D&D General How would you redo 4e?

pemerton

Legend
On the second issue: I don't fully know how to address this either. I expressed it in terms of the Athletics Jump ability. In combat this is a move action governed by precise rules which generate a distance covered. While these distances naturally grow to fairly fantastical values (high Epic PCs might jump 60' or more, far beyond the 29' outer limits of mundane human performance) they're still not really in keeping with everyone's view of the fantastic nature of almost-godlike level 30 characters (IE they can be actual demigods). Outside of the realm of combat it is quite easy to simply formulate the game in terms of narrative and what sort of fiction will fit with the desired tone, but its hard to see that as a very good approach IN combat.
Fully agreed, including that Athletics jumping is the core case, because of how it interacts with the movement rules, which are themselves fundamental to 4e's combat resolution framework.

One approach, inspired by my reading of the litrpg Age of Adepts where there is extreme scaling, would be to actually scale the tactical combat spaces.

<snip>

However this is not really addressing the underlying issue, just kind of attempting to converge the two paradigms a bit in terms of what they actually represent.
This is interesting. If you've mentioned this before I've forgotten it, but reading it now I'm intrigued!

It also actually solves another problem, that swarms can't hold enough members at higher tiers within a 1 sq = 5' paradigm. For instance, in that paradigm, a 4x4 Hobgoblin phalanx is only 16 squares, which even allowing for 2 to 4 Hobgoblins per square is only 50-ish soldiers.

If each of those squares was 25 times bigger, then we'd be talking a serious phalanx! Even a 1x1 phalanx could be in the order of 100 soldiers.

I guess another approach would be to simply relax combat a bit in terms of stuff like that and just say "well, we will just set a DC to make that jump", though its still hard in that case to portray really gonzo epic action on the 5'/square 4e scale.
This doesn't appeal as much.

4e Epic battles actually can be a bit tricky to stage in an appropriately impressive way.
In practice, I've tended to find that big spaces with (say) 20+ by 20+ squares tend to do the job.

The Glacial Rift from G2 was pretty epic! (I photocopied it and blew it up, sticking to the 1 sq = 10' and thus equals two normal squares.)

If you can fit whole groups of giants, multiple hydras, etc on your map then I think it works. I don't think I used many 10' square rooms at epic tier!
 

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pemerton

Legend
Do skills get weaker with growing levels compared to combat powers?
Skills don't get "weaker" - what skills can achieve outside of combat is a matter of adjudication of the fiction, and 4e encourages that to be pretty gonzo.

The issue is mathematical. Defences and attacks scale (more-or-less) on a +1 per level basis. There are a range of mechanisms on the PC build side that underpin this, including +half level, enhancement on armour and weapons (or inherent bonuses), the rate at which stat increases are gained, etc.

The only guaranteed scaling for skill bonuses is +half level, +1 for the paragon and epic stat increases. Otherwise it depends on particular stat increases, magic items with bonuses to particular skills, particular build features, etc.

At Heroic tier the issue doesn't show itself too much. But later on it becomes very obvious, in at least two ways:

Monster/NPC attacks and defences remain more-or-less on par with PC ones, because the +1/level on their stat blocks roughly matches the PC scaling. But monster/NPC skill bonuses become anaemic, because they scale at +half level +stat, with no systemic device to mirror the various ad hoc bonuses from items and build features that PCs will have in their good skills.

The target numbers in the DC-by-level chart, which closely reflect the ways in which PC skill bonuses can be expected to scale, do not correspond in any real way to defences. So (eg) the idea of an Intimidate check vs Will defence is mathematically not robust. Likewise, the idea (in a skill challenge, say) of an attack vs a medium DC on the DC-by-level chart is mathematically not robust.

As @AbdulAlhazred and I have noted, fixing this maths issue is not possible while maintaining compatibility.
 

