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

S'mon

Legend
In the last battle of my Loudwater campaign, Orcus (level 34 Solo) was automatically taking a 29th level PC to 0 hp *every round* with the Wand of Orcus, plus re-animating all his undead minions every round.

He still went down fairly easily, and no PCs died. Being taken to 0 hp didn't seem to bother the PCs much, they had several self-healing no-action abilities before even getting into Leader healing. So it seemed like it almost did not matter what damage the monsters can do, unless they can negative-bloody a PC in one attack routine.
 

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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Being taken to 0 hp didn't seem to bother the PCs much, they had several self-healing no-action abilities before even getting into Leader healing.

Godling battles are a different kettle of fish, I think if I understand it the point of this thread is about adjusting things so it isnt so completely different than lower level battles.
 

So it seemed like it almost did not matter what damage the monsters can do, unless they can negativte-bloody a PC in one attack routine.

Godling battles are a different kettle of fish, I think if I understand it the point of this thread is about adjusting things so it isnt so completely different than lower level battles.

That is one of, and the most recent, points of this thread.

And yes, endgame battles and workday paving are indeed very much a different kettle of fish. That was what I was trying to convey in my prior two posts (where I looked at the Bladesingers level 20-30 build contributions). I looked at the Rogue and Druid/Warlord hybrids' 20-30 build contributions the other day. Truly amazingly powerful PCs (and not silly, incoherent fiction build optimized) on their own. The force multiplication (staying power, action economy gains, team synergy, control effects, mobility/ability to "attack the Y axis", etc) of PC 20-30 build contributions is a large part of the signal here.

Personally, I think [MENTION=6694190]Myrhdraak[/MENTION] 's aims might be better served just using the 1-20 game, introducing a small, scaling damage bump to all non-Minions at Bloodied and deploying less HP-intensive (but still just as threatening) Encounter Budgets. 4e is robust to that treatment. It is one of 4e's best dials.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
FLAT CHALLENGE CURVE?

So next step I did was trying to go back to the new healing values and applying them to the analysis to see how the HS value looked like by the end of the Adventuring Day. I had to do some changes to the damage curve in order to reach the kind of "flattish" End of Day curve for the Single Encounter scenario below. It works quite well up till Monster Level +2 vs. party level, after that three encounters are going to be tougher, which I think sounds like a quite good sweet spot. That the curve also "slopes" at Epic level is good as the party will have additional Powers not really simulated here.

EndofDay6.jpg

Double Encounter
If we now apply the same to the Double Encounter scenario we get another curve. This curve is not flat in the same way as the Single Encounter scenario. I believe it will be hard to avoid this change unless we start to changing the healing paradigm more. The positive side is that we actually are causing clear HS damage in the Double Encounter scenario, and we can use very weak opponents and still cause damage due to the bounded accuracy (i.e. short encounters that still matters in the long run). Encounter design wise we probably have to propose different sweat spots for Heroic, Paragon and Epic play in the Double Encounter Scenario.

EndofDay7.jpg

Triple Encounter
The Triple Encounter scenario gets even more steeper, but otherwise behaves in a similar way as the Double Encounter.

EndofDay8.jpg
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
DAMAGE CURVE

So what did I do to the damage curve to get rid of the Epic bump and the Paragon vale? Well, I had to apply a curve that worked in the opposite direction. I think we are quite close to the original 4th Edition damage output in Heroic level, but we then increase it drastically in Paragon level and even more reaching Epic levels. Personally I think this will be interesting as higher level challenges will drastically start to make more damage at higher levels, and in the way be similar to the 5th Edition monster damage curve (even though that one is much more extreme).

Damage4.jpg
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Personally I think this will be interesting as higher level challenges will drastically start to make more damage at higher levels, and in the way be similar to the 5th Edition monster damage curve (even though that one is much more extreme).
Does 5th edition really even have an Epic end?
 

Does 5th edition really even have an Epic end?

IME 5e high level play starts to look something like 3.5 high level play. Things get very focused on taking out your opponent in one move. Casters become increasingly more effective, defenses become less viable, and ranged/melee combat loses some significance.

Its certainly quite a bit less extreme than 3.5, and the way loads of weaker monsters can still have some impact is quite different, but there is even less of a rally narrative than 5e has at lower levels (which is already a lot less than 4e does).
 

Does 5th edition really even have an Epic end?
It seems unlikely, at this point, that it will come to an Epic End. More likely it'll just kinda peter out in another 10 or 12 years...

Seriously, though, it's standard issue D&D: once you hit the double digits and start casting 6+ level spells, the emphasis shifts from simply doing damage or forcing saving throws or pulling cute little tricks to crazy, fairly absolute/arbitrary stuff. It's not as pronounced as in the past (you don't get nearly as many 6+ level spells, nor do you have as many nor as dramatically scaled lower-level ones, though they all remain usable for something, few are wasted, and you also have cantrips to fall back on), but it's a real change in tone. Epic? Matter of opinion.

