Fourth edition introduced two new concepts: action points and milestones. Like most aspects of 4e, I’m not very impressed with the implementation but the basic concept is pretty interesting. I realize that I touched on this recently in My Thoughts on Fourth Edition but I thought the subject deserved a bit more attention.
An action point allows a character to perform an additional action on her turn. A character may only use one action point per encounter. Action points may not be used during surprise turns.
When a character takes an extended rest she loses all of her unused action points. However, at the end of an extended rest, the character starts anew with one free action point. Further action points are gained each time the character reaches a milestone.
Characters reach a milestone by completing two consecutive encounters without taking an extended rest in between.
There are a few additional benefits, gained from using action points and reaching milestones, that are very 4e-specific:
- If you spend an action point to gain an additional action while within sight of a warlord, the warlord’s commanding presence aura grants you a benefit.
- You may spend an action point to use a paragon path feature or certain feats instead of gaining an additional action.
- Each time you reach a milestone, you gain one additional use of a magic item daily power.
- Some magical items become more powerful each time you reach a milestone.
- The recipient of a Raise Dead ritual suffers a death penalty of -1 to all attack rolls, skill checks, saving throws, and ability checks. This death penalty fades once the character reaches three milestones.
My Take On All This
Milestones are more than just a silly idea. They are actually harmful to game play. Milestones encourage and reward meta-gaming. Players actively change their tactics based on whether or not the next encounter will grant them a milestone (and thereby an action point). Modifications to the Raise Dead spell even require players to reach three milestones in order to reverse the effects of being resurrected. Imo, anything that forces players to play the game in a certain way is an unnecessary restriction and should be avoided. Requiring milestones to use certain abilities or enhance the power of magical items requires similar meta-gaming. This whole concept, imo, does nothing but force the players to play in a way not of their choosing and detracts from the enjoyment of the game.
Action points, on the other hand, offer an alternative to simply trading blows with an opponent and add strategic options to the game. When and how a character chooses to use an action point can make a significant difference to an encounter.
Allowing each character to gain an action point from an extended rest, without the incorporation of milestones, could be an interesting addition to any game. Personally, I prefer to take it even one step further and allow each character to gain one action point per short rest as well. In essence, each character then may use one action point per encounter. Being a pre-4e game, none of the other aspects of action point use apply. Action points in my game are simply a way to gain one additional action once per encounter.
Monsters & Action Points
In 4e, most monsters do not have actions points. Elite and solo monsters are the exceptions having one and two action points respectively. I’ve adopted this as well. Solo monsters then are the only creatures that may use more than one action point per encounter. I’ve added one additional exception though. I’ve always believed that PCs, NPCs, and monsters should all play by the same rules. Not allowing standard monsters an action point stretches this ideal but I think it will go mostly unnoticed with little impact. However, if PCs (humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, and gnomes) receive one action point per encounter, I can’t rationalize not allowing NPCs of those races the same ability. Therefore, these enemy NPCs will also have one action point to use per encounter. This works out nicely for me since most combat encounters I run where the characters are up against these sorts of NPCs are encounters that are significant to ongoing events. By giving these adversaries action points, when most monsters don’t have them, helps to make the encounter more memorable.