D&D Bingo

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 16, 2012

One of the things that I really like about the Lair Assault program is Glory awards. These are objectives that the characters can do throughout the course of the adventure that will earn them points. The points have no in-game significance; they’re merely earned by the players for bragging rights. At first I thought Glory was just a nice add-on but after only one or two sessions I realized that the players had their character take actions simply to fulfill the conditions listed on their Glory tracker. The more I thought about this phenomena the more I realized that using something like a Glory tracker in a home game could help the DM guide the party in certain directions without railroading the group. It could also add some brevity to the game as the PCs tried doing all sorts of crazy things simply because it was on their to-do list.

Initially I thought about just creating a laundry list and calling it Glory just like Liar Assault, but then I had a brainstorm: D&D Bingo! As players or their PCs accomplish pre-defined objectives they get to mark off squares as complete. The DM can elect to award prizes if PCs complete a single line, two lines, inside square, four corners, X, T, or full card – it really doesn’t matter. The idea is that once every player has a D&D Bingo card they’ll find additional motivation to do things they might not otherwise be inclined to do.

The DM needs to decide early on if the spaces on the D&D Bingo card will be things that the players can do out of game (for example, roll three 20s in a row), things that the character can do in-game (for example, slay a Dragon), or a combination of the two. I suppose it really depends on if the D&D Bingo cards are transferred from character to character by the player running them or if each individual character gets his own card. With Liar Assault the Glory awards are by player. So it doesn’t matter if the player uses three different characters during three different attempts at the dungeon, all accomplishments are scored until the card is full. I’d recommend doing the same for D&D Bingo. It makes things a lot easier.

Creating the cards should be a group exercise. I’d recommend that everyone begin with a blank card. The DM should have many examples ready but don’t share any at first. Explain to the players how D&D Bingo is going to work and then get them to create cards.

Each player makes a list of 25 objectives (no free spaces in D&D Bingo). These should be at least 2:1 character objectives to player objectives. If the players can’t come up with 25 objectives on their own the DM should provide examples.

Once everyone has completed their list they then share it with the table. The group will decide by voting if the objectives are too easy, too difficult or just right. This will likely mean that no one’s list will still have 25 objectives on it after the first read through. However, now that the players have shared their lists some of the other players might want to borrow a few objectives to round out their own card. After all if three people in the party have the objective “Slay the Dragon” there’s a much greater chance that the party will agree to go hunt a Dragon.

When everyone finally has an acceptable list of 25 tasks it’s time to place them on the D&D Bingo card. Try using dice to randomly assign places to each objective at first. When there are only a few spaces remaining it might be more practical to just assign them manually. Once the D&D Bingo cards are done the DM should collect all cards and then let the players choose a card randomly. Make sure that no one gets the card they created. One variation is to have a roll-off and the player with the best roll gets to look at all the cards and then pick the one he likes best. By removing the blind draw it will encourage the players to keep the cards balanced so that the guy who rolls a 20 doesn’t get the easiest card.

Once everyone has a D&D Bingo card it’s time to set the stakes. I like the idea of in-game and out of game rewards. The rewards should be discussed and agreed upon by the party at the beginning so everyone understands what’s at stake. In game I’d recommend that a certain percentage of all loot found (say 5 or 10%) is put in a prize pool. The first time a player gets a line they get a set reward based on their level and the size of the pool. The DM can decide what other lines or shapes on the card will yield other results. A full card will be exceptionally difficult to accomplish and will likely take a lot of real time to complete so the DM should dangle a really good prize in front of the players to keep them coming back. A free magic item normally outside of their power range is a good suggestion.

I’d also suggest that there be real-life rewards as well. They can be simple, like the first person to get a Bingo designates someone as the servant for the night. The servant must fetch drinks, answer the door when the pizza guy arrives, and grab books from the shelf as needed. Players with a few bucks might want to throw a few dollars into a real-life kitty and award the cash to the first player to complete their card. The prizes are completely up to the groups to decide.

As some objectives will likely be difficult to accomplish at low levels, I’d suggest that the DM create a mechanic for changing or swapping squares on your card. Perhaps every time the PCs go up a level the player can trade out one square for something new. The new square will still need to be approved by the group but it might give the player a better chance of actually getting a single line completed. I’d also allow players to trade squares at this time, as long as they aren’t trading for something they already have on their card or for an objective they’ve already completed.

Remember that at the end of the day the idea behind D&D Bingo is to help motivate the players and their PCs. The DM can use the D&D Bingo cards to create adventure hooks or greed traps for the PCs. The cards should be used as a way to spice up the game and add fun and frivolity. Never again should the DM have any trouble putting the PCs back on the adventure path he’s set for them.

Here’s a sample D&D Bingo card to get you started.

DM: You guys need to decide if you want to head north or south from here. Remember that you have heard rumours of that vampire who was charming the young women in the community just south of here. Hey, Neil, don’t you have “Slay a Vampire” on your D&D Bingo card?

Neil: As a matter of fact I do. I vote we go south.

Dave: I have “Kill a Zombie with a crit” on mine. Any chance the Vampire has an undead army at his disposal?

DM: It’s possible.

Dave: I vote south as well.

Liam: Fine, we’ll go south. But I’m warning you, I’ll be doing my best to make someone “Snort soda out of their nose” the whole time.

Related reading:


Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alamo November 16, 2012 at 11:19 am

Hmmmmmm new on this site and I love it! Just thought it would be better named “D&D Achievements” like on Xbox Live or “Trophies” for PS3 users… ;)

Bingo is just…lame hehe!

