Sunday, June 22, 2008

Adventures in 4e

We finished our third session of 4th edition last night.

So far, this campaign has been very combat heavy, partly by the design of the module, but also based on the choices the players are making. This means we've been putting the combat system through the loops, and so far, I'd say it's standing up.

The issue of level one characters and their meager hit points in earlier editions (such as the ever-vulnerable wizards and sorcerers) is long gone, and good riddance. With the new starting hit points, everyone can take a smack or two. Granted, with the new role idea, the controllers such as the wizard really shouldn't be taking too many smacks anyway, with the defender supposed to be, well, defending, but everyone has their own play style, and it hasn't turned out dismally for that.

We've had a lot of close calls, a few characters on their way to dying, and I think all in all the level 1 encounters have been very balanced for how involved they have been. This last encounter had many more foes than you could ever shove into a 3rd edition encounter, no matter how small you made the enemies. This gives a very nice realism and flexibility that I've mentioned before -- early encounters are not limited to four or five maximum.

The healing issue is still a sticky point with me. It was nice that each character could use a second wind during the encounter, and Crwth the cleric expended every bit of healing magic he could muster -- which isn't much at first level. I suppose I need to remind myself that even in 3e, I wouldn't have that many Cure Light Wounds spells at my disposal either, so given the amount of damage being dealt to the party, I don't know that we would have fared any differently. Still, for a cleric, the iconic healer, to be able to do nothing for his party members except stabilize with a skill check that anyone might have made, it felt disappointing. Some sort of at-will gain-one-hitpoint power or something would be nice. As it is, the paladin is just going to rest there for a bit as she recoups.

I think action points have become welcome to everyone. In this last back-to-back set of battles, every character used an action point to persevere, which helped demonstrate the heroic nature of the party, beating all odds by tapping every resource they have. And tap they did -- I think every Daily and Encounter power was used up as well.

Some of the new combat rules were used effectively by both the enemy and the party. Using party members as cover for the strikers worked well, and the ability to knock a target unconscious with the final blow, instead of killing them outright, was also used -- perhaps a bit oversimplified, but definitely less of a hassle than trying to do subdual damage to accomplish the same thing in third edition.

The party also had their first skill challenge last night, which was barely successful. I can safely admit now that it was an impromptu one, not anticipated by the module, but which played out well, until someGriff who shall remain nameless got a bit greedy.

The talk of combat being faster, though, I do not agree with. There are still tactics to be decided, things to look up (even once it's a familiar ruleset, that won't fully go away), and other tricks (on the enemies' side) that prolong things just when the party thinks they're done. Even with a late start, the back-to-back combats lasted until after 2:00am.

All in all, a very accomplished night. The party has reached second level, which isn't as exciting as it was in older editions; no class-choosing, rank-ascribing, hit-point-rolling... everything is very simple -- too simple, in my opinion -- and quick. I planned the next 20 levels of Crwth in a few minutes, which does take a bit of fun out of it. One feat, one utility power, add some static hit points, and increasing a handful of values up by one. That's it!


Mara Jade said...

Hi! Ifrom Argentino, so please excuse me if I do not explain the things very well.
The thing is I like your blog and it´s quite informative.
We started playing dnd4 last weekend, with some problems because we must read the things in English.
I have some questions I would like you to answer, if its not a problem for you.

The first one is:
many powers have the word "W" in brackets, for example:
Hit: 2[W] + Charisma modifier damage.
Could it be W for Weapon? I`m almost sure it means weapon but i wanted to corroborate it with you.

The second thing is about the paladin specifically.
In many paladin´s prayers thay talk about "mark an object" what are the consecuences of marking an enemy?

Well, those are my two questions, I hope im not bothering you with them.

If you like, you can come by my new blog, it`s in spanish:

Also, you can talk to me by mail i like to meet foreign friends and talk to them, that`s my msn also!

Thank you so much!!! You blog is great!

Crwth said...

Hi Mara Jade,

I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I'm also glad your questions are easy to answer. *:^)

The [W] is the weapon damage - you are correct. Some powers state that they only work with certain types of weapons (light blades for many Rogue powers, for instance). Whichever weapon you are using when you use a power, it is that weapon's damage that counts as the [W]. And of course, 2[W] means you roll it twice.

Marking an enemy is how the Defender role is effective on the battlefield. A marked enemy takes a penalty if it attacks anyone else -- sometimes, just a to-hit penalty, but the paladin also has ways of marking a target so they take damage if they attack anyone but the paladin. Our party's paladin, Skaldi, uses this effectively in combat, drawing the enemy from the Strikers and Controllers.

Good luck with your campaign! I'd come visit your blog, except my Spanish is much, much poorer than your English (which is very clear, by the way).

Cruces said...

about what you said on healing.
I do not know if I misinterpreted it but clerics have an the sacred flame at-will power that gives to some person a number of temporary hit points as well as damaging the opponent, at low levels it's not much but still it's less damage you have to heal.
Also they get healing word which is a minor action no less ,and can be used twice per encounter.
This looks to me like a lot of healing for a first level character and I haven't even considered the encounter or daily powers.
At high levels I believe that clerics will be able to make huge damage shields with temporary hit points.

Crwth said...

You're right about the Sacred Flame power, but the problem with temporary hit points is that you need them before you get hit, not after -- and that means the cleric wants to get a Sacred Flame attack in for each of his or her party members - in a five-character party, that's four other characters, and thus four standard actions just to get them "buffed", as the MMO players would say. And, of course, as soon as you have finished that, the first guy has probably lost his temporary hitpoints, plus more...

Healing Word is also there, true, but twice per encounter really doesn't last long when you have a combat of any significant length.
Add in each character's second wind, and yes, it does seem to represent more healing than in 3rd edition, but you have to consider that, with all of these extra hitpoints at first level, there are more to be lost. And in the encounters we've experienced so far, they certainly get lost quickly!

It might be that, up until now, we've played through outdoor encounters, and thus certain tactics aren't able to be put into play, such as keeping the controllers and strikers a bit safer. Or perhaps it's just our group's playstyle that gets them killed. *:^) Looking at the 1st-level cleric in 3e, with three Cure Minor Wounds and 2-3 Cure Light Wounds, it might look a bit comparable, but it doesn't feel like we've got the same amount of healing at our disposal.

Cruces said...

The way I see it you don't really need to buff the whole party, just the tank. With a mark he should be able to hold "aggro" (an mmo term) from one mob all the time (either that or he gets a free attack, yay) the others just have to be really careful not to mess up. I mean a rogue is a striker, and that doesn't mean he should go off alone, everyone has his role, and should pay attention too.
What I'm saying is that if you feel that your healing isn't enough maybe your party should start reevaluating their tactics