View Full Version : Heartbreaker design

2012-03-08, 11:43 AM
So I'm fiddling with heartbreaker game design (Heartbreakers are a name for a D&D rip-off game).

This one is aimed at "fixing" 4e. Now, for the most part, I'm not aiming to "fix" it in the sense of making it like 3e, but rather "fixing" the underlying math of 4e to make the engine run smoother, and get rid of some corner cases.

I'm also stealing liberally from some ideas I like from D&D next, 3e, 2e, 1e and the like. :)


Idea 1: Linear power level.[1] In 4e, power level is exponential. A level 11 character is about 5 times stronger than a level 6 character, if you work out the math -- and a level 26 character is 5^5 = 3125 times stronger than a level 1 character.

I want to flatten this for a few reasons. I want levels to (at least roughly) measure linear power -- this means that a level X character is roughly twice as strong as a level X/2 character.

I hope that this will make encounter building mathematics really easy. Instead of summing up XP, you would add up the levels of creatures in an encounter, and compare it to the sum of the levels of the players.

So 5 level 5 characters should find a single level 25 opponent to be a reasonable challenge. In this system, mighty creatures like dragons will be quite high level -- a dragon that is a challenge for a party of 5 level 20 characters would be a level 100 monster.

And similarly, I want a group of level 20 characters to find an encounter where they fight 100 level 1 kobolds to be a reasonable challenge. And I want this to be doable without having to "fudge" the stats of the dragon or the kobolds. The same stats for a level 20 dragon wyrmling as an encounter for 4 level 5 adventurers should be used when a party of 4 level 20 adventurers fights 4 level 20 dragon wyrmlings.

[1]: Well, actually quadratic in a sense. Linear damage output, linear HP growth -- and as something with double of either is twice as dangerous, it works out to quadratic. But who is counting?

Idea 2: I'm going to steal "stats as defences" (or "stats as saves") from 5e, but I want AC to be the primary defence that characters use. Attacks for the most part will target AC, then have a secondary attack on a stat to cause a "kicker" effect.

So an attack that tries to trip someone will attack their AC and deal damage. It will then attack their dexterity to see if they knock the target prone.

Most spells with a physical component will also do something like this -- which means that a Knight's armor and shield will protect them against a magic missile or fireball to at least some extent.

I also want to do away with, as much as possible, the "divide by 2" rule of 3e and 4e, where a 12 and 13 in strength meant the same thing.

If we are bothering to track a number with precision of single units, when we use it I want it used with a precision of single units.

Idea 3: Attack rolls are too important to be left to chance. I want to tightly control your modifiers on your attack roll, and similarly on AC. Auto-hit and auto-miss states are too easy to reach in most versions of D&D, because modifiers on both your AC and your Attack roll are pretty common place.

Fighters are presumed competent at using weapons. Strong and weak fighters will have techniques to maximize their own abilities. So the Fighter won't be adding their strength to their attack roll -- any expected contribution they'd get from their strength will be instead "baked into" their class.

Idea 4: Short & Brutal combat. I want the expected number of blows to "drop" someone to be relatively low. I'm thinking of stealing the 4e "bloodied" state (half HP) to be the point where kickers can simply eliminate the target with impunity.

I'm thinking that a "typical" hit by a PC will take off 1/3 of an even-level opponents max HP.

One concern I have is that this means a monster 3 times your level will be able to one-shot you to negative HP. And with "beefy" "solo" opponents built around that design, I am not sure how to handle that problem.

2012-03-08, 04:35 PM
Can you say more about how you reached the conclusion that 4E power growth is exponential?