Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bag Mechanics

After being a little unprepared for the first official session of D&D 5th edition, I was asked by one of my players, "If I was ever going to award any of them 'Inspiration'?".  I had definitely seen this written a few times, but never had given it much thought, beyond thinking "I need to look that up sometime".

Well, I admitted to them that I didn't read what that meant, so the players happily explained it to me, which I then award them all "One Inspiration" right there on the spot, for me being so negligent during the first half of the session.

I'd wished I'd brought my poker chips as a means for tracking Inspiration, being it was easy enough just marking it down, and crossing it off once it was spent by the players, which really didn't take all that long.

One of the players really wasn't paying attention when the "Inspiration" was awarded, then he failed his attack roll, and I allowed him to use it anyway, which made me think that "It'd be nice to have more types of Inspiration to grant."  This thought came at a particularly profound moment, as four of the five party members were making Death Saves.

Luckily for most of the party they managed to stabilize themselves, though one member was killed in the battle.  Which was tragic, but this was Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and everyone knew it was a dangerous adventure...and not much one can do about things at first level, this near TPK was the end of the evening of gaming anyway, so we packed up and I  left for home.

The next day I was thinking about the"Inspiration Award", and was thinking of using Token's to track these for next time, thinking about maybe granting different colored tokens for different levels of Inspiration.  This, and having recently played Dead-Lands and Sixcess at GenCon, I was thinking about other token based systems, and how much my players liked the mechanics of those games and the mechanics of the game Yggdrasil, where you can add or remove Vikings (good) and Fire-Giants (bad) from a bag that you randomly draw from at various time for bonuses.

This caused me to think that I could improve on the mechanics of Inspiration, but filling a bag with tokens and when the DM (myself) grants a character Inspiration, the player then would get to blindly draw from the Inspiration Bag, which would have various colors poker chips in to grant differing odds for each type of token.

The Inspiration Bag

When a campaign starts the bag might be filled as follows:

White (x9) = Standard Inspiration, this must be declared before a roll is made by the player and allows the roll to be made with Advantage (roll twice keeping the highest).

Green (x3) = Great Inspiration, this grants a additional dice to be rolled when a player is unhappy with the original die rolled.  This effectively is allowing advantage, but may be declared after the result on the first die is rolled.

Red (x1) = Heroic Inspiration, this grants Standard Inspiration, with the addition of granting temporary hit-points of d6 per level, up to a maximum of 3d6.  The temp Hps are awarded when the inspiration, advantage, is used on a die roll.  The Hps are lost if the damage taken in an encounter exceeds this amount, or after a short rest is taken.

Blue (x1) = Restful Inspiration, this grants Standard Inspiration and acts as if a Short Rest was taken before the Inspiration is rolled, this allows up to three Hit-Dice to be spent and recharges powers as if a short rest was taken.

Black (x1) = Enemy Inspiration, this is kept by the player and is spent only when the DM chooses to attack their character with advantage, as if the attacker has Inspiration on the character.  Optionally, the DM can optionally spend this token on the character by having some unfortunate event happen to the character, usually this is something minor.

Reward Bag

Another idea that came to me about the same time, at first I'd mixed the Inspiration Bag and reward bag together, but after thinking about it I think it's best to keep these separate.  The reward bag with a way to grant treasure to the players with a mechanism that they may feel they have a little more control over.

Basically, its a random item bag, where the items can be all tokens with sticker labels on them designating what the item is, or the bag may be filled with actual items, game pieces, token coins, small vials, small gems and chits of card stock.

Typically their will be various of each type of item in the bag, and normally at least one false item of each type, for game pieces this may just be an item of a certain color signifies the "false-magic" one, or even "cursed" item, for the coins the one that designates copper would be the undesirable one, where silver or gold would be a more significant reward.  For the vials, their may be one that is infact poison, or simply empty, where other colors may be different types of potions, for gems one color may signify glass or false gems, where emeralds, sapphires and rubies would be gems of greater value, and the chits can be anything from magic scrolls, to treasure maps to journals that provide clues or other random things, or they may even be cursed.

The benefit with the reward bag it that the players choosing the reward will actually get to choose the category of item that they wish to gain, but the actual value of the item drawn is up to whatever the player randomly pulls from the bag.  The DM can stock the reward bag differently for each reward, or keep it weighted a given direction, so the players "think" they drew randomly, but it was pre-planned, at least by item type.

When to draw from the Reward bag is again left up to the DM, likely it won't be every encounter that gains a draw...unless the bag is poorly stocked, but more so reserved for the more difficult encounters to be defeated.

Fate Bag

This bag can be to randomly give the party perception that they have control over their fate, whether or not the DM has actually spiked the bag is up to them, but some of my more common uses of this item, where I really do leave it in the hands of the players are things like:

The party has tracked an NPC bandit into a box canyon with 8 caves in it.  The last night had torrential rains, so the actual trail has been lost, but the bandit is in one of these caves, two of the other have very unfriendly beasts and the rest are simply empty...So one Black token (for the bandit), one Red (for the deadlier of the two beasts), one blue (for the other beast) and five white (empty caves) go into the back and I let the players choose their fate when they start walking up to a given cave, by simply having them pull a token from the bag.

Another "Group Test" inspired use of the Fate Bag is in situations where the party in attempting to be stealthy to avoid attracting enemy encounters.  For this type of Fate Draw, I first assign a difficult of the Stealth Check, based on environmental considerations and distance to the creatures, then I seed the bag with the likelihood of something bad, good or neutral happening.

     Typically Red for bad, Green for good and White for neutral.  For a fairly density populated area, I may assign 4 Red, 3 White and 1 Geen to the initial bag.  Then, I typically use one the following mechanics.

Mechanic I (Luck by distance traveled)

  • For each player that beats the assigned DC by 5 or more, add one Green and one White to the bag.
  • For every player that beats the assigned DC, add one White to the bag.
  • For every player that fails the assigned DC, add one Red to the bag.
After this Draw once for every X distance traveled through the dangerous area.

Mechanic II (Luck based on failed rolls)

  • For each player that beats the assigned DC by 5 or more, add one White to the bag.
  • For every player that beats the assigned DC, do nothing
  • For every player that fails the assigned DC, draw a token from the bag.
If they draw the Green, they are lucky and no one after them has to draw.  Drawing a White also means they were unseen, or more likely no one wandering into their area, however if some has drawn a Red token not only do they have an encounter, but for each Red that they have the difficulty of the encounter increases.  Additionally, before the players draw there my be a set number of tokens that the DM draws first.

There are obvious variation on the above methods, such as altering the initial contents of the bag, the DC of the initial check, how often the bags reset back to their initial state, and the frequency that items are drawn before the bag resets.

1 comment:

  1. Wow.

    Pretty cool North. The inspiration bag is inspirational. It varies the mechanic up a little bit. I also like the idea that there can be a bad inspiration too.

    David S.