Doing Action Points differently
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  1. #1
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    Doing Action Points differently

    Howdy,

    I'm thinking of starting up a Trailblazer game but the one thing I stumble on is Action Points. I personally absolutely loathe the way they're handled in d20, being given out when characters level. My own personal experience over the years (which apparently is different from everyone else's) is that players hoard them until the very end (which is often the big fight that pushes them into the next level) or they forget about them.

    My approach has been instead to give a limited number of Action Points per-session. Usually 4.

    My question is, what's going to go wonky with Trailblazer in doing that? "Just use them like normal and see how it works for you" really isn't an option for me.

    I realize the caster rest mechanic is throttled by AP; bumping the cost up is a potential way of dealing with it.

    These days I go for high-action and "over the top" sorts of stuff, so I'm not especially worried that the game isn't going to resemble the dirt-farmers-eating-dirt-and-terrified-of-rats approach to D&D that lots of folks seem to like.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scurvy_Platypus View Post
    These days I go for high-action and "over the top" sorts of stuff, so I'm not especially worried that the game isn't going to resemble the dirt-farmers-eating-dirt-and-terrified-of-rats approach to D&D that lots of folks seem to like.
    Whoof! Boy, do you have the wrong impression of my D&D game... If you want that sort of thing, you want Grim Tales.

    Trailblazer is very wa-hoo.

    Now as to your question, we've had this conversation on various sites before. I still think you should try it before you tinker with it; that said, you know your players better than I do.

    The rate at which APs are scheduled in Trailblazer is based on the number of encounters expected between levels (about 12 encounters)-- or one AP every other encounter; with the expectation that not every encounter warrants an AP.

    This actually plays into a hoarding strategy. I'd just make sure to reinforce to your players that there are "tough encounters" in addition to "boss encounters."

    In my own home game, I don't have enough time to run 12 encounters between levels-- I only get in 1 or 2 combats per session, and I don't want to go more than 3-4 sessions between levels. So I have fewer encounters, of a MUCH higher encounter level (like x3 the budget, very often). So there's a pretty good incentive every session to spend APs, even when there isn't a guy standing there with "BOSS" written over his head.

    It may be that your problem isn't so much that your players hoard APs, but rather that you want an over-the-top game where APs aren't a special occurrence, but rather the energy that powers typical occurrences of over-the-top action.

    Why not keep the rule as is, but tell the players that if their action (AP use) is thematically appropriate and/or suitably dramatic, the AP is immediately refunded? This would not rule out all instances of "saving your bacon" but would probably rule out a refund for "I need my spells back."

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf Ratbane View Post
    Whoof! Boy, do you have the wrong impression of my D&D game... If you want that sort of thing, you want Grim Tales.

    Trailblazer is very wa-hoo.
    heh. Actually, you're one of the rare folks online that I've seen who seems fine with referring to their games in the "wa-hoo" department; I wouldn't accuse you of the dirt-farmer approach, even if you did do Grim Tales. And of course Grim Tales was plenty groovy, it just needed to be... adjusted... to account for the difference between my preferences and what the rules were aiming for. Not really an issue for a confirmed hobbyist/hacker like myself, especially since you go for a consistent approach in your rules; something I greatly appreciate as both a hacker and as a player/GM. Rules-light, crunchy, handwave-whatever-to-the-side... I can deal with whichever, I just like it to be consistent. As a public servant (or "not-so-civil servant" as I occasionally refer to myself), that impulse towards consistency just gets reinforced.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf Ratbane View Post
    Now as to your question, we've had this conversation on various sites before. I still think you should try it before you tinker with it; that said, you know your players better than I do.
    *cough* Ummm.... yeah, I've brought this up before. It's like a smudge on my glasses, where I don't _really_ have to do anything about it, but it lurks in background bothering me. And honestly, it's the only major "problem" I've got with Trailblazer; a pretty minor one in the overall scheme of things. It's just a matter of hitting that blend of stuff that makes the players happy and doesn't annoy me. The players are fine with stuff, it's just the AP thing needling me in the background.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wulf Ratbane View Post
    The rate at which APs are scheduled in Trailblazer is based on the number of encounters expected between levels (about 12 encounters)-- or one AP every other encounter; with the expectation that not every encounter warrants an AP.

    This actually plays into a hoarding strategy. I'd just make sure to reinforce to your players that there are "tough encounters" in addition to "boss encounters."

    In my own home game, I don't have enough time to run 12 encounters between levels-- I only get in 1 or 2 combats per session, and I don't want to go more than 3-4 sessions between levels. So I have fewer encounters, of a MUCH higher encounter level (like x3 the budget, very often). So there's a pretty good incentive every session to spend APs, even when there isn't a guy standing there with "BOSS" written over his head.

    It may be that your problem isn't so much that your players hoard APs, but rather that you want an over-the-top game where APs aren't a special occurrence, but rather the energy that powers typical occurrences of over-the-top action.

