There are moments in any struggle that influence the outcome. Does the brave warrior lay low the villain before he can finish casting a devastating spell? Does the sly rogue avoid detection as she sneaks into the giant chieftain’s lair? Does the pious cleric finish casting her healing spell before the rain of arrows ends the life of her companions? Just a few die rolls decide each of these critical moments, and while failure is always a possibility, true heroes find a way to succeed, despite the odds. Hero Points represent this potential for greatness. They give heroes the chance to succeed even when the dice turn against them.
Hero Points are only awarded to player characters. NPCs, animal companions, familiars, cohorts, and mounts do not receive hero points. Unlike other points in the game, hero points do not renew over time or with rest. Once spent, they are gone forever. Hero Points are awarded as a character gains levels or whenever a character accomplishes a truly heroic feat. The GM is the final arbiter on the award and use of hero points.
Each character begins play with 1 hero point, regardless of her level. In addition, whenever a character gains a level, she earns an additional hero point. Aside from these basic rules, awarding additional hero points is up to the GM. The following options are just some of the ways that a GM might award additional hero points.
Character Story: GMs can award a hero point for the completion of a written character backstory. This reward encourages players to take an active roll in the history of the game. In addition, the GM can use this backstory to generate a pivotal moment for your character concerning his past. When this key event is resolved, the GM can reward another hero point. Alternatively, the GM might award a hero point for painting a miniature or drawing a character portrait in the likeness of your character, helping the rest of the group visualize your hero.
Completing Plot Arcs: The GM might award a hero point to each of the PCs who were involved in completing a major chapter or arc in the campaign story. These hero points are awarded at the conclusion of the arc if the PCs were successful or advanced the story in a meaningful way.
Faith: In a campaign where the gods play an important role in every character’s life, hero points might represent their favor. In such a setting, the GM can award hero points to characters whenever they uphold the tenets of their faith in a grand way, or whenever they take on one of the faith’s major enemies. Such hero points might be temporary, and if not spent on the task at hand, they fade away.
Group Service: The GM can award hero points for acts outside the game as well. Buying pizza for the group, helping to clean up afterwards, or even hosting the game for a night might be worth a hero point. This sort of hero point should be given out of generosity, not as a payment.
Heroic Acts: Whenever a character performs an exceptionally heroic act, she can be awarded a hero point. This might include anything from slaying an evil dragon when the rest of the group has fled to rescuing townsfolk from a burning building despite being terribly wounded. It does not have to be related to combat. Convincing the reticent king to send troops to help with a bandit problem or successfully jumping a wide chasm might earn a character a hero point, depending on the circumstances. Note that a hero point should only be awarded if the PC involved did not spend a hero point to accomplish the task.
Return from the Dead: When a character dies, she does not lose any hero points she has accumulated. If she died with no hero points remaining, she gains 1 hero point when she is brought back from the dead through powerful magic, such as raise dead or resurrection.
Maximum Hero Points: Characters can have no more than 3 hero points at any one time. Excess hero points are lost.
Hero Points for GMs
Although all of the options presented here should be carefully considered before they are added to your game, hero points deserve closer inspection. Although hero points do not drastically increase the power of the PCs, they do grant the PCs the ability to greatly increase their chances of success during critical moments. While the game itself is set up to give the player characters an edge, hero points take that a bit further, possibly more so than you might be comfortable with.
The value to hero points is that they add dramatic tension to the climax of your game. Most uses of hero points do not guarantee success, making the moment they are used even more important to the players. Hero Points are a very limited resource and their use should be described with additional detail and dramatic style. Used in this way, they can help create very memorable sessions for both you and your players.
Although NPCs do not generally receive hero points, there are ways that they can use these mechanics. A number of spells and magic items, as well as the Hero’s Fortune feat, grant hero points to a character. Such hero points should be used sparingly, and should be reserved for major villains or truly important characters. If you use them too much, the players will begin to resent the system, making it more of a problem than an opportunity to enhance the game.
Hero Points can be spent at any time and do not require an action to use (although the actions they modify consume part of your character’s turn as normal). You cannot spend more than 1 hero point during a single round of combat. Whenever a hero point is spent, it can have any one of the following effects.
Act Out of Turn: You can spend a hero point to take your turn immediately. Treat this as a readied action, moving your initiative to just before the currently acting creature. You may only take a move or a standard action on this turn.
Bonus: If used before a roll is made, a hero point grants you a +8 luck bonus to any one d20 roll. If used after a roll is made, this bonus is reduced to +4. You can use a hero point 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). Hero Points spent to aid another character grant only half the listed bonus (+4 before the roll, +2 after the roll).
Inspiration: If you feel stuck at one point in the adventure, you can spend a hero point and petition the GM for a hint about what to do next. If the GM feels that there is no information to be gained, the hero point is not spent.
Recall: You can spend a hero point to recall a spell you have already cast or to gain another use of a special ability that is otherwise limited. This should only be used on spells and abilities possessed by your character that recharge on a daily basis.
Reroll: You may spend a hero point to reroll any one d20 roll you just made. You must take the results of the second roll, even if it is worse.
Special: You can petition the GM to allow a hero point to be used to attempt nearly anything that would normally be almost impossible. Such uses are not guaranteed and should be considered carefully by the GM. Possibilities include casting a single spell that is one level higher than you could normally cast (or a 1st-level spell if you are not a spellcaster), making an attack that blinds a foe or bypasses its damage reduction entirely, or attempting to use Diplomacy to convince a raging dragon to give up its attack. Regardless of the desired action, the attempt should be accompanied by a difficult check or penalty on the attack roll. No additional hero points may be spent on such an attempt, either by the character or her allies.
Cheat Death: A character can spend 2 hero points to cheat death. How this plays out is up to the GM, but generally the character is left alive, with negative hit points but stable. For example, a character is about to be slain by a critical hit from an arrow. If the character spends 2 hero points, the GM decides that the arrow pierced the character’s holy symbol, reducing the damage enough to prevent him from being killed, and that he made his stabilization roll at the end of his turn. Cheating death is the only way for a character to spend more than 1 hero point in a turn. The character can spend hero points in this way to prevent the death of a familiar, animal companion, eidolon, or special mount, but not another character or NPC.
Since hero points themselves are an optional rules system, all other mechanics that go along with hero points have been included here. The following Feats, spells, and magic items all have to do with hero points in one way or another.
A PC can elect not to use the hero point system, instead relying more on his skills and abilities. Such characters do not receive hero points, regardless of the source, and can never benefit from their use. In exchange, such characters receive a bonus feat at 1st level. The option to allow such antiheroes in the game is subject to GM discretion.
The following Feats enhance your ability to store and gain hero points.
Blood of Heroes You have a sense of destiny about you and always seem to succeed, even when the odds are against you.
Hero's Fortune Even at the start of your career, it was clear that you had a chance at greatness, and your legend continues to grow with every adventure.
Luck of Heroes To others, it seems that you always have a bit of luck around you.
The following spells grant temporary hero points or prevent characters from using hero points.
Heroic Fortune The target gains 1 temporary hero point.
Unravel Destiny A target suffers penalties to checks depending on how many hero points it has, and takes damage if it uses them.
The following magic items grant characters additional hero points or allow them the possibility of recovering points as they are spent.
Elixir of Luck This elixir grants the drinker 3 temporary hero points.
Hero's Blade This +2 longsword holds 6 hero points. Once all are used it reverts to just being a +2 longsword.