I have a party that have taken up sneaking past guards and avoiding traps and thus not getting encounter XP.

They all first time D&D players but long time boardgamers so they picked it up quite fast. They don't want experience to minimize the need for numbers in the game and it would be easier for me not have to bother with XP.

However, even though they are newbies, they are coming up with roleplaying moments, brilliant tactical ideas, ingenious solutions to puzzles & other such bonus worthy acts. I used to reward them with bonus XP based on the awesomeness factor but since we're no longer using XP, I need to reward them some other way.

They don't need it, they didn't ask for it, I am just encouraging an already existing phenomenon. I have thought of them waking up with a bag of money from the gods but it breaks immersion (seeing how the gods are dead and all).

I have then thought of a "bonus budget" which players can meta purchase things such as rerolls, healing or shop discounts but I have neither the time nor the experience to balance such a thing.

Does any of you know of such a reward system?

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ If your players are doing all the reward-worthy actions without encouragement, there's really no reason to reward the actions. Really, these kinds of rewards are only necessary when players don't do it naturally in order to encourage them to think outside the box. It's like potty training children. At first you reward them every time they sit on the toilet (even if they don't go). Reward them more when they actually do go. But do you get rewards for taking a poop as an adult? \$\endgroup\$
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 14:34

5 Answers 5


Using Hero Points, an optional rule from the Pathfinder Advanced Player Guide, functions rather well in rewarding as well as encouraging awesomeness.


I need to reward them some other way.

No, you don't.

Are you actually having a problem where they're not doing those things? If not, then just don't. I actually had a long conversation with my players about this in a similar vein - I wanted to give tangible rewards for certain behaviors in game.

They replied (to my surprise) that they don't like games where "cool stuff gets bonuses," it feels too much like getting penalized whenever you're not being clever or roleplaying or whatnot and they don't like that. They just like there being no penalty for doing cool things (which you've implemented by removing XP) and going from there.

They don't need it, they didn't ask for it...

Yep, you may be about to make things worse. Just leave it alone.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I do not agree with you. Its not about getting a bonus, its about getting used to contribute to the session, to increase the enjoyment of all. Like you would give treats to a dog for good behavior. Ultimately the treat is a very temporary joy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Discipol
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 13:07
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe you should consider whether your players want to be treated like little doggies you're giving a treat to. Mine didn't. I think your analogy helps me understand why. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Its the only way they'll learn. Got fun in stored for when/if they split the party. Its quite easy for them to attack the king or ignore the dying peasant because "they feel like it / don't feel like it". Suffice to say, I have an infinity of carrots and sticks at my disposal but my first thought is to have them work for their carrots. If I would not encourage rewards, then stagnation would set in. I have seen it time and time again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Discipol
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 23:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Discipol Have you seen it with these players? Because if not, that's being unfair to them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 14:51

Reward player-driven awesome with the same kind of awesome.

The players are showing you, by their character actions, the kind of game they want to play. As DM, you have limited time and energy to keep things running smoothly. It seems from your question that adding some new number or thing to track/handle is not the kind of reward this group is looking for. So don't put effort into it. Instead, put interesting, open-ended situations into your game, and work on having a grab bag of ideas, role-playing and in-story rewards ready to drop in so you can improvise better with the group.

If you can, set up encounters where interesting things will happen depending on whether an encounter is resolved "normally" or peacefully, or cleverly without risk etc - focussing in a broad sense on the typical resolutions that the players aim for with their out-of-the-box thinking (don't focus on the specifics of what the players do here, it reads from your description that they will tend to do the unexpected).

If you do find something easy to add to the game on a mechanics level, that goes down well with the group, then of course feel free to add it. There is more than one kind of awesome . . .


This may seem odd, but In the moment, verbal praise may be the solution you are looking for. If I pull off a cool trick, or fine bit of roleplaying and the DM and/or other players praise it, that is better than any in-game reward could ever be.

If it would break the story (or the PCs are RPing with each other and you don't want to interrupt) mention the cool stuff during a break or after the game.

It's not mechanical but WILL reward the players.


Take a cue from adventure games of old - Reward them not with points, but with bonus 'content' for taking the long way around.

In other words, reward good roleplay with good roleplay in turn. They spared the guards' life? Give them a break if things go awry in their plans by having that guard point it out. Or maybe have him distract the other guards later by suggesting they switch shifts, and getting into an argument that allows them to get past easily. Or have him return later to offer them a thanks in the form of an old family ring with magical protection for them not having killed him when it really would have been convenient.

These are all case-specific, but there's any number of ways to reward your players in-game for creative solutions outside of EXP and actual physical rewards, though a physical reward, like a magical ring given by a guard, can be nice too.


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