In games that I took part in, there were times that we got bonus XP for doing something amazing with our characters. It was always fun to be able to jot down some extra XP at the end of the night. If the bonus XP was a small amount, it really never amounted to anything aside from one guy having a bigger number than the other. I began to find it really redundant because most groups will generally have the consensus to keep the party at the same level. So aside from maybe a guy leveling up one session before the others, in my eyes, I found it quite pointless.
What I've adopted is a token bonus. Instead of you getting 50 more XP, I'll toss you a penny at my table. It's good for a +D3 to your roll if you miss and needed that extra boost to try and succeed. Players feel good when they get a token and they get to see the benefit of it right away but still not be guaranteed a success. In my case, I only make the tokens good for the night so that they're not hoarding these things up for a "boss" fight.
What I really like about it is that it coaxes my players to come up with some amazing role playing or narratives in hopes that I award them a token. And I don't always do it.
This Old Dragon: Issue #160
1 hour ago