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D&D 4E Changing the Combat Parameters of 4th Edition

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
One of the issues with all this speed up combat duration stuff is that certain powers and abilities that I like that are triggered when the player or enemy are bloodied seem basically undermined completely.

Additionally one of my ideas for speeding things up is an idea of that sort which instead of number massaging things enable wild and extreme "desperation powers" which effectively trigger when the fight gets too drawn out.

The intention being instead of slogging... to follow the fantasy combat tropes closer.
 

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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
CONVERSION GUIDE

I think I have something solid enough to start trying out at my own game table. In order for others who are interested to try to use the same game changes to make it easier to use the 5th Edition material that is being produced and apply it to your own 4th Edition setting, I have summarized all the proposed changes (as well as some optional ones) in a 4.5 Edition Conversion Guide.

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak

Very professionally presented by the way!
 


My group and I have read over your conversion and are very much impressed with what you've done. You have a lot of data and good thoughts. I like that you've opened your ideas up for critical analysis as well. Something I was wondering is that you have these PDFs of 4.5 books. Do you/can you share them? My group is already talking about running a new campaign using the 4.5 rule set you posted. Thank you for all your hard work!
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
I added some more minor things that I have been including in my own game. I have also started analyzing what the impact would be to step away from the bounded accuracy level progress at Epic level, and there use the normal 4th Edition rules. The idea is to have Epic level play have a different feeling than heroic and paragon levels. At Epic level higher level monsters would be tougher as they would not only do much more damage, but you will also have a harder time hitting them due to the faster "To-Hit" and Defense progression.

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
I have now created a 4th Edition version of the excel sheet in order to more easily compare the two systems. Below I show some of the results of the applied 4.5 Edition changes.


COMBAT LENGTH
One of the ambitions I had with changing the rules of 4th Edition was to reduce the average length of battles. This was mainly achieved by reducing the HP of monsters and characters to 75% of the HP progression used in 4th Edition (1st level characters and monsters have the same HP in 4.5 and 4th Editon). Below you can see that we have managed to reduce the average time with 2 rounds in Paragon and Epic levels, keeping the average length within the sweat spot of 5 rounds.

Encounter Length6.jpg

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
BALANCE OVER ALL LEVELS
Another goal was to try to get rid of the problems encountered in Epic level play of 4th Edition, where DMs was forced to use monster 3 to 8 levels over the party level to really challenge them. As can be seen in the tables below, we have managed to get rid of the 4th Edition Paragon “valley”, i.e. that the game get harder at Paragon level, but get much easier at Epic level play. In 4.5 Edition we have managed to get this much more balanced across all levels. Simulated below is the 5 Encounter goal of 4th Edition with a monster of equal level as the party, and the 4.5 Edition is a 3 Encounter example with a monster of equal level to the party.

EndofDay9.jpg

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
FLEXIBLE ENCOUNTER BUILDING
Another goal was to make 4th Edition to mimic the 5th Edition game play, i.e. turning the 5 encounters per day with 4 short rest (1+1+1+1+1) adventuring day in 4th Edition to the 5th Edition 6 (2+2+2) to 9 (3+3+3) encounters per day with 2 short rests. By doing this change, it would be easier to apply my 4.5 Edition game with 5th Edition adventures.

4th Edition Simulation
If we start to look at simulating 4th Edition game play in the 3 (1+1+1), 6 (1+1+1+1+1+1) and 9 (1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1) encounter scenario using standard 4th Edition setup we get the following results:

FlexibleEnc1.jpg

We have to adjust the monster levels from Monster Level +2, down to M-2 level compared to party level, in the three scenarios and we see that the average battle length is reduced from 7.26 rounds per encounter, down to 4.11 rounds per encounter in the 9 Encounter scenario. However, with an assumption that the average game table time is half an hour per round in 4th Edition (yes, I know it can be done faster, but in order to compare I use the same in both examples anyway, so it really does not matter). We can see that we get an adventuring day that increases from 11 hour table time to 14 hours and then 18.5 hours in the 9 encounter scenario.

