Friday, January 7, 2011

Combo Attacks Part 2 - D&D 4e

I was delighted by the response to my first post regarding Combo Attacks in 4e; Big Ball of No Fun ( ) did a great post outlying one of the ways that he would implement this style of attack in his game. I really like what he managed to homebrew up, but I would like to present the rules below as a different perspective based on a comment by Sully, which uses an already built in mechanic in 4e, the Action point.

The first thing that I present is a new category of Feats, the Combo Feat. Combo Feats are unique in several ways. Each Combo Feat has a specific class as a prerequisite. The benefit that they present is that whenever you use a specific at-will power against an enemy, then follow up by spending an action point,to make a follow up attack with another specific at-will attack power, you are given the option of spending ONE ADDITIONAL action point in order to use a specific encounter power given in the Feat. These Finisher encounter powers are slightly more powerful than another power of the same level, but that power is offset by the fact that you have to ultimately burn 2 Action Points in order to use one. This presents an opportunity for players to bust out their big combo on the boss monster and seriously wreck him up, but prevents the player from doing too much damage by spending 2 Action points, in addition to his or her normal standard action, in order to drop 2 dailies and an Encounter power on the boss all at the same time (potentially burning him down in a single round if all the players bust their combos on round one).

Combo Feats are also divided into three tiers, which provide increasingly better Combo attacks and let you spend increasingly more Action points to execute the maneuver. Heroic Tier works as presented above, allowing you to spend 2 Action points per round. Paragon Tier ultimately presents the ability to spend 3 Action points, and Epic Tier allows the use of 4 Action points. This feat breaks two specific mechanical rules: 1) It breaks the rule for using only 1 Action point in an encounter (or round, I can’t remember) and 2) It will also allow, from time to time, to break the rule of using the same at-will attack power in the same turn. Some Combo Feats will allow you to make the same at-will attack power twice before you make your Finishing Attack.

The final aspect of the Combo Feat is the encounter power included in the Feat itself. The Power has several things that make it important: 1) You can only use it after hitting with at least 2 Previous attacks 2) It requires an Action Point to use 3) It is slightly more powerful than an attack of equivalent level and 4) It has a special critical component. Whenever you roll a critical hit with a Finishing Move, the encounter power that you use it with gains an additional boost or bonus.

As an example one potential Combo feat could work like this:

Storming Shield Fury [Combo]
Prerequisites: Level 1, Fighter
Effect: Whenever you hit with your Tide of Iron At-will Power, you may spend an action point to make this attack again. If you hit with the second use of Tide of Iron, you may immediately spend an additional action point to make the attack below.

Send Flying
You send your opponent flying with a massive blow to the torso.
Encounter*Melee, Weapon
Standard Action
Target: 1 Opponent hit by your previous Tide of Iron Attack
Hit: 1[W]+Strength Modifier damage; push the target a number of turns equal to your strength modifier; the target is then knocked prone.
Critical: Double the damage granted by your strength modifier above and the distance pushed.


  1. Very nicely done. I'm not sure exactly how I feel about spending multiple action points for one combo. It does encourage the team to plow through milestones to accumulate action points, which does a lot to eliminate the "Five Minute Day" problem. I will be playtesting this soon to see how well it works.

    It also occurs to me that this combo thing could make for a very intimidating villain, especially if the party sees the combo in action sometime before actually fighting him.

  2. It is a nice set-up but I have to wonder how much single turn/single person damage can be put out with this. Sure spending 2 action points and investing in a feat is a high cost, but being able to take an opponent below bloody or even outright killing a standard monster in 1-shot may still be too much.
    However, the set-up is simple and works for what you are trying to accomplish. You'd have to write-up a lot of Combo Feats though.

  3. I think if you use this setup, you aren't going to be doing a whole lot of killing standard monsters with Combos. Since you have to spend 2 Action point, you really can only do this once every 4 encounters, when you get to paragon and epic, you are only going to be able to bust out your final combo once every 8, but man, it will pay off for the characters when they do. Hell, at Epic, your dailies are so powerful that even if you do bust out a 4 at-will combo, that really only equates to about 2 dailies...

    I like this method because I can write up the Feats/Powers and still stay within the GSL.

  4. also, is it just me, or did that power not display right on my blog? I used a specific html code to do it, and in my preview it works, but here it appears to be half gone. This may be a browser quirk of mine, so please let me know if you can see it alright.

  5. The power definitely does not look like a dnd 4e power block on my iphone.

    But anyways, I'm all for maximizing damage for something like this. If a character does something really badass, they should be rewarded. As far as I'm concerned, critical hits in 4e are weak, and in my home game they do way double max damage. Critical hits should be exactly that- critical. My worry is if 2 actions points and a feat is too much of a price to pay.

    Oh, and maybe just make it a generic feat? Instead of individual class feats, I mean. There's gotta be a way to make that work. Or maybe by power source (martial, divine, etc).

  6. alright, I got rid of the formatting on that. Sorry. It looked fine on my work computer, but I guess it doesn't work with the new versions of Explorer 8 or with Firefox.

    You could make it more generic, but I find that the fun of 4e is about being able to have really awesome unique stuff all to yourself and that the more options you have the better. I will probably right up a small primer on Combo attacks and have a bunch in there ready to go, including tips on creating new ones, with suggestions on the kind of powers that you should link to them.

    I think the price you pay to use one of these is ok. In terms of character gen, one feat is not too much. The action points now are more useful and there is a motivation not to use them every other combat. Holding a bunch of them till the boss fight now is useful. Actually, I think if you compare the Nova damage that you could do by using 2 dailies in one round, and using one combo attack, there isn't a lot of difference. So, you may actually sacrifice a bit of damage this way, but you get to do something much cooler.

  7. I could definitely see some use for these in a 4e game. The price does seem a little high, but the payoff would be worth it any time you pulled it off.

  8. I think the cost is pretty fair considering how awesome some of the Finishers might be, not to mention that they could be thematically very cool. Looking forward to writing up a bunch of these and putting out a little Primer on Combo Attacks, but that is going to take a long time to get done.