How do you award Bonus Dice for role-playing?

Started by Judd, October 07, 2008, 06:15:24 AM

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I am not looking for an official ruling but am looking for different ways and methods folks use to award players Bonus Dice for role-playing.  I am re-reading the Sorcerer books, as I do when gearing up to play the game again and that section always leaves me wondering.  I realize that after years of playing this game, I have concocted a kind of equation in my head concerning how to reward dice.

On page 19 the Sorcerer text talks about awarding +2 bonus dice for role-playing +2 for an action that moves the plot along significantly.  For some reason I had a 1-3 dice stuck in my head for a while now.

When running Dictionary of Mu at conventions, the first roll of dice is when we roll to bind the demon.  This is a great first scene because it allows the players to roll dice in a way that has definite consequences to the rest of the game but its not going to get them killed.  I have yet to have players read a dictionary entry or two and not deliver a binding description that was dripping with color and atmosphere.

I would often watch people as they read their character sheets and the two or three entries I gave to go along with them, maybe five minutes of reading.  I'd go to the gamer who laughed or winced or nodded, some sign of excitement.  If a buddy was at the table, I'd go to them for the first binding roll.

I would give 1 bonus die for doing something that referred back to the text in some way, something that links the action to the setting.

Another die went out for making the table wince.

That third die usually went out for an audible groan of some kind or a table-wide thumbs up.

This held up throughout the session.  I wish I had paid attention to the campaign I ran and how bonus dice worked for that; I will certainly pay more attention to the non-con games coming up.

I toss Bonus Dice out quite a bit but wonder if how or why they are given out should be a bit more structured than the "good role-playing" that is stated in the book or if that vagueness allows for each table to decide what that means.

Thoughts and experiences?


I, too, never liked the "good role-playing" idea behind handing out bonus dice: too fiat-y for me, and it always worked out poorly in other games I'd tried it in, never seeming fair to players and never fostering the kind of behaviors intended. Then again, as discussions here have shown over the years, that's never what the text of Sorcerer "meant".

The RP dice are supposed to be handed out...well, pretty much exactly the way you've been doing: by the GM to a player for engaging the other players at the table. Which I don't think is vague, and while each group will "decide what that means" for themselves, only so in a context of the details of each particular story and set of characters. My understanding based on previous discussions and clarifications of this topic, they are not supposed to be handed out for "look at me shine in my own little world" moments or for "good role-playing" in the sense that is so often meant -- acting, immersion, playing the character well, using your powers in a cool fashion, showing off, etc. -- except inasmuch as one of those behaviors might spark a moment of mutual engagement (ie: reaction) at the table.

It's like writing with a co-author: you don't give her props for being wordy and prosaic and making her favorite character do something spiffy, you give her props for making the story happen and punching you in the gut with it. Even if she does it with two simple words. So you don't hand out bonus dice when Wolverine growls and plays all bad-ass and pounds the mooks in colorful sprays of violent bloodshed. You do hand out bonus dice when Wolverine growls and plays all bad-ass, pounding the mooks in colorful sprays of violent bloodshed, and everyone (or at least one other guy) there screams HAHAHAHAHA!YEAH!

Perhaps this is another case of the book being written before the ideas were fully realized, and lacking a better word to describe what was meant, what was described by the vague/multi-interpretable term "role-playing" then are the set of behaviors we might refer to as "engaging play" now, encompassing "role-playing" behaviors but with the addition of a table reaction to such behaviors.

Anyways, that's my thoughts on the whole "good role-playing" mention from the rulebook.

(Also, I've always had the 1-3 dice impression myself. I suspect it's something that's been stated in a couple of discussions throughout the years and ended up being taken as an "unwritten rule".)
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Christopher Kubasik

Ron and I had quick exchange about Bonus Dice here:

Not sure if it addresses Judd's questions directly. But it touches on them.
"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


Thanks, Chris, I had seen that thread before but had missed a thread linked in that one.


Thanks, Chris, the part where Ron talks about Bonus Dice as a kind of opposite side of the GM's responsibilities to Humanity arbitration really resonated with me.

I am going to digest that for a whlie.


Christopher Kubasik

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Ron Edwards

In one of the earliest short Sorcerer games, at a game-day at a game store in Orlando in maybe 1995, I played with two guys who instantly "got" Sorcerer. It was a hell of a lot of fun, much more fun than some of the eight-person overly-con-like games I'd run with the same scenario (the house) at other public events. I don't remember their names, unfortunately. At one point during play, one of them announced his character's action and included a hand gesture: sort of like a karate chop, not miming the character's action but simply emphasizing the verbal content. His eyes flashed and the announced action was absolutely decisive and exciting. We were all into it.

Hey, I said. That's worth a bonus die. I had included the first version of the bonus dice list in the draft, but it was a little bit tactical and (influenced by Over the Edge) slightly more punitive in terms of penalizing being boring. Hey! I said, again. That's what makes all the other stuff on the bonus dice list good. What's that called? Why, that must be called "good role-playing."

Little did I know that the term "good role-playing" had gained a lot of new meanings: (1) long-winded description, (2) obedience to the GM's expected notions, (3) speaking in character, (4) wishing you were really LARPing, (5) not "rolling" with those awful dice, (6) ... you get the idea. Nor did I realize at the time that what the fellow had just done (and which I immediately knew was what I wanted Sorcerer play to be like) did not have any name, nor had had any attention called to it in the twenty-plus extant years of role-playing history at the time.

So there you go.

Best, Ron

Frank Tarcikowski

Huh. I usually award bonus dice only for stuff that relates directly to the fiction. My feeling about Sorcerer has always been that (a) the rules and the fiction interact very strongly and (b) the fiction leads, as Vincent put it at some point. Therefore, it felt (and feels) sorta out of place to me to award bonus dice in Sorcerer like Fanmail for something like "making the others wince". So, the "role-playing" bonus dice, to me, are bonus dice for some sort of addition to the fiction that would somehow furher the character's cause. This also seems to resonate well with the idea of conflicts in Sorcerer being between characters and about goals of characters, not players.

So, um, this as a contrast.

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English