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Townopolis
2008-10-26, 12:11 PM
Only 1 encounter/day - Will allowing second wind to refresh encounter abilities balance encounter and daily utilities?
How to balance only having 1 big encounter (note: party has double encounter powers and healing)


I've been tossing around ideas for a campaign I'd like to run using 4e for a while now, and one issue that's presented itself to me is that I tend towards a low number of encounters per day, and in fact often run sessions with no combat planned. I'm of the type that likes to make an event out of combat.

The issue here is that this makes daily powers and encounter powers effectively indistinguishable save for the magnitude of their effect. Now, not a big deal for attack powers, since they're handily divided, there's no option to take a daily power in place of an encounter power. Utility powers, on the other hand, have a problem. Many classes will have daily utility powers right next to encounter utilities on the same level. When the game tends to run no more than one encounter per day, this gives a definite advantage to those with the daily utilities, even makes the encounter utilities not really viable options. This destruction of variation is not acceptable.

The fix I have come up with myself is to houserule that using your Second Wind refreshes all encounter powers and class abilities as if you had taken a short rest. Does this look like it would balance the problem, or does anyone have another system they know works.

Additionally, as the game is set up to have ~4 encounters per day, with each encounter draining a little bit of the party's resources and being only marginally dangerous in and of itself, I am confronted with an issue of encounter construction. I wish, as all DMs do, to challenge my players without their gruesome death being all but assured. Since I'm only running 1 encounter per day (usually) I'd need to put a bit more oomph behind it, but how much is too much. The party would (if using the above fix) have 2x their normal arsenal of encounter powers and leadership healing, which is another variable in the mix. Clearly, this issue will not be resolved without some trial and error, but I'm looking for a good place to start from. Tack 2 encounters of the level together? run encounters ~1-3 levels "too high" for the party? I'm not sure where to start from.

Mark Hall
2008-10-26, 12:37 PM
Actually, I like the idea that your encounter powers reset with a second wind in any case. Goes with the professional wrestling vibe I get from 4e combat.

Oslecamo
2008-10-26, 12:45 PM
Play with the terrain. Don't use just a plain room. Traps, pits, higher ground, cover, dificult terrain, all can make a battle much more challenging.

Use the Tucker's kobolds philosophy. Build a mini maze/fortress, where the enemies are waiting in ambush. Choke points, palisades, arrow slits, smoke barring vision, burning grounds, levers that must be reached and activated, ect, ect.

The trick is, traps and obstacles make the battle harder, and can be "killed", but the party doesn't need to kill them to win.

Each day the players must take each one these "bases". From entering to killing the last enemy is considered a single battle, and the oponents don't just wait in a room waiting for their comrades in the next room to be slaughtered. If the players make ruckus in a room, the monsters on the nearby rooms go and join the fray.

One idea I still haven't tried but that may work is throwing a really large number of enemies at the party, but they don't need to kill them all to win, perhaps just killing the leader, geting a certain item, or simply going from point A to point B whitout dying.

For example, a portal who keeps tossing out demons to the fight untill the party manages to kill the shaman keeping it open.

kbk
2008-10-26, 02:25 PM
The way to do it and be fair is to use waves.

The greatest risk for death is in the first couple of rounds. This is when they haven't whittled down the enemy numbers, and the enemy potentially has more damage potential than the party has healing potential. Throwing higher level stuff at them in order to balance only one encounter a day is just going to kill people. So, you use waves. Throw the equivalent of 2-3 encounters at them in one, but don't hit them with everything at once.

You can do it in a number of different ways:

Have a skirmish party engage and attempt to draw the party into traps or other monsters waiting in ambush. In this version, extra monsters would join the fray depending on tactics by the baddies.

Have the foolish overconfident commander send his troops in waves, ala crappy kung-fu movie. On this version, extra baddies would join the fray after they've eliminated or nearly eliminated each wave.

Have monsters get summoned in or just arrive to the battle as it goes on. In this version, baddies would join in on preset round numbers.


For all of these, having second wind refresh encounter powers would be really helpful, if not required.

