When PCs Fight Each Other – Fourthcore Team Deathmatch

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 15, 2012

Have you ever looked around the gaming table and tried to imagine what it would be like to have your character face off against the other characters rather than more monsters? I’ll admit that I do it all the time. I don’t necessarily think that I’d do very well one-on-one unless a number of random factors fell my way (winning initiative, having cover or higher ground, facing off against an opponent whose attacks deal damage of the same type as my best resistance, etc.), but as I look to the other PCs in my party I’ve often thought that as a team we could take any other team of PCs. Fourthcore Team Deathmatch turns this random musing into reality. It’s a forum where we can finally and definitively find out whose best at D&D and crown a winner.

I discovered Fourthcore Team Deathmatch by accident when I was registering for events for this summer’s GenCon. The description sounded exciting and after a quick visit to their website to get more details I was sold.

The Fourthcore Team Deathmatch (FTDM) is a contest of skill, wits, and luck. FTDM is about winning D&D. Small teams of dungeoneers are pitted against each other in a no-holds-barred frenzy of carnage in a team-based, player-vs-player competition.

For anyone who enjoys hack and slash or Lair Assault, and wants to take it to the next level this is your game. It reduces 4e D&D to the raw tactical elements and turns the role-playing into roll-playing. Nobody cares that your character’s village was burned to the ground by a Dragon when he was 7; all we want to know is that your character can deal a boat-load of damage and can take a hit. Some will argue that Fourthcore Team Deathmatch is not D&D and I’m not going to make any claims to the contrary. But I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. It’s a chance to take the combat mechanics that so many of us enjoy and gives players a chance to demonstrate how to use those tactics to their fullest potential. As I said above it’s a lot like Lair Assault in that regard. If you’re looking for a game with a lot of role-playing then FTDM isn’t for you. But if you want to just kill monsters, or in this case other player characters, then you’re about to hit the jackpot.

How Does It Work?

To begin with you’ll need a character. In order to keep things simple and relatively balanced all characters are level 1. You can be any race or class that’s 4e-legal. No themes, backgrounds, campaign-specific mechanics (like Spellscars or Dragonmarks), no Fortune Cards or other superfluous mechanics. This is just core rules. It’s PHB1 character creation rules so no magic items, consumables or alchemical items. Just you and your over-the-counter gear. See the official Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Character Creation Rules for more details.

Once you’ve completed your character it’s time to join a team. Each team consists of four players on each side (ideally). Knowing who else is on your team and creating characters together will yield the best results, however there is still a lot to be said for just being as dangerous as possible on your own and not worrying about the rest of the team. You’ll likely spend a lot of time working on your own anyway.

The teams face off in one of the many arenas specially designed for these confrontations. All the maps are available on the FTDM website so if you’re going to play one of these events you should study up and do your homework ahead of time. Each location has special features including traps, hazards and weapons. Some areas of the map may provide you with additional tactical advantages (like critting on a 15-20) so keep this in mind once the fight begins.

Once the clock starts the PCs begin to appear one at a time on the map and the fighting begins. There are 4 spawning locations (determined randomly by rolling a d4). PCs spawn in reverse initiative order as it’s a huge tactical advantage to go last. On your turn you try to kill or wound as many of the opposing PCs as you can. Every kill earns your team 1 point. It’s a bloodbath. Expect to kill and be killed numerous times.

At the beginning of each turn you either keep trying to kill the enemy or, if you were killed or are currently dying, you respawn. Doing this brings you back into the fight as if you’ve taken an extended rest. However there are a few exceptions. You do not get a new action point when you respawn nor do daily powers return. However, if you’ve activated a daily that lasts until the end of the encounter it is still active. The battles take 60 minutes of real time. The team with the most points (kills) wins.

I was fortunate enough to play in a Fourthcore Team Deathmatch last weekend at Dueling Grounds in Toronto. The event provided one of the DMs who is running it at GenCon an opportunity to try out the maps and play-test the GenCon event. We only had 6 players so we split into two teams of three. It was a fast-paced, action-packed couple of hours. Read the DMs Retrospective of the Toronto FTDM Tournament.

The Citadel

The first match took place in The Citadel. It’s got three siege weapons that the PCs can use against their opponents as well as a stream of lava running through the courtyard. We learned quickly that the terrain and the special features (like the ballista and cauldron of boiling oil) can make a huge difference. In our case one of the PCs was playing a Tiefling so his natural fire resist gave him a pretty big edge.

The Court of the Storm Lord

The second match took place in The Court of the Storm Lord. This time the terrain was even deadlier. First of all there was a huge storm cloud that begins in a random location and then circles the map, pushing PCs randomly if they are unfortunately to get caught in the vortex. Any PC unlucky enough to get pushed into a pit (by the vortex or any of their opponents) was instantly killed. Suddenly PCs with push and slide powers had an advantage.

This map had other features that could benefit the PCs. Lighting rods that could be used to target multiple enemies were located at each corner, however if you missed you were electrocuted and died instantly. The other feature was the central column that gave anyone standing on it the power to crit on a 15-20. Unfortunately neither side managed to get a PC to the top to use it.

Some of the players who play in the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch at GenCon will be lucky enough to play on the 3D Court of the Storm Lord created by Benoit at Roving Band of Misfits. Considering how much I enjoyed playing on the flat map, getting to use the 3D one seems like a win before you even kill your first opponent.

