Alacrity and Vitality

Hi all.  I’ve been tinkering with ways to port some of the fun bits from 4e into pathfinder.  Here are some of the feats I’m using to do that.  As always, suggestions on this are definitely welcome.


Alacrity Feats

Adventurer’s Alacrity (General)

Benefit: You get a certain thrill out of overcoming challenges and can draw on that to act with greater vigor. At the end of any encounter in which you come into conflict with a significant threat you gain a point of alacrity. Once per turn, you may spend a point of alacrity to take an additional swift or immediate action. Alternately, you may spend 2 points of alacrity to take a move or standard action. You lose a point of alacrity for each hour of rest you take.


Vitality Feats

Defiant Soul (General)

Prerequisites: Improved Vitality

Benefit: Your strong life force protects you from the clutches of death. When you are subject to an effect that would render you permanently unable to act, you may spend hit points equal to the effect’s save DC to ignore that effect. If no save is allowed, use 10 + ½ the source’s caster level or hit die instead. You can also use this at the start of your turn to shake off an effect that prevented you from acting during your last turn at half that cost.


Hidden Vitality (General)

Benefit: You are remarkably resilient. Gain a pool of vitality points equal to 6 + your constitution modifier. Once per minute of rest you can spend a point of vitality to recover 1 hit point, +1 for every 4 hit die you have. When in immediate danger, you can trigger this recovery as part of a total defense action. You can only use that option once per encounter. You recover all spent vitality after 6 hours of rest.


Improved Vitality (General)

Prerequisites: Hidden Vitality

Benefit: When spend vitality to recover hit points, increase the amount recovered to 1 + ½ the number of hit die you have. You can also count non-strenuous activity as rest for the purposes of recovering.


Unbound Vitality (General)

Prerequisites: Improved Vitality

Benefit: When spend vitality to recover hit points, increase the amount recovered to ¼ your total hit points.

Published in: on August 23, 2017 at 3:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

4e Adaptions: Damage Fixes

One of this problematic points in 4e is that anything that allows multiple attacks to the same target within a round are extremely effective damage dealers, to the point they tend to hedge out other options. This is largely due to the fact each such attack effectively multiply static bonuses to damage rolls, which make up the bulk of damage totals at higher levels.

This imbalance has been a bit of a mixed blessing due to the hit point inflation enemies get at higher levels. I’ve run some numbers and a fight that takes around 4 rounds at heroic tier can stretch out to 8 to 9 rounds in epic due to this inflation.

As such, I suggest the following two pronged attack to reduce the effectiveness of these multi-strike attacks without having high level fights drag to a crawl.

Tap Capping Damage Bonuses

The Rule: Once a bonus to damage rolls has been applied to a target, that bonus can not be applied to further damage against the target until the start of the attacker’s next turn. If multiple attackers share the same bonus, track this separately for each attacker.
The Reason: Looking over the damage entries for multi-strike and off action attacks, it looks like the designers largely ignored any bonuses to damage rolls. Most multi-strikes do a comparable number of damage dice to powers of similar levels. The dice are just distributed differently. This rule prevents multi-tapping of damage bonuses to bring those powers on par with their single strike, standard action counter parts.
Gameplay Effects: Resetting bonuses at the start of the turn favors attacks that happen during the players turn, with each following attack having less of a chance of gaining the damage bonus. One problem with this rule is it also reduces the potency off opportunity attacks. This is mitigated somewhat by opportunity attack specific damage bonuses. However, to counter this more strongly you’d want..

Reduced Hit Point Scaling

The Rule: Monster gain half the normal hit points per level. This does not effect the base number of hit points they get.
The Reason: As mentioned earlier, fights in epic can easily double in length with applying damage bonus multipliers. Halfing the hit points from levels counters that effect, keeping fights at more reasonable time frames without damage abuse.
Gameplay Effects: With reduced hp, an at level fight in epic will often be over before at will come into play (barring characters who focus on them). However, that’s not necsessarily a bad thing and overuse of at-wills can make combat more tedious.