Fully agreed, including that Athletics jumping is the core case, because of how it interacts with the movement rules, which are themselves fundamental to 4e's combat resolution framework.
right, it certainly is a pretty important part of 4e combat.
This is interesting. If you've mentioned this before I've forgotten it, but reading it now I'm intrigued!
I think I might have mentioned it with respect to HoML rules, but I am still not sure what the best way to do it is. I mean, I like the idea of larger scale, but then when your squares are 100 meters across, you are kind of losing some interesting granularity, as several entire buildings are likely to show up in that size space, and certainly many trees, rocks, paths, etc. or of course you cannot really depict indoor stuff at all at that scale. There's virtually ALWAYS cover, paths you can take that are open, etc. You could definitely designate areas as being 'building', 'forest', 'swamp', and put in 'edge terrain' (IE places where crossing a square boundary involves some sort of movement penalty or hazard). That's why I say, probably there's a good argument for letting someone pick a scale to operate at, but the exact procedure needs to be worked out (IE is it the players, the GM, can it change mid-encounter, etc.).
It also actually solves another problem, that swarms can't hold enough members at higher tiers within a 1 sq = 5' paradigm. For instance, in that paradigm, a 4x4 Hobgoblin phalanx is only 16 squares, which even allowing for 2 to 4 Hobgoblins per square is only 50-ish soldiers.

If each of those squares was 25 times bigger, then we'd be talking a serious phalanx! Even a 1x1 phalanx could be in the order of 100 soldiers.
yeah, I hadn't thought much about that, but it does obviously make it possible to model mass combat.
This doesn't appeal as much.
Yeah, I am not really fond of that idea either, as it undermines the 'wargame' nature of grid combat a bit. It might work though, and I don't think it would be too bad.
In practice, I've tended to find that big spaces with (say) 20+ by 20+ squares tend to do the job.

The Glacial Rift from G2 was pretty epic! (I photocopied it and blew it up, sticking to the 1 sq = 10' and thus equals two normal squares.)

If you can fit whole groups of giants, multiple hydras, etc on your map then I think it works. I don't think I used many 10' square rooms at epic tier!
I do remember your G2 stuff from way back when. I didn't remember you used a different scale, but it makes sense. AD&D did it too, with the 10 yards per inch thing. That made their outdoor squares 9x more area. It would probably be a decent way to go as a standard for paragon, as its still small enough that structures and things are distinct, but gives you a lot more area to work with in the same space. Anyway, I think scaling will work, its mostly a matter of making it 'feel right' and I think part of that is going to mean having high level powers be designed with that in mind.
 

As @AbdulAlhazred and I have noted, fixing this maths issue is not possible while maintaining compatibility.
Well, let me put it more this way. You could keep everything else EXCEPT the progressions present in the skill system, and you could recreate the skill side of the game. It doesn't need a DRASTIC recreation, what it would require would be the introduction of 'tools' that would be able to carry the enchantment bonus (which could also be applied as a level bonus via the DMG2 mechanism) and then you would need to get rid of a lot of other weird misc skill bonuses, reduce trained to +3, and include something that would sub in for taxpertise. Now skills correspond exactly with attacks and the DCs per level chart also becomes an expected defense value chart, effectively. Meanwhile the combat side of the game COULD remain exactly as it is now. Skills would measure up fine against NADs, though AC would still be 'off by 2', though in this case the proficiency bonus of +3 means skill checks would kind of split the difference between vs AC weapon attacks and vs NAD 'other stuff'. This is an imperfection, but one that already exists in 4e.

HoML just goes one step further and obliterates the 2 point difference between AC and NAD, giving all weapon and skill proficiencies a +5 and removing AC from the game entirely. NPCs (IE monsters) still retain NADs, but PCs get 'active defense'. This is a deeper hack, but the result is a completely consistent system where there never need to be rules forbidding things like applying weapon proficiency to an attack using an implement. Whether the proficiency bonus should be +2, +3, or +5 is of course an interesting question. I guess it could also be some other number... I've used +5, though it tends to mean non-proficient weapons are hard to use (but then again nobody ever did that in 4e anyway).
 

Kariotis

Explorer
At Heroic tier the issue doesn't show itself too much. But later on it becomes very obvious, in at least two ways:

Monster/NPC attacks and defences remain more-or-less on par with PC ones, because the +1/level on their stat blocks roughly matches the PC scaling. But monster/NPC skill bonuses become anaemic, because they scale at +half level +stat, with no systemic device to mirror the various ad hoc bonuses from items and build features that PCs will have in their good skills.

