Is knowledge is half the battle in 4e?

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I've notice that in 4e players are always 'good to go' and there isn't much they can do to prepare for an encounter anymore.

For example, when the players know that the next room contains a huge fire elemental they really can't do much but charge in.    There are no buff / protection spells for the players to prepare.    

Now,  when I played previous editions it was always a pain to list all the spells the characters wanted to cast before a major encounter .   Usually, we would spend about 10 rounds casting buff spells and then list what round each spell would expire.   In the end it was cumbersome, but at least the players could make use of the knowledge they aquired and it would greatly affect the outcome of the battle.

What have you done in your  4e game to ensure that knowledge is half the battle?   
Given enough preperation, players can

- build traps (if they're the ambushers, my players did this in the last session and it was fun)
- brew potions (resist fire for the entire encounter, woo!)
- cast rituals (mostly defensive)

Granted, they cut back on the default options by a lot (mostly because, as you say, it was cumbersome and not a lot of fun) so you'll need to be a bit more creative. Crazy plans can still be made, macguffins can still influence the battle, rituals can be used to great effect, potions and such can still hand out bonusses.

One of the best ways to get players to do this kind of stuff again I've found is to hand out loads of consumbles. You can make them more powerful then the kind of stuff they can make and just ramp up encounter difficulty to give them a reason to use them.
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Thanks,  I'm just finding that droping important knowledge regarding the next encounter doesn't seem to mean a thing.   Yes potions and traps work.    Rituals are not very great through, I mean Endure Elements doesn't seem to do anything anymore.    Maybe I just need to bring back some of the old spells like Protection from fire as Rituals.    
 
Granted, they cut back on the default options by a lot (mostly because, as you say, it was cumbersome and not a lot of fun) so you'll need to be a bit more creative. Crazy plans can still be made, macguffins can still influence the battle, rituals can be used to great effect, potions and such can still hand out bonusses.

Emphasis mine.

And beyond that, there was nothing more completely stupid than preparing for an encounter by casting spells that turn out didn't apply.  A total waste of time and resources.  Protection from fire?  Sorry, Joe PC, that is arcane energy with the illusion of being fire. 

Celebrate our differences.

Sure, why not? You can certainly base them on consumables only as rituals, with a few minutes casting time to prevent them being used as soon as they the enemy breaks out the fireballs.

Also one of the major reasons that older editions required you to prepare for battles was because many enemies had a laundry list of immunities and resistances as well as a bunch of insta-death powers that you needed to protect yourself from. Those are gone in 4e and as a result you can generally just hack into something and kill it.

If you want players to prep more, change that assumption. The next time they meet skeletons, they rise from the dead if you don't smash their skull when they fall. Or they explode in a cloud of elemental energy if they're not killed by an untyped damage attack. Or they're immune to non-radiant damage. Or they have a close burst 20 that deals 5 fire damage to all enemies. Slamming on heavy resist/immune/attacks on monsters that can be circumvented is the clue to requiring players to prepare for battles. 3e was full of it, to the point where nearly every battle took more time to prepare then fight. 4e has hardly any of it, to the point where preparing at all is the exception rather then the rule.

Sounds like you want to be closer in the middle, so take a few lessons from 3e design and equip monsters with nasty but easily circumvented traits and attacks. Just make sure to warn your players that you're going to do it, because they probably won't expect it. Or, make sure the encounter has an easy out and isn't too lethal, and let them learn the hard way.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
interesting comparison, Endure Elements (Abjuration, Clr 1, Drd 1, Pal 1, Rgr, Sor/Wiz 1, Sun 1) is nearly word-for-word identical with Endure Elements (L2 Exploration ritual)    The biggest difference is that the previous Endure Elements was single person, and the ritual is 5.

One thing for sure, is rituals do need to be expanded upon, made easier to use, and made more plentiful, or probably all 3.  We do plenty of houseruled/custom rituals, but it is an important part of 4E that gets left by the wayside in official sources far too often.

 

INSIDE SCOOP, GAMERS: In the new version of D&D, it will no longer be "Edition Wars." It will be "Edition Lair Assault." - dungeonbastard

interesting comparison, Endure Elements (Abjuration, Clr 1, Drd 1, Pal 1, Rgr, Sor/Wiz 1, Sun 1) is nearly word-for-word identical with Endure Elements (L2 Exploration ritual)    The biggest difference is that the previous Endure Elements was single person, and the ritual is 5.

One thing for sure, is rituals do need to be expanded upon, made easier to use, and made more plentiful, or probably all 3.  We do plenty of houseruled/custom rituals, but it is an important part of 4E that gets left by the wayside in official sources far too often.

