What if, Twitter Edition: Dailies as Encounter Powers

One of the things I absolutely love about Twitter, once you reach a certain critical mass of followers,  is its instant ability to create multiple parallel discussions about a subject.

Yesterday I was working at prepping my Font of Sorrows D&D 4e adventure when the following thought struck me:

What if dailies were encounter powers but could only be used while bloodied? That’s what I see in action movies like Iron Man 2

When thoughts like this strike me, I  drop them on Twitter to see the reactions to the unrefined, raw idea.  Amid various calls of approval and one notable exception, here were some responses:

WyattSalazar That would add an interesting dimension to healing too. Heal only if you’re near-death, so you can use your bomb powers and therefore risk getting an enemy critical or a fat recharge attack knocking you out. (Chatty: Exactly!)

Tomas_Chernits What if another type of power existed, and it could only be used while bloodied? “Last-resort powers”? (Chatty: That would work too without needing too much work … that or making dailies/encounter more powerful when bloodied, but it makes PCs more powerful)

Owen_Stephens Sure, the Form Blazing Sword effect (Chatty: Hey man, I’m all for Final Fantasy 4e).

Siliconwolf I’m not big on extra daily use, but what about bonus to hit (+4 or something) or daily is reliable if your bloodied (Chatty: Reliable is an excellent suggestion).

FleaBeard Then every player would rush into combat with no armor on (Chatty: Am I wrong to think that would be extra cool?).

countingku That is what @gamefiend is doing with his “LimitBreak” powers, iirc. (Chatty: You can find Gamefiend’s posts here)

EpicDestinies I like the  idea. Perhaps it only works in “Final” encounters for that real climatic movie-moment feel?

lotofsnow Maybe a chance to recharge 1 daily per encounter when you become bloodied. Add feats to increase recharge chance. #dnd (Chatty: That’s also a simple and elegant design choice)

Alios7873 Maybe a daily you can use as you drop to zero HP. Go out in a blaze of glory! Mnstrs shouldn’t be the only ones to have that ability (Chatty: They already do, my lvl 16 players explode into powers when they drop to 0)

GeekyLyndsay @chattydm We have ‘surges’ built into our game, where we can take ability damage to gain an extra attack/spell. !d4 Ability damage = 1 more standard action (Chatty: D&D 3.5)

I would use the idea in a Gritty Heroic setting for D&D 4e, quite possibly using Dave’s E11 variant where no one levels up passed 10 except gaining new feats and swapping powers.

I submitted the idea to my friend Yan (who’s our closet game designer) and he countered that this would seriously hamper some class fundamentals, like the Warden’s forms and the Fighter’s stances. He counter proposed that all “dailies” (which would need to be renamed) would recharge after a short rest but PCs could use only one per fight until they were bloodied. At that point they could use all others.

Of course this would mean adjusting monsters, mostly increasing damage output…

I think I’m going to try this later this summer.

Thoughts, comments?

What D&D 4e hack are you contemplating but haven’t talked to others yet? Bloggers, feel free to link to your posts about 4e hacks.

Have a great weekend all!

Comments

  1. Tony Miller says:

    I would love it if the whole game were to be rebalanced around this concept to eliminate Daily powers, (I think it would make more sense from a simulation standpoint). This would unfortunately involve rebalancing most of the game though as encounter powers would now have to do more heavy lifting since what used to be daily powers would be usable only after you are bloodied. Though they might be usable during multiple encounters in a day, which could even it out. (I think it’d need to be tested to see where the balance lies)

    My only real worry is that it throws a wrench into classes like the Barbarian and the Warden, who regularly rely on their dailies for encounter long effects. Not to mention the havoc that it would play with summon spells, which also tend to be daily powers. I would definitely exempt the Utility powers from this, as being bloodied or not has very little to do with whether or not you can fly or turn invisible.

    This idea definitely models fiction more as the hero tends to pull out the big guns only after the fight has gone on enough to establish a dramatic scene. Whether it’s Voltron’s Blazing Sword, Iron Man whipping out his 1 shot cutting laser, or Naruto pulling out the Wind Technique: Rasen Shuriken, you see it everywhere especially in TV an movies.

  2. I’m conflicted on how I feel about this. On the one hand, I like the idea of giving the players that pull-your-bacon-out-of-the-fire oomph, but on the other hand I worry about game balance with a change like this. Dailies are potent effects, and giving players access to them more often means that encounters will present less challenge. This means that you’re going to have to make your encounters harder, which gives the players more XP, which gives them more dailies and more powerful dailies more quickly, and you sort of get into an arms race with the players just to maintain challenge.

    I think you’re going to see two types of daily use with this kind of change. First, players with a lot of one-off dailies (that is, dailies that don’t have a long-term effect) are going to blow through all of their encounter powers as quickly as possible, then once they’re bloodied, they’ll blow through all of their dailies because there’s no need to conserve them.

