[4e] Make Fights Cool!

edited June 2008 in Story Games
The fighting system in D&D 4e is pretty darn fun all by itself. But there are extra bits you can add that make combat much better: Stunts (DMG p. 42), Skill Challenges, and Cool Terrain Things. Let's talk about these and other ways to make battlemat fights cool.

Talk through the battlemat setup

When you're drawing the encounter area on the battlemat (or laying out dungeon tiles) talk through the various interesting features with the players, and solicit ideas from them.

"These are fire braziers. You can kick them over to burn adjacent enemies or throw someone into the fire."

"This ruler is the ship's yardarm. If you're standing next to it, you can swing it around 90-degrees to attack everyone in its path (STR vs. Reflex, 1d8+3)."

"These vines grow across the ravine. With an Acrobatics roll (DC 15) you can grab on and swing from vine to vine at your Speed +1. You're balancing, so enemies have combat advantage against you, but you have the high ground while you're up there, so you get +2 to attack rolls. If you fail the check, you can still swing across at Speed -1 and you don't get the +2 attack bonus."

"Those cargo bails should be hanging in nets, and they can be cut open to send the cargo crashing down on someone."


Think about opportunities, not problems

Let's imagine a swaying rope bridge across a raging river. You might say that the bridge is precarious, so you have to make checks to keep your footing when you move across it, or you're slowed, or some other hardship. This is "realistic" but not very much fun. Instead think about the opportunities for cool stuff that the bridge provides.

Like, you get a +1 to Bull Rush attacks against people on the bridge and you have the option to push them over the side instead of just backwards. Maybe if you're at the middle of the bridge, you can deliberately shake it, making a STR vs. Reflex attack against everyone else on the bridge (and shifting them one square off the bridge if you hit). Now the bridge is a dangerous feature, but it's dangerous because of the opportunities it provides rather than hindrances that increase whiff.


Add Skill Challenges with tangible rewards

The PCs are fighting a faction of Night Goblins they haven't seen before, so you throw down a skill challenge. As a standard action, you can study an adjacent enemy (Insight, Perception, and Dungeoneering are prime skills). If the PCs can get 6 successes studying before they get 3 failures, they'll learn a weakness in the goblin's fighting style. When they fight these goblins again in the future, they'll get +2 to damage.

During a fight with an Ogre, the PCs can attempt a skill challenge to determine where the Ogre's hidden treasure cache is. He keeps nervously glancing in its direction (Perception), he might spill the beans if goaded with trickery (Bluff, Diplomacy), and he keeps a special key on his belt that disables the traps (Thievery).

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Got any techniques to make D&D 4e fights cool? Share 'em!

Comments

  • Iron Heroes is a great resource for these kinds of ideas. I'll try to come back with some.
  • edited June 2008
    Here's one from last night's game:

    Point out any deadly areas of the encounter before it starts.

    "You're fighting on a windship. If you're pushed over the side, and fail to catch yourself, you can fall to your death. As a move action, you can tie on a safety line, but you can only move 6 squares from the point where you tie on. The line will stop your fall and let you climb back up (assuming no one cuts it)."

    Or

    "Even though we're fighting on a windship, don't worry about falling off. We're on a windship because it's cool. If you fall, you'll be able to catch a line and climb back up, or something like that. However, if you get reduced to zero hit points, your enemy throws you overboard and you'll wind up crashed in a tree or a lake or something and separated from the group, who will have to track you down later."
  • I'm disinclined towards the idea of telling them about the braziers, or whatever it is. It's basically saying 'Do the thing I set up or you'll be doing something non optimal'. It doesn't feel very innovative to just do what someone set up.

    What I'd think is good is
    1. You tell them there are things they can interact with in a combat, but not what.
    2. Those interactions are free actions, so they aren't wasting attacks/moves on what might be a pretty megre bonus.
    3. If the player interacts with the object, but not in the way intended to get the good effect, the good effect sill occurs. Make up a reason why. Players never kick the damn brazier over, they try and use it to blow flamable liquour from their mouth in a makeshift flamethrower or some crazy crap. Give them the bonus regardless of how they interact - if they think just hiding behind the brazier works, describe them bumping into it, it falls and applying damage to a foe. Make up a reason for something good to come from their exploration - don't expect exploration to be it's own pure reward (simulationists may spit on me now).
    4. If they interact exactly the right way, they get an XP bonus. This is to encourage intelligent exploration, not bloody minded poke everything in a wacked out way exploration.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Callan S.It's basically saying 'Do the thing I set up or you'll be doing something non optimal'.
    No, actually, it's nothing like that. Sorry you got that impression.

