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 Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects

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Fox Lee
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PostSubject: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:35 am

This has been on my mind for a while - one of the only ideas I like from 5e is that combat advantage (and indeed, advantage in skill checks and so forth) should be a "roll twice, pick one" benefit, with an equivalent "roll twice, pick lower" drawback for disadvantage. That sounds pretty great to me. Re-rolls don't have a huge statistical impact, if you run the numbers, but they feel disproportionately good to use. I'm in favour of basically anything that makes the players feel great at a minimal "cost".

I've toyed with just dropping that into my 4e game as-is, but I always get caught up on places where this mechanic already does exist in 4e, and what it should be replaced with.

The big case is, of course, the Avenger - for whom getting this sort of benefit against their Oath of Enmity target is a major part of their unique appeal. The high accuracy of the Avenger is clearly one of their big draw-card features, but it wouldn't be very special if it just did what CA does anyway. (Remembering that CA can be quite reliable if you prioritise it.)

Saying "you always have CA against your OE target" feels like an unsatisfying solution. It's decently powerful, but A) It doesn't restore that uniqueness, B) It makes lots of character options for getting CA into booby prizes, and C) It's just kind of dull.

Has anybody else thought about this? Do you have a suggestion for a good replacement effect for double-rolls, if all combat advantage is 5e-style?

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:06 am

I'm going to go into the Math a bit before I answer your question about the Avenger, just so you get where the answer is coming from;

The net result of advantage/disadvantage if you're playing mostly in middle range of needing about an 8-14 on the die for success is actually quite large. HUGE even.

Here's the actual increase in your odds of success with advantage over a straight d20 roll for that range;

+22.75% if you need an 8+
+24% if you need a 9+
+24.75% if you need a 10+
+25% if you need an 11+
+24.75% if you need a 12+
+24% if you need a 13+
+22.75% if you need a 14+

Basically, in the number range that 4E generally uses, 5e's Advantage is roughly equal to a +5 bonus to the check. It only really scales down to a typical 4E bonus size on the extreme ends... getting down into the +1 to 2 range only if you needed an 18-20 on the die to begin with.

Conversely, Disadvantage in the middle range of the d20 where 4E operates is a HUGE penalty;

-22.75% if you need an 8+
-24% if you need a 9+
-24.75% if you need a 10+
-25% if you need an 11+
-24.75% if you need a 12+
-24% if you need a 13+
-22.75% if you need a 14+

Again, roughly a -5 modifier to the check; akin to attacking a target with total concealment or superior cover in 4E.

If you're applying it across the board to the players and the monsters its fine... Fights will end a LOT faster do to all the extra hits if you're replacing combat advantage with it, but its balanced by monsters getting the some bonus as well... it makes flanking DEADLY.

As to the Avenger... as I showed above, using the best of 2 rolls in the range that most attacks are made (i.e. needing between 8 and 14 on the die) is roughly equal to a +5 bonus. So if everyone else is getting two rolls left and right, giving the Avenger a +5 to hit versus their Oath target would set them apart as that would not only massively improve their odds against a target they don't have advantage against, but also seriously increase their odds of success if they ever get disadvantage as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:17 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
If you're applying it across the board to the players and the monsters its fine... Fights will end a LOT faster do to all the extra hits if you're replacing combat advantage with it, but its balanced by monsters getting the some bonus as well... it makes flanking DEADLY.

As to the Avenger... as I showed above, using the best of 2 rolls in the range that most attacks are made (i.e. needing between 8 and 14 on the die) is roughly equal to a +5 bonus. So if everyone else is getting two rolls left and right, giving the Avenger a +5 to hit versus their Oath target would set them apart as that would not only massively improve their odds against a target they don't have advantage against, but also seriously increase their odds of success if they ever get disadvantage as well.
I appreciate what you're saying, but assume I'm not bothered by the numbers. The essence of the question is not whether upgrading CA is a good idea, it's what special mechanic could the Avenger get in place of the oath double-roll. A +5 to hit would be super powerful, sure, but it's not unique or interesting

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:00 am

As I said, as long as the numbers are used across the board its neither a good or bad idea; but it will be a fair and balanced idea.

