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Thread: How I Fixed 4e
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 09:43 PM #1
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
How I Fixed 4e
Disclaimer: This thread isn't an attack on 4e. However I am preparing to run it and I wanted to make some tweaks to make the game run as best it can for me and my particular group. I figured that I'd post a thread about it so that I can get any additional feedback that folks care to give. And if somebody likes some of the ideas presented and wants to adopt them for their game then that's great too.
So yeah, I'm gearing up to run my first 4e campaign since the game came out. I'm really excited about the setting I've come up with (maybe I should start another ENW thread about that...) and I think that 4e will be a good fit for our group's playstyle at this point in our gaming careers. However it has a few rough spots that I wanted to polish up to make that fit as perfect as possible for me and my group. So here are the places where I think it needs a bit of work and what I'm doing to fix them:
Skills - I like the new skill system in general. I like that the list is shorter and has fewer skills covering broader areas. What I didn't like so much was that some skills that add a bit of flavor to the game were cut out. I'm speaking of Craft, Perform and Profession. This was an easy fix and it goes like this: At the start of the campaign, I ask each player two questions about their character. "What did you do to earn a living before becoming an adventurer?" and "What does your character do for enjoyment when not adventuring?" The answers to those questions become skills at which the PC is trained. We figure out an applicable ability modifier and we now have a skill bonus to that skill. Voila.
Now if I have an occassion where that PC's ability at Blacksmithing or Lute Playing or Woodcarving or Origami comes into play, I've already got a number to use. It also gives me a guide for things that the PC is interested in to mold plothooks around as well as a tool for introducing plot elements in a way that relate specifically to that PC. So I can, for example, have the PC with the Blacksmithing skill roll to notice that the weapon of the Hobgoblin Lieutenant bears a forge-mark from a neighboring kingdom. Was the weapon stolen or are the Hobgoblins being funded by an enemy nation?! That sort of thing.
Anyway, it costs the PC nothing and the player can invest as much or as little roleplaying in these skills as they like. It's pure bonus.
Powers - Generally speaking I'm cool with the powers based nature of 4e combat. I like the way many of them work and how they synergize among the party members. However I do think that they can have the potential to get a bit repetitive over time. I want to introduce the ability for PC's to break out of the rigid constraints of the powers once in a while in ways that they think are cool. In short, I like rules that let you break the rules on occassion.
My answer is Action Points. If you want to do something that fits the general theme of what your character should be able to do then spend an Action Point and one of your Healing Surges (to represent the effort of doing something extraordinary) and you can do it. If your Cleric of Moradin wants to call upon the god of the mountains to cause a section of the cave to crumble down and block the pursuing Drow, spend an Action Point and a Healing Surge and you can do it. If your Ranger wants to shoot away the supports on the rope bridge and send the Orcs tumbling to their doom, spend an Action Point and a Healing Surge and let fly! If your Fighter wants to call upon every ounce of his strength to lift the boulder off of the trapped child, spend an Action Point and a Healing Surge and you're a hero. If the Wizard wants to use his magic to animate a statue and have it attack on behalf of the party, Action Point and Healing Surge and he's in business.
Now certainly this is going to require a bit of adjudication. The animated statue may not last very long or may not do a lot of damage but I'm willing to let the PC do it if that's important to the player. That's what I'm there for as the GM! I adjudicate stuff! So long as the players understand that I don't really want to haggle about this, I think we'll be ok. They want to do something amazing. I'll consider whether that seems reasonable and fun and then let them know if it's doable. Simple as that.
Speaking of Action Points, let's talk about...
Milestones - There are few mechanics in 4e that I find less flavorful than the "fight two encounters, get a Milestone" bit. But after consideration, I determined that what I needed to do is to simply turn Milestones into, well, milestones. In other words, have something meaningful actually take place. And it doesn't have to be after the encounter either. It can be smack dab in the middle of the battle.