    Your #3 is the way to do it, yeah. That's what the table on page 42 is for, after all.

    I find that having the talk when you do the setup (especially the part about "solicit ideas from everyone") helps quite a bit. It's certainly not about prescribing the One Right Way to do things or any nonsense like that. If it helps you, imagine that those quotes above are being said by players and GM alike (both before the battle and during) because that's the general idea.
  • I'd say there is more room for innovation if you give the players a little directorship instead of explicitly placing fun objects on the map. Let them invent thematically apropriate things to interact with, then adjudicate the rules implications yourself.

    If they are in the Temple of a Fire God and they push someone back, if they ask 'are there any braziers to push him into?' say 'yes!', alternatively, just let them say 'I push him back 3 squares into a brazier'. As GM you retain veto powers and you cna always mention 'there are no flaming braziers' or 'that was the only one, you can't do that again' it get just enough cool without losing too much control.

    Same with a ship, they can assume there is rigging, cargo in nets, a yardarm etc. They counjure them into existance by needing them. Maybe let them spend an action point to get away with something unlikely... "I just out of the balcony onto the haycart below!" "spend me an action point and you can, otherwise... no cart."

    John,
  • Here's one suggestion:

    Don't Pre-Play the Encounter in Your Head

    Build both fights and skill challenges without any preconceived notion about how the players will approach it or what the best tactic might be. Just throw down a bunch of complications and let them figure out how to deal with them. I haven't really seen this in any of the published materials. Like, for example:

    - There's some archers on a ledge above this room. You can take them out with ranged attacks, sure, but they'll sound the alarm and more archers will keep coming, generally being replaced at the end of each round. However, luckily, the ledge only has room for about 3-4 of them to stand and fire at the same time.

    - Meanwhile, the main goal is to get across the room, but the floor has fallen out. What's left are a bunch of erratically-spaced pillars which are old and worn enough to give you a few good handholds, but jumping from pillar to pillar is going to be slow, and the archers won't keep firing.

    - Add more complications here. Maybe there are vampire bats which will erupt out of the abyss below, if you disturb them. Maybe some of the pillars are old and will fall over if you try to hang from the side of them. Maybe there's a large flying monster that will come out of the abyss once the players are halfway across the room. Etc.

    It's a puzzle with no clear answer, no set of tactics that will necessarily work perfectly or, at least, you haven't got one in mind. Let the players figure out what they want to do. Let yourself be surprised by how clever they are.

    When it comes to skill challenges (not really on topic, sorry John) make them more like stunt challenges. Present a challenge ("a crumbling spiral stairway that's been greased with what you can only hope is animal fat... and, once you start up it, the goblins will set it on fire"), but don't have the skills that characters will use to overcome it already in mind. Let the players declare how they're going to surmount the challenge and THEN use the stunt table to work out what the rolls should be and what the consequences for failure are.
  • Great stuff, Jonathan.

    It's a key part of the rules that the players get to choose which skills to use for skill challenges. The GM is supposed to set some "prime skills" ahead of time (mostly to give the encounter some shape, not to restrict options) but the players can use any kind of creative approach they want to.
  • Right, what I'm saying is, don't set the difficulty either and don't predetermine the consequences for failing various steps (because you don't know what the steps are). Don't determine anything about the challenge except for what it is until the players figure out how they want to approach it.
  • Ah yes, I get ya. That's a good technique.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonHere's one suggestion:

    Don't Pre-Play the Encounter in Your Head

    Build both fights and skill challenges without any preconceived notion about how the players will approach it or what the best tactic might be.
    Yes, but then what notion do you build it with? What's your motive for building? Building for the sake of building clashes with any eventual gamist engagement (If your going for gamist play - I'm not saying you have to), because the players wont be be appreciative of building for buildings sake, they'll just be looking to win. It's like carefully making a cake only for someone to use it in a cream pie fight, so to speak. The motive for making it doesn't match the motive its used for.

    Though, writing out the problem, what comes to mind is perhaps an organised few moments where everyone knows to just soak in the ambiance of the creation. Then after those moments it's all about getting to the win. Eh, dunno why I sound the solution as I imagine no one would see the above problem as existing to begin with.


