Making Old Mechanics New Again
A little while back in my Fourth Edition Time Machine article I offhandedly commented about using the disease framework to handle cursed items. Folks seemed to like the idea of using that familiar, if under utilized, mechanic in a new way. That’s just the beginning. There are plenty of systems in 4e that can be given a whole new purpose if you just turn them on their side.
Usually as long as you live through a fight in 4e you are going to be just fine after at most a good night’s sleep. One of the few exceptions to that rule is if you become infected by a disease. You can use the same mechanic to add a variety of post battle consequences. For instance, a big ogre can have a monstrous strike that actually cracks bones. A snapped arm could start off on the highest end of the disease track and need to work it’s way back down. A witch could lay down a hex that persists long after her death. Unless her target can resist, he will be transformed in stages until he fully becomes a pig!
Expanding the use of diseases can also give a much need boost to the value of the endurance skill.
Traps and Hazards
Open Grave features a new spin on old traps, using the rules for a haunting mechanic. Bloody handprints and screams that damage the mind. Hands that spring from crypts and grab those who come close. It’s a morbid twist on the idea of physical traps.
A nexus of arcane energies that blasts out random energy sources can be a “trap” which must be safely defused with arcana. A camouflaged animal waiting to inject its venom can serve as a trap. The creature is easy to dispatch, to those with the right nature skills. Traps open a wide array of possibilities once you get past the idea of spitting darts and sweeping blades.
Skill challenges are described as non-combat encounters, but they don’t have to be. You can use skill challenges in place of traditional combat rules. For example, imagine the party does battle with giant stone golem. Their weapons prove nearly useless against it, but perhaps they can battle it using their knowledge of the arcana that fuels it, rig up traps, tumble out of the way of its attacks or even use dungeoneering knowledge to find weak points in the stone. Similarly you could treat mass combats as skill challenges. The PCs easily how the skills to beat common soldiers, but do they have the wits and endurance to defeat an entire army. You’re bringing the tension of combat to a skill challenge situation.
Skill challenges can also be incorporated into a normal combat. Players can enter a skill challenge to turn off a trap or terrain feature or even manipulate it for their own ends. Skill challenges might also directly affect the enemy. A big solo boss might have potential skill challenges. The party might invest rounds in a skill challenge to lower his defenses by exposing a weak point, disable one of his abilities or a skill challenge that deals direct damage to the boss more than their combined attacks.
Have you used old mechanics in new ways? Tell us your tricks in the comments!