Published in: on June 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

4e Ability Score Progression

I’ve noticed some issues with ability scores in 4e D&D. Here are a couple suggested fixes to help smooth things over.

Rounded Growth

The Rule: At every level the player would gain +1 to 2 ability scores, they instead gain +1 to all ability scores.
The Reason: Only increasing 2 abilities at 6 different levels puts the modifier for those two 3 points higher than any other score. Since the boosted abilities are usually the character’s strongest, this widens the divide between high and low scores even more as the character progresses. That in turn makes it harder to set a worthwhile DC for even two character with similar training but different ability priorities. Due to difficulty scaling, this has the net effect of making characters worse at everything else outside their focus as they reach higher levels. This rule change still keeps the range between high and low scores, but keeps that gap from widening at higher levels.
Gameplay Effects: While this does make higher level characters better overall, it’s mostly an increase in versatility over raw power. It doesn’t make them better at their strong suits, it just keeps their weaknesses from getting exaggerated at high levels.

Practiced Growth

The Rule: When you get a chance to raise all ability scores by 1, you can forgo raising one scores that’s at 9 or higher to raise a second score by 2. The score being increased this way can not be raised beyond 19. If the ability is used by one of the character’s powers or trained skills, raise the maximum to 21. Increase these limits (including the minimum score) by 1 for each previous time all scores could be raised by 1.
The Reason: This one is actually meant to counter the dominance racial ability modifiers often have on race selection. By giving races without a bonus to their primary ability the chance the catch up at higher levels, we can hopefully reduce the prominence of those bonuses a bit.
Gameplay Effects: The net effect should be pretty mild. In general, it’s roughly equivalent to letting the player swap their racial ability score bonus to a different stat at a certain level.
There is one possible side effect of combining this with Rounded Growth in that a player could choose to go with lower starting score to get more efficient use out their point buy. If that’s a big concern, consider limiting how many times this option can be selected.

Published in: on May 21, 2014 at 1:11 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

4e Option: Expanded Defense

One of the interesting features of 4th edition D&D is how it pairs abilities to determine defenses. The nice thing about this is that you only need to pay attention to 3 ability scores to have well rounds defenses. The downside is if your two highest scores are in the same pairing, you’ll have weaker defenses than some one with the same values in different score. This means things like being strong and tough, smart and graceful, or wise and charming poor choices, despite being good thematic combos. To help address this, I present the following feat.

Expanded Defense
Heroic Tier
Benefit: Select two of your defenses when you take this feat. You can use the lowest ability modifier assocaited with first defense as the ability modifier for the second defense you chose.

For example, if some one wanted to play a strong and tough warrior type, they might pick fortitude and will with this feat. That would let them use the lower of their strength or constitution modifier as the ability modifier for their will defense in place of their wisdom or charisma modifier.

Since this is essential a bug fix feat, DMs may even want to provide this as a free feat. It’s main effect is to let you swap a score into another pairing, so it’s impact is fairly low outside of shoring up certain ability score combos.

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Power Stunting

I’ve been mulling over the stunting rules and would like to try something that’s a bit more streamlined. This is at least partly inspired by Eternity Publishing’s entry on a Revised 4e Fighter. However, in this case we’re take that power building approach and generalize it before building class features on top of it.

Power Stunts

Whenever a character wants to use their powers in an unusual way, they may attempt a power stunt. To perform a stunt, simply describe the effect your going for and select perks that match that effect. You should rarely need more than 2 perks, though you may select the same perk multiple times for an improved effect. Once all perks are selected take a drawback for each perk. As with perks, you should focus on one or two and just take them multiple times if needed.

At any point in this process, the DM may step in with some changes. This should be done sparingly and generally limited to when the stunt described isn’t feasible given the situation or tools used. If a given stunt seem unworkable or exceptionally difficult, the DM may choose to alter it’s effects or charge an extra drawback. In general, even a poorly planned stunt should have something happen, even if it’s not what the character originally intended.

Note that common maneuvers such as basic attacks count as powers and can be modified by these rules. However, stunts are normally only performed during the characters turn, so stunting doesn’t apply to opportunity attacks.

