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D&D 5E Special Rewards Rather Than Loot

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, I was listening to WebDM while working on some stuff, and it reminded me of a thing i've been toying with expanding a lot more in my games.

Alternate rewards.
I don't like giving a lot of distinct magic items. IMO, for my group, it ends up being more hassle than benefit for each PC to have 6 magic items. I'd much rather each have a couple minor things and 1 or 2 defining items, and those grow with you rather than ever being replaced.

IIRC, the DMG touches on this, but doesn't really give much help to figure out what different traits and special abilities are worth compared to magic items.

Spells and proficiencies are pretty easy, IME, as are abilities similar to what a magic item could do, but for instance what about gaining an extra feat, or something like the ability to cast a certain spell without concentration or even to concentrate on two spells at once (probably with a spell level limit), or increase the targets of a non-scaling spell like Longstrider, or dual wield without using a bonus action, etc. Or gain profiency bonus damage to unarmed strikes by training to increase the density of your hand bones or via something more mystical.

So, I'm curious who here has done this sort of thing, what you and your group thought of it, and any really standout examples (good or bad) that you've come up with or seen in a game.
 

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I actually thought of doing something like this. Stuff like this would include like a free feet(You trained in swords alot via lots of downtime? BOOM you have the Blade Mastery feat from the UA. Are you an elf? Well due to increasing your mastery of the Longsword, you can increase its D8 Damage Die to a D10. Races with a Racial/Heritage weapon would be able to do this but ONLY be able to raise it up by one Damage Die...no turning a Longsword to a 2D6)

Another thing I like to do, as an award or an achievement/whatever, is apply UA features from the UA versions of classes to their published version. So an Example: If a Circle of Stars Druid achieved a super MAJOR moment for their character arc or reached a threshold of power via Proofs of Marks or what not, the player of the published version of the Circle of Stars Druid PC could unlock/gain the UA Circle of Star Druid's original level 14 capstone ability, Star Flare and add it to the Published version of the subclass's abilities, which lost it when it published.

Heck: a Patron maybe crazy enough to reward a particularly loyal Warlock, who has demonstrated exceptional service, with the ability to do an Extra Attack. Without having to take the Thirsting Blade invocation.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I actually thought of doing something like this. Stuff like this would include like a free feet(You trained in swords alot via lots of downtime? BOOM you have the Blade Mastery feat from the UA. Are you an elf? Well due to increasing your mastery of the Longsword, you can increase its D8 Damage Die to a D10.)

Another thing I like to do, as an award or an achievement/whatever, is apply UA features from the UA versions of classes to their published version. So an Example: If a Circle of Stars Druid achieved a super MAJOR moment for their character arc or reached a threshold of power via Proofs of Marks or what not, the player of the published version of the Circle of Stars Druid could unlock/gain the UA Circle of Star Druid's original level 14 capstone ability Star Flare and add it to the Published version of the subclass, which lost it when it published.
That is an amazing idea! Hell yeah!

This is why I love DnD.

A version of that for players of characters with no UA material could be to look outside official material and find 3pp variants, or to turn a long rest ability into a short rest ability, a single target into 2 targets, stuff like that. Just upgrade a core class or subclass ability that is defining for the character.
 

That is an amazing idea! Hell yeah!

This is why I love DnD.

A version of that for players of characters with no UA material could be to look outside official material and find 3pp variants, or to turn a long rest ability into a short rest ability, a single target into 2 targets, stuff like that. Just upgrade a core class or subclass ability that is defining for the character.
I wasn't exactly thinking of 3PP, but yeah that could work too.
Also my bad, recheck my original post as I updated it with something for warlocks and a clarification on the Elf Longsword thing as its pretty much what I do for races as well with Racial/Heritage weapons.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Another one I've actually done recently is giving people pets relevant to big story moments. When my Firbolg Bard player had his Firbolg volunteer to be the champion of the Nemeton in the dryad grove inside the Nightwood, his sword regained some magic, part of which is to cast Summon Beast once a day. He immediately used it in the first round of combat, and I asked him what it looked like, and he said a bear, and I asked if he was cool with me throwing some funk on that, and he was all for it.

