Looking for advice on Loot and Rewards [2d6]

I’ve GM’d IKRPG for a few groups over the years, but for one reason or another the groups have never lasted more than a few months. Now I’ve got a group that plays a bunch of RPGs together and rotates through GMs every 6-12 months and that streak finally seems to be broken (hurray!). This does however leave me in the situation of having to run a game for characters who are more powerful than I’ve had to manage before and I find myself stumped on how to make the game rewarding without making things too easy. Right now we’re between adventures with the IK campaign while someone else runs Forgotten Realms so luckily I have lots of time to figure this sort of thing out and I was hoping to hear what other people have done.

So right now the party is sitting at 30 XP, which means they have the option to pick a new career. The characters are:

  • A human Cygnaran warcaster/Aristocrat who has already decided to take Arcane Mechanik as his third career
  • A human Spy/Pistoleer who is considering taking Rifleman
  • A gobber Investigator/ Military Officer who is considering taking Alchemist
  • An ogrun Man-at-Arms/Ranger
    (they picked the Spy adventuring company)

At the moment most of them still have fairly basic equipment. The ogrun has a mechano-flail and a partially-assembled mechanikal maul, the warcaster has a mechanikal axe he’s building during the downtime between adventures (plus his starting warcaster armor), the pistoleer has a pair of repeaters, and the gobber has a quad-iron. I want to start providing opportunities for better equipment by having them fight people with mechanikal gear they can scavange or start finding some rare magical weapons, but now that one of them is taking Arcane Mechanik I don’t want to create a situation where I’m handing out better stuff than he can build and it makes his crafting feel wasted.

I’ve considered a steamjack obviously, and probably will end up doing that at some point, but that of course comes with a lot of costs. I’ve made the mistake before with a different group of handing out advanced mechanika too quickly, resulting in a party consisting of a Field Mechanik and an Iron Head who both had storm chambers to power their gear at like 15 XP and it became pretty hard to challenge them. I want the game to still feel challenging but in a way that the part still feels like they’re gaining capability over time.

There’s just too much in potential utility mechanika for an adventuring group for an arcane mechanik to ever feel out of place (also, since mechanika is widespread, there can easily be riddles that require a mechanik to figure out, like figuring out what an unknown runeplate does or repairing a device or construct, and having a mechanik is very useful for maintaing the group’s mechanika and its power sources as well).

Mechanikal weapons and armour as rewards are probably something that still will come to define a character to a degree, and should fit their abilities and style of combat, so custom-making them could actually make more sense than just so happening to give them the exact item they like (but you could give them dedicated mechanikal weapons or armour that will be useful in specific situations but can’t usurp the place of a custom-made weapon (e.g. the ghostlock pistol from my Gearbook I PDF, which is very useful when fighting incorporeal and ghostly enemies, but is otherwise no better than an ordinary pistol)).

Otherwise, not every reward needs to be an item that grants power in clear game terms. In my brother’s campaign, for example, we got knighted at some point, and can sometimes wrangle cooperation by presenting those credentials. There’s also people we know now we can fall back on when we need a favour (i.e. connections), and we learned a new language as a reward for some of our actions.

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So my girlfrind gave us some story related abilitys, such an warlock carrer and a warbest for my character, a ghost that grants a random buff every combate for another player, a once a day summun 3 mouse phantasms, and you can always give them weak magic items, and new runes

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Contacts or status (such as the knighthood you mentioned) are very good and powerful rewards. Depending on how well or poorly the characters accomplish their quests, these contacts can provide various levels of assistance or resources in the future. For example, if the party normally adventures on dry land, and they suddenly need to get to the Scharde Islands, these contacts can provide them with a ship and crew, or at least point them towards someone who can provide these.

I’ve also given some characters access to new skills that are normally not available to their careers, if it makes sense that someone they’ve helped could teach them the basics, or if the adventure itself has a reason to pick up new skills. I don’t necessarily give them more skill points, just access to those skills or a higher max rank.

I’m also fond of weird magic, something that comes at a cost. Or at least something that isn’t as mundane as regular mechanika. For example, the Lady Luck pistol from the Witchfire Trilogy has a legend that its wielder will always win duels but cannot refuse a challenge to a duel. So when the characters found it, and one of the characters was a pistoleer, they knew about the legend but not whether it was actually true. This in turn creates interesting situations where the character has to consider whether to bring the good pistol with him, e.g. on a mission where they need to capture an enemy leader alive but they’re not sure whether that leader is the kind of person to issue challenges.