Karma Type Houserule?

Homebrew and House Rules


Hi everyone!

I'v recently had a flash in memory of a single rule used in Star Wars RPG Threads of Destiny Boardgame System (at least I think that is the name of it) which I played at one gaming convention in our city.

The rule used 4-6 tokens (can't remember how many) and they were colored black on one side and white on other. Any player could flip white token in order to gain some special effect (we usually used it to increase damage dice in that system, but it could be used for everything). Black tokens can be flipped also, but by GM, who in that case adds some negative effect also.

The rule seemed really cool to me. It somehow incited roleplay and teamwork for a bit and I am considering if it would work in Pathfinder in the same way. The effect of coins would in this case be equal to Hero Points.

Here is few pros and cons so far:


+ The system is cool and adds dynamic into combat
+ It enforces strategical and teamwork thinking (should we flip the coins or leave it for Deny Death later?)
+ It gives GM a degree of control over additional actions during combat
+ It provides more Hero Points at player's disposal then usual. Considering for a moment that players are being challenged according to Gamemastering Guidelines, a single Hero Point provides more advantage to PC then NPC or Monster as long as the encounter isn't a single enemy type


- The system is extremely chaotic and it might be hard to predict or playtest
- In some cases against solo monsters, players might be at heavy disadvantage if GM uses to many tokens
- Spellcasters might receive too much advantage if they receive additional actions per turn, which might end in TPK

This what came into my head so far. I am curious how do other people think about this? Is it possible to insert this kind of rule? How would you modify it? How to make it work in less-chaotical manner?

Thanks on responses,


I use communal Hero Points for my players. They love it. They must reach a table consensus amongst themselves for somebody to use them. It encourages strategic discussions which in turn improves their teamwork. At the same time giving them a safety net if they get in over their head, so's I don't have to pull the punches.

I am considering having special circumstances where I get Villian points, but not on a regular basis. Perhaps for a "boss fight" and for each "mis-step" the players made along the way...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

That seems like a really fun addition!

Maybe use the Advantage/Disadvantage rules from 5th Edition?

You could start playtesting with 1 to 3 tokens, and then add or subtract tokens as you playtest and analyze your results.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

I thought that mechanic worked great in Star Wars, but it is also tied into the system (PCs tend to be far more specialized and are to some degree dependant on using these points to improve their dice pool when making an important check with an untrained skill).

I don't like the hero points mechanic for a group of experienced players--in my opinion, they trivialize a game that is already heavily stacked in favor of the PCs. (Instead, I use plot twist cards as a means to give the players a limited form of narrative power that allows them to do things their characters normally could not.) If I were to use these points, I would restrict them to grant only bonuses (no messing with the action economy).

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

I think I'd rather do something like GM Intrusions from the Cypher System except getting hero points instead of XP for accepting a GM Intrusion.



Long time ago, I allowed other players to give HP to another player, but it pretty much ended in a game where characters couldn't die. This rule is similar, but in different manner.

How are you using "communal HPs"? Do you just pool them together?

I did use Villain Points also, but very very rarely. It seemed cool enough at the time.


Advantage/Disadvantage rules seem also cool, but I was kind of hoping to toy with the fact that GM could literally insert special events by paying 2-4 tokens (for example, undead dragon suddenly rushes and swipes every character in the party). I am hopeful that it would add much more dynamic into a turn-based system, but I am not sure if I am overstepping the line here.


Your concern about using HPs seem valid to me completely. How would you set these bonuses? I am also interested into plot these plot twist cards. What do they exactly do? Could you provide an example?

Thanks on responses!


RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

I meant the 'bonus' option as written under the hero point section in the APG.

I think the plot twist cards (see product page for examples) have a different, less dynamic role than the force point system. Plot twist cards are more useful for exceptional situations when the party gets stuck ('I'm glad I still have this scroll in my pocket') or when somebody has an awesome idea that is difficult to execute within the framework of the existing rules ('Wouldn't it be cool if...?'). It also gives the players a bit of narrative power (for example, one of my players used the wrath card because he wanted an opponent that had fled to come back as a recurring villain).
I guess a GM could pass out plot twist cards more liberally (I usually give each player one per level, and they can only have a total of two at a time). I considered a more dynamic system where a player could draw a card whenever they wanted, but at the same time, the GM also got to draw a card to use against the players. But I felt that wasn't really necessary (the cards already have ambiguous effects, my players use them for interesting things (even against each another), and as a GM, I already can make things more difficult for my players if I feel that it suits the story.

Malag wrote:


Long time ago, I allowed other players to give HP to another player, but it pretty much ended in a game where characters couldn't die. This rule is similar, but in different manner.

How are you using "communal HPs"? Do you just pool them together?

I did use Villain Points also, but very very rarely. It seemed cool enough at the time.

It's like a big pool with a talking stick.

I am running an adventure path with 6 books, and told them I would start their pool with 1 Hero Point per session for the first book and increase that number as they progress through the books. These points expire at the end of the session.

I think it works for our group because we play a bit of a progressive sandbox which tends to feature fewer but tougher combats and complex skill checks to move plots forward. My players are as likely to use this resource on a skill check than in the midst of a combat. We also have a good mix of player experience, so I'm not afraid of it getting out of hand. And if it does, if it raises player survivability too much, I am prepared to raise the difficulty correspondingly, to restore the excitement of danger.



It seems cool, but also contradictory a bit to allow player some narrative power as you say. I guess there are some good and some bad sides to it, but I don't understand in what way do they actually help party when they are stuck or in executing idea? I personally have these kinds of problems with my group. Their ideas tend to be catastrophic or good, but poor in execution.


