Flattening the math of 4e

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After running a few playtests, I like the flatter math of D&D Next compared to 4e. I've been thinking about ways to flatten the math of 4e and I'm thinking about dropping the 1/2 level bonus from everything. Off the top of my head, here's what gets affected:

1- bonus to attack
2- bonus to defenses
3- bonus to skills
4- monster attacks
5- monster defenses
6- iniative check

Is there anything I'm missing?

There are certain powers and items that use "level +3" or "level +5" etc. for attacks or DC's, these could easily be modded by dropping a half-level.

Practically speaking, does anyone see any big problems with this approach? Just off the top of my head, the difference between low level and high level play will now be the number of HP and damage output.
Practically speaking, does anyone see any big problems with this approach? Just off the top of my head, the difference between low level and high level play will now be the number of HP and damage output.

No big problems, I just don't see why it's necessary or useful.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

What does it mean to "flatten the math?" What benefit is gained by doing so?

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After running a few playtests, I like the flatter math of D&D Next compared to 4e. I've been thinking about ways to flatten the math of 4e and I'm thinking about dropping the 1/2 level bonus from everything.


I have considered this as well (much prefer the flat-math approach). Think it should work fine just reducing everything by ½ level (PC bonuses: ½ individual PC level, monster bonuses: ½ monster level, DC-bonuses: ½ average party level).

What does it mean to "flatten the math?" What benefit is gained by doing so?



Numbers grow at a slower rate, but all calculation remains basically the same.The easiest way to do it is to cut out the 1/2 level bonus from the game. Some folks just find it easier to stick with lower numbers.

That being said, it would require a lot of work to rescale monsters for such a method, which grow on a per level rate as opposed to a bi-level rate like PCs do. Just seems like more work than its work. It'd be better to cut out certain math tex feats and make them universal than to cut out half level.
Numbers grow at a slower rate, but all calculation remains basically the same.The easiest way to do it is to cut out the 1/2 level bonus from the game. Some folks just find it easier to stick with lower numbers.



Thanks for the explanation. Are there any other upsides than working with lower numbers? I'm sure I've heard people talking about flattening the math before. I just never knew what it meant.

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What does it mean to "flatten the math?" What benefit is gained by doing so?



Numbers grow at a slower rate, but all calculation remains basically the same.The easiest way to do it is to cut out the 1/2 level bonus from the game. Some folks just find it easier to stick with lower numbers.

That being said, it would require a lot of work to rescale monsters for such a method, which grow on a per level rate as opposed to a bi-level rate like PCs do. Just seems like more work than its work. It'd be better to cut out certain math tex feats and make them universal than to cut out half level.

The "tax" feats aren't necessary anyway.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm a big fan of how scaling is handled in D&DN, but I think the ripple effect from adapting it to 4e will be a bit unwieldy.

@isereth: The idea is to make to-hit & AC scale much, much less so that low-level iconic monsters don't become irrelevant, or have to leveled up. Damage & HP scale, but that level 1 orc still has a reasonable chance of landing a hit on a level 8 player. At least that's my understanding.
I'm a big fan of how scaling is handled in D&DN, but I think the ripple effect from adapting it to 4e will be a bit unwieldy.

@isereth: The idea is to make to-hit & AC scale much, much less so that low-level iconic monsters don't become irrelevant, or have to leveled up. Damage & HP scale, but that level 1 orc still has a reasonable chance of landing a hit on a level 8 player. At least that's my understanding.

Mine as well, but I can't believe there was that much of a call for that. Were lots of people really having an issue with changing to a new set of foes every 5 levels or so, or with leveling up old ones to keep the "relevant"? That seems like a pretty minor complaint to me, even assuming it was real.

Lots of people definitely didn't understand about scaling skill DCs, though, so even if the designers just don't want to pick that particular fight again, I guess I'd understand the reason for this.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I'm a big fan of how scaling is handled in D&DN, but I think the ripple effect from adapting it to 4e will be a bit unwieldy.

@isereth: The idea is to make to-hit & AC scale much, much less so that low-level iconic monsters don't become irrelevant, or have to leveled up. Damage & HP scale, but that level 1 orc still has a reasonable chance of landing a hit on a level 8 player. At least that's my understanding.



