Archive for February, 2014


My playlist is up to 65 songs. Passage Through the Feywild


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In the original iterations of D&D, generating and assigning the ability scores for characters involved rolling 3 6-sided dice and writing down the result for each ability score, in order. The resulting scores didn’t actually give one a bonus to hit or to damage, but it gave the character a bonus if the primary stat of a character’s class was above a certain number. This meant that a fighter with a strength of 18 did not actually hit more often or deal more damage than a fighter with a strength of 9, but the former fighter gained experience more quickly, and thus became more skilled faster than the weaker fighter. With 4th edition, every two points above 10 in an ability score gives a bonus to hit and to damage of 1. For example, a Strength of 12 would give the character a 1 point bonus. A Strength of 20 would add 5 bonus points. The proper formula is: Ability Score – 10 and then divide by 2, round toward zero.

In any case, I like the idea that ability scores don’t grant such wide bonuses, because it makes powergaming that much less necessary. I also like the idea that characters are more or less stuck with the ability scores they start with. 4th edition, however, makes it necessary to keep investing in ever-higher ability scores just to keep up with the monsters. I started a thread over on enworld.org a couple of years ago asking how much the famous 4e math would be broken if the ability bonuses were limited to something closer to an earlier version of D&D. The bonuses followed the formula: Ability Score – 10 and then divide by 4, round toward zero. That means that an ability score of 14 gives a +1 bonus, an 18 gives a +2 bonus, anything less than 7 gives a -1 penalty. You can read the discussion in the link above.

So, I am returning to this idea; no increases to ability scores, and a limit on the bonuses granted. However, I am also adding in an idea stolen from 13th Age: the escalation die. Beginning with the second round of combat, each player character (but not monsters) gets a +1 bonus to attack rolls, skill rolls, and saving throws (including death saves). This bonus increases by 1 each round, until it reaches a +6 bonus at round 7.

To sum up, a player will roll 3d6 for each ability score, in order. He can then add his racial bonuses to ability. An ability score between 6 and 14 grants no bonus or penalty. A 6 or less imposes a -1 penalty, a 14 to 17 gives a +1 bonus, an 18 gives a +2 bonus. If a character can pump his ability score up to 20, he still only gets a +2 bonus. These ability scores do not increase, except perhaps rarely, by some magical means. The characters still get a bonus to attack rolls, skill checks, defenses every even numbered level.

I’m still not sure how this will mess with the game’s math, and there is still the problem of defenses. 4e splits a character’s defense into Armor Class, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will, and I’ll need to figure out how to keep the defense progression intact, or else the monsters will be thrashing the player characters at higher levels as if they were so many red-headed stepchildren.

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I watched a “review” of D&D 4e the other day on Youtube. The reviewer claimed to have run a 4e game for several months; I have no reason to question this assertion, but something about his review seems a little off. He spent some time complaining about “Healing Surges”, saying several times that it equated to “infinite healing” (he may have phrased it differently, but that was the meaning I inferred from his description), and was unhappy that characters could heal themselves. On a related note, he complained that 4th Edition did not have the “resource management/attrition” aspect that he enjoyed in earlier editions.

Additionally, I just read on a message board where someone thought that 13th Age‘s “Recoveries” were better than “Healing Surges”, because the former were not magical healing.

I think both critics clearly misunderstand the game’s rules. Healing Surges are, in fact, an attritional aspect of the game. They represent a limit on the amount of healing that a character can receive in a day, and definitely are not “infinite healing” (once a character spends his last healing surge, drinking a potion of healing does him no good). A character, once during each battle, can take a “Second Wind”, which is equivalent to pausing to take a deep breath and get psychologically renewed to continue the fight (even if the character has been physically wounded; think of Inigo Montoya’s getting back into the fight after being stabbed in the stomach, shoulder, and other shoulder). It is not “magically healing physical wounds” (unless, of course, the players wish to portray Second Wind in that manner).

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