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 Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"

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Chris24601
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PostSubject: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:35 am

One of the things I noticed while going over the PC's from a number of our ongoing campaigns is that there actually isn't all that much variation between the feat selections from players at our tables. This got me thinking.

In anticipation of the potential day when we might no longer have access to a character builder (Win8 seems to hate the offline version) I've been making an ongoing effort to find ways to build characters with less need for any type of builder other than a pen/paper and maybe a simple spreadsheet for math. One of those methods is to simplify things wherever possible and I think replacing the feats with some sort of standardized benefit schedule might be one optional way to do so.

The idea is to pick out some of the most commonly selected feats and create something akin to UltraModern4's Ladders; predetermined benefits gained as the character levels. Maybe there will need to be more than one set (maybe based off role or combat style; melee, ranged, implement) and there probably should be at least a couple of 'insert a feat of your choice here' options built into the system, but the core idea is to streamline the character building process a bit so someone making a character without access to a builder doesn't have to go wading through a bunch of books and/or unsorted PDF's looking for options.

A related part of this concept is to push some non-combat related choices into the list; things like skill training, skill focus, extra languages and such and to normalize attack/defense/damage expectations for encounter building purposes.

Some obvious choices for this are;
-Weapon/Implement Expertise (choice of type/secondary bonuses)
-Weapon/Implement Focus
-Weapon/Implement Mastery
-Improved Defenses
-Armor Specialization (or +1 feat bonus to AC for cloth/leather)
-Toughness
-Durable
-Improved Initiative
-Choice of Skill Training or Skill Focus

That would cover 9 of 18 choices and I'd probably want to keep the 1st level choice at at least 1-2 choices per tier open (4-7 of the 18 choices total) for some degree of customization, but that still leaves couple of openings to be filled.

Anyway, I'd like some input/feedback on ideas for a concept such as this. Specific areas I would appreciate input on would be;
- Can you think of any common archetypes those feats would not be a good fit for?
- Are there any other feats you'd add?
- Would you leave any feat choices open? 1 per tier? 2 per tier?
- Should the effects of the feats be applied as if they were feats applied at a certain level (ex. +4 feat bonus to initiative at level Cool or should they be staggered out over the course of advancement (ex. +2 feat bonus to initiative at level 6, increases to +3 at 16 and to +4 at 26)?
- Should there be different sets and if so should they be broken down by role, fighting style or some other criteria?
- Would you allow slightly better bonuses for certain things (ex. an extra bonus to damage) to make up for not being able to take conditional feats that could be leveraged by certain builds/item sets to greater effect (ex. frostcheese no longer being available)?
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:56 am

I like the initial idea, but you would need a way to account for the various no-brainer class choices, like the Swordmage's Double/Total Aegis, or the Rogue's Backstabber. One way you could do it is to have a class-specific ladder that has both the no-brainer class stuff and a choice of different options depending on the build. For example, you could have a Rogue ladder that has Backstabber at one point, a few other feats at other points, and a choice between a feat for Cunning Sneak rogues and a feat for Artful Dodger rogues at another point.

Also, class-specific feat taxes would have to be looked at, but you probably have already done so.
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Mon Jun 09, 2014 3:40 pm

Actually, I haven't looked that closely yet. This idea literally just came to me this morning while going over some stuff for tonight's game and noting certain feats appearing again and again on everyone's sheets.

Regarding things like Backstabber and Double Aegis... there are two ways to go. The first is just leave some empty slots where you still pick feats to fill some of those in (ex. 1st, 4th, 14th, 24th), though this is defeating the purpose of creating a "ladder" a bit. The second is that if those are the type of no-brainer feats to which you're referring they could probably be modeled in via a role-specific "ladder."

For example, backstabber isn't really all that different from all the other various 'improve the die size of your striker damage feature by one type' that all the other strikers have and the net result is an average of +2/3/5 extra damage per sneak attack or +1/2/3 to most of the other striker damage features and could probably be added to a 'Striker Ladder' simply by giving it a +2/+4/+6 feat bonus to damage while the controller, defender and leader ladders only grant a +1/2/3 feat bonus to damage.

Based on your comments and the reminder to myself that this is largely intended to REPLACE feats, not just limit the number that are picked, what I'm leaning towards at the moment (still very subject to change) is a three part "ladder."

