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Alex Greene

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What rewards are you handing out to your player characters? Have you given a thought that maybe "gold coins, drop treasure, and magic items" might not be enough for your player characters?

Rewards are an incentive for players to continue playing, to see the session, scenario, or campaign through to its end. Games Masters have to balance the quantity of the rewards with their quality, and also their variety and suitability for the players as much as for the characters. Short scenarios can be rewarded with small, immediately-gratifying rewards such as coins and drop treasure; but Games Masters may seek out more ephemeral, yet more lasting, rewards for longer stories, as well as interim rewards throughout a campaign to keep the players' interest, or to offset temporary losses sustained in the course of play.

Here are some of the kinds of rewards which Games Masters can offer to player characters. These all have positive effects and drawbacks.

Money

Coin is the most obvious - but give a thought to the nature of cash in your setting. Metal coins are not the only form of currency - currency can take the form of anything from compressed salt coins to cages full of chickens, to sacks of grain or salt, to promissory notes. Give at least some thought to the local economy and what the locals consider to be a fungible currency.

Art

Artworks are a larger and bulkier reward than bags of coins. Some art can be worth millions of coins: others can be virtually worthless. A gold ring and a massive marble statue might both be worth the exact same price on their respective markets - but one cannot exactly slip the statue into one's pocket (unless the setting has access to the Shrink sorcery spell). Other than the knowledge that artworks are a lot more of a risky sell than bullion coins, the process of gaining wealth apply to artworks from jewellery to paintings to statuary.

Connections

A new Connection can be a marvellous tool for the Games Master. Connections can be the catalyst that sends the characters into an adventure. Connections can also become a reward when they become a part of the characters' lives during the course of a campaign - whether as a healer, a majordomo of the characters' home, a savvy Contact with her ear to the streets, or "the guy who knows a guy" who provides the inrroductions to rich patrons, Connections are a valuable asset to everybody.

Property

Like cash and art, but this is more solid and much more expensive. Having real estate changes a character. For one thing, the character now belongs to the "landed classes," and people pay them more respects. For another, ad owners of a deed to some property, that household can provide a steady source of income if properly managed. An estate run by a majordomo is much more likely to be a source of positive profits, particularly if that majordomo is as competent as they are loyal.

Pets

Having a pet also changes a character, whether they are a Besti who acquires a hunting hound as a puppy and has to train it to hunt with him, or a magician who acquires an animal familiar. The character has an animal companion to look after.

Company

Sometimes, a significant other turns up in a character's life - a friend, a family member, a lover, a loved one. They may not be Allies or Contacts - but, like pets, they give the character reason to want to come home.

Mundane Treasures

Coin can only go so far. Artworks are bulky. Sometimes, a character can be allowed to receive material treasures such as books, new weapons, armour that fits, decent shoes, and so on.

Magical Treasures

Mythras is geared more towards personal ability than magic items. Actual magic items are rare in Mythras. The Enchant sorcery spell is designed to create magic items which are temporary: the enchanter creates it to serve some purpose, usually to allow them to cast a powerful sorcery spell very quickly, and items tend to be unwoven after their purpose is served just to allow the enchanter to get their Magic Points capacity back.

This makes magical treasures the most ephemeral and fleeting of all the reward types, because inevitably they are only a part of the reward - a tool by which means the character can complete a task and gain access to more tangible rewards, such as the rewards above.

Answers

Some characters are brought into the game world asking questions: Who murdered my father? Why did my mother leave when I was nine? Where is my brother, missing for two years? What destroyed my entire village while I was away up in magic school in the mountains? Who is the out-of-towner who visits my mother every year on my birthday? Their game's story can be centered around them answering those deep-seated questions. Either they can receive full answers, in which case they'd better come up with new questions, or their campaign story arc can be brought to an end if all of their questions are answered, allowing the player to retire them out of the game.

Achievements

Some characters can bring with them, not so much unresolved questions, but unresolved aspirations - to topple the king, to rise to the top of a criminal empire, to become the world's greatest artist / scientist / mage / general, or whatever. They want something. Their character has a definite goal. Well, give it to them, even if it takes them out of the game. And sometimes, remember Seneca's advice - "You can't always get what you want; but if you try, sometimes you'll find you get what you need."

Resolution

Some characters have unresolved issues - to seek revenge on their parents' killer, or to stop an Enemy from ruining everybody's lives, including their own. The reward here is that the character does get to do something which makes a difference - justice for one's parents (so they don't have to go out at night and fight criminals in their pyjamas any more), or stopping a runaway enemy before they inflict irreparable damage. Again, if they can achieve resolution, they can either develop new unresolved issues to resolve or, for one-shots or short single adventures, they can drop out of the game at that point.

Status / Recognition / Reputation

Status can mean so much in campaign play. Characters' status may or may not be listed as a number, but the character can accomplish a lot more than before. Their earned status can open doors for them, including bringing in a better (read: wealthier) class of Patron. A campaign can revolve around the characters trying to get as much pull as possible back home. Reputations can also be made, including bad reputations cleared, through one's actions during the adventure.

Advancement

Similar to status, if a character is involved in a brotherhood, guild, church, or order, their reward can take the form of advancement in rank, particularly if the adventure they just completed involved them defeating an enemy of the group which gives them shelter and an identity.

Evolution

Magic-oriented characters can receive a magical reward. More than just learnin new spells, a magician's evolution takes the form of improvement in their magical skills, and the increasing power and responsibilities which come from increasing their Folk Magic, or Invocation and Shaping, or Meditation and Mysticism, or Binding and Trance.

Apotheosis

Theists and animists can, likewise, develop their relationship with their favourite spirits or deities, through increases in Devotion and Exhort, or through divine Gifts.

Tragic Ending

The ultimate reward, literally, is for the character not to make it back home alive at all. There can be something ennobling and uplifting, even in a bittersweet way, for a character to give their absolute all, and to lay down their lives to save others and to complete the task with a resounding success. Everybody else's happily ever after, bought and paid for by the character whose ever after is in PC heaven.

To go back to Apotheosis, this would be the ultimate in Apotheosis for a theist or animist character, as their soul ascends to its final reward in a blaze of light, or the ghostly figure of the animist appears before the rest of the party, thanking them before they open a portal and walk through it into a visible portion of the spirit realm.

In the end, there are many different ways to bring characters decent rewards for their efforts. Some of these are more suited for short game play, others better suited for campaign play and story arcs - but in the end, the most important reward is to the players.

A Memorable Game

This reward does not benefit the characters in the least bit. The reward is to the players. A Games Master can think long and hard about the best way to reward each character - but the final reward is to the players, who can take home cherished memories of memorable settings, memorable challenges, memorable colleagues, memorable team play, memorable events, and stories about what their characters did, as well as praise for the Games Master whose games can be unforgettable.

Edited by Alex Greene

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