It sounds like it works good for your group, but I doubt it would with mine. Pooling HPs doesn't seem like good idea for me at the moment although I might mention it to players and see their stand on it.

I think what makes it most manageable for my group is that they are not always saved for combat. My group likes to fight only as a last resort, and only if they can get an upper hand somehow, and instead try to solve problems first by using their cleverness. Because I reward them equally for solving problems either way, they don't hesitate to use the Hero Points to boost key skill checks. It's not seen as a "waste" of a resource.

Question though Malag: if you think Hero Points wouldn't fly with your group, how would your Karma Chips be any different?



I am kinda envious slightly. My players do use HPs for skill checks also, but the problem is that when trouble hits in, they tend to resort to combat. Unfortunately, I think it's my fault sometimes also. I tend to put too realistic situations and they often get either cocky or mess things up. It's hard to say. Perhaps I coddled them a bit also. I don't like to see their characters dead, but it's gonna be different a bit in this type of campaign (I am starting a new one). I am probably off-topic here now though.

Anyway, I believe that they wouldn't fly simply because if a player gets cocky and uses HPs too often for his own silly actions, others might get concerned that he is wasting them. One player already confirmed this concern, so I simply believe that it would be bad idea to do it. People like a degree of control when HPs are at stake.

I have no real answer about "Karma Type Rule" though. It simply seemed cool enough to try.

Oh I have one player in my group who would do just that. He loves the damn spotlight. To boot, a little bit of an "accidental" dice fudger (cat's out of the bag if he knows that we know that he is lightweight cheating - I imagine he somehow justifies it away in his mind). BUT. As our group Playwright (my players each have roles), he writes hilarious half-drunken post-session summaries espousing his thorough over-the-top egoism that I have no choice but to welcome him to our group with open arms. That, and if and when he steps out of line, the other players bring him back gently but firmly, and he complies by dint of his minority position. I am a firm believer that each group has space for one such person.

And were it not for needing a table consensus to use the pooled Hero Points, he would do just that - try some crazy irreverent stunt fueled by death-defying luck. The "consensus" clause keeps that in check.

In times when they have used Hero Points in combat, outside of re-rolling a potential-TPK saving throw, it goes something like "If I do X and then you do Y, we can use the hero point to make sure Z happens" or somesuch. Same with skill checks. It inspires teamwork in instances where risk is increased.

And even despite the Hero Points, I have one character who twice has been one die-roll away from death, and the team was out of Hero Points (or forgot! it happens!), and I rolled the dice in the middle of the table and the fates spared his character. So they definitely know I will kill their characters by some combination of poor strategic choices and bad luck.

As a result, I find the "less danger" argument a little bit of a non-sequiter - because the PC-NPC power dynamic is relative, not absolute. So long as the DM is willing to put in the extra work preserving that tentative balance.



I also believe that there is place for everyone really. 4-5 years ago, I would qualify myself as a stubborn brat, but I'v learned to be patient with people. I still think that people can get along fine as long as we don't step on each others toes. :)

I don't actually need or want so much danger in the game for there is too many already. It seems that I have a gift for making one anyway. In general, I have no problems with keeping up with danger according to Gamemastery Guidelines combined with the fact that I am fairly combat experienced. It's not a problem.

But this current new campaign is gonna be social, horror and slightly combat-punishing. I incorporated a lot of rules to make it so. The rule with tokens also seems like great way to trigger intriguing, but perhaps predictable problematic situations. It's kind of like playing chess with players. So I am still searching for a way to balance this rule out.

A player in my group suggested a few effects (from tokens) which seemed lovely ideas:

- fortuitous but plausible coincidence; For example, I might
declare that one of the guards that players needs to talk his way past just happens to be your cousin or something like that;
- granting player some larger bonus and additional activity for attempting some sort of daring and risky maneuver;
- allowing player to luckily obtain item which he possesses, but doesn't currently have with him;

These kind of fluffy ideas seem what I am looking for. The plot twist cards that Amanuensis suggested also seemed interesting idea.


RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

To clarify how my group uses plot twist cards, the players are supposed to use their imagination to come up with something that fits the theme of the card and apply it to their current situation. The player makes a suggestion and the GM decides whether and how this exactly plays out.

For example, when the group started a frontal assault against a fortress, they sorcerer cast expeditious excavation on the soil below the palisade. Another player, more versed in Knowledge (engineering), decided that this wouldn't be enough and used a plot twist card to give the spell a little extra oomph. The card 'agony of defeat' lists 'everything comes crashing down' as an example for a possible effect, so this seemed like a good fit. The spell not only caused a hole in the wall, but also a sinkhole that destroyed one of the watch towers (causing several archers to fall down), but also a cloud of dust that concealment. The players had a way into the fortress, but needed to cross the sinkhole and deal with the concealment as well (forcing the ranged characters to switch to melee).


@ amanuensis

Thanks for clarification and I appreciate it. I will consider the card-type rule, but there is still few suggestions about the topic itself.

Liberty's Edge

I'm playing a 5th edition game Curse of Strahd, we have a full called Dark Dice. There's a bowl of 12 D6 in the middle of the table, at any point we can take a die and add that to any D20 roll we make (attack/skill/save) once we use it we give it to the DM who can now roll it for one of the villains. Once the Gam uses it then she puts it back in the bowl to be used again.

Totally just bought the Plot Twist cards...

I allow Hero Points in my game for just these reasons. When the players do something properly heroic, they stand a good chance of earning a Hero Point.



Great cool house-rule. These are the sort that I am searching for. Thanks for mentioning it!

@Brother Fen

We are already using Hero Points, but they aren't enough for my players I think. In a way, HPs grant you a chance to succeed on single occasion, but not in a long-term situation.

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