Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #140 - Hacking the Cypher System - Re-rolls Royce

So it's time to talk about re-rolls. The most common (I am guessing) use of Experience Points in Cypher System games. I have a secret, a dark one: Sometimes I really hate re-rolls.

Failure is interesting, or it can be. It's not always interesting, which is why re-rolls are a good thing, but sometimes failure is interesting, and when a re-roll does away with that it's a little sad. Likewise re-rolls can rob a GM of intrusions. Players like this because they don't always see GM Intrusions as good things. GMs don't always mind, but sometimes a great idea slips away due to a re-roll (or gets implemented as a paid Intrusion).

So I've started toying with the idea of changing not the re-rolls (they do more good than evil in my opinion), but the underlying XP. At GenCon I got to try it out for the first time. I used beads instead of XP Cards. There were black beads, white beads, and glow in the dark beads. They were skull shaped, and I used them in my After the Bomb homage game. I had a small black bag that I carried the XP Skulls in and had players blind draw from. Unlike regular XP the different beads had slightly different effects.
  • The skull white beads worked just like normal XP, they were there to provide a baseline.
  • The black skulls were "burnt" XP, you could use them normally, but regardless of the final roll the GM (me) got to invoke GM Intrusion, these were a kind of risk/reward item. 
  • The glow in the dark skulls were "radioactive" XP, and they were awesome. These XP re-rolled the dice just like normal, but regardless of the total the player got a Major Effect as though they had rolled a Natural 20. These helped balance the black skulls.
Mechanically the players had just as many XP for re-rolls as they would in a normal game, but when spending for re-rolls there were options based one what kind of XP the players had in hand. We only got to play for a short while, and I haven't yet tried it again (gaming has been spotty since the summer), but I really liked how it worked, and the players seemed to as well. It's the same, but just a little different and offers both risk and reward to players. 

As GM you can even play around with how many beads of each you include. Maybe you do 6 white, 2 black, and 2 glow. Or maybe you do 3/3/3 in equal ratio. You could even do something like 6 white, 1 black, 3 glow or whatever distribution you wanted. Go heavy on Major Effects, or heavy on GM Intrusions. You can even change the distribution between game sessions to help inform the play of the next session. The sky's the limit, and the options are yours to use or not.