A Thought On Encounter Powers

71 posts / 0 new
Last post
I get up front with my opinion. I don't like Encounter Powers. They seem like an opportunity to add a lot to the game that was missed. Here's why.

1) Encounter powers are more or less better that at will powers, so you are going to use them every encounter regardless of the special effects they have since you can use them every encounter.

2) Since you use your encounter powers every encounter, you need to select them with the mindset that you will use them every encounter. This means that encounter powers that have high situational value need to be passed over for consistently useful ones if you are looking to make a "good" character. Which is a shamed because situational powers are often fun and would help create new strategic paths and more tactical options.

3) Because you are generally going to use every encounter power you have during every encounter your in anyway, the only tactical decision making to speak of when deciding to use your encounter values is if you will be able to set up a situation to milk the power in particular with the specifics of the encounter. You can't "do something different".

4) Daily powers may help break the repetitiveness of you power usage, but since they are more powerful they often "need" to be saved for "important" encounters rather then used when their situational value is high or during a long, but easy fight to add some variety.

My Solution?

Have a pool of encounter powers. Every time you select an encounter power, select two instead. When use you an encounter power, you choose between them. This would help solve the problem I have with the side effect of making PCs more powerful. So, you can raise encounter budgets if things get easy.

Your thoughts? Would you use this option if presented? Does it have some major problems that destroy the game?
Heavy Rocks
??

You've successfully summed up the point of encounter powers. This is exactly how they're intended to operate. You're not supposed to be picking powers you won't get a lot of use out of - that's what utility powers are, in part, for. I'm willing to entertain an argument that utility powers don't fulfill their purpose, but that's their problem, it's not an issue with encounters.

If you want a game with more "thinking outside the box", then as DM be more generous with enabling non-power actions by your players. You'll sacrifice some combat balance to gain some creativity and action, which is exactly what you seem to want.

Not sure I see your problem.
??

You've successfully summed up the point of encounter powers. This is exactly how they're intended to operate. You're not supposed to be picking powers you won't get a lot of use out of - that's what utility powers are, in part, for. I'm willing to entertain an argument that utility powers don't fulfill their purpose, but that's their problem, it's not an issue with encounters.

If you want a game with more "thinking outside the box", then as DM be more generous with enabling non-power actions by your players. You'll sacrifice some combat balance to gain some creativity and action, which is exactly what you seem to want.

Not sure I see your problem.

As you can clearly see, I understand the game and the nature of encounter powers. My problem is, the game isn't fulfilling my tactical sensibilities. Daily Powers are too limited in number and too focused "powerful" to be used situationally. Rather then inventing a new power type, I think changing the "point" of encounter powers will make the game more fun.

Handling it with "non-power actions" misses the point of this. The tactical decision making should be in the players hands, not subject to negotiation with the DM. It isn't about improv, its about improving actual gameplay.

Actually, many months ago I had a big discussion about improvised stunts using the environment because I thought page 42 was too limited for the same reason (puts decision in DM's hands, doesn't give the player a concrete sense about things).
Heavy Rocks
As you can clearly see, I understand the game and the nature of encounter powers. My problem is, the game isn't fulfilling my tactical sensibilities. Daily Powers are too limited in number and too focused "powerful" to be used situationally. Rather then inventing a new power type, I think changing the "point" of encounter powers will make the game more fun.

Handling it with "non-power actions" misses the point of this. The tactical decision making should be in the players hands, not subject to negotiation with the DM. It isn't about improv, its about improving actual gameplay.

Actually, many months ago I had a big discussion about improvised stunts using the environment because I thought page 42 was too limited for the same reason (puts decision in DM's hands, doesn't give the player a concrete sense about things).

I still don't get your problem. If you enjoy the rules-bound tactical gameplay then what's your issue? Players will pick encounter powers, monsters will act to avoid players getting optimum use from them, players will have to both pick powers that they'll get use out of and make tactical decisions to allow them to be used effectively.

Possibly you can give an example of exactly what isn't working for you?

I mean, look, I play a melee cleric in one game I'm in, around level 5. So just looking at his encounter powers, he's got only a couple of choices, and six rounds of combat, so he needs to choose when he's going to use those encounters (which rounds). He needs to choose who he's going to attack with them - Healing Strike, for instance, does some damage, so you'd want to hit the big guy, but if you miss you don't get the heal effect, so there's a trade-off between "easy to hit" and "guy I actually want to damage". And through all this he's got Righteous Brand, which is one of the biggest potential to-hit buffs in the early game, so your allies want you buffing up the strikers as often as possible. And all the time you're thinking, "Do I need to use my dailies or can we survive without them?" - because a lot of cleric dailies (Bless, Weapon of the Gods) are really only at maximum effectiveness if you use them early rather than late. And during all this I'm trying to get cover, trying to give flanking while avoiding flanking, staying in heal range of my buddies - there's a huge amount going on, tactically.

And then it gets even moreso at paragon tier. There's a lot more powers going on and monsters get more complex. I don't know if you've tried paragon tier - if not, give it a go, see how it feels.

Really, I can't see how it's not tactically interesting enough for you, in a way that messing with encounter powers is going to fix.
Really, I can't see how it's not tactically interesting enough for you, in a way that messing with encounter powers is going to fix.

Maybe its not, but at the very least I'll get to use more my PHB!

Seriously, I do find D&D pretty tactically light. The decisions are usually completely obvious or the difference between them so minuscule its irrelevant. Anything to add a little tactical spice or diversity would be good. When tactical gameplay was stated to be a design goal in 4e I was pumped, but then sad when it didn't show up.
Heavy Rocks
I'm not sure I understand your solution, could you explain it better?

