July 6, 2010
4E and Hero Points
Hero Points have been around for awhile now in various game systems. The new Doctor Who game has Story Points. Mutants & Masterminds has Hero Points. Dark Heresy has Fate Points. Serenity and the Cortex System use Plot Points. Shadowrun uses the Karma Pool.
Hero Points are in place to allow for characters to go beyond their normal capabilities. When they are in a really nasty fight they can throw the fight into their favor. It also is a way to mitigate bad die rolls; having a player lose a character due to bad die rolls can be unfun.
So, the question is…Does 4E D&D want or need a Hero Point mechanic?
I say there is already a Hero point system in place for 4E and it is the Action Point. Think about it, Action Points allow a character to go beyond the normal scope of the game system.
A recent example in my game: The fighter found herself in some serious trouble at the beginning of the fight. A magical effect was drawing the characters to the center of the room where they would then take a lot of damage and four minions would appear as well. She was the first to discover this mechanic and took a lot of damage right off the bat. She also was standing at the exact spot where the four minions suddenly appeared next to her. She was looking at taking a dirt nap on her next action. She immediately popped something that let her regenerate herself on her next action.
If she stayed put the magical effect would pull her in again and the damage would have dropped her. If she did a move to get away, the minions would have been enough to drop her. However, she could not move away without getting several Opportunity Attacks which would have dropped her as well. A simple shift was not enough to get her far enough away. Instead she used a shift, then popped an Action Point, then used the extra action as a move and moved safely far enough away to be out of range of the pull-in effect.
And that is the part of the Action Point system that I like over more “traditional” Hero Points. In effect she used a Hero Point to “get the heck out of there and save her butt”. However, instead of a vague system mechanic wherein “she gets lucky and gets away” the player used an ability she always had. Action points allow the player to change the landscape of an encounter while still remaining within the character’s capabilities and abilities.
There is no need to add additinal effects into an Action Point. There are already a myriad of different actions a player can take when they expend an Action Point. They can use it to gain extra attacks or do more damage (by using their extra action to use an attack ability). They can use it to save their character’s life (by using a second wind or an ability that heals themselves, or by simply moving out of a dangerous positioning). They can do all the things a Hero Point can do in other games, but they do it without stepping outside of their normal abilities.