Wednesday, August 19

Miniblog 2 of N: Other Uses for Action Points

So when ChattyDM was on hiatus, he had a serious of awesome guest posts. So awesome, in fact, that he  dubbed the posters the Order of Chatty DMs. I’m honoured to be on the list. But putting that to one side, the bevy of wildly interesting posts that came from this spawned dozens of other ideas. One in particular got my attention, most especially with reference to an article Chatty wrote earlier in the year.

Now, I am a great fan of RPG systems that have novel mechanics, better ways of representing things, or just generally cause me to think “outside the box”. Two spring to mind at the mention of interesting applications of the “action points” mechanic: FUDGE and Mutants & Masterminds.

I read the FUDGE rulebook and was perplexed. The core mechanics freaked me out: you actually *spend* your stats on a permanent basis to achieve things? Wow, late-game must suck unless you’re a miser in early-game. But it did introduce a great idea: giving up narrative control to players. The abovementioned Chatty and Chatty-guest post both touch on this idea. Players play as much an important role in generating the story as the DM does – he’s just the guy who knows what’s around the next corner, while the player’s are storytelling advocates of particular pro-(or, if you’re into that sort of thing, an-)tagonists. So why not elicit their help in your storytelling?

Mutants & Masterminds I playtested for a while. I played an OpenRPG game, I played a one-shot Steampunk game, and I’ve done a little testing. The system is profoundly excellent at representing concepts – but it’s downfall is in playability. You think 4e combats can drag on? Try rolling DCs for everything, including hit points. Attacks are invariably heavily flavoured. But it has one thing that made me fall in love with the system: Hero points. Hero points can be spent on one of a list of things, and quite commonly the spending is on paying off exhaustion caused by “Extra Effort”, which is invoked to tweak a power (an M&M concept that is too elaborate to explain here) or buy a feat for one round. Yes, you can temporarily buy feats.penknife_sized

And that’s what I want to advocate for Action Points. Now, the standard disclaimer applies here: I haven’t playtested this extensively. Many (most) DM’s will probably flat-out refuse to let you use this. But if you’re up for trying and experimenting and having fun, give these rules a try:

Spending an action point typically gives you a free standard action in combat. I am suggesting that you can select the effect your action point will give you from the following list:

  • You gain an additional standard action this round (the default)
  • You immediately recover from an effect that you could roll to save (status effects, penalties, etc.)
  • You gain the use of a feat (that you meet the prerequisites for) until the beginning of your next turn
  • You may use an at-will power that you have not selected for your character, from any class, but with the same power source as your own (martial, arcane, divine, primal, etc.)
  • If you are on zero hit points or lower, you are restored to one hit point
  • You may force an NPC’s social reaction with your character to noticeably improve (with the DM’s veto – if he cannot allow this, your action point does not count as spent)
  • Your character can spontaneously “find” a “forgotten” non-magical item (including non-magical weapons or armour) in their inventory, that they had not purchased or noted down as purchasing
  • Your character’s speed is increased by +2 for one round (as if they had run, without the penalties)
  • Your character gains a +5 bonus to skill checks – whether they are trained in the skill or not

Note that my interpretation of the action point mechanic may be broader than most – I feel that action points represent a broad variety of potential bonuses that heroes may experience purely by dint of their role as the focus of the adventure. Force of will, in my mind, is just as likely a source of action point application as luck, divine favour and so on.

So go forth, and do amazing things with your one action point per extended rest (for you heroic-tier adventurers). Please give me any feedback you can think of – I’m keen to see what folks think of alternate mechanics like this.

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