Using more of 4e?

  • 10 Replies
Using more of 4e?
« on: January 31, 2011, 08:10:40 PM »
Simulating 4e combat

This is really just a "hey look a thing" post, but read on if you are interested in using more 4e ideas in Dungeon World.

Playing with some friends this weekend I hardly ever get to play with and we are going to try Dungeon World as their first "indie game". It will be a big group that have played lots of D&D 4e. During this first session I am going to make it easier by removing the only real stumbling block I've had when explaining this game to 4e players and running it with large groups: having the monsters hit when the player makes a move. I'm going to do this by using D&D-style combat and having the monsters hit only on their turns. The players can then learn the Apocalypse World-style combat if they like the game.

In working out the eventually very minor rules changes to allow this I came across this interesting effect when I tried to re-write the combat moves. I found it was really, really easy to get something that feels like (faster) 4e combat using a hack of Dungeon World. Whether you want to may be the question. This is really just a thought experiment right now, but I have learnt a lot about move options by doing it.

So look at this re-drafted basic move:

Hack and Slash (Str)
Hold 1 or Roll+Str. On a roll:
7-9 hold 2
10+ hold 3
Spend your hold now to:
• Deal normal damage to an enemy
Knock an enemy to the ground
Push an enemy to an adjacent area
Move to an adjacent area
Cancel an opportunity attack

In five options it simulates the Basic Attacks, the two main non-Power combat options (Charge and Bull Rush), all the 1st level Fighter and Ranger At-wills (only checked PHB1) and many of the Encounters (eg: deal x2 damage) and Dailies (eg: x3 damage).

Then add this as a Barbarian move to make them feel like a rampaging striker:
Rampage: Hold +1 when you successfully roll to Hack and Slash.

Now look how easy it is to create balanced and flexible Wizard combat spells. Assume a Wizard can cast spells using Intelligence and the Hack and Slash move:
Magic Missile (counts as Ranged, 1d6 damage, choose hold 1)
Burning Hands (counts as Melee, 1d6 damage)

OK now look at this re-drafted basic move:

Make a Stand (Con)
7-9 hold 2
10+ hold 3
You lose this hold if you move areas or use this move again. You can only choose each option below once per enemy. Spend your hold at any time on enemies in this area to:
Deal normal damage
Halve the damage of an attack (after Armour)
Cancel an attempt to move out of the area and hit for normal damage
Grant an advantage to an ally

It sort of covers Flanking, Total Defence, and the Fighter's Combat Superiority and Combat Challenge. But most importantly this really feels like you are making a stand to me. You can hold hits for monsters that run into your area or try to leave. At the same time you can partially protect yourself and your allies.

Now add this simple move to make the Fighter really feel like a close area defender:
Combat Superiority: Hold +1 when you successfully Make a Stand.

So what was my point again? Really just to show how awesome the modular Apocalypse World design is. Both 4e and Apocalypse World use exception based design and single rules being able to define a character type or monster, but in my opinion 4e is limited by having to "feel" like D&D by include Hit Points, skills and other unnecessary maths (

I like the requirement for tactics, combat balanced classes and non-exception bits of D&D 4e. But I don't like the combat length, disconnect to roleplaying or volume of exceptions. Maybe I could use a limited hack of Dungeon World like this to play 4e the way I want...

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Notes: Other background rules to make this work...

I'm using the idea of areas similar to that outlined by Mike Mearls ( For example there could be five areas connected in a line: the entry tunnel; this side of the bridge; the bridge; the other side of the bridge; and the altar.

A Melee Attack can hit any creature in your area, and a Ranged Attack hits creatures in one area of your choice you can see. A Ranged Attack usually uses Dexterity instead of Strength for Hack and Slash.

Each round on your turn you can move to an adjacent (connected) area and also use a Move. You can swap your Move to move again to another adjacent area. (Seems complicated because everything is called "move", but it's probably clear if you've played 4e. Note there is no concept of shifting or exact locations - you are somewhere in the area.)

Monsters attack on their turn and always hold 1 on Hack and Slash. (This helps explains to my confused new players why the DM never rolls. ;) )

Opportunity Attack: If an creature willingly leaves an area or uses a Ranged Attack one of their enemies in the same area may hit them for normal damage. A creature can only make one Opportunity Attack each round.

You can add this simple related move to the Ranger playbook improve them as a mobile / ranged striker:
• Nimble Strike: You can cancel one Opportunity Attack per round.

Pull a Stunt (Dex)
No real changes needed, just a couple of notes:
- You can only move yourself up to three areas when using the "Put yourself where you want to be" option of this move. Add "(up to three areas away)" at the end of this option.
- "You take no damage in the process" means cancelling all Opportunity Attacks against you.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2011, 08:51:23 PM »
Oh, I really like this. Yeah. I'd even want to use Castle Ravenloft rules instead of 4E rules (like for damage + hp), and maybe pick-and-choose from 4E, DW, and AW for whatever extra stuff that might be necessary.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2011, 09:23:02 PM »
Totally agree; this brings it closer to the D&D feel (particularly the tactical part) but still doesn't divorce me from my character to a full tactical miniatures game.

This is great stuff - I like the idea of Ravenloft as well!

