The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

The Parsed Character Sheet

One of the biggest problems my group had during the year we were playing 4E was what to do when a player wasn’t there. I have never been a fan of solutions to this problem that didn’t make sense in-game (i.e. I am against characters just disappearing or reappearing as the player does), and moreover, because of the nature of 4E missing certain roles from the group can be very cumbersome.

Hand Offs Are Awkward

For a short while we tried to work with the two solutions I had used in previous editions – handing the character off, and DM control of the character – but found the added complexity that characters have in 4E makes it much harder for someone unaccustomed to the character just take over.

In the end what started to happen was that we just wouldn’t play when we had less than the whole group, and that was a huge pain. In preparation for our game that will be starting in the new year I have been putting some thought into what to do about a player that will frequently be leaving 60 to 90 minutes before we would like to stop.

Simplifying the Missing Character

We have worked out a game plan for that character (who is a leader) for how he will be played; basically the plan is to use Commanders Strike as much as possible, and Inspiring Word when needed. Obviously this will make him far less useful than normal, but it will be far less disruptive than having the player who takes over spend every combat with his nose buried in the PHB as he tries to figure out what would work best.

But having decided to do this for one character, I have come to realize that we should be doing this for every character. What we really need is a parsed character sheet that has nothing on it but the stats we are going to use in the players absence. (including no calculations)

This sheet would have:

  • Name, class, race
  • Attributes, and bonuses
  • HP and surges
  • Defenses
  • Initiative
  • Perception and Insight
  • Basic Attack
  • One at will power, including complete text from rule book
  • One encounter power, including complete text from rule book
  • List of items that are always in play or vital to the group

And that would be it. We would still have the original character sheet to refer to if necessary, but the idea would be that we don’t want to be thinking about what is on there because it presence would be a huge distraction and time waster.

Hopefully this system of simplifying characters will allow another player to take over with minimum disruption. Sure the character will only just barely be fulfilling his role, but at this point I think its the best compromise.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


December 22, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , | 2 Comments

Fluff, Crunch and The Dashing Swordsman

In the very popular web comic Order of the Stick, the character of Elan has levels in a prestige class called “The Dashing Swordsman“. Because of the great popularity of the strip, there have been a lot of fan who have tried to put the class to paper (though never the creator of the strip; he has been very clear he won’t ever release in-game information about the goings on in the strip).

The interesting thing I have seen, or rather not seen, in many attempts at interpreting The Dashing Swordsman, is that the most obvious characteristic of the class is always ignored; that he can use his charisma bonus in melee if (and only if) he says a pun right before he attacks. Now everyone is all over the swapping in the charisma bonus, but for some reason the puns get left by the way side.

D&D Keeps Fluff and Crunch Separate, So We Do The Same

Its not surprising that many a fan would ignore the fluff side of the class; as D&D players we are conditioned to think that rules go in one box and role playing in another, and there shouldn’t be much mixing between the two. Oh there are a few exceptions, like role playing xp or role playing skill uses, but the idea of a class that demands an action from the player – that goes against the grain of D&D. And the idea that a character could get a significant combat bonus from role playing would be consider hearsay in some quarters.

That we are so adverse to mixing fluff and crunch I think was born of the success of games that do it so well. In the 90s there were a lot of popular games which had no qualms about demanding role playing in return for statistical bonuses. I can’t help but wonder if the success of those games both drew players of that ilk away from D&D (thus limiting their influence on the game), and furthermore created a kind of backlash against heavy handed role playing (3E hugely scaled back role playing elements of the game).

I can’t help but think that part of the reason that 3E and 4E feel kind of different than what came before them is because the fluff and crunch parts of the game are further apart than ever. But what can be done?

I Can’t Mix Them Because I’ve Been Conditioned Too

To be honest, I would never have guessed just how deep this bias against mixing fluff and crunch runs in myself before I started writing this post. I wanted to finish it up with some examples of rules that might mix fluff and crunch and bring some fun to the table, but I can’t. Every time I start to make up a feat, or a class or whatever I find myself saying one of two things:

  • “You can’t let players do that; it would be unbalancing.”
  • “You can’t force players to do that; what if they don’t want to?”

Yet, I shouldn’t be thinking these things. My whole point should be that fluff can bring a lot of fun to the table, and so worries about balance or the like should be pushed to the side. But, alas, I am part of the machine of which I have been complaining.