If the PC's interrupt the Evil Wizards in the middle of their Ritual, that's a Milestone. If they maneuver past the Evil Cleric's minions and blow out the Dark Candles that have desecrated the Altar of Pelor, that's a Milestone. When they slay the Hobgoblin Lietenant who led the attack on their village, that's a Milestone. The PC's should constantly be setting short term goals and even quests. Accomplishing those is significant and earns Milestones (and therefore Action Points). Fighting a random encounter of wolves in the woods does not earn you a Milestone.
While I'm discussing making meaningful battles meaningful there's...
Healing - So you just fought the Dragon! Man he was TOUGH! Despite the Cleric's best efforts and spending every Healing Surge, the Dragon finally took down the Fighter. It was lucky that the Rogue and Warlock were able to finish off the Dragon while the Cleric helped the Fighter because he was down to his LAST Death Save! Phew! But 6 hours later the Fighter feels perfectly fine! Fresh as a daisy really! Not a scratch on him.
That may not bother you. I'm not saying it should bother you. But it bothers me. I like my games to be just a bit grittier than that. So I needed a way for PC's to occassionally take a wound that took them more than an Extended Rest to recover from. I don't want to slow the game to a crawl or take anybody completely out of the action for an extended time. Just want them to sometimes "feel that one in the morning" and not always be at 100%. So I came up with this:
(EDIT: I've revised this part to address some problems and loopholes with my original plan.)
Sometimes a PC can sustain an injury that is more painful and and severe than usual. When this happens, the PC becomes Wounded.
There are two possible ways for a PC to become Wounded:
A PC who fails a Death Save while at negative Hit Points becomes Wounded.
Certain monsters (mostly Elite and Solo monsters) or Traps may cause a PC to become Wounded on a Critical Hit.
While Wounded a PC suffers from the following effects:
They do not regain full hit points after an Extended Rest. A successful Heal check after an Extended Rest allows them to regain hit points as though they had spent a Healing Surge.
The PC is not as resiliant as normal and thus their healing surges only restore half (rounded down) of the normal hit points.
A character may attempt to recover from being Wounded after an Extended Rest by making a successful Endurance check. If the PC is under the care of a character Trained in the Heal skill, that roll may be substituted for the Endurance check. In addition it is possible for certain Rituals to give bonuses to this Endurance check or to heal the Wounded condition outright.
This would mean that a Wounded PC IS effected in Combat by way of not gaining as much benefit from healing effects. It also means that having a Cleric around helps quite a bit (thanks to the extra healing above and beyond the Surge value for Healing Word). Without a Cleric a PC has to spend (roughly) 8 Healing Surges to be at full health from zero. That's going to be the lion's share of Surges for even the strongest members of the party.
It makes a Wounded PC fragile and less able to recover from nastier wounds but doesn't take them out of the fight entirely. I think that's the feel that I'm after here.
Mechanically it requires no additional tracking that you weren't already doing anyway during combat. And it takes only a single roll to determine whether the PC has recovered after an Extended Rest.
Speaking of Rituals, let's talk about...
Rituals - Love em'. LOVE em'! You know what goes good with Rituals? MORE Rituals! We need more Rituals. And I'll be hard at work coming up with more of them as the campaign goes along. But, for the moment, let's talk about how to do more with the ones we've got...
A casual glance told me that the cost of Rituals can add up quick. Right away I saw this as an opportunity to hand out Ritual ingredients as treasure and I'll be doing that early and often. Nope, those Demons didn't have any cash on them. But their eyeballs sure do make good Alchemical Reagents! Those carnivorous vines that attacked only had some rusty armor as treasure but fortunately their leaves count as Rare Herbs! The Evil Cleric had a magical mace, which is great! But he also had a pocket full of 400 GP worth of Sanctified Incense! Hawt!
Now another route is to give out the Rituals themselves as treasure. And that's cool but we're going to run out of Rituals in a hurry if we do much of that. There's only like 50 Rituals in the whole PHB! And only 35 of those are usable by Heroic level PC's. But what if we break some of those Rituals into smaller bits?
