We’re closing in on the end of our chapter by chapter dissection of the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook. This time – combat!
Much of this chapter is familiar to players of any edition of D&D; I’ll stress the differences (being an intro to D&D for noobs is beyond the scope of this readthrough). Most of it is familiar, only different in the fine implementation details. As we get started, everything sounds familiar:
- Six second rounds.
- Roll init once per combat. It’s d10 + 1/2 level + Dex mod.
- Surprise round starts us off, and those surprised grant combat advantage.
- Use miniatures! Especially D&D Minis!
Much of the meat here is in the definitions. 4e isn’t’ quite as “definition based” as Spycraft 2.0, which went from a good game to an exercise in tedium in one version, but it makes a stab at it – your old Magic: The Gathering playing skills will serve you well in terms of strict interpretation.
Action types. Standard (was: attack). Move (was: move). Minor (was: swift). Free (was: free). You can do one of each of the first three on your turn, and a DM-limited number of frees whenever. Then there’s opportunity actions (was: opportunity attack) and immediate actions (was: immediate) you can take while not on your turn. Opportunity actions and immediate actions are also like the old Magic: The Gathering interrupts and instants – opportunity interrupts/precedes the triggering action and immediate go right after and don’t affect the triggering action.
There’s a confusing series of action substitutions – you can do another minor action in the place of a standard or move action, substitute a move action for a standard action, etc. This goes on for another page. Man, how’d we ever get by with “make an attack, move if you want, that’s about it?”
Similarly, it goes on to describe a melee attack, a ranged attack, a close attack, an area attack, etc. in tortured legalese (about half a page per).
The new attack roll is featured again – 1d20 + power’s base attack bonus + situational attack modifiers + power bonuses and penalties. Each different attack specifies what stat it uses and what defense it goes against – for example, a normal melee attack is the familiar Str vs AC, but a fireball is Int vs Reflex.
They go into your defenses in depth too – AC, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will are treated on the same plane as opposed to being split into AC and saves. d20 + 1/2 level plus the many, many bonus types – armor, enhancement, feat, item, power, proficiency, racial, shield, untyped… They don’t stack with the same type, as usual.
20 is an autohit and crit for max damage, and 1 is an automiss. Some powers still affect on a miss. There’s resistance and vulnerability. There’s a bunch of conditions from blinded to weakened. Cover. Concealment. Bull rushes. Crawling. Jesus, there’s 30 pages of this.
Just the high points now, I’m getting woozy. “Combat Advantage” is a new common modifier. It’s like a mix of the old “no Dex modifier” and “flanked” in that you get +2 to hit and can sneak attack ’em.
Action points. You start with 1, get one per milestone, and reset to 1 after an extended rest. You can use it to get an extra action, one per encounter. So you need to use one every other encounter, in other words – since you get one every 2 and you can only use 1 per, so banking up more than 2 = stupid.
There is no grappling. Just “grabbing.”
Hit points and healing! OK, so you have a max hit points. You’re “bloodied” when you hit 1/2 your max hit points. A variety of powers trigger off bloodied. As is traditional, when you hit 0 you’re dying. Here’s where it gets weird. You make a “saving throw!” You thought those were gone, but this is an unmodified d10 roll. 1-9, one strike. Three strikes and you’re out. 10-19, no change. 20, you can spend a healing surge. And “If you roll 20 or higher but have no healing surges left expressed as a negative number, your
condition doesn’t change.” Whatever that means. Seems wonky and weird, a foreign injected mechanic. Nothing to do with your Fortitude? Or something?
In 4e you have more constant hit points, but have “healing surges.” You regain 1/4 of your hit points when you do one. It’s a standard action called “second wind.” You can do it once per encounter, and as many times as you want between ’em.
And that’s combat! Seems generally fine, even if it’s a bit of a long laborious essay in legalese.