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13th Age A proposal for replacing the 4e combat/powers framework with the 13th Age one.

Hi all,
so I recently acquired a full set of 4e books, and I wanted to give it a(nother) try. I had already bought and DMed it back in 2008, and although I loved many aspects of it, I never warmed to the idea of minis and maps (both for the time it takes to play out encounters, and as a practical issue of not having enough space to play and store material). I have 30 years experience DMing, most of my gaming career has been spent on AD&D 2e and BECMI (and a little 3.0), so I never used/needed an exacting tactical system. Still, I love the 4e design of characters and (most importantly for me as DM) monsters and NPCs.
Fast forward to last year, I bought and enjoyed 13th Age immensely: interesting tactical options, and no grid/minis required? What's not to love? If only 5e had been built along these lines! So a few weeks ago my mind wandered back to 4e, and the chance to buy a pretty much complete collection of books at 80% discount; I couldn't miss it. So I went scouring the internet for attempts to replace the 4e combat/power framework with something similar to 13th Age, but apparently nobody worked really hard on it. So, I donned my designer's hat, and the following is what I produced. I have playtested it for a few sessions, and I haven't found any major problems; I have two players, one had played 4e and didn't like it in the least (again, doesn't like minis); the other is more or less a newbie to 4e (but we played a longish 5e campaign.) I didn't tell them we were playing 4e, as I didn't want to bias their perception. By the end of the first session, the big reveal: we had been playing 4e with a few house rules :D They were enthusiastic, and now crave for more.
OK, long rant, herewith the framework I came up with; feel free to comment and (constructively) criticise.
Thanks in advance for any comments!

Antonio

[h=1]D&D 4e revised combat rules[/h]The purpose of this document is to describe an alternative framework to combat on the grid. Using some 13th Age-inspired mechanics, I rewrite the way powers work when they reference the grid, thus removing the need for counting squares either in relation to range, or to areas of effect. Please refer to the 13th Age SRD Combat rules chapter for details. Where halving of a number is required, always round down. In the following, X will denote the number of squares or the size of an effect in a 4e power description.
[h=2]Ranges[/h]- All ranges of 10 or less squares are considered Nearby. All ranges of 11 or more are considered Far Away.
- Missile or thrown weapons with long range of 10 or less can only be fired Nearby. Those with long range >10 can be fired Far Away at -2. Those with short range >10 can be fired Far Away at no penalty.
- Reach X weapons or effects allow an attack at non-engaged targets by succeeding at a saving throw, with a bonus equal to base Dex modifier+X. Creatures with the Threatening Reach trait can attack within their reach without need of a save.
[h=2]Movement[/h]
- A Move action allows a character to move everywhere Nearby. Characters with Speeds of 6 or more can move to Far Away range by spending two Move actions. Characters with Speeds of 5 or less (either naturally, or because they wear Heavy armor for example) must also succeed at a saving throw with Speed bonus; failure means the two Move actions are expended but the character is still Nearby (next round however a single Move action will allow moving Far away). In general, if spending two Move actions results in a total Speed >10, then movement to Far Away range is possible without a saving throw.
- A Run action (PHB p. 291) allows a character with Speed 4 or 5 to move Far away with two Move actions, and no save required.
- Movement in difficult terrain requires succeeding at a saving throw with Speed bonus as a Move action (Terrain Walk traits allow a creature to ignore the save.) Failure means the creature expends the Move action but doesn’t reach its objective this round.
- Effects that push, pull, or slide a target X squares are interpreted according to the relative positioning of attacker and target, and to the tactical effect they can achieve. The DM should pay attention to the environment, and adjudicate forced movement attempts based on the intent of the move (e.g. a character might want to push a monster off a cliff.) A successful saving throw at a penalty equal to X means the target is not forced to move. A failed save means the target is forced to move as a free action. Some notable cases:
o An effect that pushes a target adjacent to an attacker, results in the target Popping free.
o An effect that pushes an Engaged target, followed by a movement of the attacker, allows the latter to move as a free action and Engage the target again.
o A pull effect can force a target to Engage the attacker. As a free action, the target immediately moves toward the attacker, attempting to Engage it or get as close as possible to it.
o A slide effect can be interpreted as a push or a pull. Slide effects on adjacent allies can be used to grant Combat Advantage.
- A shift effect allows a character to Pop free from an enemy on a successful Disengage check (a saving throw). The bonus on the saving throw is equal to the number of squares. So, “shift 3” should be read as a +3 bonus. If the shift is part of another effect, the Disengage check is generally a free action.