1) Universal Bonuses: elements every character receives regardless of class or build. Examples for this type might be Skill Training/Focus, Improved Defenses/Initiative and extra languages.
2) Role Bonuses: elements that improve the core functioning of a role; extra damage for strikers, being able to mark more targets and/or punish them harder for defenders, improved buffs/healing for leaders, and stronger controls for controllers.
3) Combat Style: These would be elements related to your choice of weapon/implement and off-hand (empty, dual-wield, shield). For example... combining the benefits of light blade expertise, light blade focus, nimble blade, deft blade and light blade mastery into a 'Light Blade Combat Style'. This one may need to be split into a main and off-hand category simply to keep the options reasonable.

Still kicking it around in my head right now (nothing's been committed to paper yet) so feel free comment as I'll be considering it all while working this out of the 'head' stage and into the 'scratch-paper', 'spreadsheet' and 'written out' stages.
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:24 am

So, here's the update on this... figuring out which feats/bonuses to include has been pretty easy and if all you were making was 30th level characters it'd be great. Right now the layout that seems to be working best is a set of 9 universal feats/benefits, 3 feats/benefits based on your role, and 6 feats/benefits based on your fighting style (current styles include tempest, reaver, phalanx, hafted, sniper, quick-shot, blaster, dominator and gish).

What's been HARD is deciding which benefits go where because inevitably, some of them are going to have to go into the level 26+ feat slots and are either going to be super-important style defining benefits or the feat equivalent of 'dump stats' that no one really cares about.

For example, as much as I wanted to have the ladders provide the character with some non-combat advantages (skill bonuses, extra languages, etc), doing so also means bumping 'must have' benefits that most players would choose off into paragon and epic tiers (or dropping the skill/language benefits into the epic tier where they'll rarely even come up).

Some possible angles for working out the kinks I've been playing with...

1) adding a couple of 'free' bonuses to ladder based on the theory that not every benefit is going to be useful to every build so having a couple of extra ones will help make up for that. This would free up some of the lower level slots, though it doesn't really answer what to put into those high level slots.

2) front-loading the ladders a bit and just not have level 26+ benefits (probably shifting two of the 26-30 feats/benefits to heroic tier and one to paragon tier).

3) just let the player choose the order they gain the benefits the ladder provides. This pretty much defeats the purpose of having a ladder by making the ladder nothing more than a very restricted feat list, but I've got to consider this project in terms of the goal (providing solid feat-like benefits without having to search a dozen different books because you don't have access to a builder program any more), not my initial concept for how to reach the goal.

Of the three options above, I'm leaning towards option two, but I am VERY open to any feedback people would like to provide.

A related topic that needs to be addressed as well is what to do about the human bonus feat in relation to this system. Leave it as is? Replace it with a different benefit? Create a specific list for humans to choose from? Allow humans to pick one heroic-tier benefit from another ladder?
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:47 am

So... here's where I'm at with the ladders at the moment. Input would be appreciated.

All characters gain the Universal Benefits, the Benefits for their class role (if the class has multiple roles, pick one), and one set of Combat Style Benefits (I included Tempest Style below because its the only one I'm happy with at the moment). The benefits are as follows;

Universal Benefits:
1st level: +5 feat bonus hit points
4th level: +1 feat bonus to attack rolls
8th level: +1 feat bonus to fortitude, reflex and will defenses.
10th level: +2 feat bonus to one skill of choice and learn one additional language of choice.
11th level: +5 hit points (10 total), +2 feat bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls and to fortitude, reflex and will defenses.
14th level: +1 feat bonus to AC and you longer suffer check penalties for armor you are proficient in.
18th level: +2 feat bonus to saving throws.
20th level: +2 feat bonus to one skill of choice and learn one additional language of choice.
21st level: +5 hit points (15 total), +2 healing surges, +3 feat bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls and to fortitude, reflex and will defenses.

Defender Benefits:
2nd level: Once per turn as a free action you can mark an enemy adjacent to you until the end of your next turn. Marked enemies are considered subject to your defender aura.
12th level: Enemies marked by you or subject to your defender aura take a –3 penalty to attacks that do not include you as a target.
22nd level: Enemies who violate your mark or defender aura take 5 extra damage.

Striker Benefits:
2nd level:
You gain a +1/2/3 bonus to all your damage rolls.
12th level: When you shift or teleport during your turn, you can shift or teleport one extra square.
22nd level: Your attacks inflict 3 extra damage.

Leader Benefits:
2nd level:
When you use a healing power, the target regains 3/6/9 extra hit points.
12th level: When you use a healing power, the target can also make a saving throw against an effect that a save can end.
22nd level: You gain an extra use of your class healing power each encounter.

