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D&D 4E Sweet spot of 4e

ZickZak

Explorer
Hello,
I am looking for the "Sweet spot" of 4th Ed.

We play only twice a year when going to a weekend house for a week - that is why we play one level and never level up.

Currently we play 12th lvls, but by heavy optimizing, I feel there is no real challenge in the encounters we go through. I want to be in a point where meeting an Adult Dragon means heavy tactics and coordination to escape or luckily kill it, not just Tank & Spank it to death yawning.
Our DM has to come up with crazy stuff how to make encounters tough, such as all enemies doing daze > uncoscsious > stunned on each consecutive hit.

What do you think is the Sweet Spot, where interesting builds are possible, but it feels more like Hobbit and not like Aegon the Conqueror?

I am thinking of level 7 - 8, where there are no lvl 10 utilities and lvl 9 dailies, which seem to be already too OP. I am opened to HR, such as beeing level X and adding extra feat and enc power or so.

Inherit Bonuses, only one magic item property allowed - such as Frost weapon's frost attacks.

Thank you
 
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Aenghus

Explorer
IMO 4e combat works better with multiple foes because of action economy. Early solos didn't do enough damage and could be stunlocked too easily. Early monsters in general didn't do enough damage and might have too many hit points, or inflated defense values.

Post MM3 solo design improved with instinctive actions to provide extra attacks and other ways of preventing trivial stunlocking. Monster damage was upped and defenses and hit points lowered. Even so, there should typically be more than one opponent even in a solo fight.

Interactive terrain is the other feature in encounters, and the one I struggle with the most. Interactive terrain should often be usable by both sides once the PCs find out about it, probably the hard way. Big monsters like dragons may smash their way through some terrain like ice walls to make a big dramatic entrance.

4e combat can work at any level, but with heavy PC optimisation attention needs to be paid to the PC numbers and powers, to make the player power choices relevant but not trivialise encounters. Use MM3 monsters and later, you might need to update or reskin earlier monsters.
 

Hello,
I am looking for the "Sweet spot" of 4th Ed.
Mechanically, it's 1-30. It may garner valid criticism as a 'treadmill' but it does work at all levels. ;P

Currently we play 12th lvls, but by heavy optimizing
Excessive optimization (or the 'opposite') is another issue, of course.

, I feel there is no real challenge in the encounters we go through. I want to be in a point where meeting an Adult Dragon means heavy tactics and coordination to escape or luckily kill it, not just Tank & Spank it to death yawning.
MM3/MV Solos work better than they did in MM1, a key aspect is various Traits or powers that act as 'action preservation' - they're a mixed bag.

The other thing to keep in mind is that at-level is not supposed to be any great challenge - just, use some resources, take 5, move on - 3-5 of those might add up to a challenge over the course of the day. You want a harder fight, you can take it up to level+4 or higher...


What do you think is the Sweet Spot, where interesting builds are possible, but it feels more like Hobbit and not like Aegon the Conqueror?
Limiting it to Heroic Tier, 1-10. Tiers are about the feel, and the Hobbit was mostly the kinds of themes and challenges you'd see in the Heroic Tier.

Similarly, if you're considering pre-Essentials, vs Essentials, vs post-Essentials-anything-goes, Essentials+ the game was designed primarily with the Heroic Tier in mind, so less care was applied to Paragon & Epic, that also indicates sticking to Heroic.

I am thinking of level 7 - 8, where there are no lvl 10 utilities and lvl 9 dailies, which seem to be already too OP. ..
Not particularly, no. Individual powers are rarely much of a problem, especially dailies, a given daily sees use once in a day, you can't generally swap other 'slots' to use it again, so such issues are self-limiting. It's not like other eds where you can find one broken spell and just 'spam' it...
Inherit Bonuses, only one magic item property allowed - such as Frost weapon's frost attacks.
Inherent Bonsuses are a nice thing to flip on if you don't want the high-magic-item D&D 'Xmass tree' effect, which would tend to get in the way of the feel you allude to. Nothing much to do with level - magic items can be fairly common at any level, even the lowest.

So: Inherent Bonuses and few/no magic items. Stick to the Heroic Tier. Make sure to use the more 'interesting' Solos and over-level encounters significantly when you want a life-or-death struggle.

Should give you the feel you're after - it's what Heroic Tier is for, really.

Oh, and I'd add to that using Skill Challenges to model avoiding/surviving/escaping Encounters with things far out of your league, that can be a pretty cogent challenge at Heroic Tier.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
4e is an odd duck in that its "Sweet Spot" doesn't really exist... ?

If you want fewer resources to manage, then the early levels work best.
If you want plenty of resources, but abilities that still seem "grounded" then early paragon works best.
If you want AWESOME!(tm) characters that defy the laws of reality as a matter of course, then late epic works best.
And so on, and so forth...

