D&D 5E Rewarding Bad Ideas (Mechanically)

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I've been really interested lately in mechanics that reward players (and characters) for making bad, risky, or narratively interesting choices.

A lot of DMs work hard to try and get characters to use up their resources, avoid taking rests, and push themselves to the limit, because it creates a great story. Fighting the BBEG on 25% power is usually a lot more interesting, nail-biting, and memorable than fighting the BBEG right after a long rest.

However, 5e provides characters with so many ways to be safe. From Rope Trick to Instant Fortress to the Outlander Background and Favored Terrain, D&D rewards players who use the rules to get rested, detour around random encounters, and avoid using resources.

So what can we do to encourage players to take risks? What mechanics can we use to counteract or flip the mechanics already embedded in 5e?


Rewarding Not Resting

D&D 5e encourages characters to try to rest after every fight. Other than narrative reasons, there are very few mechanical benefits to going on without a Short or Long Rest.

So what are some mechanics we could put in place that would encourage characters to not rest? Are there mechanics that could reward going on without resting, rather than punish?

I like the idea of something like momentum dice. After each conflict, each character gets a d4 they can roll to add onto an Ability Check, Saving Throw, Attack Roll, or Armor Class. They must roll all their Momentum Dice at once. When a character takes a Short Rest or Long Rest, they lose all Momentum Dice.


Rewarding Breaking Weapons and Armor

Weapons and armor shattering are always so cool in fantasy media. But in the game itself, it kind of stinks to have your longsword break. Having armor and weapons break regularly (such as on a critical fumble) can also take away from the fearsomeness of unique item-busting enemies like Rust Monsters.

So what are some mechanics we can use to reward characters for breaking their armor and weapons?

What if breaking a weapon deals maximum weapon damage? This could encourage characters to shatter their weapon (or spell focus) when they score a critical hit, or when they think their foe is nearly defeated.

Level Up has a rule that a character can break a shield to turn a critical hit into a normal hit. This is a great idea, too!

What if players could break armor to reduce damage from weapon and elemental attacks? The AC of the armor would be reduced by 1, and the character would gain Damage Reduction equal to their Proficiency Bonus. Armor reduced to AC 10 is destroyed.


Rewarding Lingering Injuries

Jamie Lannister loses a hand (and so does Luke Skywalker... and Finn in Adventure Time...), and it's cool. It changes the character, changes the story.

One time I played a game in which a trap almost cut off my character's feet, and I didn't like it. I didn't like having the image of my character changed by the DM.

But are there mechanics we could use to encourage characters to take on lingering injuries?

We could use something like wound dice. When a character takes damage, they can decide to take no damage and instead take on a d6 Wound Die. The die is rolled, and if the player rolls a 1 their character takes on a Lingering Wound, and they lose the Wound Die. If a 2 - 6 is rolled, the character avoids a Lingering Injury but keeps the Wound Die. The next time the character chooses to take on a Wound Die instead of damage, they add a second d6 and roll both. Again if a 1 is rolled, they take on a Lingering Injury. Otherwise, they hold onto both Wound Dice and the battle continues...

Or, we could use Injuries Instead of Unconscious. When a character is reduced to 0 Hit Points, they can choose to take on a Lingering Injury, heal a number of Hit Dice equal to their Proficiency Bonus, and keep on fighting.


Rewarding Random Encounters

Random encounters can be fun, but D&D also provides a lot of ways to avoid them. Other than Experience Points or a hope for treasure, are there other mechanics we can use that reward characters for stumbling into dangerous situations?

What about some kind of reward counter? The DM and the players could work together to create a list of rewards: magic items, valuable alliances, property, titles, mounts, treasure, etc. Each time there's a random encounter, there's a 10% chance for the encounter to contain one of the rewards. The chance increases by 10% each time a random encounter doesn't have a reward from the table.


Now of course, a strong narrative will usually drive players to have their characters take on risks and live dangerously. But what are some other mechanical rewards we can give players for pushing through the safety net of D&D 5e?
 

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If you want to create mechanical goodies for daring and pluck, I'd go with Luck Points.

1. Ban the Lucky feat.
2. Grant Luck points for doing stuff that might not be the best idea in game strategy but matches the kind of fiction, such as the things described above.
3. You can also use this in place of dm inspiration.
4. Because a Luck Point is distinct from Advantage (since it stacks with them and can be used after the roll), it will get used and will remind you of how you got it, reinforcing the sense of reward.
 

Oofta

Legend
I don't use meta-game to encourage or discourage the "correct" way of playing, I don't see that as my job as DM. If I want PCs to push on without resting, they do it because it's not a good idea to rest either because of the time it will take or because it's risky. I don't break weapons or cause lingering injury, I guess I just don't think those are fun. If they bypass some encounters through clever play (I don't do random encounters per se), good for them.

There's no right way, but I'd rather set up challenges and let the PCs solve them however they see fit without using what to me would feel like artificial carrots and sticks.
 