The target numbers in the DC-by-level chart, which closely reflect the ways in which PC skill bonuses can be expected to scale, do not correspond in any real way to defences. So (eg) the idea of an Intimidate check vs Will defence is mathematically not robust. Likewise, the idea (in a skill challenge, say) of an attack vs a medium DC on the DC-by-level chart is mathematically not robust.
That's a great point. I played a lot of 4e but hadn't thought about that. If possible, could you give us a couple of contrasting examples on Heroic and Epic with the maths, because I'm currently reworking monsters for my running 4e campaigns on Paragon and Epic, and while creative abilities and encounters come pretty intuitively to me, for a math dunce like me the numbers take forever :D So I'm always happy for a bit of guidance there.
 

That's a great point. I played a lot of 4e but hadn't thought about that. If possible, could you give us a couple of contrasting examples on Heroic and Epic with the maths, because I'm currently reworking monsters for my running 4e campaigns on Paragon and Epic, and while creative abilities and encounters come pretty intuitively to me, for a math dunce like me the numbers take forever :D So I'm always happy for a bit of guidance there.
This is why the early 4e text (monsters and the core rules) talk about PCs making Athletics or Acrobatics checks to escape vs a monster's defenses. Because defenses don't especially track expected skill bonus very well, later monster stat blocks include explicit escape DCs in most cases, although the general rule was left in place. Clearly it didn't prove too workable.

A level 1 monster's baseline FORT would be (DMG1 p184) Level + 12, so 13 (and that might vary by a point or two, at most). A level 1 PC might have a skill bonus of 0 + 4 + 5 = +9, and maybe another racial +1 for a max of +10 (you might get to +11 at best). So, for a strong Ath/Acr character a level 1 escape check is very close to certain. Of course if your skill bonus is more in the +3 range then its more like 50/50, roughly. So overall its not bad, but some PCs are basically going to escape with almost 100% certainty at level 1.

Baseline skill bonus at level 30 is +15 and certainly you'd have a couple points beyond that in basically everything by then, so lets call it +17 as a rock bottom. Meanwhile a monster has a defense of 42, baseline. At this point, if you are bad at a skill, escape has gone from 50/50 to hopeless. I'd note that the hard DC for level 30 is ALSO 42 by the most recent DC by level chart. A character with serious bonuses though? They will have +15 + 5 + 9 = +29 before any feats/items/etc. Some EDs could increase that to +30 (like Demigod) and then we start to get into the bonuses, which can easily score you another 10 points if you focus on that. I've seen 30th level PCs with +42 skill bonuses, meaning they never fail anything, period in their speciality (and that's fine IMHO). But even if you have a more modest +36 or so, that's going to mean you still escape a grab the vast majority of the time (and you probably have ways to insure that happens, like rerolls and such).

Honestly, the biggest problem is the RANGE. With attacks no PC will ever make a horrible attack at +15 at 30th, which would be rock bottom. It would simply be worthless. You can ALWAYS do better! OTOH if a situation calls for a certain skill, you're stuck with your paltry +15 level bonus, too bad for you! So its not so much that the skill bonuses are WRONG, its that they diverge so much from good to bad at high level, and you are stuck actually using those bad numbers (admittedly its situational, hopefully you just never get stuck this way).
 


pemerton

Legend
Thanks a million, those are exactly the kind of examples I was hoping for to get a better grasp of the development through the tiers :)
Here's another example:

Vecna's Arcana bonus, as a 35th level God of Secrets (including magical secrets, given he is an Arch-Lich) is +34: +12 from INT 34, +17 from level, and +5 from training. In other words, the bonus is built in the same way as for a PC but without any of the "extras" a PC has (eg from items, feats, various other features, etc).

The Invoker/Wizard PC in my long-running campaign had +33 Arcana at 22nd level. At 30th level he has +43.

Whereas combat numbers (attacks and defences) for PCs and NPCs/monsters sit one something like the same scale at all levels, this just isn't true for skills.

As well as the sort of thing that @AbdulAlhazred described, it creates other weird situations where, for instance, Vecna has almost no hope of beating that PC in an opposed Arcana check - which is the canonical way of resolving some rituals, for instance.
 




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