However, I will say that I don't think there's a point to altering the way encounter powers work. Yes, everyone is going to pick the least situational power but I don't see a reasonable way to fix that. Personally, I think that doing some like giving players access to more at-will powers, like gaining an additional at-will every 5 or 10 levels to help cover "situational" situations would work. Players would still use the same 1 or 2 at-wills 90% of the time anyway. I think WotC would have to redo a good number of at-will powers to make it interesting though but frankly some classes are in desperate need of having their at-will's scraped and redesigned anyway.
Ongorth's point is well taken and his solution is sound - if his premise holds.

His premise:
a) some Encounter powers are only useful in very specific situations and thus may not get used in every encounter.
b) Since encounter powers are better than At-Wills, a good character should choose Encounter powers that will get used every encounter.
c) Therefore, situational Encounter powers are often not chosen, therefore not used at all.

His solution:
a) For each level at which you would choose an Encounter power, chose two.
b) each encounter you can only choose one of those two powers to use.

It works - I do not know that it would change the balance of power all that much.

But that is only the case if Encounter powers are not weighted to account for their situational usefulness. If they are, then you will change the power level of characters as they will have still have the always useful (but weaker) Encounter powers AND the stronger (but situational) powers when the situation calls for it.

I have no desire to do an exhaustive evaluation of the Encounter powers to see if this is the case or not.
Ongorth's point is well taken and his solution is sound - if his premise holds.

His premise:
a) some Encounter powers are only useful in very specific situations and thus may not get used in every encounter.
b) Since encounter powers are better than At-Wills, a good character should choose Encounter powers that will get used every encounter.
c) Therefore, situational Encounter powers are often not chosen, therefore not used at all.

His solution:
a) For each level at which you would choose an Encounter power, chose two.
b) each encounter you can only choose one of those two powers to use.

It works - I do not know that it would change the balance of power all that much.

But that is only the case if Encounter powers are not weighted to account for their situational usefulness. If they are, then you will change the power level of characters as they will have still have the always useful (but weaker) Encounter powers AND the stronger (but situational) powers when the situation calls for it.

I have no desire to do an exhaustive evaluation of the Encounter powers to see if this is the case or not.

Well, unless either

a) every encounter power is equally useful in all situations.

or

b) one encounter power at each level is more powerful then all other choices in all situations.

the characters will be more powerful. I'm pretty sure neither of these things is true (and this entire aspect of the game would be tactically and strategically devoid if it were), so, yes, the character will be more powerful, though the amount they are is up for debate. To me, that's not a big issue. Encounters aren't balanced on some extremely precise scale, so if the characters are marginally more powerful, no big deal and if they are more then marginally more powerful, raise the encounter budget accordingly, no big deal.
Heavy Rocks
Personally, I think encounter powers are awesome. I have a bit of beef with daily powers though. It seems to encourage 10 minute workday, in my opinion. I would actually prefer it if they toned down dailies juuust a little bit, but made them "per milestone" instead.
I think one of the bigger issues is the milestone idea. Frankly, the action point itself is a bit poor. Destiny points seems a better way to go (1/level unless you fulfill some major aspect of your destiny) and perhaps an action point day (none extra for milestones).

I would also say that encounter powers seem fair enough, as do utilities. Which also may be a part to the problem: over balanced classes. The Dailies should be big and flashy if you can only do it once a day.
One thing I have discovered is that some players with highly tactical minds can set up a situation where their encounter powers are most useful with a fair amount of reliability. Watching a warlock player wipe out half the enemies on the board in a few turns taught me that I was thinking about at-will powers wrong. Instead of picking what looked like the best at-wills, I should have been thinking about which at-wills will allow me to set up the board to get the most from my encounter powers.

I think this is somewhat intended. You can choose the most generic at-wills and encounter powers in a vacuum and you will end up in the situation that the OP described. That's fine if you want to play a character whose schtick is brute force. But you can also choose at-wills based on how they interact with your encounter powers, and in my experience you will end up with a much more effective character, although you will have to think two or three turns ahead in order to use them well.
I can see the problem here. Sometimes combat doesn't lend itself well to using an encounter power. I've had plenty of fights where the encounter powers I had didn't come into play and were, in a sense, wasted. Though I'm not sure that allowing the player choose one of two encounter powers duringa combat will really fix the problem. You still run the risk of both encounter powers being useless for the situation the player is in. Granted, it's less likely, but it will still happen. Besides, there is a feat that allows players to switch encounter powers during a short rest. There is also retraining. No encounter power is going to be usefull all the time. Having a choice of two won't help that problem that much.

Though I guess it would help if you could give us an example where you encountered this problem. Then we could have a better idea of what's going on and how to help out. I don't think that allowing a player to choose one of two encounter powers is all that big a deal, but it may not fix your problem either. So a little more information could be helpful here. Part of using an encounter power is working the combat to make that encounter power work for you. Part of being a player is testing out the encounter powers and seeing which ones work best for you. I've played and DMed 4e. What I've found helps me choose useful encounter powers, as a player, is coming up with a concept or "gimmic" that my character has that guide me during power selection. Things like making a charger or building a character designed to break enemy lines. If the player has a more solid idea of what they want their character to do, power choice turns out a little better. Those encounter powers see more use because the player has an objective in mind to work towards instead of waiting for the situation to come up.
I think this is somewhat intended. You can choose the most generic at-wills and encounter powers in a vacuum and you will end up in the situation that the OP described. That's fine if you want to play a character whose schtick is brute force.

And somebody who sees nothing but the brute force option would, naturally, see the game as simplistic.

