Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tag Team Powers in 4e

OK. Now think back to the days when you used to watch pro wrestling. Remember the tag team matches. Now, remember what happened about 90% of the time when one wrestler left the ring and tagged in his partner... chances are, for a few seconds, they broke the rules and double teamed their opponent. Most tag teams had some kind of special move that they used as a pair when the tag took place; they had a tag team combo attack. Now... imagine for yourself if you could bring something like that into your game of 4e D&D. I have and I think It would be really, really cool.

Now, in D&D most of the time, there never is much of a tag. You are pretty much double teaming your opponent from the start. But, what if there were powers that party members could use together, rather than individually. I think it would be both mechanically cool and provide an awesome story-based element to have powers like this.

In terms of the story element. Tag team powers would give your players an element which ties the characters together. There are some feats now that provide this kind of story based tie-in between the characters now (so there is already a precedent for mechanical options which are only useful when more than one character takes that character option). These powers would go beyond just working cooperatively, i.e. one character holds the monster while the other person stabs him repeatedly; these powers would be like character trademarks. Two characters in a party have a signature move that they always do as a combo. They never do that combo apart, it is a combat maneuver that is unique to their tag team. That to me seems like a great way to link two characters together in terms of their background.

Mechanically speaking, it would not be hard to implement either. Two character take the same feat. That feat offers these two characters a single encounter power which they can use together. To use one of these powers, the member of the pair highest in the initiative order delays his attack action until his until his partners initiative pass. Then, the pair execute a single encounter power on the same initiative pass. This single uber move, is a little bit more powerful than two different encounter powers separately for the level (making up for the fact that two powers get used and one character has to delay).

I think this would be a pretty good addition to D&D 4e and I invite you to join me in writing up some of these feat granting tag team powers. I will be posting many of these in days to come.


  1. One consideration for this will be the new required cards. Used in unison by a team of players, these could make things quite eventful in any DM's game.

  2. This is already sort-of in the game. Powers that require flanking are one example. However, I see your point and it has some merit. A power that requires an ally to give up his next standard action is one way of doing it; this might be the easiest way. Or the power might require two allies to use standard actions and each make the appropriate roll using their own stats.

    I do not see a good way to have two separate powers that two people can take without a lot of hassle cropping up. It would require a lot of organizing in character generation to do it that way.

    @Grendel"bitter-much"wulf-Required only for 4E league play, please don't give out misleading information by omitting the relevant facts just so you can make a point (off-topic at that). Also, at most you will see 1 card per player, assuming you use them at all. And the effects are minor at best, no mega-synergies.

  3. Why force a delay? If you set the powers up correctly, one could provide a condition that triggers the other. This opens it up to being more than just a single instance of it happening, allows for whole teams to benefit, and allows for some creativity. Example would be a new power for another class that keys off of a teammates Hunter's Quarry or Mark.

  4. Why not, instead of creating new powers, allow for players to take a feat to combine existing powers into a single attack? Mechanically keep the initiative thing you have. For the combo to be fired off, you have one player make the primary attack roll and the other do an assist roll.

    The feat has to be taken per combo used, per character, and has a frequency a step up from the highest power (so combos with at-wills become Encounter, a combo with an Encounter becomes a daily.) Lastly, and most important, players have to describe exactly how the combo works. I don't mean "We combine the damage and effects"....I mean actually explain how the attack works and what is actually going on in the combo.

  5. The reason that I had originally said that the attack has to be delayed is this: If you have one player who has a very high spot in initiative call for a tag-team attack, it makes sense that he would have to wait for his friend before they can execute it together.

    The other logic behind it is that essentially a tag-team power would be executed on the same pass; if both players are performing a single attack together, it makes sense that they would be making those actions within the same 6 seconds of game time. If they are next to eachother in initiative, it is easy to say that their action occupies the same time frame. If they aren't it gets a lot harder to visualize mentally.

    @Grendelwulf - yea, you are right, maybe using the cards would be a good idea (though I am fully aware that you make this remark cynically, it could actually be a good idea).

    @Callin the problem I have with making an ally give up his or her next standard action is that it essentially allows the initiating player to get the benefit of a character who may have been much slower in the order. It makes the higher acting player more powerful. I also don't see a very good way of having two seperate powers, but I do think you could have 1 common power that both of the player's share which is granted to them by a Feat. For example, two players take the same channel divinity power, they then use that power together at the same time to get a bigger boost. That is the type of mechanic I want to use.

    @pathunstrom while I like the idea of having one player perform an action which sets up for everyone else to benefit from, that isn't really what I am looking at Thematically speaking. What you are describing sounds like, for example, one player grabs a bad guy and everyone else takes turn kicking the daylight out of him. While that might be fun, it is really already in the game; from the example you give, it would seem like the guy who starts things is simply giving a boost to all the other players. That isn't really the kind of things I was aiming for. This is more of a thematically driven Tag-Team maneuver which marks two players as being very closely tied together.

    @Rev. Lazaro - yea. That could work. The only problem I think you would have with that is now instead of working within just a single class, you have to work within two, so if you want to make very specific Tag-Team combo Feats (plural) you would have a WHOLE lot of material you would need to cover. However, if you attacked the problem, with the idea you present, from a different angle, it might be quite easy. You simply have one feat, called Tag-Team. When two player's take this feat, they each choose a single power. Now, when either player makes his attack, with the power chosen, the other player, if he or she hasn't acted yet, may make an assist roll; if it hits, both of the player's attacks succeed.

    Moving the powers up the frequency step seems like just too much work.

    I will write up a second post in this series in a couple days and summarize what has been said here in the comments. Thanks everyone.