(6/24/03 2:07 pm)
What is an action chip?
An action chip is a white poker chip in the possession of the player which can be spent to add a d4 to some rolls (attack, damage, skill checks, saves. Not Hitpoints, not summon monster numbers, not spell variables except as additional damage tacked on at the finish. Plus whatever else my PCs think up that I deem too powerful). At 4th level each player has four chips and will get another chip at levels 6, 9, 12,15, and 18. The chips replenish at the start of each session. Mystical blue (1d6) and red (2d4) chips exist which can be won through good roleplay (but must be spent within the next two sessions and they don't replenish).
I took my inspiration from Spycraft (D20 James Bond themed game). The PCs love their chips. It gives them a feeling of greater control over their characters, which is important because this particular game is run with no-fudging. We all roll our dice in the open.
The balance to this is that I get them too; right now I have half as many chips as the group combined to spend where I will. I added this touch just last session, and we'll see how it goes. Also, last session, I tweaked the chips so that the use of the chip must be declared before the roll it's attached to is rolled (instead of limiting it to declaring chip use before results are announced), which should reduce some of the power they present.
How has this impacted my game overall? My assistant GM estimates they shaved 2-3 rounds off the baby dragon fight, tossing the chips in for the added damage. 4d4 is a potential of 16 extra points of damage per player, times 6 players... it makes a difference. They tend to save the chips for 'important saves' and dealing extra damage to 'bosses', and as the end of the session draws near the chips start falling hot and heavy. The group's more competent as a whole, which I personally don't mind. It adds to their fun and doesn't much add to my workload, so I consider it good.
Our games are short in duration, 2-3 hours per night, so the chips replenish often in ingame time. A future tweak I'm considering is replenishing the chips each time they sleep -- something that those with longer gaming sessions would probably not want to do! And a further potential is replenishing at level up time.
Try this out, or not, as you wish