4E Variant: No Rest for Heroes

Last time we looked at how rest breaks could be completely redone in D&D. This time I’d like to take a step back and see how 4E could be tweaked.

Countering 15 Minute Workdays

First off, let’s see what we can do about the 15 minute work day. For those not familiar with it, the 15 minute work day is a tactic where the party burns through limited use resources as quickly as possible, then sleeps after the fight to replenish those resources. This works out to waking up, having one fight, and sleeping again.

Despite it’s other innovations, 4E has done little to counter this tactic. A party that rests after each fight regains all their daily powers and loses little. There is a milestone mechanic that awards going multiple encounters without resting. However, that mechanic is currently only used by a few specific and rare magic items, so the actual rewards for pushing on are pretty low while the reward for resting often is more potent and readily usable.

The funny thing is, the system does have a mechanic that could readily discourage these overly frequent pit stops. All we need to do is make a couple tweaks to the action point mechanics, like this:

  • At the end of an extended rest, have action points reset to 0 (instead of 1).
  • Grant an action point at the end of each encounter instead of at each milestone.

With these changes those who use the 15 minute workday don’t get action points. Since action points are essentially a free extra action, that’s a significant limitation. However, it’s not so severe as to break the setting assumptions. After all, the system is already set up so you can use an action point every other encounter.

If you want to take it a step further, try adding this to the mix:
Action points can be be once per round (instead of once per encounter). That way a party could stockpile a huge number of action points if so desired to go into an absolute frenzy of action in a later encounter. If you want to cap this stockpiling, I suggest adding “Each character can spent up to 2 action points per encounter“. That has the interesting effect of having the party reach their maximum usable stockpile at the third encounter of the day, which seems to be roughly the number of encounters per day the developers are shooting for.

Another option is to say “If you've been bloodied during this encounter, you can spend a second action point“. This approach was inspired by David Pollard’s comment in the Angry DM post on this topic. It has the upside of pushing extra actions to later in the encounter. That provides a potential late fight power boost to counter the “down to at-wills” grind.

Endless Workdays

The above changes should encourage the party to push forward more and only stop to camp when they really need it. Make no mistakes, the party will still need rests as they run out of resources such as healing surges. This means the party will often push for rest breaks based on mechanics over any story consideration.

If you’d like to break away from the need for nap time, try the following options:

  • Instead of getting a fixed number of healing surges per day, give each character a healing surge limit of half their "healing surges per day" entry.
    • At the end of an extended rest, reset their healing surges to that limit.
    • At the end of an encounter, let them regain healing surges up to half their limit. Any surges in excess of this limit are lost.

  • Regain 1 daily attack power and 1 daily utility power at the end of the encounter. You can not recharge a power that was used during the encounter this way.

Note that this does result in slightly more surges in a 3 encounter period than a standard party would have. However, I wanted the recharge rates high enough so that defenders can get 2 surges per encounter without needing high Constitution.

If you want a closer match, you could just use 1/3rd their “healing surges per day” entry and allow a full refill. However, a partial refill has the added bonus that character can run low on surges after a hard hitting encounter, then bounce back after a softer one. This creates some of the “low health” tension of daily healing surges without needing a rest to remedy it.

To cut the 15 minute work day down even more replace the “all daily powers recharge during an extended rest” with “regain 1 daily attack power and 1 daily utility power during an extended rest”. Now your mostly just trading in you remaining action points for a full heal. This level is probably overkill, but it’s a definite way to keep the party party moving.

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Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. Hi there! Cool post, sorry I’m a little behind in finding my way to it. I intend to start DM-ing a campaign here soon where I use some similar rules, and I thought I would bonce them off you to see what you (and readership) think. I haven’t yet decided about other factors, but as specifically relates to healing surges, I believe I am going to allow my party to only expend 2+(Con mod)/3 healing surges between encounters (in a short rest) and during an extended rest they only regain 2+con mod surges. These con mod scores do not include the 1/2 level modifier. During an extended rest I would have them roll an endurance check DC 10+1/2 lvl to regain one more healing surge. Then, for each 5 they exceed that check they can regain another healing surge. Of course this can always be adjusted in game as necessary.

    In this way, endurance will be further rewarded (as in my experience DMs have trouble working this in as often) and the amount of damage received by a character in a given fight will become important. Perhaps I’m being even too nice, but I found Angry DM’s suggestion of a straight 2 surges in a short rest to be too hard on the defender–when I played these I was knocked out nearly every fight.

    Thoughts?

    • Right off the bat I see a couple potential issues.

      First off, the formula for surges per short rest only pays off at Con 16 (3 surge for 3/4 heal) and Con 22 (4 surges for full heal). That means doesn’t really help defenders as much as it helps characters who have constitution as a secondary or primary stat. For example, your average infernal warlock will probably be able to hit the full heal threshold by epic as Con is their primary stat. In contrast, many fighter builds will have a relatively low Con in favor of high wisdom or dexterity to fuel their defender features. In fact, for many defenders boosting con means neglecting other defenses (will or reflexes), due to the popularity of Strength as a defender primary stat. If you want to help defenders, I’d suggest sticking with a fraction of their surges per day as that value already favors defenders while factoring in constitution.

      Capping the surges per extended rest runs into a similar problem. In fact, I could easily see this leading to the party taking more extended rests as a moderate con defender runs out of surges. The endurance check potential helps with that, but it does risk either making endurance feel like a skill tax for defenders. In the end it seems you could end up with the party either doing 15 minute workdays or chaining extended rest in an effort to keep the defender in action. Honestly, I find running out of surges to be a bit of a show stopper. It can be useful in survival or endurance oriented scenarios, but is less so outside of those. If you want to keep the limited recovery rule, I’d switch to fractions of the daily limit so that defenders don’t find themselves running dry before the rest of the party.


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