Thursday, 28 October 2010

On Action Points and plot twists...

Image: online store
Well, my plans to use a Pathfindered version of Monte Cook's Hero Points have had mixed success... so it's time for a spot of tinkering!

Here's the original idea, straight from our campaign wiki:

“Joss” – An adaptation of what I read here on Monte Cook’s Hero Points, Pathfindered, and given a name players are familiar with already: Joss Points are gained through excellent roleplaying, creating memorable moments in game, contributing to this wiki – for example by posting to the Adventure Log in-character – and so on… They can be used for:

- Heroic Skill: Get a +20 on a single d20 roll before the die is rolled. If it was an attack roll that would have hit anyway, it’s an auto crit threat. If the roll would have been a crit threat, it’s automatically confirmed.
- Heroic Action: Take a full round of actions out of initiative order, at any time, in addition to your normal turn and without losing or changing your place in the queue.
- Heroic Defence: Add d20 to your AC against a single attack, again before the attack is rolled. If it would have missed anyway, you may take an immediate 5-foot-step as a reaction.
- Heroic Recovery: Regain 1d4 per character level in HP, as a full round action. No other action can be taken this round, (especially) including using a JP for Heroic Action!
...problem is, players tend to simply take the "Heroic Action" route, missing out on a lot of cinematic goodness - and essentially making these 4E "Action Points". There was also an option to take narrative control, which was deleted as I didn't know how to set up the mechanics - until I saw Paizo's awesome-looking Plot Twist cards. A set has been purchased this very day!

Here's the plan:

Players will be dealt one Plot Twist card for each point of "Joss" at the start of the session, plus one each time they receive a Joss Point. This means they will not carry twists forward between sessions, which I think is important. They can play the cards in one of two ways, both "one shot" deals:
  • As an effect on a target (see black box on the example image) for purely mechanical benefits.
  • Take narrative control following - or, even better, in the spirit of - the bulleted suggestions.
...or players can pay a JP (and hence a Plot Twist card, of their choosing) to gain one of the following Heroic boons, subtly modified to be used before or after the roll:
  • Heroic Skill: Get a +20 on any single d20 roll - skill, attack, save, whatever. A JP can also be used in this way to upgrade a success to a crit threat, or confirm a crit without having to roll (but can be used to add +20 to the confirmation roll if it fails, natch). There are always points in any Heroic tale when the heroes get a lucky shot in, or succeed at a seemingly impossible task just in the nick of time - and that's what this option is for.
  • Heroic Defence: Add 1d20 to your AC against a single attack, even if the attack has been successfully rolled and hit, but before damage is rolled. A JP can also be spent in this way to gain a free Move Action as a reaction to an attack that missed; for example to withdraw, draw a weapon, 5-foot step to a flanking position, or anything else that counts as "moving" at the GM's discretion. The heroes always get to escape by the skin of their teeth, or turn a disadvantage into an advantage - and that's what this option is for.
  • Heroic Recovery: Roll 1d4 per character level, and recover that amount of HP - now as a Standard Action, so it can be used when running away or staggered. Heroes always seem to be able to draw on their final reserves of strength when they need it most - and that's what this option is for. To avoid potential abuse, let's say Heroic Recovery can only be used again after a night's rest (8 hours).
I'd appreciate any thoughts on this - anyone tried a similar system??


  1. I love the Paizo Plot Twist Cards. I'm trying to work a similar mechanic into a certain project without totally ripping off the idea.

  2. Sounds awesome - if you haven't already, you should check out the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck.

    Similar idea, but seemingly more variation... I think there's some free bits and bobs on RPGNow.

    What's the project?

  3. the project is a universal game system, and a game using it.

    It's something I've toyed with for years, only now have I decided to pursue publication.

    The major thing holding me back for so long has been acquiring great art. Now, however, I think I've got that squared away, so we'll see.

  4. The plot twist cards seem to work well, should be a nice addition to the game.

  5. Me too.

    I was particularly impressed by Nathan playing "Where'd that come from" to get a bird to crap in the face of the troll that was about to rend him in two... I like them a lot.

    @Tourq: Let us know how the project goes. Mine's on hold 'cos I've started piecing together Conan, E6 DnD, your stuff about classic fantasy and the Dark Sun reissue to make something a bit... grittier.

  6. Tom looking forward to your E6 game the more I think about it the more I like it. Low magic with more focus on the character sounds great to me.

    Just wished I had used when I ran my Mythic campaign as it would have fitted the setting so well and maybe saved so many rewrites.

  7. I use a similar system AND the plot twist cards.

    Players get "win tokens" (poker chips) by having their turns planned before their turn is called, making the table laugh (Gamma World, mind you), completing optional objectives, or doing things that are awesome. They can spend tokens to get bonuses:
    1 chip = +1 bonus to damage roll
    5 chips = +2 bonus to attack roll
    10 chips = recharge expended Second Wind OR draw new Plot Twist Card

  8. I like the sound of that Jon - a balance of big rewards and little-and-often strategies that are often opposed. May well be worth trying!

    And making the table laugh gets rewards in any system I'm running!

    Thanks for the input.


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