How Much Would You Mix Fluff and Crunch?

So how about you? Would you be willing to bring a rule to your table that directly traded fluff for crunch? What is the biggest bonus that you think fluff could give? What would you think if such a thing found its way into the official rules? Let me know.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | 3.x, 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , | 5 Comments

Not So Random Abilities

There is a feeling in some quarters that buying abilities has somehow robbed D&D of diversity; this is wrong on two accounts. First of all, despite the wholly random nature of Old School generating methods, meaningful diversity was far from omnipresent. Second, that the point buy method as it exists now is set up to encourage you to make every stat 12 is a function of the math behind the system, and not point buys themselves. It is completely possible (as seen in many other games) to create a point buy system that encourages more diversity than dice do.

There Was No Diversity in Old School

Everyone has countless fond memories a table of players with every character having very different abilities. No one had 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 (and if they did it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow). But what gets constantly forgotten in such reminiscing is that most of these stats were effectively the same, even if the recorded number was different.

Right off the bat almost every class had either two or three abilities that had no impact on them. Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom only mattered if you were playing a class who had that stat as its prime requisite. There were no skills nor saving throws that crapped on you if you had a 6 in one of those three.

Then of the abilities that did matter, you had a huge range of scores that gave no bonus or penalties, and an even larger one that gave a mere +/- 1. Though this varied slightly based on the edition and the ability you were looking at, it was typical to have about a 50% chance on 3d6 of landing no bonus/penalty and about a 90% chance of being between minus 1 and plus 1.

(for comparison, in 3.x you would have a 25% chance of rolling an even score and a 67% of rolling between -1 and +1)

New School Rules Could Bring Diversity

The way that D&D is set up now, with the ability bonus changing every 2 points, is far more conducive to diversity than anything that was done old school. But that doesn’t make random rolling the right way to go; actually a properly setup point buy system will encourage more diversity than dice because multiple dice are weighted to the center, while players will gladly pay for high abilities with low ones.

But there is the crux of what is wrong with the D&D point buy system; you cannot buy a stat lower than 8. In fact, with 4E you are limited to just one stat that is 8, the rest must be 10.

Attributes make the man.

Now I know what Wizards was thinking when they made the lower limit for stats as 8; they were thinking that if they made the lower limit for stats 3, then every character would have three 18s and three 3s.

But here is the thing – its none of Wizard’s dam business if players want to do that. The game is balanced now to the point that willingly taking a 3 will really hurt you, and taking multiple 3s could be fatal in most games. Its not Wizards job to protect players from themselves; that is the providence of the DM.

So here are some suggested alternate point buy systems if you want to see some more diversity in your games:

  1. Use the current system, but give the characters 44 points, and make them start buying from 6.
  2. Use the current system, but after completing the purchase allow them to choose to lower a stat which is 8 to 6 in return for raising one other stat by 2.
  3. Make a flat point buy from 0. Give every character 72 points to spend, and every point raises a stat by 1; apply maximums and minimums as you see fit.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | 3.x, 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , | 1 Comment

3 Rules Based Solutions to the 5 Minute Day

I must admit that I have rarely had a problem with my players abusing the mechanics related to sleep in D&D; if anything I have had far more problems with players who don’t know when to quit, and so limp and crawl into encounters they aren’t equipped to handle with disastrous results.

So perhaps I am not the best to evaluate what a good solution to the “5-minute workday” is, still I was intrigued when Paul over at Blog of Holding suggested that the reason story based solutions don’t work to this problem is that they are passive solutions; they aren’t actually fixing the problem, they are trying to out do it.

This makes a lot of sense to me. If you have a group that is so fixated by the statistical benefits of rest that they want to do it all the time, forcing them into situations where the plot drives them to not rest (plot based solutions are the normal suggested cure to the 5 minute workday) doesn’t really get rid of the problem – they will all want to rest immediately the first time the plot isn’t forcing them to. Moreover, since you aren’t curing the problem you would have to make every plot a time dependent race in order to stay on top of things.

So what Paul suggests is appealing to the nature of players like these; give them a statistical benefit to not stopping. I thought I’d take this idea and expand upon it, so here are some mechanics I think you could change if you were trying to convince players to stop resting all the time.

The original 5-minute workday.

