Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Search Of Strongholds, Part 1: In Which Froth Is Sold On Inherent Bonuses

Howdy everyone. As you may or may not be aware, I am always looking for ways to tweak 4e by adding classic edition mechanics and flavor. Over the last few weeks I have been starting to put together some ideas for "Stronghold" rules for 4e. I love Stronghold rules. Love them. Love them, love them, love them. They are one of my favorite things about D&D as a matter of fact. Sadly, up until this point the concept hasn't worked so well with 4e. This has been for a number of reasons.

For one, although 4e PCs have roles within the party, 4e PCs are far less reliant on Henchmen, Hirelings, Toadies, etc than in previous editions. There are some classic dungeons that I simply would never enter without some Meatshields. In 4e, that is almost unthinkable; there is a whole generation of new DnDers that won't even know what you are talking about. I have put some new Henchman and Hireling rules out there to try and get a bit of this flavor back in the game (the full text and treatment will be in the mag, and this has been one of my most popular posts). Anyways, Retainers are a critical component of maintaining a Stronghold. It seems the lack of good Retainer rules in 4e helped keep Stronghold rules from developing.
Secondly, the career trajectory of 4e PCs usually doesn't resemble that of classic PCs. Many of the old worlds were assumed to be more or less quasi-medieval; building castles and armies were reasonable endgames for PCs. This changed a lot over the years, and with 4e, high level PCs are typically expected to be plane-hopping and saving the universe, rather than dealing with mundane barony taxation. So the assumptions of high level play have changed.

Lastly, the default economy of 4e doesn't support Stronghold rules. In "vanilla" 4e, the amount of money PCs find scales with their level, the reason for this being the need to purchase magic items to keep pace with expected enhancement bonuses. So you run into a lot of issues. If a player has to choose between keeping his basic numbers up to stay effective, or a little tower to call his own, you cannot fault him for buying an item. I mean, the game is telling him to. You also have issues when you try to assign a cost for building a Stronghold. The cost might be completely prohibitive until a certain level...but soon after that level, it becomes too cheap and insignificant. This is where I struggled the most when trying to come up with ideas. It seemed the only way to remedy the situation was by completely revamping the 4e economy. How could this be accomplished? As long as players need items to keep pace with the system, they will always need increasing amounts of cash. That is when the answer hit me-inherent bonuses.

I have resisted inherent bonuses in the past. Maybe that's not entirely accurate. I have resisted forcing a specific magic item philosophy into my work. I have changed my opinion. I am now going to recommend inherent bonuses as the default. Why? Well, its not to screw with builds that rely on certain items. Hopefully DMs will still let PCs quest for items that they really want. The reason is that I have a lot of ideas that simply don't work if I use 4e's default system. Using inherent bonuses means PCs no longer have to make a certain amount of money per level. Since they cannot buy items, there is no need for treasure to constantly inflate. I mean, how many Adventurer's Kits do you really need? So, since I am no longer bound to a certain amount of gold per level, I can set prices for Stronghold construction that stay constant over all levels. So it is never cheap to build one, but once you hit a certain level, it is also not impossible.

I don't know if this has any of your wheels turning, but I have three words for you: "Random Treasure Tables". How about two more words: "Treasure Types". Yes, I can bring back random treasure, treasure types for monsters, taxes, long-term Retainer pay rates-everything. I can bring it all back. And do you know the best part? I don't have to really do much work at all. Since the weird self-inflating 4e economy is no longer needed, I can just go back to old prices. Old item lists. Old treasure tables. Old Stronghold prices. I will have to do a few tweaks of course to make it my own, but I honestly think in the end that it won't be all that different from OD&D. Almost word for word.

So yeah. I never thought I would say it, but I freaking love inherent bonuses.

Part 2 on this series coming soon! As always, I would love to hear thoughts or ideas!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

4e Forever Preview: Taking on Traps


My upcoming 4e Forever fanzine uses the following rules for traps. A trap has a trigger and an effect. A trap's triggered effect always behaves as an Opportunity Action unless otherwise noted. Most triggered traps do not make attack rolls; instead, a PC is usually required to make a saving throw to avoid a trap's effects. It is (hopefully) more dramatic and exciting for the player to roll to save, rather than watch the DM roll to attack.  