Cue Ongorth's usual fallacious arguments!
Personally, I think encounter powers are awesome. I have a bit of beef with daily powers though. It seems to encourage 10 minute workday, in my opinion. I would actually prefer it if they toned down dailies juuust a little bit, but made them "per milestone" instead.

Perhaps making dalies recharge after 3 or so milestones. It encourages players to keep going even after they've regained their action point(s).
One thing I have discovered is that some players with highly tactical minds can set up a situation where their encounter powers are most useful with a fair amount of reliability. Watching a warlock player wipe out half the enemies on the board in a few turns taught me that I was thinking about at-will powers wrong. Instead of picking what looked like the best at-wills, I should have been thinking about which at-wills will allow me to set up the board to get the most from my encounter powers.

I think this is somewhat intended. You can choose the most generic at-wills and encounter powers in a vacuum and you will end up in the situation that the OP described. That's fine if you want to play a character whose schtick is brute force. But you can also choose at-wills based on how they interact with your encounter powers, and in my experience you will end up with a much more effective character, although you will have to think two or three turns ahead in order to use them well.

I would certainly hope that they could set up advantageous situations and pick powers that compliment each other. I thought it would be assumed that people would do that.

And, really, if I was playing a party of four adventurers, that would be sufficient as between my four characters, I would be able to set up tons of different situations with the interactions between them. However, since I only control one character, my options are much more limited as to how I can contribute. D&D expects you to go through a lot of fights as you bring your character through the levels, so I think a little tactical variety would be helpful (and variety that doesn't require you to be able to predict the future like retraining!).

Honestly, if you think has sufficient tactical options, I wouldn't think that it is an indictment of my idea as much as a the personal the decision the my idea wouldn't be appropriate for you game.

Except for Vaelan. I love him so much that he can indictment whenever he wants!
Heavy Rocks
1) Encounter powers are more or less better that at will powers, so you are going to use them every encounter regardless of the special effects they have since you can use them every encounter.

I don't find this to be true. I find that I do not use all of my encounter powers every encounter.

2) Since you use your encounter powers every encounter, you need to select them with the mindset that you will use them every encounter. This means that encounter powers that have high situational value need to be passed over for consistently useful ones if you are looking to make a "good" character. Which is a shamed because situational powers are often fun and would help create new strategic paths and more tactical options.

Since I do not use my encounter powers every encounter, I look at some encounter powers as reliable insurance that I can call upon every encounter if I need to. When I use those encounter powers that I do not end up using every single encounter, it feels a little more special when I do use them. It makes the encounter power feel a little cooler when I use them compared to those encounter powers I use every single encounter.

3) Because you are generally going to use every encounter power you have during every encounter your in anyway, the only tactical decision making to speak of when deciding to use your encounter values is if you will be able to set up a situation to milk the power in particular with the specifics of the encounter. You can't "do something different".

The situational encounter powers allow you some flexibility when making tactical situations. If you do have some type of a safety valve with a situational encounter power, you can do something different knowing you have an encounter power up your sleeve to take advantage of the situation. Because it is a situational power, you may be encouraged to do something within an encounter multiple times until you use that situational encounter power. Until you actually use your situational encounter power, the combat may be more dynamic instead of falling back on your more general encounter powers or at-wills.

4) Daily powers may help break the repetitiveness of you power usage, but since they are more powerful they often "need" to be saved for "important" encounters rather then used when their situational value is high or during a long, but easy fight to add some variety.

Situational encounter powers can do the same thing. The only difference is that you are able to use them every encounter. Once you blow your daily, your options are more limited in subsequent battles. With situational encounter powers, you "need" to save them for "important" rounds within an encounter in "every" encounter. The situational encounter powers can add variety to every encounter because they do not force you to always use them.

My Solution?

Have a pool of encounter powers. Every time you select an encounter power, select two instead. When use you an encounter power, you choose between them. This would help solve the problem I have with the side effect of making PCs more powerful. So, you can raise encounter budgets if things get easy.

Your thoughts? Would you use this option if presented? Does it have some major problems that destroy the game?

I think that your particular mindset is that you need to use every single encounter power or you will be unhappy. If a player does not like situational encounter powers or have the mindset that he does not want encounter powers unused, he would still not pick a situational encounter power. He would choose two encounter powers that are useful in general situations. Even if he picks a situational encounter power, he probably will not really use it. The power will be forgotten and left unused because he is always trying to setup to hit with his general encounter power. I just do not think that this solution really solves the problem for players who do not want to pick situational encounter powers.

You seem to be a player who is unhappy if any powers are left unused. For a player like you, just pick the encounter powers that you can use every encounter. This seems to make you happy.

For me, I ended up having encounter powers that I don't use every encounter. I even have an at-will that I haven't used every encounter. Although I do look for opportunities to use them, I am not pariticularly disappointed that I did not get a chance to use them. In those situations, other options are better at those particular times. When I do use them, I find that they have a higher coolness factor because those powers are not used every single encounter.

Maybe its not, but at the very least I'll get to use more my PHB!

I can understand the feeling that you want to use all of the PHB. The fact is that not all of the PHB is made for you. Yeah, there are character options (powers) in the player's handbook that you do not like. Well, that character option is not made for you. It's made for other players who like different things.
<\ \>tuntman
I would certainly hope that they could set up advantageous situations and pick powers that compliment each other. I thought it would be assumed that people would do that.

And, really, if I was playing a party of four adventurers, that would be sufficient as between my four characters, I would be able to set up tons of different situations with the interactions between them. However, since I only control one character, my options are much more limited as to how I can contribute. D&D expects you to go through a lot of fights as you bring your character through the levels, so I think a little tactical variety would be helpful (and variety that doesn't require you to be able to predict the future like retraining!).

