I stumbled across Enlightened Grognard a few months back and the pitch grabbed me right off the bat. The system takes design philosophies from 4E and applies them to a 3.5E base and is in some regards a middle ground between these two very different editions of D&D, but the element that came from neither, tokens, is the one that intrigued me the most.
Enlightened Grognard combats the bloat and complexity of combat in both editions by using tokens to replace temporary and situational modifiers. This rough guideline is given in the conversion guide: “In general, a temporary +1 bonus equates to about 1 token. A permanent +1 bonus equates to about 1 token per encounter.”
This takes the numbers and modifiers off the pages of a character sheet and puts them directly in the players hands. These tokens can also be given to other players. This element alone makes the game more dynamic and encourages team play.
After I read the rules for Enlightened Grognard, the concept of using tokens in D&D stuck with me. Soon after I decided to introduce tokens to the game of D&D 4E I was running.
However, instead of tinkering with the system (the players are currently pretty happy with 4E) I decided to use the tokens to reinforce intelligent play, enhance the “Rule of Cool” and encourage team play. The tokens represented a universal +1 that could be used for Defense, Offense, Skills, or whatever the situation called for. They could also be given to any player at any time.
At first I used the tokens like a carrot, giving tokens to the players when they did something creative or interesting in play and when they ‘played properly’. For example, we had a table etiquette rule that asked players to declare “Done” when they were done with their turn. Players would often forget to do this until I gave them a token for declaring”Done”. After a few sessions they did this normally even without getting a token.
By the final session of the campaign, tokens had become a part of the table and the players, like the heroic characters they played, were working together like a tight knit party. The tokens even occasionally sparked moments of spontaneous roleplaying in the middle of combat.
Tokens did occasionally add extra time to decisions as the use of a token was considered, debated or requested, but I attribute the attentiveness and participation levels of the table during 4E’s notoriously long combats largely to the tokens. This was an immeasurable boon during our late-night marathon session to cap the campaign.
Based on these experiences I can wholeheartedly agree with the assertions that RPGs should have tokens or some other coin trick. D&D doesn’t have a coin trick by default, but it benefits greatly from the addition of one.