    Players with dailies that have encounter-long effects (rages, guardian forms, stances, zones, etc.) are going to be hampered by this somewhat because, in many cases, it’s not advantageous for them to wait to use these powers, and it’s impossible, or very difficult, to use more than one at a time. They’re going to be less effective than their one-shot counterparts, which is going to throw off inter-party balance somewhat.

    Another effect that this may have is that players may not use environmental powers as frequently. Once you hit level 11, you’ve got enough encounters and dailies that you could probably use them exclusively if you were going to try to blow through them all in one encounter. Unless environmental powers are more potent than your dailies, there’s little incentive to use them.

    Personally, I like the balance of things as they are. At-wills are your fall-backs, your defaults. Encounter powers are somewhat flashy, and frequently used, allowing you to feel heroic frequently. Dailies are your big guns, but you have to carefully consider whether or not you want to use them now or later. When you use them, they’re dramatic, and it tends to add a lot to the scene. Make that more frequent, and I think you’ll diminish that effect somewhat.

  3. Not to mention that you might have to re-evaluate the bloodied mechanic. A lot of abilities/PPs and more tie to the bloodied condition.

    Scion of Arkhosia comes immediately to mind, having the ability to drop to bloodied and gain temp hp equal to half hit points… this guy would love bloodied as the trigger for more powerful ‘daycounter’ powers.

  4. So the vibe I get for now is:

    Interesting but you’d have to rethink the game’s balance…

    So to move the debate forward, do you think it would make for an interesting core combat mechanic for a 4e variant (which assumes a redesign of classes and powers) for a grittier Sword & Sorcery RPG à la Iron Heroes?

  5. Tony Miller says:

    All of the below are just my musings/brainstormings and are more of a “how would I make Iron Heroes 4E” than a “what tweaks would I make to 4E to get a grittier game”.

    I actually see Iron Heroes using something closer to the new psionic powerpoints + at will system. Though I would do a true homage to Iron Heroes and instead of having them start with power points, they would earn tokens to fuel more powerful abilities. Tokens would be earned for various things, depending on class, and they would oomph up the existing at will powers to enounter level. (maybe even starting with basic attacks and moving them up to at will attack level and then encounter level since Iron Heroes are more mundane in their nature)

    One way to earn tokens would be through minor actions, like an Archer’s aim or an Executioners study action. another of the triggers for earning tokens could very well be being bloodied. Especially for a Berzerker class.

    Combine that with the inherent bonuses, and you’d be in business, though admittedly you’d have a ton of new powers and a few new classes to create. (not a small feat)

  6. To me it just looks like it will slow combat down. (Not good fun. 4e is already long.) Isn’t it bad enough that the daily might miss? (I heard an alternate rule about that… missed Dailies come back after a short rest.)

    You never know when you’ll get the oomf in a fight, and it may or may not be a daily. It might be a lucky blow. It might be Phantom Bolt shoving the bad guy off a cliff.

    Running Dead by Dawn, our Barbarian criticalled on two boss monsters while using his encounter power Avalanch Strike with an Execution Axe, combined with his half orc abilities, the damage was catastrophic (70 points-ish) and essentially wiped out da bosses. So far his Daily hasn’t exactly been useful.

    I also think this will really suck at higher levels where the risk of longer combats already increases.

    In old D&D pull your bacon out of the fire oomph was called a potion. I do miss the old potions. A Potion of Plant Control seems useless until you’re running through some underbrush being chased by Hobgoblins.

    If you want grittier… do what WOTC does to playtest. monsters get -50% hitpoints, but dishout +level damage. That will make your game swingier and more dangerous, as well as speed up the fights..

  7. There’s the obvious problem with the previously stated encounter-long daily effects that are intricate parts of their classes (e.g., Barbarian rages, Warden forms) or stances. Changing their usage would have serious effects.

    Also, this would interfere with existing effects that trigger when bloodied. Case-in-point: Shifters. Shifters have no racial powers except their shifting which triggers when bloodied. If you give that to everyone, you’ve just eliminated really the only thing that makes them unique.

    From a resource management POV, choosing when and how to use your dailies is a core principle of 4e design. If you now can only use them when you are bloodied, you have eliminated this decision and the need to manage that resource. If you can only use dailies when bloodied, then you no longer have to worry about burning it too early or waiting for that perfect moment to use it at the start of an encounter.

    By removing that tactical and strategic choice from a player and have “dumbed down” the game.

  8. I’ve always liked the idea of dailies going off at random. I’ve wanted to allow for dailies to go off whenever you roll a natural 20 (no crit, with no other limits).

