d12 Ways To Surprise And Delight Your Players And Their Characters

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0021

A Brief Word From Johnn

I’m sending this issue out early as I’ll be away Easter weekend. I’m not sure what your background is, but Easter always meant “treasure hunt” to me. In nooks and crannies I’d be surprised with chocolate eggs and rabbits. Surprises are fun.

So, in the spirit of Easter, why don’t you surprise your players (in a good way) and enjoy the fun?

Hop. Hop.

Johnn Four
Have more fun at every game!

d12 Ways To Surprise Your Players & Their Characters

By Johnn Four

Taking time to gather surprises, craft delights, and celebrate your friends gives everyone the warm-and-fuzzies. Small gifts, regardless of monetary value, make people feel seen and respected. This improves group morale, increases engagement, and makes it easy to share how you feel about others without the awkward conversation.

Here are d12 ways to surprise and delight your players and their characters:

d12 Player Surprises

  1. Give out homemade cookies, baking, or other treat halfway through the session to represent the treasure hoard just earned. Bonus points if you decorate your baking with in-game content, like a giant +1.
  2. Use fidget toys to represent magic items and other treasure. Players not only get cool treasure, but you arm them with focus tools as well. Here’s the exact bundle I got from Amazon (affiliate link) and I’ve been enjoying the marble-in-mesh one best so far.
  3. Create a scroll for every player. Use them for actual scrolls in-game if desired. But the main surprise here is you’ve written three things they do well or reasons why you are grateful they are your friend.
  4. Use assigned seating and tape something under each chair to be revealed when found in-game. Examples: handouts, treasure, clues, puzzles.
  5. Write out notable player quotes you’ve recorded during the campaign in big crayon writing and mount them in picture frames or hang the sheets around the play area.
  6. Hire a local or online artist to get a drawing of each character made. Bonus: in future have drawings for hirelings, companions, and familiars.
  7. Get some old trophies and turn them into session rewards. Best Roleplaying, Best Tactics, Best Teammate might be good candidates for your group.
  8. Record player birthdays and group-join dates. Celebrate each with a song, speech, something on this list, or just a simple acknowledgement and expression of gratitude.
  9. Get old magazines or warm up your printer. Cut out things representing party, character, and player goals and glue them to a large sheet of paper. Mount the paper in the game area to offer reminders and help players focus.
  10. Make or give each player a cool or funny hat that in some way represents their character.
  11. Write a new inspirational quote, RPG style, on a whiteboard or mirror before each session.
  12. Create a desktop wallpaper of the party or other things players would enjoy.

d12 Character Surprises

  1. Free gold/credits/cash. Ever find money on the ground? It’s a great feeling. I found $20 in my winter coat last September when getting it out of storage. Whoop whoop!
  2. Free treasure. By treasure I mean items that are not money. Let them find potions, scrolls, guns, an abandoned ship, etc. If possible, make the treasure a one-shot or limited time item (i.e. 3 charges left, low on fuel, etc.) to protect game balance.
  3. Help them make a new ally. Often characters have to turn the world upside down to earn the respect of their peers. Let them make a new ally through a friendly conversation or simple deed.
  4. Hold a “last dinner” feast in the party’s honor before they hit the dungeon. Have NPCs stand up and tell each character one thing they respect about them.
  5. Let a character find or make a good deal. Maybe a store has a needed piece of equipment and it’s half-price. Perhaps a rare item is discovered for sale. Mayhap a merchant gives them too much in change. Or, gasp, the PCs pay for an item and discover it is of higher than normal quality.
  6. A new family member, or a long-lost one, contacts a PC. Make this family member friendly and useful to the party in some way.
  7. Create a balloon avalanche to celebrate after a major victory.
  8. Give a PC a free, useful, non-annoying companion. Everybody likes a servant, helper, and gopher.
  9. In similar fashion, let the party earn a valuable agent who can take care of some of the boring in-game tasks like guarding home base.
  10. Have the BBEG make a mistake in the PCs’ favor. Or perhaps an unexpected boon gives the party an advantage over their enemy.
  11. I asked my wife for ideas on surprising players. She doesn’t roleplay but among her suggestions, some of which are above, was to give the characters pig snouts so they could snuff out truffles. Er, well, make of it what you will but I decided to include it for completeness. 🙂
  12. And here’s the grand-daddy of all the happy, unexpected player surprises: their plan works.

Readers’ Feedback

Figure Storage Tips

From Martin Brabander

“My figures box is also my dice box. I use a cheap fishing tackle box which I picked up at a discount plastic store. I am sure you have the type in the USA, but I don’t have any names. I have one layer dedicated to dice (this layer has 6 partitions of about 6″ x 1.5”) which nicely divides my D4,6,8,10,12,20’s and holds more than sufficient for a decent sized fireball.

The top layer is sub-divided into 2″ x 1.5″ compartments (for keeping hooks I suspect). These I fill with a piece of foam for the bottom, in which I have cut the rough shape of the individual figure). So far in about 8 years of use, I have had one bent sword. Total cost…I think about $5.00.”

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Figure Storage Tips II

From Nina and Maureen

Go to any cross stitch/needlepoint craft store and you can buy compartmentalized flat containers with flip up lids for organizing your cross sticking floss. the box is about 8 by 11 and is divided into two rows of even compartments – big enough for an average single character fig.

And it would fit into your larger tote.Or, get a flat tote and go to a foam store and get a piece of foam that fills the entire tote hollow up holes for the figs to rest in and remain separated by a foam layer.”

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Response To Handling Difficult Players From Issue #20

From Tatsuki

This is my first feedback to your e-zine, so let me begin by saying that it is a well put together, well thought out and informative letter, thank you for your time and energy in putting this together. The person asking mentioned that they were playing Heavy Gear, White Wolf and MechWarrior. These are all very cutthroat type games.

If a player is vengeful, you should simply attempt to outwit the person and continue to foil his attempts at outwitting you. Especially if the game in question is Vampire the Masquerade or Vampire the Dark Ages (both by White Wolf). In these games, that is half the fun. If you are truly afraid that the player is going to try to do something to your character because of your actions, then you must have a reason to think so. If it was a game in which plot foiling and the like are not the norm, and it was an honest accident, then you should simply state so to the player.

The player should be mature enough to say “ok” and let it go. however, if the game was designed around such actions, I suggest that you begin taking measures against the other players character, covertly, to insure your own survival. If you are the game master, never, ever set a players target numbers higher than the other players, that is not fair and will result in resentment by all your players, not just the one you are doing it to.

They will begin to wonder if you are doing it to them. remember that it is just a game and if the game becomes not fun, stop playing it. That’s all. I have found that young gamers can be quite refreshing in their innocence to various situations. Why not try running a game for the younger people who ask you to play, you will find that they can have a great deal of fun, and so will you if you don’t make the scenarios too complicated for them.

I suggest the AD&D rules, as the game is much simpler than other more complex systems like Warhammer, Twilight 2000, and almost anything by White Wolf Games (though Changeling the Dreaming with a bunch of 10 year-olds can be really amusing). Try it. Make a game for them, keep it simple, don’t put in adult issues (like sex) and you will have a great deal of fun.

Furthermore, you will be enriching and shaping the minds of tomorrow, which can be rewarding in and of itself. you may even find that some of your constant more adult players will want to get involved for a light hearted break.

In this case, I would suggest that you take them aside and inform them that you are running this one for the “kids” and though they are more than welcome to join it is their show, so let them have it. In other words, tell them not to overshadow the younger players with their more experienced role-play or tell the “kids” how to do things. They will probably have more fun if they play a more supporting type character (i.e. not the party leader) and let the kids have some fun.

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