Mauril Everleaf
2008-10-26, 02:58 PM
Since my DM is a 1e hold-over playing in 4e now, we tend to end up with a lot of days with just one encounter or no encounters. When we do get into "dungeons" (whatever they may actually be) we tend to get hit with rather continuous waves of baddies. How we have worked with the Daily/Encounter disparity is declaring that any gap in fighting sufficient to regroup (meaning that there are no baddies currently attacking) that our encounter powers reset. No need for a short rest, just a moment to catch your breath.

For example, we were wandering through a subterranean temple full of goblins. We enter, fight a half dozen goblin skirmishers, one of whom flees leaving the battlefield clear, so our encounters reset despite the fact that we are moving directly into the next room where the little guy fled to which happens to be full of more goblins. We fight those guys and as soon as we had almost downed the last one, we heard some banging on a large door in the back of this room. We killed the last guy (leaving the room empty, which recharged our encounters) with a round to reorient our party to put the melees next to the door when it burst down revealing some goblins with wolves. It went on like this until we were able to find a room in which we could barricade ourselves (more goblins had come in behind us) where we could take an actual short rest, which gave us back our second winds and let us use some spare healing surges.

This kept our encounter powers useful and our daily powers in a premium. This is basically a wave system, but it's entirely dependent on the players and not on the DM to make the waves continue. At any time we could have tried to run out of the temple and taken a rest. Not that we didn't have a boss fight that ran a few waves at us, but that boss fight was still just one encounter. A smart baddie won't ever leave his battlefield empty.

Kurald Galain
2008-10-26, 04:24 PM
Actually, I like the idea that your encounter powers reset with a second wind in any case. Goes with the professional wrestling vibe I get from 4e combat.

I agree. That would make second wind actually useful for a chance, for us non-dwarves.

RTGoodman
2008-10-26, 06:44 PM
Actually, I like the idea that your encounter powers reset with a second wind in any case. Goes with the professional wrestling vibe I get from 4e combat.

You know, I never thought of it that way, but... that makes a LOT of sense.

Now I kinda want to head over to Homebrew and come up with a T&T (Top-Ropes and Turnbuckles) system or something, complete with Tough, Technical, and High-Flying classes, powers, and stuff...

Mark Hall
2008-10-26, 08:01 PM
You know, I never thought of it that way, but... that makes a LOT of sense.

Now I kinda want to head over to Homebrew and come up with a T&T (Top-Ropes and Turnbuckles) system or something, complete with Tough, Technical, and High-Flying classes, powers, and stuff...

Wondered who was going to react to that comparison first...

JackShandy
2008-10-26, 08:31 PM
Have you considered changing the requirements for an "Extended Rest" instead? Maybe you can only take an extended rest in town, or an extended rest is a week instead of just overnight, etc. You didn't really go into detail about your campaign, so I don't know if this would make sense. However, it's the easiest way to maintain the mechanical balance.

Townopolis
2008-10-26, 09:24 PM
That's an idea I had not considered. It would also help the issue of my disbelief's suspension getting wrecked every time I hit the "get all your HPs and surges back" curb. Very nice, thanks.

Not sure if I'll end up using that, my idea, or some hybrid, but that's definitely being filed away for later use.

Ascension
2008-10-26, 09:54 PM
Now I kinda want to head over to Homebrew and come up with a T&T (Top-Ropes and Turnbuckles) system or something, complete with Tough, Technical, and High-Flying classes, powers, and stuff...

It's based off of 3.X rather than 4E, but there is a d20 wrestling game, officially licensed and everything. I can't remember the name of it, but I remember hearing a couple of fairly glowing reviews that claimed it worked quite well.

Mark Hall
2008-10-26, 10:09 PM
It's based off of 3.X rather than 4E, but there is a d20 wrestling game, officially licensed and everything. I can't remember the name of it, but I remember hearing a couple of fairly glowing reviews that claimed it worked quite well.

Of course, Storyteller had the Street Fighter game...

kbk
2008-10-27, 12:21 PM
It would also help the issue of my disbelief's suspension getting wrecked every time I hit the "get all your HPs and surges back" curb. Very nice, thanks.



