Thursday, April 19, 2012, 1:29 PM
Incompatibilities between builds of the same class are one of the top items I think need addressing for D&D Next. I would do away with subclasses and stick with builds similar to those presented in the three core player handbooks. Builds for a specific class need to have some level of self-similarity and allow for the maximizing of power options, allowing the player to build a class to fit his character concept by utilizing powers from all the source material, such as the Power books and Dragon articles. Subclasses circumvent this process by adding features and/or eliminating power slots (removing at-will attack powers or daily attack powers, for example) which makes the subclass incompatible with other powers from the class. For the rogue class, incompatibility and imbalance between the Thief build (subclass) and the Scoundrel build limit the versatility for the rogue.
As I’ve suggested in previous blogs, a balanced Level 1 class needs two at-will attack powers, one encounter attack power, and one daily attack power, or close approximations to this, in addition to a few class features. (Note how many of the psionic classes do not have a first level encounter attack power, but do have features at the base level that do a good job of equalizing this omission.) One of the primary reasons for including these three types of attack powers in a first level class is to help balance the class when compared to other classes that fill a similar role. Generally at Level 1, at-will attack powers do a single dice roll of damage, encounter attack powers do two dice rolls of damage, and daily attack powers do three dice rolls of damage – with exceptions that can depend on the number of targets or types of effects. Designing a class that omits one of the three types of first level attack powers is certainly reasonable. However, designing a build to be different from other builds of the same class by omitting certain attack powers forces the player to limit choices and renders material from other sources for that class frustratingly incompatible. This limitation minimizes options for a player’s character concept, which to me, is the exact opposite of what I want from my D&D game. I think this is one of the major blunders made in some of the Essentials products that focus on the beginning player and deviate too far from the Core design.
I’ll look at both Scoundrel and Thief builds, and attempt reconciliation across the two with the goal of making the class easier to use in 4th Edition.
The Scoundrel from the Core books
Like most classes, the Scoundrel allows for the use of attack powers at level 1. All three types of attack powers are available: at-will, encounter, and daily. Material presented in the Martial Power books and Dragon articles nicely expand the options. The class features First Strike, Rogue Tactics, Rogue (Scoundrel) Weapon Talent, and Sharpshooter Talent are all feat-like abilities. The Scoundrel does a nice job of incorporating a player’s choice of Rogue Tactics (Artful Dodger, Brutal Scoundrel, Cunning Sneak, and Ruthless Ruffian) with encounter attack and utility powers at subsequent levels, folding in a player’s secondary ability focus of either Charisma or Strength – the artfully charismatic dodger and the brutally strong scoundrel, for example. This motif was dropped with the publication of the Thief build. Finally, the Scoundrel adds Sneak Attack to the repertoire of the rogue without making it a central focus of the class.
The Thief build from Heroes of the Fallen Lands
The Thief build has no daily powers offered anywhere in the entire thirty levels, and no at-will attack powers, which reverts the build to the sole use of basic attacks for its mainstay. This immediately sets up a discrepancy with the Scoundrel, and it renders useless a number of alternative powers from the Martial Power books and Dragon articles that otherwise could expand a player’s character concept. Besides utility powers that improve mobility and skill options, the Thief offers the feature Rogue’s Trick (a pair of at-will utility powers that execute with move actions) at first level, with an increase in the number of tricks available at higher levels. The big boon for the Thief, and the only factor that adds any balancing weight to this build, is the nearly guaranteed capability of getting a foe to grant combat advantage, thereby triggering not only extra Sneak Attack damage, but extra damage from the encounter utility power Backstab. Two tricks in particular work toward securing combat advantage: Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick. Both utility powers force a foe to grant combat advantage under two commonly occurring combat scenarios: the foe has no adjacent allies, or the Thief has an ally adjacent to the foe. I’m not sure why a player would choose any other pair of tricks from the list of nine that are available for this build. With either of these two scenarios commonly occurring in combat, the Thief’s extra Sneak Attack damage, which is equivalent to damage from a daily attack power (1[W] + 2d6, i.e., three dice), becomes available almost every turn. Thereby, it acts more like a heavy-handed at-will attack power. Sneak Attack appears to be the nucleus of the Thief build. The extra damage from the Sneak Attack feature is balanced only if it applies at the frequency of a daily attack power. My play/DM experience suggests the conditions that allow for a Sneak Attack occur far more frequently. Thus, the Thief build is badly out of balance when compared to other rogue builds, and other striker classes. Add the First Strike feature to the list, and Sneak Attack emerges again. Note that although Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick are executed with a move action, they don’t actually require the Thief to move. Moving is optional as part of the powers’ effects. As long as a Thief can fire off a move action and a standard action, Sneak Attack is almost guaranteed. Finally, the Thief build offers Weapon Finesse, a feat-like ability allowing the use of Dexterity for basic attacks and giving a bonus to damage rolls.