1. Loosen Up The Action Points
Paul already suggests giving out more action points, but I think the real problem with action points (as a way of keeping players pushing forward) is that only one can be spent per encounter. Frequently characters don’t really need them so much early in the day when they have all their other resources, but desperately need them late when resources are thin. Allowing characters to hoard them then have a huge spending spree could go a long ways towards encouraging endurance.

2. Give a Raw Bonus at Every Milestone
If accumulating action points isn’t enough of a plus for players, how about just out right giving them pluses as the day goes on. This could be as simple as a +1 to attack roles for every milestone they reach. If you are worried about abuses this could instead be a +1 for every certain amount of XP. Alternatively, in 4E, you could give plus a plus for every resource that is burnt off, like +1 after you use your daily and +1 for every 3 healing surges spent.

By the end of the day the players could be sitting on a very large bonus they don’t want to give up. (possibly to the point of having my problem, players who don’t know when to back off)

3. Increase XP
If making the characters more powerful as the day goes on doesn’t convince them, then you could try modifying the XP system to give greater rewards as the day goes on. Perhaps the simplest form of this would be to just modify the XP earned at the end of the day by a fraction equal to how many encounter they actually did over how many you felt they should have done; so the group who did a 5 minute day might only receive 1/5th of the normal XP, while if the same group had pressed on late into the day they might have earned 8/5th of normal XP.

A somewhat more complex formula would be to affect the amount of XP received in each encounter based on its position in the day. The first encounter of the day might only be worth 50% the normal XP, the second worth 75%, the third worth normal, and the fourth worth 125% and so on.

Even more complex would be to make XP based off of how many resources the characters had at the start of the encounter. For example, if you had 4 characters with one daily power each, you could say that the XP for an encounter was equal to (8-x)/8 where x is the number of dailies they had at the start of the encounter.

A somewhat different idea, would be to not award all the XP for an encounter at the moment that encounter ends. The group might earn 50% of the normal XP for an encounter at the moment it ends. Then another 25% when they complete the next encounter, and the final 25% when they compete the encounter after that.

The Real Solution

So having had fun with the idea of modifying the rules, I think I should admit to what I would really do if my players were resting constantly. I would sit them down after the session and talk to them about it. I would ask them why they think its necessary, tell them that I find it very disruptive, and then make sure that they are very aware that while they take a break, the villains are preparing for them. Further if they make a habit of always taking breaks I have to increase to difficulty of adventures, leaving them worse off than if they had kept a more sane rest schedule.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

December 2, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , | 8 Comments

Not Another Character Builder Review

Something in the order of every other D&D blog on the planet (or at least every one that ever does 4E) has done a review of the new character builder. I haven’t and I don’t plan to; I barely used the old one and haven’t yet used the new one so I’m hardly qualified to write about it. But my lack of qualifications isn’t going to stop me from responding to one of those reviews…

Uh oh. Am I slipping to the dark side?

In his review “Character Builder…Boooooo” The Middle Age DM makes a comment that so many are thinking:

“I can’t quite understand how a successful multi-national company that is a subsidiary of the largest toymaker in the world just can’t’ throw money at their digital content to get something pimp…”

Just like yesterday there is a part of me that want to run to the defense of Wizards. I worked in IT for a decade so I know all too well the quagmire of development hell. I can totally understand how a product can be delayed and delayed; its funny he references a Microsoft product because my first though when I read the above quote was “haven’t you heard of Windows Vista?” Two years after it was suppose to be delivered MS announced they were going to have to throw out 90% of the code and start over. They shipped less than 18 months after that statement, but obviously the end product looked more like it was rushed than one that had been in development for 6 years. But whatever it is inside of me that wants to defend a company that is having dev problems gets quiet really fast when I remember Wizard’s history.

Third Edition Had Less Than No Software

Wizards first announced a character builder would be coming out for 3.0, a decade ago. After including a demo disk with the PHB for a time the project just went away. At one point they had claimed it was almost finished, but then it disappeared without a word.

Of course, by the time it went away no one cared because third party apps had filled the void. Products like PC Gen did a great job of making characters; though they didn’t look slick and I found non-technical people tended to be intimidated by them. So then Wizards decided that if they weren’t going to make a character builder nobody would; they sent legal notices to the makers of PC Gen telling them to take out all splat book content or Wizard’s would sue them.

