D&D 4E Help me improve my sci-fi homebrew 4e rules

Inspired by the flavor of Eclipse Phase and the familiarity of 4e, I sought to make a 4e-inspired ruleset to handle sci-fi. Here's my first stab, the result of a week or so of fiddling.

My goal is to capture action from settings like Aliens and Halo, with a variety of combat styles. The basic set-up is that instead of classes with powers, you design your character based on a variety of feats (you start with 4).

The main components of the system are the fighting styles. Each fighting style consists of two parts, each of which requires one feat. Style Basis gives some minor static ability, or a modifier to your basic attacks, and Style Expertise gives you a few tricks you can pull off if you battle surge (which you can only do a few times per combat) or have combat focus (which requires a standard action to achieve, but remains until you expend it to perform some sort of immediate interrupt).

For instance, the Two Weapon Fighter style lets you, instead of attacking with one weapon as a standard action, spend a standard and minor to make two attacks against the same target. That's the basic ability. If you spend a second feat to get the expertise, then a few times per combat you can battle surge to make two attacks (at the same or different targets) as one standard action, and if you have your combat focus you can expend it to reload two weapons at once, even if you have no free hands.

My goal of the combat system is to encourage different tempo. Usually you rely on basic attacks (modified by your styles), but occasionally you fall back to attain combat focus so you can pull off more interesting tricks.

I'd like your thoughts, especially if you can come up with some ideas for new fighting styles, or feats. As is, I figure the game runs out of options after 10th level or so.
 

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The Green Adam

First Post
No particular interest on my part personally but I do have a question. Isn't Star Wars Saga Edition akin to having 4E Sci-Fi rules?

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Barking Alien
 

Yep, but Saga was a precursor to 4e. I've played 4e, and when I reread Saga I felt like it would be hard to take a step back to the older ruleset.
 

Votan

Explorer
Yep, but Saga was a precursor to 4e. I've played 4e, and when I reread Saga I felt like it would be hard to take a step back to the older ruleset.

Interesting. I think that the single class might be an issue and balancing several 4e style classes would be pretty challenging.

Wisdom looks awful important given that it is the sole contributor to sanity. A mixture of traits might make sense.

But I think some updating on Saga might be an easier way to go.
 

Angellis_ater

First Post
The Dreadnought doesn't seem to have an "while focused" ability, which essentially makes it very suboptimal to use unless you wanna spend a turn healing and thats about it.

Overall I like the concept, the Afflict rules feel a little complicated. I would suggest looking these over. My initial response is that there will be two kinds of reactions - either ignoring them because there is too much to learn, or overindulging since they can be far better than damage.

I'm a little concerned about both how important Wisdom is to Sanity and how Sanity relates to Morphs. Also, is Sanity Damage like HP Damage (ie no real effect until you hit 0) or does it have a "Shaken" position (like Bloodied for HP)? Might make more sense. I would also suggest having a few "morale actions" like taking Sanity damage when an ally dies in battle, or the ability to use Intimidate to deal Sanity damage to enemies.
 

Starglim

Explorer
My first impression is that the few power-equivalent abilities you've kept give a lot of attention to hand-to-hand combat, maybe at the expense of other actions important to SF adventuring. You mention Aliens and Halo but I'm not sure it describes those sorts of characters well. It almost reads more like an Ultimate Fighting simulation. I'd want to be sure to cover, by explicit character abilities or setting elements,
  • most definitely gunfighting,
  • vehicles (presumably, spaceships),
  • investigation,
  • negotiation,
  • healing (particularly that a party has a clearly identifiable role responsible for it),
though you might have a very different view of the characters and actions you think are vital to support.

Is it important, in the game you want to run, to keep melee combat a viable and important part of adventuring? It almost seems as if that's a design goal that you haven't mentioned but that dictates many of your design choices.

I wonder if it would help to expand the Combat Style structure into just Styles for adventurers, giving roughly an equal number of options for each of the areas you analyse as important - or in proportion to how important they are.
 
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The Dreadnought doesn't seem to have an "while focused" ability, which essentially makes it very suboptimal to use unless you wanna spend a turn healing and thats about it.

Overall I like the concept, the Afflict rules feel a little complicated. I would suggest looking these over. My initial response is that there will be two kinds of reactions - either ignoring them because there is too much to learn, or overindulging since they can be far better than damage.

I'm a little concerned about both how important Wisdom is to Sanity and how Sanity relates to Morphs. Also, is Sanity Damage like HP Damage (ie no real effect until you hit 0) or does it have a "Shaken" position (like Bloodied for HP)? Might make more sense. I would also suggest having a few "morale actions" like taking Sanity damage when an ally dies in battle, or the ability to use Intimidate to deal Sanity damage to enemies.

Agreed on dreadnought. Any suggestions?

The idea with sanity is like Call of Cthulhu: very stressful things can force sanity checks, with various consequences. Short term things like "flip out" or "freak out," or longer term things like mental diseases. But that's not necessary for using the rules in an 'action movie' style. I really haven't done too terribly much work on the 'sanity' side of things.

As for Afflict, the plan is for combat to be like, "Shoot, shoot, shoot" for a few rounds until he's bloodied, and then "take him out some way special." Shoot someone's eye out, leave them bleeding out of their guts, daze them, or otherwise put them in a bad place.

Once you give it a few tries I think it should become pretty straight forward. I'm hoping it encourages dramatic conclusions to fights, instead of just ablating hit points until victory. I'll be starting a mini-campaign with these rules next week, so I'll see whether my hunches are totally off base.

