Monday, March 28, 2011

2 PCs: No Leader

Like the title says, neither Ace nor Al are from a leader class, or even multi-classed as a leader. With barely half of the expected roles covered, I knew I'd have to do something different so that the 2 PCs didn't get creamed every fight.

Anticipated issues:
1. Healing Surges.
4ed is built with the assumption that PCs would have access to some of their healing surges every fight. The way to access the healing that comes from healing surges most commonly comes from powers that Leaders provide, though items, second winds, and the occasional non-leader power will let you heal a bit.

2. Action Economy. For genre purposes, the PCs will need to be outnumbered from time to time. Occasionally they will be VERY outnumbered, and having just 2 PCs will make for some fights that could turn against them quickly. With few/no multi-target/controller powers the fights could turn very nasty, very fast.

These two issues intersect in two places.
Intersection A: Healing Surges, their main access to healing, are boring and use up a standard action when you could/should be doing something to end the fight faster. It's like giving one of the party's precious few actions away, tipping the action economy in favor of the monsters further.

Intersection B: The more they are outnumbered, the more things can swing out of their favor. In my experience, the two things that swing fights back to the PCs are big impressive heals and big impressive buffs: two things provided, primarily, by leaders. Controller dailies are the other thing that can swing fights hard. The PCs don't have access to ANY of this. The one game-changer they do have are Action Points.

My solution:
PCs do not gain an action point after an extended rest. PCs gain an action point after each milestone. A milestone is defined as the first encounter of any given day and every other encounter afterwards. PCs also gain an action point when they are first bloodied in an encounter. PCs lose all action points when they take an extended rest.
2. You may spend no more than one action point per round. You MAY spend more than one action point per encounter.
3. You may spend an action point to regain the use of your Second Wind.

This does a few things:
With an action point you can second wind AND still make an attack.
b. In a fight where things turn rough (one in which you get bloodied) you have access to extra healing if you choose to get it (by spending an action point).
c. In a tough fight where PCs are outnumbered, they can choose to turn the action economy in their favor a bit, by expending action points.
d. It encourages PCs to go and do some investigation (generally via super secret skill challenges) BEFORE finding heads to bust, so as to go into fights with more Action Points. I don't see this as metagaming on the part of my players. These Action Points now represent the investigators having more information, preparation, and/or conviction that they are onto something important.

If a Warlord ever joined the party, this system would break a bit with all of the shenanigans that warlords can grant on an AP. Also, at Paragon tier, this might get too broken as well, depending on the PC's Paragon Paths. I am not there yet, or even very soon, and my players get that this rule is experimental and subject to tweaking. I am hoping this doesn't make action points seem dull and/or common. They are still a resource that must be earned through perseverance and challenge.

The first fight we had (and only fight that has ended in one side all down) felt about right. Both PCs ended up getting slammed pretty hard by the NPCs early on, and both PCs utilized APs to get back on their feet and take down foes in early rounds, evening the odds. More fights will tell me more, but so far, I like the feel of it.

What am I missing? Do they meet my stated goals? Any suggestions on tweakage?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meet the boys: Ace

Gresh "Ace" Acerhalt
Ace was tenacious. Whenever the Sharn Watch gave him a job, he'd get it done, exactly as commanded. He'd probably do it in the most straight-forward, clumsy, and violent way possible, but he'd get it done.

Ace served Sharn well from Daggerwatch garrison, defending the good people of the Dura wards, however few they may be, from the criminal element. That all came tumbling down when Hashri'im Hret started making trouble. Hashri'im Hret, a half-orc who saw himself as a unifier and champion of the people, rose to prominence among the goblinoid tenements of Malleon's Gate, in lower Dura. He began unifying the goblin factions in that part of the city and, more dramatically, leveraging that unity to negotiate better wages and working conditions for them. Hret was receiving daily death threats, so the Watch decided to have him protected 24 hours-a-day. They needed a watchman who could deal with scummy conditions. They needed a watchman who wouldn't let any sketchy character too close to Hret. They needed someone who would remain ever vigilant, ready to bust heads when heads needed busting. They needed Ace.

At the end of Ace's first week on the job, the watch's plan was working. Ace was able to stop a number of minor assassination attempts, and Hret was continuing his work in Malleon's Gate. That night, while Ace was standing guard outside Hret's home, Ace did something he'd never done before: he fell asleep on guard duty. Before drifting off, the last thing he remembered was a halfling and a squid-faced man approaching the building. He was awoken by a smug reporter, Elim d'Sivis of the Sharn Inquisitive, quipping how a sleeping guard from the Watch really showed how much Sharn's government cared about the real change Hret was proposing.

Grumpy and confused, Ace walked the reporter in for his interview, and what the two of them found disturbed even Ace, with all of his watch experience. Pieces of Hret were everywhere, but not every piece: his head was missing. Between Elim's news article and the Watch's embarrassment, Ace was lucky to be given the chance to resign. He moved into a slum in Overlook and started trying to figure out who killed Hret and made him look so bad. That's how he met Alex.

Stats: Ace is a level 4 Half-Orc Fighter, using the Brawler Style. He fights with a set of spiked gauntlets, so that he always has a hand free-and a weapon ready.

Welcome to the Seedy Underbelly of Sharn

Due to a lack of players in the 4ed Dungeons and Dragons game I've been participating in, we decided to go a different direction. I am now running a 4ed game set in the city of Sharn in Eberron. The premise is that the two regular PCs will play partners in an inquisitive firm cracking cases in Sharn. Our 3rd, seasonal player, will play a recurring aid who will help on certain types of cases whenever his player is in town.

This means I get to write mysteries every week, which is fun, if a little stressful. It also means that I get to try and balance encounters for 2 PCs, which isn't what 4ed is exactly designed to do well, but I think I can do a good job.

This blog will have two types of posts:
1. Story Posts. I try and recapture what my PCs did each session.
2. Mechanics posts. I will write about things I'm trying in order to make 2-3 PC parties work, skill challenges that don't rip PCs out of the setting and story, or interesting monsters I've designed.

I will label each post clearly by type, so if you just like one or the other, you can choose which to read.
I hope you enjoy!