Houserules - Powering Down PCs

22 posts / 0 new
Last post
As a bit of background, my heart lies with 2nd edition, never played 3rd and only this year came back to the hobby and I've been DMing 4th for 6 months now.  I'm not interested in a debate about the merits of 4th edition over previous or vice-versa.  In my opinion 4E PCs are overpowered.
I'm playing the current season of Encounters and I find that I really like limiting players to using Encounter powers once a day as opposed to short rest, reload and go at it again.  While I've run plenty of sessions where I use this feature as well I'm wondering if anyone here as implemented a house rule like that over the course of a campaign.  How did it work out for the players?  What kinds of issues did it create for them?
I'm searching for a way to implement a rule like this but I'd like some feedback from anyone who is currently doing so first.
I'm searching for a way to implement a rule like this but I'd like some feedback from anyone who is currently doing so first.

In games in which players voluntarily don't use encounter powers, fights to the death take longer to complete. But, if the DM is in on it, I don't see why the standard encounters couldn't be adjusted. Fights to the death are a troublesome issue anyway.

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

I don't have a problem with Encounter powers per se. I think I would rather they were all Dailys and have a few more At-Wills instead. Short Rests make things too easy in my opinion.
It's a product of your encounter design.  

If you come over from 2E/3E, you're probably used to the 2E/3E design philosophy.  See, 2E and 3E really didn't have a firm grasp on how powerful your party was going to be.  So as a system, it encouraged chucking tons of weak encounters at the players, because they'd almost certainly win, and progress could be defined by how MANY weak encounters they could triumph over before continuing.  A weak party might only take down 3-4, a really strong party could take down a good 6-9.

In this sort of system, you must wear down the PCs.  You must chunk down their resources, so they feel threatened.  Can all of your encounters be beaten with encounter powers only?  Cool, you're not threatening the PCs.  

Here's an example climax encounter I threw at a group of level 3 PCs:

1 Necromancer (Level 3 Elite)
2 Zombie Warlords (Level 4 Leader/Controller)
2 Wolf Zombies (Level 3 Brute)
12 Minion Zombies (Level 3 Minions)
A random Spawn of 1d3+1 Minions per turn.

Overall it turned out to be 20 zombies overall, and consumed virtually every daily power the team had. I threw 2 dozen enemies at them.  Did they feel overpowered?  Hell no.  They felt like they were fighting for their lives.  And they were.


If you're not threatening the PCs, you're thinking too small.  Ramp the encounter up.  Don't have them encounter threats in ones and twos.  Have them encounter a room full of pain.  Ramp the solos up.  Pump out the damage.   

P.S.  Make sure you're using Monster Vault or MM3 instead of MM1.  MM1 was big on slow grindy encounters that no one liked.  MV/MM3 has some truly scary damage numbers.  People can be chunked down in 2-3 hits, and a lot of big monsters can do that to 2-3 people at a time. 
Oh I've down this sort of thing plenty of times. Pulled out all the tricks and it does "ramp up" the tension meter. Waves of foes, time-limit session where there is no chance to rest, chipping away at the party for the course of a session, all these kind of approaches. I'm looking more for Houserules that might tone down the power of the party and how they work for your campaign.
I think it comes down to the short rests and how they basically reset everything except for surges and dailys.
Coming from the 2E mindset where casters had to conserve their spells for the day really in my mind made the characters mortal.
Now, I like 4Es approach of having at-wills, especially for casters but playing in this season's Encounters feels more like the D&D I used to know and I prefer it. It's a matter of taste of course and I'm hoping someone out there can relate to that and has some advice/experience to share about how they have "tweaked" the system.
Wolvercote, if you're running Encounters, at a public location as it's meant to be run, PLEASE don't do this. Encounters is meant to introduce players to 4E, and what you are describing is absolutely not 4E. In this situation, you're not really running you're own game, you're acting as an ambassador to 4E as it is intended.

If you're running Encounters as a home game group...meh, go for it, I guess. I've never tried anything like it and I suspect anyone I play with would revolt at the idea, but we're mostly people who prefer 4E to older systems, and I'll respect your difference in tastes where that is concerned.

Really, though, if you prefer 2E, and your table prefers 2E....why aren't you playing 2E?
I'm not running Encounters. I'm playing it.