  9. Much thought-out resistance to this idea I sense.

    So it’s either a very bad one or it’s pure genius and needs to be explored further. Guess which side I’m going to take. =)

    Seriously, great counter points… the idea can’t fit in Vanilla D&D… it would provide an interesting basis for a cinematic Blood and Guts game where being bloodied was a more common occurrence than the default D&D game…

    Although I can tell that many 4e DMs manage to bloody most of their parties in the majority of their encounters.

  10. I’d rather have a potion of Plant Control.

  11. highbulp says:

    I think the best D&D hack (but would be extreme–basically a new sytem) would be to break away from the set number of at-will/encounter/daily/utility powers that each character currently as. Instead, you get a set number of powers, but each class has a different distribution of at-will, encounter, and daily powers.

    This can help to add some extra oomph to the idea of power sources. So Martial classes might get a lot of at-will powers–they can do a variety of little extra effects at will (status/control effects), and have pretty regular damage. Arcane classes on the other hand tend to go with large daily powers that shape the encounter–stuff like summons or auras that last for the encounter, basically giving the character a new kind of at-will power to use for that fight. Primal classes might get a lot of encounter powers–they can summon the help of a spirit, but not all at once. Stuff like that.

    Implicit in this is my belief that Daily powers should shape the encounter. Not just create one big hit that might turn the tide (though I guess that could work, but it’s harder to pull off generally), but should basically say “this is how I’m going to play this encounter”. Summons are the best kind of daily like that–you get a creature that defines how you play for that fight. Rages and Stances work similarly, giving you a particular style of fighting for a battle. Take the big hit powers (like Fireball) and give them encounter-long effects–maybe it creates a whole bunch of burning terrain, so you can literally give shape to the encounter (by creating paths and stuff of what burns where). I think those are the kinds of dailies I would like the most.

    /rambling

  12. There are a few Encounter powers that gain more power if you’re bloodied. There’s a barbarian power or two that works that way. And I believe that Dragonborn have incentives to be bloodied.

    “What D&D 4e hack are you contemplating but haven’t talked to others yet? Bloggers, feel free to link to your posts about 4e hacks.”

    Here’s my hack: I redid the to-hit formula.

    The normal To-Hit formula is thus:
    Primary Abiltiy Score + 1/2 level + Prof + magic + feat + Misc

    In my game, the to-hit formula is thus:
    5 + all the other stuff
    +1 at levels 5, 11, 15, 21, 25
    No expertise/Focus/bla feats.

    DAMAGE is still calculated the same – so while it assumes you have a 20 in your primary score for ATTACKING, if you only have a 14 str then you’re only doing +2 damage.

    So in a way it’s treating you as though you are TRAINED in combat (similar to how you were trained with skills).

    I think this solves several problems:

    1) The race to get that 18-20 in your primary score JUST SO YOU CAN HIT hurts your defenses, making your character very lopsided. It also sucks when your class has its Primary and Secondary score keyed to the same Defense (Str/Con for instance). This way, you can make your chararacter more well rounded and still hit.
    2) Multi-classing. As it stands, if a class you’re multi-classing into does not line up with your Primary/Secondary scores very well, then you’re not going to hit with the powers of that class. My system allows a Fighter to multi-class into Wizard and still be able to hit with his spells.
    3) Basic Attacks no longer suck. If you’re a class that does not use Str as its primary score, you now have a chance to hit with your basic attacks. So a wizard and a fighter making an OA have equal chances to hit. The difference is the damage, as well as what the fighter can DO when he hits, which I think is more fundamental than just “do I connect with my attack or not”.
    4) No feat taxing. Expertise is gone.
    5) Race/class combos are no longer “The best”, thus opening the room for different race/class combos and variety.

    I have another idea for a system hack that would involve detaching skills and skill powers/some utilities from the CLASS, and instead creating a Skill Role. That way you can have a Wizard who is a Sneak, and a Rogue who is an Athlete, and a Fighter who is a Diplomat.

  13. I’m going to freely admit that I don’t know enough about D&D 4e to know exactly how this would work out. But I did have an idea while reading this that might prove interesting. Can’t say whether it’s a good one or not, will let you judge.

    Rename your dailies to Major abilities or powers or whatever they call them. If you wish you could also rename the at-wills to minors and the encounters to standard powers.

    Allow players to sacrifice some luck to add more uses or more effective uses of a power. So you get two uses of a Daily for a that day. Two uses of an encounter power for that encounter. Or an at-will power automatically hits once (and possibly has max effect? not sure, you tell me).