My first impression is that the few power-equivalent abilities you've kept give a lot of attention to hand-to-hand combat, maybe at the expense of other actions important to SF adventuring. You mention Aliens and Halo but I'm not sure it describes those sorts of characters well. It almost reads more like an Ultimate Fighting simulation. I'd want to be sure to cover, by explicit character abilities or setting elements,
  • most definitely gunfighting,
  • vehicles (presumably, spaceships),
  • investigation,
  • negotiation,
  • healing (particularly that a party has a clearly identifiable role responsible for it),
though you might have a very different view of the characters and actions you think are vital to support.

Is it important, in the game you want to run, to keep melee combat a viable and important part of adventuring? It almost seems as if that's a design goal that you haven't mentioned but that dictates many of your design choices.

I wonder if it would help to expand the Combat Style structure into just Styles for adventurers, giving roughly an equal number of options for each of the areas you analyse as important - or in proportion to how important they are.

Well, the thing is, how many different ways are there to shoot people? I came up with more options for melee combat because there are more options for melee combat. Maybe it's a failing of my creativity. I suppose I could have some sort of heavy guns style, and probably a vehicle-based one. What other sorts of combat styles were you thinking of?

Each of the styles, even the melee ones, can add depth to a gunplay-based game. Brute lets you wield bigger guns than usual, for the folks who want to dual shotgun stuff. Commando is good for snipers. Clincher is nice if you want to get in close and use guys as shields as you shoot their buddies. Dreadnought, well, it just makes you tougher. Two-Weapon Fighter works as well for guns as it does for swords.

As for noncombat 'styles,' I generally want as few rules as possible for social interactions, so I can leave it to roleplaying. My players like doing all that stuff in character. I've never seen a system that does 'roleplaying rules' well, but if you have any suggestions, I'd consider it.

Mostly I'm looking to make combat more fun, and just rely on a tweaked version of Obsidian's skill challenge system for other stuff.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
Though saga is already designed to handle scifi better than 4e, you could take a step forward and use HERO 6. It is a great system for modern and scifi, and has current design 'sentiessibilities'.
 


Though saga is already designed to handle scifi better than 4e, you could take a step forward and use HERO 6. It is a great system for modern and scifi, and has current design 'sentiessibilities'.
Isn't the whole purpose of the OP's musings to use 4E for Sci-Fi?

Suggesting Hero (or any other system not D&D 4E) is really missing the point? Or am I missing the point?
 

Well ultimately the goal is to have a sci-fi game that feels right for me. So far my own house rules work pretty well (though I need to have a better space combat system than Star Wars; I should probably look at SpaceFight!).
 

I don't know, I am not convinced of the battle surge thingy. I think it would better if you used battle surges as a currency to activate 4E style encounter or daily powers, instead of trying to model it with more actions spend. That sounds a little too fiddly to my taste. You have to count how many of your battle surges you have used and how many of your battle surges you have left seperate basically.

One thing I have been experimenting with was powers that gained different special abilities based on your characters role. An area burst feat for a defender type character might mark foes, for a controller type it might slide them, for a striker type it might just deal more damage, for a leader type it might get your party defensive or offensive benefits...
 

I don't know, I am not convinced of the battle surge thingy. I think it would better if you used battle surges as a currency to activate 4E style encounter or daily powers, instead of trying to model it with more actions spend. That sounds a little too fiddly to my taste. You have to count how many of your battle surges you have used and how many of your battle surges you have left seperate basically.

Either you're misunderstanding me or I'm misunderstanding you. Maybe there's confusion on the similarity between healing surge and battle surge. They're two different things. Healing surges work the way they always did. Battle surges are new.

The way it works, basically, is that a battle surge opens up temporary options based on your fighting style. Your first battle surge is a minor action, the second is move, and thereafter it's all standard (which makes it usually a bad choice, from the standpoint of an economy of actions).

So there's no keeping track of spent vs. unspent. It's more like "you can be a bad-ass once per encounter easily (minor action), but if you want to be bad-ass more often, it will cost you more time."


I did have my first playtest of the rules last week. The PCs used these rules, and I based the opponents on monster stats from the Monster Manual 2. But since I let guns deal more damage than core D&D weapons do, that made the aliens less challenging than I expecting. Whenever we have our second session, I'll probably use slightly tougher foes as a baseline. I'm still figuring out how this balances.
 

bardolph

First Post
The main components of the system are the fighting styles. Each fighting style consists of two parts, each of which requires one feat. Style Basis gives some minor static ability, or a modifier to your basic attacks, and Style Expertise gives you a few tricks you can pull off if you battle surge (which you can only do a few times per combat) or have combat focus (which requires a standard action to achieve, but remains until you expend it to perform some sort of immediate interrupt).

For instance, the Two Weapon Fighter style lets you, instead of attacking with one weapon as a standard action, spend a standard and minor to make two attacks against the same target. That's the basic ability. If you spend a second feat to get the expertise, then a few times per combat you can battle surge to make two attacks (at the same or different targets) as one standard action, and if you have your combat focus you can expend it to reload two weapons at once, even if you have no free hands.

Just want to throw an idea into the mix:

Keep 4e-style powers, but instead of putting them into classes, put them directly into the fighting style. So spending a feat on a style allows you to pick powers from that style's list.

You can also create scalable powers that can be set at a variable level. For example:
  • the "Force Sword" style might have a power called "Sweeping Arc" that comes in three flavors: "Alpha (level 3)" "Delta (level 6)" and "Omega (level 9)", with different levels of damage for each.
  • the "Jedi Force Sword" style might be a Paragon Tier feat that has a power called "Deflect Blasters", with Alpha (level 11), Delta (level 14) and Omega (level 17) variants.

There could be a list of "generic" powers that are available to all characters, regardless of fighting style. This would make sure that characters who elect not to study a fighting style can still have powers to choose from.
 

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