Do you want the ability to “juice the combat”? Do you want a mechanic to smooth over the rough spots, increase PC interaction with the game world, and avoid the occasional character death?
Here you go! These five variants on the action point rules—fate points, hero points, kickers, player biscuits, and short takes—are ready for play, even in addition to existing action point rules, no matter the edition…
Players can steer the plot. Inspired by Spirit of the Century, here’s a version for D&D.
Gameplay Solution—Encourages roleplaying by giving incentives.
Dispense—During roleplaying moments, the GM offers a player a fate point to further the plot, to accept a mild mechanical consequence, or to take or forego a specific action. Players can spend fate points any time during the rest of that session.
Mechanics—Players may spend fate points to reverse the ill fortune of comrades (negate and reroll a “bad outcome,” but the new roll must be accepted).
Limit—There should be no more than 2 fate points/player each adventure.
Everyone wants to be a hero, right? To be a hero, you have to aim big.
Gameplay Solution—Significant actions can be taken outside the orderly flow of initiative.
Earn—When a PC does something really, truly heroic.
Dispense—Players receive a large token (perhaps a cardboard circle 3 inches in diameter) any time they do something completely selfless (or completely evil if using the villain point variant). Spray paint it silver, write “HERO” in black, and attach a glittery chain. Or just give them a hand-written, torn-out chit and paint a glowing verbal picture.
Mechanics—Players may spend hero points at any time, allowing them to act when a PC or NPC is in danger. The player using the hero point may take an extra full round action for their character.
Limit—Players may only have one hero point at a time.
This is the tried and true, easy boost to try to avoid certain doom.
Gameplay Solution—Players improve rolls.
Dispense—PCs gain 1 kicker/2 levels at the start of an adventure. Unused kickers evaporate at the end. When a new adventure starts, new kickers are handed out.
Earn—PCs earn 1 kicker every play session.
Mechanics—Add 1d6 to any d20 roll. Players must declare the use of kickers before rolling.
Limit—None. If a player has 6 and wants to add 6d6 to a single roll, go for it!
Player biscuits were inspired by Francie S., who had the original idea 24 years ago. Player Biscuits are non-refundable.
Gameplay Solution—Players improve successful rolls by feeding GM.
Dispense—Provide each player with a homemade or store-bought cookie at the start of the game. They may eat them or redeem them later. (Those who actually eat the cookies should be noted for special treatment later.)
Mechanics—If a player wants to improve an already successful roll, they hand the GM a cookie. The GM promptly eats the cookie and allows the player to modify the result of their attempt.
Limit—Uneaten cookies become the GMs property at the end of the night. Burp!
Gameplay Solution—Banks low rolls into later success.
Dispense—The GM hands out tokens to players that roll a 1 on a d20.
Mechanics—Players hand in a short take token to get +1d6 (2 tokens are worth +1d10, and 3 tokens are worth +1d20) on any roll. Players may declare using short take tokens any time during their action, even after the roll. Short take tokens cannot be used on the roll for which they were earned.
With thanks to Monte Cook for the hero points system in Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved.