Don’t Be A Minnie Haul
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1154
I remember getting caught with my pants down running Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
One player had magic claws that could chew through six feet of rock each round.
When the party finally made their way to the villain’s lair, they bypassed an entire page devoted to the magic barriers, traps, and tricks by digging through the normal stone walls.
Which brings us to The Gamemaster’s Hall Of Shame where Minnie Haul is one flawed style of GMing:
Alias: That Cheap Bastard.
Quote: “Okay. After twenty-seven sessions you have finally slain the Three Giant Dragons of Chaos. In the treasure vault you find 12 copper pieces and a rusty fork. Who gets the fork?”
Pros: You’ll never be over-encumbered.
Cons: Majority of characters killed by starvation, plus risk of lockjaw from rusty fork.
My players can attest to this as I do get thrifty on the treasure.
Burned too often by munchkins and clever players digging past my plans. 🙂
But rewards are essential.
They keep players leaning into challenges. They keep players engaged. And they keep players wanting to play again so they can use their newfound loot and capabilities.
So what’s a poor GM to do?
Too much treasure and it gets boring. Too little, and it gets boring.
Enter the Three Rings of Reward!
Ring I: Power
Our goal is for each adventure to provide each character a treasure from each ring.
The first ring speaks to the numbers and abilities on the character sheet.
It’s the Girdle of Giant Strength, Harp of Charisma, and Boots of Stealth that adorn PCs to give them greater effect with core character capabilities.
And if you can swing it (pun intended!) these items get replaced or upgraded each tier of gameplay to help keep campaign balance.
For example, rather than giving the warrior two items that boost strength, the PC gets a girdle +2 to replace the girdle +1. Alternatively, they discover a means to buff their girdle +1 and quest for that.
It’s Your Turn
Identify each character’s core powers and plot a sequence of rewards that boost those over the course of your campaign.Wizards of Adventure: You’d add these to your Treasure Table:
Ring II: Personality
Rather than giving players even more ways to waylay our adventures with power-boosting rewards, we offer treasure that speaks to each character’s persona.
If the troubadour already wields a magic harp, they don’t need an Autotuner +1.
Instead, we offer rewards that give players more roleplaying hooks and cues.
The bard gets a book of lyrics for every mood. Non-magical, kinda boring on paper (pun +2!), but watch your player lean into finding the perfect song for each moment. You might even challenge the player to come up with a verse or two for some boon.
It’s Your Turn
Think about the roleplaying hooks, personality traits, and identity each player’s given their character.
Dole out twice the number of these rewards as you do Ring I: Power treasures.Wizards of Adventure: Cue these up in your Treasure Table, same column. These rewards often feed into Emotional Kicks and Skill Roles. Seize any opportunity to drop Ring II rewards into gameplay.
Ring III: Purpose
Alas, this ring gets neglected most often.
Here we provide the party with ways to overcome the challenges and grasp opportunities you drop into Rooms I – III.
Often consumable, these treasures unlock puzzles, deliver clues, and serve as keys to adventure progression, thus giving you win+win.
Players get cool stuff and your plotline becomes more robust.
We deliver three Ring III rewards for every Ring I treasure, as a rule of thumb. (Think of the Three Clue Rule manifest as items and treasure.)
The wizard gets a scroll of spying. The hacker gets an encrypted password file. The pilot gets special fuel for a quick fast-burn.
It’s Your Turn
Run through your adventure notes.
Look at foe weaknesses, traps and hazards, and obstacles that block party progress.
Conjure up rewards that can be cleverly used by players to assist in overcoming these great challenges. (These rewards often become fantastic side quests!)
Wizards of Adventure: Create rewards that serve Character Story, Skill Role, and Relationships. Rewards can speak to both Plotline and Character Arcs giving you more use cases to serve.
Ring Up Those Treasures
Not every reward must boost character abilities or combat prowess. That’s how we get ourselves into trouble.
For each adventure or tier of play, try to drop in more Ring II: Personality and Ring III: Purpose rewards than you do Ring I: Power treasure.
And try to strategically place these rewards on foes, within traps, and behind obstacles to make players earn them! It’s Your Turn.