Excelsior

Excelsior is a Latin comparative word often translated as “ever upward” or “even higher.”

Custom_Rules_Button.pngThe following house rules are taken, in part, from D&D 3.5’s Action Points, FATE CORE’s Fate Points as well as the 7th Sea Role Playing Game’s Drama Points, and a plethora of Homebrew rules from the Gaming Communities (all heavily modified). Players may feel free to suggest additions to the uses of Excelsior points.

The rules on this page take precedence over previous versions of Excelsior. Action Points, Fate Points, Drama Points will no longer be used. Some of them have been incorporated into this new ruleset.

The object here is to encourage and reward RP, character risk, drama, and other aspects of the gaming experience.
The following rules WILL be kept until further notice:

Devil’s Bargain: Take a complication or make a sacrifice for some benefit (such as advantage on a roll).

Cinematic Exploits: Dramatically maneuver with a check to gain advantage on a roll.

Mark’s Beneficent Death Rule is still an option.

If these sub-systems are ignored during play, they will likely find themselves cut as well.

Current Version (30 July 2022)

I originally created the Excelsior rules, which can be found HERE.
I then decided to expand them to include more options which can be found HERE. Unfortunately, those expanded optional rules proved too bulky/clunky. Below is my attempt at a simplified compromise.

Excelsior_8.22.png

Also See Inspiration Points

Excelsior Party Pool

The pool is designed to aid those unfortunate characters who have exhausted their personal reserve (or NPCs who have no Excelsior points of their own) and desperately need them. Points may be taken from the party pool only for immediate use. Pool points can never be taken back by the character who donated them, nor can they be transferred to any character once donated.

Upon receiving EXCELSIOR points for any reason, the player may choose to dedicate any, all, or none of the granted points toward a “pool” of points. 

Points may only be donated to the pool at the time they are awarded. Points may not be placed in pools any other time. The GM keeps a tally of these points and must disclose the exact number of points in the
“party pool” anytime anyone asks (players can access this information by clicking on the Excelsior Pool Token on the VTT.


In order to use points from a party pool, a player (or the DM) states the exact immediate benefit and the character for whom the point will be used. They also give full justification or requirements needed to spend the point.

Any player or the DM may veto the use of these points but must offer justification for the veto. If no one vetoes, the point is deducted from the party pool and spent on the action (successful or not).

The party may not spend more points from the pool than are currently in the pool.

If any player or the DM vetoes the suggested point use (for whatever reason), then no points are taken from the pool, and the game continues without the expenditure of party pool points.

It is usually accepted that a player must spend their character’s personal Excelsior points before requesting party pool points, especially if the point expenditure would benefit only their character.

Note that any consequences of spending a point from the pool will still occur, such as the DM collecting said spent point into his own pool for use by the NPCs/Villains.

SHARING POINTS WITH OTHERS

Because there is a party pool, characters should have no reason to share their points with other characters – even in desperate need – unless there is a clear justification and nobody vetoes this decision. If for some reason the party pool is empty and a good justification is made, such shared points will be ‘donated’ on a two-to-one basis.

Defining Excelsior

Excelsior represents excellence in role-playing, outstanding choice of actions, going above and beyond (in-game or out-of-game), and also putting the player characters into complicated or disadvantageous circumstances.

Golden_Token.png Excelsior is a rewards system for the players, and is represented by doubloon tokens on our virtual tabletop, by which the players and GM can keep track of three distinct rewards/resource systems of rechargeable ‘points’.

Excelsior points are now only loosely connected to Aspects. You no longer need to invoke aspects to justify using them (although if you do, you may receive some additional bonus).

Maximum Excelsior

A character may retain up to 3 Excelsior Points, plus 2 additional points per character level. Once the session is over, all excess points are removed from the pool.

The following are exceptions to the maximum limits during a session:

• Note that during the Stars and Wishes phase of the session, players have an opportunity to reward points (see item 11 below), which will carry over to the next session.

• Any write-ups and downtime journaling points will be awarded at the beginning of the next session (items 3, 4 and 5).

• Showing up for a session (item 1) will be added at the beginning of the session.


EARNING EXCELSIOR

NPCs do not earn Excelsior.

You can gain *Excelsior* in the following ways:

1. Each player receives one Excelsior Point whenever they show up for the game. If the player has more than one character, they must choose ONE character to receive the award.

