Extra Actions, the game destroyer

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After reading the dragon battle article, I was rather disheartened that WotC granted the dragon an ability that granted it an extra standard action.



What are they thinking?

Every time they put it in there, from the old school 3.0 haste to the relatively new White Raven tactics or the MIC belt of battle, it's been crazy broken.

Its a flawed mechanical concept. It doesn't work. It never can work...

I am shocked the designers have not even learned at all from their mistakes.

Every mechanic relating to round structure manipulation or extra actions needs to be thrown into a black hole and never brought up again. Ever.
Judge not the entire game by that one example. It was meant to show us (approximately) the most complex round of combat possible in the game. Yes, the dragon did a lot of stuff in that one round, but it's been stated elsewhere that that isn't a typical round and that the dragon couldn't pull all of those tricks every round.

So buck up. Or don't. Either way.
And, it's a dragon. PCs won't get that ability. And it's impossible for a monster to be inherently broken for all possible party levels. If the extra action once or a few times per encounter makes it too strong, they'll increase its level or drop its strength in other areas.

"Edison didn't succeed the first time he invented Benjamin Franklin, either." Albert the Alligator, Walt Kelly's Pogo Sunday Book  
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After reading the dragon battle article, I was rather disheartened that WotC granted the dragon an ability that granted it an extra standard action.



What are they thinking?

Every time they put it in there, from the old school 3.0 haste to the relatively new White Raven tactics or the MIC belt of battle, it's been crazy broken.

Its a flawed mechanical concept. It doesn't work. It never can work...

I am shocked the designers have not even learned at all from their mistakes.

Every mechanic relating to round structure manipulation or extra actions needs to be thrown into a black hole and never brought up again. Ever.

None of those examples are gamebreaking. You forgot the ones that are: celerity, arcane spellsurge, one other sorc-only spell.

In any case, extra actions are not the problem. The ability to nest extra actions is. Extra actions should be capped somehow. Using, for example, something similar to the 3.XE "bonus type" mechanic, you could say that celerity grants you an extra standard action, which counts as an enhancement bonus action. Does not stack. Be careful categorizing all things that give extra actions, and voila, you've capped it. And that's just building off something in 3.5. In 4E, you could invent a new way of looking at it that serves the same purpose.
For monsters, it's not an issue. The monster will be balanced to make it work.

For PCs, it can be a problem. Extra actions are okay as long as they come up a predictable amount of the time and the frequency of them is factored into how we design and structure the game. Having a few scattered spells and magic items that give extra actions is a problem, but having a mechanic that gives extra actions built into the system can be accounted for.
Logan Bonner, freelance game designer Blog: http://loganbonner.blogspot.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/loganbonner
After reading the dragon battle article, I was rather disheartened that WotC granted the dragon an ability that granted it an extra standard action.



What are they thinking?

They where thinking that currently party vs one monster fights tend to be dull and predictable. The monster nails one character, the cleric heals that character, everybody else hits the dragon.

Taking their Combat Roles theory into account, you can see how the dragon is a defender, striker and controller at once. Combined with extra actions and the dragon can serve as an entire party on it's own. As to how well it will actually work, we shall see.

You are right though that multiple actions needs to be balanced better for PCs. I'm hoping they make acceleration a type itself that doesn't stack, so you can never take advantage of multiple powers that grant multiple actions. I would also avoid any powers or abilities that grant extra actions easily, Haste should never be an at will or per encounter ability.

Jay
They where thinking that currently party vs one monster fights tend to be dull and predictable. The monster nails one character, the cleric heals that character, everybody else hits the dragon.

I agree with this point of view. There is actually a lot of risk to the party if big monsters are sufficiently threatening during their (average) three rounds of life. In order to potentially harm a fighter with a cleric keeping him up, they also have the ability to kill outright with a crit or when targeting the rogue or wizard.

In fact, a 3.5 dragon should strategically be focusing on killing the weakest members one-by-one. That's what player-run parties generally do: focus attacks to take out opponents one-by-one. But running the 3.5 dragon this way is not much fun for the players. Having triggered actions in 4e and spreading more moderate attacks throughout the party both spreads the risk in the encounter, and might work well to keep everyone involved.

Iterative attacks, on the other hand, should go the way of THAC0, in my opinion. That's not really much different than taking extra actions, from some design points of view. Your just limited to taking the extra actions on those that are within reach.
For monsters, it's not an issue. The monster will be balanced to make it work.

Well there's more problems to extra actions than just balance.

First, there's the concept of resolution time. Lets face it, people get bored waiting for their turn, and especially using Saga Style "attacker rolls all the dice" system, it's pretty dull when you're not doing much, so turns should go by fast.

Extra actions really slow things down.

While it may seem okay to have one dragon with extra actions, what happens when the PCs can take on 2 or 3 in a battle?

Looking at that dragon battle, it seemed like the dragon's turn takes forever to resolve.

The point is that anything you can do with extra actions can be done through some other mechanic. If the dragon isnt' doing enough damage, then just give it a bigger damage bonus, don't give it more attacks or actions. Fewer but more meaningful actions mean that the game runs faster and that's a good thing.

I've always felt that the swift + move + standard structure was robust enough to handle enough situations where it doesn't need to be tinkered with. Any more actions and you're just making the game take too long to resolve.
Don't forget that this extra standard action is probably only available to ancient dragons. It wouldn't surprise me if they simply dragons and separate them into fewer age categories: wyrmling, young, adult, and ancient.

Who knows, perhaps Dragons will be dynamic and have HD then have a template for their age category.

So if the higher templates were to have more actions a round it could imply that younger dragons might consider cooperating, but older (more powerful) ones won't. Therefore a group of younger dragons have a similar amount of actions as a smaller number of older dragons or an individual ancient dragon.

For example: clutch of wyrmlings is reasonable (so maybe 3-7), a cadre of young (3), a pair of adult (2, maybe a mated pair), or an individual ancient.
Extra action is only broken if you can do what you want with that action. That was the problem with Haste 3.0: The extra action was "partial", but that was enough to cast another spell.

If you put limits on what you can do with that extra action (move, attack etc.) it's possible to balance extra actions.

It's way easier to balance than stuff like Wish spells, planar travel and Ressurection.
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