PCs trained in applicable Skills might be given small bonuses to their saving throws. Since 4e saving throws stay the same regardless of a PC's level, a single trap can now threaten PCs over multiple tiers of play. In addition, trap damage no longer scales. The damage simply is what it is. Traps are not assigned levels, and, as the traps typically do not attack, they no longer require constantly increasing attack bonuses that have historically lead to “trap bloat”.

For example, while a falling stone block is lethal to low-level PCs, it can still pack a wallop against high-level PCs. A falling block trap does 50 points of damage. This will flat-out crush a 1st Level character, and still dent the hell out of an Epic suit of armor. PCs that are trained in Acrobatics might get a small bonus to their save, representing an increased chance to dodge the block.

The relative damage totals for different traps are assigned based on a rough comparison of their deadliness. So while a scything blade might do less damage than a falling two-ton block, a strong poison gas might just kill you outright, regardless of your hit points or armor.

Traps are presented in simple terms, with a brief description of the trap and what it does, along with a trigger and effect. The size of a trapped area, or the number of trapped squares, is left for to the DM to decide unless otherwise noted. Specific Skill(s) that can be used to detect or disable traps are provided at the beginning of a trap's listing. The DCs to detect and/or disable traps are always the Hard DCs of a PCs level. This is the only way in which traps “scale”. In game terms, this is kind of required based on the way 4e is built, but in terms of flavor, I think it is well-supported as well. As PCs gain levels, they are in increasingly dangerous situations, facing more formidable foes. Maybe if a 25th Level PC went back to the first little dungeon he ever cleared, the DCs would be lower; however,  the pitiful treasure would not even be worth taking. Similarly, if some 2nd Level scrubs were unlucky enough to happen upon an Arch-Lich's tower...lets just say they would be dead before they crossed the threshold.


Sample Trap

Falling Block Trap
Stepping onto the floor released a massive stone block from overhead, crushing the Elf.
-Detect: Dungeoneering
-Disable: Dungeoneering or Thievery
-Trigger: A creature enters a trapped square.
-Effect: The creature must roll a saving throw. Creatures trained in Acrobatics receive a +2 bonus to the roll, representing an increased chance to dodge. On a failed save the creature takes 50 damage.

I hope you like these ideas! Many more traps will be provided in my upcoming fanzine!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Encouraging Ritual Use in 4e

Howdy. Readers of my blog might have noticed me bring up Rituals from time to time, usually to opine the lack of Ritual usage in the games I run. Now, I am definitely generalizing; I have seen them get used a bit here and there, but overall I feel they are an untapped resource in many 4e games. I think there are many reasons for this, and we will talk about some of them as we go. So, let's explore Rituals and different ways to encourage their use.

I guess the first question that should be answered is "Why?". Why bother in the first place? For some campaigns or gaming groups, it might not be something you even want to do. And that is completely fine. But if you do want to encourage Ritual use, pinpointing the "why" will help you answer the question "How?". My personal opinion varies depending on the game I am running. I might want to encourage their use in order to add flavor to a setting. Perhaps I want to add unpredictability to the game. Maybe I have an entire plot or setting that is dependant on their usage. Maybe I want to give players more options for out-of-combat play. Think about your own campaign, or the campaign you want to run, and think about why you might want Rituals to get more use.

Ok, so lets look at how to encourage Ritual use. Probably the first thing that pops into the mind is to make them affordable and available. But this is a double edged sword. If you just give them away like candy, and there is no real cost involved, you still may end up finding they never get used. I have had this happen myself. I have given out Rituals and Ritual scrolls in treasure parcels, I have given out residuum and Ritual components alongside gold; in short, I have put them out there. They still didn't use them.

This brings up an interesting point: some players just don't care about them, and nothing you can do will make them use them. And that is fine; god knows we do not want to railroad someone into anything. That said, I think that some players will respond to these ideas, so it is at least worth a try if you want more Ritual use in your game.

So basically, making Rituals available and cheap is not enough to encourage their use. In fact, it could have an adverse effect. If they are too available, they might lose some of their uniqueness, or become hard to track or remember. You also could lose out on some good role play and adventuring if you make them too easy to use. You also could lose control of your game if they are just unlimited with no restrictions. You might want that, you might not, but we should at least know how to maintain control if need be. So lets hold that thought and go back to the drawing board.

