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SaberSeraphim
10-19-2010, 12:39 AM
The basic problem with 4E is it is based on far too much precise math. Everything is (in essence) scaled to the 8 encounter 2 quest per level formula with a party of 5 players. So my question is how do I go about making the game a little more old school without entirely breaking the system. Here are some of the major problems I have.

-No "random" encounters. By this I mean, putting my players up against a single encounter on the road between two locations is relatively pointless. They can dump all their dailies into the fight and not have to worry because they'll be taking an extended rest before they fight again.
-Fights take too long. This is a big complaint that has come up a lot. When I try tweaking the monster HP by variables of 15-30% the monsters just end up getting steamrolled by the party, no real challenge is presented.
-Milestone system. This is the biggest rock in my shoe as far as changing the way the system works. Action points, daily magic item use, all based on the milestone system.

My current rules are that daily powers and healing surges refresh between "story arcs" instead of extended rests. I haven't decided how to handle daily magic item usage yet as the game just started and it isn't an issue yet. I've played into Paragon tier and I know that fights at that level can end up taking 1 to 2 hours for a single encounter. Playing a different edition isn't an option, so I'm curious as to what ideas people have come up with that are like the issues I have with the system.

I have a pretty RP heavy group, but they also definitely enjoy combat, it is very much a 50/50 game. So again any suggestions that can help me run the game and make it less like a video game and more like a table top role-playing game would be really, really appreciated.

Sascha
10-19-2010, 12:02 PM
My first response is to ask what "old school" means, in regards to the things you want to change. To what end should the rules work? Depending on the answer, you might be conflicting with 4E's intentional design assumptions.

For other advice, do you have DMG2? It's got some great advice on play style and, specifically, how to adapt to larger/smaller groups than the default 5.

(Also, why is a different game not an option?)

wizarddog
10-21-2010, 02:19 AM
The basic problem with 4E is it is based on far too much precise math. Everything is (in essence) scaled to the 8 encounter 2 quest per level formula with a party of 5 players. So my question is how do I go about making the game a little more old school without entirely breaking the system. Here are some of the major problems I have.

One way to avoid this is to just not use XP for advancement. Instead, announce when the Players advance. You then only need to use XP to figure if the encounter is balanced. Not every encounter needs to be balanced.


-No "random" encounters. By this I mean, putting my players up against a single encounter on the road between two locations is relatively pointless. They can dump all their dailies into the fight and not have to worry because they'll be taking an extended rest before they fight again.
That is basically the case with any edition. A "random encounter" should have a purpose or the result of some action on the PC's part, failing a skill challenge for instance. Like wise, if you allow them to rest all the time, then they are going to use it. Perhaps you should put time constraints in the adventure so that resting (which they can do only after 24 hours from the last extended rest) is hazardous to their mission.


-Fights take too long. This is a big complaint that has come up a lot. When I try tweaking the monster HP by variables of 15-30% the monsters just end up getting steamrolled by the party, no real challenge is presented.
Halving hit points means nothing if you don't increase the damage output of the monsters. They poise no challenge if they don't use up the PC's resources. PC's will be challenged when their healing surges start to dwindle.




-Milestone system. This is the biggest rock in my shoe as far as changing the way the system works. Action points, daily magic item use, all based on the milestone system.
A DM decides when a PC's have reached a milestone. The daily magic item use rules is pretty lame, and WOTC knows it. That's why they are changing it with Essentials. This you can change around without really hurting the games, execpt for PC's that use action points for some of their abilities.


My current rules are that daily powers and healing surges refresh between "story arcs" instead of extended rests. I haven't decided how to handle daily magic item usage yet as the game just started and it isn't an issue yet. I've played into Paragon tier and I know that fights at that level can end up taking 1 to 2 hours for a single encounter. Playing a different edition isn't an option, so I'm curious as to what ideas people have come up with that are like the issues I have with the system.

I have a pretty RP heavy group, but they also definitely enjoy combat, it is very much a 50/50 game. So again any suggestions that can help me run the game and make it less like a video game and more like a table top role-playing game would be really, really appreciated.

I'm sure your players enjoy combat if its challenging and meaningful. So give them combats that are challenging and meaningful. In my game, I increased the difficulty of the combat encounters that the players may fight between extended rests. But combat is done only in certain places, while the rest : Roleplaying, Puzzle solving, exploration takes a major role. Combats that serve no real purpose other than an exercise in dice rolling, are relegated to skill challenges and healing surge loss. The game has come a long way from enter the room and slay the monster so many of the rules reflect that.

