Remember your first magical item in an RPG? Maybe. Unless you’re like me and your first game was with an existing group and you bought all your gear out of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and it was all just a series of bonuses with a gold cost. After a point we get jaded with magical items and start immediately doing math.
Here are some ideas to help make gathering loot exciting again. Future “Special Treasures” articles will cover different types of player rewards, but this week I’m just going to talk about a few…
Alternatives to Coins
When in doubt about what to give your players as a reward, you can always fill the gap with coins. You don’t have to calculate their worth or worry about them just getting sold, and everyone likes money. Check it out though, there’s stuff that has direct monetary value that you can give out instead and add cool little effects to. Examples include:
Chocolate: A pound of chocolate is listed in the trade goods section as being worth 10 GP. This means that at the lower levels, instead 100 GP the players could find ten pounds of chocolate, which might make more sense if the adventure takes place in something like a palace instead of a dungeon or cave such as a castle or even a barracks. But isn’t that just gold with a different name? Sort of, but there’s always a…
Cool trick: Bring actual chocolate to the game. Or non-chocolate candy if you have a friend who can’t have chocolate. Say each bar represents one of their pounds of chocolate, when they eat it, they can’t sell that pound of chocolate anymore. Unlike gold, you can probably afford to just give people chocolate.
Crafting Materials: This doesn’t mean you just say “1,000 gold worth of crafting materials.” That’s lazy. I’m talking about giving the players a pound of mithral, or adamantine. If, for example, your players raid a forge then they might fight their loot in metal bars rather than coins and those bars should include something special. Alternatively, a mine might contain un-smelted ores or blood crystal, or the lodge of exotic hunters might have stocks of dragon hide or griffin mane.
Cool trick: Instead of selling the materials on the market, let it have 150% of its value if they use it to craft an item made of that material. Those two pounds of mithral are enough to make a full mithral shirt and get some change back, or it can take a huge chunk off of the cost of a suit of elven chain. Unlike the chocolate example, this one doesn’t have a way to bring it into the third dimension but it DOES make the players reconsider whether to sell or use their treasure.
Property: This will probably get its own section in the future, but seriously, this can be an amazing reward to capstone an adventure. Did the mid-to-high level players clear out an enemy stronghold? Hell, let them keep the stronghold as part of their reward. Sure, the gold value of it might seem a little excessive depending on the level (or not, a mansion in Ultimate Campaign costs less than a +2 sword), but it does a lot for your players. It gives them a base of operations, it gives them a place to return to and call home, and it lets them say “Yeah, we own a castle. Like, a whole damn castle. With ramparts and a moat and stuff.” I know the point of this article was stuff to give the players that was easily liquidated into coin value, and they can very well liquidate their new home by selling it off to a local lord or mage who needs a new tower or whatever. Or, they could have a castle!
Cool trick: This IS the cool trick.
Those are just a few options for player rewards to put in place of a pile of gold coins. Not saying that there’s anything wrong with gold coins, mind you, but variety is the spice of life. Which reminds me, you can use spices too!