Axebird's Workshop

Action Points (WIP)

Weird early morning rambling on the subject:

So, action points as we've usually run with them let you take a single extra action of any type during your turn (standard, move, or swift). These sorts of effects can't be stacked, so you don't end up with, for instance, a wizard machine gunning three or more high level spells to dust an encounter as anti-climactically as possible. You do still get into problems where action points heavily reward novaing offense harder than a non-AP character can, with little reason to do other things. Spellcasters fire off more spells or make really sure that Save vs Loss sticks. Martial characters pop standard action abilities or buffs before/after a full attack for huge lethality spikes with no chance to react, or suddenly show up in the face of someone who made tactical decisions to avoid being in range of a full attack. Stuff like that. When enemies roll in with AP they're encouraged to pop all of 'em on the party because they don't usually have to plan for more battles in the near future.

The Black Marches version of Action Points has other, similar issues. They can be used to improve die rolls after the fact by a scaling value, despite the same increase having identical value at levels 1 and 20 (but perhaps being incapable of saving you from a bad roll at low levels). They reduce the value of preparedness by allowing characters to retroactively claim they prepared the right spell all along (also increasing the effective impact of spellcasters). They're also fungible for more abilities per day, encouraging spamming and potentially breaking expected use patterns. They also encourage heavier nova behavior for martial characters and have incredibly vague use cases like "GM figures out some bullshit thing you can do for an arbitrary cost". The only good thing they do is help reduce PC lethality by letting you avoid death, but they do so in an arbitrary and impenetrable way (Biffed hard on a save versus getting your soul ripped out of your body? Don't worry, it's in two places now, and you're just unconscious).

So instead, I thought it might be a better idea to focus on using AP to mitigate situations that feel shitty or anticlimactic, let you focus on making a particular effect really stick, and reduce lethality (especially from Save vs Loss effects that get dramatically more dangerous as the game goes on). Hypothetically you might have action point uses that do stuff like:

  • Reroll an attack routine and use the better result; for times when your badass warrior engages the Lord of Darkness and completely fails to accomplish anything during an otherwise reasonable attempt to whale on a mofo, but without just stacking on more damage output
  • Reroll a failed saving throw; to reduce the odds of important characters just getting ruined by random bad luck without eliminating the chance or usefulness of such abilities through things like ablative saves- this also makes attacks targeted against strong saves less likely to punch through and get a lucky hit, but doesn't make bad saves nearly as safe
  • Retain a use of a limited-use ability that just failed without landing any partial effects; a scorching ray that whiffed on all attacks, a Flesh to Stone your target saved on, and so on- get another shot at making your super duper cool finisher work, without making action points fungible with wizards getting more spells and psions getting more pp, increasing the effective accuracy of such attacks, or letting people fire off abilities faster

Notably, these would not let you take additional actions at any time. That way leads to madness and exploding enemies and PCs. If the design goals are "reduce lethality from save versus loss effects" and "reduce anticlimactic action", these three use cases should suffice.

Actual Mechanics
Roleplaying games are governed by random number generators. Creatures and characters roll dice to see whether their struggles succeed or fail, damage can be miniscule or punishing, and your amazing finishing move might just utterly fail right when you need it most. This isn't a problem, more of a feature- the input of a random number generator (ie: the dice) creates unexpected stories and memorable events more often than not. But sometimes the results of dice are just anticlimactic and disappointing, especially in the context of a game where a hero can suddenly die because they failed one roll. As a solution to that problem- without disrupting other aspects of gameplay or encouraging overwhelming offense- PCs gain a regenerating resource pool called action points.

Characters begin play with a maximum of 1 action point. Their maximum number of action points increases by 1 at 6th level, 11th level, and 16th level, to a total of 4. A character recovers their action points if they rest for 8 hours, losing any unused action points and gaining the maximum number they can possess. A character can expend an action point only once per round, to achieve any of the following effects:

  • Reroll an Attack: After making an attack with the attack action or performing a Full Attack, you can expend an action point to reroll all attacks made with your action. You can choose whichever result you prefer (usually the one that results in the most successful hits).
  • Reroll a Save: After failing a saving throw, you can expend an action point to reroll your saving throw- use the higher result.
  • Retain an Ability: If you activate an ability limited to a certain number of uses per day and it fails to do anything (such as a casting of scorching ray that misses all attacks, or a flesh to stone your target saves against, but not a fireball all targets take half damage from) you can expend an action point to retain the use of that ability you would otherwise have lost, as if you'd never activated it.

Grab On (WIP)

Sometimes characters will want to climb onto another creature, avoiding their ability to return fire or just inconvenience them. You can attempt to grab on to an enemy in place of an attack.
Grabbing on to an enemy requires (MATH HERE). The DC to hang on to an enemy is (MATH HERE).
Hanging On: Once you've attached yourself to your enemy, you follow their movements. Move into their space, and move whenever they do. You count as being in all spaces your target occupies for determining your reach, just as if you were riding a mount. You may attack with any light or one handed weapon, and your target is denied their Dexterity bonus against you.
Being Hung On To: If another creature has grabbed you, their weight counts against your carrying capacity, possibly moving you into a new encumbrance threshold and immobilizing you. You can attack creatures hanging on to you, but only add half of your Strength or Dexterity modifier to damage and suffer a -4 penalty to hit. You may attempt to shake your opponent off as an attack action (MATH HERE).

Work-in-Progress Feats

Utility Summon (Name Pending)
You're adept at summoning creatures to act as aides and companions, rather than soldiers.
Prerequisites: ???
Benefit: When you summon a single creature through a summon monster or summon nature's ally spell you can designate them as a utility summon. You can have only one utility summon at a time, and if you designate another before the previous utility summon's duration expires the older summoned creature immediately ends. A utility summon has a dramatically increased duration, remaining for 24 hours rather than 1 round per level. In exchange, they are incapable of harming other creatures- they cannot make attacks or use any ability, spell, or spell-like ability against an unwilling target (even if the target would otherwise be considered willing due to being unconscious).
Special: A character with the Summoner class can use their summon monster spell-like ability to summon a utility creature while their eidolon is present, and additional castings of *summon monster* do not cause the utility summon effect to immediately end.

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