4.5 Edition Simulation
If we now look at the 4.5 Edition simulation of the same 3 (1+1+1), 6 (2+2+2), and 9 (3+3+3) encounter scanrios using 2 short rests during the adventuring day, we get the results below:

FlexibleEnc2.jpg

As can be seen 4.5 Edition has been built for the 3 Encounters. We use monsters of equal level to the party in the 3 Encounter scenario and then reduce the monster level to M-3 and M-5 when using more encounters between each short rest. The battle length is reduced from an average 3.99 (7.26) rounds per encounter down to only 2.5 (4.11) rounds per encounter in the 9 Encounter scenario. This has a big effect on game table time, going from 6 (11) hours, 9 (14) hours and as high as 11 (18.5) hours for the 9 Encounter Scenario.

Flexibility Conclusion
We have created a game that allows you as a DM to more easily mix and match long tactical encounters, playing like traditional 4th Edition, with a game play more like 5th Edition with small short encounters that still tax the party resources and take little table time to resolve. We have maybe not reached the 2 rounds table time I am hearing from 5th Edition, but 2.5 rounds are not that bad either (for being 4th Edition rules).

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
ENCOUNTER HEALING
In order to achieve this flexibility some of the changes I had to do was to try to reduce the amount of healing the party could do during an Encounter. This was achieved by reducing the Healing Surge value to only 1/6th of the character Max HP, and also reducing the effect of Healing Word (or similar class feature powers). These allow massive encounter based healing. By limiting this to only be regained after an one hour short rest and then running several encounters between each rest I managed to reduce the healing capability per encounter. Another impact was getting rid of surgeless healing, and requiring all healing to have a cost in healing surges.
The difference can be seen in the graphs below. While 4.5 Edition generally have less healing than 4th Edition (see the two graphs to the left), the big difference is when you run the 9 Encounter scenario, where the 4.5 Edition healing greatly reduces the ability to heal per Encounter (see the two graphs to the right).

Healing8.jpg

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
MONSTER DAMAGE
Another thing that we needed to change in order to achieve the equal threat level of monsters at all levels was the damage output of the 4.5 Edition monsters. By reducing monster damage during Heroic levels, and then increasing them during Paragon levels, and then even more during Epic levels, we get a curve that compensates the 4th Edition Paragon level “valley” seen previously and making the threat level more balanced over all monster levels.

Damage5.jpg

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
4th Edition Monster XP and Encounter Building

I did a small exercise to help those of you that do not want to use my 4.5 Edition but would like to have a new XP curve that better reflect the monsters actual challenge difference towards the party in 4th Edition. The standard deviation is here 4.22% so it is a decent match between the XP and the actual monster challenge as to their HP and Damage output in 4th Edition. Quite interestingly it is quite far from the XP ladder given in 4th Edition.

The way I calculate this is to look at monsters down to 5 levels lower and up to 5 levels higher than the party and rounds needed for the party to kill the monster and multiplying this with the average monster damage to see how much damage the monster manage to infect on the party before they kill the monster. Then I optimize the XP to reflect the challenge difference over these 10 levels. So it gives an XP ladder that is optimized for encounter building.

XP7.jpg

The curve is much steeper than my 4.5 Edition that ended at 150,000 XP for a monter of 30th level (here it is 880,000 XP). The reason is that bounded accuracy makes the monster easier to hit and therefore more useful in a wider level range. In 4th Edition monsters sooner get irrelevant due to them loosing the ability to hit and do damage with wider level difference.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
ENCOUNTER BUILDING
I have added some encounter building guidelines into the 4.5 Edition Guideline document. I have also started using this in my own Campaign now, updating the character sheets and mosters to the new rules. What I really like so far is that I have the flexibility to, for example, build a 3 encounters (1+1+1) setup for a day travelling to the Dungeon of Doom, which runs faster than the normal 5 encounter per day guideline in 4th Edition (while using monster of the player level as well (or M+1 if I want to reduce HS), and then when they arrive in the Dungeon of Doom I can run a 3+3+1 format with 6 shorter encounters with more focus on exploration, and then a final boss fight in the end. It brings together the best of two worlds.