So, I described this beefy bear of moss-covered stone with emerald gem eyes and celtic inspired knots and spirals wind-carved all over it's body, rising from the ground to stand beside him. He loved it, immediaely named it Mossy, and when the fight was done and he had chosen to risk death in order to fully defeat the Blight Champion (by smearing his blood on the champion's blight-treant armored form to bind him to life, with the side effect of also binding the opposing champions together, because my Eberron game has a lot of old earthy blood magic in it, juxtaposed with the modernising world) he was brought back to life by the Nemeton, his body sinking into the earth and then being lowered from the treetops of the ancient sentient oak on a bower, his armor and gear gleaming like new, his hair turned a mossy dark green and his horns (I let the players decide what firbolgs look like in Eberron, and that resulted in horns) growing rose thorns and tiny shoots of leaf, and his sword thrumming with magical power, now made of oak and blue crystal.

Mossy didn't disapear like a summon normally would, and instead shrank to the size of a black bear cub, and acts as a familiar that grows to full size when the Summon Beast spell is cast by his master.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I wasn't exactly thinking of 3PP, but yeah that could work too.
Also my bad, recheck my original post as I updated it with something for warlocks and a clarification on the Elf Longsword thing as its pretty much what I do for races as well with Racial/Heritage weapons.
I like that.

I also am working on adding more special attacks, fighting styles, and ritual spells, to the game, which characters can only learn during play. Heritage/Cultural weapon techniques are definitely part of that.
 

Another one I've actually done recently is giving people pets relevant to big story moments. When my Firbolg Bard player had his Firbolg volunteer to be the champion of the Nemeton in the dryad grove inside the Nightwood, his sword regained some magic, part of which is to cast Summon Beast once a day. He immediately used it in the first round of combat, and I asked him what it looked like, and he said a bear, and I asked if he was cool with me throwing some funk on that, and he was all for it.

So, I described this beefy bear of moss-covered stone with emerald gem eyes and celtic inspired knots and spirals wind-carved all over it's body, rising from the ground to stand beside him. He loved it, immediaely named it Mossy, and when the fight was done and he had chosen to risk death in order to fully defeat the Blight Champion (by smearing his blood on the champion's blight-treant armored form to bind him to life, with the side effect of also binding the opposing champions together, because my Eberron game has a lot of old earthy blood magic in it, juxtaposed with the modernising world) he was brought back to life by the Nemeton, his body sinking into the earth and then being lowered from the treetops of the ancient sentient oak on a bower, his armor and gear gleaming like new, his hair turned a mossy dark green and his horns (I let the players decide what firbolgs look like in Eberron, and that resulted in horns) growing rose thorns and tiny shoots of leaf, and his sword thrumming with magical power, now made of oak and blue crystal.

Mossy didn't disapear like a summon normally would, and instead shrank to the size of a black bear cub, and acts as a familiar that grows to full size when the Summon Beast spell is cast by his master.
Now that is a pretty banging reward. You could have the bear increase in power again via having it unlock the Revised Ranger's Beast scaling/leveling rules. It be a bit crazy but sounds like a perfect upgrade in power if it ever happened again to the sword/bear.
 

I have always been disappointed that familiars don't do a lot of magical stuff (outside of delivering touch spells). I like the idea of a Patron granting a familiar the ability to take over the concentration for one spell. This works for your concentrate on two spells, and I think has loads of flavor. It also imulates Vlad Taltos.
 

I like that.

I also am working on adding more special attacks, fighting styles, and ritual spells, to the game, which characters can only learn during play. Heritage/Cultural weapon techniques are definitely part of that.
Sounds good. I like to look at Pathfinder 1/2 and see which weapons are considered Heritage/Cultural weapons for like Kobolds, Half Orcs, Halflings, Gnomes to join the Heritage/Cultural weapons that Elves and Dwarves are trained in as well.

So if you ever need ideas for those type of things, I suggest using that as a good base. Plus I like the idea that Half-Orcs consider Falchions as a Heritage/Cultural weapon.
 

