On reflection, we like there being two kinds of Tokens, with the more evocative names of Adrenaline and Virtue. The idea is for them to be different colors, be awarded for different kinds of roleplaying, and to have different functions in the game.
Both Adrenaline and Virtue represent different ways that one might survive Horror. Adrenaline is the first way – by fighting it and winning, something like becoming a bit of a horror yourself to overcome it directly. Virtue is the second way, by remaining idealistic and not letting the Horror overwhelm you. In horror movies in particular, you see a lot of these kinds of survivors. Some survive because they are baddass, and some survive because they are good people deep down. In all cases, they survive because they are interesting, because they drive the story and they help the audience identify with the horrific situation.
Adrenaline (red or maybe green tokens)
Adrenaline is awarded for energetic, violent, aggressive, proactive roleplaying in the face of Horror. If you are playing a character who stalks through the zombie-infested mall wielding a gore-spattered fire-ax and spouting one-liners, you’ll start to accumulate Adrenaline quickly. Adrenaline can be spent on any Might test and on most Precision tests as well as some Occult tests. You can spend Adrenaline up to your current Fear rating +1, so in theory it can negate penalties due to Fear (if you have enough Tokens!) and also let you win ties when your Traits aren’t enough. If you’re bashing, kicking, chopping, climbing, running, yelling, jumping or stabbing, Adrenaline can be used to the test in question.
In awarding Adrenaline, everything is relative. With a group of superb rolelpayers, the bar should be appropriately high. No one should have twelve tokens in front of them unless they’re hoarding them. What you want to reward is roleplaying that you think adds to the game experience overall, helps increase player buy-in into the events of the story, and whenever possible reflects thought that has gone into character design in the first place.
With a group of less enthusiastic roleplayers, or perhaps in a convention game or a one-shot with players you don’t know well yet, the bar can be lower. Just describing what your character is doing physically to overcome the Horror in the situation can be enough because it adds to the overall immersion. In play, I’ve found that tokens are an excellent reward system if they are used subtly – just slide them across the table to someone who’s roleplaying well. Its an excellent motivator when done without too much fanfare, and you’ll find that the behavior you reward gets repeated in most cases. As the game continues, the players will get a better idea of what you want – which means you have to have a clear idea of what you are looking for from them beforehand for this reward system to work.
Virtue (blue or maybe yellow tokens)
Virtue is a little trickier, but it is crucial. First, Virtue is the kind of token you spend when you are talking someone down out of Fear – it is the only way that Fear is reduced in-game. A group with all Adrenaline will tear itself apart as everyone in the group becomes a screaming hysteric – if you’re doing your job as GM that is.
It also isn’t just the stereotypical “healer” of the “party” because this “healer” can’t heal herself. You can’t use Virtue to talk yourself down, so if you need more than one character who is accumulating Virtue.
Virtue tokens are probably harder to get than Adrenaline ones. You get Virtue tokens by roleplaying a genuinely good person who tries to remain at least a little optimistic about the Horror around her. You get them for risking yourself to help others, especially those who are weaker than you or those who are in danger. If you convince the ones at the front of the line with the shotguns and machetes to slow down so the child you’ve found can catch up, that’s worth Virtue. If you’re pacifying, exhorting, soothing, encouraging, nurturing, risking yourself for others – especially people you don’t know, praying, etc., that could be worth Virtue.
What Virtue helps add to a Horror game is the sense that there are things that are important that could be lost. If no one values anything, there isn’t much Horror. But if players are always being reminded of their humanity, it makes the Horror all the more horrific. What could have been a splattery gore-fest approaches true tragedy.
Virtue is also used to reduce Pain penalties from injury. If a person is able to tend to a wounded character, at last applying first aid to them, and spends a Virtue, that character can function as if one step lower on the Pain scale. Their wounds don’t disappear, but they are mitigated, and are no longer as severe for the duration of the session in question.
This can be done a lot if necessary and if time allows (the GM can always control Fear and Pain escalation by how much time she allows for things like talking down and first aid). For every new wound received, first aid can be applied and a Virtue can be spent – but the maximum is reduction by one level for any given Wound.
Finally, Virtue can be used on Appeal tests and some Occult tests. Any Appeal test where you are attempting to appear trustworthy can be bolstered by Virtue. In all cases where Virtue is spent on tests, you can spend up to your Fear rating +1 in Virtue – just like Adrenaline.