TT reader clem (who goes by clem in the comments, too) is running a seafaring campaign with advanced characters, and he’s finding that his players need different kinds of rewards for their PCs.

He recently shared this with me via email:

The characters are about as good at what they do as there is any need to be[.] Likewise, going the superhero/demigod route would ruin the swashbuckling vibe the campaign depends on. Since there are many stories yet to be told and many plotlines yet to resolve, retiring the characters or killing them off is undesirable.

Regardless of game system, genre or setting, this problem is going to crop up in any long-running campaign. So how does clem handle it?

Still, players like to be rewarded. What to give them? For one thing, reputation. In port, they overhear people telling stories about the legendary Sea Wolf. The powers that be seek their counsel. [NPCs] vie for the honor of being a redshirt on the ship. The [PCs] also gain rank and reputation aboard the ship for discoveries and accomplishments that add to the legend. In an individual case, a grateful sun god forced some of his arrogant paladins to seek out a player character and apologize for disrespecting him after he was instrumental in defeating a terrible darkness bringing monster. A clerical character received a promotion in clerical rank that gets him considerable respect and opens many doors.

That’s an excellent approach, and one that many players will enjoy — which is why I asked clem if I could share his email with other TT readers (thanks, clem!). He closed with this:

However, even this has limits. Now I am casting about for other ways to meaningfully reward players.

So how about it: What do you think of clem’s approach to rewarding powerful PCs, and what else can you do to keep your players interested in their characters once the mechanical rewards taper off?

For my two cents, one school of thought is that your players will stay engaged as long as they’re still having a direct impact on the aspects of the game world that they care about (large or small) — and those aspects of the campaign will nearly always be roleplaying-oriented, not mechanical. What do you think?