I didn't realize that this was a rule specifically for a solo game. You should make that more clear in your OP. Most people assume there will be a party of adventurers at the table, not just one. If there is only one character in the game I could definitely see how that would be limiting.
You seem to be a player who is unhappy if any powers are left unused. For a player like you, just pick the encounter powers that you can use every encounter. This seems to make you happy.

I think its obvious that I disagree with this. If I was happy, why would I propose an alternative? Picking an encounter power that is always useful seems to be the superior choice to being successful at the game, but it isn't he most interesting. Why no create a situation where you can successful, have interesting options AND use more of your book?

I can understand the feeling that you want to use all of the PHB. The fact is that not all of the PHB is made for you. Yeah, there are character options (powers) in the player's handbook that you do not like. Well, that character option is not made for you. It's made for other players who like different things.

But, if a slight change to the rules suddenly makes those options likable, wouldn't that be an improvement? I don't expect to enjoy or even utilize every conceivable ounce of gameplay to every game I have, but that said I don't see why its desirable to just toss parts out at first sign of resistance, particularly if you enjoy the game and want to get the most out of it.
Heavy Rocks
I didn't realize that this was a rule specifically for a solo game. You should make that more clear in your OP. Most people assume there will be a party of adventurers at the table, not just one. If there is only one character in the game I could definitely see how that would be limiting.

Its not. I'm talking about the difference between one player playing 4 characters and 4 players playing one character each. If I have 4 characters, I have sufficient options. WIth only one, I think the encounter powers are too limited.
Heavy Rocks
Its not. I'm talking about the difference between one player playing 4 characters and 4 players playing one character each. If I have 4 characters, I have sufficient options. WIth only one, I think the encounter powers are too limited.

Then you should make it clear that you do not play cooperatively with your group. This is for PvP then? Because if there are four players and they are working together, there should be four characters working together, which you have just said would provide sufficient options.

Also, if you agree that you can use at-wills to reliably set up the situations where your encounter powers are most useful, where is the problem?

If you just want more options for the hell of it, then you can probably make the change without much risk. In fact, you could probably just allow people to choose on the fly which encounter power of each level they would like to use and the game would still work. Your characters would be less developed mechanically, but if you don't care about linking RP to mechanics that shouldn't be a problem.

I think we are confused because we really haven't noticed the same problems you have. Can you give an example of a situational encounter power that is obviously not as useful as a general encounter power?
I don't find that the premise holds for a well-built character.

The only powers that are guaranteed to always be available to you are At-Will powers. Therefore, it only makes sense to perform some optimization such that you get great use out of your at-will powers. An illusion-focused wizard with Illusory Ambush and a bit of White Lotus can inflict the following effects, at-will:

* Damage, at range
* -2 to attack rolls
* Grants combat advantage to you until your EoNT
* Grants combat advantage to the next ally that attacks it before your EoNT
* Treats every square adjacent to all allies as difficult terrain
* If you miss, attack another enemy within 3 with the same attack at a big bonus

Quite honestly, there aren't a lot of encounter powers that can measure up to that! So go wild with situationals.
I think its obvious that I disagree with this. If I was happy, why would I propose an alternative? Picking an encounter power that is always useful seems to be the superior choice to being successful at the game, but it isn't he most interesting. Why no create a situation where you can successful, have interesting options AND use more of your book?

Your proposed solution will probably still do not address one of your issues which is you would not choose a situational power.

But, if a slight change to the rules suddenly makes those options likable, wouldn't that be an improvement? I don't expect to enjoy or even utilize every conceivable ounce of gameplay to every game I have, but that said I don't see why its desirable to just toss parts out at first sign of resistance, particularly if you enjoy the game and want to get the most out of it.

Your proposed changes do not necessarily improve the game for everyone. I find that there does seem like enough variety in combat as it is. Doubling the number of encounter powers players need to keep track of probably is not an improvement to everyone, particularly if the use of one encounter power now eliminates the use of a second one. Some players may not feel the extra bookkeeping required is worth that extra flexibility.

If you feel that your proposed changes will enable you (and your group) to enjoy the game more, then ask your DM implement it. I personally do not feel that this change is that beneficial to my particular group. A portion of our players are not so into the tactical combat aspect of D&D. The additional bookkeeping required is likely going to make things more difficult for some of them that it is not worth the flexibility of a second encounter power choice at every level.
<\ \>tuntman
I think the premise holds at the lowest levels.

I saw a bit of this when we first started playing 4e: several of the characters had situational encounter powers, Fox's Cunning being one of them. When Fox's Cunning is your [i]only[/] encounter power it feels a little weak, not because it's not powerful, but because you have to wait for it to be triggered.

However, once the characters started getting up in levels it became less and less of an issue because the character had another EP or two to draw on.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

Then you should make it clear that you do not play cooperatively with your group. This is for PvP then? Because if there are four players and they are working together, there should be four characters working together, which you have just said would provide sufficient options.

I'm not sure I agree. If four characters have enough interesting gameplay options for one person playing them all, then they also have enough gameplay options when split amongst 4 people? This is reminds me of debates about "Last Night on Earth" advertising itself to be a game from 2-6 players. In the 6 player game, two players split the zombies and zombie cards between them, doing the exact same thing one play would do with them. Everyone who's ever played the game says that there simply isn't enough gameplay for two people to share the zombies and it makes the game boring for both players involved. Saying the game supports 6 players is great for marketting, but isn't really true. The "problem" in D&D isn't as big: 4e is still relatively interesting, it just seems to me it could be more interesting.


