Monday, April 22, 2013

Hard Core 4E D&D

For my 4E readers, I'm posting this old DM Guideline for what I called "fixing 4E", see what you think.

Rest and Recovery (Revised)

The recovery system in 4th edition DnD is such that you simply can't have a single "All-Out" battle, characters simply can't tap into more than a handful of surges, which means beyond any Daily Powers that they've spent in the battle and a few surges, after a 5 minute rest they are back ready to do this again.  There are few long term effects that linger after a battle is over, and the party returns to full strength too rapidly.  In previous editions this might have been too extreme in the other direction, where even at 10th level you would only recover a d6 Hps in an overnight rest, though complete recovery in a 6 hour (4 hour for many races) rest seems too quick...I realize that the character are heroes  but so were the characters in previous editions, and the fact that a party may have to rest a few days after an epic battle with a dragon didn't seem to blemish their "Hero" status...I 4th Edition a party could do an Epic battle every day for a week or more and never suffering any fatigue after they wake up the following day.

This causes DM's to be creative in ways to simulate an exhausting or difficult journey on the way to a remote dungeon.  For the party there are no Game Effects for marching 3 weeks through a swamp, then up the side of a 10,000 foot cliff to battle a dragon in it's lair, even if every day of the journey involved a number of battles with Ogres, Trolls, or Giants...So long as they survive the encounter and get their extended rest, the next day they are bright-eyed and bushy tailed ready to face the days next encounters.  The DM is reduced  to arbitrary Healing Surge losses, or Endurance checks resulting in more Healing Surge losses or failure to get the effect of the last extended rest, even these penalties may not have any effect on an encounter where a Fighter with 13 Healing Surges, even if they suffered a lose of 7 surges, the 6 they have remaining would be difficult to expend in a single encounter without multiple potions or powers that grant addition surges to be spent.

Addition to little long term effect, the continuous battles that the DM throws at a party might have little long term negative effects, but a weeks journey with semi-difficult encounters every day will surely rocket the party up levels.  The results of this will cause the party to gain multiple levels, in a few days of game time.  So, The party may leave town 3rd level then a week later come back at 5th, only to do a similar feat and maybe two weeks later have already gained an additional two levels.  So, in less than a month of game time they will have gone from battles where goblins would be challenging, to taking down ogres.  That's one hell of an training program...This makes recurring NPC opponents or party foes to have to undergo a similar transformation, and begs the question what was the character doing for the last 18 years, when in the past few months they may have gone from 1st level to 8th.

Hardcore Mode

In comes the solution, by essentially shifting Powers up a level, i.e. making Encounter Powers to Daily Powers and Daily Powers to near Weekly Powers, this can solve many of the issues about recovery time being too fast, as well as slowing level progression (in game time, not play time).  With this "Simple" change the DM now has the option to have multiple encounters that are essentially chained together (no "Short-Rest" between them), and additionally stack more encounters into what would have previously been a day ("Extended-Rest") previously.  Obviously other changes need to happen in game terms to make this game mechanics game, these will all be addressed below.

Healing and Healing Surges

Healing Surges are viewed as sort of a global currency for characters stamina and health, so in addition to being able to spend these for healing a character can spend a Healing Surge as a mechanism to recharge Encounter Powers, or two Healing Surges to recharge a Daily Power.  Also, In core 4e rules, every character can spend as many healing surges as they want in the 5 minute Short-Rest that follows an encounter.  In Hardcore, Healing Surges can be spent at the rate of one per hour, outside of those granted by using 2nd Wind or character Powers.
The recharging of powers can only be done in the period between encounters, i.e. if a Cleric uses Healing Word on your character, you can not use the granted expenditure of a Healing Surge to recharge an Encounter Power.  However, continually recharging powers this way (outside of a Short-Rest) will severely limit a characters healing potential, since Healing Surges are only replenished upon the completion of an Extended-Rest.  Note, that once a Healing Surge is spent to recharge a Power, it can not be regained even if the Party continues on to get an Short-Rest.