I am playing 4E because my group is familiar with it. I'm not interested in defending my tastes. I'm wondering if anyone else has the same feelings as I do and has tried to houserule 4E. If this is not you, please move along. I'm not looking for a debate, I'm looking for advice or examples.
Thanks.
Cool - enjoy your game!

Just curious, did you also try cross-posting this in the House-rule forum? I'm in no way trying to kick you out of here....just thinking there may be folks over there with a perspective that don't make there way into this group.
No. Good suggestion.
Oh I've down this sort of thing plenty of times. Pulled out all the tricks and it does "ramp up" the tension meter. Waves of foes, time-limit session where there is no chance to rest, chipping away at the party for the course of a session, all these kind of approaches. I'm looking more for Houserules that might tone down the power of the party and how they work for your campaign.



The Wound system might be what you're looking for.  Basically, whenever people go down, they take a "wound" that hampers them in some way.  The presented one in Dungeon magazine had wounds being Mild/Severe and a bunch in different locations, with the possibility of downgrading a wound with an endurance check after every fight.  That might give you the feeling of degrading power from encounters that you're looking for.

Other than that, I'd strongly discourage anything that reduces player access to abilities.  4E is built around most characters having less abilities than 2E Spellcasters, but having them on an encounter basis.  At a minimum I'd give the players 3 encounter powers for each level they should gain a single encounter power as a house rule if you want to make encounters dailies (that sounds like a lot, but with 5 encounters/day base, you actually have LESS power that way).  

Unfortunately that would create HUGE nova potential if players can manage your encounters without spending encounter powers, meaning that it would really strain your abilities as a DM - you'd have to spend a lot of time planning every fight, and if a fight is too easy then you might have made every fight for the rest of the adventuring day "too easy" as a consequence.   
As a bit of background, my heart lies with 2nd edition, never played 3rd and only this year came back to the hobby and I've been DMing 4th for 6 months now.  I'm not interested in a debate about the merits of 4th edition over previous or vice-versa.  In my opinion 4E PCs are overpowered.
I'm playing the current season of Encounters and I find that I really like limiting players to using Encounter powers once a day as opposed to short rest, reload and go at it again.  While I've run plenty of sessions where I use this feature as well I'm wondering if anyone here as implemented a house rule like that over the course of a campaign.  How did it work out for the players?  What kinds of issues did it create for them?
I'm searching for a way to implement a rule like this but I'd like some feedback from anyone who is currently doing so first.

We did a thing in our conan game where a person had to roll randomly what their class would be for the first 2 levels (non spellcasting only).

If you've got a player who flips out when his Cheerio's aren't floating correctly, this doesn't work all that well, but if you play with people who you can get to agree with you, you could even say something like, "next level, you're taking a random class..just for a change."  Some people will be more powerful.  Some people will be less powerful.  They just have to get over that fact and roll with the flow.  make them work it into their character background or something.

Anyways, this can power them down.

Gamer Chiropractor - Hafner Chiropractic 305 S. Kipling st,Suite C-2, Lakewood, Co 80226 hafnerchiropractic.com

The first rule of houseruling is to never change a rule you don't understand. You clearly don't comprehend the encounter paradigm for 4e yet --as demonstrated by the fact that you're complaining it's not like a system it isn't-- so you should not be changing it yet.
Since you clearly have no examples to share, I can only say, thanks so very much for your contribution.

Nov 16, 2012 -- 11:01AM, Wolvercote wrote:

Oh I've down this sort of thing plenty of times. Pulled out all the tricks and it does "ramp up" the tension meter. Waves of foes, time-limit session where there is no chance to rest, chipping away at the party for the course of a session, all these kind of approaches. I'm looking more for Houserules that might tone down the power of the party and how they work for your campaign.




The Wound system might be what you're looking for.  Basically, whenever people go down, they take a "wound" that hampers them in some way.  The presented one in Dungeon magazine had wounds being Mild/Severe and a bunch in different locations, with the possibility of downgrading a wound with an endurance check after every fight.  That might give you the feeling of degrading power from encounters that you're looking for.