If you just want more options for the hell of it, then you can probably make the change without much risk. In fact, you could probably just allow people to choose on the fly which encounter power of each level they would like to use and the game would still work. Your characters would be less developed mechanically, but if you don't care about linking RP to mechanics that shouldn't be a problem.

I don't see what the "linking" problem is. If a character can shoot a fireball, why can't he shoot a lightning bolt instead sometimes?
Heavy Rocks
So Basically your looking for something like channel divinity, can only use one per encounter, but have several to choose from... but for basically all your encounter powers?
I'm not sure I agree. If four characters have enough interesting gameplay options for one person playing them all, then they also have enough gameplay options when split amongst 4 people? This is reminds me of debates about "Last Night on Earth" advertising itself to be a game from 2-6 players. In the 6 player game, two players split the zombies and zombie cards between them, doing the exact same thing one play would do with them. Everyone who's ever played the game says that there simply isn't enough gameplay for two people to share the zombies and it makes the game boring for both players involved. Saying the game supports 6 players is great for marketting, but isn't really true. The "problem" in D&D isn't as big: 4e is still relatively interesting, it just seems to me it could be more interesting.

The whole idea in DnD is that you work tactically with your teammates. Working with other people in order to increase your options is the very point of the game. If your teammate has the option, then you also have the option. If this were a single player game, then increasing the options of an individual character would be the only available way to increase the options on the board. The designers of 4e quite clearly took the attitude that it is better to increase the options of the team rather than the individual. I think a lot of people find this cooperation to be the most satisfying part of the game. You seem to be arguing that it is restrictive on the individual to have to work with three other players to get the most out of their character.

This is perfectly fine. Different people value different aspects of gaming. It's just that a party of four characters already has four encounter powers that, working together, they can almost certainly make the most of, no matter how situational (well, there is a limit). If you feel like there is no way for an individual to use certain powers effectively, but there would be if there were three other characters on the board, then my response is, "There are already three other characters on the board, so what's the problem?" I think the more you make a single character able to rely on having enough options all by himself to find his way out of any situation, the less teamwork is encouraged.

As I said, I have not seen this problem with some encounter powers being useless, as long as you choose powers with synergies and/or rely on others to help you set up the situation right. But maybe I have just not seen the right powers in play, which is why I asked for an example.

I don't see what the "linking" problem is. If a character can shoot a fireball, why can't he shoot a lightning bolt instead sometimes?

Because maybe he can't? The guy who can shoot a fireball may be a different guy than the one who can shoot a fireball and lightening. The ranger who is decent with a bow but pulls out his wicked swords for his best moves is different from the ranger who is equally effective with the sword and bow all the time. Some people really, really like their mechanics to reflect their character concept (see all the reflavoring threads where somebody asks if they should change damage types because their wizard wants more frost powers, for example). Some people don't care. Some people will simply limit themselves to only using the powers they feel are appropriate for the character regardless of what's available. If your players aren't the same players who complain incessantly about how their rogue can't be better at lockpicking than trap disarming, then you will probably be fine.
I'm not sure I agree. If four characters have enough interesting gameplay options for one person playing them all, then they also have enough gameplay options when split amongst 4 people?

...

The "problem" in D&D isn't as big: 4e is still relatively interesting, it just seems to me it could be more interesting.

I tried to play a party of 4 characters at level 1 once just to try out the 4E system when it came out. I got fed up after the 2nd round as there was just too much to keep track of for me. If you are one who can control multiple characters in a party, then perhaps 4E just isn't complex enough for you. I would say you are probably in the minority of players who are not satisfied with the number tactical options available. For me, I think it's plenty.

The other thing is that at least with my group, is the actions of other players make for interesting tactical options. Even though I am not playing the other characters, what the other player chooses to do presents different tactical options for me. You don't play your character in a vacuum. You interact with the other PC's (along with the enemy and environment). What the other PC's choose to do with their actions create variety in terms of what I then choose to do with my actions. Even though you do not actively control the other PC's or choose their builds, what they do creates more variety in combat.
<\ \>tuntman
You seem to be arguing that it is restrictive on the individual to have to work with three other players to get the most out of their character.

I disagree. Having more options as an individual doesn't limit the options you have as a team. If so, wouldn't it follow that 4e characters should have less options so encourage teamwork? Are utility powers a bad mechanic because they eliminate the need for teamwork? I don't think that's so.

This is perfectly fine. Different people value different aspects of gaming. It's just that a party of four characters already has four encounter powers that, working together, they can almost certainly make the most of, no matter how situational (well, there is a limit). If you feel like there is no way for an individual to use certain powers effectively, but there would be if there were three other characters on the board, then my response is, "There are already three other characters on the board, so what's the problem?" I think the more you make a single character able to rely on having enough options all by himself to find his way out of any situation, the less teamwork is encouraged.

I don't think having a choice of powers is going to make it so a single character is "able to rely on having enough options all by himself to find his way out of any situation". That's just not how powers in 4e are designed.

Because maybe he can't?

But maybe he can and the current way in which 4e prevents the player from depicting the character they want. I can't see this as anything other then a toss up.
Heavy Rocks
I would say you are probably in the minority of players who are not satisfied with the number tactical options available.

That's fine. I'm designing something for me to use and just throwing it out there so that other people might benefit, not because I expect most people have the exact same issues I do.
Heavy Rocks
Not sure what you mean by 'situational' encounter powers. Most of them are situational to some degree, but not so much that they stand out. Is Come and Get It a 'situational' power because it serves no purpose against a solo monster in melee range?

