Event Bounties

COMPATIBILITY: This plug-in assumes that your game uses tokens of some kind - whether as part of the rules, or to represent points of some kind (Fate, Action, Drama, Experience, or whatever kind). If your game doesn’t or can’t do that, this trick is mostly limited to GM use, with the GM writing specific rewards on the cards, rather than putting on tokens.

Often, there are sessions where “It would be totally cool if…” goes running through the head of someone at the table (often, but not always, the GM). So, consider this: In the middle of the playing area, or off to one side, there are a bunch of recipe cards.  Each one has a “thing that happens” on it, and a stack of tokens - points you can use.  If your character makes that thing happen, the tokens are yours. The GM can grab another card, write an idea on it, drop on a token (or several), and just put it over with the others, content in the knowledge that if a player is actually interested, it’ll happen.  Depending on the group and the game, anyone might be able to toss a card out there, putting their own tokens on it, and the GM might be able to collect on them.

This idea works well when the characters have a lot of flexibility in their actions; in high-pressure ‘mission’ games, there’s not much point. At points where there’s no set goals, and the characters have time to get into complicated nonsense (the kinds of things described under “bountiful events”, below), it can be ideal.

Another way this idea can work well, in games that jump between different pressured situations and a common “loose” one is if the events described only apply outside of the high-pressure situation. So, for a group of fantasy adventurers, these bounties might be something to chase “back in town”, but which are set aside when in the midst of an orcish raid or down in some crumbling ruin.

If the group thinks this method of gaining points is interesting, and finds that it fuels really great play, it may be desirable to remove some or all of the ‘normal’ ways to regain such points, and put even more of these cards out. This should only be done after trying it out in general, and after checking the game to see what kinds of things the normal method of gaining points encourages, if anything (can those be done without? Should they be?)

Here are a few criteria that make for good things to “put bounties on”. If people other than a GM are allowed to place bounties, then either these or some other set of guidelines should be upheld, to ensure that bounties make play more interesting, rather than less interesting.
  • Are events, not goals: An event shouldn’t be “Your character falls in love”, but “Two characters fall in love” - if some character decides to play matchmaker, to cause that event, that’s awesome. Likewise, some other ideas include: ‘A trap is sprung’, ‘A complicated plan is attempted’, ‘A pure heart triumphs’, ‘A damaging secret is revealed’, and ‘A rescue is carried off’. All of these can be approached in many different ways, and can be left open to interpretation.  Note that repeatedly setting bounties on several similar events can flavor a game quite heavily - which can be good or bad, depending.
  • Are relatively easy to cause: It’s typically better to have several one-token events that add up to complete craziness that one several-token event that describes something huge. Easy bounties are things players will snap up quickly.
  • End up creating more action than they end: When a bounty is placed, whoever places it should have a ready willingness to carry on based on the result, in order to create more action (and interaction) for the character that achieves it. This doesn’t generally mean having a specific idea in mind (given the open nature of good events, it usually can’t), but it does mean that the overall theme of the event is one they’re interested in playing with further.

It’s very possible, depending on the event given, for an event to be caused by multiple characters. In this case, assuming the bounty is large enough, whoever placed the bounty in the first place divides the bounty between them, in whatever way they think is most appropriate. In the case of significant group efforts, it may be worth “rounding up” this division; in others, less so.

Regardless of who placed a bounty, once a bounty is placed, anyone may add to it at any time out of their resources. In some games, this means that players may set bounties for events they’d like the GM to cause, and the GM can turn the idea directly back over to them by simply adding more tokens. If this becomes common, players may start brainstorming different kinds of things they’re interested in, putting them out, and seeing which ones the GM “collects”, and which decides to “boost up” for them. ...And vice versa, of course.