The experiment was this: I would take the usual treasure volume which I have sprinkled throughout the characters adventures to come, and take away half of it. This half of the treasure would then be converted into other types of tangible rewards. So far the change had been very well received.
So just what did they get?
Well, I developed a short list of each character's backstory and motivations, and brainstormed appropriate rewards. Here I will list my favorites.
The near-constantly teleporting Feylock received a pet Shadow Hound as reward for killing a dangerous Shadar-Kai Warrior who challenged the party's honor. The Hound was one of the few creatures who could follow him when he constantly jumped around, and thus meshed perfectly with his character concept. This pet would also be able to protect him from melee, which could be quite dangerous with only one other defender to rely on.
So far the Warlocks player has really enjoyed the presence of the Dog, and has nearly lost it when the dog has gotten injured. Such emotional response would be very hard to foster for a sword (though the Dragonborn has a strange relationship with his).
For the aforementioned Dragonborn Fighter, there came a both a divine boon, and a Fire Elemental taking up residence within his blade. Both rewards served the stories ends, and made for fun 'treasure' to be found. The boon came as a result of saving the life of a cleric to Heironeous, thus garnering his god's favor. While the Elemental is something of an enigma, though it saved the PC's life so they haven't questioned it too much.
The Player of the Dragonborn has proved to be very pious, respecting many gods. He primarily serves The Raven Queen, but will work with any faith he respects. The boon of Heironeous was a way to show him that the god had noticed him, and that he was pleased with his actions. On the flipside of that coin, the Fire Elemental appeared to save them from the vengeance of Zehir. This elemental has empowered his sword, but it also speaks ill of the gods, trying to sway his opinion.
From my experiences so far, and the feedback from my players, I think that such non-monetary rewards are very cool, but it could be easy to overdo them. The players need some wealth to throw around for their own purposes, and crafting their idea of their character. The warlock in particular has come to be a little short on cash. I will have to be a little more delicate with balance in the future.
So does anyone else out there have any favorite items they have given out to players?