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RPT Newsletter #021 | 10 Ways to Surprise Your Players & Enjoy the Fun

Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
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10 Ways to Surprise Your Players & Enjoy the Fun
From Johnn Four | published 2000, updated May 20, 2021

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #021


For The Players
  • Give them each a chocolate bar or homemade cookies halfway through the session.
  • Buy each player a toy that costs under two bucks. Recently I gave my players silly putty, crayons, balloons, pick-up sticks, a mini-lego set and modelling clay. I’m not sure who had more fun: the players, or me when I borrowed their toys.
For The Characters
  • Free gold/credits/cash. Ever find money on the ground? I have and it’s a pleasant surprise. Just don’t give away the bank.
  • Free treasure. By treasure I mean items that are not money. Let them find potions, scrolls, guns, an abandoned ship, etc. If possible make the treasure a one-shot or limited time item (i.e. 3 charges left, low on fuel, etc.) to protect game balance.
  • Help them make a new ally. Often characters have to turn the world upside down in order to earn the respect of their peers. Let them make a new ally through a friendly conversation or simple deed.
  • Let them find or make a good deal. Maybe a store has a needed piece of equipment and it’s under-priced. Perhaps a rare item is found for sale. Mayhap a merchant gives them too much in change. Or, gasp, the PCs pay for an item and discover it is of higher than normal quality.
  • A new family member, or a long-lost one, contacts a PC. Make this family member friendly and useful to the party in some way.
  • How about giving a PC a free, useful, *non-annoying* companion. Everybody likes a servant/helper/gopher.
  • Have the Bad Guy make a mistake in the PCs’ favour. Or, an unexpected boon gives the party an advantage over their enemy.
  • And here’s the grand-daddy of all happy, unexpected player surprises: one of their plans works without a hitch.
  • I asked my wife for ideas on surprising players. She doesn’t roleplay but among her suggestions, some of which are above, was to give the characters pig snouts so they could snuff out truffles. Er, well, make of it what you will but I decided to include it for completeness.
 
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Stephan Hornick

Community Goblin & Master of the Archive
Staff member
Platinum WoA
Wizard of Story
Wizard of Combat
Borderland Explorer
I'm not sure about the player awards, but I love and use such character awards.
A simple funny roll on a random table and voilá a sudden complication if they roll high, a nice surprise if they roll low. A simple search for herbs by the druid in the nearby woods.. and how she looks when she finds something unexpected!
Surprise and mystery are important.
 
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JohnnFour

Game Master
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Wizard of Combat
Gamer Lifestyle
Demonplague Author
Borderland Explorer
This is one of my favourite ideas from the archives, and I think on it at least once a month, even since this was published in 2000.

I agree on the character rewards.

I advocate for player rewards too, because it's people who play the game, not the characters. And getting a reward as a person is an amazing feeling. And if I can use the game context to make people feel great, well, I'll double down on that any time.

This book apparently on the same lines has been recco'd to me several times, though I have not read it yet:
https://www.amazon.ca/Whats-Your-Purple-Goldfish-Customers/dp/0984983805

I think it comes down to people being seen and heard, and that goes a long way towards respect, which in turn helps the community at your table do great things and have more fun at every game,
 
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