With regards to encounter difficulty - IME, there's very little that's easier to solve:
- MM3 math, 150% exp worth, advantageous terrain, don't pull punches on the tactics side = pretty close to 50-50 odds (IME)

There are a few "key" abilities/powers/spells from monsters that can really turn the tide. Build encounters with creatures that have these, and I'd be very surprised to have it feel like a "rolfstomp".
What I mean:
- massive defense debuffs (the half-orc death priest has a power that imposes -5 to all defenses: make that a "known spell" and... yeah... that hurts! A lot!)
- stacking auras
- terrain manipulation (walls and line-of-sight shenanigans)
- retributive attacks
- really punitive marks
- team monster synergies (look for "one-two" setups)

What I don't mean: action denial (I'm not a fan of [stun] and [dominate]...)
 

D'karr

Adventurer
If you have a chance take a look at the Neverwinter Campaign Setting/Adventure. The book was designed to give a cogent feel for adventures across most tiers, but is limited in scope to the Heroic Tier. They really did a good job of showing how to scale the game challenges and feel of upper tier but still remain at Heroic.
 

Yeah, I think basically what happens is that vanilla combat, in and of itself, becomes less of an interesting challenge at high levels because there end up being a LOT of tricks you can exploit. They don't 'break' the game, it works numerically, but you just have so many possible pathways to stacking up bonuses and extra attacks and whatever it is you want to do that your basic combat mechanics lose a lot of the interest that they possess at low levels (a first level fight with some kobolds is INTERESTING, you will have to figure something out to make your victory efficient so you can last the day, by 20th level that kind of challenge is gone).

So, at really high levels you need to make the encounters crazy and highly dynamic in ways that aren't really just built out of standard bits you can dig out of a book.
 

Yeah, I think basically what happens is that vanilla combat, in and of itself, becomes less of an interesting challenge at high levels because there end up being a LOT of tricks you can exploit. They don't 'break' the game, it works numerically, ....
It's not just combat. Skill checks can get crazy, too - I've got a Sage of Ages in my campaign, for instance. Gak. ;)

Part of the problem is that it's not the game breaking down or the characters getting out of control, it's the DM having less to work with. When 4e first came out, it was focused on the Heroic Tier, the advice in the DMG, particularly. The DMG 2 had some advice & such for the Paragon Tier. ... But there was never a DMG 3, instead we got Essentials, which stubbornly focused on the Heroic Tier, again, even to the point of the damn CB refusing to print out your Paragon Path & Epic Destiny.
You had this system primed for Epic Tier, that worked all the way through, mechanically, but not that much to actually /do/ in Epic Tier.

Which left you, really, in the position that running D&D of any level generally had in prior decades - on your own. ;)
 

It's not just combat. Skill checks can get crazy, too - I've got a Sage of Ages in my campaign, for instance. Gak. ;)

Part of the problem is that it's not the game breaking down or the characters getting out of control, it's the DM having less to work with. When 4e first came out, it was focused on the Heroic Tier, the advice in the DMG, particularly. The DMG 2 had some advice & such for the Paragon Tier. ... But there was never a DMG 3, instead we got Essentials, which stubbornly focused on the Heroic Tier, again, even to the point of the damn CB refusing to print out your Paragon Path & Epic Destiny.
You had this system primed for Epic Tier, that worked all the way through, mechanically, but not that much to actually /do/ in Epic Tier.

Which left you, really, in the position that running D&D of any level generally had in prior decades - on your own. ;)

Perhaps I'm odd, but I was never one to rely much at all on supplied material, beyond things like basic stat blocks and such. So, to me, that wasn't an issue. I just see epic as having a slightly different aesthetic and a somewhat different focus. It begs much more for story. You can kinda get away with largely just generating a sequence of related encounters with some plot and do heroic, you don't have to think much about what the character's abilities and actions mean in any sort of story context. The rules are robust and engaging. At times you can get a nice bang out of applying some story considerations, make the bad guy surrender and avoid a slog, introduce new tactical considerations that originate with the plot (different encounter goals for instance). Still, you can burn through the 50-70 encounters of heroic tier pretty easily without a huge amount of need to get too clever. This is a genius aspect of 4e.

When you get to paragon, and the PP choices and such, it gets harder. Abilities start to get more open-ended, optimization paths become highly developed and effective, if people go that route, etc. You have to really start to lean more heavily on story, on putting some story value onto the things that are on the character sheet. You can still play some pretty 2D tactical play with relatively undeveloped characters, but it isn't as easy. The encounters will eventually become less engaging, and either less challenging or else require some great lengths of DM cunning and sheer larding on of 'more stuff' to achieve the simple tactical balance of heroic tier. Its better now to focus more and more on story, and to rely on it more to shape the action at the table. I think here is where [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] and his techniques begin to show some real solid benefits.

