Cinematic Points

Movies buffs, turn back now, this is a role-playing game related post.

With my current GURPS Black Ops campaign, I've tried something new in the hopes of making it as cinematic as possible. I'm using Cinematic Points, a house rule culled from an article by Chad Underkoffler in Pyramid Online magazine. Not the first time I've integrated some of Chad's stuff into my games either. In short (because I don't expect you to have a membership to Pyramid), it consists of points you give players which they use to create cinematic effects. Anything from simply boosting your Perception roll to changing a set, generating a prop or extra, and creating a flashback in which your character learned a valuable skill. Characters score these points when they do something fun, interesting or seriously badass during play. Usually, spending points will earn you points.

Granted, this idea is not exactly new. Many games have had "Hero points" spent to modify rolls, and something like Torg even had a Drama Deck with particular enhancements on its varied cards. But what Chad adds is a lot of flavor. Each enhancement is linked to a cinematic line that the character might say to justify his boost. Adding Charisma is Turning Up the Charm, for example, and It's Only a Flesh Wound cures damage.

It worked so well that it started me thinking that I should use such a thing in every game I run. Chad's article focuses on high action cinematic gaming, but find the clichés of any particular genre and attribute them Cinematic, Hero, Drama, etc. Points. Running a Star Trek game? You gotta have Redshirt (makes an extra take the hit for your character) and Convenient Hobby ("It just so happens I'm an expert on the same medieval strategies Charlemagne in Space is using."). In a Horror game, it might be fun to Leave the Starlet Alone (same as Redshirt, really) or if you're the monster, Last Scare (last chance attack that ignores all damage). For the basic stuff that would work in any game, simply fiddling with the "cinematic line" would work. Adding damage to your attack, for example, could be Set Phasers to Kill and Giving In to the Darkness, respectively.

Even a good old-fashioned game of DnD could use this mechanic: That Spell Told Me To Study It (change one of your learned spells to one you really need); This Realm Owes Me (gets you positive character interaction with an authority figure) ; and of course I Liked the Previous Edition Better (use a rule from a previous incarnation of (A)D&D you really liked).

ADDED TOUCH: Though the Points are marked on character sheets at the end of the night, during play, they are represented by ordinary playing cards (or poker chips, which were our first idea). This creates a visual aid that reminds players to use their points, and immediate recompense when they do something cool to earn one. If you can find a "token" that fits your campaign, all the better!

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