Houserules Feedback - 4E

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Apologies if this is the wrong forum to be posting, still trying to get used to the new layout.

Anyway, I'm currently playing in a 4E Premade, and I'm finding myself toying with the idea of DM'ing once the current campaign is over having never done so before, but I'm finding that Combat tends to drag, and turns more and more into a numbers game.

I'd like to make my combat more cinematic, and immersive, so I've spent the past few days firing out some houserules to make it more interesting, mainly centered around the "Bloodied" effect.

As such, I thought that when a Player bloodies a creature, (Or the DM makes a player bloodied) they could use a describer to apply an additional debuff, to actually express that damage. Right now I'm just wondering if that would unbalance combat horrendously, and if so what to help balance it.

Right now I'm thinking of the following:

Shattered Arm = -2AC – Basically your arm is useless, and you can’t defend yourself as easily.

Shattered Leg = Slowed, – You’ve Twisted/Broken you’re leg, and you can’t move as quickly.

Deep Wounds = 5 ongoing damage – You’ve ruptured something internally, and you’re bleeding out. If you don’t get healed soon, you’re gonna die.

(In addition, I was thinking -2 to all NADs, as if you're bloodied you're distracted, etc, but I thought that might be too much maybe)

I had been throwing out some other ideas, for non combat scenarios as well, but thought I'd start with basic, like if your character wears a cloak with a hood, minuses to Passive perception etc (as LOS is reduced) but that seems a bit far down the line.

I guess the influence of this comes from other systems like GURPs and Shadowrun, to pull off targeted attacks and stuff like that.

Anyway, enough rambling. Feedback would be appreciated.

Offhand, all of those are inflicting debuffs/status effects.  If you're finding that combat tends to drag, keeping track of extra conditions isn't the way to speed it up and make it exciting.


Personally, if I want to speed up combat and make it exciting, I just halve everybody's hit points.  Monsters, PCs, NPCs, whatnot.


If you're looking for more cinematic combat and don't like the numbers game, the real key is to make sure that:


1)  Combats have a reason; and

2)  Combats are about something other than just "beat on 5 guys until they're dead).


As far as number 1 goes, make sure that the players have a reason to *want* to get in there and eviscerate the opponent.  Don't throw a party of orcs at them because you want them to get enough XP.  If it's important enough that they get the XP, give them the XP.  Every so often, give them a combat that makes them feel cool, and give them a combat that knocks them on their behind a couple of times.  Whenever there's a planned battle, ask yourself "What's the point?" or you'll find the players are asking the question for you.


As far as the 2nd one goes, combat gets a bit more streamlined when it's the stepping stone to some other goal.  If the combat is merely beat up the five orcs, it's easy to get stale.  If the combat is "beat up the five orcs before they can slaughter the nobleman's daughter that you've been assigned to protect," suddenly you've introduced alternate goals, and the defender won't be guarding the strikers/controller by rote, while the leader will have to be dividing his heals between the party and the target.


On a related note, depending on how well you house rule skill challenges, such can often make a good substitute for combat encounters.  Give them a goal and let them define what skills they're going to use to do it, and have combat be the result of failure.

Roleplaying is for roleplaying.  The rules are for the game.

This basically will force battles into being one-sided a bit quicker.

Whoever gets on top first will have an easier time while whoever trails behind first will have a harder time.

I'm also not sure how this works in the case of some classes that actually get stronger when they are bloodied. (Ex, some Barbarians and Blackguards get extra damage/perks when they get or are bloodied)


There's already a lot of mechanics that play off the Bloodied factor. It's probably not one that needs too much messing around with.

You might like to check out the Injury Deck. We use it in our group, with cards being drawn from the deck when a character is bloodied and also fails a Saving Throw, and when a character drops below 1 hit point. I've explained this further here and also created some new cards with a slightly more dangerous bent.

For ending combat quickly when it starts to drag, I like the Last Effort and Desperate condition described here. There is also the option of knocking a quarter of the hit points from monsters and raising their damage by a quarter. We use both of these in our game and they work well together. Obviously these are all mechanical house rules, which are extra things you need to remember to do before and during the session, so it's swings and roundabouts.


Another idea you could try to speed things up a bit is to borrow 13th Age's Escalation Die mechanic.  At its simplest, starting in the second round, all PCs get a +1 bonus to all their attack rolls.  +2 in the third round, +3 in the fourth round, all the way up to +6 maximum in the seventh round.  The idea is to make it more likely to hit as the combat drags on, thereby making the combat less likely to drag out.  Now, you could say this is unbalancing, and maybe it is, but it will certainly speed things up.

As for PCs who think they're going to sandbag until the bonus gets up high enough?  Well, in that case, the GM has the option of not escalating the die.  In some cases, he may even choose to de-escalate the die if he feels the fight is being deliberately dragged out, or if for some reason everyone thinks its fun to keep the fight going.

I did this in one of my 4e groups and found that fights average just over one round shorter.

I also, at times, simply "call the fight" once it's a forgone conclusion.  On rare occasions we just say okay, fight over.  Usually though, if it's a foregone conclusion that the PCs are going to win, I simply have the monsters surrender or retreat (in a way that they can't be easily pursued, unless the players REALLY want to pursue them.  In that case, there's no need to cut it short because they're having fun.)

The injury deck is kinda neat if everyone buys into that sort of thing, but it IS another thing to track, and can result in slowing things down.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Calling the fight is a very good tip. I also sometimes use a morale roll, which works well in conjunction with the Desperate condition mentioned above. So, by the time the monsters are on the losing side they're going to be either Desperate or have run away/surrendered. Both have their reasons and I'll probably call the fight as much as roll for it.

One option that's been knocked around once or twice is to use the Disease Track mechanic to model life-threatening wounds.

It means a little bit of work for each sort of wound as you define the progression or healing thereof.  Unlike diseases, which start out mild and then worsen, with a chance of recovery, wounds should start out pretty bad, and heal, with chance of re-opening or whatever...





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I like 'playing' with the Bloodied state myself. Sometimes I give characters max damage against a bloodied creatures (when I want to finish off the combat fast). Sometimes I make the creature also go into 'Frenzy' and deal max damage when bloodied (better finish it quick!). However I never apply the bloodied debuff to PCs, as that would make things too swingy/deadly for them. Also note that in our game crits deal damage x2, not max.

I like the sound of using the Disease Track. Thanks for the suggestion. Here are some links I found for anyone else interested.

Thanks for everything guys, the feedback has been great, and it's given me a lot to think about for sure I'll look into some of these alternatives to see what other ideas come together

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