I have always been disappointed that familiars don't do a lot of magical stuff (outside of delivering touch spells). I like the idea of a Patron granting a familiar the ability to take over the concentration for one spell. This works for your concentrate on two spells, and I think has loads of flavor. It also imulates Vlad Taltos.
I think Crit Roll allows the double concentration via a feat so you could totally nab that feat or their magic rules to do that. Sounds like a pretty good reward from a patron.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Now that is a pretty banging reward. You could have the bear increase in power again via having it unlock the Revised Ranger's Beast scaling/leveling rules. It be a bit crazy but sounds like a perfect upgrade in power if it ever happened again to the sword/bear.
The player was very excited about it! People like pets, IME.

Sure, or just upgrade the spell level at which the sword casts Summon Beast, for less paperwork, I'd have to write them both out and compare.
I have always been disappointed that familiars don't do a lot of magical stuff (outside of delivering touch spells). I like the idea of a Patron granting a familiar the ability to take over the concentration for one spell. This works for your concentrate on two spells, and I think has loads of flavor. It also imulates Vlad Taltos.
Yeah familiars are disapointing in 5e. mechanically fairly strong, in a fairly easy to use way, but boring as hell and very limited.

I'm considering letting them help with skills, learn skills if their master trains them, and reduce crafting time, especially of potions and the like, and also reduce the cost and time of scribing spells into a spellbook or ritual book. So they feel like familiars.

I'd be fine with them never showing up in combat again, if they actually contributed to the things that sorcerers have familiars for. (tangent, I wish dnd would leave one of the very generic terms for a magic person alone, so it could be used for all of them. Magician is free, but doesn't feel right, whereas sorcerer would if it weren't for the class being called that)
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
So, I was listening to WebDM while working on some stuff, and it reminded me of a thing i've been toying with expanding a lot more in my games.

Alternate rewards.
I don't like giving a lot of distinct magic items. IMO, for my group, it ends up being more hassle than benefit for each PC to have 6 magic items. I'd much rather each have a couple minor things and 1 or 2 defining items, and those grow with you rather than ever being replaced.

IIRC, the DMG touches on this, but doesn't really give much help to figure out what different traits and special abilities are worth compared to magic items.

Spells and proficiencies are pretty easy, IME, as are abilities similar to what a magic item could do, but for instance what about gaining an extra feat, or something like the ability to cast a certain spell without concentration or even to concentrate on two spells at once (probably with a spell level limit), or increase the targets of a non-scaling spell like Longstrider, or dual wield without using a bonus action, etc. Or gain profiency bonus damage to unarmed strikes by training to increase the density of your hand bones or via something more mystical.

So, I'm curious who here has done this sort of thing, what you and your group thought of it, and any really standout examples (good or bad) that you've come up with or seen in a game.
I've tried that kind of stuff a few times, but it tends to run into the problem of not having many hooks to attach minor effects onto so they either fall into complete trash never used once something better is obtained, absurdly overpowered after adding this other thing you didn't predict through feat/mc*, & tcoe style spells with chicken legs nobody cares about.

* Yea that was a risk in any edition, but there's a big difference between you have an extra point in your crit range under these conditions or your ACP/ASF is reduced under these conditions and "here is this completely new ability you wrote whole cloth to bolt onto a system with no room for subjectivity & nuance"

Not having body slots & slot affinity as an alternative to # general attune slots also raises the difficulty too since there is less room to tinker with limits.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Sounds good. I like to look at Pathfinder 1/2 and see which weapons are considered Heritage/Cultural weapons for like Kobolds, Half Orcs, Halflings, Gnomes to join the Heritage/Cultural weapons that Elves and Dwarves are trained in as well.

So if you ever need ideas for those type of things, I suggest using that as a good base. Plus I like the idea that Half-Orcs consider Falchions as a Heritage/Cultural weapon.
Yeah I will look at that for sure. Thanks!
I've tried that kind of stuff a few times, but it tends to run into the problem of not having many hooks to attach minor effects onto so they either fall into complete trash never used once something better is obtained, absurdly overpowered after adding this other thing you didn't predict through feat/mc*, & tcoe style spells with chicken legs nobody cares about.