OmniscientlyMe
10-26-2010, 08:01 PM
I don't know what your players' habits or experience playing the game is like. But for speeding up combat, the more they play the faster they will tend to get at combat. The best thing is just to make your players get in the habit of being ready to act when their turn comes up, plus a backup plan should situations change. When their turn comes up they should have ranges measured, dice ready, powers on hand, and be able to start making their moves right away. Exceptions of course being whomever gets stuck going right after the horde of monsters.

I've seen too many people try to meta-game every move to get the "perfect" turn every time and it just drags.

Dragon of Tyr
10-28-2010, 09:48 PM
As for XP with the rules for 4e, it does lend itself to headhunting. Er go: Character (x) needs 400 xp to get to the next level, so he/she is going to go kill x number of enemies to get there. I agree with wizarddog about getting rid of the xp system in favor of character advancement for playing in character as opposed to combat prowess. Unfortunately 4e does lend itself to power gaming and heavy combat, moreso like a board game such as descent or heroquest, and unfortunately combat does slow things a bit. I had an incident where three PC's fighting a dozen kobolds took the better part of an hour and a half. The best advice i could pass along is the you are the DM, you need to speak with your group and determine what they think is balanced and how things go. Try things out and include them in the process; after all, its their game too. And don't be afraid to put your foot down and enforce certain rules...the first line out of every DM/GM manual says, you're running the game, your rule is final.

gabe
10-29-2010, 06:10 PM
I had a pretty good-sized 4E group for a while. Here are some tricks we used:

1. All general strategic discussions should be done out of game-- start an email thread and discuss until your heart's content, but don't waste game time with it. You can even exclude me (the DM), if you really want a leg up.
2. use power cards, or index cards with your power name/type (attack, healing, buff, etc) and place it in front of you when you have decided what you are doing. That lets others know and react before their turns. The players would use funny names too "big can of beat-down", "blind them with shuriken", or "the freeze spell you have to stay out of the way of". It also makes game sense. If you hang out with a wizard, and he chants a certain way, you will remember that, even if you can't replicate it.
3. roll your attack and damage and do the math before your turn (but after you place your card). It is on the honor system that you are not fibbing about who you would attack. (if you are worried, make them point their minis at what they will attack) Then, when your turn comes, think of a clever way to say it: "I leap into the air, roar defiantly, and slam my axe into the chieftain (AC 26?), to which I reply "damage?" "13" "Your axe splinters the edge of his shield and buries itself in the meat of his leg. The chieftain's roar turns to a whimper as he sees his arterial blood cascading to the floor. He is bloodied."
4. Don't be afraid to use a minute glass. If the player has not finished an attack roll, then force the player to delay to the end of the turn. An iphone/ipod timer works really well too.
5. Use an initiative counter (anything shaped like the letter holders in scrabble). We used quarters with a white label on them with the player name. I used colored poker chips for the monsters. In fact, you could just raid a scrabble game and use the letters as player and monster initials.
6. Like in chess, once you make the move, it is made, and you still have just the one minute, so don't count too much.
7. Assign the noobs a coach (the friendliest player, not the most knowledgeable). The coach sits next to the noob and helps pick powers and explain why in simple terms: "You should use this one. It lets me and Fyodor get him in between us, and once that happens, he is toast, so roll this die, add 4, and that is your attack. Roll these two and add three, that is the damage if you hit"
8. Once the outcome is clear, end narratively, with a series of choices:
"Your victory is sealed, the orcs have been routed. Are you going to stop the fleeing troops?" if yes, proceed to skill challenge, if no, continue the game.
or "as you strike the telling blow against the lich, his profane magic unravels, leaving nothing but a pile of brittle bones and tattered rags. You coordinate your attacks upon the remaining zombies and dispatch them in short order. The battle is won, but the haunting snarls and soulless yells of the restless dead further in the complex are a grim reminder that the day is far from over" Skill check to loot the battlefield, bandage wounds (5 minute rest), and find a strategic location to meet the next wave from here.

You can also move into and out of skill checks for advantage:

"The limp corpses of the duke, duchess, and their children hanging from the ramparts are a good sign that the renegades hold the castle. As you stare in disbelief at the barbarity of the scene, scores of arrows leap into the air from behind the battlements, all aimed in your direction. It seems you are expected" Do a big series of skill checks to storm the walls, or to mine under them, build a ram, whatever. Once they enter, have a cool battle map ready, with the entry point as a variable. Fight the battle, then proceed to a skill check to locate the evil bard who whipped the renegades into this frenzy.