    John Harper: I've made it sound like I knew the intention behind it. Really, it's like those old comedy movies where the guy sits down on the plunger control for an explosives detonator. Sure he doesn't intend the results, but they can *boom ching* be traced right back to him all the same.
  • Callan: My perspective is strongly influenced by talking with Eric about how the combat tactics in 4e are rather degenerative in the long run and are not really strong or emergent enough to support strict tactical play over a campaign. While, in the beginning, it may seem like the characters have a variety of options, over time, optimal ones will quickly emerge. This means that straight-forward fights will gradually get less and less interesting, because the basic options don't really change, even at higher levels. John (jenskot), who was involved in playtesting, pretty much confirmed this too. This leads me to believe that, as Eric says, increasing the difficulty or number of opponents faced in an Encounter will not fight the degenerative effect. It's still the same fight, just now with 100 skeletons instead of 10, or with Orcus instead of Irontooth. This means you need other ways to maintain the initial excitement and sense of a wide variety of options.

    I suggest:

    1. Making future encounters fundamentally different in nature, instead of just harder. Have encounters where the characters are trying to get away from an enemy way above their level, while level-appropriate enemies try to block their path. Have encounters where the point is to delay enemies for a certain amount of time, not to kill them as quickly as possible. Have encounters where killing people just makes the problem worse, where characters face a mob that will grow more violent in response to violence. Have encounters where the point is to move a McGuffin from one place to another, where fighting is a necessary but secondary part of it. Etc.

    2. Making drastic changes in terrain, or making the terrain itself dynamic. Nothing is more boring that playing the same fight in more or less the same room. Fight on a frozen river as it's breaking apart. Characters have to jump to land on large chunks as it collapses and then jump from ice chuck to ice chunk as they drift downstream at varying speeds. Fight a battle on top of a dragon or other monster, Shadow of the Colossus style. Fight while falling through the air, like Gandalf and the Balrog. Fight on bridges or amidst buttresses. Fight in a blizzard or hurricane where the wind involuntarily shifts the characters in the midst of combat.

    3. Pose mechanically impossible challenges that cannot be solved with standard rules or standard thinking. Force the players to stunt, basically, or otherwise do really creative things to triumph. Say there's a gap too big to jump across. Watch the fey-touched Warlock mark an enemy, the Paladin cleave them in half, and then the Warlock teleport across the gap as a cloud of mist. Awesome! Say your Wizard is trapped behind a barrier, in a caged death-match with a close-combat beast of a monster. Will the Cleric and Warlord, for example, fight each other in a ritual duel of support, where each of their blows buffs or heals the Wizard, enabling him to triumph? That kind of approach, I think, will keep things continually exciting, even when the players have their most effective attacks worked out. In order to make less effective attacks relevant, you may need to put people in really bizarre situations, which suddenly makes lesser techniques seem more useful.
  • Posted By: John KI'd say there is more room for innovation if you give the players a little directorship instead of explicitly placing fun objects on the map. Let them invent thematically apropriate things to interact with, then adjudicate the rules implications yourself.
    I see benefits to both ways, honestly.

    As you point out, letting them create a brazier (or a giant chomping machine, or an electrical field of unknown origins) in order to use it empowers the player to create more unilaterally, and that's one good type of fun.

    Setting out a constrained set of resources and saying "This is what you have to work with ... be creative!" lets the players focus more and, as with many artistic constraints, can lead to unexpected uses of the elements provided. That's another good type of fun.

    As a forinstance: If the GM has said "There's a brazier full of burning coals here, at the top of this narrow staircase," it can prompt people more easily to something like "Oh, HEY! I'm gonna tip the brazier up on one side and pour the coals down the staircase to discourage pursuit!" Yes, people could say "Okay, I'm going to invent a staircase that they're pursuing us up, and a brazier full of burning coals, and then I'm tipping the brazier up and pouring the coals down the staircase, to discourage pursuit," but doing that unilaterally is a different action from both a social and tactical perspective than making creative use of the elements provided by another player (in this case the GM).
  • I'd love to see a Codex page that hoards cool action-y bits to grab. Oh, wait, I made one!
  • Really cool stuff! Talking through the battlemap setup is wise; I actually had great success running Iron Heroes at a local con a few years back by letting the players set up portions of the map. The game was a Seven Samurai pastiche, and the battlemap setup was translating the PCs' efforts to turn a village into a trap for a horde of hobgoblin bandits.

    I also think the "opportunities, not problems" mindset is the better way to tackle 4e stunting. It meshes well with the stuff on p. 42, and you can also see it in how the Bloodied condition works (no penalties, just opens up new options for both attackers and defenders). Emphasizing that when setting the stage for an action sequence makes good sense.

