Give Out Bennies

by Xevon and Blackrook

Keep your players engaged right from the start with the use of "Bennies" to award player knowledge of your world...

Jenny is on her iPad, George is playing darts, and Maya is catching up on her favorite Netflix show. Ted, the GM, walks into the room to see everyone off in their own little world.

“OK, everyone, ready for the campaign?” asks Ted, a little annoyed.

Jenny, George and Maya ignore him, so wrapped up in their own activities they barely hear him.

Ted starts setting up for the next adventure. “So, where to begin. Oh yeah, you’ve been there for a night, and...”

“Uh, been where?” asks George.

“At the top of the mountain...”

“Uh, which mountain?” asks Maya.

“Can we all focus here?” requests Ted irritably, shooting evil glances at his players. “So, if you remember, you were on top of the tallest peak on the island trying to find Felendra...”

“Uh, wait a sec...” says George.

“What now, George?”, says Ted, losing patience.

“Uh, well, uh...who’s Felendra again?”

“Aargh!” says Ted, “do I need to recap the whole adventure?”

“Oh yes, if you don’t mind, that would be great!” requests Jenny.

Ted puts down the dice he’s been eagerly hoping to roll and begins to recap. “Well, it all started at Avs' 16th birthday, and..."

Half an hour later... “ah, OK, yeah...I think I’ve got it.”

The playmat is once again rolled out, and the players are (hopefully) ready to begin.


Recognize this scenario? My guess is, if you only play once every few weeks, this happens to you and your campaigns as well. In fact, unless someone took notes during the last session, even the GM may not remember all the salient points of the campaign.

Is there some way that these adventurers could have started off with everyone alert and remembering the important details of the campaign so they could have dived right in?

One answer lies in what I will call "Bennies." What are "Bennies"? Well, let us show you.

Rewind about one hour...

Jenny is on her iPad. George is playing darts, and Maya is catching up on her favorite Netflix show...

Ted walks in the room with a mysterious gray envelope he always has at the beginning of an adventure...

Jenny asks, “Oh please, just one quick look?”

“Ha ha...Nope!” says Ted, ready to see what the players remember.

The players drop what they are doing and gather around the table. (Except George who quickly looks up the campaign on Scabard to make sure he hasn’t forgotten any of the salient details).

“OK, now you remember the rules. Inside this envelope are a few questions about our previous adventures. I’ll start to ask them, one at a time, and when you think you know the answer, cut me off and answer the question."

"If you get it right you will get one Benny! Wrong answer and I’ll continue to read the question until the next person stops me, who will then be given the chance to receive a Benny, and so on. Like last time, Bennies can be used to either (a) reroll in a critical situation, or (b) added to your experience at the end of our session.”

“OK, ready?”

All eyes are on Ted, awaiting his first question about the last play session. George is proud that he reviewed the campaign on and feels ready. Maya read over her notes she took during the last campaign, so she figures she’ll get one for sure!

And, voila! All players are ready for the game, and those who aren’t are reminded of the key points from their previous session! Also, the GM has managed, in an engaging way, to get all players (whether they get the questions right or wrong) caught up on the last few adventures, and has been able to remind the players the points he feels will be critical for today’s adventure.

So, the four are focused, up to speed, and ready for a meaningful adventure. All thanks to Bennies!


What are bennies?

Bennies are a concept borrowed from the Savage Worlds RPG. In Savage Worlds, every character starts each session with a certain number of bennies, which they can either use in game play for a reroll of the dice, or saved until the end for a chance at extra experience.

The difference between that and what we're suggesting is that bennies are rewards for staying engaged with what's happening in the campaign. They are not automatic.

How to use bennies in your campaign

Create a Note or Folder in Scabard for the session the day before so your players will get an update and be prompted to review your campaign before the session. Make sure to update Scabard with what happened in the last session. If your players are assigned as players for their characters or otherwise follow your campaign, they should get automatically updated of your changes by email. You can also tag them in the comments of that page or share the link via social media to be extra sure they see it.

The number of review questions should be the number of players x 2. Because each Bennie is worth a die reroll, too many Bennies in the game would make rolling dice meaningless.

Write your questions on a piece of paper ahead of time and don't tip off the players what the questions will be. They're secret questions, after all.

Questions should mostly be focused on the elements of the adventure’s plot and a recap of the last session.

If remembering something is key to succeeding at the next session, that should be one of the questions.

Asking the same question as last session is encouraged if it's important.

Put the questions in an envelope.

At the beginning of the session, make a big show of producing the envelope, slowly opening it, and peeking at the questions before the review. This is corny of course, but it will build excitement.

Use physical tokens for bennies, such as poker chips or pieces from a board game.

Optional: No more than three bennies per player.

Optional: The player with the fewest bennies so far can try answering the next question first.

Bennies during gameplay

Bennies are good for 1 die reroll of attack, skill check, or saving throw.

You can’t use your benny for someone else to reroll, whether ally or foe. They apply only to your own rolls.

Unused bennies

At the end of the session, there may be bennies left over that were never used for a reroll.

Unused bennies are turned in for a chance for extra experience. On a roll of 5 or 6 on a d6, you get a 20% bonus to XP earned that session. This is cumulative if you have more than one left over benny. Some game systems hand out very small numbers of XP per session. In this case, round up.

Unused bennies cannot carry over to the next session.

Optional: Three unused bennies can be turned in for an automatic 20% bonus to XP (ie, no need to roll 5 or 6).

Other Ideas

What do you do to keep your players engaged and informed about your campaign? Leave a comment below!