Heroic Experiences

Variant Experience and Hero Point Rules for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

My group and I have been playing with hero points, action points or some similar house ruled variation since Second Edition. As I begin to plan my next campaign (The Emerald Spire Superdungeon), I’m looking at what house rules and optional rules I’ll employ. Hero points and experience points are the first two systems I’m going to address for this campaign.

So, why tinker with these two systems? Because I want to change what the game rewards a little. I’m looking to reward exploration, heroism, and story development rather than just the kill it and take all the stuff that Pathfinder normally focusses on. Not that isn’t fun, the format of a superdungeon already rewards much of that style of play by design. This is an experiment to see what happens when we vary the player’s rewards.

Variant Experience Points

For a while now especially when running adventure paths, I’ve been hand waving advancement based largely on how far through a given book we’ve come. But for The Emerald Spire, I want to actually offer XP that rewards the behavior I want the character’s to pursue. So while progress through the book and the dungeon are important it isn’t the only thing I want to reward.

Borrowing from Pathfinder Society advancement I’ve chosen to work from a simple framework of 1 or 2 XP earned each session for things such as:

  • Major discoveries, such as gaining access to deeper levels of the dungeon.
  • Completing any of the quests detailed in the adventure.
  • Completing character milestones or similar story objectives.
  • Overcoming specific challenges.

Unlike society play, however, players will require 5 XP to advance from one level to the next. The wider margin allows me to pace awards to prevent players from exceeding the normal APL for each level of the dungeon.

Additionally, players may spend an experience point to regain a spent hero point (see below).

Players may also spend 1 XP to add a Pathfinder Society boon from an adventure or dungeon level to their character sheet. During play this boon may be activated by spending a hero point.

Variant Hero Points

The rules governing hero points are largely unchanged from those that appear in the Advanced Player’s Guide except in some of the specifics of how you can earn and spend them.

Starting and Maximum Hero Points

As with the original rules, players begin play with only 1 hero point and have a maximum of 3 hero points. Players will be allowed to select any of the hero point feats including Heroes Fortune which increases a character’s maximum number of hero points. Players cannot opt to make their characters’ Antiheroes.

Earning Additional Hero Points

As stated above, a player may spend an XP to gain a hero point but heroes are truly defined by their deeds. As such, once per session a character may attempt to earn an additional Hero Point by performing a selfless act of heroism or a cinematic stunt. The player describes the action and the GM decides on the type of check required and its DC. If the character succeeds she also regains a Hero Point. If the task would normally be impossible without the expenditure of a Hero Point, in addition to the point earned the point risked to initiate the action is not lost.

Example: The GM just rolled lightning bolt damage for Monica’s already injured PC, Maeve. The resulting damage will kill her PC. Scott asks the DM if he can spend his last hero point to cross the room and knock Maeve out of the path of the lightning bolt and take the blast in her place. Since this is his last Hero point he also asks if he can attempt to regain a Hero Point with this action and the GM agrees. The DM decides he may attempt an Acrobatics check with the same DC as the lightning bolt to charge the distance and absorb the blast. If he’s successful he’ll take full damage but Maeve will be safe and he’ll have 2 Hero Points.

Spending Hero Points

Most of the ways you can spend hero points are unchanged from the ones that appear in the Advanced Player’s Guide what follows are the new and modified options.

Activate Boon: You may spend a hero point to gain a use of a boon you previously purchased.

Bonus: You may spend a hero point to gain a +1d8 luck bonus to a d20 roll. Alternately, you may spend 2 hero points to gain a +2d6 luck bonus. You can spend hero points in this manner to grant this bonus to another character, as long as you are in the same location and your character can reasonably affect the outcome of the roll (such as distracting a monster, shouting words of encouragement, or otherwise aiding another with the check).

Reroll: You may spend a hero point to allow any player to reroll any one d20 roll just made. They must take the results of the second roll, even if it is worse. You may use your hero points in this manner even if your character is not in the immediate vicinity. If you spend a hero point in this manner for another player it doesn’t count against the maximum you can spend in a turn.

Teamwork: At the beginning of your turn, you may spend a hero point as a free action to gain the benefit of a teamwork feat an ally has but you don’t. You must meet the prerequisites of the feat. You gain the benefit of this feat until the beginning of your next turn.

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