Burst of Insight

Burst of Insight—Trick or Treat

Today is Halloween and that usually means horror, but today is also about dressing up in costume and ringing doorbells for treats, which if you ask me is a decent analogy for Pathfinder. We dress up in the personas of wizards, paladins, elves, and dwarves and kick in imaginary doors looking for treasure. Well, kicking in the doors is significantly less benign than ringing a doorbell as is how we get the treats…er…treasure and XP. Okay, maybe this isn’t the best analogy but for today it will have to do. In the spirit of this somewhat faulty analogy, let’s talk rewards specifically unusual rewards.

3 Uncommon Rewards

Bottle Caps If you listen to the Glass Cannon Podcast you know how this works. Players earn bottle caps for heroic deeds, great roleplaying or whatever the GM decides is bottle cap worthy. The players can redeem caps to gain an Advantage on a single d20 roll, which means they can roll twice and take the best result alternately bottle caps can be redeemed to impose a Disadvantage on an enemy NPCs d20 roll. Disadvantage works just like Advantage but the character must take the worse roll. I really like the bottle caps rules even if it’s Fallout feel makes me itch for a post-apocalyptic campaign. Now, you need not use bottle caps you can use poker chips, glass beads or whatever. I picked up a bunch of plastic gold coins from a local party store that would be especially ideal for a Skull and Shackles campaign. Or, just embrace the Fallout inspiration and customize your caps.

Even if you don’t want to introduce bottle caps to your game as a regular reward you can sprinkle them in here and there as a story reward. For example, if the players learn key information about a prominent NPC you could award them Advantage on a single roll made against that character in the next encounter similar to how in The Hobbit Bilbo discovers a defect in Smaug’s scales that Bard is able to exploit.

Boons Society players and GMs will have plenty of experience with boons but boons can also be applied to traditional home campaigns. When I ran the Emerald Spire Super Dungeon I had all of the chronicle sheets printed and at the table to award boons to the players as they become appropriate. If you don’t want to play with the Society content you can still add boons to your game. The easiest way is to limit PCs to the normal favored class bonuses (+1 hp or skill point) and award an alternate favored class bonus. As long as you don’t award these too often (I’d recommend no more than 1 per level) you’re really not affecting game balance all that much. One of the other neat things here is you need not award one tied to a multiclass character’s favored class. If Monica’s playing a gunslinger alchemist and gunslinger is her favored class I could still award her an alchemist (favored class) boon if the action earning the reward used more of her alchemist abilities.

Bonus Feats. There are tons of feat options in this game and players will seldom get even a chance to play with most of the feats they’d like to. This is because many feat options are both boring and required, either by virtue of being so good you’d have to be dumb not to take it or because it is an actual requirement for a more interesting feat. As a result, awarding bonus feats is the full-size candy bar of uncommon rewards. Now, I wouldn’t award a bonus feat or feat slot more than once every two levels and at that, I’d still deduct about 1,000 to 5,000 gp (see table below) from the treasure budget for each PC. Admittedly, my pricing is rather arbitrary, as feats would vary wildly in cost if created as magic items but I feel reasonably comfortable with this scale as a starting point.

You might award bonus feats as feat slots the players can use to select new feats or as specific feats you select for them most often as story feats or teamwork feats. I like to time feat awards with story milestones that may not align with leveling up.

Number of Bonus Feats
Already Awarded
Treasure Value
Current Feat
0 1,000 gp
1 1,000 gp
2 1,500 gp
3 2,000 gp
4 2,500 gp
5 3,000 gp
6 3,500 gp
7 4,000 gp
8 4,500 gp
9 5,000 gp

I hope that this article gives you some ideas for unusual rewards for your campaign. If you have ideas for uncommon rewards I didn’t think of, drop them in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.