Other than that, I'd strongly discourage anything that reduces player access to abilities.  4E is built around most characters having less abilities than 2E Spellcasters, but having them on an encounter basis.  At a minimum I'd give the players 3 encounter powers for each level they should gain a single encounter power as a house rule if you want to make encounters dailies (that sounds like a lot, but with 5 encounters/day base, you actually have LESS power that way).  

Unfortunately that would create HUGE nova potential if players can manage your encounters without spending encounter powers, meaning that it would really strain your abilities as a DM - you'd have to spend a lot of time planning every fight, and if a fight is too easy then you might have made every fight for the rest of the adventuring day "too easy" as a consequence.   


I am very much curious about which Dungeon this is in, or if you know, specific article.

As for contributing to the thread, I will say coming from 3E/3.5 I very much preferred how the characters can go through so much more without accidentilly TPKing. It seemed in 3.5 it was hard to judge when you could or couldn't press on in a dungeon for example, and because of that uncertainty, I've been a member of 4 TPKs in 3.5, and in 3.5 I've DMed 5 TPKs. In 4E, I've only ran 2 TPKs, and haven't been a part of one thus far. I have felt at times though that the PCs are too strong, but I mostly forget about it, they're still feeling challenged enough and are enjoying the story, and I'd rather them be too strong and see my campaign I've put work into, rather than them be too weak and accidentilly TPK and all my DM planning that I've spent time on goes to waste. (Not that ideas can't be rehashed into something for future adventures mind you).
Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun! Dark Sun!
I'm not running Encounters. I'm playing it. I am playing 4E because my group is familiar with it. I'm not interested in defending my tastes. I'm wondering if anyone else has the same feelings as I do and has tried to houserule 4E. If this is not you, please move along. I'm not looking for a debate, I'm looking for advice or examples. Thanks.

It should also be noted the Encounters is designed for new players. It is usually on the easy side on purpose. It also has a much higher leveling rate. For example older seasons assume an extended rest after 3 or 4 encounters, but if you go for the resource drain approach in 4e, you need at least 5 or 6.

Anyway, 4e is indeed a bit easier than previous editions. Changing the encounter mechanic though is probably not the way to go. It would be easier to simply raise the hit points of the monsters, but it would also have the same effect on combat resolution. One of the most often heard complaints is how 4e combats can become a drag were PCs are wittling away hit points with at-wills and no dynamic or surprise to it for several rounds. When looking a quick fix to this problem, people advice to actually lower the hit points of the monsters and increase their damage output. Your proposed sollution would have the opposite effect since it will take more time for the PCs to kill the monsters since their damage output is reduced.

Of course, the real effect is on healing. The various healing words and second wind are encounter powers as well. In this regards it will definitely make the fights lethal, perhaps a bit too lethal. The exact effects are difficult to predict, but it will certainly cause your group to rest more often.

In the end, the existence of encounter powers is also not really what makes 4e less lethal. The biggest effects on lethality came from the much larger buffer below 0, the lack of save-or-die effects, lack of massive damage output by monsters, the lessened effect of coup-de-grace, the increase in hit points (especially at lower levels), more equalized access to healing, and the more equalized defenses of the PCs. Changing encounter powers into daily will have little direct impact on lethality (beyond the healing effect mention above), but it will make the fights more boring. Remember, in 2e and 3e the easy fights only took 15 minutes at the most. In 4e even an easy fight takes at least 30 to 60 minutes and removing encounter powers is just going to prolong this.
Yeah fights with PCs just using at-wills the whole fight are boring.  Instead of worrying about powering down PCs power up your encounters.  Level+5 encounters are generally lethal enough.  I'm not saying every fight, but when you want to really challenge the PCs.
It's not my style but I've tried a the following:

When a combat encounter is about to occur, let the PC's know (hopefully through story context), that this battle will be an extended one.   Have waves of enemies assault the party, but give them min-rests in between.   During each mini-rest, they can heal 1 surge and regain one encounter power only.   This puts encounter powers half-way between their normal usage and dailies.    Also, the ability to only heal up one quarter health each time keeps the PC's on their toes.   When using this, it's helpful if the first and last waves are the largest.
I like that idea. I try to have encounters lead one into another in order to avoid the whole short rest reloading thing. This at least would let them heal...and regaining one encounter power gives them something back as they chug along to the next room or chase down some fleeing baddie.
Ok so yes you are running a private campaign and not a sponsered Encounters mod?