Fourth Edition’s Software Has Largely Been a Hoax

A few years after that debacle we got Gen Con 2007, where Wizards unveiled 4E. Except they didn’t want to talk about 4E, all they wanted to talk about was the new suit of software. To be honest I got the impression that 4E wasn’t going to be much of a rules update at all, that the new edition was just a way of cashing in on all the awesome software they were launching.

And while it was good to see that I was completely wrong about the rules and that they did in fact have huge changes in the works, in trying to sell everyone on the sheer awesomeness of their new online suite they committed one of the biggest sins a software maker can be guilty of. They made a very pretty, fake, presentation and pretended that it was their software.

The implication of the presentation at Gen Con 2007 was that the software was pretty much done finished, and all ready to go. And I don’t just mean the character builder either, but everything else that has gotten lost in the mix as well.

Game Table Might be Coming . . . or Not

But, we didn’t get the software at launch. Or a year later. Or two years later. My understanding is that Game Table is scheduled for a 2011 release (as if we’d believe any dates from them at this point), and that the reason for the new character builder was because of Game Table.

Of course, screen shots of Game Table look nothing like what they showed in 2007. Its not a breath taking 3D app that has all things D&D already built into it. No, its just another 2D mapping program, with its only obvious advantage at this point being that tokens for D&D monsters are all built into it.

So even though I can understand the problems in the development process, I have no sympathy for Wizard’s failures in software development; they have been deceitful and just all around dicks about software for the last decade. When Game Table comes out I will wait for the reviews; if and only if they are mostly positive (and character builder has been fixed by then) I will renew my lapsed DDI subscription.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , , | 8 Comments

Why I Hate Wish Lists

There were a lot of rules that were eyebrow raising when 4th edition came out; things that few would have ever considered trying before its inception. One of those things was most certainly the notion of wish lists.

Despite my initial concerns about wish lists I used them in my first two 4E games because I felt I needed to play the rules pure before tinkering with them. Well I tried them, and I don’t like them.

To be very frank I think that a very good analogy for wish lists would be to take a child to a toy store and tell him to pick out his own presents. The points that those who defend wish lists bring up would be equally true for bringing your child to the store to pick his own presents instead of shopping in secrecy:

  • It would be less work for the parent.
  • The child would get something he wants.

However, I won’t take my son to the store to pick out his own gifts and I will never again use wishlists to generate my magic items, both with good reasons. Not surprisingly, many of the reasons are the same.

...slip a sable under the tree, for me...

It is a Labor of Love

A lot of effort can go in to picking a present or a magic item, but I have never considered either to be work. Finding updated monster stats – that’s work. But finding or creating a magic item I know will be well appreciated by my players is a very pleasant experience.

I think from some things that I have read, that part of what gives so many DMs headaches with regards to magic items now days is the complexities of how it is handed out. But that’s not an argument in favor of wish lists, that’s an argument for trusting your own judgement when allocating treasure and ignoring over bearing formulas (that only exist to help you, not hold you back).

I Know What He Wants

Any parent who spends a lot of time with their child knows as well as the child what toys that child enjoys. Moreover, because of their greater knowledge and experience, usually the parent can know even better than the child whether a toy seen on tv or a store shelf will be worthwhile. The child usually imagines enormous fun time with no concept of toy’s limitation or thoughts as to its longevity.

A DM who listens to his players and talks to his players knows what a player would enjoy in a magic item. Moreover, because of both his experience in gaming and his foreknowledge of campaign directions, a DM can foresee if a magic item will continue to be useful for a long time to come.

The Magic of Surprise

The emotions that accompany an unexpected gift (or treasure find) are radically different than those felt when one picks their one’s own gift. Has any child ever burst with emotion while spending the $10 their uncle sent them? Can there be any likeness between a party desperately wondering what this mysterious green sword they just recovered from the villain does and another where a player blurts out “It must be the Thunderburst longsword that was on my list.”?

Lists Aren’t Fair

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with wish lists are that they aren’t fair to all players. If a player understands how wishlists work and how they will be used (i.e. he has read that section of the DMG) then he can create a wish list that will do him much more good than the player who is just coming up with a short list of appealing magic items. If a player loves reading about magic items and is willing to take absurd amounts of time making it, he can make a list of items that are far more effective than the list made by the casual player who does his in five minutes.

...forgot to mention one little thing, a ring...

Lists Are Limited

When players are charged with writing a wish list what do they do? They crack open books and try to find magic items they like. Those in favour of wish lists claim this gives players a say in their character’s future. The problem with this argument is that it presumes that the best way to get magic items that are in tune with how the player envisions his character is to have the player look at a list.

