Action points represent the something special that only the heroes possess. Call it fate, luck or divine intervention. Mechanically, they give a player the means to affect game play in significant ways, by improving important rolls or unlocking special abilities. Each character has a limited number of action points, and once an action point is spent, it is gone for good.
Acquiring Action Points
A beginning (1st-level) character starts the game with 5 action points. A character above 1st level starts the game with a number of action points equal to 5 + 1/2 his current character level.
Every time a character advances, he gains a number of action points equal to 1/2 his new character level. At the conclusion of each scene (usually 3-5 encounters) the GM will grant 2 action points and at the end of each act (usually 3-5 scenes) the GM will grant 5 action points.
Action points will also be granted intermittently to recognize the exceptional contributions to the game, such as posts on Obsidian Portal, impressive acts of heroism or self-sacrifice, and so on.
Action Points and Higher-Level Characters
Adding action points to higher-level character is easy. Each character simply gains a number of action points equal to 5 + 1/2 his character level.
NPCs and Action Points
Most NPCs won’t have action points. In the case of important villains or other significant characters, however, the GM may award them an appropriate number of action points to use against the player characters. A number of action points equal to 1/2 the NPC’s level is a good baseline.
Using Action Points
You can spend 1 action point either to add to a single d20 roll, to take a special action, or to improve the use of a feat.
You can spend 1 action point in a round. If you spend a point to use a special action (see below), you can’t spend another one in the same round to improve a die roll, and vice versa.
Add to a d20 Roll
When you spend 1 action point to improve a d20 roll, you add the result of a 1d6 to your d20 roll (including attack rolls, saves, checks, or any other roll of a d20) to help you meet or exceed the target number. You can declare the use of 1 action point to alter a d20 roll after the roll is made, but only before the GM reveals the result of that roll. You can’t use an action point to alter the result of a d20 roll when you are taking 10 or taking 20.
Depending on character level (see table), a character might be able to roll more than one d6 when he spends 1 action point. If so, apply the highest result and disregard the other rolls. A 15th-level character, for instance, gets to roll 3d6 and take the best result of the three. So, if he rolled a 1, 2, and 4, he would apply the 4 to his d20 roll.
A character can perform certain tasks by spending an action point. In addition to the actions described below, some prestige classes or feats (see below) might allow the expenditure of action points in order to gain or activate specific abilities, at the GM’s option.
- Activate Class Ability: A character can spend 1 action point to gain another use of a class ability that has a limited number of uses per day. For example, a monk might spend an action point to gain another use of her stunning fist ability, or a paladin might spend an action point to make an additional smite attack.
- Boost Defense: A character can spend 1 action point as a free action when fighting defensively. This gives him double the normal benefits for fighting defensively for the entire round (-2 to attack, +4 to AC; +6 if he has 3 or more ranks in Acrobatics). Similarly, a character can spend 1 action point to double the benefits from full defense.
- Extra attack: During any round in which a character takes a full attack action, he may spend 1 action point to make an extra attack at his highest base attack bonus. Action points may be used in this way with both melee and ranged attacks.
- Spell Boost: A character can spend 1 action point as a free action to increase the effective caster level of one of his spells by 2. He must decide whether or not to spend an action point in this manner before casting the spell.
- Spell Recall: Spellcasters who prepare their spells in advance can spend 1 action point to recall any spell just cast. The spell can be cast again later with no effect on other prepared spells. This use of an action point is a free action and can only be done in the same round that the spell is cast. Spontaneous spellcasters such as sorcerers and bards can spend 1 action point to cast a spell without using one of their daily spell slots. This use of an action point is a free action and can only be done as the spell is being cast.
- Stablize: Any time a character is dying, he can spend 1 action point to become stable at his current hit point total.
The use of action points opens up a whole range of possible feats. Below are a few examples of how action points can be used with existing feats. Unless otherwise stated, each effect requires a free action to activate and lasts 1 round. Additional feat improves for actions points can be developed as needed.
- Blind-Fight: You can spend 1 action point to negate your miss chance for a single attack.
- Combat Expertise: You can spend 1 action point to double the bonus to Armor Class granted by the feat. For example, if you take a penalty of -3 on your attack roll, you gain a +6 dodge bonus to AC.
- Dodge: You can spend 1 action point to increase the dodge bonus granted by the feat to +2. The effect lasts for the entire encounter.
- Improved Critical: You can spend 1 action point to double your critical threat range. Since two doublings equals a tripling, this benefit increases your threat range from 19-20 to 18-20, from 17-20 to 15-20, or from 15-20 to 12-20, including the effect of your Improved Critical feat. This benefit stacks with the benefit from Improved Critical, but not with other effects that increase threat range.
- Improved Initiative: You can spend 1 action point to double the bonus on initiative checks granted by the feat, from +4 to +8.
- Metamagic Feats: You can spend 1 action point to add the effect of any one metamagic feat that you have to a spell you are casting. The spell must be of a level that you could normally cast using the metamagic feat
- Power Attack: You can spend 1 action point to double the bonus on damage rolls granted by the feat. For example, if you take a penalty of -3 on your attack roll, you add +6 to your damage roll.
- Spell Focus: You can spend 1 action point to double the increase to save DCs granted by the feat, from +1 to +2. This effect lasts for the entire encounter.
- Spell Penetration: You can spend 1 action point to double the bonus on caster level checks granted by the feat, from +2 to +4. The effect lasts for the entire encounter.