Monday, April 2, 2012

Static DCs for D&D 4E

A lot of people have criticized the 'DC by Level' chart in the 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide. This is basically a chart that tells you what DC in a skill check would be easy, medium or hard for a character of a certain level. The problem isn't really with the chart itself but with the fact that it tempts rookie DMs (myself included) to set any DC in the game with an eye towards their character's current level. In other words, no matter how much the characters level up, they still haven't gotten better at anything. This kind of blows.

The solution, in my opinion, is to take the DC by Level chart as a guide and extrapolate a bunch of static DCs for common actions that can be prepared in advance. This way, the DM has a strong resource to rest their rulings on and won't be tempted to get all quantum ogre-y.

The other advantage of such a resource would be that you could make it open to the players. This would encourage them to try more interesting maneuvers because they have a whole bunch of suggestions, and they even know exactly what their chances are of success.

But writing up so many DCs is a pretty mammoth task! If Wizards of the Coast were cooler then they probably could have done it for me; it certainly would have been a better use of their time than, say, the Bladesinger. But still, I'm going to give it a shot, going through the skill list alphabetically.


First of all, some general modifiers:

Afflicted by negative condition (dazed, slowed, etc.): +5
Under pressure (being attacked, threatened by traps, etc.): +5
(Note: It is up to the DM to decide whether modifiers apply on a case-by-case basis. For example, being immobilized by vines would not result in a penalty to a knowledge check, but being dazed certainly might.)
I think stacking on extra difficulty modifiers could be a great way to make the players feel more badass. i.e. "I'm level 4, I can climb this rock wall no sweat." "Yeah, well I'm level 12. I can climb this rock wall in torrential rain... while I'm on fire."

And here are all the most common actions I could think of for the first skill, Acrobatics:

Perform acrobatic stunt (swing, somersault, slide, tumble, etc.): 15
                Failure: You fall prone.

Escape from a grab: DC = grabber’s Reflex save

Escape from restraints (rope): 20
Escape from restraints (manacles): 30
Escape from restraints takes 5 minutes. Attempting to escape as a standard action adds +10 to the DC.

Catfall (reduce falling damage): Reduce damage by half your Acrobatics check

Balance on ledge (with wall for support): 13
Balance on unstable surface (bucking ship, swaying bridge, etc.): 13
Balance on rope/pole (no wall for support): 16
Balance on point (treetop, vertical pole, etc.): 26
                Ledge/rope/point is also unstable: +5
(EPIC ONLY) Balance on ethereal object (cloud, smoke, etc.): 32
(EPIC ONLY) Balance on moving object (arrow, bird, etc.): 32
Failure: (all balance rolls) Fail by 4 or less and you cannot move this turn. Fail by more than 4 and you fall.

Climb onto monster: 22
                For each size class by which the monster exceeds the PC: -3

Escape terrible fate (crushing trap, exploding airship, etc. Death by monster attacks does not qualify as a ‘terrible fate’): 28


These options could be tweaked according to taste. Some DMs probably won't want "anime bullshit" in their game like balancing on clouds or whatever. The (EPIC ONLY) tags are to make sure that low-level characters can't pull off any anime bullshit even if they roll a critical success.

1 comment:

  1. This sort of thing is always hard since making up strict rules for DCs like in 3.*ed will just result in people not using them and making up random DCs on the spot (a least a lot of the time, I NEVER had any DM actually use the rules for figuring out DCs in 3.*ed) but other methods often seem unsatisfying (for example what you're saying about the 4ed method). Trying to hit the sweet spot between them (as you're trying to do) is hard since it varies from group to group.

    What I'm leaning towards is ways of having hard and fast difficulties without having a lot of modifiers for example:
    -Tying difficulties to character stats as in FATE or the hints we've seen for 5ed.
    -More tightly defining what skills can do. In D&D what each spell can do is pretty strictly defined but what skills can do are a lot more nebulous since they try to encompass pretty much all human activity. If you define them a bit more narrowly you can give them exact rules about what each can do, sort of like proficiencies in ACKSs.