View Full Version : RPG Pondering: Action Points [YouTube Link]

Tetsubo 57
2011-02-11, 11:28 AM
Do you like role-playing games that use action points?


2011-02-11, 02:28 PM
I like them.

Please note that there is a difference between a system which has "action points" as part of the core system (Willpower in World of Darkness) and a system which doesn't but has "action points" in a tag-on system (Eberron action points). In the first case, the action points are taken as part of the system for every character, and so an appropriate difficulty is one with action points taken into account. In the second, you do have an issue which was mentioned in the video, where there is a difference between encounters with action point and encounters without.

Action points are simply a resource, much like HP. In fact, action points have almost exactly the same use as HP: they provide a way for a player to do risky things without risk - or with mitigating the risk - to their character. In D&D, HP is a buffer keeping bad things from happening to a character. For the most part, nothing is going to hurt the character as long at they have HP. Thus, a very risky player could send their character charging down the hallway into a large group of orcs, secure in the knowledge that they won't be able to kill the character with their large tank of HP. If the same player with the same character only had 5 HP remaining, you would find them somewhat adverse to doing the same thing.

World of Darkness is somewhat similar. Any damage a character takes puts penalities on everything the character does, so unlike D&D, there is every reason for a WoD character to avoid taking damage. This is where Willpower ("action points") becomes important. A player may spend Willpower to increase their rolls, activate abilities, or even allow re-rolls to lessen the risk in a situation. Thus, your WoD fighter will likely charge down the hallway and take on the orcs anyways, assuming they had a full pool of Willpower to give them an edge in the fight. A similar character who is tapped out of Willpower will likely avoid conflict in any situation, as they no longer have anything to fall back on.

HP and action points in the same system feels a bit silly, because as I've said, they both serve basically the same service. I also wonder how the person in the video feels about putting a character in a dangerous situation - say, flanking - for a bonus to their rolls, or how he feels about front-line fighters in general. Is he perfectly fine with putting his character's life on the line when there is a HP buffer keeping him save? Does he feel that less risk-adverse players have an unfair advantage by relying on HP to keep their characters safe? Or does he just stick to playing back-row Wizards, not wanting to risk his HP either?

2011-02-11, 02:32 PM
(Didn't see the video because I'm at work but) I like them too. I used them in all my 3.5 games.

They serve two purposes for my games.

1) They're a reward I can give out that won't affect XP or WBL. I don't usually do XP, preferring to just tell the players to level when I feel it's appropriate. I still feel like I should be able to reward journals or good RP though, and these points serve that purpose.

2) They give the PCs some narrative control. It sucks when your knight in shining armor falls off his horse in the first round of the joust because you rolled a one. Action points correct that so that they can play the character in their heads instead of the character the dice gave them.

2011-02-11, 02:59 PM
I like action point type add-ons for many of the reasons given here (added player control, encourage heroic actions, etc). Generally, though, I prefer a system that either awards them frequently or where they renew regularly (every session, etc.) even if they are not as powerful. If you have a very limited number of them (Ebberron style APs where it is per character level) and they can't carry over it seems to me you end up with them being horded until just before level up and then spent freely.

I haven't tried it yet, but Pathfinder's Hero Points look interesting becuase they have a greater effect if spent before the roll but can still be used after the roll to influence things. If you really want to make that roll, spend in advance. If you find you roll just a little short (on a roll you had good odds of making, for instance) spend it after. This prevents the problem of deciding to spend one of these precious points and then rolling a 20.