There are awesome moments in the game: A critical that drops the rampaging dragon, dodging the sorcerer’s lightning bolt, or seducing the noble woman so your companions can make their escape unnoticed. There are moments in the game when the character fails in a way that isn’t fun, or even breaks the table’s suspension of belief– like the ranger who can’t shoot anything with his bow tonight, the rogue who blows her one chance to forge a document, or the mighty fighter who fails a routine save and dies.
A lot of systems have ways to nudge the dice. Force points in SAGA and Action Points from Ebberon (and Unearthed Arcana) allow you to add an additional die to your roll– often a d6 added to your d20 roll, but it varies. This style of point allows you to “rescue” a close die roll– convert a narrow miss into a hit.
More definitive are FYIA tokens— first mentioned in Deeper in the Game. These tokens allow you retroactively change a miss to a hit, a hit to a crit, and so on. In my current campaign, each character has a hero token they can use each session. These tokens act much like the FYIA tokens above (since the article inspired my introduction of the tokens into our game).
We have a ritual doling out of the tokens at the beginning of the session. During play, it’s interesting to see how different players use the tokens. There’s a temptation to horde them, to keep them as insurance– just in case there’s a save the character needs to make later. Characters suffering from poor die rolls will often use the token to break their bad streak, to feel effective and make a contribution at least once.
Jennifer is a big fan of using them early. She noticed that in early sessions, a lot of the players ended a session with their token unspent. Ever since, she has encouraged people to throw them out there to make the characters look cool. Her persuasion has been successful… and has led to eager narration as players spend their tokens to achieve awesome feats.
So far, the experiment has gone well in our group. Do you use action points (or anything similar) in your group?