For this you just have to say its magic. Healing magic is powerful. Even martial healing (warlord) must be magical somehow, just a different type.

This makes a lot less sense of course in low/no magic campaigns, but then, I don't think 4th Ed. really handles low/no magic options very well anyways.

Starsinger
2008-10-27, 12:31 PM
Even martial healing (warlord) must be magical somehow, just a different type. ... no it doesn't.


This makes a lot less sense of course in low/no magic campaigns, but then, I don't think 4th Ed. really handles low/no magic options very well anyways.
I dunno, an all martial party without magic gear (just give an enhancement bonus at certain levels to keep up with the math curve) seems low magic enough to me.

kbk
2008-10-27, 12:56 PM
... no it doesn't.

I dunno, an all martial party without magic gear (just give an enhancement bonus at certain levels to keep up with the math curve) seems low magic enough to me.

I meant it seems to feel magical to me. In the same way that people doing crazy stuff and ninja fighting on trees in certain horrible movies that I shall not name was magical (e.g., NOT REAL PHYSICS). As such, its magic. Its not arcane or divine, its martial. So anti arcane and anti divine effects don't effect it.

If you want a campaign without that super cinematic, "its just a flesh wound" feel, I'm not seeing warlord healing doing the trick.

RTGoodman
2008-10-27, 01:04 PM
Even martial healing (warlord) must be magical somehow, just a different type.

I've gotta agree with Starsinger here - I think non-magical healing is perfectly legit.

Hit points DO NOT represent injuries, at least until you're bloodied, and that could just be a dramatic bit of blood from your nose/mouth/whatever. Instead, get rid of the hp=injuries notion and think of hp as being MORALE.

Ealstan
2008-10-27, 01:46 PM
I've gotta agree with Starsinger here - I think non-magical healing is perfectly legit.

Hit points DO NOT represent injuries, at least until you're bloodied, and that could just be a dramatic bit of blood from your nose/mouth/whatever. Instead, get rid of the hp=injuries notion and think of hp as being MORALE.

Yeah, but that doesn't jive with the conception of the Cleric, who heals wounds using magic. Unless you change 'Cure Light Wounds' to 'Cure light Wounded Pride' it doesn't make sense compared to the Warlord.

Mark Hall
2008-10-27, 02:11 PM
Personally, I tend to treat a lot of 4e's effects as being magic, even the martial ones, somewhat on the type of Earthdawn. Healing surges are magic... they're in instinctive earth magic that all people can use.

That said, I mentioned the 4e-as-professional-wrestling idea on the Palladium boards (in the other games section), and it's generated a fair amount of interest.

Aahz
2008-10-27, 02:30 PM
I think part of the problem is the concept that D&D in many people's minds is a setting where perfectly "normal", un-magical human(oid) characters fight with swords next to magical characters and monsters. In other words, there's not supposed to be anything "supernatural" about a fighter other than his training. It comes from settings like Tolkien and Conan, where almost everybody is non-magical.

When you think about it, while that's a perfectly legitimate setting, it's a bit arbitrary. If the wizard can shoot lasers, why can't the rogue throw daggers at five targets in a single motion? If a cleric can pray to make wounds close up and heal, why can't a fighter clench his teeth and do the same thing? If you just think of the "martial" power source as being partly supernatural (while of course still requiring training / endurance / physical strength), it's not so unbelievable.

I agree that it takes some getting used to, and I understand why some people might not like it. The main reason I'm in favor of it is that it's done to improve game balance and fun, and I (personally) think it accomplishes that goal.

Mark Hall
2008-10-27, 03:00 PM
I think part of the problem is the concept that D&D in many people's minds is a setting where perfectly "normal", un-magical human(oid) characters fight with swords next to magical characters and monsters. In other words, there's not supposed to be anything "supernatural" about a fighter other than his training. It comes from settings like Tolkien and Conan, where almost everybody is non-magical.