[h=2]Areas of effect[/h]- Close Burst 1: all engaged or close targets.
- Close Burst X: all engaged or close targets, plus 1d4+X/2 Nearby targets.
- Area Burst X: 1d4+X/2 targets in a Group within the stated range (Nearby or Far Away).
- Close Blast X: 1d4+X/4 Nearby, engaged and close targets in a Group. The latter are counted off the total (as we don’t know the exact position of the targets around the attacker.)
 

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Myrhdraak

Explorer
I don't really see the point in staying with 4th edition if yo don't like tactical combat. Why not go over to 5th edition, or 13th Age if you like some tactics but don't want a grid and prefer TotM
 

I get that minis aren't your thing, but holy Lord this is a mental-logistics nightmare for me. The pseudo-spatial, non-transitive nature of 13A's "range bands" was bad enough (still don't understand how they can work consistently), trying to add forced movement, teleportation, etc. and retain the salient features thereof is...yeah. I applaud the effort, but consider it something of a fool's errand. If it works for you, great, happy gaming, but I'll be in the corner, quietly flabbergasted.
 

Too bad you never got to see Wrecan's SARN-FU on the wizard's board. It let you run 4e TotM a bit like 13A does.

You can also run 4e TotM as is. The blocky 'square fireball' effect of the grid and simple counting of diagonals actually makes tracking relative positioning and who's in what AE pretty easy, even in 3D battles, compared to more granular or geometrically 'accurate' systems.

Otherwise, what you have looks fine. I'd maybe make conversions a little less mathy, not worrying so much about whether an effect targets 1d4+1 vs 1d4+2 targets. Maybe just:

Burst 1/Blast 3: 1d3
Burst 2/Blast 5: 1d4
Burst 3+/Blast 10: 1d6

Also get used to 5 movement vs 7 not mattering. Shifting probably shouldn't require that save, but the distance could let you escape from more opponents or from one with threatening reach. That kinda thing.
You're going to lose some granularity, but it won't make a big difference.

Also consider adopting the 13A 'Escalation Die' mechanic. Slightly discourages annoying 'Novas' and helps speed up longer combats.
 
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I don't really see the point in staying with 4th edition if yo don't like tactical combat. Why not go over to 5th edition, or 13th Age if you like some tactics but don't want a grid and prefer TotM
I had asked explicitly for constructive comments. Anyway, just to better explain my choice:

- I like 4e monster and NPC mechanics more than in 13th Age and 5e.
- I like the wider selection of monsters
- I like the wider selection of powers
- I like skills
- I like the wider level range
- I like explicit rituals
- I got tons of books for VERY cheap, I might as well use them
 

I get that minis aren't your thing, but holy Lord this is a mental-logistics nightmare for me. The pseudo-spatial, non-transitive nature of 13A's "range bands" was bad enough (still don't understand how they can work consistently), trying to add forced movement, teleportation, etc. and retain the salient features thereof is...yeah. I applaud the effort, but consider it something of a fool's errand. If it works for you, great, happy gaming, but I'll be in the corner, quietly flabbergasted.

Similar to the above. 13th Age worked very well for us (including forced movement and teleportation, which DO exist in 13th Age). You should address the fool's errand comment to Heinsoo and Tweet; I simply ported their system to 4e.
 