To me, the first step in consolidating the rogue is to turn the Sneak Attack feature, which is present in all builds, into a daily power, or limit the likelihood of execution to the frequency of a daily power. The Scoundrel already does a reasonable job at this limitation, so if you are happy with one of those builds, you’re good to go. In the Scoundrel build, First Strike is the only feature to create the conditions where a foe grants combat advantage, and since this feature can only apply once per encounter (the first round of combat), it retains balance for the extra Sneak Attack damage. The Level 1 daily attack power Easy Target also sets up combat advantage conditions, but because it is a daily power, it places the likelihood of Sneak Attack in balance with other triple damage effects. Requiring the Thief to move as part of the Rogue’s Trick utility powers could be one step in that direction to solving this conundrum. Converting Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick into encounter utility powers would be a huge step in the right direction. It would balance them with the other tricks, which are at-will powers that focus more on increasing mobility. This solution may be the easiest to implement and the most robust, and I would like to see this latter change as part of the next errata. One step further might be to combine Sneak Attack with Ambush Trick and again with Tactical Trick as two daily attack powers, allowing the player to choose only one at Level 1. This would remove Sneak Attack as a class feature, but would place it in a more balanced slot mechanically.
With this in mind, I would consolidate the rogue class as follows: In order to allow a player access to at-will attack powers, Sneak Attack needs to be de-emphasized, and its usage reined in. In addition, the at-will utility powers from Rogue’s Trick need to be threaded in with the other features and attack powers to maintain balance – the Rogue risks suffering from “featuritis” if the Scoundrel and Thief were clumsily merged. I would convert Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick into encounter utility powers as a first step to reining in Sneak Attack’s extra damage. Keep these two encounter powers with the other at-will tricks, but this still does not answer what to do with Rogue’s Trick as a feature. It could be thrown in with the list of at-will attack powers, though this solution is only somewhat satisfying. Utility powers and attack powers do not balance that well when merged. Better may be to combine the tricks with the Rogue Tactics, allowing the player to choose one feature from the combined list. But, this solution is also clumsy because the Rogue Tactics are feat-like abilities and not as full-featured as utility powers. The best solution that I can see, and one that helps to mitigate the pervasiveness of Sneak Attack, is to allow a player to choose only one trick instead of two from the list of nine tricks. It becomes reasonably balanced when the player also chooses one of the four Rogue Tactics, which need to be retained as they are referenced in encounter attack powers at first level and beyond. The Thief’s encounter utility power Backstab is placed in with other encounter attack powers from the Scoundrel. This maintains balance reasonably because combat advantage from Backstab leads to Sneak Attack’s extra damage. Sneak Attack and First Strike both remain viable stand-alone features. Finally, compile Weapon Finesse from the Thief build with Rogue (Scoundrel) Weapon Talent and Sharpshooter Talent from the Scoundrel build, allowing the player to choose one.
Here is the result for Level 1 Consolidated Rogue:
Feature 1: Gain the First Strike feature.
Feature 2: Gain the Sneak Attack feature.
Feature 3: Choose one of either Weapon Finesse, Rogue (Scoundrel) Weapon Talent, or Sharpshooter Talent feature.
Feature 4: Gain only one Rogue’s Trick (where Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick are changed from at-will to encounter utility powers).
Feature 5: Gain one of the Rogue Tactics.
Feature 6: Gain two Level 1 at-will attack powers.
