Friday, August 7, 2015

4eMOD: The Terror Track and Escalation Die


Surprise! This column's back! It's been awhile, but I wanted to put forth one of the best elements from 4eMOD that my buddy Marty came up with. I didn't design this particular mechanic, but I made it a part of 4eMOD and kindly thank Marty for designing it.

When I was ten I played Ocarina of Time for the first time. I went into the Deku Tree and all was going well when Gohma showed up. That's when I froze. I couldn't hurt her with my sword! Why couldn't I? What was going on? As my Uncle Peter told me over and over again to calm down and think I jumped in and got my butt handed to me. The next time I faced Gohma, 8 years later, I almost did it again, but this time I stopped, thought, and avoided Gohma's attacks until I analyzed her weaknessness and devised a plan.

That's the essence of the Terror Track, to put the fear of God into players of solos in 4th Edition. You'd think they'd be terrifying as they are, but solos are actually a pretty tame breed in the game. Out-actioned and out-damaged, solos are usually just bags of hitpoints that take way too long to kill to remain interesting. So Marty proposed a solution: at the beginning of a combat with a solo it gets a +5 to attack, defense, and damage. Each round and successful attack the bonus decreases by 1 until it dissipates.

I can guarantee you from experience that this houserule changes everything. Now, instead of rushing at the solo, the players are forced to go into defensive mode and try to survive. Maybe they'll start looking around the battlefield, trying to find an advantage, any advantage, that can be exploited against the solo. Because for all intents and purposes the solo is unhittable, will hit you every time, and will mess you up big time.

Another suggestion is to steal the Escalation Die from 13th Age and throw it into your 4th Edition battles. It's really simple: put a d6 on it's 1 face on round 2, and march it up every round that the players make headway against their opponent, all the way up to 6. In a solo battle don't give them the escalation die until the Terror Track has run out and allow the solo monster access to the Escalation Die as well. This creates a natural ebb and flow to the battle. The solo comes out big and bad and forces the characters to strategize and examine the solo, looking for weaknesses. Right when the players begin to catch their wind the solo gets his second win and the battle begins in earnest.

Just the Terror Track alone makes for exhilarating solo battles. I know 4th Edition isn't exactly "in favor" anymore, but honestly? I don't care. I'll finish putting out 4eMOD and if people use it then that's great. If not, at least I continued working on something that I love.