                                                  Checks and Balances
In order to encourage Ritual use while maintaining control of your game, you need to use checks and balances. We can look to the classics to get ideas on how to handle this. Take the Gygax masterpiece "Isle of the Ape". Many spells do not work on the island. In classic Gygaxian "dick mode", he suggests that you do not let your players know about this ahead of time, setting them up for some potentially hellish situations, such as having a spell fizzle just as a Gigantic Ape's foot is about to come down on your head. Settings such as Ravenloft provided laundry lists of spell changes; some didn't work at all, while others had different effects while in the Demiplanes of Dread. This is inspiring to me; in fact, in my own 4e campaign, I use this sort of idea as a plot hook: the party has several Rituals that used to work hundreds of years ago, but no longer do.

What this means is that you should think about your campaign setting and go ahead and define the limits of your PCs power. It is not railroading to say "If my players can just plane shift off of the island, the entire game crumbles, so screw that". See Gygax above. It isn't railroading to simply ensure there is an actual playable game. That said, you might want to play in a game world where PCs do nothing but plane jump. That actually sounds really cool. To each their own. The fact remains that it is a good idea to have an idea of any limits you need to place on PC power in order to maintain your setting's integrity. There are many extremely powerful Rituals. Which leads to the next point.

Acquiring Rituals
You need to make some decisions on Ritual availability. If Rituals can simply be bought and sold in "Magic Shoppes", you need to think about whether you want to impose limits. Maybe Rituals of certain levels are not sold, or maybe you provide players with a list of available Rituals. You will want to keep an eye on it, just so you know what you are dealing with.

If you do not allow magic items to typically be bought and sold, you need to find other ways to get them to players. This can be a fun, creative area. If the party ends up in a secret library, maybe they find a warding ritual; if they defeat a Lich, they might find some with Necromantic themes.You can suit the Ritual's flavor to the scenario. For example, in my 4e game the party was exploring a crypt. They found evidence of grim Rituals having been cast; there was a basin of blood and a pentagram drawn on the floor. They found a few flavorful Rituals in the chamber, such as Undead Servitor, that fit with the scenario. I think that this kind of synergy with the Rituals found and the circumstances in which they are uncovered helps encourage their use, simply by making them more interesting. I go into more detail on using Rituals as plot hooks later in this article.

Another way to control Ritual availability is to tend towards Ritual scrolls rather than Ritual books. This allows PCs that cannot otherwise cast Rituals to be able to use them, and you can be a bit looser with the balance if you know a Ritual can only be used once. This is especially true of some powerful healing Rituals. You do not want to lose the ability to challenge your players or to drain their resources. Otherwise the game becomes too easy, and nobody has fun.

To summarize, if you do not allow Rituals to be bought or sold, you always have control over what goes into your game. Otherwise, use a bit of caution, depending on what you want from your game. "But Froth, it sounds more like you are restricting Rituals than encouraging their use". Bear with me.

Ease of Use
One crucial aspect of encouraging Ritual use is to make them easy to use. I do not recommend taking away the casting time; that's one of the interesting pieces. Players absolutely should have to find a spot or moment that allows them the time and space to complete a Ritual. Still, there are some things you could do to make them easier to use. One thing is simple: write down the formula. Not every player has copies of the books, and not every player feels like getting on the Compendium between sessions to copy it down. If you maybe hand out a little Ritual card, it makes it cooler, and players will be more likely to retain the info, or remember they have the Ritual in the first place. As I mentioned above, giving out Ritual scrolls ensures that more than just the Ritual Casters can use them. Other alternatives include giving out the Ritual Caster feat for free if the party does not have a member that can use them; this feat makes for a flavorful reward. Or you could include one free use of a Ritual with the cost of purchase. This prevents it from feeling like you are getting "double dipped" (getting charged to buy the Ritual, AND to use it).

Presenting Rituals
There is a little overlap with some of these topics, but next I want to talk about how to present Rituals to your players. I think this influences how they will view them, and in turn can encourage or discourage their use. If you just say, "Here you find 300 sp and a Wizard's Curtain Ritual", you haven't really captured anyone's imagination. ALWAYS read a Ritual to a party when they find one. This is where you can go ahead and get their wheels turning, because they are not necessarily going to go home and read up on it themselves. Taking the time to write the Ritual down on a little card also adds a nice touch, and keeps it fresh in their minds. Finally, the context in which they acquire the Ritual is an important part of its presentation. I have covered some of that topic above, and it also leads to my next point.