What I am pondering on now is the ability to have DM steered recovery during an Extended Rest. What if an extended rest had higher requirements for full HS recovery? Maybe sleeping out in the wild with the threat of wandering mosters reduce the HS recovery, vs. sleeping in a safe place? This could give more DM controll, allowing me to build a three day travelling with one encounter per day, without HS recovery during Extended rest (which would give the same setup as a 1+1+1 adventuring day). Needs some further thinking, but it would be great in order to be able to bring back wandering monsters into 4th Edition in a nice way.

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
So what is the impact of your shenanigans on the value of powers that trigger off of bloodied.
And are mid battle turn arounds undermined by changes to the healing system?
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
So what is the impact of your shenanigans on the value of powers that trigger off of bloodied.
And are mid battle turn arounds undermined by changes to the healing system?

Well it will have an impact when you run the 3+3+3 encounter building as the individual threats are quite small, however we will have to take into account that the damage is most likely not evenly distributed during a battle, some players will take more damage and might still get to the bloodied condition. Another aspect is that during the small short enconters (usually around 2 rounds), tactical battle is not really the point, and the party or monsters will not have the time to use all Powers (like in 3.5 and 5th Edition). These bloodied or non bloodied conditionas will mainly only play a difference in the longer tactical fights, such as when you build a 3+3+1 encounter, when the final battle will be just lika any 4th Edition battle you play.

/Myrhdraak
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
There are also bloodied conditions of the adversaries that may blit off the board so fast that it is insignificant in this model.
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
There are also bloodied conditions of the adversaries that may blit off the board so fast that it is insignificant in this model.

Yes that might be the case, but as DM you have control over when and where to use your monsters. For the short skirmish encounters I will most likely monstly use simple brutes and soldiers, maybe some artillery support, nothing really tactical. For the tactical fights I can of course as a DM go all in and do nice combination and monsters with several interesting combinations, etc. like you do with every fight under the 4th Edition normal rules.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Yes that might be the case, but as DM you have control over when and where to use your monsters.

i added minions to the type of creature which can be intimidated directly by the Deva Astral Majesty.... and since your ummm adjustments opened up the range of adversarial levels you might also enable things that affect bloodied enemies as affecting things ummm 5 levels lower? and mayhaps minions.

It seems like a lot of flavor might be lost and things start feeling like slaughter fests, I guess it isn't technically true as players can chose to have merciful final blows. However In a standard game I have enemies looking for the exit relatively normally when they hit bloodied obviously not undead or low self preservation enemies but this can also accelerate fights AND my players do not feel the need to be murdering machines and chase them down.

I am uncertain of the benefits of enabling those 2 round non-fights... making it easier to integrate a few combatant tricks in what is mostly a skill challenge would seem more useful.
 
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Myrhdraak

Explorer
I am uncertain of the benefits of enabling those 2 round non-fights... making it easier to integrate a few combatant tricks in what is mostly a skill challenge would seem more useful.

I am not sure that I would agree, but I think it is all a preference here.
I could see a skill challenge for a minor skirmish be resolved with and Athletics group check for all melee fighters and a group Arcana/Religion check for the magic/divine users. Question is what fun is that? If you have a working combat mechanic with powers and HP, why try to replace it with an inferior mechanism? How fun is running 4 of these before the real tactical battle happens? Will it be so well balanced so that 50% of the party resources are now consumed when the final battle happens? I do not think so, and then you will have to compensate with a lot of high level monsters instead which then introduce much more XP and more risk for a battle that will be very long (4 rounds of At-Will powers) as well as more "risky" in the sense that it might be overpowering the PCs.

Another argument is why 5th Edition at all have combat encounters as every encounter is built for the 2 rounds encounter length? Why haven't they just taken out combat mechanism completly and are only running skill challenges instead? I think they realized that the 4th Edition strategy of making EVERY battle tactical, consumed to much table time, and there was a need to shorten many of these encounters to give more time for exploration and roleplaying - but not by turning short encounters into skill challenges, but by creating a combat framework that allowed for 2 rounds of average combat length. Sadly at the expense of longer tactical fights. The game could not do both. What I am trying to achieve here is a game that can do both.

But if you prefer a few tactical combats and resolve everything else as skill challenges, run with it.

4.5 Edition Conversion Guide

/Myrhdraak
 

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