Jmarso

Adventurer
Award XP bonuses that get bigger the longer the players go without resting- that's one way. My solution for 5E was basically to house rule short rests into 'rests' and long rests meaning the party has to spend two consecutive nights in a safe place, like a keep, or inn, or fortified camp with restricted access and someone other than them guards the place.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Interesting ideas. I'm reminded of how Fate puts a lot of emphasis on aspects with benefits and drawbacks, so they can be used to encourage bad ideas with a mechanical reward in fate points. D&D doesn't have aspects, of course, but you could award an inspiration die for reckless behavior and such, too.

As for rests, I do find it interesting how rarely I hear about 5E adventures, and even most computer RPGs, being time-locked. It would be pretty heavy motivation if the evil mastermind is going to achieve their goal in a few days, and so we must press on.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I've been really interested lately in mechanics that reward players (and characters) for making bad, risky, or narratively interesting choices.

A lot of DMs work hard to try and get characters to use up their resources, avoid taking rests, and push themselves to the limit, because it creates a great story. Fighting the BBEG on 25% power is usually a lot more interesting, nail-biting, and memorable than fighting the BBEG right after a long rest.

However, 5e provides characters with so many ways to be safe. From Rope Trick to Instant Fortress to the Outlander Background and Favored Terrain, D&D rewards players who use the rules to get rested, detour around random encounters, and avoid using resources.

So what can we do to encourage players to take risks? What mechanics can we use to counteract or flip the mechanics already embedded in 5e?
As @Jmarso already noted above, Experience Points Are Your Friend.

To achieve some of your ends:
--- award xp individually rather than group
------ give those characters who put themselves at risk (intentionally or otherwise) more xp than those who do not
--- put an increasing multiplier on xp earned for encounters when the net h.p. total of the party throughout* the encounter is below a series of thresholds (see table below for an idea how this might work), and make good and sure the players are aware of this

* - to prevent munchkinizing the system via starting the encounter at low h.p. and then immediately healing to the max.

Xp modifier for low h.p. table idea:

PHP = Party Hit Points, as the highest % of the party's overall total reached during the encounter. XPM = xp modifier for that encounter.

PHP --- XPM
70+ --- no modifier
50-69 --- x 1.2
25-49 --- x 1.5
< 25 --- x 2.0

So, if the party's total hit points add to 200 when everyone's at full, the "break points" would be if the total stayed below 140; 100; or 50 for the entire duration of the encounter.

In the end, though, I think your answer might ultimately lie in simply removing some of that safety net. Nerf some of the outdoors abilities. Excise some of the more problematic spells and tone down some others. Use wandering monsters liberally whenever the situation allows, to bust up rests. Rule that ANY interruption of a rest other than keeping a sedate watch negates the benefits.

That said, reward them with a peaceful night's sleep if they proactively take measures to find or create a safe place for it e.g. by locking themselves in an empty chamber or by moving well clear of any dangerous areas.
 

Peter BOSCO'S

Adventurer
The best way to encourage bad ideas is with Inspiration.

When the party encounters a villain and the Paladin chooses to just trust him, rather than rolling Insight, because his Flaw is that he "Is a sucker for a pretty face" and the villain has one, he should get Inspiration.

When the Wizard splits the party because they believe that "Arcane power can solve everything!" and that they can handle anything by themselves that's a terrible idea, and they should gain Inspiration.

When the low level Rogue who has a Bond "My friends are are my family and I'll do anything to protect them" chooses to fight 50 city guards to protect the Sorcerer, rather than running off and breaking the Sorcerer out of prison later, she should gain Inspiration.

Assuming any of them live long enough for it to even matter....
 

Deekin

Adventurer
Rewarding Not Resting:

4e had a really neat ideas about this:


Milestones
You gain certain benefits when you reach a milestone— when you complete two encounters without stopping for an extended rest (see page 263).

Action Points
Your character starts with 1 action point. No more than once per encounter, you can spend an action point to take an extra action (see page 286), use certain feats, or use paragon path powers. When you spend an action point, it’s gone, but you can gain more in two ways: by reaching a milestone or by taking an extended rest. Each time you reach a milestone, you gain an action point. After you take an extended rest, you lose any action points you haven’t spent, but you start fresh with 1 action point.

Magic Items
Each time you reach a milestone, you gain one additional use of a magic item daily power (see page 226). Some magic items, particularly rings, also grow more powerful after you reach a milestone. See “Magic Items,” page 223, for more information.


Rewarding Breaking Weapons and Armor

Dark Sun 4e had some simple but cool rules there, to simulate how weapons of wood and bone are more fragile, but in a cool action movie version

Reckless Breakage: When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll, your weapon has a chance to break. You can accept the result, automatically missing the attack as usual, but keeping your weapon intact. Alternatively, you can reroll. Regardless of the reroll result, a nonmetal weapon breaks once the attack is complete. A metal weapon, however, breaks only if you roll a natural 5 or lower on the reroll. This rule gives you a say in whether a weapon breaks. You can play it safe and accept the errant attack, or you can attempt to avoid a miss by risking your weapon.
 

Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
The other ideas are interesting, but I definitely disagree with using xp in the way @Lanefan suggests. Making the game permanently suck for one or more players because of their playstyle is just the wrong way to go.
I quite like Lingering Injury, and Inspiration or other bonus for fun or heroic moves are quite good. They reward the risk-taker and role-player, without punishing the timid player.
 


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