Common Perks

The following perks are generally easy to apply to physical attacks and are should be readily available to most characters.

Effects: If the initial attack misses, you may still deal damage to the target equal to your ability modifier.
If you purchase this perk a second time, you can reroll the attack roll if the initial attack misses.

Effects: The modified attack may target Fortitude instead of AC.

Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target grants combat advantage until the end of your next turn.
A second purchase denies the target their next minor action in addition to having them grant combat advantage.
A third purchase lets you daze the target on a hit instead of having them grant combat advantage.

Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target is grabbed until the start of your next turn. While grabbing them, the hand, weapon, or item used in the grab can not be used for anything else.
If purchased a second time, the grab no longer ends automatically.

Effects: You may shift 1 square before or after making the target attack.

Effects: If the initial attack hits, add your choice of ability modifier to the damage dealt. If that ability modifier already applies, you must choose another ability.
For each additional purchase, you can choose to add another ability modifier to the damage roll. If the attack has a damage roll, you may instead choose to increase the damage die rolled by 1.
For powers with no damage die roll, you may use two purchases of this perk to grant 1[W] or 1d8 damage to that attack.
Special: This perk can not be combined with the weak drawback.

Effects: Use a single target at-will attack power against a secondary target. This secondary attack has 2 drawbacks applied to it. The secondary attack can not be used on the target of your primary attack.
For each purchase after the first, you can choose to remove a drawback from the secondary attack or repeat it against another target.

Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target is pushed 1 square.
Each additional purchase increases the push distance by 1. You may sacrifice 2 squares of push to knock the target down instead.

Effects: The user gains a +2 power bonus to a defense of their choice until the start of their next turn.

Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target is slowed until the start of your next turn.

Effects: If the initial attack hits, the target takes ongoing damage equal to an ability modifier of your choice. The chosen ability can not be the one used to hit the target.

Effects: The modified attack may target Reflex instead of AC.

Common Drawbacks

Effects: The modified attack suffers a -2 penalty to it’s attack roll. This can be taken a second time to increase the penalty to -4.

Effects: The user grants combat advantage until the start of their next turn.

Effects: Each time you select this drawback, you must sacrifice one die of damage. If this sacrifice removes all damage roll bonuses from the power, count it as an additional drawback. If the power lets you add an ability modifier to the damage roll, you can sacrifice that instead of a damage die.

Published in: on July 10, 2013 at 3:59 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Projects and Variants

Hi folks. I’d like to mention I’ve finally finished the reworking of the hidden menace playtest. I’ll do some early testing over the next few weeks, but I’m planning to put it through its paces over the Christmas break.

In the meanwhile, I’ve been tinkering with some rules variants in a 4e colonization game I’ve been running. Here’s a variation my wife is trying out.

Scout Variant – Whirling Stalker

Feature Swap

Trade Dual Weapon Attack for the following features.

Warding Slash — Ranger Attack
Any foe foolish enough to stay within reach of your blades will feel their sting.
At Will — Martial, Weapon
Opportunity Action — Melee weapon

Requirement: You must be wielding a melee weapon in your off-hand.
Trigger: An enemy ends their turn adjacent to you.
Target: The triggering enemy.
Attack: Dexterity vs. AC (off-hand weapon)
Hit: 1d4 damage and the target takes a -2 penalty to its attack rolls until the end of it’s next turn.
Level 15: Change damage die to [w].

Thrill of the Chase — Ranger Feature
The sight of your enemies fleeing before you fills you with renewed vigor.
At Will — Primal
Opportunity Action — Personal

Trigger: An enemy that started their turn adjacent to you ends their turn not adjacent to you.
Effect: You gain a cumulative bonus to the damage rolls of your weapon attacks equal to half your Dexterity modifier until the end of your next turn.
Level 9: Raise bonus to Dexterity modifier.
Level 25: Raise bonus to Dexterity modifier + 2.

Play Style

These features are meant to discourage grouping and encourage repositioning. The idea is to make the enemies only good choice to try spreading out and staying away from the ranger. Much like a defender, this feature set is meant to give targets several bad choices. If they stand their ground, they suffer extra damage and find their own attacks deflected. If they shift away, they may be able to save their own hide, but the ranger becomes stronger and may either pursue them or take it out on their buddies.

