Is 4E broken? No!

There’s an interesting article up at The Angry DM that argues that 4E is, in some ways, fundamentally broken. I want to disagree with him here, but first let me try to summarize his argument. (This is from his own summary in an addendum that he posted.)

  1. The designers said they wanted to end the “fifteen minute workday,” wherein PC’s roll into the dungeon/castle/etc., use their most powerful attacks/spells/etc. right away, and then run out, intending to take an extended rest and then do it all over again the next day.
  2. The designers included the encounter resource system as a way to end this style of play.
  3. The encounter resource system strongly emphasizes efficient, high damage output as the hands-down most optimal strategy.
  4. The designers also included a set of efficient, high damage output powers as daily resources, requiring extended rests to recover.
  5. The fifteen minute workday remains an optimal form of play.

I know the people I play with have talked about this playstyle (we’ve never used the phrase “fifteen minute workday,” but I know what he’s talking about here).  To us, there are easy ways to deal with it.

First, don’t let the PC’s assume that they can take a short rest after every encounter (though, to be fair, I wouldn’t recommend doing that too often… just enough so that the PC’s don’t take it as a given).  Second, definitely don’t let the PC’s assume that they can take as many consecutive short rests as they want after each encounter.  Many players would rather get the enhanced heals from a leader instead of simply spending their own surges.  Since the leader needs to take a short rest to recharge their healing powers, this can lead to PC’s taking short rest after short rest just to heal up the team with a minimum amount of surge expenditure.  Third, definitely definitely don’t let the PC’s assume that they can take an extended rest whenever they want.  Dailies simply become extra-good encounter powers if the PC’s think they can recharge them after each fight.

So how do you break your players of these bad habits?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Time pressure.  Use scenarios where the players have a limited amount of time to accomplish a task.  “You have 30 minutes to stop this ritual before the cultists summon Orcus.”  If the PC’s know they have a limited amount of time, this will make them really think about how many short rests they can afford to take.
  • Use diseases.  Since you only roll Endurance checks for diseases during extended rests, PC’s may not want to risk their disease getting worse (especially if more than one PC is infected).
  • Use DM Empowerment.  If one PC uses their daily to wipe out a bunch of monsters (not nearly as likely in 4E as it was in previous editions), buff up the next group, or send in another wave.  Remember, the DM’s job is to enhance the fun of all of the players at the table.  I know that as a player, it’s much more fun to overcome a challenge than it is to yawn my way through an easy fight.
  • Interrupt their rest.  If you don’t want the PC’s to take an extended rest, interrupt it with a random encounter.  Again, don’t necessarily do this every time, but do it enough that the PC’s will realize it could happen, and maybe they need to save those dailies for when they will really count.

My experience with 3rd Edition was that the game was essentially over when the PC’s sat down at the table.  So much effort went into crafting characters, building spell lists, and so on, that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the PC’s would win, and would do so easily.  One of the things I love about 4E is that cooperation is key.  The party needs to work together to defeat challenges, and no single character is powerful enough to win a combat alone.

If you are finding that your PC’s are defeating challenges too easily, then make the challenge harder.  It will be more fun for everyone involved!

2 thoughts on “Is 4E broken? No!

  1. Mfrizzell

    I liked your answers to make the players not want to rest after each encounter, but have an issue with the last about interrupting their extended rest. It was pointed out to me by one of my rule lawyering players that a rest interrupted just picks back up where it left off. Is he wrong or does this kind of weaken that element of your post.

  2. James Hamblin Post author

    That’s correct, but they still don’t have their dailies and such back during the interrupting encounter. Plus, you could interrupt the rest with something that sets off an urgent chain of events, preventing them from getting back to rest.


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