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Skirmishes: Faster, abstract combat for 4e

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Skirmishes: Faster, abstract combat for 4e

D&D’s combat is great for dramatic fights, but it can be a bit of a drag when you keep pulling it out every time the PCs encounter a random brigand or bear. It can also be quite disruptive if for example a PC unexpectedly provokes a guard, and can lead to an inordinate amount of time being wasted on something of little consequence.

Enter skirmishes. Skirmishes are abstract combat. PCs roll initiative, use powers, and ultimately take damage in the form of healing surges.

Important note: Skirmishes have a threshold stat. When a player rolls damage, they gain a hit for every full multiple of the skirmish’s threshold which they beat. For example, if the threshold is 12 and the player rolls at least 12 damage, they’ll score one hit. If they roll at least 24, they’d instead score 2 hits, etc. Each role allows you to spend hits to do certain things.

To resolve a skirmish,

  1. Take note of the skirmish’s stats, which are based on its level. Feel free to tweak the stats to suit the particular skirmish. For example, if the skirmish involves goblins, you might decrease the skirmish’s will defense and increase its reflex.
  2. Calculate the starting surge damage. This is the initial surge damage from the table times the number of players. For example, if the initial surge damage is 2 and there are 5 players, the surge damage starts at 10.
  3. Each player rolls initiative. The DM rolls initiative for the skirmish. Players act in initiative order, but may delay their turn as normal.
  4. On a player’s turn, he uses one of his attack powers. If the player uses a daily power, he gets a +2 bonus on the attack roll. If the power affects multiple targets, the player only makes one attack roll, but gets a +5/tier bonus to damage. If they hit, apply the following effects based on the character’s role.
    • Controller: The skirmish gets -2 to all defenses during the next PC’s turn. Controllers may spend hits as follows.
      • 1 hit: Extend the duration of the defense penalty one additional PC’s turn.
      • 2 hits: Reduce surge damage by 1.
    • Leader: A character of your choice gains a +5/tier bonus to their next damage roll. Leaders may spend hits as follows.
      • 1 hit: A character of your choice gains a +5/tier bonus to their next damage roll. (this bonus stacks)
      • 3 hits: reduce surge damage by 2.
    • Defender: The defender may lose a healing surge to reduce surge damage by 1. Defenders may spend hits as follows.
      • 1 hit: The defender may lose a healing surge to reduce surge damage by 1.
      • 2 hits: Reduce surge damage by 1.
    • Striker: Reduce surge damage by 1. Strikers may spend hits as follows.
      • 1 hit: Reduce surge damage by 1.
      • 2 hits: Reduce surge damage by 3.
  5. On the skirmish’s turn, double the current surge damage.
  6. After everyone’s had a turn, distribute the surge damage among players as equally as possible. For example, if there are 5 PCs and 7 surge damage, 2 PCs must take 2 surge damage and the other 3 PCs must each take 1 surge damage. Players decide amongst themselves who gets the larger shares. For each point of surge damage, the PC loses a healing surge. If the PC has no more healing surges left, he takes damage equal to his surge value for each point of surge damage he couldn’t pay.
  7. In the unlikely event that the PCs are all knocked unconscious, they have been defeated. Otherwise, they’re victorious. Their victory takes whatever form is appropriate, e.g. quelling a rebellion, slaughtering demons, or chasing off a pack of wolves. Just remember, this is meant to be a abstract an actual battle, and the story should follow exactly as if you’d played through the battle normally.

Skirmish statistics by level

    LevelInitiativeThresholdACOther DefensesInitial Surge Damage (per player)
    181116142
    281116142
    391217152
    491218162
    5101318162
    6101319172
    7111420182
    8111420182
    9121521192
    10121522202
    11131622203
    12131623213
    13141724223
    14141724223
    15151825233
    16151826243
    17161926243
    18161927253
    19172028263
    20172028264
    21182129274
    22182130284
    23192230284
    24192231294
    25202332304
    26202332304
    27212433314
    28212434324
    29222534324
    30222535334

    Please note that I haven’t playtested this, and in particular the numbers probably need tweaking (especially the initial surge damage and threshold).

    Posted in House Rules Tagged with ,

    2 Responses

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    1. Kiveya said
      Maybe its just me brain-dead from a day of work, but I'm kind of not grokking it... could you perhaps provide an example of how this sort of thing would fit into a table session? How its run, I guess?
    2. Asmor said
      Sure, I'll try to write up an example and post it in a bit.

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