Wednesday, July 8, 2009


One of the new features of 4e that I like, as I mentioned almost a year ago is the recharge on powers, meant to cut down on the bookkeeping required by the DM on whether the breath weapon was recharged yet, or if short-term effects were still going on.

This "no bookkeeping" idea has fallen short of its mark, from my point of view. Instead of having to look somewhere to see if this is the round in which the dragon's breath has recharged, I now have to look to remember that it CAN recharge, and roll. This came up in our last session, where some of the targets had recharging powers; when it was their turn to act, I would have to check their stat block each time to see if any recharging powers existed, and what the die roll was. I had to do this every time the initiative came around to these monsters.

Now, perhaps this is something that will come naturally as we play more (and play more often)... I did find that I was remembering to check faster as the night went on. But it still feels no different than looking on my old 3.5 combat charts to see if we've gone through three checkmarks to decide whether the breath weapon is back. I've considered making power cards, similar to the ones that many of us now use during our games (thanks to the D&D Insider Character Builder), to have in my hand a set of possible powers available to my NPCs, perhaps with the card turned sideways to remind me that this is one that should be checked for a recharge. This would require a lot more planning on my part...

Another feature of 4e that seems to be contrary to this no-bookkeeping rule is the Immediate Action. Players that might have a Power that acts as an immediate action can manage to remember it, sometimes -- our party has a spectrum of them, from "I-get-to-reroll" to "they-have-to-reroll". But as the DM with multiple "characters", and my own character to boot, remembering that a monster has one of these Powers can be challenging. It actually brought to mind Interrupts from Magic: The Gathering (which is exactly what they are -- I'm not sure why they didn't just go with the same name); remembering to counter someone else's spell required diligence (or a deck dedicated to countering), and if the counterspell was on a creature instead of your hand, good luck remembering that one! I know I missed one or two "shift when missed by a melee attack" uses in our last session (though it helped that one of the targets with that ability was being subject to ranged attacks, for the most part).

But again, perhaps having a "deck" for each monster is the way to go, for both the recharge Powers and the "triggered" Powers - as a player is attacking a monster, I pick up its current "hand" and see if there's anything I can do about it. Right now, I keep the book open for the monster stats, and tally the HP and damage on a separate scratch sheet. Should I print out a stat card for every goblin, writing its damage on it? I can see having these little stacks of cards being awkward as encounters get larger (I think five or six targets has been our limit), but perhaps this is in part due to my small DMing space behind my shield.

What do other DMs do? Are they just better prepared? Better in touch with all of their minions that it's instinctive to have their goblins shift away, or to automatically check for that powerful attack's recharge? It feels like a lot of tracking that is best-suited to a computer, which perhaps explains why I end each session thinking that I should just code up an online version of the rules. Or perhaps I should eagerly await the Game Table from the D&D Insider...


Griff said...

Just bullshit your way through it.

If it's been a few rounds since that duergar used it's beard attack, then fire one off again. How are we, the players, going to know that you didn't roll a "re-charge" check or whatnot? More importantly, why would we care?

As for the interupts issue and the auto-shifts... well, I dunno. From my point of view, the only time this becomes a real issue is when that monster's power or ability would have ramped up the challenge. A missed shift is no big deal. A missed breath weapon is a different story (but see above for that).

I guess the bottom line is that it's a game. Regardless of the edition, don't let number crunching and piddly details bog down the play. It should be fun for all involved, DM included.

And isn't that Gaming Table thing just vaporware?

Crwth said...

The issue with bullshitting through it is that, since we're still "testing" 4e, I'd like to see how well it's balanced. If a Power should recharge on 5-6, but I forget to check, then perhaps the encounter was meant to be more challenging than it was.

And I think even a missed shift IS a big deal; right now, the party is pretty good at flanking and blocking the monsters, usually leading them to a go-for-broke, fight-to-the-end attitude, whereas if they got their shifts when they should, they would better maneuver themselves out of flanks and into doorways, once they realize they're outgunned, giving themselves the opportunity to flee. And if they flee, that means the party gets broken up while giving chase, and new encounters might crop up...

Francis Bousho said...

I dm as well, and I must say that sometimes I do forget that cool monsters recharge ability, but more often I forget that someone has to take ongoing damage (but that is a tangent for another day), and the next turn, I just roll twice. For the most part it works the same, every once in awhile I find out that the monster "should" have gotten his...breath weapon to use your example. But I just decide he didn't want to use it last turn. It may occasionally decrease the difficulty, but over a course of many sessions and many battles the players don't really notice.

As for immediate interrupts and immediate reactions, those can be tricky. I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten that a choker gets to evade one attack while grappling an enemy for instance.

But, you do get better. And it doesn't decrease the difficulty too much, my players have had plenty of times where they forgot to place a warlock's curse or hunter's quarry, so it all balances out somewhat.