Is it better to stand and fight to the death, or to run away when the tide of the battle turns against you? Logic and idioms say it’s better to run away and live to fight another day. So why, in Dungeons & Dragons, have the old rules for monster morale been forgotten, when they could vastly shorten the length of combat?
Frame the Scene: Even when the GM suggests the scene, one player should be the focus of the scene. This player will frame the scene by describing where and when it takes place. Flashbacks are common, but scenes taking place in the future should be avoided except by more experienced and flexible groups.
The player should also describe what the intended goal is in the scene. Other players may choose to participate in the scene if it makes sense that they would be present. They also choose at this time whether to accept the current risk and reward proposal. They cannot create their own risks and rewards, but they can be in the scene without agreeing to the risk and reward.
When you look at the mechanics available to players in 4th Edition, there’s a heavy focus on combat options. Even themes and backgrounds are often geared toward, or at least chosen for, optimizing a character’s abilities in combat. Tactical combat is one of 4th Edition’s distinguishing strengths, but it can feel like the rest of the game is an afterthought sometimes.
Players who are mechanically minded aren’t necessarily averse to roleplaying, but it can be hard to see the rewards for roleplaying beyond acquiring your next quest. Gaining XP or treasure for social scenes is the exception rather than the rule. So why would the player risk his or her most precious resource, which is time at the game table, on a crapshoot over the sure-fire reward system that is combat?
Transition scenes are an incentive system that encourages the players to help frame scenes in order to gain rewards they can use in combat or other situations. The scene may be a social scene or it may revolve around exploration or even combat. The key is that it has to expand the PC’s story, and the PC must be risking something to gain the reward. In this two-part series, we’ll first go over how to determine the type of scene and figure out the risk and reward for it. The second part provides you with guidelines and examples for how to frame, play out, and resolve the scene.
In my very first 4E D&D session, the first thing my DM said to us was, “Right. First house rule—you get a +2 bonus to skill checks that are relevant to the profession you had before adventuring.” This was several months before backgrounds were released in Dragon 366. It made me smile; it wouldn’t have felt like D&D without a house rule or two.
Apart from that initial game, I don’t think I have come across any other house rules as a player. Maybe it is because the system closely matches the needs of the people using it, maybe the balance of the game is so revered that people are reluctant to upset it, or maybe it is because a lot of the rules rest in the powers that players use and they can be house ruled on a case-by-case basis. If there are general rules that can be tweaked to make the game more fun, then unbalancing the game slightly should not stop you.
Beholder’s Gaze Wizard Attack 27
You suddenly sprout several eye stalks like a beholder and unleash an attack against your foes.
Encounter * Arcane, Implement, Polymorph, Transmutation; Varies
Standard Action Ranged 20
Target: One, two, or three creatures
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8 + Intelligence modifier damage. Roll 1d6 for each target to determine the attack’s damage type and effect.
1—Radiant damage, and the target is blinded.
2—Fire damage, and the target takes and additional 1d8 fire damage.
3—Necrotic damage, and the target is weakened.
4—Cold damage, and the target is immobilized.
5—Psychic damage, and the target is dazed.
6—Force damage, and the target slides 2 squares.
Effect: Until the start of your next turn, flanking enemies cannot gain combat advantage against you.