This is a fairly simple system to combine a hero-point mechanic with a balancing mechanic for passive bonuses. It’s a mixture of inspirations from Earthdawn to Fate but I started thinking about it based on these posts.

Legend Points are a persistent resource pool available to heroic characters. They can be temporarily expended for a short term bonus (expended points eventually refresh) or invested in long-term effects (and will not refresh while invested).

A character’s Legend Point total is generated by the following methods:

  • At character creation, if you use random rolls for ability score generation, calculate the value of every PC’s scores as if they had been made in point buy. The PC with the highest value stats gets 0 bonus Legend Points. Every other PC gets bonus Legend Points equal to half the difference between their value and the highest PC’s value. For example, if the highest value PC rolls 17, 16, 16, 14, 13, 10 (41 points) and another rolls 15, 14, 14, 13, 13, 11 (24 points), the difference is 17 and the lower value character gets 8 bonus Legend Points.
  • Every character gains 2 Legend Points at each level (including first level). Adjust this number up or down to alter the power level of the campaign.
  • The GM might award bonus permanent Legend Points for completing challenges or other side-quests (particularly if using an exp model that doesn’t reward optional goals).
  • The GM might award ad hoc bonus Legend Points to character classes or races that feel underpowered in a given style of game (e.g., as a balance for a perceived disconnect between Fighters and Wizards in high level dungeon crawls).

Characters can expend Legend Points to achieve a temporary bonus. Use your favorite hero point mechanic (e.g., Action Points, Bennies, Fate Points, etc.) for these mechanics. Expended Legend Points refresh when characters level (and you can have them refresh on a more frequent basis, such as each session or when Aspects are compelled, if you want a more powerful game).

Characters can invest Legend Points in long-term effects. In particular, this applies to permanent magic items. In order to “add the item to her legend” the character must invest Legend Points equal to the effective pluses on the item (e.g., a +3 weapon with a +2 value effect costs 5 Legend Points while a +4 ability item costs 4 Legend Points). Compare permanent items without a plus effect (like a ring, staff, or rod) by cost to a similar-level weapon, armor, or wondrous item to figure out how many pluses it should count as.

Characters that don’t invest Legend Points in an item may use it in the short term, but are forced to sell it over downtime between adventures: it either turned out that the character didn’t like it that much and let it go, or it was stolen, misplaced, or seized with a windfall of some kind making up for the loss. Characters that eventually give up a permanent item recover the Legend Points invested in it.

For classes such as Wizards and Sorcerers that are less reliant on several items with permanent bonuses, GMs might assess a temporary investment or require an expenditure to use some other powerful but non-permanent items if the effects are significant enough to unbalance the math. The GM might also offer the possibility of investing Legend Points to learn more powerful non-core spells or even research new ones.

If the GM likes a game where the party has lots of miscellaneous wondrous items that get used every so often, he might choose to not assess a Legend Point investment for items of only situational utility (as these items will otherwise probably be largely discarded with this system).