Published in: on December 6, 2012 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Stunting Redux

Today I’d like a look at how improvised actions and effects could be handled in D&D. I’ve already mentioned “called shots” as a way to handle this, but that does tend to limit possible stunts to minor effects for anyone but specialists.

What if instead we trade damage for special effects? It’s a pretty straightforward idea. You can find an excellent example by Upper Krust of the boards here. What I’m thinking of doing is scaling those cost by the target’s hp total. This makes it easier to put debilitating effects on mooks and lower level foes while giving boss type a lot of resistance to shut downs.

Sample System

Here’s an example of how you might set up this damage cost system in 4E, using the “page 42” rules for “Actions the Rules Don’t Cover” as a starting point.

When a character performs a stunt they can declare they’re going for a special effect. Roll damage as normal. However, once that damage is rolled the player can reduce it by the values in the tables below to buy a special effect. If they don’t have enough to buy the effect they want, they can choose a related lower cost effect or “bank” the points. These banked points can be cashed in on future stunts to reduce the cost of the target special effect.

For example, one player might bank a few points of “stun damage” on a standard stunt so an ally can finish the stun with their own stunt.

Condition Damage Cost Restrictions
Combat Advantage 4 + 2 * character level
Dazed 8 + 2 * character level + enemy level
Immobilized 3 + enemy level limited use*
Prone 4 + character level / 2 + enemy level
Slowed 2 + enemy level / 2
Stunned 13 + 2 * character level + 3 * enemy level limited use*
Weakened 4 + enemy level limited use*

*Anything marked “limited use” should not be available at will. Stunts with limited damage expressions or expending encounter powers may let the character add these effects.

Extra Options

Instead of using page 42, the DM may allow you to buy a special effect on one of your powers, provided you describe using it in a creative way. When doing this, you may also be allowed to “cash in” an existing special effect to offset the cost of a new effect. This trade in is especially useful for character with lower damage but strong rider effects.

Another thing the DM may want to allow is offering special effect purchases on a critical hit, even if they didn’t declare the stun ahead of time. This can help make crits a bit more flavorful instead of being just high damage.

Expanding the System

The above table is pretty rough, but it does give some reference points to work from. In addition to adding extra effects, you’d probably want to make stunt damage scale better. At present, it doesn’t keep up with monster hp inflation.

Behind the Scenes

Here’s a quick run down of the math I used to fill the table for anyone interested in doing their own tinkering.

Lose a Turn

The tricky part about trading damage for a turn loss is by reducing damage we potentially give the enemy a chance to act later by letting them live longer. In effect, this stunt effectively delays enemy actions by 1 turn.

While it’s hard to really tell how much a stun will help without repeated testing, we can make some estimates. Let’s assume turn loss is roughly balanced when the time lost is equal to the enemies lifespan extension due to the reduced damage.

Assuming 60 accuracy against same level foes, we’re looking at a 0.6 expected round loss for the target enemy.

Now lets assume a 5 monster group of such enemies should take 4 to 5 rounds to drop without dailies. For individual enemies, that works out to around 4.5 rounds with scattered fire and just over half that with focuses fire. Assuming roughly even odds of both, that works out to around 3.4 rounds per enemy.

Over that time, the enemy was taking an average of 29% of their hp in damage each round. So 0.6 rounds of extra lifespan is roughly equal to 17% of their hit point total. On the other hand, damage sacrificed would also be multiplied by hit chance, so we divide by 0.6 to get back to 29%.

Combat Advantage

Using the number from stunning, we know combat advantage is worth a 33% damage increase. (60% accuracy to 80% accuracy). Since enemies are taking 29% hp damage each round, this work out to 9.7%. For granting combat advantage to everyone, assume just over half will be able to focus fire and at least one of those will likely have combat advantage already, so double the values (to 19.4).

