daughter is a magical weapon, a suit of enchanted armor and a favour.”
As D&D characters become more and more powerful they always seem to become filthy rich along the way. At first they reinvest their newly gotten gains in themselves, purchasing new weapons, armor and magical items. But after a few levels they have everything they need and they start accumulating wealth. Massive amounts of wealth.
I have numerous characters at or above level 10 and all of them have thousands of gold pieces recorded on their character sheet. And the money continues piling up as they continue adventuring. Now I can spend the cash for the sake of spending the cash, but honestly there’s nothing that these character want or need. They already have magic items in every item slot of their character sheet. Eventually these PCs hit a point where any monetary rewards become inconsequential. I mean what can you buy with 20,000 gp that you couldn’t buy with 15,000 gp?
As a player I find that the material rewards that accompany high level adventuring aren’t nearly as satisfying as the rewards that accompany those first few levels. So as a DM I’ve come up with a solution. I’m going to replace monetary rewards with favours. When the Duke’s daughter is kidnapped and he hires adventurers to rescue her, he’s not going to offer them the expected 250 gp each. Instead he’ll offer the party a favour. If they’re successful then the Duke is in their debt and they can call upon him for a favour in the future.
This actually accomplishes a few goals simultaneously. First and foremost it gives the PC a reward other than gold pieces. If they already have thousands of gp, then this kind of reward could be more valuable to them in the long run. Second it encourages role-playing. I’ve often commented on how a lot of gamers minimize the role-playing in favour of the number crunching. By rewarding the PCs with favours in stead of gp it removes one of the numbers commonly crunched and forces the PC to role-play and interact with the NPC in order to get the reward they’ve were promised. This also opens up fantastic opportunities for the DM.
Once the PCs have a few favours in their bag of holding, the DM can put the party in situations where they can actually star calling in their favours. The outcome of an adventure shouldn’t hinge on using the favour, but there should be a clear advantage or short cut if they do. It also encourages the players to be creative. As they start banking favours they’ll want to keep track of what goods and services each person in their debt is capable delivering. It may be a few levels before they need to charter a ship, but when that time comes they know they can visit their friend – the captain of the Wave Crasher – and he’ll repay the favour he owes them by whisking them to their destination at a discounted rate or possibly even free of charge.
As excited as I am at the possibility introducing favours to my treasure bundles, I’m not going to do away with monetary rewards all together. As I mentioned above, during those first few levels PCs need every gp they can get their hands on. But after a few levels it’s time to start swapping out gold pieces from the treasure bundles and replacing them with favours.
Depending on how many favours you introduce into your campaign it may becomes necessary to track how much each favour is worth. If you’ve replaced a 100 gp treasure bundle with a favour then whatever the PCs decide to use the favour for should fall into the 100 gp ballpark. A simpler way to track the value of favours is to note the PCs level when they earned the favour. If they were level 3 when they earned the sea captain’s favour, then cashing it in when they’re level 10 probably won’t seem all that spectacular. It should still give them an edge, but if it the PCs have let too much time pass before calling in their favour then the DM may want to adjust the type of compensation accordingly.
My expectation is that by introducing favours as rewards the PCs will do what they can to keep in touch with the people indebted to them. This likely means more role-playing. And if the PCs begin role-playing more often because of the favours, I’m a lot more likely to forget the favour’s “value” and just assume that when they need to call it in, they get what they want.
What are your thought on the idea of favours as rewards? As a player would you feel cheated if you merely got “future considerations” for completing your objective or do you see this as a reward better than gold?