Then the rules are written on paper not on stone. You asked for examples so here you go...

First a bit of back ground
This year instead of the normal power playing number crunching rule phreaks I run a great group of bar lounge type players that honestly dont give a crap beyond the fun of the game. I railroad them in story line every week into a new situation and they deal with whatever I give them. The problem with that trying to keep such a group organized with how many HP they have, surges, used and unused powers, how long since last rest and such from week to week was like herding cats.

So I dvised a way to scrap all that and still keep to the CB sheets

I changed all instances of of the word "Healing Surge" to the words "Heroic Surge" Then I charge every player a cost of surges based upon the power they used.
At-will = free
Daily = 3 surges
Encounter = 2 Surges
Class spec power = 1 Surge (healing word, power strike, etc)
That includes use of items
Each power is still only once a night unless otherwise stated by the power

At the start of each game everyone starts with a full health and surges so nothing to keep track of during the week.
This makes the players think about what coolness they want to pay for and how much to leave for heals.
It works out very well, much better then I expected. A few speed bumbs on wordings now and then but
the past 10 levels have been pretty smooth. (first 6 levels was done the book way)
There is a power shift as players have more access to the same dailys fight after fight but I see it as adjustable by being able to bring more interesting mobs to the table and stepping up the action and very rarely does any player ever have enough surges to use ALL the dailys and encounters as they have learned the hard way that leaves no access to heals.

I even offer a small bonus to XP to any that have expended every surge in a night (means they were playing the game and not just "auto magic missile" all night)

For your intent and purpous to help curve the game more to at-will you would just adjust the cost of every power by one surge. I have done that during encounters of high stress (global enviroment effect) and It really does make the players work the nitty-gritty out of the at-wills.

I can provide more detail if needed but that should be enough to get the idea of what I do.

OR...

I run another one but only 4 sessions in, I took the jist of what characters the players wanted to play then used the monster maker to create PCs that each have varyious ways of regaining powers just like a monster (recharge by dice or actions) and that is working out well but for the player that has a bad run of dice gets even more screwed. Still playing with that one but it looks like a good work for one offs.

Now that's what I'm talking about! Quite intriguing and yes, this is for a campaign I'm running, not Encounters. I brought up Encounters only because this season does not allow the PCs to take Short Rests and I like that limitation quite a bit.
I'm going to think this through a bit of course because half of my table are big-time optimizers and this would rock their world.
Now that's what I'm talking about! Quite intriguing and yes, this is for a campaign I'm running, not Encounters. I brought up Encounters only because this season does not allow the PCs to take Short Rests and I like that limitation quite a bit. I'm going to think this through a bit of course because half of my table are big-time optimizers and this would rock their world.


If your table is a group of "big time optimizers" rather than rocking their world you might just piss them off.  A lot of the success of 4e is that players like feeling heroic, powerful and like feeling like that out of the box (wizards lookin at you) as well as 4 years into the game (ahemm, fighters).

Its your game, do what you like, but you might want to make sure your players are on board with this.  You seem to want to tamp them down, but if they don't want to try the new system you made (and yes, with those radical changes it is a new system and no longer 4e) it may just be a giant headache to get them to do what you want to try.

In my opinion one of the biggest jobs of a DM is tailoring their game to the players.  You want to make the players have fun, be challenged and go outside of their box a little in a way that is also challenging and interesting for you.  Going outside of their box a little might be awkward RP characters they have to interact with, or new changes on the rules (including what you are thinking of using) but the goal is make it within reasonable bounds of the what they feel (and you) feel comfortable with.

It's like inviting people over to your house for dinner.  If you have a group of people coming over and they ask what you are making and you say "Mexican".  Your friends are going to expect a certain range of things.  If when they get there they find that you are putting the finishing touches on your falafel they are well within their rights to say "wtf?  Why are we having Falafel?"  Some of your friends might love it, some may sit there politely and endure it, some may say  "**** this" and leave.  All of those things are reasonable responses because you promised one thing and delivered another.

TLDR: Make sure your players are on board with what you are doing (or you can reasonably assume they will be from prior knowledge) before you invite them to a game that is drastically different from 4e.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
Show
Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
another possibility is that the table devolves into an arms race between the DM and certain or all players.  This is not fun in most cases..
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)