2. Starting characters begin the game with one Excelsior Point.

3. Create a narrative background write-up.

• The story must be at least 250 words or longer.
• The story ties together with one or more other characters’ story(s).
• Must name 3 (or more) NPCs with usable plot hooks in the story.
• 1 (or more) major or 3 (or more) minor plot hooks built in. A major plot hook is something that drives the story and gives the DM options to work with nearly every game session. It must be easy to work in under most normal circumstances. A minor plot hook is anything that can give such story ideas but will not do so consistently on a regular basis.
• 1 minor character drawback, flaw, or phobia.

º Drawbacks/flaws/phobias must be a consistent part of the character’s background story, and must have good potential for in-game repercussions. Note: These are decided during Character Creation, and should be represented narratively in the character’s bio.

4. Create a narrative write-up of your character’s home area.

• Include interesting and pertinent details or rumors concerning the surroundings. You must have 1 of the following things included as well to gain this bonus:

• Provide a decent map of the home, hometown, village, or what have you. This may or may not include a description of the area. (you can use a google image search, or use one of the many online mapping tools).
• Write up a description of the home, hometown, village, or what have you. This may or may not include a map of the area.

5. Downtime story contribution:

• Provide a log entry of their character’s view of the campaign

º The entries can be in personal journal form, as a letter to a loved one or patron, in diary form, or any other form your character would choose. The style may differ from adventure to adventure. It may be written from the character’s perspective or not.

• The story must be at least 250 words or longer.
• Note that a maximum of 1 Excelsior point may be earned per gaming session in this way.

6. Players can receive one or several Excelsior points from the GM as a reward for role-playing their character’s flaws, backgrounds, and Aspects.


7. Each time a character performs an act of dramatic heroism. To qualify as an act of dramatic heroism. An action must fulfill four criteria.

• It must accomplish a significant task in the defense of good or the defeat of evil.
• It must occur at a dramatically appropriate time (usually during the final scene or climax of a scenario or adventure).
• It should require significant risk on the part of the hero.
• They also earn Excelsior Points by taking actions that are Dramatic – such as good RP, snappy repartee, clever plans, and plain old fun.

If you snap off some witty banter at a villain while engaged in deadly swordplay, you’ll earn an Excelsior Point. If you pause for a moment before leaping out the window to give the beautiful princess a goodbye kiss, you’ll get an Excelsior Point. In short, any time you make the scene more dramatic and interesting is an opportunity to earn a Drama Point. Note that sometimes, however, these dramatic actions often put the character in the situation of having to use their newly acquired drama points very quickly thereafter.

8. The GM or another player can offer Excelsior points in order to complicate the character’s lives, challenging them to role-play their character’s flaws, backgrounds, and Aspects.

• The character may refuse this by giving one of their own points to the GM or that character.

9. The GM or another player can offer Excelsior points in order to take advantage of a characters flaws, backgrounds, and Aspects in order to gain a bonus or benefit (i.e. spend an Excelsior point on an action that affects their character.

• The character may refuse this by giving one of their own points to the GM or that character.

10. Each time a character contributes significantly to gaining a major story goal.

11. Player can receive one or several Excelsior Points from other players at the end of a session, just before Stars and Wishes are recorded.

• Each player may award one Excelsior point to a character other than their own. They may choose not to award these points. All Excelsior points that were not given out are discarded. Players can’t keep them.

• When players gift these Excelsior points, they must clearly state the reason for it. Ideally, the reason should fall into one or multiple of the following categories:

º Good role-play, Actions of the player made the game more fun.
º Actions of the player brought something interesting and new to the table.


SPENDING EXCELSIOR

Excelsior points differentiate heroes from ordinary characters: by spending Excelsior points, you can activate heroic abilities, improve the results of your die rolls, recover after combat, and more.

You may spend more than one *Excelsior* point to affect one single action or roll, as long as it is for the same effect (unless the effect explicitly allows it, such as Boost a Die Roll).

A character can spend an Excelsior point to do any of the following:

1. Boost a Die Roll

• You may spend one Excelsior Point to add 1d6 to boost any die roll you make (e.g. any one attack check, damage roll, skill check, saving throw, and so on). A Boost is always favorable to the action, meaning it either adds to your base chance (for skill checks and saves), or it adds to your roll result for attack rolls, damage rolls, or any other type of additive rolls.
• You may only spend ONE Excelsior Point for any given action. [e.g. you may boost an attack roll or a damage roll on a single attack action, but not both.]
Exploding: When the extra die from an Excelsior Point rolled results in a 6, another d6 is rolled and the result is added to the original. Subsequently, this is repeated every time that a maximum (6) is rolled (called a chain reaction).

• There are a few exceptions, as follows.

