Beyond the battle: A non-combat guide to using 4e Powers

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12 Responses

  1. Thunderforge says:

    I started up a D&D 4e game using the Urban Arcana d20 Modern setting and really encouraged my players to come up with modern terms for their powers. For instance, one of the players was a Riot Squad Police Officer (Paladin) who used “Police Brutality” instead of “Holy Strike.” I’ve even seen an Inventor (Wizard) who doesn’t believe in magic and uses a “Wrist Gun” (Magic Missile), “Sonic Boom detonator” (Thunderwave), and “Remote Control Robots” (Mage Hand). And of course, he can modify them using his spare parts (spell book) and rig up some more difficult contraptions (rituals) with the aid of his laptop (ritual book).

    And you know what? None of the players creating their own versions like that ever complain that powers are too generic!

  2. That sounds like there are more creative uses of 4E powers than most bother to imagine. But I think I still prefer 3.5E. ;)

    But ya, re-naming, coming up with creative re-namings and uses, make 4E playable for me. :)

  3. Elda King says:

    I disagree that 4E gives only the mechanic and you come with the flavor. Were it so, we would only have roles and not classes – and yet, the flavor makes similar mechanics very different.
    But people usually think of powers simply as a strategic resource in battles, and not about what the power does and how to use it outside combat. Illusions, for example – most powers are imaginary attacks that cause psychic damage, penalties, forced movement and attacking allies. But if you think about it, it’s simply an illusion, why wouldn’t you be able to use it for something else? Make a stealth check to hide that you are casting something, and it’s done.
    Great post! But, if people start really seeing things this way, I fear someone will start complaining that in 4E you can do nothing but use powers, even outside combat.

  4. greywulf says:

    @Thunderforge Excellent! I’m all for encouraging the players to customize and rename their Powers. Good Call!

    @Adult Role Playing We will convince you yet :D

    @Elda You’re right, of course. Some people will innevitably see this as yet one more way that 4e is entirely Powers-centric. That’s not the intention of this post at all – the goal is to show that it’s possible to work imaginitively and creatively with the Powers system to enhance the whole role-playing experience. Some people, unfortunately, will never see that because they don’t want to see it. Ah well. Their loss.

  5. drow says:

    more non-combat uses of powers, inspired by ultima online…

    At-will Attack: Kill a chicken for no reason.
    Encounter Attack: Kill a duck for no reason.
    Daily Attack: Kill a man for looking at you funny.

  6. The Recursion King says:

    How about putting some non combat skills into 4E in the first place and massively cutting down on the combat ones… bang… problem solved… oops you aren’t supposed to suggest such things as this, are you? ;-)

  7. greywulf says:

    @The Recursion King Ummm…… 4e HAS non combat skills. They’re called SKILLS. And ability checks. And honest-to-goodness role-playing too. That’s still there too.

    I’ll say it again: Powers adds to all that, they don’t take anything away. If you don’t want to like it or understand though, that’s fine by me.

  8. The Recursion King says:

    Well I’m sure some will appreciate these efforts, and taking existing systems and spinning them in creative new directions is a good thing, but honestly, perusing the list made me think you are trying too hard.

    I mean, look at this:

    Crescendo of Violence
    Cheer on a wrestling match!

    Why would anyone need a skill, power or feat to cheer on a wrestling match.

    Or, alternatively, perhaps it’s a joke, something for everyone in the table to laugh at : “I cheer at the wrestling match! ” “Er, no you don’t, you don’t have ‘crescendo of violence’ so you can’t do that”.

    Perhaps if you need non combat powers, you need to scrap the powers system altogether and it won’t shape the way that players approach the game /because it won’t be there/.

  9. greywulf says:

    @The Recursion King No, you don’t need Crescendo of Violence to be able to cheer on a wrestling match any more than you need a “Walk Forward Ten Paces” Power to be able to …… aww heck, you get the idea :D

    What we’re doing is suggesting ways you could use the Powers in non-combat situations in cool and funky ways. That’s not, no way, ever to imply that you’ve got to have a Power to be able to do a thing.

    Keeping with Crescendo of Violence as an example, because I quite like that one.

    It’s a Warlord 2nd level Utility Power that’s usable once per Encounter. Here’s a quick summary:

    As an immediate reaction when an ally within 5 squares scores a critcal hit, they gain hit points equal to your Charisma modifier.

    Now, imagine that Warlord is at a wrestling match. Everyone is cheering the match (not just those who are Warlords. That would be silly). But your character IS a Warlord, and the wrestler you’re cheering for gets a great hit. “Crescendo of Violence!” you call, “I’m going to stand on my chair and yell at the top of my voice, urging the crowd to get right behind him and keep him going!”

    Net result: the wrestler gets temporary hit points (as per the Power) and the match continues.

    Could anyone else do that? Probably. But the Warlord does it better, because leading and urging people on to do their best is his thing.

    That’s only one example, but it would work fine for any sport where crowd support can make a difference to a player’s morale and energy.

    When I’m GM I’d be happy for my PCs to come up with clever and imaginitive uses for ANYTHING on their character sheet, Powers included.

    Hope that helps!

  10. The Recursion King says:

    Yep that does help explain your thinking on it.

    I suspect it comes from this fact: There’s all these powers sitting on people’s character sheets and unless we’re bashing skulls, they never get used.

    What’s missing from your descriptions, though, is an explanation like the one above. They would all really benefit from that immensely.

    I play the D&D minis game and the same problem exists with the powers on some of those creatures. A disconnect between the power, its name and the creature because the power is too /abstract/. It makes it hard to imagine that the power exists for any reason other than it was pulled from a list and put onto a creature for no reason other than balance or that it would be cool. This is not true for all the powers listed, many of them do make sense and are easy to imagine.

    In that game, though, there is a lack of space on each individual card, so its forgivable, but here what you (in my opinion) need to, is explain your thinking with a concrete example, like you just did there, which was brilliant. However, in its original form, it was very difficult to see a link between the power and the suggestion.

    Just my suggestion anyway, and thanks for replying.

  11. greywulf says:

    @The Recursion King You’re right. I could (and should) have gone into more detail about how you could use the Powers outside combat. I think Randall did a much better job of that than I did – personal time constaints meant I couldn’t put as much into this as I wanted or it deserved. I didn’t want to turn this into a massive multi-part behemoth blogpost either – those things have a bad habit of running away with me.

    I hope I’ve clarified it for you now though. Many thanks for your input :D

  12. Freemage says:

    I enjoyed the article, and its twin. That said, it hasn’t made me a 4e convert; it’s more a case of giving me something I would want to carry with me if I was in a situation where 4e was the only game available.

    I do have a couple of quibbles:

    1: A lot of the suggestions are, in fact, “combat related”–the wrestling match is combat, it’s just not one where the battle mat has been broken out. Similarly, using Cause Fear to intimidate someone out of combat is still pretty much the same as using it in-combat; essentially, you’re attempting to get a one-hit ‘kill’ by getting the target to yield to you. If it fails, though, it’s quite likely that the dice and battlemat are coming out.

    2: Some of the suggestions almost seem to violate the RAW. For instance, there’s at least a strong implication that fire-based powers do not, in fact, set anything on fire–the target is burnt, yes, but does not combust. A man soaked in water and a man soaked in kerosene take the same amount of damage from a fireball. The rulings posted in these lists often make sense, but do so at the direct cost of undermining the RAW.

    Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a purist when I game. My games are usually full of house rulings, and like I said, these make a lot of sense. But you can’t point to a list of house rules and say that they are why the game itself is good–by that measure, Calvinball would be the only game worth playing (since it intrinsically welcomes all house rules).

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