Inspired by what I saw in "Dragon Age" series, I have a main quest of the story line have the character "dream" into the astral plane where they have several fights towards an unfolding that will provide them with some additional information.

I want to give them some kind of reward which can't be items (after all they are dreaming). I'm already giving them XP if they pull through it but I wanted to give them something else. I was inspired by Dragon Age's pillars which give you an increase of +1 to one of your ability scores.

Is that (+1 to one desired ability score) too much of a reward (making the characters too powerful to early) or is it ok? If it is too much, what are ways that I can reward my players that are not strictly "XP" or "Magic items / treasure" that still feel good to them.

Background: High Epic Fantasy (Epic campaign, the fate of the world is on your hands stuff).

Current character level. 3

Party Size. 3


4 Answers 4


The DMG has a few suggestions

In the DMG, pp. 227-232, there is a section called Other Rewards, listing things like Blessings, Charms, even Epic Boons (although that's level 20+ type stuff).

In particular, Blessings (pp. 227-228) or maybe Training (in particular, learning skill proficiencies or feats, p.231, although this one implies that it should take some downtime, but you could waive that) might suit your "something that isn't physical" requirement.

As for a +1 to an ability score, that's essentially half an ASI, which a sidebar on page 230 suggests as an alternative to Epic Boons. Given that Epic Boons are for level 20+, this suggests that a full ASI is a big deal, but on the other hand, it also suggests that you can learn feats in your downtime (p. 231), many of which include a +1, so I think +1 to an ability score isn't too big a deal.

  • \$\begingroup\$ As an extra note, in a short Tier 3 party adventure I'm wrapping up at the moment, I'm about to award the PCs with a Blessing each (since they've already got a fair few magic items, so more might not feel that special, especially since the "quest giver" was an Empyrean, whereas a Blessing better suits the celestial nature of the Empyrean and feels more unique), so this section of the DMG is something I do occasionally use (rather than just falling back on XP and magic items like I do most of the time). \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Jul 2, 2019 at 9:22

As noted in the DMG (p227), "rewards" can be more Socio-political. Examples include Medals, Letters of Recommendation, Parcels of Land, Titles.

So, if a PC has "dreamt their way through the Astral Plane", maybe that could be recognised as such, gaining them Reputation. People who meet them know they are a Planes-Sleeper (for good, or ill!).

The local Noble, despite mistrusting this loutish ne'er-do-well, still seeks their advice as a Seer. Other Mystics and Seers seek them out.

Give them Spotlight time! A metaphorical "pat on the back"!

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you offered such rewards in your own games or seen/experienced them being offered as rewards? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 29, 2019 at 4:32

Ultimately, it shouldn't matter too much if you offer them an ability score increase, as you can scale encounters/DCs if it turns out that +1 makes things a little too easy.

One thing you could experiment with is a link to a spirit or something similar that resides in the astral plane that can offer them guidance or assistance.

If your opposition to giving them items is purely because they aren't acquiring physical items in the material world, you can also offer clues to the location of items in the material world in the dream.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Have you offered such rewards in your own games or seen/experienced them being offered as rewards? How has it worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 29, 2019 at 4:31

Gratitude and Charms


Not every reward needs to have a game mechanic effect associated with it. As the DMG says on page 133:

Adventurers strive for many things, including glory, knowledge, and justice.

What is motivating the characters? Are they on a mission for their church? Are they trying to save their home town from danger? It is easy to overlook narrative rewards, but they can be more meaningful than mechanical ones.

Black Spike already mentioned rewards from authorities. In my experience, the honest gratitude of children and simple peasants can be an even greater reward for the players. It can validate what their characters are fighting to defend. People thank them, hold a celebration for them, or offer them free room and simple home-made food, or what modest gifts they can give in thankfulness.

Temporary charms or boons

If you are looking for something with a mechanical impact, you can protect yourself from accidentially giving out something that is too powerful by making it temporary or limit its number of uses. Blessings that enhance ability scores, armor class, weapons, or grant magic resistance are typically given by gods, so charms may be a better fit for an astral journey experience. The DMG says on page 228:

A charm is a minor supernatural gift, which can be received in a large variety of ways. (...) Some charms can be used only once, and others can be used a specific number of times before vanishing. If a charm lets you cast a spell, you are able to do so without spending a spell slot or providing any components (verbal, somatic, or material).

Give them something to reflect their experience, either from the list in the DMG, or make up your own, for example:

  • Charm of Heroism. This charm allows you to give yourself the benefit of a potion of heroism as an action. Once you do so, the charm vanishes from you.

  • Charm of Feather Falling. This charm grants you the benefits of a ring of feather falling. These benefits last for 10 days, after which the charm vanishes from you.

There are examples other charms and boons in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, for example:

  • Magic Boon: The boon's recipient gains a d4 and can, at any time within the next 24 hours, roll this die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw made by it.

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