May 15, 2009

Triggering Combat Powers in 4E D&D

This post over at tenletter prompted inspired me to make a suggestion - one which I'm sure someone else in the blogosphere has made before (but I can't find the reference): what if you removed the names of the combat powers in 4E? Instead, just have the players actually describe what they are doing instead of "pushing a button".

But I'll actually take this one step further.

What if you made these nameless Encounter and Daily powers triggered effects, instead of chosen actions? For example:
  • Player's Daily powers would trigger (and replace) any critical hit on an opponent made with a basic attack or an at-will power.
  • Encounter powers would happen only after any successful hit with a basic attack or an at-will power, and replace the effects of the initial attack.
  • At-will and utility powers would be used as they operate now.
The effects of this might be to limit character choices, thus promoting player creativity. It might play out much like 3E or previous editions of D&D where there are far fewer choices for your "toon". Heck, few classes had multiple ways of making melee attacks (monk's being on exception; flurry of blows anyone?) eliminating character choices from one round to the next might also speed up combat.

Now, such a house rule might also apply only to martial and primal classes: divine and arcane classes might remain as they are. I mean, wizards have always had tons of choices - that was their specialty - and still is considering that Tomes have been added to 4E (greatly expanding the flexibility of wizards in game).But I digress...

If you remove the names of encounter and daily powers and simply move them over to the existing at-will powers as triggered effects (immediate interrupts maybe?), it might have a very strong effect on the mood/feel of 4E combat as it plays out.

Crazy, stupid idea? Or maybe there's some traction here? What do think?


  1. An interesting idea. How would you handle powers that are already triggered, such as a sword mage's Frost Backlash which is triggered by a successful hit on the Sword Mage?

  2. Interesting and having that manga beside the post is just taking this into a twisted direction.

    I would also add that in order to use your Daily, you must be bloodied or spend an action point otherwise.

    Really interested to see if anyone would playtest this and share the results. I know I would have a hard time explaining this to my players.

  3. In my game we replaced Action Points with surges (healing surges). To take an extra action (and gain any benefits that come normally with an action point), a character must spend a surge. To use a daily power, they must spend a surge (but I've also eliminated the magic item daily power limit).

  4. I've found that reflavouring/renaming powers works. I'll have to give unnaming them a try.

    I'm not too sure about moving encounter/daily powers to trigger-based. What about powering up to encounter/daily powers? Example: encounter powers only become available in round 3; daily powers become available in round 4.

    I like Questing GM's suggestion of using a Daily once some other condition has been met (bloodied).

  5. Not sure how your plan for encounter powers is much different than the usual, since most require an attack roll that's exactly the same as an at-will. The only difference is that if encounter powers trigger on a successful hit, then you can't ever miss with them (which might be nice, really - nothing's worse than burning your daily power with a roll of 1).

    Your approach would require some rewriting of powers. For instance, powers that are a little less powerful than they'd otherwise be due to having "miss" or "reliable" effects would need updating.

    Also, it seems to me that some of the powers are really meant to respond to specific circumstances which would become useless if you can't trigger them when you want to. A good example would be the set of powers that let you shift before making a melee attack; you'd have to be able to trigger them before making your attack roll.

    There's also the class of powers that are triggered by enemy actions, which really fall outside the context of what you're proposing.

    What about this? Suppose players could elect to classify some of their encounter or daily powers as "combat triggered." They lose the ability to electively trigger them whenever they want to.

    Then, when you roll a critical hit, you can elect to do one of three things:

    * Deal critical damage as normal
    * Trigger the effects of your "combat triggered" encounter power.
    * Make another attack roll against the target to try to trigger your "combat triggered" daily power. If you hit, it triggers. If you miss, deal normal melee damage.

    This way, players can choose which powers they want to risk not being able to trigger, with the tradeoff being that daily and encounter powers aren't limited in the number of times they can be triggered; if you keep rolling crits, you could trigger dailies all day.


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