Almost every encounter power I can think of is pretty general in terms of usefulness. Personally, I tend to look for powers that will fill a gap for my character rather than just picking something that is stronger than my at-will powers but fills the same function.

Not sure what kind of powers you're talking about.
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
I don't find that the premise holds for a well-built character.

The only powers that are guaranteed to always be available to you are At-Will powers. Therefore, it only makes sense to perform some optimization such that you get great use out of your at-will powers. An illusion-focused wizard with Illusory Ambush and a bit of White Lotus can inflict the following effects, at-will:

* Damage, at range
* -2 to attack rolls
* Grants combat advantage to you until your EoNT
* Grants combat advantage to the next ally that attacks it before your EoNT
* Treats every square adjacent to all allies as difficult terrain
* If you miss, attack another enemy within 3 with the same attack at a big bonus

Quite honestly, there aren't a lot of encounter powers that can measure up to that! So go wild with situationals.

It seems to me that "optimize your at-wills" and "use more abilities from books I don't have" isn't a solution to my problem.

If you are optimizing your character to make his at-wills more useful then his encounter powers, this means you will only be using your encounter power when its situational value comes up. If you had two encounter powers to chose from, you could have two situationals that double the chance you'd get to use your situational powers and double the chance to try to set up interesting situations with them. Indeed, double is probably an understatement since all your teammates will also another (situational) encounter power, creating all kinds of oppurtunities for awesome stuff. Its hard to imagine a combat becoming dull as the players work with trying to set up all kinds of combos.

Go wild with situationals! GENIUS! Thanks for the support!

Playtesting begins asap!
Heavy Rocks
I disagree. Having more options as an individual doesn't limit the options you have as a team. If so, wouldn't it follow that 4e characters should have less options so encourage teamwork? Are utility powers a bad mechanic because they eliminate the need for teamwork? I don't think that's so.

That's correct. The fewer options you have available individually, the more you have to rely on the group. Obviously each class needs enough abilities to contribute to the group, but going beyond that lessens your reliance on others and increases your independence.

That said, you misstated my premise. I did not say that increasing the options of the individual decreases the options of the group. In fact, you will be increasing the options of the group by an order of magnitude. What I said was that fewer options encourage more teamwork, a very different argument.

I don't think having a choice of powers is going to make it so a single character is "able to rely on having enough options all by himself to find his way out of any situation". That's just not how powers in 4e are designed.

It's going to significantly increase his ability to do so. If you have to choose between a power that does max damage and a power that saves your bacon when your surrounded, you have to rely on other characters to do what you gave up the ability to do. If you can do both, then you have less reliance on your group and less of a need to plan careful strategies with your allies, and more opportunity to improvise your way out of situations. Again, I'm not saying any of this is bad or undesirable. In some groups, where you don't know the players ahead of time, it might make the game go from an extremely difficult slog to a lot of fun.

But maybe he can and the current way in which 4e prevents the player from depicting the character they want. I can't see this as anything other then a toss up.

In the current system, he would just take a fire power at one level and a lightning power at another. (Although the wizard, of course, can swap his spells each day so he doesn't have to worry about this. I'm assuming you're referring to all of the other classes.)

You can't look at the gnashing of teeth over the thievery skill and not think that this will be a problem for some players. If those players aren't your players, then it doesn't matter. We don't know your group, so we're just making general comments about your idea. These aren't attacks. We're just being honest about how we, as players, would feel about this change. If our views are not representative of your players' views, then it doesn't matter. If you've pitched this to your players and they also have misgivings, then you should be talking to them, not us.

But I really think an example would help clarify a bit.
That said, you misstated my premise. I did not say that increasing the options of the individual decreases the options of the group. In fact, you will be increasing the options of the group by an order of magnitude. What I said was that fewer options encourage more teamwork, a very different argument.

My apologies.

Thinking all of the cooperative games I've played (which isn't that many), I'm not sure if this is true. Hero Quest has less options then D&D 4e, but I wouldn't say it requires more teamwork. The power of the options involved is also significant as well as the degree to which they work better when combined with other actions. If I have many options that contribute to solving problems (but aren't sufficient on their own) I will require more teamwork then if I have one option that solves a type of problem by itself (that wouldn't be teamwork as much as players taking turns winning situations). I don't think even a situational perfect encounter power solves an encounter situation by itself. Not even close and definitely not nearly as well as two characters working together to do so.

It's going to significantly increase his ability to do so.

If it does, we add to the encounter budget to compensate. This way the characters will be forced to solve tougher problems, which will again require them to find synergies between their powers defeat the encounters as their individual powers won't be sufficient.

You can't look at the gnashing of teeth over the thievery skill and not think that this will be a problem for some players.

I'm not familiar with this issue, could you explain it to me?
Heavy Rocks
My apologies.

Thinking all of the cooperative games I've played (which isn't that many), I'm not sure if this is true. Hero Quest has less options then D&D 4e, but I wouldn't say it requires more teamwork. The power of the options involved is also significant as well as the degree to which they work better when combined with other actions. If I have many options that contribute to solving problems (but aren't sufficient on their own) I will require more teamwork then if I have one option that solves a type of problem by itself (that wouldn't be teamwork as much as players taking turns winning situations). I don't think even a situational perfect encounter power solves an encounter situation by itself. Not even close and definitely not nearly as well as two characters working together to do so.

Hero Quest (if I'm thinking of the right game) is a pitiful mockery of something that could be called a game system. It's DnD for people under 8. But maybe I'm thinking of the wrong game.