 

I don't really get why or how rituals need to be easier to use. Endure Elements takes '10 minutes' to cast. You'd need time to cast the 3.5 version as well. Either way you needed a point where you could stop and do your buffing. At least with the ritual you pay your 20gp and if it turns out it didn't do much for you, well, you're out a whole 20gp vs in the 3.5 version you had to know to put the spell on your list and if it turned out to be wasted all you did was lose out on a good spell slot that you had in quite short supply at the levels where it was relevant. The ritual is also more of a general utility, lasting 24 hours. It won't stop damage but it sure can be handy when you're going into the Volcano of Doom, and there's no reason you wouldn't just cast it well ahead of time.

4e prep is just as useful as 3.x prep was. It is just more designed around prepping well ahead of time. You figure out what you're likely to face and acquire the most useful potions, consumables, rituals, ammo, alchemical items, etc and then head into danger instead of needing to break up the flow of the adventure in the middle for half an hour while everyone decides what buffs to bring up before breaking the next door down.

There are still quite a few cases where you can engineer situations that benefit from on-the-spot preparations too. Things like Circle of Protection or Earthen Ramparts can be good options. Water Walk, Tenser's Disc, Undead Ward, etc etc etc could all be factored into a good plan. The main difference is really that you have quite a bit less of the "here's the solution on a platter" kind of effects.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Outside of consumables (like potions of resistance), knowledge in 4E mainly helps by letting the players figure out the best tactics to use.  So instead of spending 10 minutes casting various buff spells, the PCs will spend 10 minutes discussing group tactics.  Each monster has a different 'schtick' and will thus require slightly different group tactics in response.

The perfect example of this would be monsters that explode upon dying (or the extreme version of this, the catastrophic dragons that explode every few rounds).  The Players now have to minimize the number of PCs that are next to the monster when it dies through heavy use of forced movement powers and their own movement.
I like the idea of turning the potions into rituals that perhaps last until the end of the next encounter.  That's an easy house rule that doesn't require much effort. 


Here is a good one from Azagars book rituals

 Energy Enhancement
You temporary imbue a weapon with magical energy.
Level: 3 Component Cost: 35 gp
Category: Exploration Market Price: 175 gp
Time: 10 minutes Key Skill: Arcana or Religion
Duration: Special
You enchant one or more weapons so that the damage they deal is of a specific energy type. Each time you use this ritual, you determine the type of energy damage the affected weapon or
weapons deal. If you used the Arcana skill you can choose from acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. If you used Religion, you can choose from fire, necrotic, or radiant. Attacks with the
weapon gain the keyword associated with the damage type. For example, if you enchant a weapon to deal fire damage, attacks made with it gain the fire keyword.
The ritual lasts for a number of encounters determined by your Arcana or Religion check. You can divide the duration between up to three weapons (depending on your Arcana check), but each weapon must last for at least one encounter.

Arcana or Religion
Check Result Duration
19 or lower 1 encounter
20-39 2 encounters
40 or higher 3 encounters


I wish rituals were on a whole faster to cast, even if the result was a weaker power.

Example - Banish Vermin, a low level ritual that creates a burst 5 zone and keeps out vermin that are tiny.   If that was able to be used during an encounter (combat or otherwise) - perhaps as a standard action, with a smaller burst (maybe burst 1), and shorter duration (or require sustain) - I think it would be far more useful to the group. 

Otherwise the spell has limited uses due to the 10 minute time frame, unless I want to be the jerky DM "Oh, you didn't use banish vermin so while you slept in the forest last night some ticks crawled up on you and bit you - you have lyme disease now"
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I wish rituals were on a whole faster to cast, even if the result was a weaker power.

Example - Banish Vermin, a low level ritual that creates a burst 5 zone and keeps out vermin that are tiny.   If that was able to be used during an encounter (combat or otherwise) - perhaps as a standard action, with a smaller burst (maybe burst 1), and shorter duration (or require sustain) - I think it would be far more useful to the group. 

Otherwise the spell has limited uses due to the 10 minute time frame, unless I want to be the jerky DM "Oh, you didn't use banish vermin so while you slept in the forest last night some ticks crawled up on you and bit you - you have lyme disease now"



Yes there are many rituals that should be allowed to be cast during combat.   What I do is allow the wizard to cast a ritual during combat, but he must spend a standard, minor, and move action.  At the start of his next turn he gets an arcana check (in addition to the one required for the ritual) and if he succeeds the spell works.     In addition, if he was hit at any point during casting I force him to make an endurance check. If he fails the ritual fizzles and he loses the cost in components.   This simple rule immediately injects a lot of creativity back into combat.    

Hallucintaory Creature,  Shadow Bridge, etc.. are all great rituals that can now be used in combat.
For example, when the players know that the next room contains a huge fire elemental they really can't do much but charge in.    There are no buff / protection spells for the players to prepare.