Feature 7: Gain either one Level 1 encounter attack power or Backstab.
Feature 8: Gain one Level 1 Daily attack power.
To sum up, this consolidated Rogue is still a little feature heavy, but I hope ultimately balances better with other classes. It allows for some of the nice components of the Thief to intersperse with the Scoundrel. It makes the Scoundrel only slightly more powerful at first level by adding one utility power from Rogue’s Trick, but this becomes inconsequential at higher levels (as long as Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick are kept in check as encounter powers). I do not think the Thief, as published, is balanced with the Scoundrel. With the once per turn regularity of Sneak Attack, the Thief is too heavy handed when compared to other strikers. Maximizing options for a player’s Rogue concept is my idea of a well designed class. Play-testing will ultimately decide if this Rogue can balance.
Other Notes related to the Rogue.
Attack powers do not accumulate indefinitely as a character advances. By the time a character hits paragon level, specifically Level 13, no additional attack powers are accumulated. Instead, higher level attack powers replace lower level ones. In general, a character never receives more than two at-will attack powers, four encounter attack powers, and four daily attack powers. However, utility powers (powers that do not do damage but instead facilitate the character in some non-attacking way) do accumulate, such that by the time a character reaches level 26, she has acquired seven utility powers -- not including racial, background, theme, or feat related utility powers.
Also, we should look at how the number of damage dice increase with level. At-will powers increase to 2d at epic level (21st level). Since encounter and daily attack powers get replaced with more powerful attacks at higher levels, generally their number of damage dice do not increase arbitrarily. In other words, the more powerful attacks already account for higher damage. Magic items do increase in power for higher levels at increments of every 5 levels, but not automatically. A character must re-enchant a magic item to a higher level to receive the higher enhancement bonus, unless she purchased or found a high level item as treasure. This means that just because a character reaches Level 9, their level 4 magic sword does not automatically increase in effectiveness to the values listed in the magic weapon description for level 9.
So this gives a good estimate to how power is generally distributed across classes.
When I look at other strikers, I see some additional damage features similar to the rogue's sneak attack. The Warlock gains the Warlock's Curse feature, that allows it to do 1d6 extra damage per tier to a target it has cursed. The ranger has Hunter's Quarry, that allows it to do 1d6 extra damage per tier to its quarry. The Core Barbarian does not have a feature that adds extra damage to its attack, but the essentials build for the barbarian - the Berserker - gains Berserker Fury, which grants an extra 1d8 damage to basic attacks.
Clearly strikers are intended to do more damage -- one extra dice worth of damage -- than the other classes. But this is not surprising. When we look at the Thief, it is clear to me that doing 2d6 extra damage every time it hits is higher than any other class and is out of balance. Now the fact that the thief does not gain any daily attack powers does not provide an excuse as to why it should be doing 3-damage dice worth of damage every time it hits. Players have only one daily attack power until Level 5, where they gain a second daily attack power. At Level 9, a player gains three daily attack powers, and not until Level 20 does a character finally get the fourth daily attack power, but this comes from a Paragon Path, which means a thief could finally get a daily attack power! A more balanced thief would be doing 3 dice worth of damage once or twice per day, but would do 2 dice worth of damage closer to an at-will frequency -- which correlates with the Warlock's Curse, Ranger's Quarry, and Berserker's Fury frequency of one extra damage dice.