Short-Rest (Redefined)

By increasing a "Short-Rest" to a 6 hour period, it is instantly apparent that most adventures, especially the Dungeon Crawl type, have developed encounters assuming that the Party is coming into these with all there other Encounter Powers.  In Hardcore Mode, it's as if the party is running from battle to battle with no rest between them, which they essentially will be, since there is no benefit to resting until they can get a 6 hour block of time in order to recover their Encounter Powers.
Simply running a typical 4e Adventure in Hardcore Mode would inevitably result the death of the part (a.k.a...Total Party Kill, TPK).  Players used to Hardcore mode will be more conservative with their powers, so they may not use them when they could have ended a battle early thinking it best to save them, which could lead to them taking additional damage, or players not used to Hardcore may expend their powers too recklessly resulting in not having any special powers in later encounters.    Ultimately the DM will need to alter the adventure continuity, think more like earlier editions of DnD or Pathfinder, smaller more frequent battles.
Often, adventures are geared to Min-Maxed characters, so they often include nearly every Encounter being the party level or up to 3 levels higher.  Encounters are most often adjusted by the DM by removing combatants from the opponents side to adjust the encounter level to 1 or 2 level beneath the party level.  Remember in Hardcore, every battle is relevant  even one goblin jumping out firing an arrow that does 5 damage, is 5 damage that the character will have going into the next battle, so while getting used to Hardcore, its better to err on the "Too Easy" side than "Too Hard".  If encounters are simply not being as effective as the DM planned, then this can be easily rectified by maybe not reducing the next encounter by as much.
Since the incentive to rest is largely taken away from the party, and battles are smaller and easier  the party can do more with their At-Will powers, and will need to be smart about their Encounter and Daily Powers and use them when "good enough" situation comes up to attempt to maximize their effectiveness, such to ultimately end battles sooner, thus reducing the damage that the party will carry into the next encounter.

Extended-Rest (Redefined)

If Short-Rest is 6 hours then what happens to the Extended-Rest?  Well, this is redefined as the Party's "Weekend Off", so only after 48 hours of rest does te Party recover their Daily Powers.  This may seem a bit unfair, especially to the players, but this ultimately has little bearing on game play for most typical adventures.  This being most are designed as a single shot from a Party's perspective, they know its going to be done without an Extended-Rest so the Party is typically conservative on their Daily Powers anyway.  So, if they go out complete 3 to 5 (typical crawl) then come back to town and rest it's doesn't matter how long they stay and wait for the next adventure to fall in their lap, or if the adventure is designed such that there is an extended rest in the middle, then it doesn't really matter if its one nights rest or two...if the Party has time to take a break, then they have time to take a break.
What this redefinition allows for is a much more flexible adventure design scenario.  Rather than skipping the journey (or doing this as a skill challenge) and then ending with a 2 to 4 Encounter crawl ending with the climatic "Boss Battle".  The DM can now integrate the journey as part of the adventures encounters.  A skill challenge can still be used, but success or failure along the way could determine which encounters they face before arriving at the dungeon site.  Then the Dungeon could essentially be much more exploitation  with maybe 2 or 3 encounters, or even just a single climatic battle.
Typically, a "Boss Battle" is required to be at least 2 levels higher than the party, and if the party is full power (All Daily Powers and some potions) they can win battles up to 5 levels higher if well played.  In Hardcore, even having two minor battles before the "Boss" would make an encounter of the Party's level be difficult.
The effects from battle to battle and day to day are not so easily wiped away by a rest that it takes less of an encounter to have an effect and little artificial urgency tactics need to be applied to the Party.  While running core 4e adventures as the DM I found the need to always have to create a sense of urgency, as if I didn't the Party always wanted to extended rest, nearly after each battle.  This required more work on the story lines as a DM, and always interrupting their rest attempts.  In Hardcore, there is no need for create these "hurry-up" story lines, since the Party realizes that them getting a 6 hour rest, or a 48 hour rest may not be likely, so they tend to hurry up themselves, as the less time they are out in the wilds the less encounters that they will face, and since every encounter has lasting effects, they are self motivated to hurry.

Player Complaints..."All I can do is At-Wills...I guess I'll At-Will, again"

When a DM decides to run a campaign in Hardcore mode, the common complaint for players is "All they get to do now is use At-Will Powers".  However, to help alleviate this argument, i.e. stop the whining, to allow all non-level based Encounter Powers to return every encounter, triggered on Initiative being rolled.  These would include the Class Features that are Encounter Powers as well as Racial Powers and the initial bonus Theme Encounter Power.  This still restricts the use of all higher level powers, but provides Class and Race feeling to the character, so that these typically stronger abilities are the most often used by the characters.  Note, this typically includes the returning of 2nd Wind to characters as well each encounter, as this is a non-level based Encounter Power.
In this model DMs that have when out of their way to break an Adventure into may small encounters may want to chain these battles together, as the triggering mechanism for restoring the non-level based encounters is the rolling on initiative.  So to avoid this creatures from the next area could hear the battle or be warned via an alert of the near-by battle and come to join in.  Doing so the new arrivals would roll initiative when they enter the fray, but the party keeps their current initiative, thus not re-gaining any used powers.