Sure there are. There are consumables that add protection to the heroes, consumables that add extra oomph to the heroes' attacks by playing against the opponent's weaknesses, both kinds of which can last until the end of the encounter. ANd there are rituals that can accomplish protective benefits or even help avoid the combat entirely.

However, the "knowledge" that I find more roleplay game enjoyable is the preparation not just for the encounter, but for the entire adventure. Tracking down the sage who knows about the weakness of the legendary creature, then seeking out the item that plays against its weakness, or the key to its defenses.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
As another note I have started taking spells from previous editions that did not make their way into 4e as a spell or a ritual and converting them into rituals.  Sometimes "buff" ones

"Ghost Armor" is a simple ritual that grants the caster a bonus of +1 AC/Tier until they have taken damage equal to 10+1/2 level. (the bonus is an enchantment bonus and they don't stack with other "buffs")

while it seems overpowered, I don't give out the feats that others do to fix the math, so in the end my players aren't face rolling monsters.
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I wish rituals were on a whole faster to cast, even if the result was a weaker power.

Example - Banish Vermin, a low level ritual that creates a burst 5 zone and keeps out vermin that are tiny.   If that was able to be used during an encounter (combat or otherwise) - perhaps as a standard action, with a smaller burst (maybe burst 1), and shorter duration (or require sustain) - I think it would be far more useful to the group. 

Otherwise the spell has limited uses due to the 10 minute time frame, unless I want to be the jerky DM "Oh, you didn't use banish vermin so while you slept in the forest last night some ticks crawled up on you and bit you - you have lyme disease now"



I don't really see a problem with having a way to pre-cast some specific rituals. An easy way to do that would be to introduce an item that lets you cast a ritual and delay its effects until you expend a standard action. MOST rituals it won't matter a whole lot, but almost any ritual caster can easily come up with good use cases. There may be SOME rituals that should be excluded from use that way, but I'm not sure how you would formulate a general rule for that. Make it a hard to get item so the party has generally only one and it can only hold one ritual at a time. That will prevent most of the 'stepping on toes' kind of potential (IE if it is too easy to insta-cast Knock then picking locks is rather heavily devalued). With potions characters always have the option to drink them ahead of time. I just think that being able to simply cast practically any ritual like a spell will lead to trouble unless it has some sort of 'slot' built into it. This isn't super apparent at low levels but remember, ritual casting has to work well for epic PCs too.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Some buffing was nice, but when like in epic NWN, you had a few minutes at casting spells, drinking potions to win... bah. 

Why the rampant nostalgia for some questionable past ideas? 
I disagree with you guys. Rituals can be an integral part of the game. Couple of campaigns ago I played a ritual focused Bard. In Combat, not that special, out of combat, game changer. We skipped skill challenges, Flew over oceans, you name it. Also in combat, tensors floating disk is gold. 
Nothing quite like players trying to circumnavigate detailed skill challenges that I poured a lot of time and energy into.  Then again, my players would never want to skip over them.

Celebrate our differences.

Granted, they cut back on the default options by a lot (mostly because, as you say, it was cumbersome and not a lot of fun) so you'll need to be a bit more creative. Crazy plans can still be made, macguffins can still influence the battle, rituals can be used to great effect, potions and such can still hand out bonusses.

Emphasis mine.

And beyond that, there was nothing more completely stupid than preparing for an encounter by casting spells that turn out didn't apply.  A total waste of time and resources.  Protection from fire?  Sorry, Joe PC, that is arcane energy with the illusion of being fire. 



Not only that but the "Hey, we're casting round-after-round of preparatory spells here and the great evil mook is just waiting in there for us to finish" issue of suspension of disbelief.
I don't really see a problem with having a way to pre-cast some specific rituals. An easy way to do that would be to introduce an item that lets you cast a ritual and delay its effects until you expend a standard action. MOST rituals it won't matter a whole lot, but almost any ritual caster can easily come up with good use cases. There may be SOME rituals that should be excluded from use that way, but I'm not sure how you would formulate a general rule for that. Make it a hard to get item so the party has generally only one and it can only hold one ritual at a time. That will prevent most of the 'stepping on toes' kind of potential (IE if it is too easy to insta-cast Knock then picking locks is rather heavily devalued).

OK, I can make that up...


Ritual Bottle Level 7+ Uncommon

This small, thick-glass bottle with a complex stopper is warm to the touch, and appears to have a glowing object moving around inside it.