In the "consolidated" rogue build that I worked up, the thief still gets to add sneak attack damage every time it gains combat advantage, which occurs when flanking or when an enemy is dazed, or through special attacks like the encounter power Backstab. But, by converting the at-will utility powers Ambush Trick and Tactical Trick into encounter powers, it limits the frequency of 3 dice worth of damage to bring the thief much closer to balance with all other strikers, including the other rogue builds. It still allows for sneak attack damage to occur much more frequently than the equivalent damage from a daily attack power -- at least twice per encounter (Backstab plus one trick) instead of once per day, and places no limits on the other occurrences of combat advantage, like flanking. So, allowing the thief to have 3d6 damage at an at-will frequency is, well, overkill. Ultimately the solution could be to reduce sneak attack damage to one extra damage dice, but that makes a blanket change to the entire rogue class, where the changes to the tricks above more correctly targets only the thief. I don't think this reduction in frequency of adding the extra damage from sneak attack places the thief at risk of being too underpowered compared to the extra damage dice other strikers gain at an at-will frequency. One extra damage dice every hit vs. two extra damage dice every third hit, to me, makes sense. Keep in mind that with the "consolidated" rogue build, the thief gets the option of encounter attack powers and daily attack powers, as well as sneak attack.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 9:55 AM
This posting comes from work I’ve done as a DM for my Scales of War game, but I also DM at Encounters. Wizards of the Coast has disappointed me and many other gamers, both new and experienced, particularly with their Essentials line of products. I have no problem with 4th Edition game rules, and I think the content in the Essentials products, extracted as isolated gems, is great. Essentials presentation, however, is insulting and the content frustratingly incompatible to the previously published Core material. Why else does Wizards not encourage the use of their own Core books in the Encounters games? It’s not because it’s too complicated for beginners.
D&D has always been about options, but Essentials is presented with prescripted content, boxing in a 30 level subclass (build), that makes customizing a character concept more challenging and more frustrating than it ever needed to be. I will not use this blog to hash through the Core versus Essentials debate. However, I can’t wait for Essentials to go away.
Wizards has customized class builds to the extent that their powers and features are no longer easily interchangeable with options from one of the many robust source materials, like Martial Power. This is one of Wizards greatest mistakes.
For the games that I run, I want my players to have as many options available to them as the game traditionally warranted. For example, I’ve expanded my Encounter’s game to include content from all sources, especially Core material. Suggesting players merely go with the prescribed builds from Essentials is far too limiting to their character concepts, and restricting players to Core material only is too limiting as well. A Core build is not always balanced against an Essentials build. So, I’ve done considerable work to make the options easier and more apparent to my players, and to myself. To this end, I’ve decided to post the work I’ve done with one of my favorite classes: the Ranger.
The basic Level 1 class has six components to it distributed between features and attack powers. Some features are more like feats; some are more like utility powers. At Level 1, a balanced class needs to contain two at-will attack powers, one encounter attack power, and one daily attack power. Eliminating any of these attack powers jeopardizes the build’s balance when compared to other builds within the class and across classes. Bonus feats, feat-like abilities, and utility powers should comprise the remainder of any class build.
My intent is to synthesize all of the Ranger builds into one consolidated Ranger class that provides a concise list of options from which the player can choose. It needs to maximize options to allow a player to create a character that closely represents their character concept and allows for maximum replay ability. These options need to be open to all source content related to the Ranger class, from the Power books to Dragon Magazine to Core handbooks and to Essentials fodder. Furthermore, I only focus on Level 1 as choosing powers at subsequent levels is less problematic, but still requires a judicious approach.
I will divide the ranger class into three significant builds before integrating them into one. The Core ranger comprises all of the builds presented in Player’s Handbook 1. The Hunter ranger and the Scout ranger are presented in Heroes of Forgotten Kingdoms.
The Core Ranger. The ranger from the Player’s Handbook has five builds: Archer, Beastmaster, Hunter, Marauder, and Two-Blade, which stem from a player’s choice of fighting styles. These builds share the following options: Fighting Style (bonus feat), Hunter’s Quarry (utility power), Prime Shot (ranged feat-like ability), and Running Attack (melee feat-like ability). Although four options are presented, Prime Shot precludes Running Attack, and vice versa, so there are only three options. In addition, a player would chose two at-will attack powers, one encounter attack power, and one daily attack power to round out the six components of the Level 1 class.
The Hunter Ranger. This build comprises 6 options: Archery Style (bonus feat), Wild Aspects (two utility powers - stances), Disruptive Shot (encounter attack power), Expert Archer (three at-will attack powers), Wilderness Knacks (two feat-like skill bonuses), and Weapon Talent (feat-like bonus). A cursory review of this class reveals the lack of a daily attack power. It has three at-will attack powers, two utility powers (stances), and two feat-like skill bonuses (knacks). The lack of a daily attack power significantly weakens this build. Throwing in an extra at-will attack power (three instead of two), an extra utility power (two stances instead of one), and two skill bonuses (two knacks) causes significant problems when trying to exchange powers using other ranger source material. Again, a recurring problem with Essentials and the primary source of my angst.
