Rewarding Roleplaying

Introduction

You’ve created a character for the game. Your character has stats and abilities and all sorts of bonuses, skills, and feats. Clever use of these statistics during gameplay is key to your character’s success and acquisition of XP, wealth, and magic items.

But what about personality? After all, you are a roleplayer, which means you need a role to play during the game. Most players write up a background and define their characters’ personalities, often with reference to game features like alignment or allegiances. Such details certainly make the game more enjoyable, but do they have any impact your character’s success? Does roleplaying specifically help your character acquire more XP, wealth, or magic items? If your games are like most of mine over the past two decades, the answer is, at best, “Not really.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were criteria by which your character could receive specific rewards that aided your character’s in-game success doing those heroic, exciting things that adventurers so often do?

Rewarding Roleplaying uses three criteria to encourage and reward better roleplaying. Best of all, the responsibility for establishing these criteria belongs to the players.

You set your own roleplaying goals. When you meet your goals, the DM hands out the reward in the form of an Action Point, which you use to achieve greater levels of success in the game.

Fides

What does a character believe? How does this belief influence a character’s actions, especially as an
adventurer?

A character’s motivating beliefs are his fides (pronounced fee-days). Using fides during gameplay adds to the social contract between the players (including the DM). The player defines his character’s fides before the game begins. The DM implements opportunities for fides to be challenged during the game. A character can earn one Action Point per game session per fides. The only requirement is that the character is played in such a way that he acts based on his fides.

Note that there are no requirements that fides strictly dictate the way a character acts. People act contrary to their beliefs all the time. The sole requirement is that the character be roleplayed with reference to his fides. Let’s look at an example:

Jeremiah Dawes believes that no insult should be left unanswered. He undertakes a diplomatic mission to a group of Wampanoag halflings who are blocking passage along an important river. During dinner with the chief, a warrior insults Dawes’s motives. How does Dawes react to the challenge to his fides? Does he…

…return insult for insult, possibly turning dinner into an ugly verbal altercation?
…demand satisfaction in the form of duel?
…attack the abrasive warrior?
…swallow his pride and bottle his anger so as to not endanger the mission?

Any of these reactions is an appropriate response to the fides challenge. Undoubtedly other possible responses exist. In each instance, Dawes reacts based on his fides and an Action Point is earned.

A player can define as few or as many fides as he and the DM can agree upon. Of course the DM
shouldn’t be expected to work challenges for all of every character’s fides each game session; however, it is reasonable that each character be given at least one fides challenge per game session.

As a character develops, his fides may change. The player can add new ones,get rid of old ones, or change existing ones. This works especially well when fides change due to the character’s experiences during the game.

Naturae

Fides aren’t the only things that shape personality. They might not even be the most important or revealing. A character may also have one or more naturae (pronounced nat-oor-eye), or instincts. Naturae represent those things a character does without much conscious thought in response to a particular situation. Like fides, the player writes his character’s naturae prior to the game’s start. The player creates as many naturae as he and the DM can agreeably define. Naturae are different from fides in three ways.

First, the DM doesn’t need to specifically tailor scenarios to regularly include an opportunity for naturae to come into play. Also unlike fides, a character can earn an Action Point each time his naturae come into play, but no more than once per scene3. Finally, a character earns an Action Point only for acting the way his naturae says he acts.

This reflects the crucial distinction between fides and naturae. Fides result from reflection and conscious decision. Naturae are reactions, more or less automatic responses that the character has less control over. Of course, this doesn’t mean that naturae dictate action. A character may act contrary to his naturae. He just doesn’t earn an Action Point for doing so. Let’s look at an example:

Jeremiah Dawes doesn’t lie. He is instinctively truthful. While traveling through the woods near Jamestown, he and his companions stumble across a dwarven slave escaped from a nearby plantation. They agree to help the slave get out of Gloucester Territory to where the dwarf has a chance of remaining free. Along the way north, the party encounters a gang of slave hunters. The lead slaver hunter asks, “Have you seen any escaped slaves?” What does Dawes do? Does he…

…admit they have seen an escaped slave?
…keep his mouth shut and let someone else do the talking?
…lie to the slave hunters?

Any of these options are acceptable, but only the first one earns the character an Action Point.

A character’s naturae may also evolve over time. He may develop new ones, change old ones, and even lose specific naturae entirely. As always, these changes work best if they occur in response to the character’s experiences during gameplay.

Metae

At the start of each adventure (not game session), a player may define one meta (plural metae,
pronounced may-tuh or may-tie if plural) for his character. Metae are goals, but they must be something different than the adventure’s main objective.

Even moreso than fides and naturae, it is imperative that the DM be involved in defining metae since it is the DM’s responsibility to make sure each character’s metae are included in the adventure. For this reason, metae must be defined prior to the start of an adventure. After the first adventure, it is best to define metae at the end of the current adventure so that they are ready by the next adventure’s beginning.

When the opportunity to achieve a meta arises, the character earns an Action Point as long as he reacts accordingly. Success is not a criterion for earning a meta-related Action Point. The only thing that counts is effort. Let’s look at an example:

Jeremiah Dawes wants to become a member of a Wompanoag tribe sorcerer lodge. He needs to earn the approval of a sorcerer lodge elder and pass the initiation test. After the successful completion of the diplomatic mission to the negotiate free travel on an important river, Dawes gets his opportunity.

Succeed or fail, Dawes earns an Action Point for seizing the opportunity to achieve his meta. It is entirely appropriate for a character’s meta to change each adventure, especially if the character achieved his meta when he had the chance.

Summary of Roleplaying Action Points

A player can earn one Action Point for:
1. Roleplaying with reference to his fides, earning one Action Point per fides per game session.
2. Roleplaying according to his naturae, earning one Action Point per natura per scene.
3. Attempting to accomplish his meta, earning one Action Point per adventure.

Rewarding Roleplaying

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