One thing I have noticed when refereeing my current Nalfeshnee Hack 4E game is that combat takes longer (this is of course a common observation regarding Fourth Edition). I think this comes down to three factors. The first is that HP has increased dramatically in comparison to past editions whereas damage dealing capability has not (and in some cases has regressed). The second is that the grid encourages pondering positional possibilities, much like chess. The third is that players need to make more decisions per turn due to the formalization of actions during combat, and the possibilities for each type of action tend to be heavily suggested by explicit power and maneuver lists (decreasing the need for action creativity). Compare player turn structure in traditional D&D to Fourth Edition.
- What do I do?
- How will I spend my standard action? (Check power list for options.)
- How will I spend my move action? (Move, shift, or charge/run?)
- Does it make sense to take a minor action? (Check power list for options.)
- Should I take any free actions?
- Do I want to make any action substitutions?
- What order will I take my actions in?
The action substitution step is also worth mentioning because it is quite complex in terms of decision possibilities. There is a hierarchy of action types: a standard action can be used for a move but not the other way around. A standard can also be used for a minor action. So, for example, some of the common possibilities are:
- Move, standard
- Standard, move
- Minor, minor, move
- Move, minor, move
Another blogger just mentioned a similar observation. Zombiecowboy wrote:
But I think the biggest problem is what I call the economy of actions. My players feel that they need to eek out every little last drop of potential from their characters, making sure that they spend every action that they can. Did I do something with my free, minor, move, and all mighty standard action this turn?
And, because of how interrelated the 4E rules are, it is very difficult to simplify this process through house rules without doing significant violence to the rest of the ruleset. For example, I considered doing away with minor actions entirely and moving back towards the traditional approach, or at least simplifying the choices to: move-move, action-move, move-action. However, many powers are primarily useful in combos (use minor power X in order to set up favorable conditions for the use of standard power Y; combos).
Healing powers also tend to be minor actions. This is kind of ridiculous in my opinion, as it allows the cleric to move, shoot a laser (ahem, “lance of faith” at-will power), and then heal allies all in one turn. So such a change would also affect some classes more than others (and some “builds” more than others). Players that are used to the 4E concept of class balance tend to be unhappy with such changes.
Unrelated complaint: damn it Google! Because I am in Canada, whenever I view a blogspot blog it rewrites the URL to .ca rather than .com now. Why? It’s so annoying. Whenever I want to copy and paste a blogger URL I now need to edit it because .com is obviously a more stable address. I wish they would stop redirecting me to google.ca from google.com too. When I type a URL into the URL bar, that’s really the place I want to go. Redirection should only be used for transitions where content is actually being moved.