The Scout Ranger. This build gives the class one extra healing surge per day, and has 6 options as well: Two-Weapon Style (feat-like bonus), Wild Aspects (two utility powers - stances), Attack Finesse (bonus feat), Dual Weapon Attack (at-will attack power), Power Strike (encounter attack power), and Wilderness Knacks (two feat-like skill bonuses). This build lacks a daily attack power and a second at-will attack power, which significantly handicaps it when compared to other classes and the other ranger builds.
The process of consolidation. The type of bonus that each build option provides offers a guideline on how to bring the whole class into focus and balance. I start by looking for parallel powers from the Level 1 options presented above. I end up with 7 options, rather than 6, for any given ranger build. Yet, the consolidated ranger is balanced when compared to other classes, no matter what components get chosen for each option.
First: Fighting Style. The fighting style option allows the player to choose one item from a list of bonus feats or feat-like abilities. The options can be consolidated into four fighting styles: Archery Fighting Style, Beast Mastery Fighting Style, Hunter Fighting Style, and Two-Weapon Fighting Style. Place Defensive Mobility, Bow Expertise, and Crossbow Expertise feat-like abilities as components under the Archery Fighting Style. Beast Mastery and Hunter Fighting Styles stand as single item entries. Then, place Flashing Blade Mastery, Marauder (fighting style from the core build), Spinning Axe Mastery, and Two-Blade Mastery into the Two-Weapon Fighting Style. Finally, place the extra healing surge per day from the Scout build into the Two-Weapon Fighting Style since melee combatants are more likely to suffer from healing surge shortages. Here is the final tally for the first option of the ranger class.
Option 1: Fighting Style. Choose one fighting style from the following list.
Archery Fighting Style (choose one bonus feat from the following three components)
Defensive Mobility (from Core build)
Bow Expertise (from Hunter build)
Crossbow Expertise (from Hunter build): plus reload as free action.
Beast Mastery Fighting Style (from Core build).
Hunter Fighting Style (from Core build).
Two-Weapon Fighting Style (gain one additional healing surge per day, plus choose one of the following four masteries).
Flashing Blade Mastery (from Scout build)
Marauder “Mastery” (from Core build)
Spinning Axe Mastery (from Scout build)
Two-Blade Master (from Core build)
Second: Utility Powers from the Aspects of the Wild and Hunter’s Quarry. Hunter’s Quarry fits neatly in the list of the wild aspects because they are all utility powers. Since I will be adding a daily attack power, limit the number of utility powers to one instead of two for balance and consolidate the list of aspects from the Essentials’ builds. Option 2 for the ranger class looks like this.
Option 2: Choose one at-will utility power from the following list of Wild Aspects or choose Hunter’s Quarry.
Aspect of the Charging Ram (from Hunter build)
Aspect of the Cunning Fox (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Aspect of the Dancing Serpent (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Aspect of the Hungry Shark (from Scout build)
Aspect of the Lone Wolf (from Hunter build)
Aspect of the Lurker Spider (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Aspect of the Pack Wolf (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Aspect of the Pouncing Lynx (from Hunter build)
Aspect of the Regal Lion (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Aspect of the Seeking Falcon (from Hunter build)
Aspect of the Soaring Hawk (from Scout build)
Hunter’s Quarry (from Core build)
Third: Wilderness Knacks provide feat-like abilities that bolster skills. Since I will be adding a daily attack power, limit the number of wilderness knacks to one instead of two. Option 3 for the ranger class looks like this.
Option 3: Choose one Wilderness Knack from the following seven items.
Ambush Expertise (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Beast Empathy (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Mountain Guide (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Prime Shot (from Core build)
Running Attack (from Core build)
Watchful Rest (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Wilderness Tracker (from Hunter & Scout builds)
Fourth: The ranger has an opportunity to select either a bonus feat or bonus feat-like ability which is a key attribute that ties into the choice of fighting style. For the final list of build options, place all four feat options listed below together and allow the player to select one. Option 4 looks like this.
