4e D&D is a game that is designed for combat as all the mechanics of the game sing within. Outside of combat, play is more loosely defined and most of the game’s mechanics are no longer engaged. In this post I am taking a look at the utility of action points.
Action points are only usable within combat, they serve no other purpose than to give a player a free standard action once per encounter. It seems to me that we can open this up and come up with other uses for these action points. For inspiration, I have pulled from the concept of fate points from FATE.
On the right we have a sample power to replace the standard action point. Basically, we’re looking at an at will power that can be employed for a variety of purposes, many of which do not specifically apply to combat. While the power is listed as no action, it is limited to once per round to prevent excessive use. Let’s take a look at the possible effects we can achieve with this new action point.
Gain a standard action this turn
This effect is the standard action point effect, and is restrained by a special condition that it can only be used once per encounter. Its a solid effect, and there is no reason to change it here.
Gain a +2 bonus to a non-damage roll
This is straight forward, and perhaps the least useful effect for the power. It only grants a +2 bonus, but it can be invoked after die roll, which can be a life saver.
Press an advantage for a +4 bonus to a non-damage roll
This is largely situation. Basically, what we are looking at is allow a player to exploit a logical advantage they have within the fiction that is not regularly supported by the mechanics of the game. For example, a character may be attacking with a height advantage, or bringing up damaging evidence in an argument that sways the crowd in his favor. Situational bonuses are a pretty common DMing practice, this is just applying a specific mechanic for it.
Make a declaration
Basically, this allows a player to assert a minor fact into the fiction. This is not indented to hand wave obstacles or instantly solve problems. For example, a character finds himself in a dark dungeon without any of his possessions. He finds an unlit torch, and spends an action point to make a declaration “they didn’t find my flint and steel” so now he can light the torch. Not a huge deal, but helpful. This could also be used in other situations, for example the characters encounter a soldier. She happens to be in the army one of the characters is/was in. That player makes a declaration “I know her from the war.” While not directly important the declaration introduces some interesting possibilities for the story.
Invoke for Effect
This is similar to the the concept employed by press an advantage. Frequently in play there are events that occur that would naturally result in specific consequences that are not supported by the mechanics of the game. For example, say the characters set a boulder trap, and a monster springs the trap. The boulder strikes the monster, and does its damages, but that is it. So, one of the characters invokes an action point for the effect, “the boulder knocks the monster prone.” Again, nothing game breaking.
While these actions open up the action point to other areas of the game, they are still limited to being earned to once per milestone. But, now that we have all these fun new options wouldn’t it be nice to earn more action points? I’ll address that topic in a future post, but essentially my solution is to replace the milestone award with an award mechanism that uses something like the keys concept from the Shadow of Yesterday.