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) November 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm

@Alamo
With an outright achievement system players will cherry pick the tasks that they really want to do and avoid the ones they don’t want to do. By putting it in a bingo card they’ll have to do the tasks that make a line or form a box in order to get a bingo. However, if you think your group would prefer to just have a long checklist then go for it. I see the bingo card or achievement list as a way to encourage creativity and let the DM keep the party on track when things get too unruly.

3 TheSheDM November 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I recall seeing some DMs keeping and updating an Achievements list on their Obsidian Portal wiki.

4 Rogue #1 November 17, 2012 at 9:42 am

I like this… I might ask my group if they wanna do it @ my campaign…

5 B.J. November 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

There’s a similar mechanic in the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. You reach predetermined milestones as a character to gain perks. You can create new ones for each campaign or when you complete the three you already have outlined.

6 Astraica November 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm

This sounds like a great idea! I really love the flavour. However, I would change a few things for home-brewed games, especially if it’s RP heavy. But, everyone is bound to have different uses for such a great system, and it’s new, it’s bound to have its glitches. All good thoughts become solidified with the addition of others’ opinions. So! Without further ado!

1. Instead of having the party decide; if the dungeon master really wants this to work for his/her group to keep it on track with the story, (and not go off in random directions, but instead stay specific to their game), they should make the cards themselves. If they know their players well or are really creative, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if there is an issue with either of these, here’s what you can do:
– I’m all about research to perfect my work, so what I suggest for this is; talk with your players. Make it not obvious and ask casually or even jokingly, “So, what sort accomplishments would you like to see in a game session? In or out of game?” Guaranteed you won’t get the same amount as if they created the cards, but it gives room to -NOT give expectations-. They won’t know that you will be implementing this system so you’re free to mess around with it and choose as you will. What it -should- do is give you ideas, and what the players want to see most, which is really important. If they all like something, and it might not agree with your game, who knows, it might work better than you thought! Try it ^_^

2. Don’t give the option of distribution, nor the “blind pick” idea. Chances are the players won’t like this. If someone customizes something, even if they know they won’t be keeping it, they will still become attached to it. It may not be a huge issue with most people, but I’m betting the players will be much happier keeping the card they made. If you -are- going to distribute them, do it randomly by shuffling the cards and dealing them, also:
– A great idea: Instead of having the players write out the options on a card, have them simply jot down around 15-20 ideas instead. Compare, then make cards based on that, either yourself, or have them make their own. This will create a much more educated selection per card, your players will be happy with what they choose, or is written down, and the choices will be written down in appropriate fashion.
– Because, let’s face it. Who wants to go blindly into anything? Once they have the full list in front of them, they will be far happier to pick from that list and write them down as they see fit, and you won’t have to worry about repeated choices being on the cards at all.
– All that erasing makes for hard-to-read cards, and this also gives the opportunity to print the cards out as well. A creative DM could use graphics, and how cool would that be?! :D Either with a character portrait per character card, or player, and/or boarders (like vines, castle walls, forest-y setting, monsters, etc), anything related to the game or “feel” of the game. Quotes, either from the game, books, media references, or something funny, you name it, it’s personalized, and people Love that :D

3. Don’t just have items for rewards. Why not have character development as a reward? For RPers, this would be -the- most rewarding thing of all. If the card is filled, or the highest number of squared shape is filled, the player can then discuss with the DM something they would like to see happen to their character to develop them more.
– Be it a trip to a specific world location, a series of mini quests that the party can do over time, a specific event, an NPC encounter or conversation, a situation they have to handle a specific way that has consequences and results regardless of what they choose, but are different depending on the outcome, a curse they need to lift, the list goes on!
– Or, the DM can provide the encounter/plot/idea themselves as long as they know where the player wants their character to go. (Some people just don’t have the ability to think of these things for their characters, or like to be set on a specific path. Mind you, this group is extremely small, but it’s good to consider everyone and have a variety of options regardless.)

4. Keep the flavour of the accomplishments to the game, or flavour of the game.

5. This would be best for something like the Wednesday D&D Encounters games. All of it would be best if done there if you were to use this exact system, but that’s only coming from my own gaming experience and tastes.

6. Some of those examples on the bingo card are really entertaining, some of them I wouldn’t include, but it’s a great idea and start! And most people would be happy with that.
– The very first one on the top left made me laugh! That’s BOUND to happen but is so Morbid! I wouldn’t want anyone trying to hurt themselves for it!

All-in-all I think this is the best system since the cards that were posted on EN World’s forum ^_^ If you haven’t heard of them, you should check it out! Our DM switched it up a bit and added in lots of neat new cards for the last game we played and it was really fun! So I can definitely see this being a hit and I hope to see him implement it at some point ^_^

~Astra~ (Geek Girl) – Out.

7 Kelvor November 21, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Since my good friend Astraica was nice enough to plug my Plot Card game addition, I’ll leave a link to the thread on ENWorld about it.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/d-d-pathfinder/271730-purple-index-cards-fly-setting-plot-collaboration.html

When we first started using the deck there were Achievement cards, but they were abandoned early on. Now the cards give automatic successes on skill checks, narrating your own failures, adding plot elements to the game, giving a few new combat options and abilities, or just introducing twists to the game. The cards that introduce complications to the game garner the group more XP. I find the carrot of XP encourages some players to take actions that make the game more interesting, but not necessarily are in their own interests.

Some things in the Bingo card, like Insult a King, remind me of a lot of these cards.

Kelvor Ravenstar (a.k.a. Mike)

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: