Interactive Terrain

Well, hmmmm. It is a somewhat complicated topic. There IS the question of balance, your example of the pyromancer obviously brings that up. Magic wielding classes in general are going to naturally tend to come out ahead. 4e magic is usually pretty specific, but even so it has easily imagined secondary effects. Swords, axes, bows, and even many of the primal and psionic type powers less so.

I think it is worth reviewing the existing tools in the DM's toolkit here. First of all the DMG does provide a fairly comprehensive set of rules for attacking objects, and several places in the rules do make it clear that objects CAN be valid targets for powers. Then you have DMG2's Terrain Powers, which really is effectively an extension of page 42 where the DM simply designates these powers beforehand vs coming up with effects on an ad-hoc basis when the PCs try to do something outside the established powers structure. Then of course there is page 42 itself. Note too that PCs DO often have some fairly open-ended powers. Many utility powers and especially skill powers can be employed in a variety of ways to do interesting things or enhance the character's chances of success. A few things are also covered under basic uses of skills, though that tends to blur pretty quickly into page 42.

Personally my approach has been to simply stock encounter areas with a reasonable amount of 'stuff'. Now and then I'll assign a Terrain Power where it seems pretty likely that the players will try something. Other times I might set something up as a hazard. In terms of say spells affecting the environment I've generally left it up to the players to say target an object or whatever. Usually I'll rely on the object rules, but again if it seems like an interesting result is likely then I'll set something up ahead of time, or wing it with page 42.

Obviously inexperienced DMs are going to be behind the 8 ball a bit on this kind of thing. I think you could do something like your blog entry suggests, but I would definitely make it work both for and against the PCs. If it is going to be useful to a newbie DM though it will have to be moderately well codified. You could make a pretty decent list of likely sorts of terrain elements and generally likely effects based on power sources, but as DS says, it isn't going to cover nearly everything. At some point they're going to have to wing it.

I agree with Lost Soul too, I'm not really super fond of the concept of making these things tied to feats. Not that there cannot be feats that are useful in this way, but they should be worded and designed such that they're bonuses, not enablers of actions. So for instance "Fierce Wind" might say something like "When your thunder and lightning powers affect objects in their areas of effect they are flung about with greater force." Obviously some mechanic then gets attached to that, but by careful wording it makes clear that the feat is an enhancement, not an enabler. It may mean that some specific DM might rule in ways that make said feat pretty useless, but this is a fairly common issue with a lot of existing game elements anyway. Players need to work with their DM to make sure their character concepts will pan out.

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"the terrain looks fragile tonight, do your worst."

so they did....
Terrain Exploded:
Table A : destroyed by armored minotaur running over the top.
Table B : Iced over repeatedly with freezing burst.
Wooden Partitions : torn apart by NPCs whenever they wanted to go through.
Ignored by players, after the dwarf failed to charge through one. The Drow lurker went and hid behind them several times, to regain combat advantage.
Ceiling drapes : tangled in Minotaur's horns, later used as cover by drow lurker, then frozen and wrapped around minotaurs head with freezing burst.
Smoke spewing vents: Iced over. Later plugged with bodies.
Smoke : crammed back into vent with repelling sphere. Then vent iced over.
Villain's scepter covered in ice then stolen with mage hand, after villian dropped it.
Mining buckets/chain : smashed, dropped down mineshaft.

- there was a Smelting/mining area with lots of fun stuff, but I waved the fight since the group had taken a long rest after 2 encounters and a fake treasury death trap, plus the session had gone on long enough.
edit: After 4 trapped ante-chambers only thing in the treasury was a book which they carefully picked up and shook out with mage hand before floating over to the bard standing in the middle of the party.

the book read "this isn't really a treasury, and my brother knows Explosive Runes"
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