A number of great bloggers have written commentary on the use of action points in 4e, and many have made good suggestions as to how to make the use of action points a bit bolder. Ameron’s “Putting More ‘Action’ in Action Points” on Dungeon’sMaster.com, “Other Uses for Action Points” on Polyhedral, and “Fun with D&D 4e Action Points” by the Chatty DM come to mind. I’ve been struggling with this question myself as my group hits our one year anniversary of play. More often than not, action points are being used as a simple re-roll which gets the job done mechanically, but fails to create the big moments that I’m looking for in our encounters.
So, David and I put together a set of simple house rules that attempt to encourage bold play without nerfing the flexibility of the system as a whole. These ideas definitely build upon suggestions others have already made but, hopefully, take them one step further.
Action Point Combo Rules
- First up, Action Points must be spent as part of a declared “combo”. I think of a combo as a “moment” described by a player in advance of rolling and including two or more actions). This eliminates the boring “reroll” usage and asks the players to describe what they are looking to accomplish in context of the battle around them. It could be used to attack two enemies, or one enemy twice, or to run across the battlefield to disarm an artillery trap, or just about anything really.
- In addition, Action Points can be spent as a free action at any time, including on another combatant’s turn. This opens up the possibility of creating an orchestrated combo with other party members. There’s a lot of runway for pure awesomeness here, and it gives the party an opportunity to create signature cooperative moves. I also consider this an opening for multi-action-point-mega-combos across the party. One note, while the action point can be used as a free action, it is still not an immediate interrupt or reaction.
- Finally, I’ve seen it suggested elsewhere that the DM might reward particularly awesome actions by tossing a bonus action point into a pool for the party to spend as they see fit. I like this idea and have started awarding a party action point if a particularly cool combo is successful.
We’ve started play-testing these ideas and I like the results. More importantly, I saw more creative uses of action points in the very first session. So far, I’m happy to accept the possibility that I’m making action points more powerful if it results in more engaged storytelling by players around the table. I say let the “reroll” powers come from racial feats and magic items and let’s reclaim the action point for BOLD ACTION and combo-move awesomeness! What say you?