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Ways to Reward Your D&D Players

Obviously, the best way to reward your D&D players for participating is to have a good game ready. But when you’ve found a good group and want to dig deeper to enhance the experience, here are a few methods for rewarding your players. Some are DM-specific, but others can apply to any player or the whole group.

Narrative Payoffs for Good Note-Taking
In the discussion following last week’s column about creating a more immersive D&D experience, several commenters talked about how rewarding it can be for players to take careful notes. This is great advice!

Paying attention is its own reward, but a DM can help encourage players to take good notes by throwing little details in that pay off much later -- or come back to bite them because they should have remembered. The level of detail note-takers should strive for depends greatly on how intricate the campaign is, but this may train players to recognize that recalling details can help avoid a lot of hassle and even save fictional lives.

In my opinion, every player should take some notes instead of making one person do it. If multiple people take notes, there’s a better chance for more details to be recorded overall, and one player may pick up on something that another missed. Also, unless someone really wants to be responsible for all note-taking, it’s not fair to make one player be the party secretary.

Create Custom Items
Many DMs create magic items, weapons, or other special equipment intended for specific characters in their game. It takes more effort than simply pulling something out of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but it can add a lot of dramatic weight to what otherwise might be a generic roll for something on the magic item table.

A custom item can be your cool and thoughtful gift to the player and character. It also can be hilariously and/or tragically cursed, or some combination of all those things, if that’s how you want to play it! If you don’t have a lot of experience inventing magic items, you might need to tinker with it some to make sure your creation isn’t too powerful and won’t cause a lot of unintended consequences, but that’s part of the fun.

Make Real Items
Here’s one you can do regardless of whether you’re a player or a DM! If you enjoy handcrafting things, you can take this a step further and create real objects for your players to use as game props or mementos of your campaign. This might mean making a replica of a weapon a character carries or presenting your player with a wearable version of one of their character’s signature costume pieces or accessories.

In last week’s discussion, commenter Imaculata posted a photo of the handmade pirate treasure map he made for his players. “...The prop had a secret that required the players to fold it in a specific way, to uncover the real location of the treasure. It looked pretty amazing. I used coffee stains to make the map look aged.” That’s a great example of what you can do if you are so inclined and believe your players will appreciate it.

Have Things Made
For those of us who are not particularly skilled at crafts, hiring someone with the skills to make such items can be just as meaningful. Many artists who are willing to take commissions to draw a D&D character based on a detailed description. Other artisans such as jewelry makers, leather workers, and blacksmiths often are happy to take commissions in a similar manner. (It can get pricey, but that’s to be expected. After all, they invested the time, effort, and money to get that good at their art, and they deserve to be paid fairly for their work.)

If you don’t want to make or pay for all this yourself, you can turn it into a group activity instead. Then everyone can get exactly what they want, and finance it themselves, but it’s part of an initiative that the whole party participates in. It doesn’t have to be anything extremely elaborate. For example, I’m in a game where our characters had a jeweler make a dogtag for each party member while we were there to buy diamonds for a Revivify/Raise Dead emergency stash. The tags have the party name inscribed on the front and the character’s name and “in case of death” instructions on the back; we have a couple of DNRs (“do not resurrect”) and others have names of people, organizations, or temples to contact. It would be relatively easy to have them made for real, so I’m going to look into those logistics to share with my fellow party members.

Find Opportunities to Personalize Experiences
Beyond customizing objects for characters, a DM also can customize characters’ experiences. I saw a great example of this recently when my party had to roll Wisdom saves or be afflicted with madness. Instead of making affected players roll for random options on the Madness Effects table, our DM chose effects specifically targeted for each member before the game and wrote them on cards. This made the effects more personal, so the ramifications could be much more upsetting, which was delightful. I’m honestly a little sad that I made my WIS save that time because I’m still curious what would have happened to my character.

Have any personal insight on these methods? Stories about how they helped your game -- or went terribly wrong? Tell me in the comments!

contributed by Annie Bulloch

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