I have posted some unique magic items I made for a 3.x campaign I used to run; could any of those have been found on a list? But I can say with certainty that those items were better in tune with the players wants than anything they could have found in the magic items lists of that edition.

And this in the end is the most definitive reason I cannot use wishlists anymore; because magic items are all either mundane enough I will be handing them out with or without a request (potions, bags of holding) or they are so special that I couldn’t possible just take something from a book – even if the player has written a request for.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , | 4 Comments

Why I Hate Good Art

One thing that has remained a constant over the years that I have played D&D is that every new edition brings with it a new standard for artwork.

The covers were great in AD&D.

In AD&D nothing other than the covers were in color, and some of the pictures were quite literally doodles. Second edition brought with it the occasional full color picture inside of books, and all the artwork looked professional. Third edition came with good quality on almost every page. Fourth edition raised the bar even higher, having artwork that is absolutely incredible everywhere.

I have heard some gamers say that the artwork is very important to them, and they would be very upset if the quality ever went down. But for me, as much as I enjoy the pictures I can’t help but wonder what we have lost.

Inside the 2E PHB.

Artwork costs money. The more of it and the better the quality, the more money it costs. This isn’t such a big deal when you are talking about core rulebooks, because it is a given they will have a high circulation, thus spreading the cost of the pictures out over the many buyers. But what about the books with a smaller circulation?

If you compare the products that TSR was making in the 80s (when they were making money hand over fist) to those they made in the 90s (when they were losing money even faster) the types of books being produced weren’t really that much different. The greateset difference between them is the production value.

Ho hum, just another average picture on an average page.

If you put high production value into a product with a low circulation you either have to charge a lot more for it, or you have to lose money on it. TSR went the route of losing money, and so Wizards decided to go the route of charging more. But when you are charging a good chunk of change for a type of book, the number of buyers dimishes even further.

What I would really like to see Wizards do is back down on the production values for books outside of core rulebooks. Pass the savings on to the buyers, and they could even make it all back by selling us other products instead (minis, modules, or even *gasp* some books with fluff in them)

When I started playing D&D modules came out faster than anyone could hope to play them. Even when I had no desire to run them I often picked them up to see if they could give me ideas (this was possible because they were cheap).

I like to have a little game in my art books.

Now, even though I don’t have all the modules that Wizards has made for 4E, I know what they all are. New ones come out at a snail’s pace. Wizards tells me that I could fill these gaps with the content at DDI, and I can and have. But modules from DDI don’t quite fill the same role as hardcopy modules do.

When I have an idea for something I want to do in a game session, but am having trouble filling in the details, I can in minutes flip through my library of old modules and try to get some inspiration. I can’t really do the same by going online and looking through their library.

I know I’m more likely to roll 5 straight crits than see Wizards reduce the (art) quality and increase the quantity of modules and other books. But I still really wish they would; to me the order of priorities the maker of D&D should have for its products are game quality, price, quantity, and way at the end would be visual appeal.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , | 5 Comments

50% HP Playtest Results

As I mentioned six weeks ago I have a 4E game that is in the planning stages, and one of our intended house rules is to cut the hit points in half. We are doing this with the duel purpose of speeding up combat and increasing the danger to the PCs. As we didn’t have enough players for our current game this past weekend, we decided to run a playtest of 50% hit points.

How bad could losing 50% be?

Short Party vs Short Monsters

We had a few limitations for the playtest; we only had three players, two of them hadn’t played 4E in over a year (nor have I DMed 4E in over a year), and it was really just thought up on a spur of the moment. Still a group consisting of a Ranger, a Bard, and Shaman squared off against three goblins and a fire beetle (basically the 1st level goblin group listed in the Monster Manual, minus one beetle to make up for the lost player).

First Fight Goes to the Goblins

Our first go at it went absolutely disastrously for the party. They were picked off in short order; a total party kill with no losses for the monsters. But it was very easy to see that the dice had really gone against the party during that fight. I don’t think the goblins ever missed (and scored one crit), while the party only managed a single hit.