Epic is just the extreme of this. At epic the tactical challenge paradigm of heroic tier is virtually dead. Everything has to be clothed in story elements, plot needs to be front and center so that you can build off of what the core game rules give you. The real challenges for the PCs in this area of the game relate to their goals, their sources of power, etc. For example: when you're an epic warlock, you're going to be totally engaged with your relationship with your patron, it can shape almost any tactical choice you make and give it aspects of challenge that don't derive from the combat rules or SC rules. They derive from trying to shape your path and carry out your destiny. This is why PP/ED are such genius ideas, far more so than would appear on the surface in terms of adding more mechanical flexibility. This is why an equivalent at heroic tier was never really needed (themes are OK, they have their own benefits, but from a story-telling perspective they were never vital).
 

Perhaps I'm odd, but I was never one to rely much at all on supplied material, beyond things like basic stat blocks and such
Doesn't sound odd, that's how I always was back in the day, and how I tend to roll, now, running epic 4e and AL or intro/basic 5e.

4e was the only ed I'd just run straight from a module and/or without variants of my own...
...through paragon, that is.

. I just see epic as having a slightly different aesthetic and a somewhat different focus. It begs much more for story.
At least very different stories... one issue I've seen is campaigns getting ahead of themselves and pulling In the earth-shaking stuff too soon, leaving it familiar and less credible when revisited at epic.

You can kinda get away with largely just generating a sequence of related encounters with some plot and do heroic,
That's how encounters did it, very casual. Because the system holds together at other levels, you can do the same, if it's still casual, my wife ran a series of 6-wk games she called 'Epic Encounters,' in that format, the players weren't all that familiar with their own or other characters and the plots were epic in scope - one changed the metaphysical relationship between the elemental chaos and abyss, another freed the djinn (all of them
), I ran a guest spot adventure in which the party restored the living gate - but still straightforward and linear.

Epic is just the extreme of this. At epic the tactical challenge paradigm of heroic tier is virtually dead. Everything has to be clothed in story elements, plot needs to be front and center ... The real challenges for the PCs in this area of the game relate to their goals, their sources of power, etc.
I agree, in part. To get the feel of epic, and to pull together a challenging 'day' with Epic characters so rich in resources takes more interesting set-ups than simple time pressure or quest-givers. Epic gives some hooks but never followed through, so its up to the DM to finish the job. For instance, I have a Raven Knight PC, and have used his insights into/service of Fate to add complications to otherwise merely tactical challenges (like one enemy is 'cheating death,' but for others it's 'not their time'). Another is a Feyliege in the process of acquiring a Demesnes, and incurring obligations that fuel adventures...

If there's a system issue, though it's that epic characters get more and more resources, especially come-from-behind resources, but their list of potential foes and challenges is dwindling, and the plausibility of an extended 'day' worth of such foes gets strained. It's actually less pronounced than what's always happened with 'quadratic' casters, but more evident because so much else isn't out of whack...
 

Doesn't sound odd, that's how I always was back in the day, and how I tend to roll, now, running epic 4e and AL or intro/basic 5e.

4e was the only ed I'd just run straight from a module and/or without variants of my own...
...through paragon, that is.
It is certainly possible to do it well, I did steal a couple of Dungeon modules, though I hacked them a little bit, in my first 4e campaign when it reached paragon. It worked out reasonably well, though I found that adventure writers were a bit lost with making good SCs...

At least very different stories... one issue I've seen is campaigns getting ahead of themselves and pulling In the earth-shaking stuff too soon, leaving it familiar and less credible when revisited at epic.
I can see how that would be, yes. Its tempting, in particular, to get rather grandiose with paragon. The PCs are not really too far from 'epic' in potentiality at that point, but I REALLY like EDs.

That's how encounters did it, very casual. Because the system holds together at other levels, you can do the same, if it's still casual, my wife ran a series of 6-wk games she called 'Epic Encounters,' in that format, the players weren't all that familiar with their own or other characters and the plots were epic in scope - one changed the metaphysical relationship between the elemental chaos and abyss, another freed the djinn (all of them
), I ran a guest spot adventure in which the party restored the living gate - but still straightforward and linear.
Yeah, again I can see how a sort of episodic thing like that might work OK. I just didn't find the tactical environment of epic to be all that exciting. At least not if you are just running your character sheets wargame style.

I agree, in part. To get the feel of epic, and to pull together a challenging 'day' with Epic characters so rich in resources takes more interesting set-ups than simple time pressure or quest-givers. Epic gives some hooks but never followed through, so its up to the DM to finish the job. For instance, I have a Raven Knight PC, and have used his insights into/service of Fate to add complications to otherwise merely tactical challenges (like one enemy is 'cheating death,' but for others it's 'not their time'). Another is a Feyliege in the process of acquiring a Demesnes, and incurring obligations that fuel adventures...