Condition Breakdowns

Stunned = 19.4% character level + 31.9% enemy level (Combat Advantage 19.4% + turn loss 29% + Can’t flank (assume flanking gives 33% output increase from CA about 1 time in 3, apply loss (1/1.11 = 0.9) to value of lost turn) ~2.9%)

Dazed = 19.4% character level + 12.6% enemy level (Combat Advantage 19.4% + Reduced to 1 action (~2/3 output?) ~9.7% + Can’t flank ~2.9%)

Immobilized = 9.7% (Can negate melee enemies (~50%?) if allies stay out of range (~2/3?), so ~33% turn loss?)

Prone = 4.9% character level + 9.2% enemy level(halve CA values for melee only and halve again for ranged penalty 4.9% + -2 attack rolls (20% dpr loss, but usually trivial to recover from (x1/3?) 1.9% + usually costs most action (price at 1/4 full action?) + 7.3%)

Slowed = 4.8% (treat as effective turn loss maybe 1 time in 6?)

Weakened = 14.5% (treat as half turn loss)

Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

4E Variant: Pairing Feats

One the complaints I see now and again in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons discussions is the existence of “feat taxes”. For those not familiar with the term, “feat taxes” are essentially feats the player feels they must by simply to keep the character from becoming ineffective.

The biggest culprits are usually the “math fix” feats such as Expertise, Weapon/Implement Focus, and Improved Defenses. For some classes this can also include armor proficiency (ex. Constitution heavy shamans) or melee training (ex. many defenders which don’t specialize in strength).

A common answer to this is to simply give those feats away for free as a house rule. However, if you’re doing that anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone?

Rules Change

If a character selects a “flavor” feat, they gain a “tax” feat at the next level where they wouldn’t normally gain a feat. For example, if a character took a flavor feat at level 4, they would gain a tax feat at level 5. If they did this again at level 11, they’d gain another tax feat at level 13 (level 12 already grants a feat).

The list of possible flavor and tax feats is determined by the DM. Prime candidates for flavor feats include Linguist and teamwork feats. Bloodlines may also make acceptable flavor feats. Prime candidates for tax feats include Weapon/Implement Focus, Improved Defenses, and the various expertise feats. Melee Training and proficiency feats may also be reasonable tax feats.

Behind the Scenes

The purpose of this change is to make feat taxes less onerous by linking them to free feats. It also serves to bring underused feats into play by reducing their cost. After all, rather than making you loss on a higher utility feat to gain them, you simply delay when the addition of a “boring but practical” feat by 1 to 2 levels.

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

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.

Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Conditions & Stunts in 4E

Today I’d like to take a stab at expanding the popular “page 42” rules on actions the rules don’t cover. While those rules are good at creating improvised attacks, the guidelines for such attacks only include damage. If you want to inflict conditions on your opponent, there’s nothing to go by.

To remedy this, lets take a look at what the rules already provide. We’ve got low, medium, and high damage expressions for both normal and limited attacks. Given that, we could just let players trade damage for special effects. The results might look something like this.

Minor Effects

Minor effects shift things slightly in the character’s favor. Each one of these should reduce the damage expression by 1 step. That means a high damage attack uses the medium damage column, medium uses the low damage column, and low damage attacks do no damage. Sample minor effects include the following.

  • Deafened until end of next turn
  • Slowed until end of next turn
  • Push/Pull 1 square
  • Shift 1 square

Moderate Effects

Moderate effects grant a more significant edge at the cost of most of an attacks damage. Each one of these should reduce the damage expression by 2 steps. That means high damage attacks use the low damage column and medium damage attacks do no damage. A stunt that already did low damage can not have one of these effects added. Moderate effects include the following.

  • Slide 1 square
  • Knock prone
  • Grab target
  • Grants Combat Advantage until end of next turn

Major Effects

Major effects can give a big advantage, but are hard to set up. Each one reduces the damage expression by 3 steps. That means only high damage stunts can attacks can use these and doing so drops them to doing no damage. Major effects include the following.

  • Blinded until end of next turn
  • Dazed until end of next turn
  • Target uses an at-will attack on a target of your choice
Published in: on December 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,