“One Cool Thing” as an In-Game Reward Mechanic

I’m pretty sure this isn’t an original idea of mine by far, but I’ve never seen it written down as such, so I figured I would go ahead and do just that. I’d like to share with you a really simple procedural House Rule I’ve started using in the games I run, regardless of their core rules system. Really there are two house rules here that work hand in hand: “One Cool Thing” and “Bonus Points.”

At the beginning of every session I run, as a form of recap-and-reward, I go around the gaming table and ask each player to tell everyone about One Cool Thing they remember from the last session. Each time a player recounts a moment of the game that centered around one of the player characters,that character’s player gets a Bonus Point of some sort. I picture it kinda like the “Previously on…” montage at the beginning of most serial TV shows. It’s a way to reward awesome moments of game play while recharging the memories of the players, reconnecting them to the events of the previous session, and allowing that player-driven recount to kick-start the current session.

Bonus Points are nothing new: in-game mechanical rewards for being Awesome. Some games have similar points already in place, but many surprisingly don’t. What I do is set up a universal Bonus Point system, which can be applied to just about any game. Below are some examples of how I apply these Bonus Points in the games I’m currently running.

Shadowrun: Bonus Points in Shadowrun work as additional points of Edge, giving the character a few more uses of that oh-so-valuable attribute.

Savage Worlds: In Savage Worlds games, I implement Bonus Points as “super Bennies.” When used, a Bonus Point allows the player to re-roll the test dice, but instead of keeping the better of the two, the new results are added to the old results. Yes, all dice Ace as normal.

Burning Wheel: With Burning Wheel, the Bonus Points are obviously tied into Artha. If a player is called out only once during the One Cool Thing recounts, then they earn a Fate point. If they are called out twice or more, they earn a Persona. If there are four or more players and all of them unanimously agree on a single awesome memory of that player from the last game, then they earn a Deeds point.

D&D 4th Edition: A Bonus Point can be spent at any time to do any one of the following:

  1. Gain another Healing Surge
  2. Function as another Action Point
  3. Re-use an already-used Per-Encounter power

Regardless of system, there’s a catch to Bonus Points: they must be used before the end of the session! Don’t try to horder them up, as they vanish if left unspent.

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