I’ve had a minor obsession with mechanics involving drawing tokens from a container for the past few months (yes, I get obsessions with classes of mechanics. I’m weird).
One idea I’ve had, which I haven’t been able to fully pin down yet, is what I call the “karma cup.” The idea is that it’s a cup or a bag with green and red stones in it, which players can choose to draw from. If they get a green stone, they get some bonus, but if they get a red stone they suffer some penalty.
I say I’ve had trouble pinning it down because I can’t quite figure out how to make it work. From its name, you might have already guessed that I’d add green stones when the players are “good” and red stones when they’re “bad.”
The issue is trying to make drawing from the cup attractive, without it becoming a simple matter of calculating the odds and risk vs. reward.
One idea would be to balance the effects so that the bonuses are better and penalties less severe when the cup is favoring red stones, and vice versa. This brings into play the issue of counting what’s in there, though, and I don’t think that’s quite so desirable.
Here’s another idea: there is always exactly one red stone in the bag, which is replaced when drawn. When the players are good they put in a green stone, but when they’re bad they must draw. If they draw a green stone, it’s discarded without effect. If they draw the red stone, they suffer the penalty and it’s replaced. When voluntarily drawing, they gain the bonus on a green stone but if they draw a red stone, they must discard a green stone from the bag without gaining a bonus or a penalty.
The other obvious consideration is the mechanics of the bag. Good and bad behaviors should be selected based on what you want to cultivate at the table. For example, if you want to encourage the player to roleplay, you might reward them a green stone when they do so well. Examples of bad behavior might include excessive chatter, metagaming, rolling a die off the table.
Whatever you decide, there’s a fine line that needs to be drawn. One worry that I’d have in implementing such a system is that I am not a babysitter and it’s not my place to punish my friends. A DM should have some modicum of authority, of course, simply because someone’s got to keep the game moving, but ultimately we’re all equals at the table and this system has the potential to cause unfortunate social repercussions.
So at this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “What the hell is the point of this post?” Honestly, there isn’t really one. This is just something I’ve had on my mind that I felt like exploring a bit. I certainly haven’t given up on the concept, but I don’t have anything solid to offer at the moment and I can’t guarantee that I ever will. All things considered, I hope this window into my thought processes wasn’t too boring for you… though I suppose if it was you probably stopped reading several paragraphs ago. So to those who aren’t reading this, I would just like to say, Lexus dolphin swingline strongarm camera.