All players expect rewards for a gaming session – its how progress and impact are measured. There are different ways of encouraging approaches and reward methods which can be employed, but the biggest thing to remember is educating the players on how to advance. Character points. If players have incentive, most will try and tailor their play towards getting the most rewards. In addition to CP, Character Weaves should also be given in reward, to allow characters to take chances they may not normally take, attempt stylized actions, or ensure success at a critical point. Mundane Prestige Items can also be appropriate, especially if a Group Concord is being used.
Game session times and occurrences vary by group. The more rewards given that allow characters to develop, the faster the characters will advance. This pace determines the challenges they will face and set the difficulty of play. If you have a group that meets 2-3 times a week, the life-cycle development of the characters is going to be fast. It is suggested that fewer permanent rewards be given and more per session/encounter rewards be given. Place them in situations where they need the these to survive and focus on the story development rather than just character progress. Unless you want them to develop swiftly – then the rewards should be increased or kept average if the frequency of gaming sessions alone provides quick advancement. Remember too that poor role-playing should not be rewarded. Reduction of rewards (personal and/or group) is the best way to penalize for this. The character continues to develop at the same rate, but their opportunities are reduced. Other rewards can be for specific uses of such things as aptitude powers, etc. Blessings for faith characters, money or items for characters needing better equipment, fame, credit, and status within institutions and factions are also good rewards. These create flavor and enhance storyline development and make the character feel more vested in the play dynamic.
The Incarna variant of D20™ does not use the standard Experience Points for character development; Levels are gained at campaign milestones set by the GM.
Allocated CP Rewards: A GM rewards a character with a CP to allocate towards something specific. Perhaps they were very lucky and made 9 of 10 PER checks,
and the GM decides to encourage the development in that direction. They can tell the character that they have 1 CP extra allocated towards improving their PER. This is a way of nudging characters
to develop along lines that they use constantly and that fit their characters. The extent to which a GM does this for traits, attributes, and skills is up to them.
Reward Incentives: Creating incentives also allows players to target their character’s interactions to gain more rewards. In addition to the
group play dynamic, give players specific knowledge about specific activities to encourage them to participate. This can be both player out of game actions
(such as writing back stories, keeping up their character records, even bringing food, drink and supplies for others at the sessions), as well as character based in game actions
slaying X foes, avoiding X encounter, gaining X fame or notoriety, etc.).
Items, Knowledge, and Powers: Sometimes, its appropriate for formal rewards (given in appreciation for their efforts, as opposed to discovered or accumulated through an adventure)
to be in the from of items, knowledge or abilities. Items can be technology, back-up goods, property, housing, or even paid for cost-of-living. This may be part of the story or something the GM
just feels is appropriate to aid the party in stabilizing them. Information can also be crucial – both as a way of removing blocks to forward story progress, the provide an edge, introduce new plot angles, or
even to distract or lure the party into misadventure! Powers and abilities may be given in reward through institutions, brotherhoods, divine surces, or simply as a result of particularly
large scale efforts which the party helped to facilitate. Adding toughness to characters at the end of a military campaign could be a free reward – just the natural result of spending half a year on campaign with an army.
In summary, rewards should always be given with the thought of the speed of progression and campaign context. A particularly violent and dangerous one may necessitate more AP, and a group that meets 3 times a week should be given less each session because otherwise the characters progress too fast. Any rewards in terms of items and valuables should always be balanced between the power of foes and puzzles you want to present and the ease with which you expect the group to deal with them. A group not doing particularly well in collecting technology and items to help them could be rewarded by a sponsor or political figure who championed their cause; excessive accumulation can be brought down with intrigue, taxation, theft, natural disaster, etc.
One of the ways a GM can set a specific benchmark or bar is to create a merit based set of rewards. Merit can be based on accomplishment in battle, fame, or just a mission completed. In return for achieving a specific level of merit, the GM distributes rewards. This could be a military brotherhood rewarding with goods, coin, or access to services and items. It may be a church, or a Duke or King. Regardless of which institution or specific set of goals, the GM defines them and documents them, rewarding players when they reach the goals with promised, documented gains. The specifics of it all are entirely up to the GM and player to work out.
An example of a merit system is the Bannermen Merit System of the Steel Realms.
You have to adjust it to the # of characters. Remember that not everyone should get a medal for a battle/event/mission – so dont feel compelled to give everyone a low merit rating medal unless the merit totals per level are so high its needed.