Lvl 72,600 gpLvl 1765,000 gp    

Wondrous Item


Property


This bottle may serve as the focus for any ritual that does not normally call for a focus, or as a secondary focus for any ritual. The ritual also must not be higher level than the bottle. When the bottle is used in this way, the ritual has no immediate effect; instead, the bottle becomes charged with that ritual replacing any previous charge in that bottle and discharging any other Ritual Bottles charged by the same caster.

Utility Power  At Will (Standard Action)


Effect: You may not take any further actions except free actions, and cannot attack, until the beginning of your next turn. The ritual that the bottle is charged with takes effect at the beginning of your next turn. Its target will be the creature holding the bottle at that time, or based on the bottle's location at that time. The bottle is no longer charged with any ritual. If you use this power during a combat encounter, the ritual's duration does not extend past the end of the encounter (it may be shorter, depending on the ritual).
Special: If the bottle is not currently charged, this power cannot be used. 



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Nothing quite like players trying to circumnavigate detailed skill challenges that I poured a lot of time and energy into.  Then again, my players would never want to skip over them.

Lack of desire to railroad? IMHO players working out ways to get around stuff is gold. OTOH I don't think 4e is exactly barren of options here for the player willing to do a bit of legwork. They aren't handed to you on a silver platter spell list like they were in 3.5 etc but there are a LOT of ways for an industrious player to work things in 4e. Let them! The nice thing about it is that a decent amount of thought went into the various things PCs can do at different tiers, so it isn't really that likely that your heroic tier group can arbitrarily hop past reasonably appropriate situations when you don't care to give them a way to do it.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Preparations are a bad idea.

First, they waste time.  Deciding on which precautions to use takes time - and it is a systematic and repetitive.  Some don't find it boring - but many do. 

Second, it usually requires PCs to expend resources.  When those precautions benefit other PCs, you can run into situations where one player expects another to forgo certain fun offensive spells, etc... in order to prepare protective spells for their PC.  That can cause frustration, conflict and annoyance.

Third, they make game balance harder.  A meaningful precaution changes how easy a combat is.  If the DM anticipates it will be used, the combat may be too hard if it is not used.  If the DM doesn't anticipate it being used, the encounter can be too easy.  If the DM anticipates correctly, then it doesn't really matter if it was there or not - the DM is providing the same level of challenge either way.  

Fourth, they add complexity.  There are often multiple layers of defenses, with the order in which you apply the defenses changing how they work.  You either have to decide the order, or pour through rules to find how someone else decided they work.  Often, when someone else had done the leg work in advance, some game designer took the additional step of designing something that takes advantage of a loophole - and loopholes are usually complex, counterintuitive and annoy someone.

Finally, PCs tend to use a very limited number of precautions over and over, but a wide varoety of precautions are released in new products.  I'd estimate that only about 10% of the defensive spells in 2E and 3E had significant use.  That meant people were buying a lot of game products that were not used.  Wasted money.

When the design changes were made for 4E, the era of precuations pretty much ended.  They could have designed 4E to include and make good use of precautions, but they didn't.
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Nothing quite like players trying to circumnavigate detailed skill challenges that I poured a lot of time and energy into.  Then again, my players would never want to skip over them.

Lack of desire to railroad? IMHO players working out ways to get around stuff is gold. OTOH I don't think 4e is exactly barren of options here for the player willing to do a bit of legwork. They aren't handed to you on a silver platter spell list like they were in 3.5 etc but there are a LOT of ways for an industrious player to work things in 4e. Let them! The nice thing about it is that a decent amount of thought went into the various things PCs can do at different tiers, so it isn't really that likely that your heroic tier group can arbitrarily hop past reasonably appropriate situations when you don't care to give them a way to do it.


Every DM railroads and every party gets railroaded.  The question is how talented a DM is by making a railroad feel like a sandbox.

Celebrate our differences.

Nothing quite like players trying to circumnavigate detailed skill challenges that I poured a lot of time and energy into.  Then again, my players would never want to skip over them.

Lack of desire to railroad? IMHO players working out ways to get around stuff is gold. OTOH I don't think 4e is exactly barren of options here for the player willing to do a bit of legwork. They aren't handed to you on a silver platter spell list like they were in 3.5 etc but there are a LOT of ways for an industrious player to work things in 4e. Let them! The nice thing about it is that a decent amount of thought went into the various things PCs can do at different tiers, so it isn't really that likely that your heroic tier group can arbitrarily hop past reasonably appropriate situations when you don't care to give them a way to do it.


Every DM railroads and every party gets railroaded.  The question is how talented a DM is by making a railroad feel like a sandbox.

Dude, this is a collective game - the players are not your little pets to play YOUR story.

You don't own the game.

'MSU' is your friend - 'Make Stuff Up'. 
Nothing quite like players trying to circumnavigate detailed skill challenges that I poured a lot of time and energy into.  Then again, my players would never want to skip over them.