Actually, it's part of the thing that 4e and 3.x model poorly. In a system really designed for "non-magical people alongside magical people, fighting monsters", wizards would find themselves weak at the beginning, representing that they are at the very beginning of a rise to power. They would be largely incompetent outside of academic spheres. Fighters, on the other hand, would seem relatively competent... their abilities can be used all day, most of the low-level enemies would be within their AC and damage ranges.

This is really what is emulated by 2e and 1e. Wizards at low level could do a lot, very infrequently. People complained, however, that their wizards weren't doing magical things all the time... once their spell(s) gave out, they had to switch to daggers or something. The initial response was to increase the number of spells, which results in wizard spells, which previously were single-shot wonders, becoming repeating shotguns... they were too powerful, because they were balanced at 1/day, and unbalanced at 3 a day.

Furthermore, you wound up with a large number of spells that bypassed some tried and true methods of balance. A prime example is the Lesser Orbs. With no saving throw and as touch attacks, they supplant a lot of spells that were limited because you had to go through armor or be subject to the opponent's saving throw; as the level increased, there was less chance you would affect a person if they had a saving throw. Without saving throws, you actually become somewhat more likely to hit with these low-level spells... deflection bonuses to AC don't scale on the same rate as even a wizard's BAB. And when you combine the ability to turn them out in cheap, easy to use wands, you get the "Why can't I cast all day as a wizard" thing fixed, without addressing the "wizards have really powerful spells" thing.

4e avoided this by shifting the paradigm. Everyone has special abilities which are more or less equal; one class may focus on damage, and another on debilitating the foe, but everyone is more or less equally magical... some don't call it magic, but it becomes a moot point. If that's what you're looking for in a game, that's pretty much right up your alley. On the other hand, if you're looking for "magical magicians and mundane fighters against magical and non-magical opponents", then both 3.x and 4e are not for you... 3.x because warrior-types are quickly rendered irrelevant by the huge number of magical options, and 4e because everything is the equivalent of magic.

kbk
2008-10-27, 06:39 PM
I've gotta agree with Starsinger here - I think non-magical healing is perfectly legit.

Hit points DO NOT represent injuries, at least until you're bloodied, and that could just be a dramatic bit of blood from your nose/mouth/whatever. Instead, get rid of the hp=injuries notion and think of hp as being MORALE.

I know, and I try to acknowledge this, but in the campaign I'm playing in (Which, btw I DO enjoy), we have no cleric. All of our healing comes from a warlord, and a Warlock who's taken the warlord MC feat. Our fighter routinely goes from negatives to positives during any challenging encounter. I can sort of write off from going from bloodied to not bloodied as cinematic effects, but when they go from the verge of death (negatives) and unconscious to conscious and fighting with only martial healing it doesn't jive. Therefore I have to picture that even martial powers are a form of magic.


Anyways, back to the OT:
I still think designing encounters as waves is the way to go. Throwing the equivalent of 2 encounters at a party at the same time is a good way to get a TPK.

Starsinger
2008-10-27, 07:14 PM
because everything is the equivalent of magic.

Being equivalent to magic does not make something magic. But yes, I remember the time the fighter raised the dead with his sword, or shot a blast of fire that killed seven people. :rolleyes:

Draz74
2008-10-27, 07:20 PM
Have you considered changing the requirements for an "Extended Rest" instead? Maybe you can only take an extended rest in town, or an extended rest is a week instead of just overnight, etc. You didn't really go into detail about your campaign, so I don't know if this would make sense. However, it's the easiest way to maintain the mechanical balance.

Wow. This is what I call creative intelligence. What a cool idea to make a D&D campaign go at a slower, more realistic pace!

Townopolis
2008-10-27, 07:42 PM
So, on the main topic, we have the following ideas set out for balancing 1 encounter/day using 4e.



Allow Second Wind to recharge all encounter powers and class abilities
Change the requirement for an extended rest to something akin to "spend a week in town"
Have enemies come in waves rather than throwing 3 "encounters" at the party at once
Utilize terrain to aid or hinder the party and their enemies.


All of these are good ideas, and I'll probably utilize all of them in the campaign I'm looking to start (except I'll probably use a watered-down version of the second idea, as combining the first two might unbalance encounter VS. daily utilities in favor of utilities).

