I have always disliked “bribing” my players. Background write ups, treasure wish-lists, and other issues some DM laments that his players don’t contribute enough of it and inevitably someone replies with a suggestion to bribe the player with experience, items, gold, bonuses, action points, or whatever else seems applicable. It’s not usually my cup of tea. I’ve never relied on it and if a player wasn’t doing enough of something I just focused on encouraging more of it or else let it drop entirely.
Well, I’m bringing this up because of a recent change of heart: I decided to bribe my players.
The problem that had been plaguing me for several months was the lack of players participating or contributing to our campaign’s wiki and forum over on Obsidian Portal. I begged players to discuss topics or help update the journal and the wiki and I received less-than-lackluster results. I knew the ability to contribute existed among them (time, access, etc) but only one or two players participated on a semi-regular basis.
I decided to attempt bribery but I didn’t want to offer XP; our group leveled up less by XP and more by the number of sessions completed. The game was set in Dark Sun, so I couldn’t offer magic items without risking making magic items less special and I couldn’t balance holding back items if it meant less participation. Money was nice, but again I didn’t want them to have excessive wealth in the gritty world of Dark Sun. Eventually I had an idea, one that wouldn’t disrupt the delicate balance of wealth in Dark Sun.
I announced to the group that they would be rewarded for their participation on Obsidian Portal with money – but that money would never appear in-game. I explained that every post, every wiki page, every bit of participation had a specific value and that amount would be added to an out-of-game fund everytime they contributed. This savings account of gold pieces can be spent, but only with the consent of everyone in the group. I agreed that any item they voted to purchase, I would work it into the next session – probably as part of the next treasure bundle in the game if it was mundane enough. In this way I could reward the players, prod them into choosing their own reward, and balance my other treasure rewards. For interesting items I might bring them in with plot hooks attached. Ideally, the group could save the money and use it to purchase items they would not have otherwise recieved in-game. One example I mentioned to them would be getting the entire group matching magic tattoos. The group liked the idea and agreed to persue it. It did stimulate activity on Obsidian Portal and I made sure to keep the balance updated and notified everyone in the group every time someone contributed.
The group is currently taking a break from Dark Sun. They haven’t redeemed their money for any items yet, but when we do return to playing I intend to continue this plan and see how it develops. Additionally, I have another D&D group just getting started and I’m planning on implementing the same reward system, although with an adjusted rate of reward to see if it garners more interest.
If anyone else uses Obsidian Portal, I’d love to here how much your players participate and if you reward or encourage them to do so more often. If you decide to implement a plan like this one, I’d also love to hear how it turns out!