º You may spend only 1 Excelsior Point to boost a single damage result.
º You may not boost any roll made to increase an attribute score, nor may you boost any roll made to increase hit points (whether they are temporary or permanent).
º If you roll multiple dice, be it for weapon damage, healing, or spell effect, you may only spend one Excelsior Point, and it will only add 1d6 to the entire effect (unless it explodes).
º Some abilities may disallow the use of Excelsior Points to boost one or more rolls, as noted in each relevant ability description.
º Excelsior Points may never be spent to boost a result for which no die roll is made.

• You may declare that you wish to boost a die roll at any time, even after making the roll, but it must be spent before the DM describes the outcome of the action associated with it. Typically, the DM should ask you whether you’re happy with your result before describing what happens.

Example: At Level 6, Kevin generates an attack check result of 12 against a target’s Defense of 20. He spends one Excelsior Point and rolls 1d6, getting a 6. The die explodes (see above), so he rolls


again, this time getting a 1. This result brings Kevin’s attack check result to only 19, not enough to beat the target’s Defense. Kevin spends a second Excelsior Point, rolling a 4. This brings his attack check result to 23, enough to hit the target.

2. Boost Your Defense

• You may spend an Excelsior Point at any time to improve your AC by the amount rolled on a d6. You can even choose to spend an action point after the GM has rolled his attack roll, but before he has informed you of the result of the attack. This bonus lasts until the start of your next turn and applies to all attacks against you.
• You may not spend an Excelsior Point in this way if your AC has already been increased by spending an Excelsior Point.
• The Defense Boost dice DO NOT Explode.

3. Dramatic Recovery

• On your turn, if you are at 1 hp or more, you may use an Excelsior Point to roll your class Hit Dice (including CON bonus) to replenish your current hit points. This may only be used once between short rests. This does not count as an action.

4. Girded Magic

• You may use an Excelsior Point to automatically avoid one DDM effect.
• Your DDM chance, however, still increases by 1.

5. Declare a Story Detail

• You may spend an Excelsior Point to alter some minor detail of a scene to your benefit, such as a shoddy lock, a conveniently placed chandelier, or an improvised weapon within reach. You may also modify the scenery in minor ways. Any changes must make sense, given the context. For instance, in a barn, you could declare there to be a big haystack, a horse, or a conveniently-placed pitchfork, but not a trained warhorse or a masterwork greatsword. The GM is free to interpret the results appropriately to the scene. The GM may also spend his own Drama Points to counter a player’s expenditure
• You may also spend an Excelsior Point to add a detail that works to your character’s advantage. For example, you might use this to narrate a convenient coincidence, like retroactively having the right supplies for a certain job (“Of course, I brought that along!”), showing up at a dramatically appropriate moment, or suggesting that you and the NPC you just met in a scene discover you have mutual clients in common.

6. Cheat Death (Special)

• A character can spend *Excelsior* Points equal to their level +1 to cheat death. How this plays out is up to the GM/table, but generally, when the character takes damage that drops then to 0 hit points, they are instead left alive but unconscious and stable at one hit point.


Example: Parsonis the Bold, a 2nd level Cultist suffers a critical hit from an arrow. If the character spends THREE Excelsior Points, and the GM decides that the arrow pierced the character’s holy symbol, reducing enough damage to prevent him from being killed.

• Cheat Death must be attempted only AFTER all other methods to prevent the character from dropping to 0 hit points have been exhausted, such as rescue exploits. Cheat Death and Mark’s Beneficent Death rule are mutually exclusive. Once the character has opted out or cannot afford the Excelsior point expenditure, it is too late.

Example: Sgt. Barnard suffers a critical hit from a melee attack that would drop him. His player would have to decide at that moment to either spend the Excelsior Points and Cheat Death or pass the opportunity to Cheat Death in hopes a party member can get to him—undistracted and out of the combat zone—before the end of the following round in order to revive him. Once the moment passes, Cheat Death would no longer be an option.

• If a character does not have enough Excelsior Points to Cheat Death, they may (with table approval) draw Excelsior Points from the Party Pool. If there are not enough points in the Party Pool, they may not Cheat Death in this way.
• A character can spend ONE *Excelsior* Point to similarly prevent the death of a familiar, animal companion, or special mount.
• NPCs: The table can agree to spend Party Pool Excelsior Points to help an NPC to Cheat Death. The cost is half what it would be for a PC (NPC’s Level +1, divided by two, rounded up: 1 Excelsior Point for 1st level NPC, 2 points for 2nd and 3rd level NPC, 3 points for 3rd and 4th level NPC, etc).

º If there are not enough points in the Party Pool, the NPC may not Cheat Death in this way.


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Excelsior

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