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Action Points in OD&D?

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My players have asked if we could try an action point/hero point system for our OD&D game. I can hear the screams now. However, unlike many old school players, I'm not automatically allergic to the idea. To me, action points (by whatever name) are just another (very) limited resource for the player to manage. They don't represent some innate "heroic" quality, but rather the ability almost all humans have to summon up their resources and push themselves into giving it "their all" when they really need it but feel they are falling short. It's the extra strength Conan would summon to succeed when he felt like he was going to fail, etc.

So I'm willing to test action points in our game. Here's how I've decided they will work -- at least initially. Characters have 1 action point per level/2 (rounded up) available each game session. Spending an action point BEFORE a roll is made allows you to adjust it by 1d6 in the character's favor and costs the result of the die roll in hit points. The character is making an extreme effort and that has a physical toll. Spending two action points immediately after a roll is made allows you to adjust the roll by 1d6 in the character's favor and costs twice the result of the die roll in hit points. Action points can only be spent on rolls that directly affect the character and are based on actions the character is aware of.

This will probably send some readers away screaming, but I'm willing to give it a try and see how it works out in play. I doubt it will have a major effect on the campaign, other than to let the players succeed slightly more often than they otherwise would. If it causes trouble, it can always be tweaked or even dropped.

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G. Benedicto said...
February 13, 2010 at 11:11 PM  


Heh, I don't think it would hurt to give this concept a try. I've done something similar with Luck points in my own campaigns, and it's worked out fine. There's likely a decrease in PC fatality rates involved, but nothing that could be considered game-breaking.

Timeshadows said...
February 13, 2010 at 11:14 PM  

Go for it. :)

A Paladin In Citadel said...
February 13, 2010 at 11:32 PM  

I applaud your decision, after all, the OD&D rules are just guidelines! Will be curious to hear how it worked out.

Talysman said...
February 14, 2010 at 11:48 AM  

"... action points (by whatever name) are just another (very) limited resource for the player to manage."

Ir's that word "another" that bothers me. For your particular rule change, why have the action point layer at all? Let the players choose to shift a roll 1d6 points in their favor, but you roll 1d6 and they take that as damage. No need for action points, the damage from exertion is the regulator.

Andreas Davour said...
February 14, 2010 at 3:41 PM  

The point of the game is to have fun. If the players like to have some influence over some rolls at the cost of some HP, go ahead!

Sounds workable. I like it.

Ryan said...
February 14, 2010 at 7:59 PM  

I had been thinking of something along these lines, but limited to once per level.

I like your idea, but I have played/run systems where certain abilities cost HP, and I find that players seldom, if ever, use them. (Which, you know, might be just what you're going for.) The most immediate example I can think of is pre-Saga Edition d20 Star Wars; Force abilities cost Vitality (which are more or less hit points) As a result, the Jedi in that campaign settled everything with a lightsaber. Just some food for thought.

So, out of curiosity, can a PC actually die from this?

Randall said...
February 15, 2010 at 5:00 PM  

Action Points did not get much use in Sunday's game. but my initial reaction is that this system isn't obviously broken.

Talysman: Why did I use Action Points instead of just roll shifts for hit points? I like having a name for it and I wanted an easy way to tie the number of times they can be used in a session to character level.

Ryan: Using hit points isn't a problem for most of my current players as most of them started playing "old school" with my M74 rules and are therefore used to spending HP for things. Your point, however, should certainly be considered by any who want to adapt this for their games.

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