Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Game Design Thought: "Players Roll All The Dice" for 4E...

Good Afternoon:

Over lunch today, I was talking to a friend who runs and plays 4E. He mentioned a problem that he finds often occurs in his 4E games - sometimes, his players aren't as attentive as they should be, and at the beginning of their turn, they have to review the battlefield and then run through their options multiple times, each and every turn. As he plays in a game with five players, and runs a game with seven players, this phenomenon can really slow down play.

When I used to have this problem with 3E, I used what people call the "Players Roll All The Dice" optional rule from Unearthed Arcana. It originally appeared in a Dragon magazine article back in 2nd Edition, and I used it back then, too. The core of this optional rule is that the players make all the die rolls. For example, instead of a monster rolling to attack the character, the character gets to roll to defend themselves. As the GM, you essentially assume that the monster rolls an 11 on their attack roll, which gives them an attack score of 11+attack mods, and the player has to defend the attack by rolling a d20+(Ascending AC-10) instead. The same thing applies with saving throws and the like. Instead of the target rolling a save against the DC of your magical ability, you make a magical attack by rolling d20+(DC-10) against their save score (11+saving throw mods).

For those that may not be aware, 4E takes that concept and alters it into a new form: "Attackers Roll All The Dice". The attacker makes a standard attack against the AC of the target, much like early editions of D&D. For powers/special abilities, the attack makes a magical attack against the target's save score. This means that, on the attacker's turn, he's pretty much the only one rolling any dice. If you already know what you are doing, that can be a short time; if you don't know what you're going to do, you eat up a lot of time when noone else gets to roll. All in all, that's not very satisfying for those waiting their turn.

In my discussions with my 4E friend, I proposed a variant of "Players Roll All The Dice" for his 4E game. In essence, whenever you are the attacker, you handle things like normal: you roll your attack against the defender's defense score, be it AC, Fortitude, Reflex or Will. When you are the defender, however, you follow the process outlined under the aforementioned rule with defense rolls.

Defense Rolls: You defend against an attack targeting your Armor Class by rolling a d20, and adding (your AC-10) to the roll. Your target is 11 plus your attacker's attack bonus. You defend against an attack targeting your Fortitude Defense by rolling a d20, and adding (your Fortitude Defense score-10) to the roll. Your target is 11 plus your attacker's attack bonus. And so on...

When you roll a natural one on your defense roll, you fumble your defense and the attacker gets the benefit of a critical hit against you. When you roll a natural twenty on your defense roll, you critical on your defense and the attacker misses you.

The goal of this approach, of course, is to provide player-characters with dice to roll when it isn't their turn, which keeps them more alert and attentive on the game. While I found that some players didn't like "Players Roll All The Dice" in the past, preferring that I be the one to roll the nasty attacks against them rather than have their own dice "betray" them, I found it was a great way to keep combat moving and keep attention focused on the game instead of on the GameBoy between their turns.

What do you think?

With Regards,

1 comment:

2097 said...

“preferring that I be the one to roll the nasty attacks against them rather than have their own dice "betray" them”
I’m not sure I get this—they’re still trying to roll high. The dice may let them down by missing a defense, yes, but it might as well miss while hitting too. I think the Players Roll All The Dice is a very interesting variant and I knew a group who played 4E that way with some success.

I just joined an LL-AEC group and they use “group initiative”—something I was sceptical of, because it doesn’t reward fast strikers and dextrous types, but it has speeded up our fights and attentiveness a lot. Because when it is our turn we all make a flurry of rolls and shout out what we do in a wonderful chaotic fashion. “I miss with my bow! [crosses off one arrow on the inventory sheet]” “I hit with my sling, three damage” “I attack with my sword… is a 14 a hit?” while the DM crosses of damage and checks armor classes if the player’s aren’t sure (from previous strikes) whether an attack hits or misses.
Then there’s some boredom during the monster’s turn. So it’s not perfect.