The P6 maxim. (Stolen from a Baldur’s Gate TOSC strategy guide from over a decade ago)
Basically in any tactical combat situation a good way to mitigate failure is to ensure everyone is where they should be. The defender should be drawing fire, the healer should be supporting, avoiding attention and healing, the striker should be behind enemy lines (rogue) or behind their own lines (warlock) and so on.
Things which effect the party’s ‘placement’ include terrain, obstacles and enemy controllers.
This was evidenced last night when they were inside a squamous far realm tower (Madness at Gardmore Abbey encounter#14) which was quite small compared to the usual dungeon/wilderness areas, it had a chasm and mimics pretending to be a bridge. In addition the floor slides the PCs into a pit of ooze and the walls can restrain/grab adjacent PCs.
The rogue over extended followed by the defender while the healer was still outside. This put them out of healing range and lead to a tense couple of rounds when both the übertank swordmage and rogue were down and dying. The small space did mean that it didn’t take long for the healer to get in range, but it also brought her closer to the danger.
So lessons learned – an EL-1 encounter can be challenging if in a confined space and if they enemies have surprise. Compare this to an EL+2 encounter a couple of weeks ago which they breezed through and I do wonder how accurate 4th Edition monster level/XP budgets are. Usually I just wing it.
And to leave you here is a monster that has no difficulty getting into position, I’m sure that the wheels give him bonuses to move!
Most RPGs tend to have house rules – a tweak on the ‘rules as written’, generally adopted because no decent rules system could possibly cover the almost infinite things that any player may think of doing. (If the system does cover everything I would hazard a guess that it’s not fun to play and overly complex!) Some are basically house ‘rulings’ on ambiguous rules or occurrences. Others are actually new (or modified) rules.
There’s 2 ‘house rules’ that I use in D&D and both involve action points. To summarise – an action point gives the player an extra standard action that turn. Generally only one can be used per battle/encounter and the players get 1 action point for every 2 encounters they do. They cannot be saved between days. (resetting to 1)
Firstly I allow more than 1 to be used per battle – but no more than 1 per player turn, the reasons for this are simply that it penalises saving – basically you start with one, get another one after your finished 3rd 5th and 7th (and 9th and 11th ….) encounters. But if you can only use 1 per encounter you basically have to use your initial action point during the 1st or 2nd encounter then use the extra one in the 3rd or 4th and so on. Otherwise they’ll start to accumulate and you can’t use them. As the encounters go on you’re more likely to run out of other resources (powers, healing surgers item uses etc) and thus going to want to rest – so saving isn’t a good idea. You might be dead and not get to the next encounter to spend that action point you’ve saved. Bascially carpe diem – use them early and often.
To avoid this punishment and to encourage dynamic heroism I allow more than 1 per battle.
The second involves action points and another limited resource – daily powers. These are usually the battle changers – if they hit. Since they are generally used on the toughest enemies they are less likely to hit than a regular attack on a regular pleb. It’s a bit disappointing as a player when your uber daily you’ve saved and not blown misses and makes little difference than if you’d used a good at will or encounter.
So to this end (before rolling damage) if a player totally misses with a daily they can spend an action point to re-roll to hit. And yes they can use 2 action points in a turn in this way – 1 to use the extra action to take a daily and then spend one to re-roll. So in short saving a little is generally worth it in my games compared to Rules As Written (RAW)
Needless to say this didn’t just spring up overnight, it is the result of sucky moments and me feeling sorry for my players as well as cold hard maths.