All characters initiative going up every even level. This makes sense to me. Adventures of level 12 still going at their original +2 (because they don’t have a great dex or imp initiative) just seems very non-epic to me.
How do you update Monsters from 3.x to reflect the initiative boost? Simple, look at their challenge rating or level advancement, and ½ that. There is their new bonus to initiative.
I’ve kept healing surges, to lighten the load on the healers, but it will work in conjunction with the Bennies mechanic I am taking from Savage Worlds (see below).
Bloodied- I’ve kept bloodied, but when bloodied characters take -2 to all roles, showing that they are becoming fatigued.
One thing that really annoyed me with 3.x is status effects. These effects are difficult to keep track of. “You are poisoned, feared, etc for 2d4 rounds.” I like 4e use of it goes on the whole encounter, but at the end of your turn, you get a save. I’m keeping that, but using 3.5 saving throws.
We now reroll initiative every round rather than rolling at the beginning and then the number remains static throughout the encounter. My players constantly were getting frustrated when they would roll really bad a low initiative and then sat through a whole combat at really low number when everyone else is going much higher. So I asked them if they would be interested in rerolling initiative each round and everyone agreed.
In Savage Worlds you use a deck of playing cards and every round the card is collected and each player gets a new one. We did not like using cards because it takes time out of playing gathering them up, reshuffling (if a Joker is drawn) and then dealing them out. I use a d20 (I have to get the d20 involved in Savage Worlds SOMEHOW). A 19-20 is considered a Joker for the purpose of Wild Cards. Also rolling a 5 or below is a reroll for anyone with the quick edge.
(Acing Damage, Survivability, and Bennies are all linked)
For those of you not familiar with Savage Worlds- Acing Damage is where you roll the highest possible number on a die and get to roll again and add the new number to the total. If you ace again, you roll again and so on (IE- Roll a d6 and get a 6, roll again and get another 6, and then roll again and get a 3 =15 points of damage.
I know that this makes damage swingy, but one thing I like in Savage Worlds is players tend to think more when attacking someone because there is the potential for high damage and death. In Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder I think combat is more a war of attrition (especially at higher levels with uber hit points), where characters run up to the enemies and they all beat on one another with sticks till one falls down and goes boom.
As I thought about this though, two conflicts came into my brain. One- Spell Casters, and Two- Player Survivability (I want to make combat tough, but not too deadly).
Spell Casters pose a real problem for Damage Acing, especially at higher levels when they are rolling a ridiculous amount of dice. After some thinking I decided that no matter the class, only your first 4 dice can Ace. That means that a Barbarian using a 3d6 + 1 ½ STR damage sword will be able to keep up in the damage department with a Wizard casting a 8d6 Fireball or 6d6 Lightning Bolt Spell. The Spellcaster can still do high damage with the ability to have 4 damage die that can Ace and the “x” number of dice left to do standard damage.
This was actually a two fold situation. Before thinking of allowing Acing of Damage I also didn’t want one of my players to have to be a healbot and sacrifice their “cool,” as Chatty DM would say. So that got me thinking about 4e Healing Surges, which I have used in the past for the same reason.
Second was if players are taking a huge amount of damage they need a mechanic that can counteract that to keep them alive.
So it seemed natural to include healing surges, however I didn’t want to do just “you can use this “x” number of times per day.” And that idea got me thinking about the next part.
I have been using the Action Point mechanic ever since it was introduced in the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting. My players and I really liked Action Points because it allowed your character to be a little bit more heroic.
What I started to notice though was that my players horded their AP because they only refilled once per level and they were saving them for fights with big bads or really hairy situations. In the end the players didn’t get to use half of their AP.
In Savage Worlds Bennies always reset every session at 3, so you are encouraged to use them. Boom, problem solved right there for hoarding.
So for my game, Action Points can be used to add a d6 to attack, saves, or skill rolls. Players will also be able to burn an Action Point to use a healing surge.
One of the things that always got to me about many role-playing games is the length of combat. Something that many GM’s and players have struggled with. To me combat should be fast, furious, deadly (Almost sounds like a Savage Worlds plug here.. And I originally wrote this before I tried Savage Worlds.. heh) without the really striving for TPK.
What I decided to do was create a style of “minion” or “mook,” for lack of a better term. They don’t have 1 HP, but can definitely be killed in 1 to 2 hits. To make them more of a threat, I give them a higher initiative, higher attack, and up their damage and saves. So if the creature has an axe that normally does 1d8 damage, I up it to 2 or 3 d8.
The next style of enemy has slightly higher HP and doesn’t do as much damage, but has some tricks up their sleeves that can make them just as nasty, but again, they can go down in 2-4 hits.
Then it goes to mini-boss and boss type creatures. These can be anything- A goblin king, a shambling mound, a chaos beast, or a lich. I look at what the MM says their abilities, stats, etc are, use those as a base, and up or lower damage stats and etc. Usually I do this on the fly and have gotten decently good at providing a challenge for my players.
Feel free to comment and/or offer feed back on these, just no trolling please. Feel free to borrow or use any of this.
Again, thanks for reading!!