D&D 4E Viability of a flatter math 4e campaign?

Blackbrrd

First Post
I have always wanted to run a DnD campaign where humanoids could be a threat througout the campaign without suddenly having 8th level guards in the bigger cities, 12th level orcs and so on. I would also like magic items to be quite rare, much the same way magic items in 5e are.

In other words, I want to run a campaign where a monster can be a threat in a bigger level range than usual. After looking at 5e for a while, it really does look as simple as not increasing to-hit, ac/ref/fort/will, skills and magic items by level.

This also gets me off the hook for the continual magic item feeding 4e in many ways are built around and I can just drop the assorted expertise feats and the rest of the feats added to the system to "balance" the borked math.

What's left of the scaling in 4e is hp, damage and the strength of the powers. In addition you have the stat gains and magic item bonuses that aren't tied to the +1 pr x levels.

What I would have to do is basically rewrite the to-hit, defenses and skills of all the monters I would want to use. Something I could probably get from creating a small generic chart for each monster role.

The alternative as it looks now is to run a 5e campaign, but I do feel that the current draft is just a bit too rough. The upside is that 4e combat has a tendency to drag on a bit and 5e combat looks to be really fast.

So, I am wondering if there is something I haven't thought of or mentioned that would be important for such a house-ruled campaign? As a player, what would you see as the downside to the math flattening?
 

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Quickleaf

Legend
I disagree that "flat math" is as simple as changing the numbers. The rider effects of powers, which action is required for what rider, effects the powers has, whether it's save ends or until end of next turn (or something else), or any number of contextual elements - all these have a great effect on the level-appropriateness of an encounter.

Take a look at Mar Monack's "Tutorial:Terrain Powers" article. What you'll notice is that a rider condition (eg. Slowed) is worth more at low levels than it is at high levels, IOW a paragon PC/creature might inflict slowed with a Move Action, while a heroic PC requires a Standard Action. Or, another way to say it: the same attack (standard action) with the same rider (slowed) should do more damage at high levels.

Another element is what the players bring to the table. Higher level characters often have many ways to shake off effects and mitigate or avoid damage. Which is why you see (well-designed) higher level monsters have effects on their powers, get more than one attack, and have more immediate/triggered actions.

For your purpose, since humanoids generally aren't too mechanically complex, you could probably get by doing what you say. However, just cause it works for simple monsters don't assume it will work for complex ones.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
I actually changed the thread title from "flat" to "flatter" math before posting, because as you say, even with the changes noted, the characters will increase quite significantly in power through higher hp, damage, healing, stronger conditions and better condition removal.

I don't want the campaign to be completely humanoid-based and I am going to throw in Dragons, Giants and all that fun stuff. I do though want the dragon to hesitate to attack the nearest town, not necessarily because of high-level NPC's - or the PC's, but because it knows the town guard has enough men to shoot a quivers of arrows at it and actually hit.

I am unsure if I want to run the campaign past the Heroic tier though, and certainly not past Paragon. Maybe cut it off at Heroic and run something similar to the E6 houserules for 3e?
 

Ferghis

First Post
I, for one, think this is a praiseworthy goal.

Removing level from initiative, defenses and attack rolls is a start, and probably a good place to stop. That leaves ability score bonuses, enhancement bonuses, feat bonuses, armor and shield bonuses, item bonuses and the odd untyped bonus. Also, it makes the houserule easy to implement on the DM side: just subtract half level from the same stats. This should keep orcs a threat for a long while, and should allow for many to much more easily gang up on one bossy opponent.
 

aurance

Explorer
Yes, it is as simple as you think. We've done this, and it works. Basically we removed all the mentions of "+1/2 level" from d20 rolls and defenses, for PCs. For monsters, we subtracted -1/2*level from their attacks and defenses.

We also use inherent bonuses, that range from +1 to +9, according to a table, instead of any magic item plusses or expertise/improved defense feats.

In general this seemed to extend the levels of monsters that pose a credible threat from something like party level +/- 4 to party level +/- 10 or so.

The relative weight of status effects do change a little based on monster level, but not as much as perhaps Quickleaf thinks. The type of monster has more of an impact on this sort of thing (standard, elite, solo, etc.).
 

Ajar

Explorer
I'm very interested in doing something along these lines as well. I've been considering picking up Hero Lab so that I can modify the 4E file to suit my purposes. Incorporating what some of you guys are saying, I'd do something like this:
  • Remove 1/2 level bonuses from initiative, attacks, defences, skills, and other places I'm probably not thinking of.
  • Remove all feats that grant attack, damage, or defence bonuses -- including situational bonuses. This gets rid of a lot more than Expertise, but
  • Reduce HP gain by level for both monsters and PCs. This makes combat more lethal at high level unless I also tweak damage growth for monsters.
  • Eliminate wealth/level and magic item treasure parcel distribution. Award magic items very sparingly -- perhaps no bonuses above +1 per tier. Inherent bonuses are also an option here.
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
Hi,

For creatures at the player's level, the +1/2 seems to be a wash.

What is done for creatures at a slightly higher or lower level? The net effect of the scaling bonus is to put those plus or minus one or two points (for up to a 4 level difference).

Thx!

TomB
 

S'mon

Legend
8th level guards in 1e-3e were not credible, but in 4e a 9th level guard is only 'worth' 4 1st level guards, the scaling is such that 'high' level NPCs are not a problem and don't violate any setting assumptions around demographics.

The 4e inherent bonuses system obviates the need for magic items, likewise.

Edit: In 4e, rather than have 9th level guards suddenly appear, they can always be 400 XP creatures and you scale the stats to the PCs - 5th level Elites, 9th level Standards, or 17th level Minions. I'd use those stats for crack troops in my Forgotten Realms game.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I would endorse [MENTION=463]S'mon[/MENTION] and [MENTION=12854]aurance[/MENTION].

S'mon's "simulationist scaling 4e" will at least get you through heroic tier, I think, without any credibility/verisimilitude issues.

And if you do want to reduce the scaling, aurance has the right way to go about it: cut out everyone's half-per-level, and for PCs drop items and maths-fix feats and bundle them into an inherent bonus table (for AC, you'll have to take the inherent bonuses out of the masterwork bonuses or your maths will muck up). Trying to do anything more than this (eg trying to take out the +1 per level) will require mucking around with the ability score scaling as well, which then messes with damage, feat prereqs etc, and so I would suggest is probably not worth the effort.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
Yes, it is as simple as you think. We've done this, and it works. Basically we removed all the mentions of "+1/2 level" from d20 rolls and defenses, for PCs. For monsters, we subtracted -1/2*level from their attacks and defenses.

We also use inherent bonuses, that range from +1 to +9, according to a table, instead of any magic item plusses or expertise/improved defense feats.

In general this seemed to extend the levels of monsters that pose a credible threat from something like party level +/- 4 to party level +/- 10 or so.

The relative weight of status effects do change a little based on monster level, but not as much as perhaps Quickleaf thinks. The type of monster has more of an impact on this sort of thing (standard, elite, solo, etc.).
Thanks a lot for the feedback from all of you. :)

I hadn't thought too hard on the +0.5/level average scaling that comes from magic items, stat bonuses and better magical items instead of the straight +0.5 from level. Gotta think about what I want to do there.

Maybe I should do something along the lines of 50% inherent bonuses and 50% from magical items. In other words, over 30 levels get +3 from magic items and +3 from inherent bonuses. Something like: level 4 inherent bonuses +1, level 8 +1magical items expected, level 12 inherent bonus +2, level 16 +2magical items expected and so on.
 

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