Action Token

Characters still begin following every Extended Rest with a single Action Token, even if they previously had accumulated more.  As per Core 4e rules Action Tokens can be spent to gain a character an extra Standard Action during an encounter (only once per encounter by characters).  Upon achieving a Milestone or other event that would have traditionally awarded the character an Action Token, the character can alternately instantly recharge an Encounter Power that is currently exhausted or even recharge one Healing Surge to the character.
The ability to recharge Healing Surges in this fashion can be used by a DM on a particularly difficult Dungeon Crawl or when the character have a long time in between Extended Rests could really aid in the Party's survivability.  Adventure Milestone, with Action Token rewards is a good way to give the characters a little surge, and it's often easier to give these out then some of the other rewards listed below.
Characters will however need to get used to the fact that they used to get these every Milestone, which was every 2 to 3 Encounters (my experience told me that the characters expect to earn these every-time after only two).  However, in Hardcore Mode, a Milestone is typically achieved after a given amount of Experience Points have been earned, typically 2 x (Level plus one) XP worth of smaller encounters, or upon reaching a given place/point in the adventure.  If XPs are used as the guideline  then this may not be for many encounters, like three to six depending on how small the DM is chunking them out, so get used to saying, "No you didn't reach a Milestone yet."

Hardcore Rewards

With the above changes to the recovery system there are additional items and rewards that a DM can offer the players, when dungeon crawls need to be played more like regular rules and you don't want to drastically alter encounters to more suit hardcore you can hand out the following rewards to the party, which will allow them the ability to more from difficult encounter directly into another difficult encounter.  The reward are listed below:

Action Token: When the party completes a Milestone award them with an Action Token.  For Core 4e rules this is recommended after 2 or 3 encounters, but in Hardcore Mode this is typically 3 to 5 encounters ( 2 x Lv+1 Encounters), as the Hardcore encounters are more in number, but each are easier that Core 4e.  Milestones are most often Minor Quest completions, half-way points or other points designed into the adventure about where the Party may be needing some recovery.

Combat Rally: There's a definite break in a major battle, the leader is bloodied, the boss enters the room, another wave of opponents joins the fray, a trap is disarmed, or activate...What ever it is, the party should feel a definite pause in the combat as the favor pendulum swings more to one side or the other for the given insistent.  This should include a "Box'd Text" description of the event with some dramatic flare, the game effect is that the character feel a renewed sense of hope, or call upon there heroic nature to rise to the challenge.  All party members gain an Action Token (and the ability to spend it during this encounter, even if they already have spent one), or they can immediately cash this in to recharge any Encounter Power, including 2nd Wind, or even replenish a Healing Surge as described up Action Token rules above.

Mana Potions / Mana Effects: These magical elixirs can be sprinkled around a long dungeon crawl as a mechanism to recover Encounter Powers and avoid having to do an extended rest.  Rather than actual vials that the Party can carry around to use at their whim, this can be some ancient one time beneficial effect triggered by some Characters skill check.  When used this way it's common to be a zone effect, such close burst 5 from the idol the rogue was messing with, the effects could just as easily be a trap, so party members will need to decide how close they want to be when the rogue begins fumbling with mechanism, or the wizard attempts to activate a glyph.

Potions of Vigor / Stamina Effects: These potions recover spent Healing Surges, which can be spent immediately to Heal or recharge an Encounter Power.  As mentioned under Mana Potions, a Potion of Vigor is a significant find, and runs the risk of being held onto when you think the party should consume it now.  Plus, a potion is only helpful to the one that consumes it, where a Vigor Effect will hit multiple persons in the party, even if the effect is a magical fountain (only water drank immediately from th fountain grants the reward).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Campaign Web

The following uses the previous Quest Structure blog post, to define an entire campaign, in a structure that I call a campaign web.

A campaign is created by creating an Epic Arc that has a common thread that progresses through a number of story arcs.  Typically the Campaign is geared to last 10 to 15 sessions of play, with the idea of each session overcoming 3 to 5 encounters (in a 4E setting).  Typically assume the party will exhaust 60% to 80% of possible Campaign encounters, the remaining encounters can often be salvaged in some form to be used in later story arcs (or future campaigns) with some modifications.


