Unlockable Reward Items

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0867

Unlockable Reward Items

Been getting many emails where frustrated game masters want roleplay and storybuilding but players just wanna hurt stuff.

For example, RPT Game Master DB asks:

Maybe you could do a musing on new types or ways to reward players without leading to mass murder? My world’s population is shrinking real fast…

So I had an idea today for a magic item concept that might help improve gameplay for GMs and players.

A Shared Resource

First, what if a magic item grows in power as your campaign grows in power?

We’ve seen examples of this with Legacy Items. I’ve created a few of these over the years in my campaigns and the approach works well. Player and item bond. Campaign balance remains intact.

Second, what if it was a party item? A shared resource all characters were responsible for feeding, nurturing, and protecting?

Could be a utility magic item. Or a home base. Or a relationship with a god or powerful entity.

The item has needs and gives back.

Reward The Gameplay You Desire

With this dynamic in place, you set requirements for unlocking new powers or fuelling existing ones.

These requirements are based on the kind of gameplay you enjoy. Saving or capturing enemies, for example, instead of hobo-ing them.

You reward the gameplay you wish to see. And you do this via the in-game vehicle of unlocking powers and keeping powers already unlocked.


As with any reward-based approach, it needs to be a choice. Players choose to fulfil the item requirements to get and keep more goodies, or they choose not to.

Build Your Own Reward Item

Here’s a quick creation recipe:

  1. Make a list of Player Kicks.
  2. Make a list of GM Kicks — stuff you want to see in-game.
  3. Sprinkle things from both lists liberally into the item’s potential.
  4. Play to unlock.

If stuck for ideas, these might help:

Graphic of section divider


What do you think about this party item idea? Would it give you a good tool for guiding gameplay? How might you tweak the idea so it helps motivate the kind of gameplay you’d like to see more of?