5 Ways to Make Endurance Worth the Bonus
Not all skills are created equal in all campaigns. In a plane hopping game Arcana is king. In a political game you had better have Diplomacy, Bluff and Insight. But 4e games seem to have an almost universally useless skill, Endurance. On paper Endurance is used to resist extreme conditions like weather and starvation and to overcome disease. Sounds useful right?
In practice anyone with a good Heal bonus, already a useful skill, can make checks on the diseased character’s behalf. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t just use the level 6 ritual to instantly abolish the disease. So now Endurance is left with weather and hunger, which combined with encumbrance form the trifecta of things that DMs ignore. Even if the DM pays attention to those things, both can be solved with low level magic items. So what do you with a skill that is replaced by level 6?
If you don’t usually use weather and extreme conditions in your game, I have an obvious piece of advice for you. Give it a try! Perhaps the undead monsters in the tomb like to keep it in a deep freeze. Why not? It is probably comfortable for them and debilitating to invaders. A long trek up a mountain in the rain to a villainous stronghold is worth a few Endurance checks and can soften up the party for a tense fight. It is the obvious answer, but most DMs just don’t think to go for it.
Picture this, the corrupt noble who opposes the party poisons their food to capture them (or a TPK avoiding battle capture). He won’t just kill them, they are far too valuable for that. Think of all the secrets that adventurers compile throughout their careers. They know the seedy underbelly of the upper class, the confidential information of those they have rescued, the location of a macguffin of great power and so on. A sharp person with a hunger for power and a lack of any scruples could put that information to profitable use. So he will attempt to extract the information, inflicting physical pain, sleep deprivation and starving the PCs to get them to take would make a great use of the Endurance skill. This capture period could even be an Endurance centered skill challenge.
Although the size of the bonus doesn’t make a difference, being trained in Endurance brings certain boons. Skill powers are available in place of class utility powers for those trained in the appropriate skill. The powers Endurance unlocks are great for any front line combatant, include the class “Diehard” that lets the user keep fighting despite being out of hit points.
You can ramp up the Endurance skill by introducing it into fight situations. Extreme conditions, high gravity, or any energy sapping aura can siphon off energy and healing surges. Fighting is already quite tiring, so it would make sense if it increase the standard rate of checks for extreme conditions.
Of course, if you really want to the boost the utility of Endurance you can always throw in some house rules. Perhaps for every 5 rounds of combat all participants must make an Endurance check or suffer some consequence like a defense penalty or dropping lower in the initiative order. Alternatively, you could tie the interval to certain actions like run actions or the use of daily powers. You could also have it related to the milestone system. For every two encounter the characters must make an Endurance check. You should include some new milestone bonus to even this out though, it is already too tempting for characters to sleep after every fight.
How often does your group roll Endurance? Have you scratched it off the sheet? Let us know in the comments!