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

Viking Bastard

Adventurer
I have considered it and kind of want to do it, but I reckoned it was more trouble than it was worth and my players do like to see their numbers tick up every other level (even though it was a player who was the first remark on the frustration of the level bonus feeling pointless).

But in my thoughts, I wobbled between two strategies:

  • Simply cut out the half-level bonus and leave the rest be. Pretty simple to execute.
  • Cut out the half-level bonus, and split the expected bonus from magic items between the items (with bonuses ranging from +1 to +3, or +1 per tier) and inherent bonuses.
The latter idea was thought to keep the satisfaction of ticking numbers, while still reducing the number bloat.
 

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Ferghis

First Post
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.
The inherent bonus rules still allow for magic items' enhancement bonus, but only if it is greater than the inherent bonus (in other words, they don't stack).

Personally, I don't think you should flatten it much more than removing the half level bonus. I would consider removing some of the epic feats, since they otherwise have such a dramatic impact (superior initiative adds 8 to your initiative, and epic [defense] adds 4 to a defense) on the numbers. But I would also wait until you get there before deciding this.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
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.
Well, player characters are humanoids, and they become 'high level' and powerful, so clearly humanoids can do that. Uber-humanoids just need to be placed about the campaign world in a reasonable fashion. So, no, town guards don't all gain levels with the PCs, but PC's might go from frequenting small towns where the guards are pretty bumpkinish, to big cities where they're fairly competent, to extraplanar outpost where they kick Vrok tail on a regular basis.

Another trick that keeps monsters 'useable' longer is to re-cast a monster with a different role but higher or lower level. So a monster that's a Solo at first level might be re-done as an elite 4 levels higher or a standard 10 levels higher. High in the next tier, the same exact same creature might be a minion. The monsters not changing, just the mechanics used to represent the challenge it represents to the characters.


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.
This is really easy. It's a simple matter of deciding which scaling bonuses you want to take away from PCs, and adjusting the 'monster math' apropriately. If you want to take away the 1/2-level, but leave PCs enhancement bonuses, stat bumps, feats, and so forth, just subtract half-level from monster attack bonuses and defenses. If you want to go for 5e-style 'bounded accuracy,' just do away with scaling bonuses for both PCs & monsters, leaving the odd arbitrary '+1' for PCs to pick up and get really excited about.

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.

As a player, what would you see as the downside to the math flattening?
The main problem is that you lose a lot of the sense of advancement, which is one of the 'hooks' that makes D&D so addictive.
 

Balesir

Adventurer
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.
I'd endorse this approach - it seems to work well. You can take it further, too, by having "squads" of humanoids that use the "swarm" rules. Roughly speaking, 16 first level minions make a Huge, 9th level swarm. Give them revised attacks - maybe close burst ones rather than melee, but be sure to include an MBA for OAs, and area bursts for missile attacks - and hps and defences to suit their "swarm" level and you can let the players really feel the power of their heroes, fighting regiments of orcs (without it becoming a grind since, mechanically, you have only one monster)!
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
Well, player characters are humanoids, and they become 'high level' and powerful, so clearly humanoids can do that. Uber-humanoids just need to be placed about the campaign world in a reasonable fashion. So, no, town guards don't all gain levels with the PCs, but PC's might go from frequenting small towns where the guards are pretty bumpkinish, to big cities where they're fairly competent, to extraplanar outpost where they kick Vrok tail on a regular basis.
Actually this was what I wanted to avoid. I wanted a more sandbox-ish type of gameplay where you don't move around like a locust from area to area.

As you noted, you basically have to move from area to area to get the correct strength opponents if the surroundings aren't leveling/changing as the heroes level up in standard 4e.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
I'd endorse this approach - it seems to work well. You can take it further, too, by having "squads" of humanoids that use the "swarm" rules. Roughly speaking, 16 first level minions make a Huge, 9th level swarm. Give them revised attacks - maybe close burst ones rather than melee, but be sure to include an MBA for OAs, and area bursts for missile attacks - and hps and defences to suit their "swarm" level and you can let the players really feel the power of their heroes, fighting regiments of orcs (without it becoming a grind since, mechanically, you have only one monster)!
I would probably have to do something like this even with the flatter math if the players decide to attack the goblin village alone. I hope to do it more in a Red-Hand-of-Doom city defense style, where the players are fighting the elite warriors, but with plenty of backup to handle the rest. With flatter math this also makes a whole lot more sense.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
The main problem is that you lose a lot of the sense of advancement, which is one of the 'hooks' that makes D&D so addictive.
A very good point. There is still progression in: the amount of powers you get, the strength of the powers, feats and hp. 4e is very good in this department, in my eyes so good that you can cut a large portion of the progression without losing the hook of advancement.

Magical items have a progression outside to-hit/defences which I will probably keep, otherwise the increase in HP will probably slow down fights too much.
 

Steely_Dan

First Post
I cut out the unnecessary 1/2 level bonus to all character and monster's Attacks, Defences and Skills like a cancerous growth, the game plays and feels so much better for it (if +9 does the same job as + 19, considering the treadmill scaling of 4th Ed).

I'm not into number bloat (I detested 3rd Ed's DC 30+ checks and what-have-you.
 

shamsael

First Post
When I did this, I removed the +1/2 level to attacks, skills and defenses. Magic items all had a +1 enhancement bonus, other powers and the critical die scaled by the item's level.

For the monster side, I reduced attacks, skills and defenses by an amount equal to 1/2 level. I also reduced monster defenses by an amount equal to the inherent bonus to attack the PCs would've gotten at that level, and monster attacks by an amount equal to the inherent bonus to defenses.

Last, When a creature attacks another creature 2 or more levels below it, it gets a +1 bonus to the attack roll.

Hit points, powers, monster damage and others still scaled normally.
 


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