Anyway, I'm not talking about other systems. I'm pretty sure I never said anything about Hero Quest. I'm talking about DnD 4e. With the options that characters have, flanking, shifting enemies so the defender can mark more, granting extra attacks as a leader, doing max damage as a rogue all have a certain value. If the fighter has to choose between a power that lets him attack two targets and therefore mark two enemies and a power that increases his damage, he has to rely on his teammates to fill in the gap. He needs a warlord to grant extra attacks so that he can make the most of his mark if he concentrates on damage and a rogue to do more damage if he concentrates on drawing enemy fire. If he can choose the power on the fly, then he is far less reliant on the rogue and the warlord. Sure, they could still work together, and they will be far more effective if they do, but they don't need to nearly as much. Working together is supposed to be some of the challenge of the game. If you were to reduce the fighter's options, then he would be even more reliant on that rogue's damage and that warlord's extra attacks.

This only really matters depending on your players. Some parties will work together anyway because they think it's fun. Some parties will never work together even if it means dying every other encounter.

If it does, we add to the encounter budget to compensate. This way the characters will be forced to solve tougher problems, which will again require them to find synergies between their powers defeat the encounters as their individual powers won't be sufficient.

That won't solve the problem I'm talking about. This will make the problems bigger, not more interesting. You're not making characters (much) more powerful, you're just giving them the option to think less. Making combat more challenging will just mean that they are thinking less and also resting after every encounter.

But maybe I don't fully understand what you're talking about. Could you provide an example of power that you would take, but only as a backup option?

I'm not familiar with this issue, could you explain it to me?

Apparently back in 3.5 a lot of people used to play rogues who were exceptional at picking locks but horrible at disarming traps, or vice versa, and they felt that this imbalance in ability was crucial to their character concepts. These people are mad as hell that thievery is now one skill instead of five. There are also people who simply cannot accept that running and swimming key off of them same skill, because apparently they used to like to play champion swimmers who could never run faster than a jog or marathon runners who grew up in the desert. These people need mechanical restrictions or else they feel that their character concept simply crumbles. No matter how many times you explain to them that they can simply not attempt the check if they are so sure their character would be unable to do something, they will wail and moan and, for some reason, repost their complaint on the 4e boards every month or so along with a lengthy rant about how true roleplayers would never play 4e and all of us 4e players are meathead jock munchkins who don't know how to properly play DnD.
If the fighter has to choose between a power that lets him attack two targets and therefore mark two enemies and a power that increases his damage, he has to rely on his teammates to fill in the gap. He needs a warlord to grant extra attacks so that he can make the most of his mark if he concentrates on damage and a rogue to do more damage if he concentrates on drawing enemy fire. If he can choose the power on the fly, then he is far less reliant on the rogue and the warlord. Sure, they could still work together, and they will be far more effective if they do, but they don't need to nearly as much. Working together is supposed to be some of the challenge of the game. If you were to reduce the fighter's options, then he would be even more reliant on that rogue's damage and that warlord's extra attacks.

But by raising the difficulty, the teamwork challenge shifts. The characters are still reliant each other because the number of actions are limited and the selection of powers is still extremely limited. If the fighter can either mark two opponents or do a lot of damage, he can't use both powers in the same round. The tactical puzzle becomes deciding which resource from which character to use in the given situation to give the best result when used in combination with another resource from a different character. By increasing the difficulty, you become more reliant on each other because if your teamwork isn't good, you'll get killed. Its not about working together, its about making the best plan together. Giving characters more options increases the playbook of the characters and ways the characters can improvise when situations dictate that their usual plans won't work. It stops being a question of if they can handle a challenge to if they'll figure out how to handle it, which to me is the much more interesting question. The nature of encounter powers and classes and how powers are given to characters seems to ensure that the characters will need each other even if they have slight increase in flexibility.
Heavy Rocks
But the system is already designed to do this. By having only a few encounter powers, the players must work together to get the most out of them. If the players can get the most out of their encounter powers in multiple ways, they don't need the best plan anymore. They just need a passable plan, because if the plan goes wrong they can simply fall back on these powers that you claim are usually better except in rare situations.

I am still waiting for an example. If we could talk about a specific combo, I might see more clearly what you are trying to say. I'm not sure I can offer any more until we are on the same page. Right now you have an advantage in this conversation because, I assume, you are thinking of a specific power that would be devastating in a very specific situation, and which you had to bypass because another power of that level was useful in more situations. In my estimation, powers with more requirements are more powerful when those requirements are met, while powers that can be used with less forethought are less effective overall.

Players who take the power with more requirements to be met will have to work more closely with their allies to ensure that they get the most out of them. Players that take powers with fewer requirements don't have to work as closely with allies but will be less effective overall. This gives you the option of building a character who is devastating as part of a team or a character who is very good on his own. Your proposed change would allow characters to be both at once. But if the players don't see the benefits of these more restricted powers already, and if they are not currently capable of working as a team to get the most out of them, what makes you think they will start?

Simply adding more monsters to make the game more challenging is something that you could already do. The upper limit of encounter difficulty won't change too much, because both options already exist and are accounted for by the system. But if your players are only making use of one of the options, why would they suddenly see the value of meticulously setting up the field just because they have more options individually now? Won't they just take the next most generic power, after the one that they already have?
You've successfully summed up the point of encounter powers. This is exactly how they're intended to operate. You're not supposed to be picking powers you won't get a lot of use out of - that's what utility powers are, in part, for. I'm willing to entertain an argument that utility powers don't fulfill their purpose, but that's their problem, it's not an issue with encounters.

I disagree. The fact that situational encounter powers exist disproves your statement. 4ed is balanced so that you can take these more limited powers in the name of RP or whatever and still be just fine.
It seems to me that "optimize your at-wills" and "use more abilities from books I don't have" isn't a solution to my problem.