    This is great stuff, right here.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI'd love to see a Codex page that hoards cool action-y bits to grab. Oh, wait,I made one!
    Thanks for this, Jason. Great to have it all in one place!
  • edited June 2008
    Something that 4E does which fundamentally supports these kinds of fun bits is they effectively gave everyone the ability to quick draw any weapon. Every character gets a Minor Action every turn and drawing a weapon is now a Minor Action. Now a character can draw and throw a dagger or javelin to cut the rope holding the chandelier, for example, without losing any time that might have been better spent with some more rote action (because they can re-draw their sword next turn with their newly available Minor Action).

    Keep this in mind when building engaging combat opportunities; allow some of them to be "triggered" via only a Minor Action. If they require a Standard Action with a moderate to difficult Skill check to pull off, the effect should be commensurate. But some opportunities with a large effect might just be a matter of getting to the right square and using your "free" Minor Action.

    clarification: throwing a weapon would of course be a Standard Action. The point is they can quickly replace it.
  • Great post, Jonathan. You really broke it down there. I just added that whole post to my 4E idea file to tell me how to design interesting encounters.

    #3 really caught my eye. When you set up the battle, it's not just about cool things to interact with, it's about setting up a situation that's a puzzle and a sandbox. For example, if I'm being peppered by Kobold archers, I move, then charge, then beat them up. I don't have to think much about what to do. But if the kobold archers are further away than I can get in one move, or if there's a barrier that prevents me from charging, I have to start thinking about creative solutions. Is there rigging full or ropes I can swing on? Is there a chandelier? Can I coast across the slime pit using my sheild as a surfboard?
  • 3. Pose mechanically impossible challenges that cannot be solved with standard rules or standard thinking.

    seems a lot like one true way ism that you specifically advise against earlier in your big post. If your really putting something impossible down and you have no way in mind how to solve it, it may really be impossible in which case, especially in a game like dnd you players have a problem. If you do have a way in mind to solve it it seems that you have mapped the battle/encounter out in your head already which you advise against.

    It especially the standard thinking thing that bother's me, because what your especailly saying is Meta thinking or the guy who set this all up thinking, and in both of these cases that's you. I don't see how this builds the fun, player empowered story game that you seem to be striving for.

    just a thought, otherwise great post. Thanks for sharing

    Logos
  • Logos, in my mind, anything is potentially possible, given the new stunt system. My examples weren't necessarily the best, since they were about taking advantage of powers, not stunting, but the general principle holds, I think. Sure, there's the danger of putting forward something that's too ridiculous, that will definitely get you a TPK, but I think you should be okay with, um, "restrained impossibility." Like the kind where the villain goes, "Ha ha, there is clear no way for you to top my vile and fiendish death trap," which is really just a challenge for the players to think out of the box. If you actually build an escape-proof death trap, that's no fun. But if you build a death trap with no clear avenue out, and don't have one in mind (you don't do, like, "hanging from the ceiling is a long rope, just out of reach" or put other strong hints in) players should still be able to find one or make one. Or, basically, what Tony said.
  • I was talking to Nathan at lunch today and he figured, with D&D Miniatures as the base, you may be able to get a fair bit of mileage out of just mixing up creatures in different varieties. I think I would get tired of that pretty quick, but the "now you fight flying monsters" or "now you fight two big monsters and some medium ones at the same time" may sustain interest for some groups. I just like more drastic changes.
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonI was talking to Nathan at lunch today and he figured, with D&D Miniatures as the base, you may be able to get a fair bit of mileage out of just mixing up creatures in different varieties. I think I would get tired of that pretty quick, but the "now you fight flying monsters" or "now you fight two big monsters and some medium ones at the same time" may sustain interest for some groups. I just like more drastic changes.
    I'm designing D&D encounters right now, and this is just where I am. The first time it happens, fighing one big fatt Ogre is a new and exciting challenge, but only if you're still learning how to use your characters and powers. Next time maybe it's got ot be a skating Ogre who ambushes you when you're crossing the frozen lake... or something.

