Environment Encounters

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
It seems like WotC is trying to make D&D a more well-rounded game in general, giving social encounters as much merit as combat encounters. I have a hunch they want to expand on puzzles, traps and other environmental challenges, too.

In case that's true, I have a few criteria I'd want them to meet, for environment encounters to work for me:

- Puzzles should make sense for their location and purpose. A sudoku puzzle should really only open a sudoku fiend's pencil box. I guess that's more a matter for specific adventures, but a small advice section and a few examples in the DMG may prove helpful.

- Like with combat encounters, an environment encounter shouldn't be the purview of one PC. The encounter traps in Dungeonscape have exactly the right idea, providing room and impetus for all PCs to contribute.

- In a similar vein, don't leave traps to the same sad roll-once-and-it's-over fate they have in 3.5. A single roll is not very exciting or challenging for a player, and even less fun for everyone else at the table.

- I'd also like to see rules for how the PCs can alter the terrain, like create cave-ins, start forest fires, divert rivers, etc. Terrain alteration could add new tactical options to combat encounters -- ones often seen in movies, novels and folklore. Currently, those rules are on the clunky to non-existent side. It should be easy to answer the question: how much damage does it take to create a cave-in, and how much damage should the cave-in do to whom? PCs may be more likely to use these options if they don't have to wait for the DM to look up fifty million tables and end up guessing anyway. On the other hand, if it's easy for the DM to adjudicate, it could be the monsters creating cave-ins over the PCs, and wouldn't that be just awful? ;)

----

Okay, that's all I've got right now. Any other ideas?
Okay, that's all I've got right now. Any other ideas?

I'm guessing the environment encounters stuff is at least partially inspired by Mike Mearls' Iron Heroes, which includes the concept of "zones" in an encounter. Since Mr. Mearls is one of the 4E bigwigs and some other IH-style stuff seems to have crept into the 4E previews, I wouldn't be shocked to see IH's zones make it in, either.

IH has three types of zones which can interact during an encounter; condition zones are effects that apply throughout the encounter, such as a battle in a howling blizzard, chase through a burning building, that kind of thing. Event zones are things that happen when some condition is met, such as lightning firing from a magical statue. Action zones are stunts waiting to happen, such as a chandelier for characters to swing from, a howdah strapped to a dinosaur's back that can be cut off, that kind of thing. In all cases, they're defined somewhat like traps, with DCs to avoid nasty effects or create good effects, damage values depending on the outcome of the checks, etc.; the major game mechanics difference is you also define the skill and/or ability check required to avoid (or trigger) the zone's effect. It's a pretty slick system once you get the hang of it.
Hey, this sounds like just what I was talking about. Woot!

We've got some nifty new rules for hazards/traps/obstacles/whatever-you-wanna-call-'em. As an adventure designer, I love them--but we'll see (and actually some of you will tell me) how they work at the table. After a few hours playing with the new tools, I'll tell you this: the hardest part of creating a cool hazard/trap/obstacle is the creative gruntwork. Conceiving it is harder than implementing it. That's probably how it should be.

The other thing I like about it is that it rewards teamwork--just as combat does and just as the social stuff I talked about last week does. ...

In another thread, I mentioned that you could make a "monster" stat block for a trap.
Dungeon Design in 4E (With Homework Assignment)

Here, I do the same for an environment. Some of the notations are not fully defined, and I take the liberty of using speculative 4e ideas. But, you can get the idea:

Sleet Storm
Gargantuan Environment
Init +0; Senses none
--------------------------------------------
hp 100 (10 HD)
For +15, Ref +10, Will immune
Immune: Physical attack, all spells except those with the [fire] descriptor
Weakness: spells with [fire] descriptor; dissipation each round the sleet storm looses 5 hp until it is destroyed and disappears entirely
--------------------------------------------
Speed none
Melee hailstones +15 (1d8+5 plus 2d6 cold)
Space 60 ft.Reach 0 ft.
Base Atk +10; Grp none
Atk Options Engulf, Trip Attack (+10)
--------------------------------------------
Abilities Str 20, Dex 20, Con 20, Int --, Wis -- Cha --
Feats Improved Trip
--------------------------------------------
Environment traits:
Weather: Environments are pervasive and have physical ability scores but they do not have a distinct form, and as such are immune to (all the things that oozes are immune to and then some).
Incorporeal: An environment is treated as an incorporeal being except that it is totally immune to physical attacks. It may occupy squares that are occupied by other creatures.
Engulf: On the Sleet Storm's turn, it may make a single melee attack against any creature that it shares a square with.
Trip Attack: A sleet storm may make an immediate trip attack against any creature that it damages with its hailstones.
- I'd also like to see rules for how the PCs can alter the terrain, like create cave-ins, start forest fires, divert rivers, etc. Terrain alteration could add new tactical options to combat encounters -- ones often seen in movies, novels and folklore. Currently, those rules are on the clunky to non-existent side. It should be easy to answer the question: how much damage does it take to create a cave-in, and how much damage should the cave-in do to whom?

I hope my previous post covers this design space. Potentially, there could be rules for summon environment, using skills like Craft (trapmaking) to create environments, and the Survival skill to lessen the effects of environments.
That's a cool thought.

Creation of such a "monster" may be a little cumbersome on the fly, but I could see just using a few for reference and swapping damage/weakness types. For example, that sleet storm could become a volcano spewing molten rock pretty easily. I figure these weather phenomenon should be immune to mind-affecting, or you'll get bards dominating them and sending them to the enemy camps. On second thought, that would be awesome for an epic game...
See the spell effect "monster" i built here:

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=922535
I made a similar post in the adventures section. Environmental hazards and events should be just as nasty as some monsters. A massive Blizzard or Tsunami or Thunderstorm should be as destructive and dangerous as a mighty dragon!
Sign In to post comments