What other ideas do we have to help tackle the issue, and what refinements to the current ideas do we have to offer?

I, personally, think that using the second point (using terrain) can and should be a major component of breaking up the encounter (making waves) a bottleneck is a prime example of this, but there are others.

I also think that, for the first few combats, it's fine to break the enemies up into waves as the DM, but after that such "gimmes" should be uncommon. Rather, I think that it should be largely up to the players to break up their enemies. It's part of the idea of making combat a major event that the PCs are faced with the dilemma of having to stop a score of orcs from rampaging across the countryside. Even if they're a bunch of tough-as-nails fighters, they can't just rush in and expect to win when so outnumbered. They must work to tackle the situation before battle even begins.

More time-constrained situations, such as an ambush, simply turn the pressure on even higher. Survive and move to better ground, then turn around and thrash them. Can you split them up without splitting up yourselves?

Tangent
I prefer my martial heroes to be completely non-magical. In a high-fantasy game, they're as five-color as the magicians. Conan-boy grits his teeth and simply ignores the pain, going on through sheer chutzpah and bloody-mindedness. Throw in a dose of wushu badassery, and I'm fine with the martial powers working as they do with no implication of "magic." If the rogue wants to throw five knives with one motion, simple. He tucks one knife between each set of fingers and palms the fifth, and then uses his patented technique of badassery. He needs no mystical dagger-launching power, he needs no martially-powered telekinesis, he just needs a fancy hand movement and the understanding that he's way above the level of a normal hero.

In low-magic worlds, it is easier, since you can have the martial characters staying closer to the bounds of what we see everyday without being overrun by the wizard shooting lasers out of his eyes, since magic is much lower-key and will usually actually have little to no effectiveness in combat. I actually prefer low-magic settings and campaigns myself.

And you can use D&D to portray low-magic, it takes some refluffing and a little houseruling, but the great majority of the system works fine for low-magic.

Negatives? Shock, either physical or psychological, mostly psychological... i mean, goblins just opened you up, what do you think your response would be to that?

Mark Hall
2008-10-27, 08:33 PM
Being equivalent to magic does not make something magic. But yes, I remember the time the fighter raised the dead with his sword, or shot a blast of fire that killed seven people. :rolleyes:

Or healed himself from near death in the space of five minutes, with no intervention or supplies?

I know I can be beaten into a coma and be completely fine in five minutes. Hell, I can do it two, three times a day.

Ealstan
2008-10-27, 09:20 PM
Or healed himself from near death in the space of five minutes, with no intervention or supplies?

I know I can be beaten into a coma and be completely fine in five minutes. Hell, I can do it two, three times a day.

I think you're looking at this from the wrong perspective. Yeah, any of us would get beaten into a coma and stay beaten. A martial character has taken ridiculous amount of training to toughen himself up to ridiculous degrees. Some of the tougher fighters / martial artists in real life (Kimbo Slice) can take ruthless beatings and shrug it off in a few.

Mark Hall
2008-10-27, 10:02 PM
I think you're looking at this from the wrong perspective. Yeah, any of us would get beaten into a coma and stay beaten. A martial character has taken ridiculous amount of training to toughen himself up to ridiculous degrees. Some of the tougher fighters / martial artists in real life (Kimbo Slice) can take ruthless beatings and shrug it off in a few.

Coma to perfectly fine in less than five minutes?

Given that Kimbo got punked by a nobody, and stayed down from one punch, are you really wanting to invoke him?

Townopolis
2008-10-27, 10:07 PM
I see the tangent has taken over the thread

For this reason, I find it useful to divorce negatives from unconsciousness. It usually takes people quite some time to bleed into unconsciousness from the wounds that take them out of commission. You're in shock, you're cradling your gut, you're reeling from the blow and can't seem to keep your feet. When you fail three death saves is when you've lost enough blood that you're unconscious and beyond the ken of medieval medicine.

Yakk
2008-10-28, 12:22 PM
Here is a simple system to change 4e into an Z encounter/day system.

1> All DAILY powers are now called INSPIRED powers.