Too bad you never got to see Wrecan's SARN-FU on the wizard's board. It let you run 4e TotM a bit like 13A does.

You can also run 4e TotM as is. The blocky 'square fireball' effect of the grid and simple counting of diagonals actually makes tracking relative positioning and who's in what AE pretty easy, even in 3D battles, compared to more granular or geometrically 'accurate' systems.

Otherwise, what you have looks fine. I'd maybe make conversions a little less mathy, not worrying so much about whether an effect targets 1d4+1 vs 1d4+2 targets. Maybe just:

Burst 1/Blast 3: 1d3
Burst 2/Blast 5: 1d4
Burst 3+/Blast 10: 1d6

Also get used to 5 movement vs 7 not mattering. Shifting probably shouldn't require that save, but the distance could let you escape from more opponents or from one with threatening reach. That kinda thing.
You're going to lose some granularity, but it won't make a big difference.

Also consider adopting the 13A 'Escalation Die' mechanic. Slightly discourages annoying 'Novas' and helps speed up longer combats.

Thanks for the comment!
I don't know about Wrecan's system; any pointers? I know the WotC boards don't exist anymore.

The conversion is indeed somewhat "mathy" but the rules are simple, and I designed them so I can do the conversions on the fly (I DON'T rewrite stat blocks.) I considered flat dice like you suggest, but in the end, applying the "math" version proved faster in actual play.

Still on the fence regarding the movement; the main point was to make armor choice impact movement (and as a by product, address also creatures with speeds lower than 6.) I have a dwarf in the group, and in combat the lower speed has had an (albeit small) impact.

I am definitely not sure about Reach. I'd like it to count for something, but I am not sure I like this solution. I hasn't come into play for now, but at some point it will happen.

Thanks,
Antonio
 

Still on the fence regarding the movement; the main point was to make armor choice impact movement (and as a by product, address also creatures with speeds lower than 6.) I have a dwarf in the group, and in combat the lower speed has had an (albeit small) impact.
The loss of granularity is certainly something you'll feel.

I am definitely not sure about Reach. I'd like it to count for something, but I am not sure I like this solution. I hasn't come into play for now, but at some point it will happen.
You could make it strictly comparative, and also take shifting into account:

By default, everyone has a Reach 1 and can use their move to Shift 1.

You can attack an enemy in melee without engaging them if your Reach is greater than their Reach.

You can engage an enemy who's reach is greater than yours if your Reach + Shift is greater than their Reach. Otherwise you follow the rules for disengaging (I can't recall the 13A disengage rules, exactly, ATM).

In some ways that's better than 4e reach (a bit like 3e reach or threatening reach), but it's fairly simple.
You can disengage from an enemy automatically if your Shift is greater than his Reach.
 



That's it. The late Wrecan had a number of good blog posts like that. Hopefully wizards doesn't ask the archive to remove any of that stuff anytime soon.

Ah yes, now that I looked at it, I recall we tried to use it back in the day. We found out it was somewhat too fiddly; we much prefer the more abstract nature of 13th Age.
 

The loss of granularity is certainly something you'll feel.

You could make it strictly comparative, and also take shifting into account:

By default, everyone has a Reach 1 and can use their move to Shift 1.

You can attack an enemy in melee without engaging them if your Reach is greater than their Reach.

You can engage an enemy who's reach is greater than yours if your Reach + Shift is greater than their Reach. Otherwise you follow the rules for disengaging (I can't recall the 13A disengage rules, exactly, ATM).

In some ways that's better than 4e reach (a bit like 3e reach or threatening reach), but it's fairly simple.
You can disengage from an enemy automatically if your Shift is greater than his Reach.

Thanks for the comment; this is very interesting. The 13A disengage rules work as a saving throw (as a Move action), with a penalty of +1 for each enemy beyond the first with which a character is engaged. They allow more than a simple shift (as in principle you could move anywhere Nearby) so I suppose factoring in the save also the Shift could potentially work. Some food for thought.
 
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