Rituals as Plot Devices
One way to encourage or even guarantee Ritual usage is to include it in a plot hook or adventure. Many DMs can probably brainstorm a hundred ideas from this. An example might be something like the party needs to find the skull of a certain priest and perform a Last Sight Vision Ritual in order to get some crucial bit of information. Or the party and pretty much everyone else in the campaign world regularly use portal Rituals as means of transport. Or the only way to access some tiny room or area is through an animal host, so the party must all use Share Husk Rituals and be turned into mice!

You can literally just sit down and read through Ritual descriptions and come up with all kinds of cool ideas for your game. Sometimes when you just give out random Rituals, or let players choose their own on a shopping trip, you don't end up with much other than boring healing rituals, or Rituals that might never fit your storyline or world.

Alternative Ritual Components 
You might find it a little boring and stale to just use standard components for Rituals. By this I mean a player just trading in some gold somewhere for the components. Try developing a plot hook around acquiring odd Ritual components. Like for the example above, where the players need to find a certain priests skull to do the Last Sight Vision Ritual. Perhaps the components for that include hard-to-find items, such as the eyes of a newt. What this does is shift Rituals away from a standard money drainer, and adds a flourish of flavor. The currency for Ritual use becomes adventuring, rather than gp.

Final Thoughts
I hope this post is somewhat coherent and not too rambly. After you analyze it all, it's easy to see that the methods for encouraging Ritual use will vary between DMs and from campaign to campaign. It is hard to generalize about...but I will try to summarize.

After you decide how you want Rituals to fit into your world, you can facilitate their usage through their acquisition process, presentation, and the ease with which players can use them. Utilize plot hooks, props, flavorful descriptions, and alternative component costs as ways to encourage players to use Rituals. Resist just giving away the farm, because it not only doesn't work, it isn't flavorful and lacks creativity.

That said, I'd love to hear any thoughts and ideas from readers! Leave a post!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Am Jealous As Hell Of My Newbie Players

This weekend I will be DMing a B/X game for several new or almost-new players. They will be walking that well-worn path that so many gamers have trod before them: the road to Hommlett. I will be using my battered, taped-together copy of The Temple of Elemental Evil, and popping out the Ol' Greyhawk Box. Killer stuff, I know. As killer as it gets, really. But that isn't the part that makes me jealous.

The part that makes me jealous is that I cannot really see D&D through fresh eyes any more. I am hopelessly jaded. I wish I could do it all over again.

Take the PC creation method we used. We rolled 3d6, in order. No bonuses, no putting the stats where you want, just straight up 3d6 down the line. Nobody bitched; nobody whined; nobody said "I only have a 6 Dexterity". They simply didn't know any better, and if they did, they didn't care. They played whichever classes matched up best with their rolls. They didn't care if someone else rolled higher.

I gave them some mundane gear, such as rope, a backpack, and a waterskin. Their eyes lit up as they added these precious items to their character sheets. "Rope! We have rope!" "Fresh water!" Haha, well, I am exaggerating a titch there, but you get the point. Every piece of equipment they had felt significant to them.

I have to say that I am very excited to get into role play with these players. Experienced players can sometimes (not always) phone it in. Inexperienced players are sort of always on edge; they have no idea what to expect. Well, except for danger. They definitely expect danger. So you see a bit of caution and care in their actions. They don't trust anybody; they listen intently to what NPCs say. They ask questions. They are into it.

So that is why I am jealous. I can't turn back the clock, and try as I might, I cannot perfectly recapture those old feelings. The closest I can get is running games for new players, living vicariously, letting some of the old magic rub off. It will have to do.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Maniacal Giant Vulture Friday!

Hello again. I thought I would share a new beastie from my upcoming zine, the Giant Vulture.

The Giant Vulture has been a hoot in playtesting. These scavengers circle overhead, dive-bomb the weakest member(s) of the party, repeatedly peck them, then fly away out of melee reach. As the ongoing damage builds, they enter into a frenzied state of blood lust.

Though these have been challenging monsters for some groups, they have fairly weak Morale scores; if one of them is killed the others likely flee...and then patiently wait, hoping that there will be a carcass or two lying around when they return.