If there's a system issue, though it's that epic characters get more and more resources, especially come-from-behind resources, but their list of potential foes and challenges is dwindling, and the plausibility of an extended 'day' worth of such foes gets strained. It's actually less pronounced than what's always happened with 'quadratic' casters, but more evident because so much else isn't out of whack...

Well, yes, they have less foes in some sense, but 4e has a LOT of epic bad guys out there nonetheless. I mean, you've got primordials, demons, devils, gods and their exarchs, the slaad, the arch fey, primal spirits, and of course Cthul... err Far Realm, and even stuff like Mechanus, and various other groups if you really want. Its a big universe out there, you can do a LOT at Epic. In fact I think its interesting that you note the problems that 'classic' D&D had with that. I mean think about 1e, really the high level baddies were pretty pathetic, or else tactically unplayable (Seriously try to run Demogorgon as written in 1e, why would a super-genius opponent stick around for even 1 melee round if there's a chance of defeat, which he's going to figure out by segment 3 of the 1st round).

Anyway, its the EDs that really fuel epic. The DM and players need to really live those babies. Once you do that then things get real interesting. Even if there's a lot of categories of opponents that are no longer really challenging at level 27 (I mean, NO dragon, possibly Tiamat or Bahamut aside, is going to challenge a solid tactical 27th level team). But if you have to NEGOTIATE with the dragons, because they have pull with the Great Serpent and the only way to keep the world from dying is to find where he hid the Cosmic Egg, well, things might be a bit more interesting!
 

pemerton

Legend
I agree with what's being said in this thread: 4e doesn't have a "sweet spot" as such, but the different tiers have different feels and impose different sorts of demands on players and GM.

Neverwinter is worth looking at for someone who wants to stick to the mechanics of Heroic Tier.

And Sage of Ages does start to break the maths of skill checks.
 

MwaO

Explorer
I think 4e doesn't have a sweet spot per say as long as table optimization stays in a reasonable band. If there's one player who hasn't a clue and another player is playing an optimized build - things can get messy, especially if it is sudden optimization at either 11 or 16 that breaks things.
 

GreyLord

Hero
Personally, I think sweet spots differ from group to group.

I didn't really like the Paragon tier and for me the game started getting bogged down between levels 9 to around 21.

I absolutely loved playing everything up to level 9.

And then, with the right DM throwing epic threats (and at times utilizing the tables to create new monsters and foes...an experienced DM is the best for this), Epic tier turns awesome. AT that point you have tons of options, and the various strategies you can combine to take down foes can be an absolute blast. I played several Dark Sun campaigns in Epic 4e, and I loved them all (normally you are dealing with threats in regards to Dragon Kings or worse). You can truly feel world shattering at epic...

However, Paragon, for some reason, just always felt blah. You have a ton of powers at that point, but it's sort of where you have too many to play a simpler game (like Heroic) but not enough to have the plethora of strategies available to you like Epic levels.
 

Tequila Sunrise

Adventurer
What do you think is the Sweet Spot, where interesting builds are possible, but it feels more like Hobbit and not like Aegon the Conqueror?

I am thinking of level 7 - 8, where there are no lvl 10 utilities and lvl 9 dailies, which seem to be already too OP. I am opened to HR, such as beeing level X and adding extra feat and enc power or so.
If I had to pick a sweet spot as a player or DM, it'd be either 10th, 20th, or 30th level -- because PCs get all the 'toys' of their current tier. If I had to pick a level to game in for twice-annual game days with some old pals, it'd be 10th -- because they'd get all the heroic 'toys,' without getting a lot of stuff, a good bit of which we'd probably forget about in the six months between game days. Plus, it's a lot closer to the Hobbit than the Wheel of Time, as you say. :)

IMO 4e combat works better with multiple foes because of action economy. Early solos didn't do enough damage and could be stunlocked too easily. Early monsters in general didn't do enough damage and might have too many hit points, or inflated defense values.

Post MM3 solo design improved with instinctive actions to provide extra attacks and other ways of preventing trivial stunlocking. Monster damage was upped and defenses and hit points lowered. Even so, there should typically be more than one opponent even in a solo fight.

Interactive terrain is the other feature in encounters, and the one I struggle with the most. Interactive terrain should often be usable by both sides once the PCs find out about it, probably the hard way. Big monsters like dragons may smash their way through some terrain like ice walls to make a big dramatic entrance.
Also this. At the very least if your DM isn't aware of it, solos really improved in the MM3 and everything published after it. Which is the two Monster Vaults, the Dark Sun monster book, and...I couldn't name the others without date-checking. Anyway, make sure your DM is aware of this fact, and that there are fan-made resources to help update MM1 & MM2 monsters.

And the rest is solid advice too!
 
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