The Way Things Are Going In My 4e Games [Contains Spoilers]

WARNINGS: This piece A) May just be a bit of a ramble by me...I apologies in advance, B) Contains spoilers for my players of things to come in their games, and of events in the Shnecke's Wolves games not yet described here. You have been warned!!!!

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You may have noticed that I have been working to bring back some of the better rules, brutality and grittiness of 3.5 in my 4e games, and may been wondering how it's been going. (If not, may I recommend you look HERE, HERE, HERE and a few other places too) to see my suggestions (there are more hidden away, pre-index page on here...have a look for them).

Just to show you an example of how my 4e games have been changed to feel more like older editions, all the while retaining the gorgeous mechanics that make it, for me and mine, the best edition we have played, here is a power from a monster that will be making an appearance in one of my games soon...

"[M] Final Banishment (standard; encounter ) • psychic, radiant, weapon;

+28 vs AC; Hit: 6d12+38 slashing, psychic and radiant damage and target must make an immediate saving throw, modified for each point of charisma modifier difference between their own score and the warriors. Failed Saving Throw: The target dies, and is reincarnated as an aenochian somewhere in the same plane. The reincarnated form has no conscious memory of its past life, though this may emerge as it matures.
Special: If the reincarnated soul can be found and slain, the spirit may, with a Raise Dead ritual - though this would have to be heavily modified, costing more (+100% more per tier], and involving a hard skill challenge to complete - be returned to its former form and awareness. This would almost certainly involve a long and difficult quest to complete of course."

Yep, that's right - a save or die effect in 4e, one that could, given the monster's incredible charisma score, easily slay its target.

Am I really using this? 

You betcha!

And why?

Because it fits with the monster, fits with the style of the game, and if worse comes to worse, sets a whole new adventure hook loose in the game - getting the reincarnated soul back. 

Will my players appreciate this? 

I suspect, they might...though they will also probably find some clever way to undo the harm done, and to carry on, using skills, smarts and calling in favours - which considering the role playing this would involve, is also cool...

...Though all this is assuming the attack hits in the first place of course...

In the  Shnecke game, the last session ended (they are halfway through their battle with the Swordmage trying to steal their naughtily named ship) with poor Varracuda getting turned to stone...not (save ends) petrified, but (no save) petrified...and he only failed one save. If Grigori gets petrified too (he is definitely in the firing line), then things could get very nasty, as their foe is proving to have some very unpleasant attacks, and to be upsettingly resilient to the normal attacks. The sense of genuine fear at that last game was electric, with the usually unstoppable group feeling suddenly very mortal, and the players reacting as was to be expected; with a loudly bellowed "HOLY SHIT!" 

It made for an amazing cliff hanger, especially as the group have not had time to regain even encounter powers after their tussle with Deezel - a fight in which many dailies got used, and which left them quite battered - and are going to have to use their remaining resources with a little more cunning and out of the box thinking, if they are to survive. 

It's gonna' be rough in both games, but not unfairly so. And that, for me, is where 3.5 and earlier additions got it wrong.

I still don't miss straight up Save or Die (SoD - how appropriate) effects (and I should point out that the Sefotron from 5 years past would be kicking my teeth in if he read that sentence, 'cos I used to LOVE those things), though I do think 4e, as written, panders to the players a bit too much, and so, needs some modification to ensure the players have a healthy sense of dread when adventuring. 

The sudden loss of a character, mid adventure, to a SoD, could seriously screw a game over, and although I loved the harshness of it ("adventuring is not an easy way of life. The bards always seem to miss these moments out of their heroic songs eh?") I always, inwardly, kinda' dreaded it happening...after all, it could mean the end of an adventure I was thoroughly enjoying running.

Having said that, without real and in some cases, imminent danger, the players either get over confident, bored or simply bulldoze everything, which after a while, stops being fun for everyone. Even with the modern damage expressions, monsters rarely lower characters to negative bloodied hit points, and so, 4e needs more dangerous effects that can take life without it. The rules I have been using have brought this back to the game, and at the time of writing, whilst I wouldn't say my players "like" it per se, they do keep playing with gusto, and the heroes keep managing to survive - though now it feels, truly, like they have overcome incredible odds to win their prizes. 


....................Yep, a rambling entry, hope it didn't bore you too much, or seem too unfocused....just wanted to get that off my chesticles...