Yes, this exactly. It gives the DM a wider range of monsters to choose from. RAW with expertise and improved defenses, the effective monster range is party level +2 to party level +6. Below that and monsters can't hit, above that and the fights are too grindy. Flatter math allows more use of more low level monsters relative to the party.

I think dropping the half level would greatly expand the options for DM's in 4e, but I am concerned that there might be side effects I havn't considered.
Also, from a DM point of view (as I see it at least ) the defens-values are more 'consistent' between monsters when looking at the monsters in general (ie when level is not taken into account things like e.g. a Hill Giant having a higher Reflex defense than a low-level viper will be less likely).

In addition (preferred by some, unimportant for others), since values don't change automatically by level, one get a better 'feel' of the values (as opposite to e.g.: is an AC of 15 a 'good' AC? Or 25? or what about 35? It all depends on level)
Interesting stuff. I guess I'm not much of a "Numbers Guy" so it didn't bother me, plus I reskin a lot anyway. Almost never is a monster stat block the monster it was originally intended to be. Thanks for the education. I've always wondered what that all meant. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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You are welcome - glad I could be of help
That being said, it would require a lot of work to rescale monsters for such a method, which grow on a per level rate as opposed to a bi-level rate like PCs do. Just seems like more work than its work. It'd be better to cut out certain math tex feats and make them universal than to cut out half level.


To match the removal of full-level from monsters, you'd need to remove from PCs:


  • half-level

  • enhancement bonuses (all, including inherent)

  • stat increases from level-ups (could potentially be left in if you like your PCs to get better than monsters instead of staying even)

  • "expertise" feats (potentially, all feat bonuses to attack rolls or defenses - if you like the feats as differentiation, you could remove the tier-based scaling)


Hey, I like numbers.  *shrug*

The original math of the system gave the PCs 1/2 level + Magic items and buffs countered by the monsters getting + level. 


If you drop the 1/2 level and +X items, you should drop the +level to monsters and it shouldn't mess things up too bad. If I were to go back to running a 4e game again, I'd probably do it. 

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I posted on a similar topic a while back; here's a repost of what I've done if anyone is interested (treatment of skills not included):


As it happens, I'm in the process of creating a heavily modified version of 4e and I've been working on the attack/defense scaling tonight. I'm not finding it too bad, as the relatively clean structure and exposed maths of 4e's mechanics make it easy-ish to judge the impact of changes. Any situational bonuses (the +2 for CA for example, or +1 from Bless) are built on top of the core scaling, so you can pretty much ignore them.


I'm working towards replacing the +29 total bonus from 1-30 that 4e is built on, with a +10 bonus; so it's a flattening of the scaling, not a complete removal. From a realism/simulation perspective, a 30th level fighter should have a better chance at getting past the defenses of a L1 goblin than she did at 1st level IMO. Having a flatter curve will allow me to have a L1-L5 campaign arc that features a goblin threat (for example), and still be throwing the same goblin grunts at them across those 5 levels without them getting too easy to hit/defend against.


The +10 to attack is currently composed of:
+3 from magic item bonuses (or inherent bonuses)
+1 from ability score increases (less ability score bonuses available as they level)
+6 from base attack increases


...and +10 to AC:
+3 from magic item bonuses (or inherent bonuses)
+1 from masterwork armour (just the one grade and for heavy armour only) or ability score increases
+6 from base defense increases


...and +10 to NADs:
+1 from ability score increases
+3 from scaling feats*
+6 from base defense increases


Monsters will add level/3 to their base L1 defenses and attacks.


* "Feat tax" being the lesser of two evils here when compared with the option of "magic item tax" for NADs. I actually find the feat choices for NADs somewhat interesting in 4e (do you just spend one feat for the +1/tier to all NADs, or do you go for the +2/3/4 to one NAD at a time? Do you focus on building up your stronger defenses and pick up the extra benefits of the 'superior' feats). Making sure that all of the PCs have a level-appropriate magic weapon and magic armour is fun for me as a DM and something that I've been doing since 1e. Keeping up with neck slot items in 4e has been the bit that felt like drudgery for me at least. YMMV...


