I've been DMing a certain group for about a year now. They're decent enough but I've had to learn to handle them as each of them are deficient in some ways. However, recently we got a new player and he, to my eyes, is a stellar example of a player. He doesn't get frustrated when something happens to his character, yet shows concern and cares about him, as well as the NPCs he comes across; he doesn't try to force his character into situations where he doesn't fit, but will take the initiative if called for. Basically, he helps my story work as opposed to make the story work for him.

The problem is because he actually plays correctly, a lot of the time he gets the shaft. His character has lost an arm, had his wish misinterpreted, gotten knocked down to 0 HP many times, and has been scorned by some of the "uber edgelord" other players. I really want some way to reward this guy and in the process teach the other players to try to emulate him a bit, albeit in their own way.

How can I show that one player is acting/playing well, to influence the other players' style of play?

Currently my plan is that the next adventure is going to be a quest revolving around his character. I think this will probably work out pretty well but I'm looking for experience-based solutions.

I would like to clarify that the other players are by no means bad, they just each have issues that I occasionally need to deal with. One of the players gets frustrated when bad stuff happens to his character, two of them are too into their characters being dark and mysterious to the point it hurts group cohesion, and one of the players tends to space out a lot (we play online and I suspect web browsing is involved, I've talked to him a bunch but that's not the issue at hand). However, overall they are great guys, always willing to listen and work with me and they try their darndest, most of the time, to play.

I have already been awarding this character Inspiration, repeatedly, but it seems a bit inadequate. Also since he's such a team player he ends up giving a lot of it out to the other players.


5 Answers 5


First and foremost it is important to me to mention that those of us that play this game for the story and as you say "correctly" (although it is a bit of a misnomer given that there is not an "incorrect" way of playing) the story of the character is and of itself its own reward.

I played an evil Halfling wizard once, for a single session. He was out for his own gain and in the pursuit of that somehow thwarted the assassination attempt on the rest of the party, to whom he had not yet been introduced. He ended up dying pursuing his goals. My reward for playing my character? There is a statue outside the library in honor of my "heroic" sacrifice for the lives of the others. I am touted as a hero, sort of like the Ballad of Jane from Firefly but this was way before I ever saw it.

Rewards I have used are:

Bonus XP: I usually don't do this anymore but it is an option and I know other DMs do this a lot. I will still give bonus XP out occasionally, but it is a bit tricky at times if the others slack too much and lag behind more than intended... so be careful with how much at a given level if you choose to use this option.

In game advantages: I have started to prefer this approach, in this way you gain tangible advantages by how you treat people and with whom you interact. This gives the world a feel of interconnectivity as well as realism, that what they do matters. If your other players are raping and pillaging and treating the NPCs like dirt they should expect to be treated with reciprocity and if they see that your ideal player is getting free room and board for saving a kid from a runaway wagon or offering to work in the kitchens, they might be inclined to switch tactics. On the converse if the evil characters that are the bullies are playing well you can have them be approached by contacts for them as a reward for that sort of thing.

Inspiration: Which you indicated in discussion that you already use judiciously but was removed as a discussion in the comments of the original post.

Some players drive the story others are along for the ride, by making his character the chief piece in a story is a good way to reward him as well as set the example.

What I would recommend is that whatever reward you decide on make sure it is available for everyone and everyone is told why they are given this or that reward. Even if you hand out XP for bonus and awesome play be sure to itemize that with what this piece was for and that piece. This allows them to see for them selves what their efforts glean.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I especially concur with the "In game advantages." You might even consider surprising / rewarding him with the regeneration of lost limb(s) after a heroic deed for the good of others. Karma and stuff. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2016 at 10:22

Inspiration (as discussed here) is the ingame mechanic designed for this. Briefly, the DM can hand out inspiration, which gives advantage on rolls, essentially whenever he/she feels like it. The DMG (p.240) explicitly states that inspiration can be given for particularly good roleplaying or heroism, and that it should be used to encourage certain types of behavior.

In your case, you could hand out inspiration when he plays his character particularly well, or when he accepts a setback without complaint. This sends a clear, ingame message to the other players that is fully supported by the rules.

The primary advantage to this approach (beyond it being completely RAW) is that you can highlight specific actions that you want to reward. This gives your other players concrete examples to emulate, and allows you to reward them for playing "well".


First thing first, as said in Slagmoth's answer, when comes to D&D and most other RPG systems, there is no "Playing correctly." The style of game that you would like to DM may be different from what the other players actually want to participate in. This does not mean that they play incorrectly, only that they play a different style of game.

It sounds to me like your idea for what you enjoy in your game is not aligning up exactly with what the players want out of a game. This is an out of game problem, and should not be solved with an in game solution. You need to talk to your players. All of them. Discuss the kinds of things that you expected when the game game started, and ask each of your players the kinds of things that they want from game, and try to come to a compromise.

Now, if the thing that makes your players "bad" is that they are jerks as people, then your conversation should really be on whether you all should play the game at all. Life is too precious and this game too fun to ruin by playing with people you don't get along with. But otherwise, a conversation about the desires of the players, including yourself, is in order.

As for rewarding this guy, just really play up how much you appreciate how he plays. My group has a player much like this one who gets very into it. Everybody, DM included, loves him for it and gives him so much praise. But never has he specifically been given any more spotlight or rewards than anybody else. If you give him a quest, or special treatment in game, your other players may grow resentful and lash out instead of changing their playstyle. Especially if a change to the game rules looks to be directly caused by the new player.

I strongly suggest talking with everybody instead of rewarding your playing with anything more than inspiration, genuine signs of appreciation, and letting his actions shape your world.


Know The Rules

There are several options for rewarding players for creative play (however you choose to define that). In the shortest term, you can impose Advantage or Disadvantage on a particular roll (an ephemeral benefit). Medium term, you can give someone an Inspiration point they can use later (also an ephemeral benefit). Lastly, if they creatively resolve or avoid an encounter, you can and should give them the treasure and XP for that encounter (a more permanent bonus).

Know Your Players

To better motivate players, you may wish to give the players something a bit more tailored to them and their individual play styles. Helpfully, the DMG provides a list of play styles on page 6.

  • Acting
  • Exploring
  • Instigating
  • Fighting
  • Optimizing
  • Problem Solving
  • Storytelling

Consider either clandestinely classifying each player into one or more of these groups, or simply ask them which they prefer. As the DM, it's entirely within your rights to change the world in reaction to what the players do, or what they want from the game. Consider these benefits:

  • Acting - A new piece of their personal history impacts the game somehow
  • Exploring - A new region is opened, and named after them
  • Instigating - New alliances form, or old ones are broken
  • Fighting - They get the drop on someone in combat by being allowed to draw a few meaningful tactical features on the map
  • Optimizing - Cater the next encounter to their chosen ability
  • Problem Solving - Clever play leads to unexpected hints
  • Storytelling - Their actions earn them the friendship and/or respect of an interesting NPC
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've been playing D&D for about 8 years now and I'm slowly getting up the confidence to DM, this section from the DMG really stuck out to me as being core to creating a game tailored to the different styles of players, thanks for the great examples of how to cater to these styles. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shaun
    Mar 22, 2018 at 13:43

Apart from in-game bonuses of any type, after each session you may dedicate some time to discuss what each of you like and dislike today. It might be very important to have such an opportunity to express what you feel.

The point is that if something like "Behave like that guy, he was good today" is expressed by an angry DM, players may reject it on emotional level. If something is spoken by a player and supported by DM and some other players, those who still don't understand it may think about reconsidering it.

It is a frequent practice in small (less than 50 players) LARP games in Russia. It is very, very important to have such a discussion, as people often neglect saying things if they don't have dedicated time to say them until it's too late to solve the problem. You don't necesserily have to host it offline -- for example, when we play Vampire: The Masquerade LARP, the game typically takes the whole night, and players are too sleep when it ends, so we discuss it on the internet. A special thread is typically opened on the event page.


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