Non-heroic 4e D&D, or a Viscious New World
by, 08-18-2010 at 11:29 AM (1005 Views)
Does the assumption that we all want to play "Heroic Fantasy" bother you about 4e? Well it does me, I've complained about this before so I won't go over it again. What I will do is talk about a possible way around the default Heroic Fantasy setting.
So the other day I was messing around with the character builder and I happened to leave the character's class empty. This had an interesting effect on the character.
Gone are the never ending escalation of HP, gone are the characters Encounter, Daily and At-Will powers (with some exceptions). Most characters start with no skills, no weapon proficiencies, and no armor proficiencies. In order to obtain any of these items the character must use a feat. So not surprisingly, feats become way more important. Characters can still use weapons and armor that they are not proficient in but receive no proficiency bonus or in the case of armor, a penalty to strike based on the type of armor, and a skill check penalty.
I would also limit starting funds to 10gp, as this plays into the gritty feel to any campaign so structured. Also limiting the weapon proficiency choices to simple melee weapons to start, then military, then superior melee weapons would be a must. Otherwise every character with a weapon proficiency would be wielding a superior weapon out of the box.
A characters starting HP, are equal to his Con. They would also have very few healing surges, and those being quite low in the HP they give back. Suddenly that lousy healing potion nobody ever wants as treasure in a regular game, just became a much sought after item.
Also HP do not increase as the characters level. So a 1st, 5th, and 9th level character all have the same amount of HP. Except for the attribute bonus increase at 4th and 8th level, if they take Con as the stat, but it's only a minor boost.
As a result of the HP loss, you can use the monster builder to dial all the monsters down to 1st level to even the playing field. Now I haven't done this with every monster. I've done a few, but I think the basic concept works, but you may have to play around with the fiddly bits some. A 1st level adult white dragon would have around 130ish HP, which would be a challenge for 5 or 6 characters with 8 - 20 HP.
Occasionally you have to use the "house rule" icon to get things to work, but other than that, I think this concept is totally workable, and very interesting. As it takes the game back to its roots and makes being a low level character extremely dangerous.
I still have a while before I finish my current campaign. When we finish with that I had planned to try out the Dark Sun setting and I think this would be great addition to that game. Making it uber gritty and dangerous. Now, if I could just talk my players into it.