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I'm looking for a mechanic in Pathfinder to provide a fate-point like system for the characters.

What mechanic could provide players a small boost here to belt the bad guy when needed or save them from death if it all goes wrong? I don't mind what system it's imported from as long as it can support Pathfinder/d20.

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4 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Hero Points may be what you are looking for.

From the SRD: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/other-rules/hero-points

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Looks like these are the simplest system to do; I'll not worry about spells and whatnot for them however; cheers! –  Rob May 21 '12 at 9:59
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You asked for Fate points, how about... FATE Points? The FATE point mechanic is trivially portable into Pathfinder; we have done so and use it for many of our campaigns. Our current Pathfinder FATE point rules from our campaign blog are:

FATE Aspects and FATE Points

Aspects! Please write 3 aspects for your character before you reach the gaming table, we will create 2 more for each character when we get together for the first session. The first three should be as follows:The first aspect should be a description of your character’s archetype, such as “Half-orc sorcerer in tune with nature’s fury”, “Physically perfectionist elven wizard”, or “Charming Sunderer”. Try to make sure your character’s core competency makes it into your first aspect.

The second aspect should describe your character’s trouble, the main weakness or stumbling block that keeps causing trouble for the character. It can be a personality trait that causes trouble for the character, or it can be something bad that just keeps happening to him for some inexplicable reason. Examples: “Why did it have to be fairies?”, “Vengeful over hurt pride”, “Family Man”.

For the third aspect, think about what motivates your character, what shaped him to become who he is, and what pushed him to the life of an adventurer. The best aspects are ones that can be used both for or against your character. ex. “Must protect my friends at all costs”, “People are not always what they seem”, “I Heart Forbidden Lore”, “There must be some way I can find a profit from this…”

Each character will get 3 fate points. When you level up, they will be refreshed. You can get more fate points whenever your character suffers due to one of his aspects (depending on the situation, this could result in failed skill rolls, damage, or just social humiliation). Spending a fate point allows you to either reroll the d20 roll you just made, or add +4 to it, your choice, but you can only spend a fate point when one of your aspects applies to the roll you’re making. For instance, “I Heart Forbidden Lore” could help you if you’re doing research or trying to recall facts about some kind of demonic monster, but it wouldn’t help you on a to-hit roll against a goblin. Regardless of aspects, a fate point can always be spent to stabilize you if you’re dying.

We prefer them to action point type mechanics because if you're going to track a resource, it should give you a good boost/save your bacon not a small bonus.

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Hero Points are interesting. However, reading the d20SRD, they are more akin to WFRP's Fortune Points. Quote the OP:

I don't mind what system it's imported from as long as it can support Pathfinder/d20

The integration/support of Fate Points from another system is a trivial house ruling IMHO, so I'm going to offer up Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, 2nd Edition Fortune and Fate Points as an option.

Without quoting the whole rule book on the matter, a Fate Point represents the PCs "cut above" and the gods marking them for greater things. Fortune Points are more akin to the d20SRD Hero Points (free actions, free re-rolls, &c.) and limited per game session. The Fortune Points per game session equal the number of Fate Points the PC has. If a Fate Point is spent, the number of Fortune Points available drop in the next session. Fate Points work as sought by the OP. Let's look at the RAW:

A Fate Point can be expended whenever a character is about to die in combat, through traps or accidents, as a result of poison or disease, or in any other circumstances. Instead of dying, the character expends a Fate Point and then the GM has to devise some way of ensuring that the character survives.

You may also allow players to use Fate Points to avoid being maimed. Many of the Critical Effects result in the loss of limbs, potentially crippling a favourite character. Using a Fate Point to avoid such debilitation is entirely appropriate.

How one GM's Fate Points is also covered:

When a character expends a Fate Point, it is up to the GM to come up with something that will prevent the character dying. No doubt the player in question will be full of helpful suggestions, but you should be careful to ensure that the character is not too much better off as a result of expending a Fate Point. The character should survive the situation, but that's it. It can sometimes be difficult to come up with a suitably tailored deus ex machina on the spur of the moment.

Once spent they are gone. But... GMs are encouraged to possibly allow Fate Points to be awarded for world saving events:

If a character succeeds in staving off a great menace, a Fate Point may be awarded along with the usual Experience Points. The menace must be significant and it must be apparent that, but for the character’s action, an appalling disaster would have taken place. Don’t let any fast-talking players convince you that wiping out a couple of dozen cultists is the same thing.

