The 4th edition definition of the action point, which allows for a truly heroic extra action while in the heat of battle, is one of my favorite new additions to the game. In practice, the action point is most often used to get a second chance when an important power fails, or in order to pull of a seriously complex maneuver during a character’ turn, but there are an infinite number of uses for an action point, and all of them add to the heroic nature of the characters who use them – and dread to the evil bosses those characters face. The action point is useful and beloved by all.
However, to my mind,the implementation of the mechanics of the action point seem overly awkward, and rather than adding to the flavor, the rules actually detract from the experience. Av action point is gained every other encounter during a day, which is known as a milestone. Every character starts each new day with an action point, regardless of how many they ended the day with, and no more than one action point can normally be used during a single encounter. In a game where literally everything is divided into at-will, encounter, and daily powers, the action point inhabits a foggy place between encounter and daily. In layman’s parlance, rather than rules lawyer, it means a character can use an action point every other encounter. Its a fine idea, but it is not an elegant rule, or easy to use, or remember, or oversee.
This is not the only awkward break in timing rules from 4th edition. The original magic item daily use rules were so contorted that I doubt even the developers and designers who came up with them even followed them. They were swept aside eventually with the coming of Essentials, but unfortunately the kludgey action point rules stayed unchanged, even though 32 million encounters players proved their unworkability. With players showing up or not, with a constant stream of dead characters and changed characters, even keeping track of daily powers was almost impossible, much less the slippery action point.
So I have to change it myself, which is fine. I am an agent of chaos after all, and change is my food and fuel. To make a house rule the game actually NEEDS is just like chaos icing on top of my cake of rules changes. Or something.
The players in my campaigns never seem to be satisfied with their current level of power. Clamoring for new magic items, experience, levels, and other vainglorious proofs of their prowess, I knew they would never allow action points to change to a daily power. This would work and be simplest, and maintain all the trappings of its heroics, but it would mean it was used less, and might contribute to that horrible syndrome known as the five minute work day. And we wouldn’t want that. One encounter then 23 1/2 hours of rest. Making it a daily would also lead to parties “going nova” which is a syndrome related to the five minute workday, in which a party will blast enemies with everything they have in the first round of combat. Going around the table during the first round of any combat and waiting through 4-6 extra action point actions is also rather lame. And boring.
So the only choice is to go the opposite direction and make it an encounter power. This solves all the problems of tracking. Now a player never has to consider when and where he last used his action point. He just gets one, like most other mechanics of the game. Tho one problem with this is id doesn’t solve the going nova issue, so to combat that annoyance, it can only be used after the 3rd round of combat. However, what if some one needs it before the 4th round, then they can make a saving throw, if successful then they can use the action point. This alleviates the strictness of the round 3 rule, which seems artificial, and also adds to the heroic feeling of the action point.
Now the action point is a power that builds up over the course of a battle, to be unleashed at the climactic moment when it will do the most good, but in extreme cases, it can be called upon earlier. Like the second wind, the action point is another encounter power that adds to the versatility and heroic qualities of the character, without detracting in any other way than to push up the power level of the characters, and that is easily counter-acted by making the encounters more difficult.
Instead of roughly half the characters getting an extra action each encounter, now they all could. In practice, many battles do not even last more than 4 rounds, so my game-science theory is that action points will be used no more often that they currently are, and in fact may go down slightly since they wont be bothered with during short fights. And they will feel more heroic when they are used for two reasons. First, since they won’t be used in the first part of the battle without a special effort (saving throw) it will feel like a power that builds up; and second, since there is absolutely ZERO accounting required, and it is easily known when and if it is time to use the action point, it will thereby increase in awesomeness.
Action Points grant the user one extra action, be it standard, move or minor. They can be used once per encounter at any point after the third round. An action point can be used prior to the fourth round of combat under special circumstances. At the end of their turn, a character can make a saving throw, and if they succeed, they can immediately use their action point to grant them an extra action. If they fail the roll, they cannot at that time use their action point, but can still try again next round, or they can use it after the third round, per normal.
Benefits: speeds up play, reduces paperwork, adds to heroics
Downside: increases character power level