Option 4: Choose either Prime Shot, Running Attack, Attack Finesse, or Weapon Talent.
Fifth: At-Will attack powers are a principal component to any build. Place Aimed Shot, Clever Shot, Rapid Shot, and Dual Weapon Attack in the list of available Level 1 ranger at-will attack powers. Option 5 looks like this.
Option 5: Gain two Ranger Level 1 At-Will Attack Powers from any source, and include Aimed Shot, Clever Shot, Rapid Shot, and Dual Weapon Attack in the list of available powers.
Sixth: Each build needs one encounter attack power.
Option 6: Gain one Ranger Level 1 Encounter Attack Power from any source, and include Power Strike and Disruptive Shot in the list of available powers.
Seventh: The Daily attack power for a Level 1 ranger is especially important to maintain balance when compared to other classes.
Option 7: Gain one Ranger Level 1 Daily Attack Power from any source.
This consolidated ranger provides the player a multitude of choices to customize his character to match his or her concept. It allows the use of all options of the Ranger across the entire Core material and Essentials powers. Dozens of unique Level 1 Rangers can be built, but four will stand out, based primarily on the Fighting Style choice. For subsequent levels of the Ranger, focus on the options available as outlined in the Player’s Handbook class leveling guide and watch for any features that confound things from Essentials. The choice of feats, background, and theme should further the character concept.
Sadly, this task of compiling the build options into a concise and easily customizable class is something Wizards needs to be working toward if they are to rescue D&D from the milieu of Core vs. Essentials. Reconciliation is possible, with some effort.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 6:27 PM
Twice during my home campaign session, the question came up: If you hit or miss with an at-will attack power that uses a standard action, can you use an action point to try the attack again?
There is no published RAW deal (Rules As Written) to answer this question, so let's start by looking at some examples of power limits.
The wizard powers: Magic Missile and Wizard’s Fury.
Magic Missile is a Level 1 at-will power that normally requires a standard action to execute.
The daily power Wizard's Fury (also level 1) has the following effect: "Until the end of the encounter, as a minor action once per turn, you can cast magic missile."
This is an example of the limit of once per turn for a power. It does not allow the magic missile to be cast as standard action and a minor action in the same round. This is because by executing Wizard's Fury, the player has changed the action type for Magic Missile from a standard action to a minor action, with the once per turn restriction built in.
The Opportunity Attack.
An opportunity attack is a melee basic attack that is triggered usually in one of three ways: the target leaves your threatened square, the target makes a ranged attack while adjacent to you, or the target makes an area attack while adjacent to you. An opportunity attack is a free action that acts as an immediate interrupt, which interrupts the target's action long enough to execute the opportunity attack, after which the target continues with its action if it can. So it won't halt movement or stop an attack. Here is the key component of the opportunity attack: "You can take only one opportunity action during another combatants turn, but you can take any number during a round.” This RAW deal allows for multiple melee basic attacks per round, but only against different monsters. This is why if three kobolds run past you, you get to make an opportunity attack against each one, but only one attack per kobold. It is also why if during its move a kobold leaves your threatened square, enters another of your threatened squares, then leaves that second square, the kobold does not receive two attacks of opportunity from you.
I’d like to also clarify that if all the kobolds act on the same initiative count, it does not imply that they all act as a unit or should be considered as anything other than individual monsters. Grouping monsters by type into the initiative queue is an act of convenience only for a DM to run the game. Each monster is considered to have its own initiative and its own turn with its own set of actions, regardless of its actual place in the initiative order or whether all the kobold pikemen act on initiative count 18.
The Free Action.
There is a "seemingly" conflicting RAW deal to the opportunity attack, which occurs under the rules of attacking using a free action. An opportunity attack occurs as a free action, but triggered attack powers are also executed as a free action (or sometimes no action). The RAW deal states: "A creature can take a free action to use an attack power only once per turn.” The idea behind it is to prevent a player who has two triggered powers from using both powers if both triggers occur. That means if I have an attack power that triggers when a creature uses a charm spell, and another that occurs if the creature shifts away from me, I can only use one of those triggered powers if the spell both is a charm and allows the creature to shift.