    As a total side issue, the new rules also make it really easy to mix up encounters on the fly. Let's say my characters decide to sneak through the Kobold nest rather than kill the Kobolds. It's easy to sub the whole encounter out into a skill challenge or something. That opens up even more options beyond simple stunting.
  • It's easy to sub the whole encounter out into a skill challenge or something. That opens up even more options beyond simple stunting.
    Totally, Tony. I'm trying to build my underground ex-dwarven city in the style of Ico, so I want the whole thing to eventually open like a puzzle box, but a puzzle box that, unlike Ico, reacts strongly to the manner in which players approach it. So choosing to sneak past the kobolds guarding the city gate, for example, might cause future ramifications. Perhaps, after a few more encounters, that band of kobolds is now completely cut off from the rest of their allies, who've pulled back lower into the ruins, and wants to cut a deal with the adventurers, leading the characters down another narrative path.
  • My thinking is that always coming up with off-beat encounter terrains and situations can be pretty creatively exhausting, and it would be a shame to ignore the resources already in front of you in terms of the MM. Now, I haven't read it or even glanced through it, but one would assume that there's enough options in there to throw the occasional curveball, especially by taking advantage of strange movement mediums (are Bulets (sp?) still in there? Landsharks!).

    One of my favorite DM tactics back in the day was taking two non-related critters and figuring out why they'd be in the same encounter. The goblins ambush you in the area of the woods where they've been feeding blood to an Evil Treant, and it takes their side in the middle of the fight, for example. Or a blind Ogre mercenary has been taken on as a personal bodyguard by an elderly Medusa. Stuff like that.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Jonathan Walton3.Pose mechanically impossible challenges that cannot be solved with standard rules or standard thinking.Force the players to stunt, basically, or otherwise do really creative things to triumph. Say there's a gap too big to jump across. Watch the fey-touched Warlock mark an enemy, the Paladin cleave them in half, and then the Warlock teleport across the gap as a cloud of mist. Awesome!
    Fuck yeah, Seaking!

    Seriously, that is great stuff for so many reasons. Beating on your allies to get "free" buffs was an immediate tactic noted for those classes well before 4E's release. Nerfs were called for. Fuck that noise! It's out now, it's in the book now, and that means it can be a feature so long as you allow it. It's in the game. Let it be in the game. Embrace it, and see where it leads.

    Push hard. See how the players push back. "Yes, and..." applies to the system itself, too. Sure, you'll occasionally "win." Why is that a problem? Personally, that's just going to get me more invested. Jonathan's throwing fair pitches, as far as I can tell. If he strikes me out, that's going to send me back to the batting cages. If I was phoning it in, thinking that I wasn't going to be allowed to actually play, this is going to make me bring out my A-game.

    Okay, so an actual TPK is going to bring the game to a grinding halt. Try to frame the whole thing such that you can call do-overs gracefully.

    Anyway, that's my perspective, but we've already established that my tastes are pretty niche :)
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Logos7I don't see how this builds the fun, player empowered story game that you seem to be striving for.
    Telling me something can't be done is one of the best ways to get me to try to do something - provided that the whole thing isn't just rigged. That is, if my solution works by the rules, then it had better actually work, no matter how out-of-genre or lame or boring or whatever it might seem to anyone else.

    Exploiting the lack of hardness rules in 4E to burrow through rock dungeon walls at relatively high speeds solves a lot of problems. It might strike you as a pretty ugly solution, but it works. Empower me by saying yes to my extremely ugly but highly efficient solutions.

    Again, my tastes are pretty niche.
  • (4E does have hardness rules, btw. I keep hearing this thing about burrowing Fighters, which, yeah, kinda cool. But no.)
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: John Harper(4E does have hardness rules, btw. I keep hearing this thing about burrowing Fighters, which, yeah, kinda cool. But no.)
    Are they calling it something else now? Because I can't find it anywhere. I've found the DCs to burst things with a strength check in the PHB, and page 65 of the DMG has tables with the hitpoints of objects, but I'm not seeing hardness. The closest thing is on the next page:
    DMG page 66Object Immunities and
    Vulnerabilities
    Usually, it doesn’t matter what kind of attack you make
    against an object: Damage is damage. However, there
    are a few exceptions.
    All objects are immune to poison damage, psychic
    damage, and necrotic damage.
    Objects don’t have a Will defense and are immune
    to attacks that target Will defense.
    Some unusual materials might be particularly
    resistant to some or all kinds of damage. In addition,
    you might rule that some kinds of damage are par‐
    ticularly effective against certain objects and grant the
    object vulnerability to that damage type. For example,
    a gauzy curtain or a pile of dry papers might have
    vulnerability 5 to fire because any spark is likely to
    destroy it.
    That's the closest thing I've found to hardness. So... is a dungeon wall an "unusual" enough material to warrant an ad-hoc hardness? Because adamantine is on the page 65 table, and that stuff doesn't get a standardized hardness. Nor does stone get a standardized hardness.
  • Yeah, I just looked there, too. It's weird that they don't just come out and say, "Put Resist 10: All on hard stuff if you want to." Because in the section on traps, that's just what they do. All the metal and tough stuff has resist 5 or resist 10.

