Carrot-and-stick techniques refer to using rewards and punishments to guide the PCs' choices. This is different from, and can used in parallel to, in-game incentives. An in-game incentive might be treasure, glory, or fulfilling a personal goal of the PC. Carrot-and-stick approaches are meta-game strategies by the GM.

  • Natural incentives: Sometimes players can be led simply by supplying what they wanted anyway, or using threats. For instance, in a D&D game, players tend to react positively to opportunities to acquire magical weapons, and negatively to monsters with dangerous abilities that do not carry treasure.
  • Exceptional incentives: Sometimes, the GM may introduce an element specifically to guide the PCs. For instance, if the PCs decide the vampire's castle sounds too scary, the GM might have the vampire's minions steal their horses or attack townspeople.
  • Direct appeal: The GM might, in some circumstances, hint, imply, or state that the PCs are wandering outside the planned scenario and make suggestions about how to either get back to the original agenda or how to turn the situation into something interesting.
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