Author Topic: Paragon is better than Heroic?  (Read 7046 times)

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Offline Fzoumah

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Paragon is better than Heroic?
« on: May 03, 2010, 04:51:23 PM »
Ok, mild ranting here, so bear with me.  We've delved into 4e pretty good now, I think, getting good exposure to the rules and the flow of the game.  I've had the fortune of also playing in a 3.5e game concurrently, and it's led to the following observation:

4e combat is slow! I've been talking with various people about this, and there is some consensus. As far as I can tell, there are two primary contributors to the slowness: infrequent, all or nothing attacks, and less damage per round.  In 3.5 as you gain levels, you also gain multiple attacks per round, which, eventually, leads to more damage per round.  Even the "lowly" spell caster, with one spell per round, rarely missed, and rarely ran out of/low on spells in a single encounter (low levels it was possible, but not typically by level 10+).  4e nerfed the multiple attacks, and in the case of spell casters, the damage capability of those attacks.  It did NOT (so far as I can tell) reduce monsters hit points to compensate.  In 3.5, it is not uncommon to obliterate all enemies on the map in round one, before they even act.  This is IMPOSSIBLE in 4e, in my experience at least.  Making every encounter take that much longer, turning every session into what feels like a dungeon crawl (Not something I personally am opposed to, but...).  3.5 also has "lengthy" (5+ round) combats, but that's with the increased party damage! Imagine that fight using a 4e PC...(remember, monster hps are relatively unchanged).

I know Scott has made some effort to lower the hp of monsters in his game with some success, but I have another idea: bring back multi-attack...kinda.
4e already gives us the Heroic/Paragon/Epic tiers, so let's work with those.  Heroic I'd leave untouched.  Admittedly, in part because I HATE PLAYING LOW LEVEL! ;)  For Paragon...how about 1 encounter power, + 1 at-will power, per round?  Or, for simplicity, change at-wills from Standard Actions to Minor Actions? For Epic, allow an extra standard action per round (2 encounter + 1 at-will/round).  Granted, I am not looking at secondary effects here, just pure dice damage, but I really doubt an extra 1d12+1d8+xx (the strongest at-will attack...barring maybe a psionic augmented one, haven't looked too closely at those, remember extra dice from sneak attack and the like can only be applied once per round assuming encounter attack hit as well) would severely unbalance things in the PCs favour. It would, hopefully, quicken a combat from maybe 6 rounds to around 3 or 4.  It would also give the PCs more to do, as some combos of at-will + encounter, or minor + standard, can have some nice synergy.  It has the downside of probably burning through encounter powers even quicker (at say epic levels), but you can still swap a standard for a minor...two at-wills per round.  Plus an action point every other encounter...*shrugs*

What do you think?

Offline jtpattie

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Re: Paragon is better than Heroic?
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2010, 05:33:14 PM »
I'm not sure combat is slow because of the hp totals or because everybody has three actions, 4 with an action point and then free actions.

There seems to be so many compounded effects to track and such that keeps the game from moving quickly. A combat that takes 6-7 rounds might take 2 hours!. Now we occasionally get combats where we're down to at wills and just wail away until they're dead, but most often the crawl seems to come from the length a turn takes. With 4-5 encounter power attacks its rare lately that I run out of encounters before I run out of opponents.

I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong, I think there's other effects at play.

Giving people more attacks might mean a turn just takes longer to figure out. And what would monsters without more than at at-will's do?

Lately several (including myself to some extent) have drastically changed characters. Nothing wrong with that, but it also slows the game as we're not quite as familiar as we were with powers and such.

My two cents

Offline Fzoumah

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Re: Paragon is better than Heroic?
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2010, 06:44:44 AM »
3-4 actions per round is not new to 4e. Standard, move, minor, and free actions all existed in 3.5e. And it's not like every class really has usable minor and or free actions every round.
Status effects are far more prevalent in 4e though, and I agree those do slow the game down, particularly for the DM who has far more of them to keep track of. Maybe we put the responsibility in the player's hands to keep track of what status effects are on them and that they've placed on monsters? Overall though, I'm not sure I agree that an individual player's turn is slower in 4e than in 3.5...
If we're just spitting out ALL factors that slow down combat, people's inability to do simple mathematical addition is probably one of the biggest :P ;)
As for monsters...I would not give them the extra attacks.  Very few monsters in 3.5 have multiple attacks per round based on their Base-Attack-Bonus, and I'm willing to bet those that made it to 4e still have multiple attacks per round already.

I really don't think we can speed up any individual's turn in combat, which is where I think John is correct in identifying the 'real' slowness. I do think we can shorten the total number of rounds a combat takes, and therefor the length of real time it takes for said encounter.

Offline thatdarncat

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Re: Paragon is better than Heroic?
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2010, 07:43:36 PM »
The DM screen that Curt and I have been using is pretty good for keeping track of conditions, and getting better so.