    Saying "unusual materials" in that passage you quoted is the problem, I think. Resistances are part of the rules, and applying them to materials and objects shows up in examples of non-unusual things, so I had already packed that "rule" away in my head: hard stuff has resist. But you're right; it's not actually spelled out in black and white.

    So... burrow away, I guess. :-)
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: John HarperYeah, I just looked there, too. It's weird that they don't just come out and say, "Put Resist 10: All on hard stuff if you want to." Because in the section on traps, that's just what they do. All the metal and tough stuff has resist 5 or resist 10.
    /me checks the trap rules
    /me feels his left eyebrow twitch involuntarily
    Geeeeeeh... buuuu... really? Really, WotC? You let that survive editing?

    So... yeah, I have no idea what that means. I guess... traps are special or something? That would be the literal reading. Are traps automatically unusual? Even the ones that are crudely-sharpened sticks in a rough pit? The mind boggles.
  • Posted By: EricSeriously, that is great stuff for so many reasons. Beating on your allies to get "free" buffs was an immediate tactic noted for those classes well before 4E's release. Nerfs were called for. Fuck that noise! It's out now, it's in the book now, andthat means it can be a featureso long as you allow it. It's in the game. Let it be in the game. Embrace it, and see where it leads.
    There's also gotta be cool ways to have apparent "glitches" make sense in the narrative, since this is roleplaying, not Marvel vs. Capcom. Like, the powers that provide buffs or debuffs along with hits are clearly just blood magic. You have to shed somebody's blood to get them to work and, if there are no enemies adjacent to you, an ally works just as well. Honestly, I might even allow players to attack themselves to buff another character. Now, how the blood magic works when you're attacking a Gelatinous Cube... I have no idea.
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonIt's easy to sub the whole encounter out into a skill challenge or something. That opens up even more options beyond simple stunting.
    Totally, Tony. I'm trying to build my underground ex-dwarven city inthe style of Ico, so I want the whole thing to eventually open like a puzzle box, but a puzzle box that, unlike Ico, reacts strongly to the manner in which players approach it.

    I'd really like to hear how this works out down the road. 4E seems to set you up for that kind of play. I'd like to see how it works in action.
    Posted By: hamsterprophetand it would be a shame to ignore the resources already in front of you in terms of the MM.
    Yes, the new MM specifically encourages and fosters this kind of play. For example, if you look at the entry for "skeleton", there's a range of skeletons, including weak minion types, buff warriors, a flaming fireball-tossing variety, and so on. It's an invitation to mix and match. Each monster has a few "sample encounters" of various levels that mix the monster type with other monsters from elsewhere in the book.
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonThere's also gotta be cool ways to have apparent "glitches" make sense in the narrative, since this is roleplaying, not Marvel vs. Capcom. Like, the powers that provide buffs or debuffs along with hits are clearly just blood magic. You have to shed somebody's blood to get them to work and, if there are no enemies adjacent to you, an ally works just as well. Honestly, I might even allow players to attack themselves to buff another character. Now, how the blood magic works when you're attacking a Gelatinous Cube... I have no idea.
    Maybe it's world where belief partially shapes reality, like Magic Knight Rayearth or something, and it's the intent to harm coupled with a corresponding action that matters. Lethal intent followed by a compatible act of violence fuels certain powers, and altruistic concern likewise fuels others when coupled with a symbolically linked action.
  • It reminds me of when you polymorph an enemy into a sheep, in WOW. Or when they polymorph one of your team. Just a point of damage will break the polymorph...soooo, why doesn't the enemy just give their sheeped friend a kick?

    You can pretty much tell a gamist at that point, cause they just steel their jaw and keep going, rather than flounder at the inconsistancy.
  • Posted By: Callan S.It reminds me of when you polymorph an enemy into a sheep, in WOW. Or when they polymorph one of your team. Just a point of damage will break the polymorph...soooo, why doesn't the enemy just give their sheeped friend a kick?.
    I like to try to see how much I can define based around game mechanics. Like, in DnD, some things are objects (like a table or a dead body) and some things are creatures (like an animated table or a zombie). In 4E, maybe those are defined based on power activation. A Gelatinous Cube is empirically known to be a creature because certain powers can be activated by hitting it with a sword. A 10-ft cube of grape jelly doesn't let you teleport no matter long you hit it, so it's an object.

