Endurance Rule Designer's Notes

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Endurance Rule Designer's Notes

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 22, 2009 1:16 am

Endurance Rule Designer Notes

The Endurance Rule has multiple effects, but the primary driving purpose is to deal with the focus fire problem (a discussion of which is too big to go into here), while presenting a realistic rather than heavily cinematic feel.

Rather than explictly limiting concentration of fire, the Endurance Rule is indirect. One of the reasons focus fire is so tempting is that damage has no negative effect on the monster until you cause enough damage to kill the monster. So if you hit a healthy monster a few times, then switch to a different monster, the damage against the first monster is largely wasted, since it does nothing until you return to that monster later on. You are very tempted to concentrate fire on one monster and not waste damage on monsters that won’t soon die. The Endurance Rule counters this effect by giving a real benefit to injuring a monster that you won’t soon kill. That monster will now weaken over the course of the fight. In return for not efficiently whittling down the monsters' offensive power, you are causing more total damage and thus ending the fight sooner.

A nice secondary benefit of the Endurance Rule is that it should help deal with some aspects of the “front-loading” problem. In 4th edition D&D, PC’s rely heavily on once per encounter powers to deal damage to the enemy. If the monsters are heavily defense-oriented and/or the players roll poorly with their big powers, the PC’s can “run out of steam” and the fight can drag on for quite a long time as the characters slowly try to finish off the opponents with their at-will powers. This also means that the players start out strong, then the advantage switches to the monsters as the fight progresses – the opposite of what you would want for dramatic effect. The Endurance Rule should tend to put a definite clock on fight length, and makes the monsters tire faster than the players so they don’t have an edge near the end of the fight.

Note that this means the Endurance Rule tends to make defense-oriented monster groups less powerful compared to offense-oriented monster groups. I think this is a good thing because in normal D&D, defense-oriented monster groups actually have an advantage because they can outlast the players’ burst of initial power, then slowly beat on the players over the long haul.

Another benefit is that it should tend to even out the fights a bit. Since difficult fights tend to last longer than easy fights, the Endurance Rule should give the players more of an edge in the difficult fights and less in the easy fights, and thus bring the fights a little bit closer to the ideal middle ground of “exciting but survivable”.

Determining the correct fraction of normal damage that becomes endurance damage is tricky, because it depends on the expected length of fights in the game – the effect of the rule is more pronounced with a lower offense/defense ratio.

The amount of bonus hit points to give the monsters should be about the number so that, if the players fight in a reasonable manner, the total endurance damage taken by the monster is equal on average to the number of bonus endurance hit points. My computer simulations have indicated 25% is appropriate for 6th level characters, but in playing with 1st level characters I’ve been experimenting with 30% as having a nice “feel”.

Note that the recommended endurance damage fraction of ¼, according to my computer simulations, only reduces the focus fire problem by 50%. It is a conservative rule. My previous experience has indicated that attempting to solve the entire focus fire problem with only a single rule usually feels too “heavy-handed”, and a layered approach of using more than one rule, each of which is only partially effective by itself, may be a preferable approach.

Instead of having monsters knock themselves out with endurance damage, I made the totally exhausted rule. Once the monster is totally exhausted, he is no longer a real threat but he doesn’t actually get defeated until the players finish him off. Although I call the state “totally exhausted” in my rules, players have been referring to the state as being “minionized”. The weakening rule allows a monster to be “partially minionized” as a transition between being fully effective and being totally exhausted.

I kind of like "minionized" but it is hard to put that into a formal rule description. I'm not really very partial about what the name of this rule should be or which special effect to use, I just chose the "endurance" theme as the something that made for clear terminology.

The rule that you cannot kill a monster with miss damage is for logical consistency – it wouldn’t make sense if such an attack could kill you when you are healthy but not once you become totally exhausted.

The Endurance Rule is a variant of the general idea that a monster becomes less effective in combat when damaged (I won’t go into discussion of that concept here). It is not a delayed time bomb that the players can wait for; the monster only suffers damage when actively fighting characters. The rule would not work well in a system where players can go on the defensive and become nearly invulnerable, as the players would hurt the monsters then delay until the monsters collapsed. Fortunately D&D is not such a game, the total defense action is not very effective in D&D so the players always want to keep fighting.

If the monster attacks, it is damaged. If the players simply run away and the monster has no one to attack, it is not damaged. Many of the in-between cases are unclear and I have not attempted to specify them in these playtest rules. Performing standard actions to create magical zones, heal, or the like definitely damage the monster. It is unclear whether readying an attack action that is never taken should or should not cause endurance damage.

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