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


First Post
I'm running 4e as is (as far as flat math goes, no changes), but even at level 14, goblins are a threat.

You just need to change how they become a threat mechanically. You're obviously not going to make an encounter where the PC's enter a cave and have to fight 6 goblins, at level 14. The scale changes. If there is need of raiding a goblin lair, the PC's can simply dispatch some of their underlings to do so, their time is more valuable.

Higher level fights can take on various shapes. For instance, during a goblin invasion involving thousands of goblins, they swarm the streets of a city the PC's are helping defend. The PC's need to funnel the city's fighting forces into more advantageous positions, but a pair of Hill Giants make that impossible, so the PC's must intervene. However getting to the hill giants isn't easy due to the goblins running interference. So I might set up an encounter with 3 goblin swarms (huge swarm), and 2 hill giants. The swarms essentially represent waves upon waves of goblins attacking. I might give the swarms hefty regeneration, to represent that their numbers get replenished. As such, a level 14 goblin swarm feels like a reasonable threat for its level. It is also a threat they don't have to defeat, if their objective is clear that they have to take down the Hill Giants, though some measure of success could be tied to taking down one of the swarms (like taking out a unit of goblins, might delay their plans, allowing a short rest, or give the PC's a bonus on a future mission).

In an epic scenario, you could use goblins as terrain features. You can have them defending a zone. Entering or moving in that zone costs an extra point of movement, and the entering creature takes some damage, then that square of terrain is safe. Basically this represents a fighter mowing through goblins as he moves, or goblins dying from attacking a wizard's fireshield, or getting impaled by the blackguard's spiked armor, or whatever the DM/PC's come up with. It is also representative of the epic power the PC's have reached, and shows how easy dealing with goblins has become. And yet, they are still a threat.

You could even just talk through entire fights with goblins as skill challenges. For me, 4e encounters are more objective/story telling oriented than simulation oriented, and as such, I find it is the easiest edition to make lower level creatures a threat throughout a campaign. Early on they are the main course, later, they might become appetizer or side dish. You come up with whatever mechanics will be interesting, and will work, keeping in mind that PC's get more and more powerful, and this should be reflected in their ability to defeat well known threats. Then you dress it up with the story.

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First Post
Some really good suggestions on how to treat trash mobs in an epic scenario like that, I really liked it. But, it's not what I am aiming for. ;)

My point with the alternate advancement is that the PC's will be unable fight thousands or even hundreds of goblins without dying. I want a band of 30-40 relatively regular goblins to be a deadly threat in a straight up fight. I want the game to feel a bit more like typical fantasy novels like Lotr where you can't fight if really outnumbered - if you don't have a very defensible position that is.
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Tony Vargas

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
Yep. It's always been a quandry in D&D. If the countryside has meaningful random encounters when the party is starting out, it'll be pretty tame when they're 7th. They have to go further afield to find grander adventures.

What makes it get weird is if the DM just lets the lower-level stuff disapear. It can fade into the background, but it shouldn't disapear. You may have to travel farther between 7th level encounters than between 1st, but there should still be some lower level encounters on the way, you just gloss over them. "You encounter a few bands of goblins on the way to confront the ogre-magi, but they are easily defeated or simply run for it when they realize who you are." It's one sentence, but it reminds you the whole world hasn't just leveled up with you.

I like the locust simile, BTW, quite apt - adventurers swoop into an area, kill the monsters, take their stuff, spend treasure like water, destroy the local economy, and move on. ;)
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First Post
Yep. It's always been a quandry in D&D. If the countryside has meaningful random encounters when the party is starting out, it'll be pretty tame when they're 7th. They have to go further afield to find grander adventures.
Since I won't be removing progression completely, just partly, I still need to consider how I create my sandbox flat-math 4e. What I will probably do is to throw a bit bigger challenges at the party.

Maybe something like this: at first level they meet the occational goblin scout party, with villages typically feeling pretty safe. Later on, as the plot progresses, the villages start to become unsafe, and the players run into war parties and war starts to plague the country.

Tony Vargas

One of the most 'realistic' ways to handle the heroes 'growing out of' the challenges they faced at lower level is for them to encounter challenges of their new level relatively less often. When you're starting out, every goblin and bandit and rabid squirrel is a challenge and just traveling from one town to another is an adventure. When you get tougher, common dangers become trivial, and what strains credulity is when they disappear to be replaced by equally frequent, proportionally greater dangers.

If you could just space out the more challenging dangers - be it by making them farther apart in distance, or less frequent - while leaving in but glossing over the lesser challenges, you'd convey that.

Unfortunately, D&D's attrition paradigm of managing daily spells & hps isn't conducive to that, at all...


First Post
When the new flat math came out for the 5th edition play-test, the first thing I did was have everyone remove the 1/2 level to bonuses in the 4th edition game.

But that means that level doesn't matter to hit. So how about this. Test this in your 4th edition game and tell me if it works for you.

Either add a natural ability bonus ability-10/2
or add a level bonus/3
or add a magic bonus
whichever is higher
to attack rolls, saves, etc.


But that means that level doesn't matter to hit.
This is one of the reasons why for our group we use inherent bonuses instead of +X items. It just "feels" better having that attack/damage coming from a PC's skill, rather than an item, especially in light of removing the +1/2.

There are still plenty of ways to make +X magic items useful though - we use the +X value as a once-per-encounter addition to the statistic that's associated with the item. For instance, a +3 sword - once per encounter you can turn that close miss into a hit using that bonus.


4E doesn't scale as dramatically as 3E, so it's a lot more viable to have flatter math. Here's some tips:

- Drop the 1/2 level to all defenses and all attacks (obvious)
- Consider utilizing reverse inherent bonuses (every time the players would gain an inherent bonus, their opponents lose that much defense)

That will leave the math reasonably flat. I'd leave the expertise feats alone, at this point they all do something cool, and the math gets too complex.

At the Paragon tier you'll find that your Heroic tier monsters are mooks anyway, even flatter math won't salvage how very much of a bonus you get in Paragon tier. Epic tier again is a huge jump in power. But you'll find that for each tier the monsters will remain reasonable threats (if eventually much, much easier) for a longer period of time.

Also you've just made the game harder because your inherent bonuses don't reduce monster HP (increased damage is decreased HP) but that's not a big deal overall.

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