Hey everyone, Jarred from Monsters & Multiclass here. Recently I have been thinking on what drives players to complete quests. Usually, when a DM wants players to do something they will dangle money or magic items over their heads. Three months later the party has 10,000 gold and enough magic items to take down Tiamat, and they've lost all sense of challenge. And that's only at level 7! So how do we get around this? I'm only going to cover one of these in this article, but in an effort to eliminate clickbait articles here's the short list of what I'll be going over.
3. Property (You are Here)
5. Catharsis and Good Feelies
So it's been about 10 months since I wrote the last part of this. But better late than never right? Let's jump into it!
As your party gets stronger and their quests start to change and shape the world, they will often throw out the question, "Why should I care about this?". Adventurers are, by trade, nomadic. They wander around from place to place looking for problems and making solutions. Or the other way around if they're anything like my party.
So when you look for ways to reward players you need to start looking in places that go beyond putting coin in the parties pocket. Gold is wonderful. Things are nice. But they don't create the buy in that makes for grand campaigns filled with moving story beats. Giving the party land, on the other hand, is a way to reward the group for a job well done, tie them to the land, and bring them in to large conversations about the world, turning your game from a loot and shoot into a ancient Greek epic.
Rewarding them for a job well done
Giving land as a reward is going to be the simple part of this equation. This is generally something that the party can chase if you've give them an abundance of gold. Then it's just a matter of time before they buy some land or a house or a small country depending on your proclivity for rolling on the random treasure tables in the DMG.
But if you want to get the ball rolling, you can always give players land as a quest reward. Watch as their eyes light up at the possibilities provided by a place to call their own! You as the DM, should encourage them to discuss what they would do with it and provide tools and hooks to accomplish those goals. If you're giving them an entirely empty town, as I have with my party, consider using this excel sheet I put together to give them opportunities to build and grow.
The idea is that they can accumulate the essential pillars that a town needs, and within that, ask for anything they desire. If they want to start building houses for everyone instead of tents and huts, then they'd need to get wood structures researched and paid off. Then the DM can determine the gold cost, set a length of completion, and even create potential quests. The point of the excel, beyond making an excel for the fun of it, is to keep a lot of the specifics in the hands of the DM. Still, it provides a broad framework to work within. If you ever get use out of it or tweak it for your own game let me know. I am just starting to use it in my own.
If you're looking for some ways to give the party land, I recommend going for an area that is a bit run down and more importantly, has no concrete owner. Or at least won't have an owner when the party is done with it. If the land is already established then they have to work within the pre-existing image and history. This can be okay and many players, especially those under 40, will still enjoy the privilege of playing in a fantasy world where they get to own land. But it won't have the same hit as building something up from scratch. It's the difference between a necromancer coming across a graveyard and raising up any old skeleton, versus them killing an enemy and raising them from the dead to serve their necromancer whims. It's just got more punch!
As the party puts together the pieces of this ramshackle abode, you, dungeon master, must put together quests and hardships for them to overcome. To make the land they dreamed of. And they will continue to reach higher and want more. They may even make long term goals.
Tying them to the land
The players are now armed with land and tools to make any creation they can think of. They now have goals around what they want out of their property. They also, get to watch as an empty area grows into a budding village, town, and maybe one day, a major trade hub. And you can now use this connection to make them care about what happens to the world. The BBEG may be able to destroy all of Faerun and get away with it. But see if the party lets things slide when it's their home turf.
Which brings us to point two. Tying the players to the land. With the party invested in the well being of an area, quest ideas pop up like illithids at an all you can eat brain buffet. Not that they make those. I don't think. I guess I wouldn't really get an invite. But if some illithids make your player's mine a spot for one of these events, it's not just a random village that needs help. It's their home and it needs defended! Gone are the days of the the party asking "Why do I care about this?". Let it be replaced with the yawps of frustration as the wizard actually holds off on casting fireball because they don't want to burn down the homes they paid for!
You will see the transition almost immediately. The players don't want their shiny toy taken away. No amount of money or magic items compares to a place to call home. And when you have that place, you will do anything to keep it. Fighting dragons, closing portals to other dimensions, even entering into large scale battles if they feel it's necessary. And with people counting on them, that's exactly what will be on the table. Tier 3 play will feel so natural you won't even realize you arrived.
Bringing them to the (world) table
And so now we have the most important part of this reward. With a town or major property, the party now has a reason to be brought to the table in times of turmoil. How many official Wizards of the Coast campaigns go from a bunch of level one nobodies to the commanders of an army in less time than it takes the star of a viral meme to be outed as a vile person?
With the party having a property of their own, they're now considered important members of society. And the players will feel it as well. They won't need to suspend disbelief around the amount of authority thrust upon them, as they have earned their place at the table. Proving they can handle the mantle of responsibility.
So when a band of gnolls show up on their doorstep because Yeenoghu thinks it's his time to rule the material plain, the party won't need to be told by the royals of this land that this is a problem and they're the only ones who can deal with it. The PCs will instead take it upon themselves to protect what they have built and created. They stop being the quest takers and become the quest makers.
Stop relying on the good nature of the party when world ending events arise. Instead, give them a land to call their own and watch as they WANT to protect it. Let them be the ones who go out and amass friends and influence in order to stop a threat that directly affects their livelihood.
As a DM you set what the players do in most instances. You give them the quests, you give them the money, you give them the twists. But if you step back from the set pattern and give your players something that they truly have control over, you will see your job done for you. If it hasn't clicked yet, it will the first time a player looks at you and says "I want to raise chickens and open a brothel".
And you can in return say "Wait are those like two thoughts you're thinking together? Like a chicken coop/brothel combo? Or...yeah okay you meant both"