Having turns planned in advance, ready to lay out is always good, we're generally ok but there are times when we aren't prepared when our turn comes around.

Offline Incandescent

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Re: Paragon is better than Heroic?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2010, 09:13:28 PM »
Part of the slow down is learning new characters/powers/feats/items.  With the recent shake ups in my game that has been an ongoing issue for the past two months.  These last two changes should be it for my game until either epic or PH4 comes out.  Which means we should be fairly normal save for the game after ding.

I do agree the DM screen can speed up combat a lot.  I'm going to need to go over Shay's and Scott's powers to pre-load any crazy conditions from their powers into the tool.  The other thing I find is that by not tracking damage/conditions to players it speeds up my turns considerably, also it gives me a few more minutes to consider all the tactics of what I need the monsters to do  ;)

Something that needs to be realized about 4e combat was that it was a design decision to get away from being able to one shot kill any one or any thing.  This applies to both players and monsters.  Where as in 3.5 it was a lot harder to not misjudge a monster's power and end up having characters take dirt naps every other round (see Steve of the Fate Dancers) because a monster hit with a couple melee basic attacks or the opposite (one shotting someone's vampire dragon due to a lucky attack).  In this way 4e combat is more forgiving to both sides, this also means DMs have to work a little bit harder to make monsters feel nastier than they really are (it took focusing the majority of a high end hard encounter 2 turns of constant beating to get Will's paladin to the point of being ready to drop, fortunately I managed to catch some of you in the related AoE to share the joy)

Part of the challenge in building encounters is to make sure the monsters have enough damage or effects to seem like a challenge for the party based on the exp reward for the encounter.  The other is making sure there aren't too many HP, defenses that are too hard to hit, or fun destroying status effect combos so that the monsters go down with in a reasonable amount of time while still getting to use their cool powers.  This has been an ongoing challenge for me as a DM to refine my encounters to bring a certain threat level to them, while ensuring the encounters are not one sided and that everyone is involved.  Monsters need hit points to soak striker attacks so they feel like they are contributing to ending a threat to the party quicker, I try to ensure my monsters ignore the defenders to a degree so they get to use their extra beat down powers, I try to make sure there is enough damage going around that the leaders feel that their heals are making a difference, and when possible I do try to trip any special effects from the controllers as well (though really I don't often get the choice of ignoring them during a fight).  I think the biggest secret I've learned for making combats at least more interesting is this: The monster's aren't there to live, they are there to die.  But they are going to put up one heck of a fight on the way down.

There are some ways to get through a fight faster while not doing anything to the combat system:
  • Plan ahead: start planning your turn 2-3 positions before it comes up.  Something I know i need to work on is getting out who's initiative is coming up next to enable this more in my games
  • Have your math ready: Will's trick of writing all the conditional math on the power cards is one trick in this area, another is if you have your turn planned is to write on the sleeve of the power you intend to use any extra bonuses as they get added to you/your intended target
  • Be adaptable: Combat changes a lot form one turn to another, negative status effects come and go, targets die, monsters pop up where not expected, and more.  Be ready to change your plan as needed, most of the time the changes aren't that drastic.
  • Team strategy: I have seen a lot of improvement in this area since we first started out in 4e (i.e. learning to focus fire). But there is still some stuff that needs to be worked out by the party.  Hopefully now that the party composition has stabilized there will start to be more coordinated team efforts rather than a series of individual efforts.  A couple tips I can give you for this are to get coordination between the controllers/leaders and strikers for what powers to drop where to get the most out of the status effects and damage boosts.  Also note that the defenders/controllers don't always have to be on the primary target, sometimes they can keep a good chunk of the encounter off the rest of the party with a few well placed powers while the rest of the team deals with a different threat.
  • Back rank is normally squishy: This one goes out more to the ranged/mobile people out there from someone on the back side of the screen.  The DM's glass cannons normally try to hide behind the things with big defenses and/or large hit point pools, don't be afraid to reach out and touch someone hiding in the back blasting away at your buddies, especially if the defenders/controllers have the meat shields locked down ;)

A couple other things to keep in mind with 4e combat from my own observations:
  • Don't save encounter powers: unload these as fast as possible unless there is a tactical reason to do otherwise (negative status effects are not a tactical reason)
  • Round 1 assessment: The first round of combat is the one where you learn the most about the enemy (not counting monster knowledge checks). Take a moment before the first player turn of round 2 to come up with a plan for taking apart the combat based on what you now know about the enemy (keeping in mind plan subject to change as above).  Also get an idea for how many dailys people are planning on dropping, as a party be sure to keep some in reserve in case your DM is a bastard ;) (unless you know it's the big one for the day)
  • Daily are to be used: one of things that I've noticed is that people tend to hold back on daily powers.  While there could be a use for them later they may get you through the current encounter faster if used at the right time saving party resources (i.e. healing surges, consumables, etc...) for tougher fights later on.
  • Persistent effects: the sooner they come out the bigger a party they play on the combat