What I think they mean, though, is that to compensate for Bounded Accuracy making level only a modest consideration in whether you can hit or make a check, the game instead scales hit points and damage very dramatically (compared to AD&D, ever class gets a HD and full con bonus at every level, it's right up there with 3e in terms of ballooning hps with level), damage also goes up dramatically with level - character level in the case of cantrips, slot level in the case of spells, and class level in the case of extra attack & feats.

And, of course, hps and damage really balloon with the monsters, since they don't have a lot else to scale.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
XP CURVE

Next step is to look at the XP curve with this new monster damage curve. As can be expected it changes quite a lot in the higher end.

XP5.jpg

XP Tables
The actual encounter planning, monster XP and PC level progression will change to the following to fit the new damage output. The standard deviation only goes down to 5.7%, but it is good enough for planning.

XP6.jpg
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
TESTING THE TABLE FOR ENCOUNTER DESIGN

So in order to test the table and the numbers behind it we can try to design an encounter using the table. I will start with an 8th level example with 5 players (just to try something else than 6, 16 and 26th we tried Before)

8th Level Party Encounter
We start with a Single Encounter against five 8th Level Monsters. Encounter XP budget is 2950 XP, we get five 8th level monsters worth 1180 XP each. Looking at the party we get the following figures for a Single Encounter:
- Party HP: 300 HP
- Party HS value: 50 HP (1/6 of max) with 5 HS
- Average Monster Damage: -121 HP
- Average Magic Healing: 97 HP with 5 HS
- Natural Healing: We need to use 2.4 second winds to heal 24 HP
- Combat Length: 3.7 rounds
= Total Party loss is 7.4 HS to get back to full HP during battle

So lets compare this to a Triple Encounter scenario instead. Encounter XP budget is split into Three: 2950/3=983 XP encounter budget. Just to make it fun lets build a little different encounters just to be able to compare.
- Encounter 1: Seven 3rd Level Monsters (7 x 140=980 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -37 HP; Combat Length: 2.2 rounds
- Encounter 2: Three 6th Level Monsters (3 x 350=1050 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -38 HP; Combat Length: 1.6 rounds
- Encounter 3: One Elite 7th Level Monster (900 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -36 HP; Combat Length: 1.2 rounds
- Total Monster Damage 3 Encounters: -111 HP
- Average Magic Healing: 50 HP per Encounter with 3.7 HS = 50 x 3 = 150 HP with 11.1 HS
- Natural Healing: Will not be needed as magical healing is more than monster damage.
= Total Party loss is 6.82 HS to get back to full during the 3 Encounters

If we compare these two encounters we find that they play out with almost the same result: 7.4 vs. 6.8 HS used. Both cases let party recover to full HP. The average monster damage output is almost identical in the Three smaller encounters: -37, -38, -36; and the total damage is quite similar as well -111 vs. -121 HP in damage. It seems very well balanced on an overall level, we will have to see if we get similar numbers at higher levels or not.

NOTE
Another important thing to point out is that we have managed to reduce a Single Encounter with a combat length of 3.7 rounds to Three Encounters with a varying length of 1.2 rounds to 2.2 rounds depending if you want to throw in many weaker monsters or a single harder monster, while still consuming the same HS Resources as in the Single Encounter, i.e. we have managed to reach the design goal!!!!!
 
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TESTING THE TABLE FOR ENCOUNTER DESIGN

So in order to test the table and the numbers behind it we can try to design an encounter using the table. I will start with an 8th level example with 5 players (just to try something else than 6, 16 and 26th we tried Before)

8th Level Party Encounter
We start with a Single Encounter against five 8th Level Monsters. Encounter XP budget is 2950 XP, we get five 8th level monsters worth 1180 XP each. Looking at the party we get the following figures for a Single Encounter:
- Party HP: 300 HP
- Party HS value: 50 HP (1/6 of max) with 5 HS
- Average Monster Damage: -121 HP
- Average Magic Healing: 97 HP with 5 HS
- Natural Healing: We need to use 2.4 second winds to heal 24 HP
- Combat Length: 3.7 rounds
= Total Party loss is 7.4 HS to get back to full HP during battle

So lets compare this to a Triple Encounter scenario instead. Encounter XP budget is split into Three: 2950/3=983 XP encounter budget. Just to make it fun lets build a little different encounters just to be able to compare.
- Encounter 1: Seven 3rd Level Monsters (7 x 140=980 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -37 HP; Combat Length: 2.2 rounds
- Encounter 2: Three 6th Level Monsters (3 x 350=1050 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -38 HP; Combat Length: 1.6 rounds
- Encounter 3: One Elite 7th Level Monster (900 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -36 HP; Combat Length: 1.2 rounds
- Total Monster Damage 3 Encounters: -111 HP
- Average Magic Healing: 50 HP per Encounter with 3.7 HS = 50 x 3 = 150 HP with 11.1 HS
- Natural Healing: Will not be needed as magical healing is more than monster damage.
= Total Party loss is 6.82 HS to get back to full during the 3 Encounters

If we compare these two encounters we find that they play out with almost the same result: 7.4 vs. 6.8 HS used. Both cases let party recover to full HP. The average monster damage output is almost identical in the Three smaller encounters: -37, -38, -36; and the total damage is quite similar as well -111 vs. -121 HP in damage. It seems very well balanced on an overall level, we will have to see if we get similar numbers at higher levels or not.

