Sunday, April 12, 2009

Recharge and Cooldown

I was rereading some AD&D rules and came across the nugget about fighters being allowed to charge but once per turn (i.e., 10 rounds).

On one hand, I hate this. Its one more duration to track -- "Bob charged on round 3... Its now round 8? no, 9! So he has a few more rounds to wait before his turn comes up."

On the other hand, its great because it gives the player a tactical choice to make. Do I expend this valuable resource (being able to get extra movement, an extra attack, and bonuses to hit) now, or do I wait for a more opportune moment? Also, it rations use of a strictly better ability. Most of the time, charging is strictly better than just closing to melee, so having a limit forces you to choose wisely.

Luckily, there's an easy way around my objection. 4E implemented it and its similar to my recent kick for reducing complicated things to probabilistic dice rolls. Use a recharge roll.

So, in the case of our fighter, we'd have him roll 1d10 every round after charging. On a "1," his charge is ready to use again -- he's "re"charged (cue cymbal crash).

Why not use this for all sorts of mechanics? For example, you could have a fighter roll a D6 with a 5 or higher showing "recharging" after they use a maneuver of any type (rationing abilities that are supposed to be used every few rounds). You could have a cleric roll at the start of every encounter to see if their Divine Favor has recharged (rationing abilities that are only supposed to be used every few encounters). At the extreme, you could have them roll every quest or milestone (rationing abilities that are only to be used a few times per level).

You can have a simple system with two levels:

Or you can have a more complicated system, where usage drops you down on the track and recharging moves you up:

This is also perfect for linking with my one-handed fighting style (vice TWF, THF, or Sword & Board). One handed fighters could get to roll +1d6 on recharge rolls and retain the more favorable, making them able to perform stunts more often (every 2 rounds instead of every 3, if you stick with TN5).

If you want to reduce the frequency of stunts, then use TN 6: This means 1d6 folks will get a stunt every 6 rounds or so and 2d6 folks will 3-4 rounds.

One nice thing about this is that it prevents Stunt-Spam. This is evident in 4E; monsters usually unload all their most potent abilities in the first 2-3 rounds of the fight, and PCs usually do the same. The goal is to kick the other side in the junk as hard and as fast as possible and push things into a mopping up scenario. You see a basic form of it in 1E, when players open up with a charge, spell, or other consumable resource. This makes most fights pretty anticlimactic.

By using the recarge mechanic, even long fights are interesting because your options are continually expanding and contracting. Additionally, it makes it much easier to plan for balanced game design. One concern with "per encounter" powers is that they suck if your DM prefers long encounters and are very powerful with shorter ones. Same thing with daily powers -- Vancian magic is very powerful if you can spooge everything in a 15 minute adventuring day, but if the day is very long, then it becomes less potent.

This mechanic lets the designer say, "Well, I want the player to be able to use this once per three encounters," rather than saying, "Well, they can use it once per day and I'll mention in the DM notes that a day should be 3 encounters long most of the time."

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