Damn those ungrateful players trying to weasel their way out of a perfectly fun and raliroady skill challenge!

When will they learn to respect the DMs authority?

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Dude, this is a collective game - the players are not your little pets to play YOUR story.

You don't own the game.

'MSU' is your friend - 'Make Stuff Up'. 

Of course they are not my pets.  They are my peers.  We are equals.  We all respect each other and the time and effort we put into the roles we play in the game.

Of course MSU is your friend.  Some of us simply choose to make stuff up beforehand.  It eliminates quite a bit of sloppiness.

Doesn't matter...  every DM railroads at some level.

Celebrate our differences.

Well I think that preparations are a good idea.  Without them the PC’s have no need to care about what they might be up against in the next room.  Without preparations, divination rituals become useless since the knowledge obtained can’t be exploited to make the encounter easy.  Sure you might be able to suggest tactics about combat, but that is usually done in round one anyway once you have seen what you’re up against.     I think any knowledge obtained should be vital to the PC’s survival in some situations.   If for example, there is a fire breathing dragon in the next room that information has to mean something to them.    In previous editions everyone would pull out their fire protections and spells to guard against fear.   I just don’t see this happening anymore and from the sounds of it the DM has to dish out tons of potions or encourage the players to run back to town and buy/ make magical items.


I can understand that some people just want to move from one combat to the next without a thought, but that's not role playing.   I like it when the players are debating strategy and making preparations.  Planning is part of team work and I think that most of the planning and preparations should occur outside of combat.    Setting traps, luring the monster out of it's lair (even if the DM isn't prepared for it), casting rituals, using potions, etc… are part of the game and always have been.  


I think preparations should make the encounter easier if anything.  It really should amount to changing the difficulty level of the encounter.    Players should be rewarded and encouraged to think outside the box and outside the mechanics.  The game is after all much larger than the mechanics.      That's when the game becomes fun for everyone, when their actions are not simply dictated by the powers that they have in combat, but from their planning and tactics.   Knowing and planning an ambush can be a lot of fun especially when you get to see your plan come into fruition.   In fact, it’s even more exciting when the DM tosses curve ball at you that you all failed to anticipate.  


A storm the castle type of scenario is one that comes to mind.   Players are forced to plan how they are going to enter the castle.  Will they disguise themselves?  Will they try to sneak over the walls at night?  Perhaps they will charge up and break the gates down in a frontal assault.  All options should be open to the players and good DM should always be ready to wing it.    Forcing players down a preplanned skill challenge simply because you have worked day and night on it is just silly and pointless.     It’s also very unrewarding if the PC’s do their research on the denizens of the castle and discover a handful weakness and powers, but can’t exploit them or make any preparations.


Preparations are part of role playing and if your players are role playing they will take challenges seriously just as you would do in real life.   


I think it’s clear that if I want these kind preparations to return in my game, I’ll need to deal with the dozens of cleric and wizard spells the players no longer have at their fingertips.   In the end, this is just another load of work that I must do as a DM if I want to play 4e with my play style. 



Doesn't matter...  every DM railroads at some level.



That depends how you define 'railroad'.

Any reasonable person would define it as 'force the PCs down one particular path'.  If you're giving the PCs a choice of five different paths, then yes, you are constraining their choices (from 'infinite').  But that's still not really railroading because realistically, if you're any good at guessing what the players are likely to do, anything they come up will be in your top 5 at least 90% of the time.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Yes there are many rituals that should be allowed to be cast during combat.   What I do is allow the wizard to cast a ritual during combat, but he must spend a standard, minor, and move action.  At the start of his next turn he gets an arcana check (in addition to the one required for the ritual) and if he succeeds the spell works.     In addition, if he was hit at any point during casting I force him to make an endurance check. If he fails the ritual fizzles and he loses the cost in components.   This simple rule immediately injects a lot of creativity back into combat.   
Hallucintaory Creature,  Shadow Bridge, etc.. are all great rituals that can now be used in combat.


You know, that's actually a pretty good idea. For once I am completely on board with something you've said. I think you can consider that rule stolen. Thanks.
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.
Yes there are many rituals that should be allowed to be cast during combat.   What I do is allow the wizard to cast a ritual during combat, but he must spend a standard, minor, and move action.  At the start of his next turn he gets an arcana check (in addition to the one required for the ritual) and if he succeeds the spell works.     In addition, if he was hit at any point during casting I force him to make an endurance check. If he fails the ritual fizzles and he loses the cost in components.   This simple rule immediately injects a lot of creativity back into combat.   
Hallucintaory Creature,  Shadow Bridge, etc.. are all great rituals that can now be used in combat.


