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Let's say you have a game where you have to roll a die for success at a task, based on a relevant ability score, and you can temporarily increase that score by expending some limited point resource. For example:

George has a skill rating of 11 in Bake Cupcakes, to which he'll add the result of 1d10 when making an attempt. He's trying to succeed at baking a most masterful batch of cupcakes, a task with a difficulty of 16. There's already about a 1/2 chance that he'll succeed, but he wants to make sure, so he spends 3 of his _ points, giving him a temporary 14 in Bake Cupcakes. He rolls a 3 on the die; 3+14 >= 16; success!

What is the correct term for these kinds of points?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The exact answer is system-specific. In FATE games, they'll be Fate points. In some d20 variants, they're Action points, in Buffy they're Drama points. And they function differently on a system-by-system basis, too. They're not a simple +1 / point as in your example in FATE or Buffy, for example. I can't tell you what they do in d20 games.

In general, I call them Meta points or metagame currency, since they exist to allow the player (not the character) to influence the fortune mechanic (not the fiction) of the game itself.

I've also heard them referred to a Hero points, outside of any system-specific context.

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Pathfinder has an optional Hero Points system that does this and more: paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/advanced/… –  Cthos Oct 31 '11 at 16:55
    
In d20 games, they typically add 1d6 to an already-rolled d20. –  Jadasc Oct 31 '11 at 17:02
    
Question: If Drama points don't in anyway add benefits to a dice roll, how are they relevant to the question? –  GMNoob Nov 1 '11 at 8:36
    
@GMNoob They don't add on a "one-for-one" basis, as in the OP, but they do add to the roll. –  Jadasc Nov 1 '11 at 12:45
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@GMNoob - One of the ways a Drama Point can be used in BtVS is a Heroic Effort (I think it's called that - my group always calls it 'going heroic'). If you really need to make a roll, you can spend a Drama Point before you roll for +10 on the roll. Since in general, a total of 9 is a success, it's pretty much guaranteed in all but the most desperate circumstances. –  gomad Nov 1 '11 at 15:26
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While @gomad goes into the specific of each game, I think a different approach can be used.

The most specific and general terminology that comes to my mind is a pool. There's even a game called the pool where spending dice from a pool of dice and replenishing the pool is central to the mechanics. Solar System uses several pools of dice and Anima Prime does too.

While all these games make explicit reference to a pool of dice (because you roll several dice and count successes), pool is the generic word for any amount of resources you can spend and replenish.

D&D 4E action points? A pool of action points. D&D 3.x fatespinner PrC's spin? A pool of points.

Let's see how that fits the example.

[...] so he spends 3 points from his pool, giving him a temporary [...]

Obviously, if several pools are used a "_ pool" or some other game-specific name (like the energy dice pool or the strike dice pool in Anima Prime) is required.

As a side note, "_ dice from his (generic) pool" or "_ dice from his xyz pool" could be used if there's a common pool but you need to assign dice to specific things during a roll (like when you roll several dice all togheter and then assign them to attack and defense, you might have a rule that says that bonus dice from the pool must be assigned before the roll)

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The correct English term for this is "Bonus points"

Basically, what you are describing is a bonus above and beyond what they would normally get in that situation. Whatever the individual systems call it, in addition to those names, they are "bonus points"

You can see this reflected in the rules of the various gaming systems mentioned in the other answer. (all emphasis is mine)

Fate points are described by their game system as:

Fate points give players the ability to take a little bit of control over the game, either by giving their character bonuses when they feel they need them, or by taking over a small part of the story

In Pathfinder, the use of Hero points are described as follows:

Using Hero Points 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).

Extra Action: You can spend a hero point on your turn to gain an additional standard or move action this turn.

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.

You will notice that they specifically call it a "bonus" when hero points are used in the manner which this question is asking about such points.

In D&D4e the rule system is even more explicit calling everything either a modifier bonus, or a feat bonus, or a power bonus etc.

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I wouldn't say that's the correct term so much as an accurate description. The former implies exclusivity, the latter that – as with any description – there are a multitude of alternatives that may also fit. Yes, you could call them "Bonus points", among other names. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '11 at 8:20
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'Kay. I'd say "best" rather than "correct" under those circumstances, because it's more correct. ;) –  SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '11 at 8:36
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I don't think calling them bonus points is helpful at all. A player might receive modifiers for being in cover and consider that a bonus (an expected benefit) and yet mechanically they would be modifiers. When writing a game it is important to pick words that not only describe the the term but also distinguish their use from other characteristics. Finally I agree that there is no correct term but a variety that are interchangeable, which is not uncommon in RPGs. –  Rob Lang Nov 1 '11 at 13:37
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My point is that in general parlance "bonus" is used for any value added to the role. The term is too general to be useful. The questioner is looking for a word that distinguishes it from other bonuses, such as modifiers. I've seen the term 'pool' used to describe player-owned bonuses. For example, you might have a mana pool. I think gomad's answer is still the best. –  Rob Lang Nov 1 '11 at 14:48
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@GMNoob Speaking with some experience from English.SE: It's worth considering that the question form asking for "_____ points" may be the asker assuming something fitting exists that doesn't actually. Wedging the best English word into an arbitrary space doesn't necessarily mean the resulting phrase is something a native speaker would come up with. Sometimes, the asker's assumptions invalidate their own question, and the best you can do is give an answer for the thing they're thinking of even if it's not the form they were expecting. Sometimes the answer is "there isn't such a word." –  SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '11 at 16:28
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