Monday, August 12, 2013

4th edition: beyond 1st level

You can read about the mechanics of going from first to second level in the rule book; there is no value in regurgitating the facts.  Rather I'll relate how I feel about going up a level.

The math takes a plus 1 at even levels, and though when I first started playing 30+ years ago it was exciting to gain math bonuses, math bonuses no longer have much thrill for me.  My character gets a bigger number, the monsters get bigger numbers.  The additional hit points are only a fraction of my HP total, so I don't feel significantly tougher.  Contrasting with older editions, going up from 1st level was a sigh of relief given how easy it was to be reduced to 0 HPs.  It feels right though, my character is a little bit tougher, a little bit more powerful vs. the larger step functions which were the earlier editions.

I get a feat - I take improved initiative and look forward to a much improve chance of going first and doing controller things to significantly alter the encounter.  I get to select two utility powers of which I can learn one of them each day; I take defensive powers.  I feel more confident in putting my squishy mage out there in combat with these interrupt powers.  

All in all, the step function up a level is not that grand but it is enough that I feel my character IS more powerful.  

I'll skip ahead and over most of our 2nd level adventuring.  In this game we are playing much of it is role playing and intrigue.  The big combat on the docks is our gateway to the next level or to the cemetery.  This combat is quite different from previous encounters in there is very limited line of sight.  My mage powers are severely hindered because most of what I acquired is area control, and most of what I can see is one or two enemies.  Undeterred, I press forward trailing our Paladin by only a square or two as we endeavor to push through quickly to get to the ship we must prevent from departing without us.

Interesting tactical quandary: two of the five characters decide to hold back 5-10 squares at the start.  The tactician in me wants to scream - what are you crazy?  The apparently don't see they are going to lose a tempo or two in just getting to the fight vs. the ability to 'see' the battlefield and make strategic decisions.  30 years of tactical gaming tells me otherwise, and is borne out during the encounter.  However I say nothing, and I digress.

My character's spells are not high damage, but they are controlling.  I push people, make them fall down, make them slow, and sometimes a combination at this low level.  I am nothing without other characters to take advantage of the battlefield I have rearranged.  I am the puppet master, and my party members are all powerful because I am pulling strings for them.  (mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha).  What I actually start to observe is what I will call the 'half effect' result.  When I start throwing spells around I notice that some number of opponents just over half are affected.  Sure sometimes I miss everything, and sometimes I hit everything, but more often than not I affect 1/2 to 2/3 of the creatures I target.  The tactician in me takes careful notes.

I have not had enough encounters yet to bear this out, but the tactician in my is observing my powers and suggesting I either open with a full blast of my most potent powers on first round (in a scenario where I can see the enemy clearly and have access to them all), or hold the most potent powers to turn the encounter around (in a scenario where I cannot target the bulk of the enemy at once, and our tactical plan is in question).  Sort of the open with cavalry first when the opponents are in an open field vs. hold them in reserve for the counter punch in a less sure situation.

Back to the scenario - we two push forward with two party members 1-2 rounds behind us, and one party member waiting up ahead having snuck into a tactical position.  The layout forces me to abandon the Paladin in an attempt to clear his way to the boat.  Unfortunately this leaves me in a situation where I must use powers to not only hinder the enemy from stopping the Palandin's rush forward, but to keep them from cornering the squishy mage while the remaining party catches up.

The encounter is well balanced against the party - we will either win or come dangerously close to a TPK.  At the end, I unleash my most potent power to change the encounter.  Of the three party members who had made it to the ship one was down, one was hurt very badly and hanging off the ship, leaving only a bow wielding Ranger to deal with three opponents; two of which were the most powerful in the encounter.  It looked bad.  My horded daily power turned the tables - I dropped one of the two powerful opponents and disadvantaged the other (thank you Phantom Chasm) plus I used a minor action to deliver a curing potion to the Ranger to give to the Paladin.   A heroic leap to the boat by our Druid changed the odds completely and the encounter was ours.  It was close.

We are now 3rd level.  Some interesting observations I have made:
  • The way the encounters are setup, and of course the way I choose to play, I have only used my daily powers once during first level, and once during second level
  • My character does not get hit very often and has never gone down.  I think this is due to my playing him as nervous about combat, the Paladin standing firm to protect the mage, and having very good defenses (probably the 2nd best defenses on average in the team).  Not due to my hit points.
  • I have not yet had to use my utility spells or my staff of defense interrupt.  Related to above bullet point.
At 3rd level my character gets another encounter power which is a bit exciting.  Additional cash and item found added to my gear was also a nice bump.  Similar feeling of power increase like the previous level but nothing like the uneven bump in earlier editions - going to 3rd felt like a big deal in those editions.  I do say I like the smoothing out of the power increase this way.
More another time.  The dice never lie.


  1. Glad to see your enjoying 4e. My group is playing 3.5 at the moment. I play the rouge and feel limited in actions in some encounters. But, a 2d6 to damage; flanking bouns is nice!

  2. Other than one off adventures I never got to play a rogue in 3.5 campaign so I am hardly an expert on it. As a DM looking at the rules it looks like I would have really liked it, though many of the rogue cool stuff is out of combat. Don't forget to take advantage of your high initiative and get that first ranged hit in; flat footed opponents give you the sneak attack bonus within 60' (I think)


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