NOTE
Another important thing to point out is that we have managed to reduce a Single Encounter with a combat length of 3.7 rounds to Three Encounters with a varying length of 1.2 rounds to 2.2 rounds depending if you want to throw in many weaker monsters or a single harder monster, while still consuming the same HS Resources as in the Single Encounter, i.e. we have managed to reach the design goal!!!!!

Its interesting analysis. I'm not sure I completely share your goals, but your math seems reasonably solid, as far as it goes. I suspect of course you'll find that on a table top it may turn out to need some adjustments, and there may be some unforeseen implications, but I guess you'll find out!
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
Its interesting analysis. I'm not sure I completely share your goals, but your math seems reasonably solid, as far as it goes. I suspect of course you'll find that on a table top it may turn out to need some adjustments, and there may be some unforeseen implications, but I guess you'll find out!

For each one their own dream of paradise!

It will be interesting to see in game play, I intend to implement and try it out, but first I will write down a conversion guidline for those who want to try it out.
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
TESTING THE TABLE FOR ENCOUNTER DESIGN - 18th Level

Let's see how 18th level work out as well.

18th Level Party Encounter
We start with a Single Encounter against five 18th Level Monsters. Encounter XP budget is 33,500 XP, we get five 8th level monsters worth 6,700 XP each. Looking at the party we get the following figures for a Single Encounter:
- Party HP: 530 HP
- Party HS value: 88 HP (1/6 of max) with 5 HS
- Average Monster Damage: -348 HP
- Average Magic Healing: 200 HP with 9 HS
- Natural Healing: We need to use 8.3 healing surges of second wind and natural healing (the later under a short rest) to heal 148 HP
- Combat Length: 3.7 rounds
= Total Party loss is 16 HS to get back to full HP during battle

So lets compare this to a Triple Encounter scenario instead. Encounter XP budget is split into Three: 33,500/3=11,167 XP encounter budget. Lets build a different encounters to see if it also works at 18th level.
- Encounter 1: Eight 11th Level Monsters (8 x 1,280=10,240 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -119 HP; Combat Length: 4.1 rounds
- Encounter 2: Three 15th Level Monsters (3 x 3,450=10,350 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -117 HP; Combat Length: 2.0 rounds
- Encounter 3: One Elite 17th Level Monster (10,800 XP) -> Average Monster Damage: -116 HP; Combat Length: 1.7 rounds
- Total Monster Damage 3 Encounters: -352 HP
- Average Magic Healing: 97 HP per Encounter with 6.2 HS = 160 x 3 = 480 HP with 18.6 HS
- Natural Healing: Will not be needed as magical healing is more than monster damage.
= Total Party loss is 13.64 HS to get back to full during the 3 Encounters

If we compare these two encounters we yet again find that they play out with almost the same result: 16 vs. 13.6 HS used. However, the Single Encounter do require the party to take a short rest to fully recover all HP. The average monster damage output is almost identical in the three smaller encounters: -119, -117, -116; and the total damage is quite similar as well -348 vs. -352 HP in damage. It seems very well balanced also on Paragon Level of play.

NOTE
So what happens with the combat length? Well here we can se that the combat length for the Single Encounter is 3.7 rounds - similar to what we got at 8th Level. The Three Encounters scenario have varying length of 1.7, 2.0 and 4.1 rounds. It is obvious not worthwile to bring in a lot of weaker enemies at paragon play if your ambition is to reduce combat length. However they all consume almost the same HS Resources as in the Single Encounter. I would say that we have achieve the design goal, but it might be worthwile to look deeper into the minion or weak enemy option that S'mon was suggesting if we want to go to many weaker enemies but also reducing combat length at the same time.
 

Myrhdraak

Explorer
Way too few of rounds how can the battle be interesting with 1.2 to 2.2 rounds...

It is not going to be interesting! That is the point of this exercise. As we concluded earlier - 4th Edition is designed to make every encounter interesting and tactical, potentially leading to 5 x 2 hours playing time to get through an adventuring day. If that is how you like to do it - do it. However, if you are interesting to add simple random encounters, a few fast skirmishes before the big tactical fight that plays out in 30-40 minutes but still consumes limited party Resources (HS), 4th Edition might not really cure that itch you have. 5th edition is design more with that in mind - but lacks the tactical part that 4th Edition brings. What we have created here is a couple of changes to the 4th Edition Rules that allow the game to do BOTH, not one or the other, but BOTH. You as the DM have an easy toolbox to use. And if you want to convert 5th Edition adventures, it will probably be simpler than with the traditional 4th Edition rule, which would require more of a redesign of the encounters (however, with some more monster changes).
 


Myrhdraak

Explorer
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
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
What we have created here is a couple of changes to the 4th Edition Rules that allow the game to do BOTH, not one or the other, but BOTH. You as the DM have an easy toolbox to use. .

Potentially valuable in the flexibility field. I have swapped back and forth between skill challenge like mechanics (fairly free formed) for some resolutions that might have had elements of combat but werent worth a full battle resolution.
 

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