Or "how to get your players to contribute more".
I really like it when my players are involved in the game world. Through journaling and sketches they help give the game life. Sure, as the DM I am the architect and maybe I lay the foundation of our house, but without the player's input, the world is missing a wall or two.
When you ask your players to do non-essential work outside the game, you are asking them to contribute more of their time, and people can be resistant to that. They have lives!
To incentivize my players, I often offer bonus dice for journal entries, new players, or story construction. Here's how the dice work
- The bonus dice are always optional.
- The tasks are outlined in an e-mail (or generally understood before we leave the session).
- In general, a player can earn one bonus die per session.
- The tasks occur outside the game, and generally revolve around the player's character. I never give bonus die for in-game actions (that's reserved for inspiration).
- The bonus die is generally a d6
- The bonus die can be used at any time, by any player, to alter any roll. It could influence a check, attack, or damage. Yes, they can be used to nullify a critical hit or failure but not create one.
- If a player does not use the bonus die, they get to roll it at the end of the session and add the roll as percentage of the XP for next level. (e.g. Josh is level one and will reach level 2 at 300 XP. He rolls a 4 on his bonus die. Josh receives 12 additional XP [4% of 300]).
Bonus dice provide incentive for players to contribute, and they provide a safety net against the terrors that stalk this land. They can be used to save a character from a critical failure, or turn a near miss into a solid hit. Outside of these roles, however, their impact on the game is limited.
Don't tell your player's this, but the dice doesn't matter. The whole point is getting them to contribute their ideas. Once my players got wrapped up in the game world, I was inundated with journals, stories, and drawings: regardless if there were bonus dice involved or not.