    I dunno, I find it amusing.
  • I started enjoying D&D a heck of a lot more when I stopped trying to make the rules make sense in terms of the world, and started making the world make sense in terms of the rules. You can be hit by more barbed arrows than you can physically carry because you're just that hard. You can swim in lava because you are awesome.

    My last D&D campaign worked on the assumption that if the rules made for some odditity in the world, that's just how the world worked. The best scene from that game was when we were scouting an enemy priest, who was raising a rebellion. The characters were listening to him preach in a town square, whipping the crown into a frenzy:

    Fighter: "Hey, why don't we just put an arrow in his neck right now? He'll be dead, and the crowd will panic and flee. Problem solved."
    Ranger: "Are you kidding? Didn't you hear his speech? He was awesome! Someone who can speak that well must be pretty tough - the arrow would just piss him off."
  • Posted By: Callan S.It reminds me of when you polymorph an enemy into a sheep, in WOW. Or when they polymorph one of your team. Just a point of damage will break the polymorph...soooo, why doesn't the enemy just give their sheeped friend a kick?
    In WoW, and most video games, there are things you can hit and things you can't. Most NPCs you can't strike. You can only talk to them. Some you can strike or talk to. Others you can only strike. D&D does not have that system, so that question is irrelevant.

    In D&D, targets break down into: you, an ally, you or an ally, an enemy, or a creature. Creature means that it can target anyone, friend or foe or the user. And at least for Cleric, Healing Strike (Encounter) and all their at-will powers can be used against a Creature, which means it's quite alright for a Cleric to cast Sacred Flame on a Warlord ally to grant an ally Wizard temporary hit points. Since Creature also can mean "you" the Cleric could actually cast the spell on himself for the same result.

    There might be other powers deeper in the tree that causes something similar the the WoW polymorph situation, but it looks like it would be a very esoteric problem. Basic attacks and many common powers look like they can target creatures, not just enemies. And Jonathan's puzzles seem to be well done ideas for creative application of the powers to utilize such game definitions as creature and ally and such.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Simon CI started enjoying D&D a heck of a lot more when I stopped trying to make the rules make sense in terms of the world, and started making the world make sense in terms of the rules. You can be hit by more barbed arrows than you can physically carry because you'rejust that hard. You can swim in lavabecause you are awesome.

    My last D&D campaign worked on the assumption that if the rules made for some odditity in the world, that's just how the world worked. The best scene from that game was when we were scouting an enemy priest, who was raising a rebellion. The characters were listening to him preach in a town square, whipping the crown into a frenzy:

    Fighter: "Hey, why don't we just put an arrow in his neck right now? He'll be dead, and the crowd will panic and flee. Problem solved."
    Ranger: "Are you kidding? Didn't you hear his speech? He was awesome! Someone who can speak that well must be pretty tough - the arrow would just piss him off."
    image
  • And once again, D&D's inconsistancies become a fruitful void!
  • Posted By: Alvin FrewerThere might be other powers deeper in the tree that causes something similar the the WoW polymorph situation
    I have a warlock with the ability to inflict damage immediately on a particular enemy if she's been damaged. Sometimes, I just want to take a dagger to my character and draw 1 HP to make it happen.
  • In D&D, targets break down into: you, an ally, you or an ally, an enemy, or a creature. Creature means that it can target anyone, friend or foe or the user. And at least for Cleric, Healing Strike (Encounter) and all their at-will powers can be used against a Creature, which means it's quite alright for a Cleric to cast Sacred Flame on a Warlord ally to grant an ally Wizard temporary hit points. Since Creature also can mean "you" the Cleric could actually cast the spell on himself for the same result.

    Only if the Warlord (or the Cleric himself) is a "meaningful threat." (DMG, pg 40.)
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Dave LucasOnly if the Warlord (or the Cleric himself) is a "meaningful threat." (DMG, pg 40.)
    And that clause is completely unusable in the former case. If the Warlord and Cleric are of the same or similar level and are fighting right now with blows that deal lethal damage, then they are a threat to each other right now. They might stop before they kill each other, and any given DM-controlled enemy might do the same by surrender or parley. They might also decide to make a heroic sacrifice and battle until unconsciousness or death to aid their teammate, just as any given DM-controlled enemy might fight until death.