You know, that's actually a pretty good idea. For once I am completely on board with something you've said. I think you can consider that rule stolen. Thanks.

Nothing stop some rituals to be cast in combat I think - your pals WILL have to fight and defend you while you cast...
Nothing stop some rituals to be cast in combat I think - your pals WILL have to fight and defend you while you cast...


Well yes they could cast a ritual in combat anyway, but I think having a bunch of players fighting while another sits there for 10 rounds or whatever and makes an arcana check isn't terribly exciting for that player.
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.
Nothing stop some rituals to be cast in combat I think - your pals WILL have to fight and defend you while you cast...


Well yes they could cast a ritual in combat anyway, but I think having a bunch of players fighting while another sits there for 10 rounds or whatever and makes an arcana check isn't terribly exciting for that player.

Well, it is a bit what he want. ;)
Retro spellcaster working back while warriors defend. ;) 
A round is six seconds, not one minute.

Casting a ten minute ritual in combat takes 100 rounds (one hundred).

An average combat lasts 3-6 rounds.


So no, you can't use a ritual in combat by default, the fight will be over about nine and a half minutes before you finish Tongue Out
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Ankiyavon, depend on what you think as a fight... A large fight, by example.. Siege scene...

And Ankiyavon, depend on what you think as a fight... A large fight, by example.. Siege scene... 




It would take close to a year, real time, to play out 100 combat rounds.  (Hyperbole for effect, but most groups I've played with take about 10-15 minutes a round, so that'd be about 16-25 hours).


You can cast it during a scene, sure, I did that the last session I PCed in; I was casting Linked Portal and we got ambushed with 20 seconds left to go (3 rounds) by superior forces.  But if you're using the actual combat rules (that is to say, you have rolled initiative already), any attempt to cast a full-length ritual is an enormous waste of time for everyone involved, both in and out of game.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
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The biggest crime of rituals is most players ignore them. Every time I have chosen rituals as a player, I have found a use for them. Whenever I was a DM other players have made good use of them. As to preparing before combat, any group with a good set of wits will scope out a situation when permitted to gain and advantage, or bypass an encounter all together. This is true for any roleplaying game you play, the only difference it the tools at your disposal.
In regards to the original question, this is actually one place where the "freeform" mechanics of 4e shine.

Don't get caught up in precise mechanics.  Feel free to let your players improvise.  If your players have gone to the trouble of scouting ahead and discovering there are fire elementals in the next room, don't force them to have the exact ritual or exact consumable available.  Instead, let them be creative. 

For example, the wizard might want to cast "an elemental warding" on the party.  This is exactly the kind of undefined non-combat magic a wizard might have and makes perfect sense.  The fighter in the group might think to pull out a few waterskins and douse everyone in advance of the fight.  And all you as a DM need to do is to represent the effectiveness of the precautions is to decrease all of the fire elementals from 250 hp to 200 hp (made up numbers) and give cool descriptions during combat about how the precautions are helping.

4e encourages players and DMs to be creative.  That is why there is a "do anything" chart (the DC / average damage chart based on level).  Too often players get caught up in their exact powers and DMs get caught up in monster stats and forget about freeform actions.  But, appropriate freeform actions are meant to be effective.

Try a little creativity.  It will go far.

-SYB
Well I think that preparations are a good idea.  Without them the PC’s have no need to care about what they might be up against in the next room.  Without preparations, divination rituals become useless since the knowledge obtained can’t be exploited to make the encounter easy.  Sure you might be able to suggest tactics about combat, but that is usually done in round one anyway once you have seen what you’re up against.     I think any knowledge obtained should be vital to the PC’s survival in some situations.   If for example, there is a fire breathing dragon in the next room that information has to mean something to them.    In previous editions everyone would pull out their fire protections and spells to guard against fear.   I just don’t see this happening anymore and from the sounds of it the DM has to dish out tons of potions or encourage the players to run back to town and buy/ make magical items.


Yes, exactly, and the built-in default mechanics for that stuff got old fast. It also required that pretty much MUST have this and that spell casters around to supply the standard buffs, etc.


I can understand that some people just want to move from one combat to the next without a thought, but that's not role playing.   I like it when the players are debating strategy and making preparations.  Planning is part of team work and I think that most of the planning and preparations should occur outside of combat.    Setting traps, luring the monster out of it's lair (even if the DM isn't prepared for it), casting rituals, using potions, etc… are part of the game and always have been. 




Agreed, they are part of the game now, as they have always been. Only a bit different...