    Luck subsystem is simple and I know it’s not a new idea. I can see three basic ways of doing it. You could have everyone get one per game session, a set amount per story arc, they only get them by sacrificing and getting bad luck, or some combination of those. The GM should limit the stored bad luck and generally use it within a reasonable time. Using bad luck should allow the GM to do one of the following:

    1. PC fails a roll at a dramatically appropriate time. Specify to players when you implement this system whether you choose before or after the die is rolled, it’ll make things much simpler.
    2. Some plot event falls out unfavorably for the PC and complicates his life. This should function like the Mouse Guard consequences for failed skill checks and make your plot more sticky, not derail it.

    You’d probably want to limit the number of bad luck events to 1 or 2 if you’re using that system. Depending on how cautious your players are you may need to sell this system a bit before you see them use it. Another important consideration is whether any NPCs have it (only the important ones, none of the scrubs should), and only if you think they’ll last for at least 3 encounters. If an NPC gets a bad luck point, players should be able to use it the same way the GM can use theirs as long as a majority of players support the action and the GM doesn’t veto it for plot reasons.

    Pro’s: Allows greater control of dramatization of actions in your game for both players and GMs.

    Con’s: Overly cautious people will not use the bad luck style much.

  14. Reading all this, I still think that allowing missed dailies to recharge after a short rest is the simplest way to encouraging their usage with little hit to the balance – provided you accept to discard any effects when missing.

  15. @rechan: Has your hack played out so far on the game board?

    @Eric: I too like the recharge on a short rest when missed. Alternatively, I’d get rid of all the “missed” and make all powers reliable and forget about all this “bloodied” buisiness. At least in vanilla D&D.

    I still want to explore Iron Heroes-like 4e though. Especially if we could codify stunts as swappable powers or something.

  16. It hasn’t addressed the Race/Class combo much and players still want those nice damage bonuses. Players still pick “The Best”.

    This is my second campaign using the rules however, and players are starting to adjust better to it. The monk is using it to help round out his defenses more. The tiefling warlord totally monopolized on it; he has a Str of 8, but has a fat Int and Cha to benefit from secondary effects. Which I’m OK with. It has meant that basic attacks work (especially because the Warlord is all about giving basic attacks) and without the houserule, the monk and swordmage would not be hitting as frequently with the powers the Warlord is throwing around.

    So far no one has chosen to multi-class. Last campaign a hybrid Bard/Barbarian took some advantage of it, but he only lasted a session or two.

  17. I tried a recharge mechanic last campaign. I just felt bad every time PCs missed with their big powers, and it also slwoed the combat down because those big damage effects didn’t happen. The recharge mechanic though sort of slowed things up a bit.

    The thing about making all dailies reliable/recharged is this: many dailies have a “Miss” or an “Effect”. So a reliable daily with a miss field is going to offer some nice damage each time the target misses. And if the target misses with an “Effect” power, they still get the effect. What I did was that if you MISS with a daily and want to recharge it/reuse it, then you lose any sort of miss/effect that occurs. It’s like that round you just did nothing with your standard action.

    Of course, this means that powers wtih “Miss” effects are less desirable and are “less powerful” than initially balanced to be.

  18. Have you thought about giving At-Will’s limit break rules a try? They’re more Final Fantasy/Anime inspired but might be worth a look:
    http://at-will.omnivangelist.net/2009/08/4e-and-the-art-of-the-limit-break-part-1/

  19. karolusb says:

    I loved Iron heroes (at least in theory). So I am always trying to think of ways to make 4e feel more like that.

    Instead of making them encounters when bloodied I might add a milestone like effect. A bloodied character can spend an action point to use a daily without expending it, for example. Works with the current system, adds a small amount of effectiveness, but the action point cost compensates for this pretty well. In truth you might need even more incentive to prevent the current nova style of play that dominates 4E.

    In my mind the psionic system is an interesting mechanic to expand. Rather than having 15 powers I have 5 (or so) and each has the option for thematically logical augmentation. While 4e characters often have many “choices” unless they always pick the most bland option they frequently have far fewer than a glance at thier sheet would indicate. This would keep the game tactical, but reduce the huge array of unrelated and situational powers people tend to accumulate. It also makes situational powers much more attractive, if I have a pool of augment points I could pick a highly situational power, knowing that if it’s unique situation doesn’t come up, I can spend those points on a more “safe” power.

    What hack am I contemplating? Eliminating powers. Players can describe any action they like, and get a bonus to that action based on a skill check (2 levels of effect (DC 10) would be 1d8 extra damage, 6 levels of effect (DC 30) would stun a regular enemy etc).. Additional uses of the same skill in an encounter are penalized. Once per milestone you can declare an automatic +4 effect bonus (Daily equivalent) This is a pretty comprehensive hack, eliminating existing classes, probably using companion character math, and giving role based bonuses to appropriate actions (strikers get a +2 effect to any damage based special effect etc). Am uncertain if I would start with existing At-wills, or just basic attacks.

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