So I'm still fairly new to GMing and Pathfinder 2E, but one thing I like to include is secrets in my dungeons for my players to find. Finding secrets is fun, and getting rewards for doing so is even better. I've mostly avoided including secrets so far though, since I'm not sure how best to reward players for finding secrets without breaking game balance.

Part of the problem is I want the rewards they find to actually be a bonus above and beyond what they would normally get per level based on the treasure per level table. Since I'm still fairly new to the system though, I'm not sure just how much I can comfortably go over that tables recommendations without breaking game balance.

The main ideas I have at the moment are:

  • Budget for secrets is equal to an extra party member: Over the course of a level, the budget I'd set for rewards found via secrets would be equal to the amount of extra treasure the party would find if they had an extra party member. So for example, a level 3 party, if they found all the secret areas, would find a permanent level 3 or 4 item, a level 3 and level 4 consumable item, and 50 gold (or 50 gold worth of items).
  • Non-Monetary Rewards to make dungeon easier: Rewards might not be treasure at all, but instead would be things that would just make the dungeon easier. Maybe a secret room would have a way to disable all traps in the dungeon, or maybe it would give them a glimpse of the dungeon boss, so they can better prepare for it.

My current plan is to try and use a mixture of these two ideas, but again, I'm worried about breaking game balance (especially for giving them rewards equal to an extra party member).

How can I best reward players for finding secrets without breaking game balance?


1 Answer 1


Reward Them Appropriately

Uncovering secrets definitely falls into the category of things that deserve to be rewarded, including rewards for experience, treasure, and Hero Points. Factoring the discovery of some of these secrets into the campaign's planned rewards would be a good idea.

Generally long-term treasure and experience to over-level would be the most problematic for a game, though the exponential nature of relative XP and party wealth allows for the GM to smooth things out over time.

For example, a 1st-level party that receives 200 gp worth of treasure rather than the expected 175 gp could have the difference removed from the 300 gp they'd find going from 2nd to 3rd level as gold pieces become ~1.7 times more common. This difference exists over each level at varying rates down to roughly ~1.4 times at 20th level, when characters are expected to be gaining 490,000 gp for every 1000 relative experience.

Each level takes 1000 experience to gain according to the standard advancement speed, but the majority of experience comes from encounters and is adjusted based on the relative levels of the creatures/hazards. A 4th-level party encountering a wyvern would earn 60 experience, while a 7th-level party would earn only 30 (or none if the overall encounter was a Trivial threat of 40 experience or less).

So even if things do become unbalanced due to an excess long-term award, with variance or targeted adjustment things should round down to the expected values over time.

Targeted Adjustments

Your idea to "Budget for secrets is equal to an extra party member" is actually exactly what the rules recommend for sprawling dungeons and free-form adventures like this:

Megadungeons and Sandboxes

Some adventures have an expectation that the player characters explore where they want and find only what their skill, luck, and ingenuity afford. Two common examples of this type of adventure are the sprawling dungeon with multiple different sections and paths, often called a megadungeon, and free-form exploration, often called a sandbox and typically occurring in a wilderness. If you want to build a free-form adventure like this where characters are likely to miss at least some of the treasure, increase the amount of treasure you place. Be aware, however, that a meticulous group can end up with more treasure than normal and will have advantages in later adventures.

For a simple guideline to these situations, increase the treasure as though there were one more PC in the party. If the structure is especially loose, especially in sandbox adventures, you can increase this amount even further.

The main guidance here is as above, to monitor how much of these secrets your party is finding and adjust if needed to keep reasonable pace with the expected values.

And your other idea is also an excellent way to avoid unbalancing things, by granting non-permanent advantages for future encounters or as alternative methods to resolve those encounters. Rewarding Hero Points would also be a good idea in these situations, as a resource that only lasts for the session it's given out in and unable to directly unbalance the future campaign.


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