Wednesday, July 28, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 5: Bennies

During our second gaming session, Charley and I talked about Bennies and how they work. Bennies allow the player and the GM to change the outcome of scenes during the game for their benefit. Both players and GMs receive a limited number of Bennies that they can use but, while players can earn more Bennies during the course of the game session, GMs do not.

At the beginning of each game session, each player gets three Bennies for their character and the GM gets one Bennie for each player in the game and two Bennies for each Wild Card NPC. Sometimes these starting Bennies are modified by Edges, such as Luck or Bad Luck. GMs can use the regular Bennies however they wish but cannot transfer any of the Wild Card Bennies around, including to other Wild Card NPCs.

Charley's character starts each game session with four Bennies, three which are normal for player characters plus another because of the Luck edge. I, as GM, get 1 Bennie for having only one player in the game, so I have to use it well since I'm not going to earn more. If I have a Wild Card NPC show up during the game, I get two Bennies for the NPC and only for that NPC.

Traditionally, Bennies are tokens or poker chips or stones or some other physical item that the player and GM can exchange during the course of the game. I've heard that a post-apocalyptic GM used fired .22 shells as Bennies. I've got some nice, clay poker chips that I normally use. The physicality of the Bennie is very important, as it allows the players to have something to hand over when they want to spend it. I place 4 black poker chips in front of Charley and one in front of me.

Bennies are used in three ways:
  • re-roll certain actions, or
  • remove the Shaken condition, or
  • roll to Soak damage taken.
Bennies can be used to re-roll any skill or attribute roll. Missed a roll during a fight? Spend a Bennie. Failed that strength roll to hold onto the out of control wagon? Spend a Bennie.

Bennies can also be used to remove the Shaken condition. A character becomes Shaken when he receives enough damage to equal or exceed his toughness (for Sir Nick, that's a 5 when unarmored and an 8 when armored). Shaken characters are in shock and can't perform most activities until they recover. Normally, a character makes a Spirit roll to recover from Shaken condition but if the player wants the character to recover and act in the same combat round, he spends a Bennie, which removes the condition. I'll go more into that as well as Soaking when I cover combat.

Bennies without exception cannot be used to re-roll any damage rolls nor can they be shared among players unless the player character has a specific edge to allow that (specifically the No Mercy and Common Bond edges).

I also allow players to define things about the world during play using Bennies. And while this house-rule isn't official, I play it that it's an advantage for the PCs so they can do something cool. I had a player in one game request that a rope was holding a chandelier up instead of a chain so he could cut it with a knife during the fight.

Bennies are earned by roleplaying, entertaining the group or achieving goals during play. Personally, I have found that if you want players to use Bennies, you have to give out a lot of Bennies. Most players usually like to keep a couple in reserve to use when the dice fail them, so by having the GM push the Bennies into the game at every opportunity, the players feel like they can earn more later and are willing to spend them. I've also used Bennies to bribe players to do things that aren't necessarily in their or their group's best interest (see here for an example). This allows them to use the Bennies later to save their skin while adding conflict and complications to the game - fun for everyone.

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