Stunts and Power Cards

This post is entirely inspired by the Gamecrafter’s Guild and Charles Ryan, and I am indebted to them for this idea.  I really recommend you read their posts as the links come up (see below), then continue on with my post.

In Charles’ post, he states that players of 4E, ESPECIALLY the new players to the system, tend to unintentionally treat their character sheet like that’s the only things they can do. Charles’ post speaks well to that. His “Think Outside The Box” power card does exactly what he desires it to– I know this because I have used it in The Bagram Campaign to some success.

However, to a player who doesn’t know the system or is REALLY new to 4E (like all my players but one) the blank space on that power card is daunting. Again, I know this because I asked them. Without knowing the ruleset as well as a more experienced player, they can WANT to do something awesome but not know how to phrase it in game terms. So when I came across this post by Gamecrafter’s Guild, I was positively in heaven because the post you’re reading right now burst into my brain, Athena-like and fully formed. The Gamecrafters had the right idea– codifiying Stunts and Awesome Actions into a ruleset like that works beautifully. Combining that idea (and tweaking the rules slightly) with Charles’ power card idea gives us what? Stunt Power Cards, putting the rules info for what you can do with a stunt into an easy reference for the players.

For the record, I think the Low Risk should be used with Moderate DC skill checks plus a few (I’d use 1d6-3) and High Risk should be Hard DC skill checks modified by the same amount, as well as by environmental and situation-based effects.

Yes, I know they’re full of dense text, but putting it in a format like this makes it easier for them to comprehend when they already know the Move-Minor-Standard action economy as well as things like SONT (start of next turn), EONT (end of next turn), etc etc.

Some things I see happening from adding these powers in:

  • Teamwork combos. If the artillery warlock/sorcerer/wizard/archer in the back of your battle line doesn’t like to move, the Target line of “You or an ally within 5″ now gives them a viable option. And from an in-game perspective, this can give increased reason for monsters to attack those back-rank PCs, especially if intelligent monsters see the archer in the back encouraging his teammates and them getting benefits from it. This also applies to the Defender who stays in one spot, holding the line, using his Move action to buff an ally of himself for the next round.
  • Fuller Turns. Many, MANY times I have heard players say with disappointment, “Well, I don’t want to move and I don’t have a minor action, so I guess that’s it.” Adding a stunt into the mix gets them planning for the next round or buffing an ally, contributing to the party’s success, and having more fun.
  • Increased PC Threat. The PCs are going to fail a stunt skill check and suffer the consequences. This makes them easier to hit in most cases, and that means more damage. I like actions having reactions, and I think the mechanics encourage the PCs to use the stunts without them being TOO good and overshadowing their regular powers. Combat Stunt, in particular, had to have some serious risks in order to make “roll a skill check, inflict a condition” not be crazy-powerful.
  • Increased Skill Use in General. If the characters are coming up with ways to do cool stuff with their skills while IN combat, ti will naturally flow into the non-combat applications as well.
  • Monster Versatility. These same rules can (and SHOULD) apply to the monsters as well, though I think to save time I’d only really make use of them with Elites or Solos. This adds an element of unpredictability to the monsters, which I think is a great thing.

I also formatted the power cards to fit on a single letter-size page of paper. It’s not very “Power Card”, but it keeps everything in the same place and should be easy to use.  Get them HERE.

I am VERY interested in seeing how interested folks are in these kind of cinematic effects as well as how they might be integrated into a game. I’m going to experiment with them here in Bagram and might put out a v2.0 before implementing them elsewhere. Let me know in the comments if you use them and how they work out in your game!

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5 Responses to Stunts and Power Cards

  1. I didn’t even bother reading beyond that picture, couldn’t see the point. ;-)

  2. Of course I love the idea as a player in your campaign. That being said you know that I am a former Exalted player so stunting is just the way things were done. As a balance issue will all stunts need to be unique like the old Changeling the Dreaming Glamour casting system. Or will characters be allowed to have signature stunts (the downside to this is Voltron syndrome, watching some one become the head is only interesting so many times)

    My concerns are two fold. The first is the extra moving parts, this may not be much of an issue if the system is largely ignored; however I do not see that as a win. The second is power creep, in the end this is of course balanced by the DM. However I suspect that peoples out of character charisma and dramatic flare will increase there average damage, just another example of Charisma being the new power stat ;).

    Here are some example stunts that I would use at the table, the numbers provided are using Essentials DC’s Ehod’s skill bonuses and a max DC of +3 for the stunt. I had a thought of using the move as a pull option in conjunction with A HREF=”http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/power.aspx?id=3129″Falcon’s Mark/A; however cool it sounded I am more likely to just move and use one of my at-wills then stay stationary and pull them to me. I could see however using A HREF=”http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/power.aspx?id=1710″Sword Burst/A to push creatures in the blast away from a wounded ally (Arcane Movement Stunt, DC 16, 80% success rate).

    Teamwork combos, not sure how these are supposed to work with all of the power cards being personal effects, however working under the following assumptions; that there supposed to be “You or an ally within 5″ the bonus damage will not stack if from the same source, the source is counted as the character using the power. “Having move to the base of the hill I am now standing in the path of the minor lay line, I tap into that charging my sword with eldrich power (Arcane Minor Stunt DC 16 for +1d4 damage). Seeing that I have taped into more power then I can safely channel I arch it to Krunthors quiver temporarily enchanting the arrows with in (Arcane Move Stunt DC 16 for +1d6 damage), and before the charge fades I empower my A HREF=”http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/power.aspx?id=1725″Booming Blade/A so that the static charge lingers on him arching to ground him, and holding him in place (Arcane Combat Stunt DC 23 40% success rate power effect + 5 ongoing thunder damage, and Stunned save ends both) Action Point for the Booming Blade. I would then expect Krunthor to stunt for damage as a move or minor to take full advantage of the bonus I gave him preferably with an AOE attack.

    All and all stunting as a minor action for +1d4 damage at no risk will become a default in the campaign very quickly, its not a bad thing if it livens up combat with out slowing it down over much. However as I type that line I am reminded that I am a defender so I will most likely be stunting for +2 AC as that will let me do my job much better then 2.5 points of damage.

  3. 4649matt says:

    I dig on the possibility. In the hands of players looking to make the game more immersive and interactive, this is great. I wouldn’t recommend this at a table of optimizers or the game will be broken.
    There was a similar discussion over at the At-Will Blog:

    http://at-will.omnivangelist.net/2011/04/singularity-the-grand-unified-theory-of-skills-and-powers/

    You might check that out for another angle to tackling this.

    • @Matt– I read that a while ago as well, and totally agreed with it then as much as now. This post was realy about putting the rules for those stunts in a Power Card type format to help the new 4E players wrap their brains around it.

  4. While I enjoy the idea of “unwasted” actions and encouraging playings to think outside the box, alot of these stunts are pretty OP in my opinion. Creating interesting environments to fight in, that can be interacted with using move and minor actions seems to work well for my groups.

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