Controller Benefits:
2nd level:
When you use an area or close at-will or encounter power with a damage roll, you can take a –2 penalty to damage per die to increase the size of the burst or blast by 1. The Hunter's Rapid Shot is considered to be a Burst 1 for purposes of this benefit.
12th level: You can exclude a number of squares equal to half your highest ability score from the effects of your close or area powers.
22nd level: Targets are –2 to save against the effects of your powers.

Tempest-Style Benefits:
1st level:
+1/2/3 to damage rolls with combat advantage.
4th level: +1 to attack rolls with combat advantage.
6th level: +1/2/3 to damage rolls when wielding an offhand weapon or implement.
8th level: +1 shield bonus to AC/Reflex when wielding an offhand weapon or implement. If you already have a shield bonus to AC from an offhand weapon or implement the shield bonus increases by 1.
14th level: Your basic attacks can target the Reflex defense. If the attack already targets Reflex it gains a +1 bonus to the attack roll.
16th level: When you make an attack, you can shift 1 square as a free action after the attack resolves.
24th level: Deal 1[W] (offhand weapon) extra damage with opportunity attacks.
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Wed Jun 18, 2014 2:44 pm

I like what I see; the universal benefits ladder looks great and cover everything that every character could use, the role benefits are both useful and help to reinforce the role and the tempest style helps make offhand weapons damned good.

I just have one question and one quibble. The question is, does the Tempest Style's offhand weapon benefits apply to dual-wielding offhand weapons, just wielding a single off-hand weapon like a dagger or short sword, or both?

The quibble is about the defender's second-level benefit: for the Fighter Warden, and Defender Aura users, it's a good feature, but the Paladin, Swordmage, and I believe the Battlemind can't take full advantage of it because of how their marks are set up: they can't respond to generic marks. They can only respond to marks specifically laid out by their Divine Challenge, Swordmage Aegis, and Battlemind's Demand. I think the simplest way to handle it would be to rewrite those marks to have a mark feature and a separate punishment feature that can respond to generic marks, but you could write in an addendum to the 2nd-level Defender benefit to account for those classes.
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:57 pm

First, thank you. This exactly the type of feedback I'm looking for in putting this concept together.

Starting from the end and working forward, the intention of the benefit is that defender can use their mark punishment feature (aegis, divine challenge, etc) against anything they mark using the benefit. Perhaps a better wording would be "once per turn, when you use your class marking feature you can apply it to an additional creature adjacent to yourself or to any other creature you have marked."

As to the tempest style, the intention is for it function pretty much like the two-weapon fighting/defense feats. The precise wording should probably be "when you wield a weapon or implement in each hand, you gain [insert benefit here]."

I may have to pull it back to just melee weapons like the original feats, but I'm trying to keep the fighting styles flexible enough that they can function for as many types of characters as possible... (ex. a ranger with a long sword in each hand or a wizard with a wand in one hand and an orb in the other or a hexblade with a pact blade in one hand and a rod in the other).
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:25 pm

I like the rewording - it clarifies things perfectly.

And thanks for the clarification on the tempest style. I'd be inclined to have it apply to dual-wielding of any sort, like with the ranger, the hexblade or the dual-wand wizard. Having the style feats apply to as many character types as possible will reduce your workload by a considerable amount. In this case, you don't have to make a dual-implement style or a weapon and implement in accord style - you have everything you need right here. If you're going to expand it to implements, though, I'd recommend making the last benefit say 1dW or 1d6 (or 1d8 or something), just to cover any corner cases of implement-using opportunity attackers.
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:54 am

Good point, implements don't actually have a weapon die do they? I think 1d6 for an offhand implement makes the most sense since, unless you're a ranger that's what the majority of offhand weapons do.

Another style that will likely be useful to some implement users is the hafted-style. Unlike the tempest which can work with pretty much any one-handed/offhand weapon/implement; the hafted style needs a weapon with a haft to it to function (though a reach weapon like the spiked chain might be possible too).

At this point in its development (still a work in progress) it's a very defensive style that starts off with a variant on the staff expertise benefits (reach with a staff/spear/polearm and not provoking with ranged/area attacks), then hafted defense (shield bonus to AC/Reflex when wielding a staff/polearm/spear with two hands), a variant on staff fighting (turning any polearm into a double weapon with a stout end and a defensive end) and the ability to flank from one square away. I'm still figuring out the paragon/epic benefits, and some of these may be subject to change (the double weapon option is possibly too situational for most classes and might need a slightly more offensive option) but that's where its at at the moment.
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PostSubject: Re: Replacing Feats with a "Ladder"   Fri Jun 20, 2014 12:49 am

The hafted-style looks good so far. The defensive angle makes sense for it.
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