One of my favorite mechanics in 5e is inspiration. If you’re not familiar, I’m talking about this rule right here:

Typically, DMs award [inspiration] when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way.

It’s a simple concept, but an important one. If you entertain your buddies with quality RP, you can walk away with a mechanical reward (in this case advantage on a single role). In effect, you’re incentivizing the rule of cool. I can’t think of anything I’d like to encourage more than cool moments.

If you’ve read this comic for any length of time, you know that my other favorite game is Exalted 2e. The stunt system in that game is all manner of interesting. It’s similar to 5e’s inspiration, but slightly more central to play. Exalted features a dice pool system, so the more dice you roll the better your results tend to be. Here’s a quick copy/paste of the stunting rules by way of explanation:

The rules of Exalted reward players with additional dice for describing their characters’ actions in an evocative manner. The out-of-game rationale for a stunt bonus is that well-described actions keep the game interesting for everyone and help the Storyteller set the scene. In game, stunts represent the capacity of epic heroes to be truly spectacular when they take risks and act like heroes. At the lowest level, one-die stunts require a good description of an action, adjudicated by the Storyteller. In return, the player gains one additional die, and the character may perform feats that border on impossible (such as running across the heads of people in a crowd, deflecting a blade or arrow barehanded and so on).

That’s just the basics though. If you get more elaborate you may get more dice. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite as pump-a-fist awesome as earning that big three dice stunt for truly epic plays.

Of course, you may have guessed the downside by this point. These sorts of systems rely on GM judgement calls. If you’re the guy behind the screen, you’re in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether your buddies’ ideas are good enough to warrant stunt dice, inspiration, Fate points, bennies, or whatever other reward your system utilizes. That can in turn lead to player resentment when the scene-chewing comes up short.

Question of the day: Have you ever seen a player go for the Oscar but not quite get there? Have you ever witnessed the bizarre spectacle of a GM explaining to an indignant player why their best efforts hadn’t quite earned a reward? Let’s hear your tales of rule-of-cool turned rule-of-weird down in the comments!


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