Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Action Point

A Guardsman taking a criminal into custody
"There was an Inspector from the Guard here earlier asking about you. Something about an incident at the Ancient Gates? You know they keep close tabs on who passes through those walls -- the Delvers Guild will have likely given up your name if you've gotten mixed up in some nasty business!"
-"Rach," Waitress at The Red Room tavern

I have chosen the phrase Action Points to measure a Character's (Monsters, PCs and NPCs) resources to use Abilities. I had thought of several different other terms prior to deciding on Action Points, such as Willpower, Energy etc. I think Action does a good job of capturing the essence of what I am looking to describe. The meta-ness of Action Point is similar to the Hit Point, which I think is a good parallel. Also, since Characters may have a variety of Abilities from various sources, having a more generic term is helpful.

So, I want to spend this blog post talking about how exactly Action Points get used in the System. As of right now Action Points can be utilized in four different ways.
  1. They are spent and returned in a very quick fashion during conflicts where they represent at-will abilities that depend on some degree of stamina or other quickly-replenishing source of power,
  2. They are spent and returned during Rests (a period of 4-8 hours of inactivity) on Abilities that are more powerful than #1,
  3. They are Burned and only returned during the Upkeep phase of the game -- which is generally the time between adventures or sessions (approximately 30 days / 1 month), and
  4. They are permanently deducted from the Character to pay for Passive Abilities that are always-on.

Advanced Abilities & Action Points

Two of the Playtest Classes will have Advanced Abilities available to them: Fighters and Thieves. I have not detailed any of the Thief yet, but both Classes utilize Action Points in a similar fashion when using Advanced Abilities. First, whenever an Action Point is used to activate an Advanced Ability, this point is moved into the Short Reserve. During any Action where the Character spends NO Action Points, a point from the Short Reserve is returned to the Character's pool of available Action Points.

Example: Polly the Thief in engaged with a group of Horrible Giant Rats, after having escaped into the sewers following a bad heist. She starts the combat with 5 Action Points. In her first turn, she Hides in Shadows, which is an Advanced Skill -- this moves 1 point from her Action Points into her Short Reserve.
In the following round she uses another Advanced Skill, Vital Strike, which moves another point into her Short Reserve from her Action Point pool. Her totals at the end of her second Action she has 3 Action Points with 2 points in her Short Reserve. Also, since she had spent points during this second Action, no points are returned to her pool from her Short Reserve.
After dropping one of the Giant Rats with her Vital Strike, the remaining rats are a distance away from her. She decides to put herself into Guard so she can make an Opportunity Attack against whichever one comes within Melee first. Since she has not spent any Action Points on this third Action of hers, one of her Action Points from her Short Reserve is returned to her, resulting in 4 Action Points and 1 in Short Reserve.

Major Abilities & Action Points

Two of the Classes in the Playtest will have access to Major Abilities. For Fighters, these are the various Power Attacks available to them through their Weapon Proficiencies. For Magic-users, these are the Partial Incantations of their Spell-Magic.

When using a Major Ability, the Action Point so used is Spent and placed into the Long Reserve. Any points in the Long Reserve are returned when Resting -- which is a period of downtime lasting a few hours, usually spent sleeping.

Example: Daliyah the Pyromancer has accompanied Polly the Thief in her excursion, ending up in combat with a bunch of Giant Rats in the sewers beneath Nein! She starts the combat with 3 Action Points available with 2 already in the Long Reserve from previous encounters. She blasts the group of Giant Rats with the Partial Incantation of Fireball, which Spends 1 Action Point into her Long Reserve. At the end of her action she now has 2 Action Points and 3 in Long Reserve. If Polly and Daliyah retire for the night following this combat, Daliyah will replenish her Action Points in the Long Reserve, for 5 available points.

Supreme Abilities & Action Points

Magic-users will be the only Class in the Playtest who use Supreme Abilities -- the Full Incantations of their Spell-Magic. Using a Supreme Ability Burns up the point which can only be returned during Upkeep -- a major period of down time between adventures. The intention for the design is that PCs will budget the use of their Supreme Abilities for the session and that Upkeep periods will be the time between sessions / adventures. Though, if a group is on a "marathon session" they could choose to take an Upkeep in the middle of their adventure -- but Upkeep periods have their own rules and costs associated with them, as well as being the only period where Experience is tallied and Levels can be gained and Training occurs.

Example: Daliyah and Polly, on their way to exit the sewers after bypassing the Guard and fighting lots of Giant Rats, encounter a Ghastly Crawler slowly making its way around the underground. Daliyah decides to Cast the Full Incantation of Fireball against this Monster -- which Burns one of her Action Points, resulting in 1 Action Point and 3 in Long Reserve. After Resting, Daliyah will have 4 Action Points available to her. After Daliyah and Polly finish their heist and "lay low" for a month, Daliyah will have this Action Point and any others she spent on Full Incantations returned to her for their new heist!

Passive Abilities & Action Points

Thieves have access to Passive Skills, for which they must permanently deduct an Action Point from their available total for. This point is never returned as it is an investment in an ability that is always on for the Thief. These Abilities would be similar to certain Feats from 3rd Edition D&D. The major difference in my implementation is that all Abilities are priced out of the same pool of resources instead of juggling several different resource systems that may not interact well when combined.

Example: Polly the Thief has the "Stabby" Passive Ability. Whenever she uses a Melee Weapon that slices, cuts or pierces she can add 1d6 Damage on any attack roll that roll a "Natural-Even" number (2s, 4s, 6s etc.). This Ability is "always on" as long as she meets the requirements and will stack with other Abilities. As a result of this training, Polly has 1 less Action Point available to her, overall.

Note: I referenced the Thief a lot in this post, I will likely detail some of the Thief Class in the next post, as it has some of its own unique characteristics -- like I have intended for all of the Classes in Sophia's Children.

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