Here is an example Campaign web that has woven 7 minor Quests with a Major Quest for a 14 session, 60 Encounter campaign web.

S01: q1I, q1P, q1D, q2I, q3I, <Rest>
*S02: q1S, q1C, q1R, <Rest>, q2D, q2S
 S03: q2F, q2P, q2F, q2C, <Rest>
 S04: q2R, Q1I, q3P, Q1D
*S05: q3S, <Rest>, q3F, q3W, q3D
S06: q3C, q3E, q3R, q4I, <Rest>
S07: Q1P, q4P, q4S, q4D, <Rest>
S08: q4W, q4C, q4E, q4R, <Rest>
*S09: q5I, q6I, q5D, q5P, q5S
*S10: q6P, q6D, <Rest>, q5W, q5D
S11: q5C, q5E, q5R, <Rest>, q7I
S12: Q1S, Q1F, q6C, q6E, q6R, <Rest>
S13: q7D, q7S, q7C, q7R, <Rest>
S14: Q1F, Q1W, Q1C, Q1R, <Rest>

Total Encounters 60

Introductions have been bold, story arc climaxes have been highlight in red, and the rewards are shown in gold.  The <Rest> designates a long enough break for the party to typically recover and be at full strength afterwards.  When possible sessions should be ended with and Rests, to minimize the tracking from one session to the next.  This is not always the case, especially if the scenario is designed to be a grueling delve.  The "*" sessions above are ones that do not end in a rest, thus extra tacking needs to be done on these sessions to insure that the party is at the correct health and combat preparedness for the next session.

You can see in the above campaign web that the first session is largely a story telling one, where the party gets introduced to three separate hooks that they could possibly act on any order, or maybe the DM pushes them into a predefined order.  The "Introductory" encounters are typically non-life threatening by design, and are there to drive the story.  Note that the overall campaign arc doesn't even begin until session four, at least formally, though its entirely possible that the party has been dropped some clues that make the formal hook fairly obvious, and possibly even driven by the party's desire to speak to a particular NPC.

The campaign web above was designed as a 4E campaign, where you typically get 3 to 5 encounters before the party will need to rest.  For other game systems a session could easily have twice as many encounters, I'll get into the design of these in another post where the campaign definitely becomes more web-like in appearance.

By classifying encounters in this format the DM can easily see the parties progression toward the goal, or really what the intent of the encounter is.  Thus, if you have the encounter flagged as "Filler" and the party is taking substantial damage then you may want to adjust the opponents on the fly to making the next hit make them bloodied, or if a "Weakening" encounter is handled way too easily, then before they get a 2nd wind you may want to add another group that were arrive later to the melee.

Plus, it's also nice when prepping which encounters are truly optional, and which are critical.  It will be next to impossible to prep an entire campaign out in the form above without completely steering the party into the direction you as the DM want them to go, but if you think the story plays best in a given order having it outlined such as this will give you a direction to push the players into when they seem lost.

Additionally, when providing a quest introduction or hook these should be done toward the end of a session.  This allows the party to make the choice ahead of time, and cuts down on the time it takes to the DM to "Prep" for next session.  When Hooks with multiple paths are given at the beginning of a session or in the middle the DM might have to prep all the encounters that the party may pursue, unless some "Delay" encounters are prepped to make the party's desired choice irrelevant, at least until the end of the session when the DM can finally prep all of the encounters down the path the party has chosen.  This may give the feeling of more of a free-will campaign, but requires significant more work by the DM to pull off something like this.

Tracking campaigns in this notation can provide the DM with possible clues on when they might "drop a clue" for another story arc, or when they may need to prep a delay encounter, or when they might have enough strength left in them to prep and Extension encounter.

Non-Linear campaigns provide multiple Introductions toward the beginning of the campaign, which include multiple completely optional quests.  These are more for groups that contain advanced DMs and advanced players, as the element of free will and having to make choices that matter may not come easily to all players.  Some groups like the linear campaign where each encounter lead perfectly into the next, with minimal thought of where do we go now.

Quest Structure

I wrote the following years ago when I was playing a lot of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons to provide a framework for a DM to construct their own story arc.  Now those familiar with 4E know that the game has a semi rigid structure designed to weaken the party just enough to keep the adventure challenging by balancing encounter powers, daily powers and healing surges.