    In the latter case, well, a person inflicting grievous harm upon their own person is clearly a threat to themselves under actual law and common standard - even if they're (pardon the phrase) "just cutting." And as with the case above, there's no way to tell at the moment that the harm is inflicted how the thing will end. So I'm having a hard time imagining a case where stabbing yourself in the gut doesn't make you a threat to at least yourself, if not others.

    If the authors wanted to stop players from stabbing each other in the throat for buffs, they should have said "these powers only work when you hit a DM-controlled mob" - that would have simultaneously turned off the PvP flag, which might have been perceived as a feature given 4E's MMO influences. As it is, it only prevents the Bag of Rats trick and variants.

    Again, empower me by saying yes to my mechanically-legal ideas :)
  • Smashing one ally in the face in order to heal another ally doesn't sound functionally different to me than the ability in some MMOs that allows you to transfer damage taken by an ally to your own character. I wouldn't be surprised if many of these edge cases are functionally the same as a lot of other standard MMO abilities. I'm all in favor of this, and the opportunities for interesting system-instigated game play more than outweigh any issues I might conceivably have in the verisimilitude department.
  • Eric,

    You're kidding, right?
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Jeffrey StraszheimEric,

    You're kidding, right?
    Not in the least. Here's the actual passage:
    DMG page 40
    When a power has an effect that occurs upon hitting a
    target—or reducing a target to 0 hit points—the power
    functions only when the target in question is a mean-
    ingful threat. Characters can gain no benefit from
    carrying a sack of rats in hopes of healing their allies
    by hitting the rats.
    When a power’s effect involves a character’s allies,
    use common sense when determining how many allies
    can be affected. D&D is a game about adventuring par-
    ties fighting groups of monsters, not the clash of armies.
    A warlord’s power might, read strictly, be able to give
    a hundred “allies” a free basic attack, but that doesn’t
    mean that warlord characters should assemble armies to
    march before them into the dungeon. In general, a pow-
    er’s effect should be limited to a squad-sized group—the
    size of your player character group plus perhaps one or
    two friendly NpCs—not hired soldiers or lantern-bearers.
    That is the entire section under the "Legitimate Targets" heading. If the conventional sense of the phrase "meaningful threat" doesn't convince you, the specific example of a bag of rats given in the text establishes the precise sense of the phrase here. Note that allies are only mentioned at all in the following paragraph regarding number of allies hit by the effect of a power that specifically mentions allies in the effect block, not potential legality of someone who is usually an ally as the target for a damaging power.

    I don't care about the author's intent once the text is published. I care about what the text itself establishes. It's the only way I can actually play hard within the system: I have to have a finite set of rules that I can rely on to not change and which are subject to a minimum of interpretation based on a close reading.
  • edited June 2008
    Eric, I agree with your approach. But I've just run a thread along these lines - in the same way you don't care about the authors intent, many people don't care about your intent to play hard in the system. Personally I find playing hard the valid approach. But what your trying to do here is shore up your hard play approach, by quoting texts which only support you if they are read in a hard play manner. Which others are not going to do.

    For them, if a literal reading of the texts come out to a conclusion that's not fun, then a literal reading was the wrong way to read it. In a similar way to you, they don't care about the authors intent either. Even if the un-fun conclusion was the authors intent. All in all, shaky ground.
  • edited June 2008
    Posted By: Callan S.Eric, I agree with your approach. But I've just run a thread along these lines - in the same way you don't care about the authors intent, many people don't care about your intent to play hard in the system. Personally I find playing hard the valid approach. But what your trying to do here is shore up your hard play approach, by quoting texts which only support you if they are read in a hard play manner. Which others are not going to do.
    Oh, totally. I've mostly been trying to lay out how I see it and, more importantly, where that comes from in my mindset. These statements are all specific to a certain point of view, and I hope I've been conveying that... at least kind of.

    I'm also trying to encourage Jonathan's notion of how to frame fun combat: set up "impossible" challenges and let player's use the stunting system along with creative application of powers to overcome them in ways that you don't expect.

    I really think that requires a "say yes" approach to the system, in the same way that you have to say yes in a Narr-type situation if you want people to make strong emotional statements. In both cases, empowerment is essential; hence my mantra in this thread.

    You can empower people in lots of other ways, too, of course :)

    edit: Wait, I've quoted large rules blocks in this thread already regarding a game that I don't even particularly like. This probably makes me an asshole.
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