How To Level Up Players With Reward Systems

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0879

We’ve mused how motivating yourself to be a better GM makes you happier. Those who pursue intrinsic goals are happier because they control more of their destiny.

Now let’s talk about our players, who are probably a mixed bag of intrinsic and extrinsic interests.

I go along with live and let live and to teach by example. So we should not be heavy-handed or manipulative.

Here are five rewards ideas that could help your players play better and have more fun at every game.

Session Awards

Consider getting trophies of some kind and having a quick group vote after each session.

  • Best Roleplayer
  • Best Teammate
  • Greatest Idea

Create categories that reward the type of gameplay you want to see most.

Extrinsically motivated players will probably enjoy the competition. Consider creating a leaderboard to track who wins most often.

Session Retrospectives

Talk about how each session went right after the game, by email, or maybe during the social warm-up before games.

Facilitate an air of respect and transparency. Avoid being defensive when the eye of Sauron gazes at your GMing.

Make retros an official part of your campaigns. And come prepared with a few questions to kickstart discussion.

  • How do you feel last session went?
  • What was a pain point for you last session?
  • What would you like to see changed?
  • What was something you enjoyed a lot last game?
  • What was something that happened last game you’d like to see a lot more of?

Be sure to tease out the silent voices. And give kudos where they are due, especially to players who commit the most fouls.

Pocket Points

Way back in RPT#93 Andre G. Shared a kudos system he called Player’s Pocket. That tip took off and other GMs wrote in about how they tried the idea and expanded on it, and it seemed to work great.

Here’s a variant suited for our extrinsic players.

Define the kind of gameplay you want to see most.

It could be helping other players. It could be “game table diplomacy.” It could be scoring assists instead of goals. It could be thoughtful tactics. Maybe it’s just putting on some deodorant.

Each time this happens in a session you give out a poker chip. It’s worth whatever boon you decide suits your campaign. Perhaps a +1 or a re-roll.

Tell Stories

Make players feel great by sharing stories of their awesome gameplay.

You could tell these during your session retros. Or just via a quick group email. Or casually when opportunity finds itself.

The stories we tell becomes the guideposts of future game table experiences.

Give Each Character An Intrinsic Purpose

Most game systems focus on extrinsic rewards. It’s no wonder we have some of the game table problems we do.

Counter this by tying those rewards into a greater purpose for the PCs. It could be a shared purpose, one per PC, or both.

When we pursue something for its own reward as opposed to a status symbol or false sense of control, we bind our emotions to it until it becomes our North Star.

For example, the last few years I’ve taken up vegetable gardening. At first it was about “just growing stuff” and yields — size of crops, quality of yield, and number of items grown.

Now it’s about the massive difference in taste versus store vegetables, living healthier, and having a smaller planet footprint.

So too it will be for players who have something truly meaningful to them that they are pursuing. Work with your players to find out what that is, and incorporate it along with the “mere” XP, GP, magic items, and feats will also PCs gain.