You start play with 1 use of each INSPIRED power. Each time you gain a level, all of your INSPIRED powers recharge. There are other ways to get INSPIRED powers back.

2> Throw out existing EXTENDED REST rules.

At each EXTENDED REST, make an endurance check against DC 10. If you beat it, you gain back 1 healing surge. For each additional 10 you beat that DC by, you gain back 1 additional healing surge. You may consume healing surges to regain HP during an extended rest. You do not gain an action point from taking an extended rest -- and if you have more than 1 action point, you are reduced to 1 action point.

3> SHORT RESTS remain the same. Your encounter powers refresh, and you can consume healing surges to regain HP.

4> MILESTONES change: At each MILESTONE, pick a single magic item INSPIRED power to recharge. Then roll 1d6 for each remaining expended INSPIRED power: on a 456 it recharges. Finally, regain half, rounded up, of your max healing surges, and gain 1 action point. MILESTONES also refresh encounter powers and allow consuming of a single healing surge even without an extended rest.

There should be about 5 MILESTONES per character level, or about one every 2 even-level encounters. Placing them just before a big, tough fight is acceptable (ie, when you open the door, and see that you where too late to stop the Demon from being summoned), or after the characters complete some sub-goal.

...

This keeps the 4 encounters-per-day mechanic of 4e D&D, but gives the DM narrative freedom to pace the 'real time' of the adventure as fast as they want. Players are no longer free to 'burn' daily resources then camp out, as they only gain back INSPIRED powers when they progress the plot or otherwise generate MILESTONES.

Going back to town and resting up is still useful, because you get to make endurance checks to regain healing surges, then spend them on refreshing your HP. However, you don't heal up to full instantly by a simple night at an inn -- your party can be harried over the wilderness in a multi-day chase, never able to recover fully, their powers and healing surges low...

Artanis
2008-10-28, 12:52 PM
Coma to perfectly fine in less than five minutes?

Given that Kimbo got punked by a nobody, and stayed down from one punch, are you really wanting to invoke him?
Perhaps a better example would be Doug "Rhino" Marshall. He got beaten to a pulp by Brian Stann, floored, beaten some more, and was was just plain out. A few minutes after the ref ended the fight, he was back up. I don't know what kind of shape he was in, but he was on his feet.

Mark Hall
2008-10-28, 01:40 PM
Perhaps a better example would be Doug "Rhino" Marshall. He got beaten to a pulp by Brian Stann, floored, beaten some more, and was was just plain out. A few minutes after the ref ended the fight, he was back up. I don't know what kind of shape he was in, but he was on his feet.

I would be willing to bet he was not perfectly fine, equal to no injury whatsoever. "Up" is different from "Completely healed".

Ealstan
2008-10-28, 01:50 PM
Obviously we mortal men are not the equals of lvl one fighters. This is the exact reason i don't feel good about the warlord's style of healing. This "You're fine, walk it off" healing technique doesn't make sense in the context of DnD, esp. when you compare it to the healing of a Cleric or Paladin.

And yeah, Kimbo was a bad choice, I just like his sweet hobo beard. :smallbiggrin:

kbk
2008-10-28, 02:07 PM
I regret mentioning that I didn't like martial healing. So very off topic.


Another alternative, inspired by Yakk, but a bit less complicated:

After 2 encounters you reach a milestone. They work the same way as normal milestones (recharge magic items, action point, etc).

After 4 encounters (2 milestones), any extended rest allows the recovery of daily powers, resets action points and magic items.

Any other extended rest offers no benefit to the party, aside from flavor.

The only drawback is that the party will lose the ability to control when they enter an extended rest to reset powers (e.g., They KNOW they're going to be in a massive battle in the morning). So maybe you give them control by saying that extended rests in a town with nice comfy beds don't require 2 milestones.

AgentPaper
2008-10-28, 02:21 PM
Just make a night's sleep count as a short rest, and a week's vacation count as an extended rest. This is actually a great system to make any game a bit less heroic and a bit more realistic. (In a loose sense of the term) My players would be up in arms if I tried to use this on them, but your groups sounds more accepting to change.