Well, I can see how the latter would fail to be a solution in your specific case, but I'm not entirely sure what's wrong with the former, and I didn't see anything in your post that elaborates on that. At any rate, if your intent is to make use of house rules to make up for existing game content that you don't have access to, I guess there's no problem with that.

If you are optimizing your character to make his at-wills more useful then his encounter powers, this means you will only be using your encounter power when its situational value comes up. If you had two encounter powers to chose from, you could have two situationals that double the chance you'd get to use your situational powers and double the chance to try to set up interesting situations with them. Indeed, double is probably an understatement since all your teammates will also another (situational) encounter power, creating all kinds of oppurtunities for awesome stuff. Its hard to imagine a combat becoming dull as the players work with trying to set up all kinds of combos.

And then the game becomes a lot easier. I see from other reading that your solution is then to ramp up the difficulty of combat encounters. I find myself suspecting that the primary way to do this will involve making use of monsters, terrain, and/or combinations thereof that render potent situational player combos less effective. This then takes us back to the starting point.

It seems to me that a much easier solution would be to make use of more combat structures that reward the selection of various situational powers. The DM has nearly complete control over the situation, after all. You can ramp up the complexity and variety of terrain effects and monster powers to create heavily tactical near-puzzle combat encounters.

I personally find this a superior method to doubling player encounter power choices for two reasons. One, it's less stuff for players to track. By paragon tier, players are already managing a ton of powers -- from items, classes, and paths, there are power cards all over the place. I have nearly 20 of them at level 16. Doubling my set of encounter cards certainly wouldn't make my life easier. Two, it'll slow down combat. Players will have a new layer of difficulty in selecting powers to use, which will slow down individual turns. This may be precisely what your group needs, of course, if everyone finds that their turns are automatic and obvious. Still, I suspect that better encounter creation would temper this.
To be fair, there is new mechanics with the Psion where they dont gain Encounters, they gain more Atwills and augment them with a pool of resources per encounter.

so its not unthinkable to have no encounters.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

Here is my current stance. I'm not really interested in fighting the points, I just want to make them.

- Situational Encounter powers happen a lot more often then you think they do. Having played a Sword Mage and a Barbarian, the Charge and Counterattack encounter powers have never, ever not been used during the course of a game. Sure, they seem situational, but in reality, they really are not. The circumstances are easy to set up, and happen a lot.

- People horde Dailies on a paranoia level. The actual time difference to defeat a foe without a daily is about a turn or two, which the players typically can live through anyway.

- Part of the issue with Dailies is that players are taught by the system at an early level till 5th level that they only get one shot with it, so they better make it count. Because they are a more precious resource then Encounters, they are used less often.

- A house rule solution, if you want one, is to give Dailies earlier. By giving it at 4th level, and placing them before the constant Encounter Powers in progression, you might give the impression that Daily Powers are alright to use, as you now have 2 Dailys, and only one encounter attack power to use. I feel this would encourage players to use their Dailies more often, and place less emphasis on the Encounters.

- With Feat use, even Area Effect spells that should be Situational don't have to be. War Wizard, among others that I don't have the energy to find this morning, help negate the penalty for having allies in AOE's. This helps in the long run.

...

While I don't like to see players get into a rutt, I think that players who choose 'safe' powers over 'situational' powers tend to be people who would play it safe anyway. You won't see them placing themselves into situations where they would use the situational powers, because they don't want to be in them. This might be a frustration for you as a DM, and might be why you want to encourage them into using other powers, but I think that if you want to change their thinking, you need to lead by example.

Let someone else run for a while, and run a class that is heavy in Situational Powers (I recommend Barbarian or Swordmage), and run it like a lunatic. Use a Daily in the first Fight. Use all those powers that are better when you are performing a specific action. By showing players that it can be as much fun to play 'unsafe' as it is to play 'safe', then you can get them to come out of the turtleshell and play with a little more risk.
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/0a90721d221e50e5755af156c179fe51.jpg?v=90000)
To me, it seems the OP doesn't wish to be caught with a knife at a gunfight, so to speak.

Perhaps I'm a bit harsh - but my thought is - too bad, it happens, often.

My current party happens to be very fire-heavy. This has nothing to do with the mechanics, and everything to do with the characters (the dreaded RP aspect). Does it make some encounters more difficult? Yes, it does - and funny enough, those are some of the more-oft recounted tales.

Someone wrote something about using either fire or lightning - the truth is, my characters wouldn't. (there's a period there) They would never have wanted to touch that source of energy, less learn it. As someone later pointed out - if you wanted, you could - but you'd have to want to, and take the time (read: opportunity cost - learn this, but you can't learn something else) to learn it..

Maybe it's because I was a horrid training stickler in the older versions (training for each and every character was played out through the game, and added many encounters, combat and non-combat, as well as a tremendous amount to the storyline), but I don't believe in "instant knowledge". In fact, I'm working now on getting my old-style training requirements into the new 4e mechanics. As such - you can have knowledge of 2x the encounters, but it would take twice the _____ (fill the blank in with everything concerned - time, money, finding a teacher and all that entails, etc). Of course 4e handles this by waiting until 5th to give you the second encounter power.

Anyhow - that's my opinion (and playstyle) - As has been stated - you know your group better. They (and/or perhaps you) sound more tactical driven than character-driven (or at least, that is what the thread has led me to believe). As such - as you are their DM - they can have it if you give it to them.
Through the ages, many would wonder "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?" I wonder "Does the art of discourse on the internet imitate the art of discourse in life or does the art of discourse in life imitate the art of discourse on the internet?"