As a final note, I'm 'smoothing' the bonus scaling, so that bonuses come at more even intervals than in 4e. You had some points where there could be a +4 jump in one level, with the resulting multi-level plateau at other points.


 
Another disadvantage of completely flattening the maths is that status effects become disproportionately powerful vs higher level adversaries.  It would be fairly easy for a party to lock down a much higher level monster for as long as they need to slowly whittle away at its massive hit point total.  Not my idea of fun as a DM or a player.
Another disadvantage of completely flattening the maths is that status effects become disproportionately powerful vs higher level adversaries.  It would be fairly easy for a party to lock down a much higher level monster for as long as they need to slowly whittle away at its massive hit point total.  Not my idea of fun as a DM or a player.



Can you give an example of this cause I'm not seeing it.
Another disadvantage of completely flattening the maths is that status effects become disproportionately powerful vs higher level adversaries.  It would be fairly easy for a party to lock down a much higher level monster for as long as they need to slowly whittle away at its massive hit point total.  Not my idea of fun as a DM or a player.



Can you give an example of this cause I'm not seeing it.


Since flattening the math by subtracting ½*level bonus from all attacks, defenses etc. will equal out as long as PCs and monsters are at same level (and very roughly even out if they are at roughly same level) compared to a non-flattened math I don't think it will cause any problems in this regard.

Regarding status-effects that cause a penalty (fx. based on a PC's stat-bonus, i.e. the penalty becomes much more severe at higher levels): Since the difference in attack and defenses equals out when using flat-math such a penalty shouldn't have any comparatively greater effect at flat-math than regular 4th ed. math when level difference between monster and PCs is low.

A general exception (what is referred to above, I think) is monsters that are significantly higher level than the PCs - they will of course lose the bonus of ½*level difference, so their attack bonus/defenses will be comparatively lower, but (at least regarding defenses) that is one of the points of flattening the math (allowing for a much broader level range of monsters to be used); the reduced attack-bonus may reduce the threat of the monster somewhat if it is much higher level than the PCs, compared to the thread it would otherwise pose (but usually monsters at a much higher level than the PCs isn't a real option under standard 4th ed. math anyway, since the PCs would have a very hard time hitting them, thus dragging the length of the combat even more than it is already).
Lots of people definitely didn't understand about scaling skill DCs, though, so even if the designers just don't want to pick that particular fight again, I guess I'd understand the reason for this.



I'm one of the ones who doesn't get it. Your skills all increase at a certain rate, while the DC's increase a the same rate. The two increases cancel out in terms of the probability of success. Why not just leave all the numbers alone, instead of increasing them?
Lots of people definitely didn't understand about scaling skill DCs, though, so even if the designers just don't want to pick that particular fight again, I guess I'd understand the reason for this.

I'm one of the ones who doesn't get it. Your skills all increase at a certain rate, while the DC's increase a the same rate. The two increases cancel out in terms of the probability of success. Why not just leave all the numbers alone, instead of increasing them?

Because there's an expectation that PCs will face tougher challenges over the course of many levels, and while I could see tougher challenges with the same DC ranges as lesser challenges (as long as the two weren't side by side, which tends not to happen anyway), it makes a little more sense for the numbers to get higher. Where this breaks down is when DMs describe an action at high levels as the same as at low levels, instead of trying to convey what the higher DC means. For something like leaping a chasm or some other act of strength it's fairly easy to do, but other things are admittedly more difficult to describe, and the game could have provided more guidance on that.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Another disadvantage of completely flattening the maths is that status effects become disproportionately powerful vs higher level adversaries.  It would be fairly easy for a party to lock down a much higher level monster for as long as they need to slowly whittle away at its massive hit point total.  Not my idea of fun as a DM or a player.



Can you give an example of this cause I'm not seeing it.


Since flattening the math by subtracting ½*level bonus from all attacks, defenses etc. will equal out as long as PCs and monsters are at same level (and very roughly even out if they are at roughly same level) compared to a non-flattened math I don't think it will cause any problems in this regard.