As to the Avenger; if you've replaced everything else with advantage/disadvantage then actually a static bonus would be fairly unique. Further, to not make the Avenger worthless compared to the other Strikers it NEEDS to be something on par with a +5 bonus to hit from their oath or else its damage will lag WAY behind where it needs to be because DPR is a function of both raw damage times the hit rate.

If you want it a bit variable then how about making it

"Against your oath target add 1d8 to your attack roll. At level 11 this improves to 1d10 and at level 21 it improves to 1d12."
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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:48 pm

It's not that I want it to be more variable. It's that I'm after a mechanic that's distinct. Maybe not unique, but close to it. A reason to pick the Avenger, like the oath is now.

Sure, there will be fewer flat bonuses going around if combat advantage is turned into double rolls, but there are still more +x style bonuses than you can shake a stick at ^_^;

So I appreciate your input, but I'll keep trying for something a bit more distinctive.

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:22 am

This is a subject I've thought about a lot as well. The Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic was something that caught my eye from 5e (also the only thing that caught my eye in a good way). This may not help in the general question about whether or not to change CA, but it does address something that was going on at my table.

First a bit of background. I do not play an "optimized game". The players at my table don't have to eke out every little attack and damage benefit to "stay even" in the combat encounters. The issues with 4E math don't really show up because my DM style doesn't expect the players to be "perfectly honed with only optimal choices". That's just my DM style and our group's preference. Everyone plays the style they like. My point is that the players in my group like to take feats and powers that give them more "breadth" of options rather than a focus on their specific role.

What I saw come out of this was that the group got "lazy" when it came to tactics in combat. And it made combat a bit more of a drudgery rather than something dynamic and exciting. Every turn was, "Okay, I move, I attack, here's the damage, I'm done." And so I started looking for ways to encourage them to think tactically and do more "exciting" things; both in their positioning in combat and their choice of what powers to use, and when to use them.

The first house-rule I made was my Combat Advantage rule. In my games, CA works just as written initially. So if you flank an opponent, or if they are Dazed, or whatever, you attack with CA, getting the typical +2 to the attack. However, if you would get CA from two separate rule conditions; for example you're flanking a Stunned opponent, you essentially get "double CA". So you get the normal +2, but you also get a second d20 to roll (taking the highest, of course). When I introduced this, it took about 2 combat encounters for the group to suddenly get more interested in what powers they used and where they moved in combat. The characters at that time included a Bard/Swordmage that had a lot of Leader-type stuff. He was loving the ability to get the striker (a Vampire - told you we weren't an optimized group, hehe) into position and get the "double CA".

It was so successful in making combat more exciting and dynamic, that I actually bumped the rule up to "multiple CA". For each instance that a character would have CA from a different rule beyond the first, (i.e. flanking, Dazed opponent, Stunned opponent, prone, etc.) that character got an additional d20 to roll on the attack. Triple CA was rare, but pretty much always resulted in a successful attack. Quadruple CA was rarely more than a once-per-game-session thing, but when the group did that, it was pretty exciting. And there was one combat encounter that the group had managed Quintuple-CA for the striker (that pesky Vampire). The thing was, due to added actions granted by a couple of magic items spread around the group, the Vampire got 4 attacks that round, all with the 5X-CA. For the record, 3 of them were crits!

Did I make the math of the game better? Probably not. Did I make a rule that got the players engaged in combat more and thinking more about tactics and strategy? Absolutely! And since that was what I was going for, I like how it worked out.

Now, about the Avenger. No one has played an Avenger in my group (I sure wish someone would, I've always wanted to see that class in action ever since the campaign where I was supposed to play one failed to get off the ground). So I don't have any specific information as to how to set their ability off from my "multi-CA" house rule. My thoughts had always been that I'd "wait and see" if someone decided to play an Avenger and then figure it out at that point.

One thought I've had is that the CA would simply add more dice on top of the additional dice the Avenger got for their class ability. This may not be an elegant solution, but it would fit in with what my goals were. I mean if the group was working to get the Avenger's Oath target under multiple conditions that provide separate "instances" of CA, that would be some serious teamwork! And could you imagine an Avenger that is rolling 3 dice for EVERY attack? Then factor in magic items and action points that can provide additional attacks throughout the encounter... That would be interesting.

