|September 8, 2008||Posted by Troy E. Taylor|
Swordgleam is looking at the 4E rules, and wonders about this:
“If something in a core rulebook looks like it won’t work for your group, should you still give it a fair shot? For example, action points in 4E look stupid. My group, in other games, already uses a version of action points that are a lot more powerful and allow for more cinematic action, and it would be silly to have two different kinds of action points. But I only know that the 4E version of action points LOOK stupid. I haven’t tried them yet. So, do I owe it to the game designers/my group/the universe to try a few sessions with the action points as written? Or is it totally fair to just say ‘we’re not doing that’ and use the version of action points that my group has been having a ton of fun with?”
Well, I’ve played the 4E version of action points, and I can attest to the fact that they are, indeed, less than spectacular. But I’ll be honest, I find very little within the entire sub-system of action points — in whatever form — underwhelming. In my experience they tend to be like familiars: all but forgotten by the players until they are conveniently needed.
There’s no reason to take my word for it, though. Which is why my suggestion is to give the 4E version of the mechanic a spin. I think it’s fair you can devote one session (free of lasting consequences to any of the PCs) to testing it out. The reason being is this: Until you see how the rule interacts with the entire system, you might miss out on something that could be as fun as what you are doing now.
But don’t do it because you owe the game designers (you bought the book, that’s enough), or the gaming universe (unless you’ll be DMing in organized play settings, it’s not even a consideration). But I think you owe it to your group to see how it works. Let your players, then, decide for themselves whether they like the 4E version or the one you’ve been using, once you’ve given it a fair shake.
Let me say this, though, about the 4E version of action points — they no longer exist simply to simulate “cinematic” action. The real purpose of action points is to serve as a mechanic that will deter players from settling for the 15-minute adventure day. You know, run an encounter, then call it a day so your characters can regain their full strength. The new action points encourages parties to play through, even after some character resources have been expended. That’s how your earn action points. The simulation of cinematic action is really secondary under the 4E version.
And that reason, more than any other, may be why you’ll probably decide to stick with the version of actions points you like best. You “want” something specific from the gaming experience — in this case, action points that convey really heroic actions on the part of the PCs. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do something that is “fun.”
The fact the d20 system is so widespread, it encourages this cross-pollenation of rules from game-to-game. And this rules mastery should empower DMs to experiment freely. Even though 4E is largely a completely different game from 3E, I think we’ll see in the future a melding of what is best from both versions. And because the heart of both games is a d20 mechanic, that’s easily realized.
On the whole, I think you should at least try things out as they’ve been written. A taste-test, if you will, to see if the game is palatable. If you want to get the most out of a game, discover those parts that are most fun, I think you owe it to yourself to see how the rules play out before making adaptions and implementing house rules, as you suggest. And I think that’s true even if you end up right back where you started, wanting to tweak things from the beginning.
Still no one should fault you for doing otherwise. Make changes from the start, if you wish. And let the dice roll where they may.
That said, I’m curious to see what other Gnome Stewers think about this.