    Why not keep the rule as is, but tell the players that if their action (AP use) is thematically appropriate and/or suitably dramatic, the AP is immediately refunded? This would not rule out all instances of "saving your bacon" but would probably rule out a refund for "I need my spells back."
    Well, part of the problem is that over the years I've hijacked the AP mechanic. I've found the AP mechanics to usually blow in d20 games, even with the "great" bits added by Eberron; I'll admit I only played Eberron for a little while, so maybe there was some truly great innovation I missed. Anyway, AP were a step in the right direction but I personally felt the need to expand them; moving them from an "oh , I'm gonna die and I've got nothi...wait a sec, Action Point!" mechanic to a resource for players to use either for their character's advantage, or to contribute things to the gameworld.

    Yeah, I'm one of those long-haired (I actually shave my head, but...*shrug*) small press/indy hippie gamers that tries to get players to add things to the gameworld and all that. Spend a resource, get a lucky break, dictate some fact about the gameworld/history/NPC, pull your character's bacon out of the fire... that sort of thing.

    So actually, it's not just that I've found players hoard/forget Action Points. It's that in combatting that and getting more player investment in the game session, I've expanded the role of Action Points. Now, in addition to playing around with the resources of the character (action economy primarily since I don't run mini-based games), players have a "meta" resource that can be spent in a "narrow" fasion on their character, or in a "broad" fashion in influencing the world. Moving from APs per level to APs per session means a player can bounce between states each game and doesn't have to feel that they necessarily "wasted" an AP doing something.

    Part of the AP "economy" in my games does involve points being refreshed "automatically" if it's being used in a thematically/dramatically appropriate way. I just like the approach of a "constant" supply, rather than one which encourages hoarding or has a sort of constant inflation across a level.

    So for example (I don't have my TB book handy so if it's not the case with TB, then that's groovy) the usual approach to AP has them slowly increasing as a character moves across the level earning XP. There's a meta calculation that goes on because they know the Big Bad Boss fight is going to be tough; in part, it's going to be _tougher_ because they have Action Points to begin with. GMs often will either not feel the need to be as careful, or will deliberately make things tougher, because characters have the AP. Sorta like the arms-race between character items and critters, where GMs make critters harder because players have all sorts of funky items and player want all sorts of funky items because GMs are making meatgrinder critters.

    Anyway, they do the meta-calculation. Part of that is making sure that AP are hoarded for the boss and part is trying to figure out when they should "go ahead and blow one", since they don't carry over once the character levels. And then you've got the poor slobs that just plain forget about them and wind up "wasting" a resource usually; they're reminded by either kind GMs or anxious other players to spend one to keep their character alive or make some sort of important roll.

    So you've got AP which gradually inflate across a character's level and then either get spent out right at the end of the charcter's level, or they do nothing and the counter resets on level, starting the whole process all over.

    Hmmm. It's sorta hard to explain my perception but... it's a sort of...philosophical?... approach. Having AP auto-refresh on appropriate thematic/dramtic use is a big step in the direction that I already take; bumping it from "per level" to "per session" shifts the player's focus and makes for a more... consistent?... approach; moving from the "extraordinary" into the "ordinary" realm.

    I don't want the characters to be like super athletes, performing above the ability of normal people and then having an occasional moment of brilliance even for the character. I want them to be rock stars, staggering from one awesome performance to the next, until they collapse, rest, and get back up and start chewing up the stage once again.

    I'll be the first to admit, it's a very different sort of approach I take. My main reasons for asking about what's going to go wonky is because:
    A) I like to avoid shooting myself in the foot when possible
    B) You seem to push beyond the simple surface when designing mechanics and have a much better idea what else is going to jiggle when you tweak a thread of the spiderweb
    C) There's a dim possibility that there's another wild-eyed lunatic out there who'll find my own ramblings appealing, either now or in the future; hopefully this'll save him (and you) work if that's the case.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scurvy_Platypus View Post
    I'm thinking of starting up a Trailblazer game but the one thing I stumble on is Action Points. I personally absolutely loathe the way they're handled in d20, being given out when characters level.
    Trailblazer has the only worthwhile Action Points in d20. And I hand out a lot of them as rewards during play, partly to encourage Awesome, and partly because my players run through them in a hurry (usually by the end of encounter 4).

    TB Action Points are very different from any other AP you've seen. Try them as written before you change them. You've got to know where you're coming from to get where you want to go.


    If you just rush in and perform your suggested change then you've set your campaign to 12 (not 10, not 11, 12. You've out Spinal-Tapped Spinal Tap). Casters will be flinging Restricted spells like Halloween candy, folks will be grabbing extra standard actions every couple of rounds, mythic smite / dodge / resilience will be the norm, all PC critical threats will confirm, no monster will ever critically hit, and the PCs will almost never miss an attack, save, or skill check.
    Everything remotely level-appropriate will be a cake walk. Everything that's overpowering (high AC, high attack, high damage, high DC, etc) will still be overpowering. Which is just about the worst place to end up, as a DM that enjoys challenging players / PCs.


    Best of luck.

  5. #5
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    Hmmm. Looks like I'm just going to have to shelve it then and go back to tinkering. Thanks for the feedback.

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