I think preparations should make the encounter easier if anything.  It really should amount to changing the difficulty level of the encounter.    Players should be rewarded and encouraged to think outside the box and outside the mechanics.  The game is after all much larger than the mechanics.      That's when the game becomes fun for everyone, when their actions are not simply dictated by the powers that they have in combat, but from their planning and tactics.   Knowing and planning an ambush can be a lot of fun especially when you get to see your plan come into fruition.   In fact, it’s even more exciting when the DM tosses curve ball at you that you all failed to anticipate. 




What are buffs and such if not mechanics? Powers aren't 'dictating actions', they may suggest superior courses of action, but is that any less significant a sort of thinking than "It's a red dragon, cast Protection from Fire!"? The thing is, when you build that kind of thing in to the point where it is expected, then it is PART of the power curve. This was always one of the problems with later 2e and 3.x where spell lists became so long and every situation had its countering magic. 



A storm the castle type of scenario is one that comes to mind.   Players are forced to plan how they are going to enter the castle.  Will they disguise themselves?  Will they try to sneak over the walls at night?  Perhaps they will charge up and break the gates down in a frontal assault.  All options should be open to the players and good DM should always be ready to wing it.    Forcing players down a preplanned skill challenge simply because you have worked day and night on it is just silly and pointless.     It’s also very unrewarding if the PC’s do their research on the denizens of the castle and discover a handful weakness and powers, but can’t exploit them or make any preparations.




Sure, it is interesting if they have to plan and think. I just don't at all get where this is missing from 4e. There are like 10 rituals I can think of off the top of my head that can help you get into a castle. I could probably come up with 30 or more with a little time to think about it. That's not even considering all sorts of other stuff. How about a Blast Patch to put a hole in a wall? Really, 4e is not at all lacking in these things. Some people just seem to have determined that somehow those options aren't 'good enough' anymore for whatever reason.



Preparations are part of role playing and if your players are role playing they will take challenges seriously just as you would do in real life.   


I think it’s clear that if I want these kind preparations to return in my game, I’ll need to deal with the dozens of cleric and wizard spells the players no longer have at their fingertips.   In the end, this is just another load of work that I must do as a DM if I want to play 4e with my play style. 




I think if you present your players with scenarios where preparation is obviously going to be beneficial that they'll probably respond by preparing themselves. There are VERY few spells of the type you're talking about that don't exist in 4e's rituals in some form. There are tons of consumables and funny little items that can be used to do clever things.

I'd say the main difference is that the advantages you get these days aren't so overwhelming as they were in past editions, nor are they so concentrated into a couple of spell lists that are the exclusive prerogative of a few classes. Thinking ahead is quite beneficial, and when you consider plot elements in the equation even more so. This is one thing that is interesting about 4e is that all the planning and plotting and etc is now a lot more likely to be story related and not so much tricking yourself out with the right buff or the right off-label use for a particular spell (although that at least could be pretty creative). Low level AD&D was interesting and was at a pretty good spot in that respect, especially in 1e. You had some magic that might get you past, but not enough of it to squander and often not the right type. Mules, henchmen, and oil flasks were useful and interesting.

I don't think 4e has quite captured all of that exactly, but it does have a good bit of it and you can generate more of that kind of play with a bit of cleverness. The thing is though, it holds up a good bit better as the characters level up. Even 1e eventually broke down to the casters doing all the prep work 90% of the time. I'd say the more routine kinds of prep tend to fade out in 4e when you start to hit epic, but at that point the story should be really in your face and providing a lot of those options. I can definitely see the possibilities of tweaking 4e here in some ways, but I would not want to go back to the old rather stereotyped immunities and gimmicks of yore. They were OK the first couple times, but they wore thin and just became an expected part of the power curve eventually.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Preparations are a bad idea.

First, they waste time.  Deciding on which precautions to use takes time - and it is a systematic and repetitive.  Some don't find it boring - but many do. 



Easy solution: Don't make generic, nonspecific buffs.  You won't end up with wind-up fighters and they won't waste time and resources on buffs they don't think they need.

Second, it usually requires PCs to expend resources.  When those precautions benefit other PCs, you can run into situations where one player expects another to forgo certain fun offensive spells, etc... in order to prepare protective spells for their PC.  That can cause frustration, conflict and annoyance.



Some leader classes are built around this concept.  If the player didn't want to spend his resources buffing party members then he shouldn't have picked an artificer.  Otherwise, they're in the ritual department so you use party gold to make the party magic guy do the rituals with basically no effect on his character.

Expending resources should be productive, that's the point of consumables.

Third, they make game balance harder.  A meaningful precaution changes how easy a combat is.  If the DM anticipates it will be used, the combat may be too hard if it is not used.  If the DM doesn't anticipate it being used, the encounter can be too easy.  If the DM anticipates correctly, then it doesn't really matter if it was there or not - the DM is providing the same level of challenge either way. 