I'll admit that not all Rituals lend themselves hugely well to this but the Enchant Magic Item Ritual seems made for this. So here's the dealio: The cost to make a magic item from the base Ritual is 150% of the normal cost of the item. BUT, if you have the Ritual for that specific magic item then the cost is only half that (75% normal cost). That cost in either case must be paid in Ritual ingredients and those might not always be easily purchasable. But if you've been picking them up all along your travels (see above) then you've probably got a decent supply.
So, that delve into the abandoned Dwarven City might not have gotten you a ton of cash. But who cares? YOU found the lost Ritual for making Dwarven Armor! Sweet! These sorts of Rituals, or obtaining a specific ingredient required to make your Holy Avenger, may form the entire basis of some adventures.
"But Rel," you say, "you're messing with the whole economy of..."
Magic Items - Yeah, I am. I'm crazy like that. And I realize that my rule about Enchanting Items above necessarily drives up the cost of such items and throws the core assumptions about the economy of such items out of whack.
That's why, to put them back in whack, I'll make your items magic for FREE. Once in a while, due to the chaos and magic that pervades my campaign world, stuff just sort of resonates and becomes spontaneously enchanted. The death blow to the Red Dragon caused your sword to become a Dragonslayer. When you, in a blind rage, slew the Hobgoblin Lieutenant (remember him?) that killed your father, it was forevermore a Berserker Weapon. And was that demonic visage attempting to strike a bargain in your dream last night real or merely a nightmare? You don't know but your newly enchanted Pact Blade gives you cause for worry.
I think you get the idea. If I see members of the party who are lagging behind in the treasure department from time to time, I'll look for an opportunity for something magical to happen to their gear.
Anyway, those are my ideas for tinkering with this game for the time being. I'd love to hear any feedback on the ideas thus far. Like I said, I've not yet begun to run this new campaign and it'll be a few weeks at least before it gets off the ground. So if you've got better suggestions then I'm all ears.
Last edited by Rel; Thursday, 11th June, 2009 at 02:34 AM.
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Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:15 PM #2
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Sounds pretty cool to me, modulo the x2 cost on healing
I've found that the powers system is pretty good, but I cannot abide the flavor intended for most of the powers. The "godlasers" meme is, in fact, a pretty terrible one.
That said, spiritual warfare that has physical effect on ones foe makes good sense; take care how you describe things and you'll be fine
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:25 PM #3
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:31 PM #4
Magsman (Lvl 14)
Definitely some good ideas and flavour there.
Skills & Backgrounds: good idea. It should not be too difficult to bounce off of these in a game. And as you say, the more a player wants to get into it, the more they can - while others will be happy to have just have it there in the background.
Powers: Daily + Action Point seems a good idea. Perhaps if the characters use more than one action point with the daily, the effect may be even better than planned? This makes it a little more meaningful to stock up on a couple of action points, just in case.
Milestones: What you speak of here sounds like a good idea. How do you plan to give XP? I can't remember (and I may be confusing you with a different poster/moderator) but do you level everyone up when appropriate, rather than hand out XP? Perhaps these "milestones" would be good opportunities to hand out story/milestone XP, rather than for killing monsters (sometimes needlessly). Either way, just a thought to as you say, make milestones a little more meaningful.
Healing: agree with you here despite all the "hp/healing surge interpretations" a lot of posters present here. Perhaps another thing to throw into the mix as longer lasting "damage" is the inability to use "Daily" or even "Encounter" powers if the thrashing was severe enough. Use a tracking system similar to disease, to recover these powers back. While this kind of sucks for the player (and character), perhaps you could also use this as a springboard to giving some sort of toughness bonus when next they level if the recovery was lengthy. This toughness bonus could be a bonus hit point a bonus to endurance or even an extra healing surge, representing their capacity to take a little more next time.
Rituals: Ritual components as treasure is a good variation and something that will encourage this aspect in your game. Good idea!
