Friday, May 27, 2011

4E Called Shots

This morning on that At-Will webchat there was a discussion about how to develop called-shots for 4E. most of the discussion revolved around how powerful they should. Encounter long was right out. But would it be useful if a called shot only lasted until the end your next turn?  Perhaps but it couldn't impose a condition like daze, even stun would be terribly powerful.  Another question was how often could it be used. Some wanted it to be at-will. Others suggested it as an encounter. Finally the idea floated up to use it with an action point, I liked this idea because it is an under utilized item in the rules and in the economy of actions.

While I am still not sure this kind of thing is appropriate for 4E I wanted to take a crack at trying to write up a way to do it. So below is my idea. It isn't refined or play tested but it is a mostly complete and coherent rule. and an argument for adding it to the game.

Called Shot: Sometimes in a fight you are less concerned with damaging an enemy so much as restricting its abilities. This is the domain of controllers. But 4E has allowed everyone a chance to heal with second wind, encounter or daily powers can let other classes deal lots of damage like strikers, and many classes can make themselves a better target than another to help act a little like a defender. So why can't every class have some built in control? The mechanism for this is going to be termed a Called Shot.

To perform a Called Shot the player must expend an action. All bonuses for using an action point are provided as usual with the exception of the granted additional standard action. Instead the player may apply an additional affect from the called shot list. The Action Point must be used before the PC makes an attack and may be applied to any kind of attack. This additional affect on the target remains until it makes a save. The use of an Action Point in this way counts towards the one use of an Action Point per an encounter.

Called Shot List:
Attacker using called shot gain +1 to attack
Attacker using called shot gain +3 per tier to damage
Target take halves it current movement speed
Target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls
Target takes a -5 penalty to damage

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RAW vs House Rules vs Home Brew

Recently there was a great deal of discussion about house rules, tweaks, etc. and how you play D&D. Well more specifically 4E D&D. Somebody, saveversusdeath or EldritchReverie asked if we could play 4E without the books.

My gut reaction was NO! I would need the books to play 4E but 2nd Ed. we frequently play games without books. Several people people posted ways it could be done or encouragement to trying it. A few were condescending indicating people playing RAW were unimaginative sods that don’t get RPGs.

Could I run a game without looking in the DMG for a table with monsters pre-printed and PCs and power cards already. Absolutely. I consider using powercards akin to using the books. I also consider 4E such a carefully balanced game that it would break (in the DM or PCs favor) far too easily. So again I fear running with vaguely remembered powers just seems likely to end in a cakewalk or TPK. Additionally to play without the books I couldn’t level a PC or create on without the books, either. All of these make me feel like I’d need the books for a 4E game.

A few of the more interesting ideas floated in that discussion included:
    • Using basic attacks and “powers” that skill training grant. Or just provide example powers based on skills.
    • Skip races and just play classes, using simple powers choices.
    • Make all attacks basic and let players describe cool things in place of encounter powers

So, I think I missed the point of the question. The answer to could I play 4E without the books the answer is NO. But could I play D&D without the books, yes. I think that fine distinction rests only with me. But 4E is the rules as presented in the books and is a firm set of expectations playes will bring to the table. I could certainly play a D&D variant based on 4E. To me the fine line is would it  be different enough that if a person at a game store saw me playing would they immediately know is was 4E or just that it was an RPG.

Given the above why do I still feel like I could play 2nd Ed without the books? Well a lot of it is that the rules are a loose collection. With lots of optional and expanded rules presented, as just that options or expansion but not something to be expected at every table. The game math is also looser, meaning that roughly recalling a chart or how something is incremented at a level is less likely to dramatically shift  the outcome of battle. In other words the game was looser it had a lot more flexibility built into it. But that came at a price. Many groups had a great deal of variation and house rules making it harder to crash other peoples games. Additionally it wasn’t as balanced a game meaning some things were just overpowered resulting in.... more house rules!

To wrap this (intended to be short post up) to me: RAW is an explicit edition of the game and clearly and readily identifiable to anyone familiar with the game. House Rules are a few additions to the game that shouldn’t often break game balance and are table/DM variants that still do not change the defining points of that game/edition. Variant Games are rules that have been heavily modified enough that if a player that knows the original game would not immediately recognize that version of the game or if they sat at the table their expectations of “clear” rules would not necessarily be met.