Fortune Cards provide dungeons and dragons players situational bonuses to game play, but you can provide players your own custom bonuses without spending any money. Furthermore, players feel a greater sense of accomplishment if bonus powers are earned, instead of purchased at the store.
Several months prior to the release of D&D Fortune Cards, I started a new campaign with a group of players completely new to DnD and tabletop gaming. In video and computer games in the last few years, I’ve really come to appreciate the “achievement” system. You complete some task, or uncover an easter egg, and suddenly you are rewarded with a medal, trophy, etc.
In many games, achievements don’t grant any sort of power bonus, but in some they do. I think both are valuable additions to tabletop play as they give players unexpected spotlight moments when they “unlock” an achievement. Let’s divide this concept into two categories, achievements with power bonuses, and achievements with other indirect story bonuses.
Player Achievements Sans Power Bonuses
There are a number of fairly simple ways to enrich your adventures with a simple story bonus. Most Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) modules do this — based on how you played through the module, you earn friends or enemies that may affect how the DM runs future games. In fact, some LFR modules have special story components if the characters have the right story “key” to access it.
In home play, it’s much easier to build these kinds of good and bad consequences into your game. Favoring one faction may confer benefits in one region, and lead to be chased out of town in another. Whether you make these rewards up on the fly, or do some extensive world building to determine the outcome, the players will always appreciate the intrigue this adds.
Story rewards can also be conferred in the form of “titles”. For example, if the characters defeat the winter king, perhaps they earn the title “Vulcan Krewe“. Make the titles clever and fun, and it will make it that much easier for players to remember their accomplishments. In fact, I’d even encourage the players to maintain a “resume” of their adventuring company’s achievements!
Other rewards can take other “semi-tangible” forms, such as favors from NPCs, or formal titles of public office or nobility. For example, if the characters save the kingdom from a great peril, it would make sense for them all to be Knighted by the king. Or, perhaps in a time of chaos and unrest, players could be deputized if they favor the lawful side of the conflict. In both situations, the characters would gain certain bonuses within that civilization.
And then of course there are the goofy fun titles. I use these A LOT in my home game. The only purpose they serve is to make the players laugh. For example, in one series of encounters, there were hidden creatures with a high stealth skill. Only one player – a fighter named Dargon – was able to consistently roll high enough to perceive the enemies. Since the fighter out perceived the ranger, I’ve been calling him “Dargon, great perceiver of things” for some time now. If the characters take down a demon, even something as tiny as an imp, why not grant them the title of “demonslayer” for a little while? They can bluff people at the local bar about how it stood 20 meters tall, breathed fire, and could wipe out an army with only one arm…
Player Achievements With Power Bonuses
In my home campaign, I have a rule that a player may only have one achievement power bonus active per every five levels. I crafted a few dozen of these hidden bonuses so far, and I will occasionally make them up on the fly if something ‘worthy’ happens during the coarse of play. At our 8th session, a player finally unlocked on achievement, and I informed the group of their presence… but they don’t know the criteria of an achievement until a player unlocks it. Here is a sampling of achievements from my private campaign (I hope my players don’t read this!):
Achievement: “Fail at Life?”
- Criteria: Character rolls a critical failure four times in a single encounter, or rolls two consecutive critical failures.
- Bonus: The character receives a +1 bonus to death saves.
Achievement: “I’d crit that”
- Criteria: Character “calls” a crit at a critical combat juncture before rolling it.
- Bonus: Character does an extra 1[W] damage on all critical hits.
Achievement: “Hit it and crit it”
- Criteria: Character does not miss once against a solo or boss target, and finishes it with a critical hit.
- Bonus: Character gains the benefits of the Elven racial encounter power, “Elven Accuracy”.
Achievement: “Savory Meatshield”
- Criteria: Character is hit by every creature who attacks them until knocked unconscious.
- Bonus: When bloodied, as an encounter power the character may make a bluff check +5 to pretend to fall prone and unconscious. On failure, character provides combat advantage to adjacent enemies in the prone state. On success, the character may stand back up as a minor action instead of a move action.
Achievement: “Extra Tasty Crispy”
- Criteria: Character falls unconscious from no less than 50% fire damage.
- Bonus: The character gains energy resistance to cold equal to ½ their level, rounded up.
Achievement: “Hooray for Hypothermia”
- Criteria: Character falls unconscious from no less than 50% cold damage.
- Bonus: The character gains energy resistance to fire equal to ½ their level, rounded up.
- Criteria: Character has a critical failure on a strength check, resulting in a humiliating situation.
- Bonus: Character gains a +2 bonus to athletics checks.
Achievement: “The Dread Gazebo“
- Criteria: Character analyzes, attacks, and attempts to run from an inanimate object that posed no threat to them.
- Bonus: Character gains a +1 bonus to any check made to learn about an opponent.
- Criteria: Character is constantly attempting to steal.
- Bonus: If character performs a successful theft, they receive a +1 bonus to their next attempt. This bonus is cumulative. (+1 first success, +2 second success, etc.)
Achievement: “Boards… don’t hit back”
- Criteria: Character breaks a wooden object in a single blow.
- Bonus: Character does double damage against inanimate wooden objects.
Achievement: “Yellow, Lilly-livered Coward”
- Criteria: Character flees battle before any party members are bloodied.
- Bonus: Character gains +1 to all defenses when attempting to run away from battle.
Achievement: “Bring Out Your Dead”
- Criteria: You are the only character to survive an encounter (all others are unconscious or dead).
- Bonus: As a daily power, if damage would cause you to fall unconscious, you may spend a healing surge.
Achievement: “I AM… SO… BORED”
- Criteria: Character is dazed, stunned, or otherwise impaired from taking a normal, full turn for the entire encounter.
- Bonus: As an encounter power, the character may reroll a failed saving throw.
Achievement: “Who Needs Powers?”
- Criteria: Makes superb use of traps, hazards, and terrain to vanquish foes.
- Bonus: Character gains a +1 bonus to thievery, and to any skill check made to assess the area or situation.
Achievement: Commune with God I (Raven Queen)
- Criteria: Pray to your deity at an important juncture, and roll a crit.
- Bonus: Character gains a +1 bonus to Religion checks made to communicate with your deity. The Raven Queen watches over you, providing you a +1 bonus to death saves.
- Note: I tailored the bonus for this achievement according to the player’s deity. I don’t have all of them mapped out yet, but I plan to have three or four in the “commune with god” series of achievements.
Have you ever granted characters permanent bonuses in the form of achievements, unique story rewards, or boons? Please give us an example of the reward you gave the player(s), and how they earned.