Adjusting 4E

Posted: 14 June 2012 in House Rules
Tags: , ,

When all is said and done, 4th Edition is what finally brought me in to the D&D fold.  It made the game approachable in a way that bad DMs and years of textbooks to catch up on never did.  I was repelled by it’s flaws pretty quickly and fell in with Pathfinder and (to a much lesser extent) the OSR movement, but I still owe 4E some credit.  I also have a number of friends (including my wife) who came on board with 4E and don’t feel as strongly about it’s flaws as I do, so I’ve decided to put effort into “fixing” the system so I don’t find it so repellant.  I’ll be collecting those house rules on a new Page I’ve created, and probably adjusting my adjustments as I find what works and what doesn’t.

A lot of this is based off of comments made on Dissociated Mechanics, Defining Your Game, and the Dual Faces of Healing, probably some other sources and influences as well.  Right now I only have a few beginning notions of what I think I need to fix, and the barest notion of how to fix them.  Thoughts and feedback are welcome.

Energy Sources : All classes in 4E have an energy source, not unlike characters in Diablo 3, but it’s a rather informal, dissociated thing.  I’d like to clean that up, and make it reasonable that a Fighter only gets 3 Encounter powers every 5 minutes, and 2 Dailies each day.

Energy Conversion: Related to Energy Sources, I feel like there should be some notion of converting between Encounter energy and Daily energy.  It’s all effectively Mana or Focus or Fatigue, just bigger or smaller chunks, you should be able to give up a Daily to recharge Encounters, or forgo your encounters to fire off an extra Daily, right?

Power Through Pain: So what happens when you’re out of Energy?  You just can’t do anything but basic moves?  I think I want to have a mechanic where characters can overexert themselves if they’ve expended all their energy, perhaps Fatiguing, Exhausting, or Damaging themselves as they push their body beyond what’s “safe”.

Tactical Healing: I think that there’s generally way too much healing available in combat, and it’s rarely done in a way that forces a tactical choice.  I’d like a way to change that, and preferably something better than individual errata on ever Cleric power.

Recovery: Recovery between encounters is something that I also feel there’s way too much of; there’s little sense of lasting consequences from poorly chosen or poorly executed plans.  I’d like to scale that back and make recovery available and reliable, but not necessarily instantaneous.

  1. Brendan says:

    Interesting. 4E gets some credit from me too for being the edition I started playing after a 10 year hiatus (I pretty much entirely missed the 3E years).

    One thing to consider about “power through pain” is that such systems often turn healers into power batteries. That might not be a problem, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

    You seem to be focusing here on the player side, whereas my hacking has mostly been on the referee side:

    • Jack says:

      Now, that is interesting. Generally, there are rather few things that bother me about 4E from a DM/Referee perspective — maybe I just haven’t looked at it enough. What bothers me is the inconsistency that dissociated mechanics (like the Powers system, and descriptions) and the almost unthinking focus on tactical, combat-oriented play, both of which I feel make actually Role Playing (getting inside a character’s head and making decisions as he would) really difficult. My fixes are probably going to focus mostly on making Role Play and strategic play easier.

      Eladrin don’t bother me (think Galadriel vs Legolas in Tolkien, or Blood Elves and Night Elves in WoW), and Dragonborn don’t bother me (overgrown Kobolds? Alright, I can handle that). I’ll probably use Encumbrance By Stone and other tools I’ve picked up for running RPGs generally, but there’s nothing that strikes me as 4E specific that I need to fix for the DM.

      You’re right about the concern that Power Through Pain could turn healers into batteries. I’m already taking that into consideration by making the first steps be status effects rather than “just” HP damage, but even at that I think it’s just finding the sweet spot where the cost of another Daily can’t just be wiped away with a Healer’s Encounter power. (I briefly considered fatigued-exhausted-bloodied-unconcious, but couldn’t decide if that was too hard or too forgiving.) I’m also already considering ways to nerf healing pretty much across the board, so maybe allowing them to pump in Powers will help offset that.

      -shrugs- We’ll see how it goes.

  2. […] of the things that bothers me the most when it comes to 4th Edition D&D is how difficult many of the mechanics (and descriptions of those mechanics) make it for me to […]

  3. […] my interest (as a wise husband) to find a way that I can play 4E with her. I started thinking about a fix for the Powers system a while back, but after I started looking at it in more detail it occurred to me that […]

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