D&D Ideas — Boons
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Delving Dave’s Dungeon
My home group loves to bust my chops about how stingy I can be with loot and magic items. The truth of the matter is I love giving out alternative rewards. Here is a list of things I’ve been known to bestow upon characters in my 5E D&D games:
- Special exotic mounts
- Stat improvements
- Magic Tattoos and Brands (before they were magic items)
- Parts of a Background
- Real Estate
- Magical Creatures as Companions
- Class Level
- Racial Traits
There are probably more. These are a few off of the top of my head. I love giving out unique and memorable rewards players will tell stories about later.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide has a section on boons if you need ideas and Mythic Odysseys of Theros has Supernatural Gifts that would make great boons as well.
Another great aspect of these types of rewards is they generally can’t be taken away. Some of these gifts and rewards might come with obligations. These are great for adding roleplaying opportunities, plot hooks and worldbuilding to the game.
From Ted’s Head
There are many Dungeon Master styles out there. My personal style favors using boons to give characters things traditionally unavailable through the course of normal play. You can of course give out typical boons such as powerful magic items, feats, stat bumps and the like and there are other boons out there I have used throughout my gaming history.
Earning or claiming a property gives characters interested in making it something useful a place they can call their own. Giving the whole party resistance to a type of damage can be a huge endeavor that can accomplish many things at once. First the group might have to quest for the ability they are looking for, possibly involving finding someone who can grant the power. It might require vast and dangerous quests to acquire rare reagents.
Finally once all is assembled and the battle commences the DM can deal more damage, perhaps double, and when the party resists it they feel better they took less damage and you feel happy you are actually doing the damage the stat block would normally call for. This is a win-win if you ask me.
When you talk about bucking the system boons can really be anything. Consider something like small perks to physically alter the way a character looks. Do they want to change the color of their eyes or hair? Do they want to grow a beard when normally the race or sex typically does not? Perhaps they are looking to undue a wrong from their backstory. These are all minor boons that should be available to all characters throughout the campaign.
Some boons offer a mechanical switch. This might fall into the minor boon category depending on opinion but because it actually affects the game play I would put this into a tier above. Dwarven Combat Training and the high elf’s Elf Weapon Training are similar enough and some DMs might just allow you to switch at character creation if the story fits. Some boons are offered at tables to fix mechanical deficits DMs feel are a balancing factor. For example Way of Four Elements monk has features relying on heavy ki expenditure. Dave and I balance this out by typically giving an item to the monk that doubles their ki pool. The Shadow Magic sorcerer falls into a similar category. Their powers rely on using Sorcery Points to cast darkness and summon a Hound of Ill Omen. DMs I know basically ruled you can use them once for free and then you can use more for Sorcery Points if you want.
It can go further than this when it comes to class features. There is no way in 5E D&D to multiclass into the same class and get access to another subclass feature but when a player is torn, a boon is a way to get access to some of the more interesting features. Since you players choose what class and subclass they are interested in, it is not hard to see what other class features might work well for them. A barbarian granted an extra attack so it could attack 3 times instead of twice is a powerful benefit. A spellcaster who can hold concentration on two spells at the same time is hugely beneficial and can change what plans they might enact because of this.
Boons come in all shapes and sizes. They should enhance the game and add options and features or replace undesirable or not useful features. Be considerate about boons that step on the toes of another character too — it potentially limits another players fun at the table. Avoid granting boons that give a single character significant power over other characters in the group too unless it is a slow progress for each character to get similar power. I prefer the method of all at once but not all DMs see it that way. Lastly the boons you give a character should not drastically increase the time each player takes in a turn to complete their actions. If everyone is constantly hasted, gain an extra action of sorts and has extra attack, has special actions they can do for free that require a roll…
You see where I am going with this? Having all of these types of things as boons draws out each person’s turn and slows the game down, potentially allowing fights to end without the person who rolls poorly to ever getting a turn and this can decrease their enjoyment of the table and the game drastically. That is not what boons should be doing!
From the Nerditor’s desk
Nerdarchist Ted and I covered a lot of ground during our live chat about boons in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons over on the Nerdarchy Live YouTube channel. One of the boons I mentioned bears repeating here if only because another great aspect to it occurred to me after the chat.
In my long running 5E D&D Spelljammer campaign the party received a tremendous boon early in the campaign quite unexpectedly. Their traditional fantasy D&D adventures took a strange turn after defeating Explictica Defilus the spirit naga and discovering her spelljamming vessel, Illrigger, afterwards.
They were 3rd level at the time and we played this campaign for a couple of years past this point. Illrigger is the absolute best boon I’ve ever given out because the players took ownership of it together and (here’s the part I just thought of) they made it a treasure sink on their own accord.
So much of the campaign revolved around Illrigger and mostly by the players’ design. Characters invested tons of time, effort and treasure into maintaining and improving their fantasy spaceship and I’m not just talking about things like weapons and mechanically beneficial boons. They made sketches and blueprints, itemized inventories, wrote descriptions of the interior and exterior — you name it.
On a broader level granting party boons gives the players another reason to connect and interact with each other, and their characters too. A castle, keep or even a cabin on the frontier can achieve the same effect. Any object or place collectively shared by the party makes a fantastic boon. You might even find the players find new benefits all their own as they invest in this shared thing together.
That’s a boon both in the game and around the table.