Many have said 4e lacks roleplaying opportunities, that 4e is too combat based. I would say to those people, every moment is a roleplaying opportunity, if you’re truly roleplaying.
At this last session of Encounters, I got into a conversation with a 4e newb. He was a 3e veteran, coming to check out 4e for the first time, skeptical because of the onslaught of negativity regarding combat emphasis in 4e. While I listened and smiled knowingly, he continued to regurgitate what so many have said before; he stressed that he was a role-player and was worried about 4e’s ability to cater to his style. A fellow gamer heard my reply and told me it could make a good post, so here goes.
If I were to say, “Does a 24 vs AC hit? 14 points of damage.” I could be any character in the game, but if I chose to roleplay that moment, it might look something like this:
- I slice furiously at all his vital organs with scalpel like precision. 24 vs AC? “That’s gonna hurt, right about… NOW,” I say, as he vomits 14 points of damage.
- What am I?
- I charge forward with guttural rage, bellowing out to the All-Mother to strengthen my fury. 24 vs AC? The All-Mother whispers her reply through my crag-hammer, shattering 14 of his ribs.
- What am I?
You see? Every moment can be roleplayed. In game, these moments don’t slow down a game. They strengthen it. They solidify who you are in your crew, country, or plane.
Eighty percent of the time, combat is the face of your character. Therefore, combat in 4e must be roleplayed.
For those new to roleplaying, or for those who just need to jumpstart their imaginations, here’s a phrase to help you get started. One phrase for each of the 26 classes. To make it fun and interesting, I’ll describe each attack, then after “24 vs x?” I’ll roll a d20. If it’s 10 or better I’ll describe a hit, otherwise I’ll describe a miss; because once again, every moment can be a roleplaying moment.
- I can feel my angst, my anxiety, my lust for his blood. All these things I bundle inside me, deep into a reservoir of pain that can only be channelled through my sword. 24 vs Will? As I approach, I can feel his fear and I bundle that too, deep within his shield arm. The weight of his burden allows me to slide easily past his defenses for 14 damage.
- You hear a clicking and giggling as I wind a little trinket made from shoestrings and caltrops. 24 vs AC? I carefully toss it as his feet and clap as it explodes for 14 points of damage
- I slide my foot into his shadow, holding it in place as slowly dig my blade into his thigh. 24 vs Fort? I quietly “Shhh” his screams as I twist and yank the dagger out for 14 points of damage.
- Surrendering completely, I can feel (deity’s) presence welling up inside me. He moves… and I move. He charges… and I follow. My sword arm raises and I can feel glory wrapped in its hilt. 24 vs AC? Caught in the moment, I shout “Die you bastard” then swing my blade forward, but my efforts yield no result, tinging off his armor. It’s not me… it was never me.
- Hoping the creature I see before my blood-soaked gaze is an enemy, I leap toward him screaming through a frothed mouth. 24 vs AC? Seeing nothing but his eminent death, I land on a sharp rock and twist my ankle, nearly dropping my weapon.
- I fill my lungs slowly, in quadrants, as if I were about to recite The Ballad of Linky Slain. 24 vs Fort? I open my mouth still inhaling for that final deafening scream and double over coughing, choking on my own spit.
- I slide off my sandals to feel the dirt between my toes, amused at the charging beasts barreling toward us. This challenge seems worthy of my efforts, one which may even yield a lesson. 24 vs Will? I sharpen my mind to obtain the stance of The Everburning Flame. I become outside of time. In his stasis I can easily carve the number 14 into his side.
- Shooting a quick prayer to (deity), I shrug off my doubt and stride forward in faith. My god is bigger than him, my size means nothing, my god is bigger than him, my size means nothing… 24 vs AC? I don’t strike, but my arm moves, my hand knows when to twist. I see him screaming for 14 points of damage, but I only hear my tongues praise for (deity).
- I flutter my arms in a twitter, writhing and undulating as the skies darken ominously, swirling and flashing. Static charges the air, your arm hair stands on end. 24 vs Fort? A flash nearly blinds you, a split second later he gets slammed for 14 points of damage as a tremendous thunder-clap presses your clothes against your skin.
- I check my footing, slide my left foot back four inches. Waiting. As soon as he twitches, I twist from the hips up, righting my center of gravity and slice smoothly down his spine. 24 vs AC? Exactly as predicted, his mail is Tairen made. My blade finds the leather catch and slices easily through, 14 points of damage leak out of his now blood-soaked armor.