Key word here is 'completely'.  Subtracting the 1/2 level bonus is only removing just over half of the scaling.  It does increase the relative power of status effects, but I agree, it's unlikely to cause significant issues.  If you read through my post further up, you'll see that I'm removing about 2/3 of the scaling, so clearly it's something that I'm comfortable with.  I'll reply to Style75 with an example of why completely removing the scaling causes issues below.
Another disadvantage of completely flattening the maths is that status effects become disproportionately powerful vs higher level adversaries.  It would be fairly easy for a party to lock down a much higher level monster for as long as they need to slowly whittle away at its massive hit point total.  Not my idea of fun as a DM or a player.



Can you give an example of this cause I'm not seeing it.



Sure  Let's take a Level 1 encounter for 5 PCs, so that's a 500XP encounter budget.  One option is to spend it on 5 Level 1 brutes; they'd have AC13 and 32HP (assuming CON12).  A typical Level 1 character has an attack bonus of +7 and might do an average of 15hp on a hit.  So they'll hit one of the brutes on a 6+ and remove almost 1/2 of its hp on a successful hit (or almost 1/10 of the total enemy hp).  An attack that dazes on hit might prevent one brute from attacking for a round and make it grant combat advantage.

Alternatively, we could buy a single Level 10 brute with AC13 (no scaling) and 122HP (CON12 again - no scaling).  The same Level 1 character would hit this brute on a 6+ as well, but would only remove around 1/8 of its hp on a successful hit - slightly more powerful than in the example above.  If the dazing attack hits, it might prevent the brute from attacking for a round and make it grant combat advantage - that's five times as powerful as in the previous example.

In the second example, a reasonably competent party could use status effects to trivialise the encounter, and could potentially do the same to a much higher level adversary.
Good point! You raise a significant issue here. The xp values of the monsters are matching the xp amount required for the PCs to gain a new level, and since this xp amount is increasing by a still faster rate (not sure it is true exponential, but same effect as an exponential growth) higher level monsters have a lot higher xp value than low level ones, partly to reflect the difference in power/difficulty for the PCs to defeat those monsters, but also since a few levels of difference means quite a lot regarding monster power (which should then of course be reflected in their xp value), not least because of the linear increase of defenses.

The flat-math-approach removes the defense/attack-advantage of higher level monsters over lower level ones (and PCs), meaning that one of the main reasons they have a greater xp-value is removed. So the higher level monster is not 'worth' it xp-value, so to speak (while a monster at lower level than the PCs may be worth 'more' than its xp value regarding the threat it can pose in combat).

Fx: a 10th level party faces a standard encounter. If using the xp-budget approach: 2500 xp.
This could be fx five level 10 monsters (5 x 500 xp), one level 19 monster (1 x 2400 xp) or 25 (!) level 1 monsters (25 x 100 xp).

Using the standard rules the one level 19 monster doesn't look like a reasonable option for a 'standard' fun or fair fight (its defenses alone would mean that the PCs on average would be required to roll perhaps 17+ to hit it), while the same would be the case for the 25 level 1 monsters (they would need to roll very high to hit the PCs).
With flattened math the to-hit problems are removed, so monsters much higher/lower level tha the party can be used. However, their xp value no longer reflect their actual worth in combat. So monsters at higher level than the PCs should have their xp value reduced, while monster at lower level should have it increased.
The question is by how much, then. Maybe (just from the top of my head, to provide an easily implemented fix - not sure it is balanced regarding xp vs combat power (also, a 'linear' change which thus doesn't match the xp progress exactly)):

Higher level monster: subtract half the difference between the xp value of the monster and the xp value of a monster of the PCs level
Lower level monster: add half the difference between the xp value of the monster and the xp value of a monster of the PCs level

Fx:
For the level 10 party:
Level 10 monster: 500 xp
Level 1 monster: 100 xp + half difference (½*400), so 300 xp
Level 19 monster: 2400 xp - half difference (½*1900), so 1450 xp
But again: this is just an idea for a quick fix, based on ease of implementation rather than mathematical accuracy/exact balance

(Personally, I prefer to build my encounters with a lot of slack regarding 'xp budget', instead taken heavily into account the circumstances and the overall gut feel of the encounter. In that case the exact xp value would matter less.)