Burst of Insight—Just Rewards


In Pathfinder, D&D, and many other fantasy RPGs you get experience for killing things. Sometimes you get XP for the treasure you acquire (effectively doubling its impact as a reward). When you consider these rewards it is little wonder the trope of the PCs as little more than murder hobos has taken root. Kill creatures and take their stuff is a very lucrative cycle of play but not one that every group fully embraces.

Many GMs, either for ease of book keeping or to out and out minimize the murder hobo playstyle, have migrated to a milestone leveling system that awards levels (or XP) at select points in the campaign narrative. When you separate leveling from overcoming every obstacle you may find your players more inclined to focus on what it is you are rewarding.

Experience and treasure are just two of the ways you can reward your players. Hero points, Action Points, Story Points, Karma. . . All of these (xp included) and more make great ways to reinforce the style of play you’d like to see your PCs explore. Eberron is pulp inspired action adventure, to reward players who embrace the two-fisted shenanigans of pulp heroes the original campaign setting book introduced action points which would be earned for attempting over the top stunts, mouthy bravado, and other action movie tropes. Numenera is about exploration and uncovering the secrets of the prior worlds so rather than awarding XP for killing or over coming challenges XP is earned for discoveries. Even D&D’s Advantage / Disadvantage mechanics can be leveraged as a more immediate reward that can leverage a particular style of play.

My point: If you have the opportunity to explore other game systems, particularly those that emulate the style of play you most enjoy, and see what it is the rules reward and how they reward it.

Burst of Insight

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.