I have now gone back over the hero point rules in Pathfinder. Plenty of games use this mechanic in one form or another (Savage Worlds and “Bennies”, FATE and FATE points, James Bond uses hero points, Warhammer has FATE etc.). Each of these games put their own spin on them too. I am taking the concept in for myself and regurgitating it in a way that will hopefully encourage great action and storytelling opportunities, which means I have to change the way that it is presented in the Advanced Players Guide of Pathfinder a good deal.
Hero Points: When to award them?
The guide begins by telling me when to award points. Firstly, a character gains a hero point on each level up. Agreed, no problems there. Another suggests giving a point for a completed back story. I don’t like this. I know I am trying to encourage role playing but to me a player should have a desire to think about the character back story prior to playing it. So I am chucking that one out. Completing a plot arc is another one and I think I will keep that for the longer plot arcs that the players follow. They should be rewarded whenever a plan of theirs comes to fruition.
Faith is listed where if a character follows the tenets of their God they should be rewarded. This is one I do not want to get involved in. After all, what are those tenets and how should they be fulfilled? It opens a whole other level to religions in the game that complicates things further so I am throwing it away. Group service is in there for stuff like buying food and stuff when we play. Our group pretty much has a “bring a plate” rule and sometimes one of us will buy a pizza but it all gets shared around in the longer term. I am not saying no to this because if one of my players spent some cash on props of mood setting stuff I would likely give a point to them so this one is in.
That leaves us with heroic acts which will always get a point from me. The stuff that adventures are made of are heroic (and in the pirate campaign – villainous) actions that bring the enjoyment to the table. Add to this though that I am going to reward innovation, clever thinking and great role playing with hero points as well! These are not mentioned but they just have to be there. If a player rips out a way to drive the dragon off and never has to cast a spell or lift a blade then that deserves reward to me. They talk about when returning from death that they should not lose Hero Points and I agree with that and I will also give a hero point to those that had none at their death also.
Hero Points and limits
Finally, in their structure, they mentioned that no player should have above three points. As I have been considering the things I was going to put in place I was thinking about abolishing this limit but I understand its purpose too well. The purpose here is not to restrict the heroism that a player can take on. Rather the limit is to encourage the spending of points. I have seen people cling to points like these and be going through the most troubling situations and you say why not use a point? They generally reply that they are saving them for when they really need them. FATE Core talks about creating an economy where the points flow backwards and forwards. FATE is predicated on this system though and Pathfinder uses it as an optional add on so the points will not flow as fast but they are there to be used. So because of that realisation the three point limit is going to stay.
What can Hero Points Do?
The Advanced Players Guide lists eight situations where they can be used and state quite clearly that the use of Hero Points should be limited to one per turn with one exception.
- Act out of turn: Did not ready your action, or you are later in the turn, act now;
- Bonus: Gain a generous +8 to a roll if you elect to use this prior to rolling or +4 if you elect to use it after you have rolled the die;
- Extra Action: Reloaded the crossbow but you are out of actions, 1 Action Point can fix that;
- Need a hint? If a hint is to be had the GM will take your point in exchange for it;
- Recall: That spell been taken by Vance? This can make it (or other special abilities) return ready to use;
- Reroll: Want a second chance at the roll you just glitched? Sure, no problems;
- Special: Want to attempt something practically impossible? It is still going to be hard but at least you have a chance.
- Cheat Death: for two points that blow that just decapitated you stops at the bone and while it is enough to knock you down, you have stabilised too…
I agree with all of the rules here but for what I want I need to go one step further. I am simply going to change the “special” section so that it does not have the spending limit applied to it. That is, if the player wants to beg forgiveness from Smaug as he bears down ready to incinerate him then you can chuck over a Hero Point. The GM says “O.K. but it is a DC: 35 check” and the player looks at his measly +15 Diplomacy. Rather than being forced to roll a ’20’ with my removal of the spending limit with Special events would then allow the player to add a further +8 to the roll with another hero pint making it now a 12 plus. Further to that, if they fail the first roll, they could reroll if they had the third and final Hero Point.
But I also want it to be more than just mechanics as well so I will listen to petitions from players so they can add stuff to scenes, or if they want to do something “cool” then they can barter with me. “My monk wants to step across the heads of the orc’s in front of the Ogre Chieftan and leap at him with a stunning fist!”. Normally that would involve a bunch of athletics checks according to the number of the orcs but the player offers up two hero points and I tell them “Sure! Sounds awesome. I’ll even throw in an automatic stun if you manage to hit the Ogre when you arrive…” after all, two hero points can save you from death!
Hero Point Add Ons
The Advanced Players Guide then goes on to add several feats, spells and magical items that bolster the use of hero points. I am not sure that any of these would be of interest to my players but they are all valid in my games. I could not ever imagine myself wasting a feat on these but reading through them I will admit that they could tempt some of my players so who knows. Let them be the arbiters of their own characters.
My Final Thoughts
So there you have it. I have finally come to the end of the changes that I have been making to encourage role playing in the games. Hero Points actually surprised me. It had been a long time since I read through the rules and I actually thought they were a lot less useful than they actually are. I think that the above changes will work well and encourage a little more thought about heroic (or villainous) action at the table and perhaps balance out those OP encounters that my players have fallen foul of recently. Let me know what you think and keep rolling!
Legalese: Image included in this blog post is used under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non-Commercial – No Derivative Works 3.0 License and was created by Pramod Koshy George who has a Deviant Art Page here.