Rewards…“There Can Be Only One”… kind of.
For me, there is only one reward in RPG’s and it’s not experience points and it’s not gold.
In my opinion the true reward when playing an RPG is the opportunity to build and effect an interaction between friends while building a story.
Yowwza! That’s Meta gaming weirdo talk there…
However even back in the beginning when the player got experience for slaying monsters and taking loot, the loot and the exp were only in game elements that were measures of how much the –players had effected the story.
Kill a scrawny Kobold for 5 experiences you there’s arguably not much world impact from the loss of that poor Kobold. (A butterfly flaps its wings in china; a kobold dies in Aleria, cause and effect.)
On the other side of the coin if ye old player characters offed a dragon, they were rewarded with a hefty number of experience points and a mountain of gold. (HUZZZAAAAHHH!) The reward being presented as a measure of how hard the monster is, but in my view could also be seen as a measure of how much effect having killed a dragon would have on a campaign. (Did the players quest to find the dragon? Had the dragon torched a few local towns? Did a king hire the party to kill the beast? Are the characters now local heroes? That’s all story impact, revolving around the dragon that’s now a trophy handing in your keep)
Allot different than killing a Kobold that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So moving into a new RPG, I think about rewards I think a lot about how the system can embrace that one reward that to me really counts, the ability of the player to affect the story, moment to moment.
System, system, system.
(Stick with me here this going to get bumpy, we have unfinished roads ahead)
So what I am trying to build is an economy of words.
An economy of words where in 90% of the game play is narration, and only when the GM and players come to some form of Impasse does the resolution mechanic kick in. Once the resolution system is started it is done in stages.
Stage 1 is called a PASS and the players and GM try to talk through the impasse, using pointed questions, with the players earning “Chips” for solid input.
The chips go into a party pool if the impasse can be cleared up during the PASS.
The success of a Pass is left to GM fiat, so the GM has to comfortable setting up an impasse and seeing it get narrated away. This would not be a great game for GM’s who love to craft clever encounters and then ramrod poor players face first into them.
If things are still not clear the second stage is a TEST, where in the players get to play dice Vs a Difficulty number, it during a TEST where the switch up happens.
During a test everyone’s played die is set to its highest value, and if the player wants to add something to the scene narrative they can but they must dial the die back one. (I.e. a Six becomes a five; a five becomes a four and so on.) For this they gain another chip, but they also increase the risk of lowering their dice too much and failing the TEST once the difficulty number is revealed. Note the dice are never rolled they are simply dialed back using an active choice from the player to give up some chance of success to buy more narrative input.
In effect they players get more input into the narrative and more in game currency (chips) for the price of higher risk.
Note that the player also has full controll over success and failure, the player can choose to just not dial back his die at all, and he will succeed the TEST. However he will do so without taking any risk, without narating as much into the scene and basicly leaving it to the GM. HE can also dial his die way back , earn maximum chips, have maximum input, take a ton of risk and prety much gaurentee his own failure. Sometimes in a story it is better or at least more interesting to fail, some of the best stories come out of failure, alot of learning comes from mistakes. .
A TEST will never be a purely profitable for the players as getting things done via narration during a PASS.
The system makes narration, when viewed from the point of player reward and input, the optimal way to get things done.
A bit about the chips, I like using chips as counters, love it actually. In this system earned chips would all go into a party pool to be spent during the game for narrative effects and getting lost dice back, and at the end of the game they can be split amongst players and used to add details to the characters. The party pool aspect is very much like the Phase-Abandon game our group already plays, and has worked fantastically over the years. The party pool has several times caused players to waffle painfully about spending chips or leaving them to benefit the group latter.
So this is where my design head is at, I continue to sketch (literally) out a new campaign setting that I think will engage the people I play with.
Hopefully I will have more detail to post soon.