Friday, October 31, 2008

The Benny Economy in Savage Worlds

Last night, amid much negotiation and impassioned discussion, our group hit upon a cool new house rule for our Savage Worlds game.

We’re calling it the Benny Economy, and it expands upon an existing mechanic in SW that gives each player three “bennies” at the outset of the game. These are tokens, stones, glass beads, whatever, and they can be “spent” for rerolls and damage soaks, kind of like hero points in Mutants & Masterminds or fate chips points in Deadlands. And since the GM is encouraged to give out extra bennies during the session for good roleplaying or problem solving, these resources are meant to be spent, not hoarded.

The GM gets bennies too, to be spent by his minions and NPCs, usually one per PC at the table, plus a couple more for each big monster or villain.

Last night, though, we hit upon a much more dynamic way of spending bennies: When a PC spends a benny, it’s added to the GM’s stock. Likewise, when the GM spends a benny, it’s passed on to the PC most directly involved with the action.

So we’ve established a free-flowing metagame economy whereby the GM can inject a little fiat into the game — but only by passing on a minor advantage to the characters. And when the players need a hail-mary roll, they can try for it — but next time they might not be so lucky. Plus, the players around the table can watch the GM’s benny pile wax and wane throughout the game, so they’ll know at a glance how many resources the referee can bring to bear on a particular scenario.

Admittedly, this mechanic has virtually no grounding in the story or plot. It’s just a cool metagame notion that, for us, seems more engaging than the rules as written in the SW book. What do you think?


Jonathan said...

NICE! I love it... makes me want to do the same thing with 'action points' in my 4E game.

PatrickWR said...

Absolutely. Would anything need to change for it to be implemented for D&D's action points?

jamused said...

I'd be a little concerned that it would drag out combats...if the players are fighting a tough foe, wearing out its Bennies (and so its soak rolls) is an important part of defeating it. If they end up using Bennies to get there (re-rolling a to-hit, trick or even damage if somebody has No Mercy) they've just handed it a free soak attempt. You might want to refine the rule so that any Bennies traded in a fight can't be used in that fight.

I believe that either Clint or Wiggy described a somewhat similar house rule: Players had infinite Bennies, but every one they spent went to the GM.

MJ Harnish said...

I really like player/GM economies since they stimulate a lot of back & forth exchange between the two "sides." My one question about your idea though is about the inherent imbalance between the two sides in your economy: The players are going to handing a lot of bennies over the GM and the distribution of wealth is going to quickly become skewed in the GM's favor - in fact, with a decent sized group (4+) the GM is going to be hard pressed to spend all the bennies he accumulates in a session without completely dominating the group in every encounter.

Regarding questions about 4E & action points: Action points are not the same as bennies and I would strongly advise against messing with the rules because what you will quickly discover is that PCs will absolutely demolish their opponents in only a round or two if given access to more action points. Instead of saving their APs to help with the big bad guy, what you are very likely to find is that they'll have enough to spend one on nearly every encounter and that means that they can really stack up the damage in a single round. Mike Mearls talks about the AP problems they had in playtesting in one of the GenCon podcasts (I think it was The Tome).

For 4E you might consider an alternative approach by adding something like Hero Points to the mix which give a small bonus (say +1 or +2 maximum) which you then can feel free to distribute and exchange: They give you a little bump when needed but won't throw the game out of balance. You could also consider rerolls at the cost of multiple hero points but you need to be carererolls would be OK but you need to be careful with rerolls because they step on certain racial powers and can easily get out of hand if your hero points are flowing fast and free.

PatrickWR said...

Good points, MJ and jamused. I agree that this could really drag out fights, which is sort of the antithesis of Savage Worlds. I'll relay your comments to the players and see if we need to amend anything.

d7 said...

I love it, but the same thing occurred to me that jamused voiced concern about.

I'd consider modifying the house rule like so: Any bennies spent by players would go across the table to the GM, but into a "next game" pile that couldn't be touched this session. That would keep from drawing out fights.

It still might have the problem of building a too-large GM stockpile for the next session since I think more bennies would be entering the system (through player RP rewards, then being spent into the GM pile) than would be going into the GM's pile under the regular rules.