And Fate Points cannot be bought. Ever.

In WFRP, Fate Points are awarded from a random table at chargen based on race. This is not immediately applicable to Pathfinder, but some corollaries possibly exist. Humans are ascendant, demi-humans in decline. The number is never greater than 3 for humans, elves can never have more than 2.

The limited number of playable races in WFRP makes this a manageable list, but Pathfinder's list of playable races can make this difficult to manage. I might suggest that the number be determined on an average of the ability scores using a modified Table 1-3 from the Core rule book, possibly capping the upper limit at three (3), and the lower limit at one (1). Where zero (0) or a negative number is present, one (1) point. Allow three (3) only with an average of 17-18. This could be retconned to existing characters as well.

I blogged about using Fate and Fortune last year: http://bit.ly/fate-fortune

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I'm going to add a second answer since we've moved away from using FATE points in our Pathfinder games to a more straightforward hero point system. It's somewhat similar to, but a little more powered up than, the Pathfinder APG hero point system.

In my pirate campaign, they're skinned as "Infamy Points," you can easily turn that around and make them "Hero Points" (good) or just "Reputation Points" (value neutral) by tweaking how they're gained.

Infamy Points

Using Infamy Points

Use an Infamy Point no more than once an encounter to:

  1. Choose the result of any single roll. Attack, ability check, skill check, saving throw, caster level check, crit confirm...
  2. Act out of initiative order. Move up to your usual speed now.
  3. Get an additional standard action. Usable whenever during your turn.
  4. Cast a bonus spell. Swap: You know but don’t have memorized today - uses a spell slot Fork: You have already cast today - doesn't use a spell slot
  5. Declare that a weapon or spell attack missed you - anything that requires a hit roll.
  6. Throw off an adverse condition Possessed, feared, paralyzed, charmed, entangled... For the rest of the encounter if it's a long term/permanent thing.
  7. Use a feat or a class ability from one of your classes you don’t have; you have to qualify for the feat and can count your level as up to your level +5. For one round or one use, whichever comes last.
  8. Pull off a cool stunt automatically. But this isn't superheroes - limit it to what a human could arguably achieve.
  9. Other game effect on request.
  10. Limited narrative rewrite – dictate a fact, introduce a story element, have someone show up at an opportune moment, have just the right piece of equipment around You can also use an infamy point anytime to plain old avoid certain death, though there will likely be permanent impact of some kind (e.g. scarring/disability, equipment loss, capture, etc.). You can use multiple infamy points in collaboration with the DM to add/change larger story elements, though the DM is usually up for interesting suggestions without spending points...

Gaining Infamy Points

Every character starts with two Infamy Points. You get one each time you level up and are awarded more by the DM whenever you do some thing significantly badass which would add to your fearsome reputation. This does not have to be an evil act; there is a fine line in people's perception between truly criminal acts and morally justified acts of bloody violence - single-handedly slaughtering a ship of pirates or a ship of the Chelish navy would both add to your infamy. It should be an impressive enough act to get the commoners talking... "Did you see that guy slaughter everyone on the deck of that Chelish naval ship on his own?" "Did you hear those guys are the only survivors of an attack by a ghost ship full of unkillable skeletons and they blew up the ship to escape?" "Did you hear those guys are behind that entire street gang 'disappearing?'"

Often these will be group awards, but there is also room for particularly inspired individual acts of mayhem. Needless to say, as your infamy grows the magnitude of the acts required to gain more Infamy go up. Slaughtering some merchant ship s will get you started on the road to infamy, but after a while, it starts making less of an impression. “Yeah, they do that all the time.” Keep track of the total number of Infamy Points you have achieved over time, it will factor in to your overall level of infamy, affecting what others know about you and affecting use of your social skills in some situations

We've been using this about 4 years now. In fact, most of the picky rules around their use have gone away - they are a very scarce resource since we level about 2 times a year - so they have become more of an emergency "save my bacon" button or a "I really want to succeed at this, make it happen" button, and that seems to work just fine. It also allows me to be a lot more cavalier about the kinds of threats I throw at them, since a) if they have a point left (we use plastic doubloons to represent them) I know they can get out of it, but those points are just about more valuable to them than a level so they bust their asses to not have to spend one.

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Thanks for the idea! I like the name of them :) –  Rob Mar 7 at 16:51
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