Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Endurance Rule

Due to popular demand, I've written up and posted one of my new rules, and its designer's notes. Since these are living documents which might have to change to stay up-to-date, I have placed them in a new location on the game design fanatic forum, and added links to them on the sidebar. These documents should pretty much explain the Endurance Rule. This rule is only in playtest mode, and I haven't written blog articles yet on most of the problems it is trying to solve.


  1. When a rule is hardcoded in any way, it can be taken advantage of. Should a wasted readied action cause endurance damage? I'd say no, but I'd also say that you're thinking too specifically in game terms.

    I think the rule should be something much more general, such as, "The monster does not take endurance damage unless he is effectively performing his role in the combat." This can't be relied on to arbitrate itself, like a hard-coded game rule, but it's pretty easy to determine for most GMs. If controller or artillery monsters are being held in one place by a fighter as they lash out pitifully with a melee basic attack, they don't take endurance damage. If a monster is stunned for one round, and then prone (save ends), and then slowed when finally allowed to stand up, it doesn't take endurance damage. However, if a monster is prevented from attacking in an effective way but it still heals its allies, resurrects a minion, or punishes the players with a wicked aura effect (side note: 4e beholders are AWESOME), I'd still have it take endurance damage.

  2. Your interpretation of how to arbitrate the rule seems reasonable. The reason I am undecided on the situation of the readied action is not so much the classic issue you bring up that whenever you make a fixed ruling, you are open to abuse. You are right that the rule greatly benefits from GM interpretation. I am just undecided on what the most reasonable interpretation actually is.

    If a monster is immobile, and readies an action to attack anyone that comes near it, this tends to greatly inconvenience the PC's. In my experience, they often have to go out of their way to hit someone else. Obviously they prefer this to getting attacked, but the monster is still partially contributing to the combat.

    This is somewhat related to something else I had a hard time making up my mind on. The rule would would equally well (as far as fulfilling its underlying purposes) if monsters took endurance damage when unable to act because the players put some sort of unpleasant condition on them - like stunned, dazed, prone, immobile, or whatever. I wrote the rule such that this isn't the case, but I could go either way. After all, this isn't a situation where the players are stalling - the fight is going on full intensity, just with the use of different types of attacks. And you could certainly make a case that trying to shake off the condition would tire out the monster.

    So I hadn't made up my mind on these points. Hearing feedback from others is the sort of thing that might help me decide. Of course, if the rule works well either way I might just want to call it out as a matter of GM choice. But even in that case, I should eventually be able to decide how I would rule, and explain the reasons I came to that decision.

  3. I see what you mean about readied actions, and how a party who changes their tactics in response to the monster's tactics should get something for it. It still seems like quite a rough deal for the monster - wasted turn AND endurance damage - but on the other hand, rewarding players for skillful play is important, too.

    Stunning a monster, on the other hand, doesn't feel like skillful play, to me. Usually, in order to select a power that stuns or dazes, the only thing you miss out on is an addition die or two of damage that a higher-damage, non-stunning attack would do. Using the power doesn't have any sort of opportunity cost where you're prevented from taking your preferred actions - you will pretty much want to use stunning powers at every available opportunity, because combat advantage helps everyone, especially the ranged characters who don't normally flank, get a boost on their attack rolls, and of course sneak attack when otherwise unable. I feel in this situation that a wasted turn AND endurance damage are too punishing.

    Certain instances of dazing attacks are more of a gray area for me - the party already gets combat advantage, and if they move in such a way that the monster is at the wrong range for his powers, he's practically stunned. Getting the effect of a stun at the cost of using a power that merely dazes feels just as punishing to the monster, if not more. On the other hand, this is also a situation where the players should probably get rewarded for clever tactics. Back on the first hand, however, the players are already getting a great reward.

    Ultimately... I'd probably try to make a decision on these things ahead of time, but eventually I'd end up going with whichever decisions felt like a good combat balance that leads to continued fun, challenging encounters, regardless of fairness or appropriateness.