Magic Items: Again a really good idea for stragglers or when the story or heroics demand such a reward. I can't see this breaking your game.
Herremann the Wise
Imagination is a quality given a man to compensate him for what he is not,
and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.
He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:31 PM #5
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:39 PM #6
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Now that there isn't much use for XP other than determining level I might just stop tracking it altogether and just "level them up when I feel like it". However another slant on that idea might be that accomplishing certain specific milestones and quests might be necessary in order to gain that level. That could provide some motivation for some of the players for sure.
I'll have to give that a bit more thought but, mechanically, it's pretty easy to deal with either way.
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:45 PM #7
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
I used backgrounds I made up to sort of get at the same thing, but this approach is nice.Skills - I like the new skill system in general. I like that the list is shorter and has fewer skills covering broader areas. What I didn't like so much was that some skills that add a bit of flavor to the game were cut out. I'm speaking of Craft, Perform and Profession. This was an easy fix and it goes like this:
You could even allow some of this without buring action points...Powers I want to introduce the ability for PC's to break out of the rigid constraints of the powers once in a while in ways that they think are cool. In short, I like rules that let you break the rules on occassion.
My answer is Action Points.
. My interpretation from the start, and you could try really hard to read that in the rules now...haven't really decided if need to come out and declare it in a house rule.Milestones - There are few mechanics in 4e that I find less flavorful than the "fight two encounters, get a Milestone" bit. But after consideration, I determined that what I needed to do is to simply turn Milestones into, well, milestones.
From playing at XP, this has been the thing that has stuck out. D&D has always been, lets call it abstract, and heroic...but at some point it can feel a little too silly. Especially given the pounding a PC can take on a long 4E day.Healing - So you just fought the Dragon! Man he was TOUGH! Despite the Cleric's best efforts and spending every Healing Surge, the Dragon finally took down the Fighter. It was lucky that the Rogue and Warlock were able to finish off the Dragon while the Cleric helped the Fighter because he was down to his LAST Death Save! Phew! But 6 hours later the Fighter feels perfectly fine! Fresh as a daisy really! Not a scratch on him.
Mouseferatu/XRPs Advanced Player Guide also has some interesting wound rules.
Great addition to the game. One of the e-dragons, and the FRPG had more rituals, and I think these are in the compendium. If you have access.Rituals - Love em'. LOVE em'! You know what goes good with Rituals? MORE Rituals! We need more Rituals. ...Right away I saw this as an opportunity to hand out Ritual ingredients as treasure and I'll be doing that early and often. ....Now another route is to give out the Rituals themselves as treasure.
These treasure ideas are spot on...as are:
Really good idea...Magic Items - I'll make your items magic for FREE. Once in a while, due to the chaos and magic that pervades my campaign world, stuff just sort of resonates and becomes spontaneously enchanted. The death blow to the Red Dragon caused your sword to become a Dragonslayer.
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:47 PM #8
Lama (Lvl 13)
Interesting trivia bit: at one point, we thought about doing milestones pretty much the way you describe.
We decided against it because we figured that for story-based games, the DM would have a natural progression of scenes, while for a dungeon-based game it might be a pain to label some encounters as important and others as trivial.
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:48 PM #9
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
For the 3 strikes and you are out, I am considering the following:
When you fail your third death save in an encounter you don't die, but rather you are knocked unconscious, unable to continue in the encounter and worsen one step on the condition track.
While this reduces the chances of dying in any single encounter (as you can now only die by dropping to negative bloodied or falling off the lingering injury track) this will be countered by the penalties for having a lingering wound.
Last edited by Phaezen; Wednesday, 5th November, 2008 at 10:57 PM.
Wednesday, 5th November, 2008, 10:56 PM #10
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I'm allowing freeform rituals. If you want to do an unknown ritual, you pay a lot more than normal in materials and time. If you want to do a ritual faster than normal, you pay more in materials and accept a failure chance.
Its all pretty ad libbed, and I'm not sure I'd want the core rules to have this, but it works well for a house rule.
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