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5 Ways to Make Endurance Worth the Bonus

Written by Nicholas - Published on January 10, 2010

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

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.

Information Extraction

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.

Skill Powers

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.

Extreme Combat

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.

House Rules

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!

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



29 Responses to “5 Ways to Make Endurance Worth the Bonus”
  1. Swordgleam says:

    My campaign pays attention to hunger and weather (I still ignore encumbrance) so Endurance is worth it. But since Endurance is already worth it, I have no further clever ideas.

  2. Enchelion says:

    Hmm, this makes you think doesn’t it? I never noticed just how little I used Endurance as a DM, especially that having taken a look at my players sheets… Most of them took it as a trained skill.

    Now I’m off to go revise a few encounters to better make use of Endurance… Hmm… I haven’t thrown a Disease their way yet…

  3. Python Tim says:

    The house rule one sounds cool. I mean, swinging a friggin’ maul and knocking goblin heads all day would tire even the real if Tim, let alone my Dwarf Fighter alter-ego Timli !

  4. Wimwick says:

    Great article, I agree that Endurance is a skill that is hardly rolled at all. If you’re a fighter type this sort of limits you options. I’d be careful with the final option of Endurance checks every 5 rounds. After all, a Wizard is fighting very differently from a Fighter. I think it would be tough to argue that a Wizard is tiring after 5 rounds of firing a wand off. A while back we wrote a skill aide for Endurance. Some of the options would likely require DM permission, but as you mention this is a skill that does not get used very often.

  5. Saragon says:

    I’ve used Endurance several times as a “timing” skill, often along with Athletics. It does a good job of determining if a particular PC can reach a place “in time” for some event to go better for them, e.g. “Can you get to the guard captain’s house before he goes to bed?” or “Can you reach someone before the assassin?” In the latter case, a skill challenge would definitely be called for; failing Endurance checks in that case may not count as a failure but might provide a cumulative penalty on other checks made.

  6. Garner says:

    Endurance also makes a great skill check for characters that like to stand guard for hours and hours. I often use it as the “boredom” check. How long would your character really last doing some thing that boring!?

  7. Redhobbit says:

    Piggy backing off Saragon’s idea, I typically use Endurance for any sort of running that isn’t sprinting in which case I’d switch over to athletics. It pops up fairly frequently in any given chase scene.

  8. Lovesmasher says:

    @ Wimwick
    Why would you think that it’s less difficult for a wizard to keep fighting than for a fighter? If being a wizard was easy, everyone would do it.

  9. Nicholas says:

    I was just thinking that using an combat Endurance house rule could open up the possibility of an extra effort system. Like adding size or damage to an attack at the cost of physically draining the attacker.

  10. The Once-ler says:

    Good ideas in general, but the house-rule section is already handled by hit points, healing surges, and daily powers. Lots of things work abstractly in this sense. Sure, you can add more to it, but if you’re going through a lot of encounters, if the encounters are remotely challenging, characters will be facing exhaustion in multiple ways.

  11. Scott says:

    I allow Endurance checks for when Pc’s reach negative HP. if they pass they stay on 1 HP. The more it happens the harder the check is. My Barbarian’s max endurance sees him act like a barbarian instead of the strategic genious that most players act like these days, i love it and so does he. I think his record is 9 Endurance saves against a dragon. he was burnt, stomped, tail whipped, bitten, thrown, squished, rolled on. you name it he was hit by it and he just kept saving and raging. It was a great battle.

  12. person says:

    I should try that next game i dm, or suggest it to the next dm i get
    now for the rest:
    what’s great about endurance is it gives u an excuse to either do a bunch of insane environments without killing them (but still weakening them), thereby letting u use less difficult encounters that fit thematically, or letting u just be a cruel dm
    maybe the lick lives way up in the frozen north, to use a cliche, and the reason no one has killed him is that no one can make the trek, or maybe u have to go into a volcano to fight a red dragon, with a bunch of extremely hot tunnels and possibly a lava related puzzle

  13. Elderon The Dragon says:

    As a DM I implore diseases thats effects are held off by endurence checks. As a DM I like scale rot, as a dragon I hate it. I’ll tell you a bit more about Scale Rot.

    Scale Rot is a dangerous disease among the dragon world. It wears away the scales until they turn a grayish color and fall off the dragon exposinf the raw tissue underneath. It starts at the smaller scales like the ones around the eyes and feet. It takes several weeks for this to happen, but durring this time the dragon will have a high fever, loss of breath weapon control, and fits of rage. The only way to stop it is a cream made from volcano root, tree sap, wild strawberries, a crushed ruby, and a few drops of the dragons blood.

    My suggestion to all of you humans is to stay away unless you can help.

  14. person says:

    why not just kill him because he is newly vulnerable, what without his scales and all

  15. Sokket says:

    There is one way my DM makes Endurance a very useful skill: Skill challenges.

    Party trying to find it’s way through a swamp? Skill challenge, and you better hope someone can make their endurance checks.

    Scaling a large cliff? Better have Endurance, or learn to roll with the fall.

  16. Elderon says:

    Um that dragon was me. and the scales don’t fall of at the same time its a progressive disease

  17. person says:

    I know, but u could hit them in those spots instead of somewhere else
    if the dm is realistic in the slightest, he would make crits more likely

  18. Elderon The Dragon says:

    Yeah I’ll give you that but, if I ever get Scale Rot again you stay away from me or your lunch GOT IT HUMAN

  19. person says:

    u be chromatic or metallic?

  20. Elderon The Dragon says:

    Im a Brass Dragon so metallic, but I have my dark sides

  21. person says:


  22. Elderon The Dragon says:

    Person whats your E-Mail I mean I like you you get me, sort of, and I’d like to be able to reach you personally I already got Scotts’ thats the Scott from this site

  23. person says:

    not going to give out my email yet, but for a chat go to http://tinyurl.com/jgchat3
    i’ll probably give it to u there

  24. Elderon The Dragon says:

    Oh didn’t refresh my page I’m a adult more specific 1,502 had a hatchday recently

  25. person says:

    oh, then i wouldn’t be lunch
    i be a lvl 30 lightning sorcerer, but i like dragons so u wouldn’t be in trouble
    i’m also a dm so i could just have rocks fall on u and have the whole setting die

  26. Elderon The Dragon says:

    ok so how do i use this chat room Im tryimg to log in do i just put in my nickname and hit connect?

  27. person says:

    yup, just put in a nickname and hit connect

  28. person says:

    come on, no one has anymore comments?

  29. quinn says:

    First i would like to comment on a comment by wimwick: perhaps a mage does not get tired in the same way as a fighter, he may only be waving a wand around but channeling all that eldritch energy could get quite tiring.

    Now back to the main article: I am remiss in using endurance my self I have on occasion used weather but the current campaign I am running is stuck in temperate climate at the beginning of autumn. Maybe in a few months of game time I can start with the weather inspired Endurance checks.

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