The full "fluff" will appear in the finished magazine. I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tips for Simplified 4e Monster Creation

Hello all. This post compiles several ideas that I have shared over the last year regarding monster creation for 4e. Using these methods has made designing monsters a far more pleasurable experience for me, so I thought I would combine the basic ideas into a single post in the hope that it helps others.

You only need a few pieces of paper to make monsters for all levels of 4e play. You need the updated DMG monster errata (page 7 of this document).  You need a copy of the updated DCs; you can get this in the Rules Compendium, DM Kit, or free here. You need a list of experience point values broken down for monster type and level, which you can find in the DMG, DM Kit, RC, etc. Finally, you will want to use a few tables and formulas from this blog that are easy to memorize, or can be jotted down on a sheet of paper.

Start with a monster level in mind. Lets just make it simple and say we are making a Level 3 monster. Most 4e DMs can probably put together a monsters defenses and attack bonuses without looking, but if you need to, use the DMG errata. Ignore specialized roles, and go with the basics. AC is level+14 (17); NADs are 12+level (15). Attack bonus vs AC is level+5 (+8), vs NADs is level+3 (+6). Damage expressions are right there on the sheet, but hold off for a second.

Next, we completely ignore characteristic scores and derive the skill and initiative bonuses from the DC list. We look at the moderate and hard DCs of a monster's level; the level 3 moderate and hard DCs are 13 and 21. Subtract 10 from these to get 3 and 11. The monster's trained skill modifier is +11, untrained modifier is +3. Do not add half their level to these. Adjudicate skill use on the fly; for example, if it is a sneaky monster that lives in dark caves, perhaps it is "trained" in Stealth. If the monster is a dexterous, quick type, its initiative mod is +11. If typical, its mod is +3.

Use the 4e Forever unified hit point formula. (Level x 8) +20 is the formula for a Standard monster's hit points. Multiply the total times 2 for Elites and Savages, or times 4 for Solos. Minions of course have one HP. It is super easy to memorize this, and you do not have to fiddle with multiple formulas.

Add the XP total to the monster statistics if you award XP, or if you calculate your encounter difficulty levels from it.

Add Morale and use the Reaction Tables. Trust me, this is going to help a lot of your encounters go from slogs to skirmishes.

The only thing left is the actual power design. We get the updated damage expressions from the same DMG errata page mentioned above. Resist the urge to over-complicate your monsters. Most of the time they will be dead before they can get through some long list of powers. Focus on a single go-to power, possibly one that has multiple-attacks as a single Standard action. If needed, add another ability or two that back up the flavor of the monster, but don't overthink it or overdo it. It is kind of the same thing as designing an entire world before the campaign has even started: unnecessary.

You can likely just make a mental note of any other bits such as Alignment, Languages, Keywords, etc.

And there you have it. Nice and easy 4e monster creation! I will never go back! Once you are comfortable with this, you can make a monster in a matter of seconds. If you liked this post and want to see some ideas on resurrecting your old pre-errata monsters from the MM1, MM2, and other old 4e books, check this out!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Getting Buckwild with Alternative and "Unbalanced" Rewards

I am not obsessed with game balance. There is a very good reason for this. I am the DM. I am the balance. Sure, it helps to have a system that isn't completely bonkers, but at the end of the day, I can easily shift the difficulty wherever I like. As readers of my blog know, I am that apparently rare breed of D&D player that actually likes both classic editions and 4e. There are said to be like five of us in existence. Anyhoo, when I got back into running old school D&D, one of the things that really stood out were the old magic items. No, I am not going to give one of those sermons about how perfect the magic item systems were in the old days, and how 4e ruined everything, because you can go read that crap 24/7 on any given RPG forum yourself. What stood out was just the power level of the items. There are indeed some items which can quickly change the dynamics of the game. In the 1e DMG, Gygax rightly emphasized being careful with powerful items. 4e basically tried to build fail-safes into the system to do this for you.

Recently I ran a Tegel Manor conversion for 4e. It was awesome fun. One of the cool things to discover was just how wacky and off-the-wall the game was sometimes played in the old days. Nearly every room had my players going "What?". There were Dwarves in disguise that were actually Type IV Demons. Preposterous ecology as far as the eye could see. And perhaps most delicious: unbalanced and wacky magic items and rewards. Lots of them.

