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Breaking the Rules
Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On July 16, 2009 @ 2:08 am In GMing Advice | 20 Comments
My previous article on rewards mentioned ‘rule-breaker cards’ (also known as ‘swash cards’ or ‘adventure cards’). Put simply, a rule-breaker card is a one-shot exception to the normal rules of the game. Some gamers find that they add a welcomed element of chaos and opportunity to the game, and provide everyone with a ‘spotlight moment’. But some gamers don’t like that they also mess with established tactics, and may apply to the NPCs as well.
Rule-breaker cards are nothing new, although they may be new to a fair chunk of the gamer population. Many of the RPGA’s reward cards are rule-breakers. Pinnacle publishes the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck (currently a PDF, actual cards should be available at Gen Con). And a number of home games have unofficial cards or tokens as well.
I’d suggest only giving one card per session at first. Cards are only good for one use, and unused cards are returned at the end of the session. But there’s nothing that says you can’t get creative: Get two cards per session, but you can only use one. Gain one card per encounter, and swap them with the rest of your party. Players may trade in an Action Point for a card, or vice-versa.
In keeping with the previous article on rewards, I prefer to give cards as ‘spot rewards’ for excellent roleplay, feeding the group, cracking everyone up, exceptionally brave actions, etc. Of course, everyone would also start the session with one card…
So let’s put the rubber to the road, and break down the concept for D&D 4E. As I mentioned previously, non-traditional mechanical rewards could include something as simple as additional Action Points (and the commensurate ability to use more than one per encounter), but these sound so much more fun. Here are a few 4E-specific cards off the top of my head. Remember, they’re only good for one use, so use them wisely!
Some of these are definitely more powerful than others. Some are more useful to certain classes than others. But that’s the luck of the draw (and the possibility of trading with the rest of the group).
Like the idea? Hate the idea? Got more ideas for cards? Sound off in the comments and let us know!
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