Monday, June 21, 2010

4E & Lasting Damage

I was thinking about damage in 4E today and had a quick thought. There are basically three types of damage:
  • HP loss
  • Healing surge loss
  • Conditions
In general, HP loss and most conditions are remedied easily with a 5 minute rest. Healing surge lost is remedied with an extended (8 hr) rest.

That fits nicely enough onto my scales:
  • 1 year (12 months)
  • 1 season (3 months)
  • 1 month: 48 leagues (consider rounding to 40, 45, or 50) -- ~850 x 1300 miles (empire or small continent)
  • 10 days: 18 leagues
  • 1 week: 12 leagues -- ~215 x 325 miles (kingdom)
  • 3 days: 6 leagues
  • 1 day: 2 leagues -- 36 x 54 miles (duchy?)
  • Morning/Afternoon/Night (1/3 of a day): 1 league, with one part usually reserved for downtime
  • 2 hour "chunks:" 2 miles (if you require 2 chunks/day for downtime)...or 0.5 leagues (if downtime is abstracted -- 12 x 18 miles or 9 x 13.5 miles (barony?)
  • 1 mini-chunk (~40 mins): 1/2 mile
  • 1 turn (~10 mins): 1 furlong (220 yards) -- 6/8 mile x 9/8 mile (manor)
  • 1 partial-turn (~3 minutes): 3.3 chains (~70 yards)
  • 1 minute (~60 seconds): 1 chain/4 rods (22 yards) -- ~130 x 200 yards (5 acres)
  • 1 round (~20 seconds): 1 rod (5.5 yards)
  • 1 segment (~6 seconds): 1 pace (~1.5 yards) -- 10 x 15 yards (perch, or 1/160th of an acre)
It also implies that there should be another type of damage which takes approximately a month to shrug off. It is roughly a scale factor of 1:100 between 5 minutes and 8 hours (which is about the same as four levels on my table above), so 8 hours * 100 = 33 days, which is more or less a month. This would be really nice for abstracting out damage in larger encounters, long overland travel forced marches, and so on.

The basic function of healing surges is to ration resources for the "one more door" question which is really a strategic question. The basic function of HP is to differentiate how durable characters are in tactical combat.


The simplest approach is to use some sort of "mega healing surge," where in order to take an extended rest you need to expend a Mega Healing Surge. This replicates a "one more door" effect ("one more hex?") but has the downside of making not only the 3-encounter adventuring day but also the 3-day adventuring month, which is probably undesirable.

I also shy away from using mega-conditions. 4E is finely tuned so much to the point that if you impose quantitative numerical penalties like -1 to hit or something that it will significantly degrade the effectiveness of characters in tactical combat. Note that a character with 1 healing surge is just as effective as one with 10 healing surges. Now, I would be willing to make an exception for some "mega-conditions," especially if rituals are brought into play to allow you to heal them. I would also be willing to use watered down conditions; for example, instead of "slowed" it might be "-1 speed;" instead of "weakened," perhaps -2/tier damage.

Another approach we have used before is "resistant healing surge damage." This is damage that basically knocks off healing surges and cannot be healed until you've hit a milestone. So, you can't just sit around and get better, you actually have to go do something adventurous.

I was thinking about one final option for long-term resistant damage and it is loss of powers. In general powers are nice but not essential perks. Losing a daily or encounter power hurts but it hurts a lot less than -1 to hit. One thing I don't like about this is that higher level characters tend to have many more powers than lower level characters, whereas healing surges increase relatively slowly.

Additionally, because long downtime is hard to get in many campaigns, I would allow ALL long-term strategic ailments (short of those with plot significance requiring rituals) to be thrown off after a month of rest, and I would allow one or some to be healed after a week of rest. You could also treat it like the death penalty and erase the penalty after active adventuring (3 milestones or something), or to encourage risk-taking you could allow an Endurance Check (with level appropriate DC) after a character completes 3 milestones in a day.

So, perhaps when one takes strategic damage, one picks up one of the following (roll 1d6 or pick if appropriate to the injury):
- (1-2) Power Down: Lose the use of any one power you know
- (3) Crippled: -1 speed
- (4) Frail: -2/tier on all damage rolls
- (5) Bad Magic: Start each day with -1 magic item power usage
- (6) Exhausted: Lose a healing surge (resistant, only restored after the strategic rest interval)

Those would all be significant blows to a character without being crippling. To remove each negative condition you'd need to do this:
  • One month of bed rest removes all such negative conditions.

  • One week of rest removes one such negative condition.
  • When a character hits their third milestone in a day, they may make an Endurance check. If successful, one condition is removed.
  • Certain rituals may allow these to be removed.


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