I ran a scenario once where the PCs had to lead a very old priest into a tomb and give him time to bless an altar in a room full of sharling, vicious undead. They used skill checks to get through the horde to the altar, and then a long skill check / combat to encircle the priest and protect him as he quickly blessed. It was an awesome fight that kept the players on the edge of their seats. By the end, they were out of healing surges, and most of the way to death. They had to make skill checks during combat to keep more undead from entering the combat. I just drew a huge horde around the altar and let one in every time they failed. When the priest finished the blessing, the undead were destroyed by the holy power. It was may more fun than just a generic evil boss hanging out by the altar.

OmniscientlyMe
10-30-2010, 03:29 AM
Ah, yes. I'll second ending narratively, with one caveat, only do so in favor of the players, because epic comebacks happen.

I had one DM who had the horde of gnolls attacking our party get scared off after my swordmage took off about 30-40% of their entire group's HP on his second turn. (yay, AoEs and max damage rolls and action points) It turned what was going to be a long, annoying, one sided battle into an epic moment in that character's story.

gabe
10-30-2010, 07:21 PM
Ah, yes. I'll second ending narratively, with one caveat, only do so in favor of the players, because epic comebacks happen.

Haha,

Good clarification. Just imagine the DM: "You are all at 20% or less of your hit points, you've used your dailies, your weapon powers, and anything else you could scrounge, but the gnolls aren't even bloodied. It is obvious you are being thick-skulled about it, so:"

"The gnolls dispatch you in short order, being sure to avoid your livers, as those are the tastiest morsel. Your party has died, along with your dreams, aspirations, and bloodlines. Within a week, you are merely one more layer of excrement upon the cave floor. Perhaps someday your senseless, inglorious deaths will be avenged by some smarter, more organized group of heroes, who may indeed wonder how the gnoll chieftain came to possess that greatsword with mysterious runes that had been handed down from generation to generation in your family for three centuries. Why don't all of you try farmville. I think it is closer to your skill level."

Yeah, I think narratively ending a combat in the monsters' favor would be about as popular as a fart in a crowded elevator. :)

norecess4u
12-28-2010, 10:19 PM
Ok. Well, I don't have any help for you with a few of the issues you''ve mentioned, other than to say that I agree they could all be an issue at a D&D table. I've played fourth edition for over a year and I found one major solution that is simple and while it seems to get me hanged around here by the Rule Lawyers of the Silver Flame, can fix many of the issues you mentioned if done right and agreed upon by your players.

HALVE THE HIT POINTS OF BOTH THE PARTY AND THE ENEMIES AND KEEP ALL OTHER THINGS SAME.

This keeps most ratios equal mathematically but makes the game faster and feel more "old school" as your weapon does more damage and you take more each time your "struck" (essentially). If it sounds crazy, consider asking yourself what the core difference is between 4th edition and earlier ones? Answer: Monsters and heroes had far fewer hit points.

I posted this as a question on dndinsider.com forums about a year ago. Many in the know speculated that WOTC did this to appeal to the younger gamer community who would cry for weeks if their WOW character died and/or others speculated that it was to make the classses like wizards and warlocks more sturdy, giving a more equal playing field to all classes in earlier and later levels. Whatever the reason, it's obvious to anyone with an original red box that one night in first edition can equal many nights in a fourth edition game.

So what advice did I get after considering halving hit points across the board? Although several people told me they had done the same thing to great success, I and was met with overwhelming scorn, patronization and comments which were in basically one of several categories 1) this would drastically alter the game, especially giving unfair treatment to defender roles 2) was a direct result of poor play or DMing wherein every nuance or expectation of the game should be preplanned ahead of time to avoid time wasting 3) slow game speed in 4e was because of slow players and the need to use smart DM tricks like getting the fight over quickly by enemies running away in fear (ie narative endings) or having "expert players" help novice ones with their little power cards or having watches or time keepers (which does not exactly induce cooperation or improvisational thought let me tell you) 4) old school adventure design was no longer viable. Want to storm a castle? Hey, you only need 3 encounters to do that because in your infinite wisdom as DM designer, EVERY ENCOUNTER IS MEANINGFUL says these folks.

In my opinion most of these offerings come from players unfamiliar to earlier editions like 1e and 2e, many of whom do not have a basic understanding of how much faster combat speed was "in the old school days" or why faster combat speed was a benefit instead of a hindrance to the realistic realm of the story .