This is only an issue if you ignore every other aspect of what separates D&D from HeroClix.  If the PCs demonstrated skill in exploration and RP, acquired information then used that information to productive effect, or were simply perfectly prepared, they should be rewarded by steamrolling the encounter.  That's why any good player carries a caustic whetstone at all times, never know when you're gonna fight a troll.

There isn't an adjustment for a character having armor of resistance (fire) while fighting inside a volcano.  He gets rewarded for having the right thing at the right time on his sheet.  Transplanting that process from character creation (where there's already far, far too much going on) to moment-to-moment gameplay and leaving the reward intact is perfectly reasonable.  It also lets you make some crazy zombie hunter PC and then let him adapt to every other situation where there might not be zombies so he's not garbage.

Fourth, they add complexity.  There are often multiple layers of defenses, with the order in which you apply the defenses changing how they work.  You either have to decide the order, or pour through rules to find how someone else decided they work.  Often, when someone else had done the leg work in advance, some game designer took the additional step of designing something that takes advantage of a loophole - and loopholes are usually complex, counterintuitive and annoy someone.



I don't see how "You gain resist 10 necrotic" is terribly complex.  Actually, none of the old systems were terribly complex.  If you used a default set of buffs every fight you'd usually just make up a second sheet with your new stats.  If you didn't, it wasn't insanely hard to just write +2 next to your AC or Fort save or whatever.

Finally, PCs tend to use a very limited number of precautions over and over, but a wide varoety of precautions are released in new products.  I'd estimate that only about 10% of the defensive spells in 2E and 3E had significant use.  That meant people were buying a lot of game products that were not used.  Wasted money.

When the design changes were made for 4E, the era of precuations pretty much ended.  They could have designed 4E to include and make good use of precautions, but they didn't.



Dealt with above.  If the precaution isn't a catch-all the PCs won't waste time on it.  You need to either strictly limit resources so casting Bull's Strength (which is always useful) is a meaningful decision, or you need to keep generic buffs to a minimum so the PCs look at the list of precautions and choose the appropriate ones.  If they release a new precautionary spell/ritual it should cover new situations.


Nothing quite like players trying to circumnavigate detailed skill challenges that I poured a lot of time and energy into.  Then again, my players would never want to skip over them.

Lack of desire to railroad? IMHO players working out ways to get around stuff is gold. OTOH I don't think 4e is exactly barren of options here for the player willing to do a bit of legwork. They aren't handed to you on a silver platter spell list like they were in 3.5 etc but there are a LOT of ways for an industrious player to work things in 4e. Let them! The nice thing about it is that a decent amount of thought went into the various things PCs can do at different tiers, so it isn't really that likely that your heroic tier group can arbitrarily hop past reasonably appropriate situations when you don't care to give them a way to do it.


Every DM railroads and every party gets railroaded.  The question is how talented a DM is by making a railroad feel like a sandbox.



What?  Hell no. My group would make you cry if that's how you think.  My storyteller-to-the-max DM can make a real sandbox no problem.  Quit thinking of your encounters as your precious babies and think of them as surprises like hidden treasure.  You let your party miss hidden treasure, right?  Or are you worried they'll miss it and always let them find it?
In regards to the original question, this is actually one place where the "freeform" mechanics of 4e shine.

Don't get caught up in precise mechanics.  Feel free to let your players improvise.  If your players have gone to the trouble of scouting ahead and discovering there are fire elementals in the next room, don't force them to have the exact ritual or exact consumable available.  Instead, let them be creative. 

For example, the wizard might want to cast "an elemental warding" on the party.  This is exactly the kind of undefined non-combat magic a wizard might have and makes perfect sense.  The fighter in the group might think to pull out a few waterskins and douse everyone in advance of the fight.  And all you as a DM need to do is to represent the effectiveness of the precautions is to decrease all of the fire elementals from 250 hp to 200 hp (made up numbers) and give cool descriptions during combat about how the precautions are helping.

4e encourages players and DMs to be creative.  That is why there is a "do anything" chart (the DC / average damage chart based on level).  Too often players get caught up in their exact powers and DMs get caught up in monster stats and forget about freeform actions.  But, appropriate freeform actions are meant to be effective.

Try a little creativity.  It will go far.

-SYB



Listen to Syb,  he is wise and knows much.

Which is my way of posting in a thread that someone already posted my thoughts in.

Though he failed to mention, "have the divine guy pray for protection from the minions of the primordial bastards" as an option. ;)

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
fun quotes
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If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Though he failed to mention, "have the divine guy pray for protection from the minions of the primordial bastards" as an option.

Could be dangerous. It leaves you completely wide open to attacks by minions of the primordials whose parents were married.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
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