Bonus Action Points

Midway through 3rd Edition, I added a new system of rewards to my games. This system, simply called “action dice,” was in vogue at the time, and many d20 System publishers implemented similar mechanics into their own core rules.

Action dice were a powerful tool for any player’s arsenal, allowing them to help turn a character’s crushing failure into heroic success. DM’s had access to a similar pool of action dice, giving them access to the same tools for helping the bad guys get a leg-up in dire situations.

Each action die could be used to add a d6 to an attack or skill check, be used to activate critical hits or misses, help stave off death for fallen comrades, or grant a special, one-time ability.

Action dice made the game more enjoyable for everyone; they helped players succeed when it was really important and assisted DM’s in redirecting an adventure when it had hurtled off course. They also served as a tangible reward for creative and enthusiastic players. Used well, action dice made encounters more dramatic and exciting.

I was very excited when 4th Edition announced that they were going to include action points in the core rules. Imagine my sadness when finally I read what action points did. As happy as I was at their inclusion in the game rules, so too was I disappointed at how they affected the game in such a limited fashion. After careful thought, I decided to reimplement my old action dice rules (albeit with major modifications).

As of April 2011, my games no longer use this house rule. I now use Fortune Cards, handed out at my discretion, to be redeemed in whatever way facilitates the most fun.

The basic jist is this: In addition to the single action point a player receives, the DM may award one or more extra action points when he feels that a player has roleplayed his character exceptionally well, exhibited impressive leadership or problem-solving ability, entertained the group, or otherwise improved the gaming experience in some way.

Also, should one player feel that another player deserves a bonus action point for something that the DM does not award, he may feel free to nominate that player and explain the reasoning. Recognize that the DM is the final arbiter of who gains bonus action points and why.

I use glass beads to keep track of action points in my game. Standard action points and bonus action points are clearly differentiated by color. Any bonus action points awarded may be spent at any time, including multiple times in a single encounter. Bonus action points are retained after a rest. However, they vanish at the end of each game session—no exceptions.

Here is the current list of what an action point can be used to do:

  • Accurate: Add 1d6 to an attack, per tier.
  • Energized: Gain an extra action (minor, move, or standard).
  • Lucky: Reduce the damage done by an enemy hit by a quarter.
  • Powered: Add 1d6 to damage, per tier.
  • Quick: Move half your speed as a shift.
  • Resilient: Turn a failed saving throw into a success.
  • Resourceful: Regain a used encounter power.
  • Rescuer: Grant a downed ally a 20 for their death save.
  • Stalwart: Negate one push, pull, slide or knocked prone effect.
  • Sturdy: Gain an immediate bonus second wind.

Some characters may gain powers that mimic one of the above abilities. If this occurs, the bonus action point rules will be revisited and amended if necessary.