Note that this free action rule is specifically "once per turn", and the triggered attack would occur on the monster's turn (the trigger's turn). So, you can still only make one opportunity attack as a free action on a monster's turn, but you can make another opportunity attack as a free action on the next monster's turn, should the attack be triggered, thus allowing you to make multiple opportunity attacks in a round. So although this RAW deal looks like it confuses the issue, the "once per round" vs. "once per turn" ends up clarifying the deal, oddly enough.
Turn vs. Round
To clarify, each player character and each monster gets its own turn, which comprises three parts: The start of the turn (where it takes ongoing damage but can take no actions), the middle of the turn (where it takes actions), and the end of its turn (where it makes saving throws and can take no actions). The collection of turns for all creatures, traps, etc., constitutes the round. Or the time from the start of your turn to the start of your next turn represents one round. In combat interpretations, all creatures are thought to act simultaneously, where one round represents about 6 seconds of combat. With each turn occurring at the same time, each turn also represents about 6 seconds of combat. But this is only for understanding the role of combat for D&D, and needs to be kept completely separate from the adjudication of combat rules, initiative, turns, and rounds.
The Witch Bolt.
The witch bolt is a Level 1 wizard at-will attack. It uses a standard action to execute. However, it has a "Sustain Standard: Reroll the damage and deal it to the target again.” So here is the question: After using this power, can a player use an action point and use the 'sustain standard' to deal damage again?
What would you say?
My answer: No. Here's why: The RAW deal for sustaining powers is this: "An effect that has a 'sustain standard', a 'sustain move', or a 'sustain minor' duration lasts as long as you sustain it. Starting on the turn after you create an effect, you sustain the effect by taking the indicated action.” The second sentence answers the question clearly. You cannot sustain the power until the turn after you execute the power. Thus, it prevents the power from being used twice in the same turn.
This is a warlock utility at-will power that can be used as a free action. It has a trigger of killing a creature, which then allows the 'effect' of gaining a bonus to attack rolls. However, it has a "special" entry that states "you can use this power only once per round.” So this is one of dozens of examples of powers with usage restrictions of once per round, especially when the action type is move, minor, or free.
Let's look at another Warlock power. Darkspiral Aura is an immediate interrupt power (which would occur on a monster's turn and therefore occurs as a free action for the player). Originally, the trigger stated "Once per round as a free action when an enemy makes a melee attack or a ranged attack against you, you can use your Darkspiral Aura as an immediate interrupt." But in 2009, the published errata rewrote this as "When an enemy makes a melee attack or a ranged attack against you, you can use your Darkspiral Aura as an immediate interrupt."
Why the change in wording? Because the power could be used more than "once per round" if more than one monster triggered it. But, under the RAW deal for attacking as a Free Action, you cannot make more than one triggered attack against a single monster in a round. The power still can only be used once against a given target in a given round.
To sum up:
There are no RAW deals that specifically prevent the use of an at-will attack power as standard action more than once in a round. I think this is mainly because there is normally only one standard action available in a round. The only exception to this is when using an action point to take an extra action (which could be either a standard, move, or minor action). But there is ample evidence of restricting attack powers to once per round or once per turn. Durations of effects and circular loops across powers (where one power triggers another power, which triggers the first power again) have been 'fixed' extensively in the published errata. I think nearly exclusively, no attack power that takes only a move, minor, or free action to execute can be used more than once in a round. (I’m sure there are exceptions.) As a role playing device, I think the magic or gumption used by a player to execute an attack power uses up that magic or gumption, whether they hit or miss, and prevents the power from being used again until the player's next turn. You can use a basic attack more than once in a round, but only once per turn. And I think this gives us a fundamental ruling that we can rely on.
Using the idea of specific beats general: Unless specified otherwise, an attack power can be used more than once per round, but only once per turn. This seems like a reasonable ruling where there is no RAW deal from Wizards. Thus, here is my answer to the question: If you hit or miss with an at-will attack power that uses a standard action, can you use an action point to try the attack again? No, unless the power specifies otherwise.