I used to hate reading about people’s custom RPG rules. They are often not very well thought out, or strike me as trying to solve a problem that no one else has. Just play the game the way it was intended!
But recently I’ve joined a community that celebrates house rules and exchanges them like gifts…and now I’m hooked. So I’ll join in and share a rule that has completely changed how I run all d20 games (D&D, OSR, etc).
Stolen from an optional rule in Index Card RPG, it’s a minor change that drastically improves how much fun players have at the table.
Whenever a player fails a roll they receive a Luck Token (poker chip, coin, die, etc). Luck tokens can be spent at any time to increase the result of any roll by 1, even after the die has been rolled.
The goal is to offer a consolation prize to players who fail on their turn. I’ve seen a lot of people get disheartened by this. They wait several minutes for their turn to come around, planning and preparing for their action. Then the moment comes, the describe their big plan, eagerly grab the dice and…fail. Bummer.
God help the poor soul who fails 2, 3, or even 4 turns in a row. Bad luck like that can really kill the mood at a table.
Photo by Amanda C on Unsplash
Although Luck Tokens seem like a minor incentive, they have an incredible impact on the players.
No wasted turns. Players don’t feel like the turn was a complete waste, and it’s great to see someone’s eyes light up after a feeling of defeat. “Oh yeah! I do get a token.”
Table Engagement. Luck Tokens can be spent on ANY roll. Attack rolls, damage rolls, saves; anything! Players work together offering tokens to one another and helping bend random chance in their favor.
Big Moments. This is the best thing about Luck Tokens. If youre group prefers to hoard tokens (like mine does) then when they are fighting the big bad guy at the end of a session they can all spend their Luck Tokens to seriously pump up the damage on an attack, or turn crucial failure into success!
Things to consider
There are a few downsides that you’ll want to take into account.
Out of Control. If your players are clever (and they should be) then they will spend tokens and rob you of your control. That big bad guy with an armor class of 30? Yeah, he’s vulnerable now. The pit trap that’s key to your dungeon? Not an issue. Personally I think the more power the players have, the better. But it might not fit with your game.
Unbalanced. Along with the first point, it makes the PCs a bit stronger than they might otherwise be. If you treasure strict balance in your game than introduce the Luck Tokens with peril.
No Useless Rolls. This is the biggest thing to keep in mind. Your players will want to accumulate as many tokens as they can, which means failing as much as possible. Be sure to enforce the mindset of “No consequences, no rolls.” It’s a good rule to keep in mind anyway, but even more important when using Luck Tokens.
Luck Tokens have been the best improvement I’ve made to my d20 games. I hope you find it as useful for your own table!