Interecion in the Feywild

When this event is run at GenCon they will be using the two maps above for the preliminary round of the tournament. The semi-finals will be Interecion in the Feywild. If you’re going to GenCon you better take a look at this unusual and very creative map that wraps in all directions.

If you’re going to GenCon this summer and are interested in watching the Deathmatch or possibly even competing, I’ll be participating in the morning qualifier on Saturday, August 18 (Event RPG1232043: Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Entry Round) from 10:00-12:30. I’m partnering up with Alton from 20ft Radius and we’re still looking for two more players to round out our team. If you’re interested let me know in the comments below.

See the FTDM GenCon page for more details.

First Impression

My two hours participating in the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch was so much fun. As I said above this event is strictly roll-playing. Hack and slash at its finest. Tactics played an enormous part in this competition so don’t think that you can win by just swinging that sword better than the next guy (although hot dice will help). Careful character creation is also a big part of a successful team so don’t just whip something together at the last second. Treat this with the same careful planning that you would Lair Assault. Every choice matters. As you’ll get your encounter powers refreshed every time you respawn be sure to take powers that will give you the biggest advantage. Fey Step was remarkably effective during our game.

Fourthcore Team Deathmatch in Toronto

If you’re interested in participating in Fourthcore Team Deathmatch we’ve got another one in the works for July 14 at Harry T North in Toronto (details still to be confirmed). Email me directly or leave a comment if you’re interested in killing other PCs and proving that you’re the best at D&D.

UPDATE: This event is confirmed. The FTDM is being held on Saturday, July 14 at Harry Tarantula North in Toronto. The tournament begins at noon. Bring a level 1 character and join us for a fun-filled afternoon of killing other PCs and finding out who’s the best at D&D. No need to sign up at this point, just be there at noon and we’ll add you to a team. We’ll even have a few pre-gens on hand, just in case you don’t have time to build a character of your own.

Be sure to visit the Fourthcore Team Deathmatch website for everything you need to know about this awesome D&D variant. If you have any questions about FTDM, you can email Rob (rwaluchow AT gmail DOT com) or tweet him at @rwaluchow.

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1 rwaluchow June 15, 2012 at 11:15 am

FTDM takes the rules of 4e, spins them on their head, and uses them like a PvP videogame. It’s an unabashedly RP-free competitive board game.

I’m thrilled that you are as entertained by the format as I am!

I’ll see everybody in July!

2 Taed June 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

I did this sort of thing about 2 years back on the Dark Sun Game Day. I had 8 players — too many to run effectively. So, I split them into two teams (Veiled Alliance and those working for “The Man”) and there were three encounters (the first two of which were limited to 6 rounds):

— In the first, the government folks hear a rumor of a Veiled Alliance meeting and have to capture them alive for interrogation. The VA clearly want to escape, but failed to do so in our encounter. This is based on an encounter from “The Lost Cistern of Aravek”.

— As a warm-up, the two teams are pitted against each other in the arena in an encounter taken from “Bloodsand Arena”. It’s basically a game of capture-the-flag.

— As the final “interrogation”, the two teams fight to the death in the arena.

The DMing of this was minimal (since there were no bad guys to run), so I actually played as well. It ran pretty fast, taking about 4 hours for the 3 encounters with 8 people.

The final fight to the death went pretty well and everyone really got into the spirit of it. After one player went unconcious, but then rolled a “20” on his death save, every down player then got Coup de Drated. One player really got frustrated when he went down in the first round (he was the only ranged attack on that team, so the other team wisely focused on him). But he got healed, then went down again, healed, then got to finally do some attacks, went down, healed, and didn’t go down again until the end. Out of 8 PCs, there was only 1 survivor. It was a fun battle because there were good tactics being played on both sides.

I’m certainly going to run something similar at some point, but it’s certainly not something that one would run often.

3 Alton June 15, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Looking forward to it!

4 The Unlucky Paladin June 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I might… If I can get my people to agree to be a team.

5 The Gimper June 16, 2012 at 1:06 am

At my FLGS, on the last night of each season of Encounters, after every table has finished, we have a PVP match. Last character standing wins (no prize, just bragging rights).


6 Sunyaku June 19, 2012 at 12:20 am

This looks AWESOME! I suggested to WoTC a few months back that they create a program like this… something similar to Lair Assault that actually has a story that culminates in some hardcore PVP action.

7 rwaluchow June 20, 2012 at 8:55 am
8 Sunyaku June 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm

@rwaluchow Not gonna lie, your post actually caused me to look up how long of a drive it is from Madison WI to Toronto. 😀

9 Ameron (Derek Myers) June 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

My home group played three rounds of FTDM over the weekend and we had so much fun. It’s so intense and playing under the clock adds something that most players are not used to. This kind of tournament really highlights just how much fun it can be to play basic level 1 characters. The thrill of killing another PC provides something so much more satisfying than killing nameless, faceless monsters. Hopefully you can make it to Toronto for July 14 or for GenCon in August.

10 Sunyaku June 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm

@Ameron Have you guys given any thought to starting up a monthly or quarterly FTDM event at your FLGS? I was thinking this could be a blast, and maybe even become a more regular thing… keep stats on kills/deaths… damage dealt/taken… matches won/lost. Pump the data into a ranking/leader board… have ranked tournaments… etc. etc. I don’t have the time right now to run a program like this at my FLGS, but I might pitch the idea later this year…. and possibly even volunteer to run this at a small local con…

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