* Yea that was a risk in any edition, but there's a big difference between you have an extra point in your crit range under these conditions or your ACP/ASF is reduced under these conditions and "here is this completely new ability you wrote whole cloth to bolt onto a system with no room for subjectivity & nuance"

Not having body slots & slot affinity as an alternative to # general attune slots also raises the difficulty too since there is less room to tinker with limits.
I think that worry is more pronounced the more you feel beholden to keeping a mechanic the same in spite of finding a problem with it, and how much you view the system as not having room for subjectivity and nuance. This sort of thing definitely isn't for all groups.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Yeah I will look at that for sure. Thanks!

I think that worry is more pronounced the more you feel beholden to keeping a mechanic the same in spite of finding a problem with it, and how much you view the system as not having room for subjectivity and nuance. This sort of thing definitely isn't for all groups.
If I as the GM need to hack in the subjective dials before I can use them in a nuanced fashion the system lacks support for them. 4e had different subjective dials like brutal X & similar but still had some. Claiming otherwise gets into territory where d&d includes support for quantum physics & astrophysics because you could hack it in.

WotC may have made modularity a goal for 5e, but they failed to actually make much in the way of modular bits a gm could slot in without building it themselves. The fact that there are so many prior d&d edition they could have drawn from to make modular bits makes the omission all the more glaring.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Can you not drag the argument from another thread into this one, please? You are literally threadcrapping. There is a whole thread where you go on and on about this stuff. This thread isn't about that. Period.
If I as the GM need to hack in the subjective dials before I can use them in a nuanced fashion the system lacks support for them.-snip-
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
No prob! I sent ya a PM on the website I use when doing that.
hell yeah! Thanks!

I wonder if another fun thing that could be added as a "reward-only" thing would be something like the implement specialization wizards had in 4e, done like 5e fighting styles? So, staves increase range, wands increase accuracy, rods increase damage, etc.

A fairly big variant I've wanted to mess around with for a long time is replacing damage cantrips with the ability to make ranged and melee spell attacks just like weapon attacks, with different focuses having different stats just like weapons. In this way, an Eldritch Knight fighter can wield a longsword in one hand and a wand in the other, mixing weapon and spell attacks with the attack action.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
My favorite reward I got in game was when my sorcerer finished his draconic apotheosis and my DM let me play an adult brass dragon as my character, with the ability to shapeshift back into my sorcerer when I needed to cast spells. That was really fun for the apocalyptic last few battles.

In my own games, I've given out an enemy's manor house to a player, upgraded with a dimensional forcefield and a sentient AI butler as a result of a good pull on a deck of many things. This came in handy when the party failed to stop a ritual that caused a zombie apocalypse.

I've given out the ability to cast spells through weapon attack, like the PF magus. I let one player turn into a lich after a long quest to build a phylactery (using a custom necromancer class and getting the capstone ability early.) I've given custom potion recipes to an alchemist. I've given special class features early (like a wizard getting Signature Spell). I've let a wildshape focused character learn how to change into certain monstrosities.

My current game is focused on the players gaining rewards via magic items and pacts with supernatural entities. The only classes in the game are sidekick classes, hammering home that the players need to encounter new things to gain new abilities.
 

My current game is focused on the players gaining rewards via magic items and pacts with supernatural entities. The only classes in the game are sidekick classes, hammering home that the players need to encounter new things to gain new abilities.
That's pretty cool. That also means that, if you wanted to, you could actually have the PCs, since they can only use the Sidekick classes, the option to class promote to any of the regular classes/subclasses as an actual legit reward.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
That's pretty cool. That also means that, if you wanted to, you could actually have the PCs, since they can only use the Sidekick classes, the option to class promote to any of the regular classes/subclasses as an actual legit reward.
Right now, I'm placing a lot of standalone class features into the game as discoverable abilities. But yea, converting sidekick levels into real levels is a really nice possible reward structure.
 

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