Overall, my thoughts are that if you just let the Avenger get an additional extra die on attacks with CA (for a total of 3d20, take highest), that would probably keep their "unique feel" as a class. Since they don't have a class ability that bumps up their damage output like other strikers, the severely increased ability to hit when using 3d20's shouldn't be too "run away" from the core game mechanic. Of course, this is just my musing while sitting at my desk at work. It hasn't been play tested for sure.

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:54 pm

The only issue there is that adding additional dice doesn't scale linearly. The main tool the Avenger uses to hit a Striker's damage targets is by hitting about 90% of the time insteas of 60-65% of the time.

Instead of hitting 3 times in 5 rounds for big damage, it hits practically all five times for moderate damage.

If everyone is hitting a whole lot more often then there's only so much that increasing the Avenger's accuracy will help. At a certain point its going to need a damage bump to keep up with the other Strikers.

I've been thinking about it some and think I may have something a little more distinct and interesting. Give the Avenger their extra die, but also add "if two or more of the rolls hit, the attack deals maximum damage."

Essentially they get a crit-like effect on their oath targets if both rolls hit. In the context of advantage it the Avenger is already almost always hitting, but the main advantage for them is it gives them an extra chance at getting 2+ hits and triggering the max damage effect.
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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 4:14 pm

Yeah, I know that my solution doesn't give them a comparable mechanical boost. But since I haven't had anyone play an Avenger, it isn't something that has come up. I'm sure that if someone picked that class then I might have to come up with a solution.

That being said, I like the idea that if both dice hit, they get a damage boost. Max [W] damage would be good. Or maybe Max [W]+Wis? I don't know that it should be a full crit (that adds in riders and magic weapon bonuses). I'm sure there's a mechanical "sweet spot" for this. But I like the concept for sure.

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 5:21 pm

Yeah, I agree on it not being a crit. That's why I said "deals maximum possible damage" for the actual wording and "crit-like" in my general description instead of "you score a critical hit."

Mechanically speaking your typical Avenger will be using a 2H weapon since they get no benefit from armor and aren't proficient in shields. That means their damage dice are likely to either be d10 with a +3 proficiency or d12 with a +2 proficiency. Given their innate accuracy it'd more likely be the latter.

As such its actually possible to calculate the net damage boost as being +4.5 (d10) to +5.5 (d12) per [W] of damage the attack deals if the bonus triggers. You can round that out to +5 damage per die if both hit. If the roll needed is 9+ (60%) then two dice will give you hits 36% of the time. If you add advantage to roll three dice then you will score at least two hits 64.8% of the time.

Thus the average damage bonus per round would be +2/die without advantage or +3/die with advantage.
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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 5:25 pm

That seems in line with some of the other Striker damage bonuses. Of course, that leads me to think about Paragon and Epic Tiers. The per-die damage bonus for a "dual-hit" should probably step up (+2 or so per Tier?) like other Striker class damage features do.

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:48 pm

It does step up... that's the bonus PER DIE. A 2W attack would be +4, a 3W would be +6, etc.

Overall, it should be just a bit behind the others because of its slightly higher accuracy, but that should put it in the ballpark in a way that is unique to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Wed Sep 27, 2017 7:28 pm

skwyd42 and Chris24601, I'm really liking that! At first I was musing over how adding a third die wouldn't have too much impact with my group - my players hate, haaaaaate missing, so as a rule they go pretty hard into hit-bonuses already. The impact of 3 dice vs. 2 dice would be much less meaningful. But adding the crit-like effect really ups the appeal. Saucy! Thank you for the idea Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Changing Combat Advantage, and replacing equivalent effects   Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:39 pm

Chris24601 wrote:
The only issue there is that adding additional dice doesn't scale linearly. The main tool the Avenger uses to hit a Striker's damage targets is by hitting about 90% of the time insteas of 60-65% of the time.

Instead of hitting 3 times in 5 rounds for big damage, it hits practically all five times for moderate damage.

Hmmm personally I was thinking the Avenger kind of was a sword monk in so much flavor and function it isnt funny...  one might do something like the flurries for extra damage to multiple enemies.

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