About a year or so ago, I felt our group needed some extra incentive to use our imagination in combat. As a DM I had a hard time coming up with cool ways to describe my monsters’ and player characters’ actions, and often the players were just reciting attack roll results and damage rolls.
Asking the players to describe their attack helped a bit, but in my opinion we could improve more. That’s when I decided to start rewarding the players for coming up with cool heroic moves.
I took some poker chips from my old poker set, and brought them to the table as Hero Chips. I explained to my friends that they could earn them for using cool moves in combat, and they could use them to get bonuses.
My example was storming a room where guards were playing poker around a heavy table. Instead of “I move into te room to the guard on the other side of the table and attack him,” I suggested using something like “I kick in the door and use this bench to vault over the table! I make a point of knocking their drinks over, and I stick my sword into that guard when I slide off of the table on the other side!”
Technically, this move would provoke attacks of opportunity, require one or two skill checks and whatnot. But since the player could achieve the same result by just walking around the table, I waive all those (GM’s discretion). Instead, for coming up with something cool, I reward him or her with one of my poker chips.
Amazing! Now what?
Getting a reward for cool moves is great, but what does it mean? Essentially, a player can turn in a Hero Chip to gain a bonus on any d20 roll. I ruled that players can award each other the bonus by handing in their own chip on behalf of another player, and that Hero Chips from multiple different players could improve the same d20 roll.
This has resulted in an enormous bonus on certain rolls. But so what? If all players think the roll is worth it, it’s great they are able to help each other!
Since we are playing D&D 5th edition, I ruled that a Hero Chip would grant a bonus of the character’s Proficiency Bonus. This bonus scales up as characters gain levels, which is great. In any other system, you can figure out an appropriate reward for turning in a chip. Just make sure its power scales with character level, or the reward will be overpowered or become uninteresting.
I did feel the need to make a few side notes regarding these chips:
- A Hero Chip can improve any d20 roll, even if you already gained or can normally not gain your Proficiency Bonus on the roll.
- Each player can own one Hero Chip at any time. Doing something cool while you already have a chip, is just you doing something cool. Kudos!
- Hero Chips need to be used before success or failure of the roll is declared. I tend to be lenient with this, and just allow it anyway.
- In D&D 5th edition, when you would be rewarded Inspiration for your action, you cannot also get a Hero Chip (and vice versa). One reward is enough.
- If characters have different Proficiency Bonuses due to differing levels (which will not happen in my games), use the bonus of the character who made the check for all Hero Chips.
Even though this post has gotten fairly long, the Hero Chip mechanic is quite easy to understand and implement. I feel it improved our game-play and inspired everyone at our table to contribute more unique ideas. (And frankly: I like to play with a stack of poker chips in my hand while GMing. Makes me feel rich and important and stuff.)
You can download the rules for Hero Chips here. These rules also contain my design for Stunts in combat, about which I will talk in a future post.
Do you think this would benefit your game? Do you use other techniques to get similar results? Please let me know in the comments!