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Action Points

Action Points (abbreviated as AP) allow player characters (and important NPCs) to receive bonuses when performing dramatic or heroic actions (see Using Skills). By using Action Points, players can have their characters pull off amazing stunts and heroic feats, such as jumping off of a cliff, avoiding an explosion, or even dodging a gunshot or arrow! Rather than relying on a random chance as dictated by the dice, players can create their character's successes when they need them most!

A character begins each game session with one free Action Point. A character can gain more Action Points by attempting dramatic and heroic actions. Players can be awarded additional Action Points by the GM at any time during a game. Generally, Action Points are awarded for attempting dramatic and heroic actions. GMs can also award additional Action Points for role-playing and anything else they deem appropriate. Action Points are not the only award that players will receive. There are improvements to be purchased and disadvantages to be eliminated using Experience Points as well (see Experience Points).

A character can save Action Points from one game session to the next, but never more than 3. If a character has more than 3 Action Points but does not use them by the end of the game session, they are lost. GMs should not be stingy with Action Points, and players should use them as often as possible, especially in cinematic style games.

When To Use Action Points

Dramatic or Heroic Actions

Action Points may be used for any dramatic or heroic action with GM's permission.

A dramatic action is any action or moment in the game that is especially exciting, tense, suspenseful, or is very important to the story. Think of it in terms of an action movie; if something happens that scares you, has you on the edge of your seat, makes you want to jump up and yell, "Yes!" or clap really loud, it was probably a dramatic moment in the movie.

Examples of dramatic moments include jumping from a high-rise office window to a helicopter hovering outside, an escaped prisoner of war narrowly avoiding enemy soldiers who are searching for him, a showdown or duel between two long-time rivals or arch enemies, and disarming a nuclear warhead with seconds to spare.

After the Dice Are Rolled

Action Points may be used after the dice have been rolled but must be used before the GM describes the outcome of the events for that turn. A player may not use more Action Points in a single game session than the character has, and no more than three Action Points can be used with any single action or skill roll.

What Action Points Do

Action Points may be used in one of several ways to enhance a character's performance in a game.

A player may use up to three available Action Points in any single turn. These may be split up and used on different actions, events or dice rolls, as long as they all take place in the same turn.

Boost a Skill Roll

Each Action Point used to boost a skill roll adds a bonus of +5 to the roll.

Nicholas is playing in a gritty superhero game. His character, Dark Justice, is facing two gunmen in a shopping mall. One of the gunmen turns and fires his gun into the crowd. Nicholas wants to protect the innocent bystanders, so he tells the GM "Dark Justice is going to throw his mini-shield to hit the gun and knock it upward, so that no one gets hit." The GM considers the action and decides that Nicholas needs to make an Extreme Throwing skill roll (TN 27). Dark Justice has REF of 7 and his Throwing skill is +5, for a total of 12. Nicholas rolls 3d6 and gets 14, for a total of 26. Ordinarily Nicholas would have failed the roll. But Nicholas decides to spend an Action Point. The GM allows it because it is a dramatic moment in the adventure. Nicholas spends one AP and adds 5 to his roll, making his new total 31, turning the failed attempt into a successful one. Dark Justice thwarts the evil gunman's plans and saves the innocents! Nicholas then marks off one Action Point from his character sheet, and the game continues.

Should the GM deem it appropriate, using Action Points to fulfill a heroic or important plot or goal may be reason enough to award an additional Action Point!

Boost a Control Roll

Action Points may also be used to add to the Control Roll of a Disadvantage, but only with GM's permission (see Control Rolls, page 12). Each Action Point used to boost a Control Roll adds a bonus of +5 and is calculated the same as the skill roll boost.

Tim's character has the psychological disadvantage Phobia (Claustrophobia) at the Hardship level. During a game, Tim's character enters an elevator. Because psychological disadvantages kick in automatically, the GM tells Tim that his character begins to experience extreme anxiety and that Tim must make a Control Roll to avoid mild panic and the accompanying +6 TN to all his skill rolls. The Control Roll is 10 for a Hardship, so Tim rolls 3d6 and gets an 8. Failure! But Tim tells the GM that he really needs to make this roll and spends an Action Point to boost the roll. Tim adds 5 to his roll, making it a 13, turning the failed roll into a successful one. Tim's character gains his composure and is able to control his phobia for the elevator ride.

Boost an Attribute

Each Action Point spent will temporarily increase a primary attribute by 1, or a derived attribute by 5.

Attributes increased in this way do not also increase derived attributes, although this may be used to increase the attribute for use with a skill roll.

This increase lasts for the duration of one "event" within the game, not merely one skill roll.

Ryan is playing Louisiana Smith, an archaeologist and explorer, in a pulp adventure game. In the game, Louisiana has just recovered a stolen artifact from a Nazi camp. As he sneaks through the camp, he comes face to face with a big, tough Nazi soldier who is guarding a Flying Wing airplane that Louisiana needs to escape. Louisiana's STR is only 3, he will do only 1d6+2 damage when Louisiana punches his opponent. Ryan knows he'll have to do more, because this guard is very big. Ryan spends one Action Point to increase his STR to 4 for one turn. Now, if Louisiana connects with a punch he will do 2d6 damage! His increased STR does not increase any of his Derived Attributes, such as his TGH, however. The GM determines that a fist fight is an "event" and allows Louisiana to keep his STR at 4 for the duration of the fight. Whether Louisiana wins or loses, however, once the fight is over his STR will return to 3.

