Most of you know that games like The Dresden Files and Savage Worlds include bennies or fate points or [insert adventuresome game mechanic title here] to enhance gameplay. In many cases, these points or chips allow players to soak extra damage, reroll a failed attempt, or alter the outcome of a story event. One of my favorite examples comes from Agents of Oblivion, a superb Delta-Greenish supplement for Savage Worlds. In that setting, a bennie can be spent to requisition weapons or equipment from HQ during a mission. Need a nano-tech rocket to blow up the tricked-out Maserati owned by a Cthulhu cultist/Internet billionaire? Just spend a bennie and wait for the ACME box to arrive! The power level of these points depends on the game, the game master, and the situation. A failed roll and subsequent bennie reroll to pick a lock, for example, might not change the world; however, a bennie used in the middle of a key battle may change the face of future. So be it, and let the fun continue!
Recently, though, I have employed bennies in two non-bennie games. And I have to say, I don’t think I will go back to a bennieless universe. Here’s why…
First, even in a gritty game, bennies can be toned down to fit the flavor of the situation. There’s no need to believe that bennies automatically turn every RPG into an 80’s style G.I. Joe cartoon--everything blows up and nobody gets hurt. Bennies can offer small advantages, or they can come at a great price. I recently started a game in which my players each get two bennies, and I, as the GM, get none. But when the players use their chips, they go into a pool for my evil use at any time. As a result, my players are very careful about when they spend.
Second, in most games, bennies encourage players to take risks. Whether you’re playing a heroic game or a simulationist one, it can be just as entertaining to fail as to succeed. Both may further the story and present opportunities for role or roll playing. Bennies tend to encourage players to take more risks, and thus reach success or failure more often. Not to be overly proud of metagaming moments, but I have, in the past, tempted players with bennie rewards for taking dangerous chances. I watched a player waffle over his character’s decision to try a bizarre combat maneuver, and only my wicked bennie offer pushed him to go for it. Result: successful dwarf summersault attack, laughter, and further complications requiring more strategy. Everyone wins.
Finally, for now anyway, another cool aspect of such fate points in nearly any game is that the GM can find or craft cool objects to employ as bennies. I’ve used everything from rusty old keys to bullet shells, and I’m always on the lookout for new possibilities.
I’m starting a modern spy game this week, and I plan to shop for something cheap but James Bond-like after work today. Any ideas?
If I don’t find anything, I can always spend a bennie and search again….