Faster and More Deadly Combat – New House Rules for D&D 4e


These orcs should be easier to kill and do more damage!

Premise: Monsters and PCs should take about 3-4 hits to reduce to 0 Hit Points with most attacks across all levels. Thus, critical hits, lucky damage rolls, or high damage powers have a decent chance of bloodying or even sometimes outright killing some opponents with one hit, and this should remain true from level 1 all the way up to level 30.

The way the system currently works is that monsters and PCs start out taking about 3-4 hits to bring down to 0 Hit Points at level 1. For example, a fighter at level 1 might do 1d8+5 damage, which will kill a level 1 soldier (with 32 hit points) in about 3-4 hits. However, by level 11, the same fighter with level appropriate gear and feats needs about 5 hits with a normal attack to kill a level 11 soldier.

To see the current math behind monster hit points and damage used for D&D monsters, check out the Monster Manual 3 on a business card!

As PCs level, monsters take more hits to kill, which means combats drag on and become more monotonous. Combats can go from taking 1-2 hours at lower levels to 3+  hours at higher levels!

These changes are designed so that most PCs and monsters (Skirmishers, Leaders, and Soldiers) take about 3-4 hits to kill with most attacks (typically at-wills) throughout all levels of play. Brutes and defenders take about 4-5 hits to take down. Lurkers, Artillery, and weaker PCs take about 2-3 hits.

Generally, this makes combat faster and more dangerous across all levels, while still maintaining the tactical choices that make 4th edition so interesting.

Monster Hit Points: Monsters’ hit points now use the following formulas:

  • Brutes: 30 + 5/level
  • Leaders, Skirmishers, Soldiers: 25 + 4/level
  • Artillery, Lurkers: 20 + 3/level
Monster hit points were reduced to make fights go faster and maintain the basic damage progression outlined above. Now their hit points are much more in line with PC hit points (a little lower). If you were to make one change to make D&D fights go faster and keep the general pace and feel of lower level fights, I’d say it should be this one (though with no other adjustments, fights will obviously be easier than they are in the current system at higher levels, so increase most Encounter Levels by 1 or 2).

Monster Damage: Monsters now do 8 + 1.5 damage per level instead of 8 + 1 damage per level.

Thus, all normal monster powers using the new format (MM3 and beyond) should do an additional +0.5 damage a level (25-50% extra for encounter powers + recharge powers, 25% extra for brutes, -25% for multiple attacks). All monsters created before MM3 should do an additional +1 damage a level. Feel free to break this damage up by adding a combination of extra dice and static modifiers.

This change makes monsters more threatening to make up for their lower hit points and helps maintain the general damage progression of 3-4 hits to reduce most PCs to 0 HP.

Optional PC Damage Progression: This damage system can optionally be implemented:

  • All PCs gain a bonus to damage equal to half their level. Thus, their damage progresses at a similar rate to attacks, skills, and defenses.
  • All PCs gain a +1 bonus to attacks at level 1. This bonus increases to +2 at level 11 and +3 at level 21.
  • Remove Weapon Focus, Implement Focus, and all related feats from the game.
  • Remove Weapon Expertise, Implement Expertise, and all related feats from the game.
  • Remove all feat bonus to attacks from the game. All feats that give a feat bonus to attacks now have that property removed.
  • Remove all item bonuses to damage from the game. All items that give item bonuses to damage now have that property removed.

This change does away with the “must-have” expertise feats, freeing up slots for more interesting feats. It also does away with weapon and implement focus, which encourages people to rely on just one implement or weapon, which I think is less fun and punishes people who already rely on multiple implements and weapons due to their class selection. Removing item bonuses takes away the need to acquire another “must-have” item. Finally, it replaces all the lost damage from these feats and bonuses with a simple +0.5 damage a level, which smooths out the damage progression.

3 Responses to “Faster and More Deadly Combat – New House Rules for D&D 4e”

  1. paul paul says:

    I’ve been doing something similar but less scientific: “remove a random number of HP and make all monsters do a ton more damage”. I’ve noticed that fights have been going faster since I started doing this: I appreciate not having to hew down a goblin over the course of an hour, as if it were a mighty oak tree.

    I’m running a game today and I’m going to try this houserule. The 20/25/30 HP for the three different monster strengths is nice and memorable.

  2. TheJollyLlama875 says:

    It’s worth noting that, to bump average damage output by .5, you can switch from 1d8 to 2d4.

  3. […] wrote recently about how monsters take more hits to kill at higher levels and offered some solutions. Instead of (or in addition to) lowering monster hit […]

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