Now, I preface this by saying that 4e does have some powerful items. For example, many rituals can be used in creative and strange ways, and given total freedom with them, players can indeed warp the game. How dearly I would love for this to happen. Every 4e game I run, I give out rituals. And every 4e game I run, they are rarely if ever used. I have spoken a bit about it before, and there is no one thing to blame for this, but it is a combination of their cost, both real and perceived, as well as a shift in game play in 4e, which is (in my opinion) primarily due to the god-awful, horrendous "adventures" that Wizards put out for it. This is not true for every table mind you, but the published material has consistently reinforced a certain adventure model for 4e, a "fight anything and screw creativity" mentality that would have guaranteed your guts spilled back in the day. Hell, its so bad that all you can do is sympathize when you see play reports like this one at Dungeon's Master, where the players literally don't know how to explore anymore. Kind of chilling. But I digress.

In Tegel Manor, the powerful items and rewards teach a simple lesson. Sometimes what you find is good for you, and sometimes it is very bad for you. And sometimes this is all determined on a completely random basis. So, today I want to show you some example items and rewards from the adventure, along with a tidbit of philosophy to help you use these kind of things in your 4e game.

-Tegel Manor has 100 different paintings hanging on the walls; they are spread out among the 200+ rooms. Each painting is of a former resident. Each painting has a random effect when a PC looks at it. Some are good, some are bad. PCs learn this rather quickly, and then make their own choice as to whether to look at them or not. One player got lucky over and over, and by the time the adventure was done, he had gotten a +2 to raw Constitution, as well as a +1 to Dexterity. Permanently. Now I can feel 4e DMs flinching already as I type that, but is it really that overpowered? No. It feels awesome to the player though. So awesome in fact, that other PCs wanted to look at the paintings too. Sadly, things didn't go so well for some of them. Some lost permanent Charisma points, others were teleported to far-flung reaches of the manor to fend for themselves.  

The lesson: it is fun for items or rewards to have a random element; if the possible benefit appears great enough, PCs will risk it all for it. And when that happens, fun ensues.

-Some of the effects of traps, tricks, paintings, etc in Tegel Manor are strictly "roleplay" rewards and penalties. For example, a trap blows dust in a PCs face, and the PC is now unusually brave for 2d12 turns, or is drunk for 3 hours, or is incredibly itchy for 30 minutes. This kind of stuff was great fun with my group; they bought right into it, and played along. It was probably the hardest we ever laughed in a game session. Silly? Yes. Fun? Yes.  

The lesson: try non-tangible rewards and penalties that do not have a mechanical benefit or downside, but that instead affect a PCs mood, appearance, state of mind, etc. Players come out of their shells a bit and have a good time.

-In one room, a hooded skeleton with a red skull stood menacingly, giving the party a cold stare. It looked like something you would not want to mess with. One player, the Paladin, went and talked to it. Turns out that "Red Skull" just offered him a Wish, then sprouted wings and flew away. The Paladin thought about it, and wished for the ability to teleport. I just made up an Encounter power on the fly and Voila, the player got a cool new teleportation power, all because he risked something to get it.  

There are several lessons here: One, the DM always has control, no matter what. If the player had wished for something that I didn't want in my game, I could easily morph it into whatever I felt comfortable with. Two, reward players that take major risks. Three, don't be afraid to make up rewards on the fly that aren't in the rulebook.

-One room had a very silly item. The room was a gardener's shed, and so there were garden tools and the like, as well as a powder with an odd property. Anything you sprinkle with it turns green. Permanently. Now, this is obviously a very zany item. It is also an item that has no obvious positive or negative effect on the PCs. It just is. Well, long story short, the party Dwarf has a pet bear, so he gave the bear a green mohawk. They still have the rest of the powder. There are lots of possible uses for it, given the right circumstances. Maybe one day they will use it again.  

The lesson: not every item they find has to have an obvious mechanical benefit or penalty. Sometimes its just...weird or unusual. It might never get used, or it might be there at the perfect time. 

I could honestly keep going, but I think my point has been made. Be a confident DM. You have control over your game. You can afford to let yourself go a little bit with alternative, "unbalanced", and frankly silly rewards and penalties; it is fun for the DM and the players.

I would love to hear your experiences with this sort of thing! Leave a post! And have a great weekend!