Fool’s Gold – (Rapid Shot: Social Rewards in RPGs)

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When playing characters in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (and many others) it often seems to come down to the bottom line: Experience and Loot. While this establishes a baseline for progression and a sense of real achievement as campaigns progress it can also result in a “clocking in for adventure” mentality in some groups. Yet, other rewards present themselves in game play and if presented correctly and supported well can become every bit as important as “dinging” that next level.

Rapid Shot: Social Rewards in Campaigns

As your characters progress through the villages, markets and battlefields of their stories the weight of the presence and time in any given area should likely be felt by those around them. These social rewards present currencies rarer than gold and often easier to spend (or lose). A lot of rules presented in the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Guide can be used to support these precious alternate rewards:

  • Honor – It’s easy to confuse Honor in the Pathfinder (and any derivative of the ancestral system) with Lawful alignments because of the prevalence of Honor as a virtue of Law. However when creating or utilizing Honor as a reward is it better to think of it as living to the role within society a character has. For example, a thief’s honor is judged by his peers or guild mates and thus does not suffer the same loss a knight does. The textures of this sort of system can add a lot to a campaign but if poorly enforce can become another complexity that adds to general bookkeeping matters.
  • Fame – Similar but different than Honor, the reward of Fame has seen a strong development for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game particularly with regard to Pathfinder Society Organized play. Fame represents how well known a character is in a certain sphere of influence. Its relevance to the game can earn your PCs jobs, recognition and even rivals. Fame is also locations based and allows for senses of anonymity (or lack there of) in games to enhance verisimilitude.
  • Prestige – In the Ultimate Campaign rulebook (and various organized play resources), Prestige is a Fame-based currency of reputation. It represents the application of the Fame a character has earned to particular benefits ranging from skill bonuses to titles and lands. The use of this mechanics gives players some control over the “spending” of reputation and can motivate players outside of class or alignment bounds to participate. Prestige investure also provides mechanical benefits that are rare or otherwise unavailable.
  • Relationships – While the mechanical representation of relationships is cumbersome to some players it can represent a reward structure outside the norms. A character bent on winning the hand of the prince despite being common-born has their work cut out for them. Similar applications can be applied to estranged fathers, rival students or even illusive mentors.
  • Lore & Information – Sometimes the simple discovery of campaign secrets or backstory can be a currency all its own. The revelation of a rivals paternity or the location lair of a long dead evil can be doorways into ever deepening excitement. Adventure hooks, new spells or ever new mechanical introductions can be injected into a campaign as structured rewards and enhance existing story architecture.

Social rewards can be a deeply immersive element if well done. The rules presented in the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Guide are very good but won’t cover every situation. Players and GMs should partner to clearly define which if any social reward systems will be in play and how each will work with regard to the current campaign. Additionally, the provide progress “in between” leveling and looting that is essential to some players particularly in slow and medium progressions.

May your fame ever proceed you, or at least your character.

For other alternate game options from Lost Spheres Publishing check us out at:   d20pfsrd.com, drivethruRPG, paizo and RPGNow.

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