Second Fight Goes to the PCs

Even though I was suddenly feeling really leery about this rule of mine, the group talked me into a rematch. However, rather than let the dice be king (possibly requiring many rematches to get a feel for things) I decided to have the rematch be fought with math; on every declared attack that did straight damage we calculated the average damage then multiplied the result by the odds of the attack hitting. For attacks that did not do straight damage they would succeed if the chance of success was over 50%.

This time the results were completely reversed. The party mopped the floor with goblins, taking only a few scratches along the way.

So where does this leave the rule? Well I am actually quite happy with it at this point. It seems to be having exactly the intended effect, namely increases the speed of the game and the danger to the PCs without changing the relative balance of power. The one lesson learned from the first playtest was that given some bad luck, things can go south really fast; but that is exactly the way it should be.

This Makes 4E More Dangerous Than 3.x

Its too soon to say for sure, but I think for front line characters, this game will end up being a little more dangerous than 3.x; they have only slightly more hit points than 3.x but are facing monsters with much better to hit bonuses and who frequently have some way to add extra damage to their attack. For characters who avoid being up front, this will likely be a far safer game than 3.x because even with their hit points cut in half they still have two or three times what an equivalent character would have in 3.x.

Too Soon To Say How It Scales

The other thing I am aware of is that our testing was setup to test how this will work for first level characters. As a result, even if my conclusions are correct for first level characters they may not be true for higher levels. But I don’t think the system will fall apart instantly (i.e. I don’t think its possible for it to stop working at level 2), so if there is a point beyond which it is broken we should see that point coming, and be able to prepare for it.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , | 2 Comments

Hey Wizards, Since You’re Going Retro… (Part 4)

Since Wizards of the Coast has been releasing a whole bunch of retro themed products I thought I would throw my ideas out there for retro products that definitely could get my money. (click here if you missed parts 1, 2 or 3)

Long before there were blogs TSR produced a number of books that were little more than helpful advice for DMs. To be honest the content in them rarely had anything to do with the games I ran, but they were so well written it was a pleasure to read through them. I probably spent more time actually reading (as opposed to referencing) the old gray books than any other gaming books, ever.

Useful? Maybe. A good read? Absolutely.

I don’t know how much it cost to make the gray books, or if they were profitable, so I don’t know how realistic it would be to bring them back. But I do know another product, that also was more about the pleasure of reading, which Wizards could bring back very easily…

I loved Dragon - when it was hardcopy.

I get why Dragon went digital, it was a combination of it suffering the ills all magazine are suffering and Wizards wanting to lure subscribers to their online service. But with everything in place already, why not also sell hard-copies? They could continue to fund the writing staff with the online subscription, and charge a premium over and above the online costs to those who, like me, would gladly pay extra to get a copy in hand. Surely a magazine that has its writing costs already covered and sells only based on subscription could find a way to make a profit.

So how about it Wizards? How about going retro and selling me some hard copies of good advice?

October 29, 2010 Posted by | 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sell Me On It

While playing 3E I started giving players what I called Hero Points as an additional reward system. The idea was they could spend Hero Points to give them a better chance at completing especially heroic moves. The problem was that it was a balanced mechanical system, and it never felt particularly heroic when they were used (and that players tended to hoard them because they could be used defensively as well).

After playing 4E for a short time I found that action points were the same way; they ought to (in my mind) allow PCs to have a moment to shine, but all to often they seemed to be spent on re-rolls when the character missed an attack (and more often than not the re-roll missed too).

So I implemented a system with action points that I had briefly tried with Hero Points that I like to call “Sell me on it”. Basically, when a player says they want to use an action point, they can either use them the way they are intended or they can use them as an opportunity to bend the rules.

In spending the action point the player can propose to have his character do anything; there is no limit on what they can propose as a use for an action point, but whether I agree or not will depend on how in line it is with the character (I really like proposals that are extensions of existing powers), how dramatically appropriate it is, and who benefits from the action.

My favourite example of a player using “Sell me on it” was a way of extending Fey Step far beyond its rule use, yet was something no one would have blinked at if read in a story. Basically the party’s sorceress was trapped and in grave danger, so the Eladrin rogue used Fey Step to teleport in, grab her and teleport out (ala Nightcrawler).

To be honest some of my favourite memories of 4E involve this house rule, so I will have to be sure we bring it back when we start our new 4E game. I will say that’s its one downfall is that it tends to favour players who are playing more for the story; but seeing as they frequently get the short end of the stick, I don’t think that’s a problem.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | 3.x, 4E, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , | Leave a comment