Designing an RPG: Action Points & Hero Points | KingSpoom's RPG Design & Theory Junkyard

Designing an RPG: Action Points & Hero Points

Fate points, brownie points, hero points, karma, etc... Under the guise of any name, hero points can be a valuable tool in rpgs. They can link together several different aspects of resolution together into one subsystem. They are often used to reward types of behavior or encourage certain actions. There are 3 things to remember when designing hero points for your system: What they do, how you earn them, and what the character knows.

There are many different things that hero points do, throughout varying systems. Some of them give you bonuses to a roll, some of them let you change or introduce facts normally outside of your control, some of them make you automatically succeed, and some of them let you redo an action completely. The first thing you should do is determine what kind of effect you want out of your hero point mechanic. With that written down, you will be able to determine whether or not anything interferes with it.

Example 1: If your hero points let you automatically succeed at a task, you'll find that you're temporarily changing your resultion system. This can have a negative impact, as you will would be removing challenge (or risk) from the equation. It would, however, ensure that the players get what they want out of a scene (given that it's possible).

Example 2: If your hero points let you introduce or alter facts normally outside of your control, you'll find that you're temporarily changing the role of the player. Be wary of this style of hero points if you favor immersion, as they will likely hinder it. On the upside, hero points of this manner can have a longer-lasting effect on the narrative of the game and can allow the player to directly introduce content he enjoys.

Example 3: If your hero points let you reroll an attempt, you might have a problem with how your resolution system works. Although subtle, you might be introducing a way for the system to look deadly while still allowing the PCs to survive easily. On the other hand, mechanics like this can go a great deal with showing how determined a character is and gives players another chance to see a course of action to the end.

Example 4: If your hero points give you a bonus to your roll, you might be looking for a light touch. Big bonuses start to creep into *automatic success* territory; small bonuses might have a negligable effect. These type of hero points are affected largely by the other factors of hero points.

Next section is due next week.