The Revolution Against the Story Tyrant

By this point, it’s probably clear to all y’all experienced gamers that Token Effort is a departure from the mainstream RPG in which the GM sets out a plot, like a scientist with a maze, and the PCs go through looking for cheese, XP, or a way to save the princess. In those games, no matter how powerful the PCs become, the GM always has the biggest die bag, because he has unfettered freedom to put anything in the backstory or setting that he wants.

It’s critical to understand that Token Effort puts the GM on a much more even footing. If he runs out of tokens, his ability to control where the story goes fades until he restores his stack. His ability to set the Traits and Challenges of characters and plot elements is limited and cannot exceed the combined Traits of the characters.

The GM and the players are equal.

This may require some adjustment, especially for GMs who are used to holding the whip hand and for players who are used to getting in the harness and pulling where they’re told. Token Effort can be regarded as a game where everyone’s the GM, with tokens serving only to determine who cares most about control at a given moment.

Opportunities to be a real jerk abound. By the same token (ha!), so do chances to be creative and spontaneous and witty. There is an element of struggle and competition to Token Effort, and a cunning player can manipulate others to get amass more tokens. That’s fine, as long as it’s done in a friendly spirit. But the people you’re playing against are also the ones you’re playing with, and it’s just as impor­tant to support their vision as it is to push for your own.

The players and the GM are all constantly voting and lobbying for how they want the game to progress. Whatever happens is the fruit of someone’s desires. You’re going to lose your vision, quite often. Don’t take it personally, because it’s the other guy’s turn to crash and burn next, by design. As long as you’re focused on getting what you want, not keeping the other guy from getting what he wants, everyone can have a good time. Just don’t be a jerk, don’t be a spoiler, and don’t be a crybaby when your cool-jock spaceship pilot crashes disgracefully because someone really, really thought it would be funny. Take a step back, detach, and you may realize it really is funny.