For the past few months my regular gaming group took a break from D&D. Now we’re gearing up to return to 4e D&D. However, some of my players are again talking about why they wanted to take a beak in the first place. They were getting bored. They felt that 4e D&D was too much of the same week in and week out.
One of the objectives of this blog has always been to talk about ways to improve your gaming experience. We share a lot of ideas and insights about gaming in general with an obvious focus on 4e D&D. Personally I like 4e the way it is, but I do recognize that there are opportunities for improvement. In fact I encourage creativity if the players think a change will make any part of the game more fun, or more exciting.
With this in mind I opened the floor to new ideas. I asked my gaming group what we could do differently to win back the players who were bored. They came up with a lot of great suggestions. Some of these we’d tried before with varying levels of success, others were things they’d read on the Wizards’ forums that we thought sounded fun. In the end we came up with a list of 9 things that we felt would jump-start our 4e D&D games.
I don’t think we’re the first to come up with any of these ideas but for some it’s the first time we’ll be putting them into practice at out gaming table. As we determine the viability of these changes, and the potential benefit vs. problems, we’ll keep you posted. Until then we welcome your feedback. Let us know if you’ve tried any of these 4e tweaks and how it affected your game. If you’ve got another suggestion for the list, please share it in the comments below.
1. Racial bonuses
Remove all restrictions. Don’t force the +2 modifier to any specific stats; allow the player to assign them to any two they want. For example, Dwarves normally get +2 to Wisdom and +2 to either Constitution or Strength. If You’re playing a Dwarven Wizard you may instead want to take a +2 in Intelligence, or if you’re playing a Sorcerer you may want +2 in Charisma. This change will encourage race/class combos you wouldn’t normally see and players can assign that +2 bonus to the stats they need to excel in a certain class. (Obviously Humans will still just get +2 to any single ability score, so no change there.)
See Playing Against Type.
Once you take a multi-class feat you can swap out one encounter, daily and utility power from your main class with your new class. You are not required to take the Novice Power, Adept Power and Acolyte Power feats. Bards who multi-class more than once can only power swap with one of their new classes.
3. Inherent bonuses
All character will use inherent bonuses. This allows the DM to award cool magic treasure and not merely hand out +1 stuff to keep the math in check.
4. Second Wind
Downgrade Second Wind from a standard action to a move action. This serves two purposes. 1) If characters can attack every round combat will go faster, something everyone wants. 2) When a PC falls unconscious they usually miss at least one round of attacks and force another PC to stop fighting and heal them. If Second Wind is a move action a wounded PC is more likely to use it before they’re down to their last hit point.
5. Action points
Allow players to use their action points to take immediate actions. If a player can justify why their PC should take certain action between turns, allow it and charge them with an action point. Examples include catching a falling ally, blocking or taking a hit for an adjacent ally, shooting at a fleeing enemy. Reward creativity.
6. Recharge powers
This is something we’ve tried with a lot of success in our home games. Once a PC has expended all of his Encounter powers he can roll a d6 to try and recharge one every round. On a 6 he regains the use of a single Encounter power (player’s choice). Utility Encounter powers and interrupt powers do not need to be expended before the PC can start to roll for recharge. However, they cannot recharge an unused power to “bank” a second use of it.
In some circumstances, especially for low-level adventures or situations where a PC is forced to fight superior numbers alone, we have allowed PCs to reroll to regain Daily powers. However, all of the PCs Encounter and Daily powers needed to be expended before they could roll to recharge a Daily. On a 6 they can still only recharge one power but in these cases they can choose a Daily or Encounter power.
7. Modify extra dice for strikers
Consider changing the way strikers that roll extra dice on a hit (Rogues, Rangers, Warlocks) do the extra damage. Instead of just adding on more damage dice, give them more attacks. For example, if a Rogue would normally add an extra +2d6 damage for sneak dice, instead allow the Rogue to make the same attack a second time. I realize that they’re giving up guaranteed damage for the chance at something greater, but if they were using an Encounter or Daily power they can potentially deal a lot more damage in the long run.
I’d also toy with the possibility of a mechanic that would let the second attack crit more easily. Perhaps for each extra damage die you sacrifice your crit range increase by one. So a Ranger that gives up +1d8 would crit on 19-20 and a Rogue that gives up +2d6 would crit on 18-20. I’ll admit that this mechanic will need some work, but it would let strikers do more striking.
8. Skills and abilities
There will be times when it seems to make more sense for a skill to be tied to a different ability. For example, Intimidate is a Charisma-based skill, but in the right circumstances it can certainly be tied to Strength. DMs should allow for a more fluid relationship between abilities and skills. Some knowledge skills could be tied to Wisdom depending on what kind of check is being rolled. Athletics and Acrobatics could easily be tied to Dexterity and Strength respectively instead of the other way around as is usually the case. If the player can explain why he thinks his skill check should be tied to a different ability, the DM should say yes and let him make the check using the modified score.
9. Turns on a timer
By now experienced 4e players should know how the game works. If you’ve been playing long enough to be experiencing burn out than you’re obviously familiar with 4e D&D. It’s time to stop coddling you. Combat can take a long time, especially at higher levels and especially if the party has six members. Everyone needs to know their character and know what that character is capable of doing.
For any group that has problems with players taking too long and combat taking too long, I suggest working under a timer. Two minutes is usually sufficient. When your time’s up you complete any action that’s in progress and then you move on to the next PC in the initiative. If you still had a move action left, too bad. It may seem harsh, but if you can’t figure out what to do on your turn you need to delay or make a simpler character. Obviously the DM can pause the timer if something completely unexpected happens or if someone else jumps in with an interrupt, but in the normal course of play their are no excuses for taking too long.
As I said at the beginning, I think 4e works fine as it is now, but if your group is looking for a change, perhaps because they’re bored with 4e or they’re experiencing burn-out, try implementing some or all of the suggestions I’ve provided above. These won’t be suitable for all gaming groups, but the chance to try something new could be the catalyst you need to reinvigorate your gaming group.
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