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2011, 09:34:47 PM »
@ Johnstone

I don't have the Ravenloft rules, but looked at them online and they are a pretty interesting shortened version. From what I can see damage is set, like in Apocalypse World, is this what you mean? I think that could work well with these moves. Because you can deal up to x3 damage to one monster on a 10+ there are opportunities to keep it interesting without needing to roll.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2011, 10:56:33 PM »
Yeah, damage is simplified and more like AW. Other stuff is simpler too, but it's easy to put attacks of opportunity and stuff back in. The next boardgame, Wrath of Ashardalon, will have "campaign options" which probably means leveling up and stuff.

Apparently Essentials monsters solves some hit point-bloat problems, but I kinda feel like with relegating the various dice just to damage, you might as well just ditch it altogether.

There's also a lot of times where you deal 3 damage on a hit and 1 damage on a miss (in an AW hack, some powers could just deal X damage, some could require an additional roll for effects), whereas I got pretty annoyed when my Warlock always missed using his daily power. Blagh.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2011, 11:13:19 PM »
This sounds like a plan. Some draft weapon damages to consider.

1 damage - Thrown Rock
2 damage - Ragged Bow or Sling
3 damage - Crossbow (Can only hit one creature per round)
4 damage - Fine Bow (Requires Fighter, Ranger or Thief)
5 damage - Hunters Bow (Requires Ranger)

One-handed Melee
2 damage - Unarmed
3 damage - Staff or Club
3 damage - Dagger or Throwing Axe (Can use once as Ranged Attack)
4 damage - Short Sword, Rapier, Axe, Warhammer, Spear or Mace (Requires Not Wizard)
5 damage - Long sword, Duelling Rapier, Heavy Axe, Flail (Requires Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin or Ranger)

Two-handed Melee
4 damage - Long Spear or Polearm (Can make a Melee attack in an adjacent area, Requires Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin or Ranger)
6 damage - Vicious Sword, Maniac Axe or Stupid Big Hammer (Requires Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin or Ranger)

So on a 10+ Hack and Slash you can theoretically do 18 damage with a Stupid Big Hammer.

I really hate when a Daily doesn't come off. Note that in the moves above as written you don't need to roll to attack, just to do more than a single hit. I think this has some pros and cons, one of which is that you couldn't really have a damage on a miss option. If you choose to roll you could screw it up. However you don't waste anything as you could just try again next round.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2011, 02:20:58 AM »
Well, I just assumed that At-Will powers would just slot into the basic moves, right? You can make melee attacks, and if you get a better At-Will power, you can do more damage or more range, or you can spend a hold to move a guy around or whatever.

And that Encounter powers and Dailies would have their own mechanics, that you'd use instead of Hack n Sash or Make a Move (or Stand Your Ground). Then I guess you could still have a flub (on a 6 or less), but with a +2 stat that's fairly rare. So there's the 7-9 result for "on a miss, half damage" and 10+ for full awesome effects.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2011, 05:30:19 AM »
I think we are on a similar page mechanically, but maybe not in focus. Probably because I haven't really explained my position well enough.

My goal is to add in some of the combat tactics of D&D 4e to try and help combat flow more smoothly and be more challenging. My feeling is that this would fix the issues I see and also those observed in other playtest reports. In particular I think the use of a loose map and some movement rules similar to 4e will help this as where you move AND the move you make will (hopefully) make combat more interesting.

To put this stuff in and make it work I think you need to do a couple of things:
- Add some movement rules.
- Adjust the moves slightly (probably a bit less than in my original post) to ensure they
mesh correctly with the movement rules.
- Ensure that the types of actions available in Dungeon World cover the range of actions you could have done in 4e using Basic, At-Will, Encounter and Daily so that you are using the same complexity.
- Ensure balance between the classes, as adding this gamist focus may de-rail the roleplaying if characters are out of balance.

Hence I'm more interested that the options exist for the character than where they get them. We need to have a push function to make the movement in combat work, but it doesn't particularly bother me if it is limited by needing to roll high or because you can only do it once per encounter.

I'm happy to shoot the breeze for options on how to do this and other ways to cut up the game but under that bigger focus.

Does that make sense?
« Last Edit: February 01, 2011, 05:36:05 AM by wightbred »



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Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2011, 08:08:32 PM »
Those are some great ideas! Funny thing is, John Harper and I were talking on Tuesday, without having seen this thread, and came up with some very similar ideas. I've already sent Adam some new basic moves, hopefully I'll show them off in a new version next week sometime.

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2011, 09:58:07 PM »
Planning to use some of this in the Goblin World hack I've just drafted (, but really keen to see what you are doing.

Plus a new version of Dungeon World would be awesome!
« Last Edit: February 03, 2011, 10:02:41 PM by wightbred »

Re: Using more of 4e?
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2011, 07:31:15 AM »
Sort of an AP.

Had the game with the guys I mentioned in the OP on the weekend. We played 3:16, DW and AW. They loved 3:16 and AW, but were left cold by DW. Their view was basically that they'd:
- Rather play 4e even with all it's problems, as it was tactically more interesting; and
- That I needed to tell Sage and Adam to "lighten up on spell dudes" as they felt they were unbalanced.

It is possible that I didn't give DW a fair run as I GMee / MCed for 13 hours straight. But the AW session was one of the best I'd ever played.

I think there is a trick in writing a game based on D&D that for some people (maybe me!) it needs to have a certain tactical / Step On Up feel. Maybe if DW wasn't linked to D&D they and I would see it differently. And maybe that's why this session didn't fly for us and yet I see others posting here that they are loving it.

Anyway, this reinforces the stuff in the posts for me. Very keen to see what Sage was cooking up with John. I also have some new "incorporating the tactical" ideas for my Goblin World game from playing this weekend.