- I contemplate the course of man, intrigued by the thought of so many mortals striving for so many lifetimes, to build such an impressive structure. It’s then I notice those three huddled over there. 24 vs Will? I tell them the word for “dust” in supernal, then look back to the crown-molding, oblivious to their 14 points of psychic screaming.
- Arrow Lights the Moon becomes Fading into Roses. I smile at his confusion, most have never had the pleasure of sparring with Moo Gon Pick. 24 vs AC? As he shifts his footing apprehensively I explode into Needle on the Skin, sharply jabbing into his exposed armpit 14 times.
- I can feel (deity’s) wrath building inside me, marking my mission clear. My divine sight tunnels as I focus the weight of the church behind my strike. 24 vs AC? A suppress a surge of satisfaction, it’s not me, it’s (deity) who knocked those 14 teeth out… still, it felt good.
- Muddling through the chatter of all the feeble minds, I locate the controller and press against his psyche. I am a boulder, you are a pebble. I am a hawk, you are a gnat. I… rolled 24 vs Will? I… I… flounder for words to persuade him, his mind snaps away.
- I center my breath, assume a wide stance, and draw my bow as I exhale. In that moment when there is no breath left within me, I release. 24 vs AC? The fletching catches my finger, drawing a razor-thin line of blood that shanks the arrow of course.
- I tease him a little bit, testing his style, his traction, his grip. I juke left and right, left and right, left… then down. 24 vs Reflex? With one dagger I pierce through his Achilles tendon, straight into the floor boards beneath. With the other, I jab his calf 14 times.
- Tracing the Rune of Destruction in the air before me, it shimmers then begins to glow a violent hue of blue, when it’s reaches a near blinding white, I smash into it with my warhammer. 24 vs Fort? It shatters in an explosive wave of radiance. Time seems to distort for a split second, my hammer still swinging just inches toward the ground, then the radiance itself ignites for 14 points of damage as the ground erupts around me.
- Examining the battlefield, I whisper to the Spirits, hoping they might have some inspiration. Tall Mantle tells me to draw the heavy arrow with the blue string and speak the word of binding, “Pel’loth.” 24 vs. Fort? My aim is true, but I whisper “Pelloth” and the arrow just bounces off his armor. Tall Mantle looks at me, disappointed.
- I chitter and yipe at my companion, urging him to surge across the water on spectral legs. He hunkers down, instinctually streamlining himself as he charges forward. 24 vs Reflex? He snaps and jabs at his reflection in the water, confident of his eminent victory.
- My long sleeves drop low, baring my arms as I hold them high above my head, gathering a large sphere of crackling blue energy. It writhes and pulses, making my hair stand on end as I hurl it forward. 24 vs Reflex? My hands pass through it rather than throw it and it explodes around me, in a wave of brilliant white. When you can see me again, my hair is a fuzzy halo around my head.
- My sword crackles with lightning as I slice it in quick circles around my body, resonating off my magical shield. He dances back confused at my advance. 24 vs AC? Confused or not, he reflexively bats my attack to the side, easily avoiding it.
- My form becomes more feral and seems to blur as I advance, supernaturally shifting from shadow to shadow. I can feel his pulse getting closer. 24 vs AC? Suddenly I leap toward him, growling low in my throat as I slash out, splattering his throat against the wall for 14 points of damage.
- Many believe strength to be in the arms of the great oak, but it is truly in its roots. I plant me feet like a Great Father, swing my arms like the Mother, my movements blessed by the Winds. 24 vs Fort? My arc swings wide, aiming for his ribs, but he jumps back just in time, sparks flying from his armor as my warhammer screeches past.
- I offer this ones soul in exchange for a boon, and of course assistance in his timely demise. Hadar agrees to the bargain, as darkness coalesces at his feet. 24 vs Fort? The darkness stretches upward, hungry for the pact to be complete. 14 claws reach out and claw at him as they try to yank him into the deep.
- Surveying the battlefield, I can see this is arranged much like the Second Assault on Tyranny Hill. I shout out, ordering my allies to shift into a different position, General Garlan was an idiot at that battle. 24 vs Will? I realize before I just bark my orders that I should probably prelude it with the events of the history at the time, else my orders might not make sense. I’ll be talking for a while.
- My fingers twitch with practiced precision as my voice slowly raises, “Charree ot reem quay not sarr…. Charree ot reem quay not sarr…” 24 vs Reflex? As I reach the third crescendo, “…Quay Not Sarr!” I outstretch my hands and my magical loom explodes into a web made of 14 lasers that fly straight through him.