Here are the problems with 4e hit points NOT being halved in my opinion and I feel they mirror OUR campaign issues prior to our switch and many of your own issues you listed:

1) Random encounters are now a hassle and bother for both players and DM and don't feel REAL. It's not just random encounters but anything that RANDOMLY challenges the party really, which takes away from the realistic feel of game/story movement. Because as you say, they can be dealt with little to no risk and will take too long. I have heard some entries suggest that all encounters should serve a purpose, period. Not necessarilly so I argue. If you are in a castle filled with undead and you seek to overthrow the Vampire Lord holding it, then there is realistically a chance of running into undead swarms along the way. A percentage chance. The PCS SHOULD know this. If they feel as though that won't happen because ALL encounters serve a certain purpose and the DM is crunched for time, then you have just taken away some realizatoin from the game and quite frankly made it easier for the party to plan to eliminate the Vampire Lord. Players in a table top game should always be concerned what is around the corner. That takes time and randomization. Old school players remember this.

2) Combat being slow =less player choice. Play 4e long enough and you will realize players will try to avoid any combat not on a linear tragectory to the big bad guy because they know the length of combat and about how many encounters can and will happen in a session. DMs will reply that this does not happen in THEIR game. I would argue that most of them have never played earlier editions or their adventures are linearly arranged out of necessity or they have a lot more time to play or that they have yet to play a full module scaled adventure where (like the old days friend) you are really in the thick of it (which sometimes IS what everyone at the table would like isn't it?)

3) Players role-play less and want to role-play less as they know that fewer encounters in an evening results in fewer choices anyway.

4) Despite replies from other players on dndinsider who literally and mathetically broke down for me how the number of rounds in 4e was equivalent to 1e or 2e, IT IS NOT. A sword does 1d8 in 4e and it does 1d8 in 1e and a kobold with 50 hp will take a lot more hits to come down than a kobold with one hit dice now won't it????? This is especially true in earlier levels when players have only one or two encounter powers or dailies.

Our group tried many forum-based recommendations as our DM and most players followed 4e rules to the letter. We did not succeed to make the game more fun or as you say "old school", until relunctantly he agreed to halve the hp on both sides and after that no one wanted to go back.

After many discussions our group kept potions and healings stats all normal and just kept hit points halved for both players and monsters. We changed nothing else to the game at all. For me, it did start to feel "old school" again. I noticed a lot of thinking, and planning and a desire on the players part to want to explore more, knowing that even if they got into an encounter (off the beaten path), it would be dealt with and the game could move on, regardless of outcome. The DM began to challenge us with random things more, we began to wonder what would happen next? No one was stacking their dice anymore waiting for their turn surprise surprise.

Halving hp on both sides, and mind you NOT changing or adjusting damage or anything else in any way, will do the following for your game in my opinion:

1) Random encounters will be meaningful. You can also make random encounters harder (ie more combat time) thereby testing the players more and still keep a story going.

2) Combat is fun and faster. Every stroke of every sword feels like it did in earlier editions. When YOU the player do more damage to the bad guy it feels "cooler". Simple as that. Look ma, I just killed ANOTHER orc, ain't I rad?!!! instead of "yay, I just supplied the 6th hit on the orc, only 3 more to go"...

3) There will be more milestones per game session so your players will actually care about them! You will also notice they actually care about the number of surges they have. Why? Like the old days there will be more encounters per outcome based episode. Surprise surprise.

4)Role-playing will increase as encounter times decrease. We can get into the specifics why but mostly to anyone who has ever DMed and then played the game, it should be obvious how more player choice=more character role-playing.

5) Players trying to outthink the night's events will be less obvious. Players won't care if the night's assualt leads to espionage or a tomb raid. The game will still move! Why? Hack and slashers will be satisfied and story-tellers will too since it can all be squeezed in better, timewise. Try making an adventure this way and see how much more YOU can squeeze into a night. Very "old school"....

6) Your characters will level faster, and your players will stick around in the campaign longer. More will get done in a night. Players won't have to wait two weeks to see what is down the hall.

7) Skill challenges, role-playing and tavern talks/discussions with the King, etc... will be more desired by your more combat oriented players who won't see it anymore as taking away from their hack and slash time (which they need a lot of time for in 4e to do).

8) You will notice very little difference in game mechanics. Our wizard once was unhappy about it as an illithid ate his brain. He complained initially that it was the lack of hit points. I think it was bad placement, and unfortunate happenstance. BTW, you as DM will see players taking their roles much more seriously which again =more roleplaying!!!


Keep in mind that just because it's written in the new rule books doesn't mean it's perfect. Do for your table what you need to do, keeping D&D as true as you can. Every game should have houserules. Period. I, personally, would not be surprised if 4.5 or 5th edition (scary) had less than the hit points as fourth in the manner I've specified as this is a recurring issue on forum discussions but seems to somehow get explained away as a result of bad play/DMing. You heard it here first folks.

Every one has their two cents worth. Here's mine. Hope it helps make your table more fun. Ok, RULE LAWYERS and 4e PURISTS have at me!!!!!

Let me know if you DO decide to try it, and what happened.