Reduce Damage

Each Action Point spent reduces the damage from a single attack or event by 5 points. If the damage is effectively reduced to less than 0, treat it as 0 points of damage. This can simulate a "stroke of luck" in which an attack completely misses the character, a glancing blow, a miracle, or any other explanation agreed upon by the player and the GM.

During the fight with the Nazi soldier, Louisiana gets hit with a haymaker punch for 17 points of damage! Louisiana's TGH is only 3, so he will suffer 14 points of damage from the punch. Because this exceeds half his LIF, Louisiana will be knocked unconscious! Ryan decides to spend his last remaining Action Point to reduce the damage of the attack. By spending an Action Point, the damage is reduced from 14 to 9 points. Louisiana reels from the blow but he is still up and fighting!

Increase Damage

Action Points may be spent to increase the damage inflicted by one of the character's own attacks. It may not be used to increase the damage caused by another player's character.

Each Action Point spent in this manner increases the damage done by a single attack or event by 5 points. Damage may be increased up to 2x the maximum damage normally possible. This can simulate a "stroke of luck" in which a the opponent moves into a punch, a lucky blow, a miracle, or any other explanation agreed upon by the player and the GM.

Louisiana needs to finish the guard off, and Ryan tries for one mighty punch to the guard's head in an attempt to knock him out. Ryan makes his attack roll -- success! Normally Louisiana would do 2d6 damage with a punch (from the previous example), but Ryan spends an Action Point to boost the damage.. Wham! The guard is hit, and Ryan rolls his damage (2d6) and gets 6. Then he adds 5 points for the Action Point for a total of 11, knocking the guard out.

Gaining Action Points

Characters can gain Action Points during the game. When a character fulfills one of the following criteria, the GM should award an Action Point to the character. GMs should not be stingy with Action Points, and players should use them as often as possible, especially in cinematic style games. For guidelines on how many Action Points to award in a game session, see the next section.

When to Award an Action Point

Dramatic or Heroic Actions

The GM should award one Action Point for any particularly dramatic and heroic action attempted by the characters during the game, whether it is successful or not (see Dramatic or Heroic Actions).

Meet a Goal

If a character manages to fulfill the "in-game goal" for his character, he should receive an Action Point. The fulfillment of the goal must be in a way that logically fits into the current adventure or story.

Louisiana Smith narrowly defeats the Nazi guard in a tough fist fight and climbs aboard the Flying Wing to escape with the artifact he came for. The GM decides that defeating the guard so that Louisiana could use the plane to escape with the artifact is a worthy goal and awards an Action Point to Ryan. Ryan notes the new Action Point on his character sheet.

Memorable Game Moments

GMs can award Action Points to players for especially good role-playing. Any time a player performs a particularly memorable "moment" within the game, portraying his or her character, or does something to improve or propel the story or that entertains the rest of the group in a significant way (GM's discretion), that player deserves an Action Point.

The young Samurai Tateno towered over Hideo, his older, more experienced foe. The older man looked up from his broken sword with wet eyes. "You have shamed me with your skills." "No," replied Tateno, "you have shamed yourself with your lack of them." Turning his back, Tateno walks quietly away, refusing to give Hideo even the death of a Warrior.

Give the GM a Plot Hook

If a player manages to role-play some aspect of his or her character in a way that allows the GM to work it into the main plot of the adventure -- especially if it allows the GM to make a "complication" for the PCs out of it -- the player should receive an Action Point. Many Disadvantages provide great plot hooks for the GM, such as Dependent, Enemy and Secret.

Nicholas's character, Dark Justice, hands over two recently captured gunmen to the police. As the last assailant is placed in a squad car, Nicholas tells the GM that Dark Justice uses his communicator to call his fiancé Nancy's apartment. "He's already running late for their dinner date," Nicholas says, "but he knows she will understand." The GM decides that this is a great opportunity to add a new twist to the story! The GM tells Nicholas that the voice on the other end of the phone is definitely not Nancy. "Good evening," came the voice of Cyrus, Dark Justice's arch enemy. "I am afraid the young lady has made other plans..."

Other Circumstances

GMs can create additional circumstances under which a character gains an Action Point, and some published products will include additional guidelines for awarding Action Points, based on the setting or genre. For example, in a pulp adventure game, characters might gain an Action Point for incorporating their character's "tag line" into normal dialogue during the course of the adventure, for role-playing a scene exceptionally well and in-character, or any situation in the game that the GM feels is deserving of an Action Point award to one or more of the players.

How Many AP to Award

The GM should carefully consider how many Action Points to give out to any single character in a game session, however. Because characters cannot save more than three Action Points from one game session to the next, players will likely spend them freely. If a GM awards 10 Action Points to a character in a single game session, that's effectively the same as giving the player five "automatic successes" to use during the adventure. This is perfectly acceptable, if this is what the GM wants, but it also diminishes the usefulness of points spent on each character's attributes and skills, and some players may feel cheated.

As a guideline, GMs should award an average of one Action Point to each character in Realistic level games, 2 Action Points to each character in Cinematic level games, and 3 or more Action Points to each character in Extreme level games.

Mike is running an anime-style, Extreme level game. Because the game is based on anime, the action is at times over the top, so Mike wants his players to use Action Points frequently in his game. Mike decides that he will award an average of 5 Action Points to each player in his game each game session.

A player can save Action Points from one game to the next, but never more than 3. If a character has more than 3 AP but doesn't use them during the game, the extra points are lost.