I recently stumbled across it and derided to just get it out there for people that are playing 4E, and I plan to rewrite it in a more generic sense that would lend itself more for a Pathfinder, One ring or any other gaming system.

The format is already fairly generic, but the idea of the Skill Challenge and Extended Rest are where the 4E specific terminology come in.  When I re-write it I plan on leveraging most of the work that I'm posting here.

Main Path (IPSCR)

Primary Hook/Introduction (I)
This may be as simple as someone approaches the party with an offer, the stumble into a situation as something is about to happen, or is in progress, this could even be a rumor that the party has to initiate encounter, or do reasearch/Information-gathering to determine the next steps...May or may not be a melee type encounter.

Progression (P)
The progression typically involves a combat encounter where the party gets the assurance that they are on the right path to the goal.  This may be an assault instiagated by the party, or an ambush by the opponent, in either case the party gets the impression that they are on the right path.  Often afterward the rewards of the encounter includes clues to where to head that leads toward the Goal.

Skill Challenge (S)
This is more of a Role-Playing encounter, which may include a combat element interwoven into the encounter.  In the case of a combined Challenge/Melee characters often have to choose whether they are going to attack the opponents or to make a check vs the challenge.  If this is more or the plain skill challenge then each character states their actions before the tests are made to determine the success of the rounds actions.  After a given number of successes or failures then the effect of the challenge is revealed.

Climax/Boss (C)
The Boss battle, this is often a solo or elite creature or groups that must be overcome in melee to complete the Quest and achieve the goal of the Quest.  Occasionally the Quest Goal is an item where the true completion of the quest (and Quest XP bonus) is not gained until the item is brought to a given location or returned to a given NPC,

Reward (R)
Occasionally this is combined with the Climax, where the boss is about to do something that the party prevents and gains the reward at this time.  However, more often the Reward is attained only after an item taken from the climax is brought to someone or someplace.

The actual Reward encounter is often done as story telling epilogue..."After the battle you return the item to the Duke and all becomes right once again in the realm".

The Reward could just as easily include a skill challenge or additional Melee, if this includes not story telling elements the penalty for failure should not prevent the Quest XP, though it could have repercussions on other future encounters.  These extra challenges may alter the Quest bonus, or delay the characters gaining the xp until the next session.

Optional Paths
These encounters can occur before or after any of the four basic encounters of a quest path, described above.

Minor Quest Path (M)
Much like the introduction above this provides an introduction to an optional path that is not critical to the main quest completion, but may provide extra information, other items, treasure, or simply a distraction.

Alternately this may in fact be another Primary Hook to an additional Major Quest, which allows a more complex story arc of interwoven encounters.

A secondary Path may be as short as two encounters, and Introduction and Climax, but in the case of an Addition Major Quest it may spawn another chain of 3 to 8 encounters.

Informative/Story Telling (I)
This is really an information relaying encounter from the DM, these can often contain an interaction with an NPC that may or may not contain Insight or Diplomacy, or other checks much like a skill challenge, but there really is no "Failure" scenario in a Informative encounter.  If Checks are rolled they may simply improve the quality of the information, or provide an additional piece.

These work well in cases where the party just arrives at a new location, or to provide multiple day summary of events that have occurred  like when the play has a two week overland trek.  The DM may throw in an Informative encounter that quickly moves the party through the first 10 days of the journey where no much has occurred.

Thus, these are normally prequels to other encounters either leading right into them or in the case of a town, you may have a number of Informative encounters, including the Initial arrival into the town, though the Skill Challenge encounter may not occur until after the party says "Lets go ask the Bar-tender".

Not every information exchange is called out explicitly in the Campaign Web/Outline, since every encounter has some type of information exchange in the setup phase.  Only the "arrival at Town" or the "Time Passes" type encounters are typically actually called out as Informative encounters in the Campaign Web.

Filler (F)
This type of encounter is similar to the Progression encounter above, but is designed to simply extend the length of the quest and provide an additional encounter as the party moves toward the quest goal.  These can be often dispatched/Overcome with relative ease, where the result is minimal gain in experience and treasure at the cost of minimal damage to the party.

These are often used to be relatively short encounters where the party is allowed to display their Heroic abilities.  Typically they are in no danger of failing to overcome these encounters, but if they entered the encounter in a severely weakened state would be the only times that a Filler encounter would become a danger.

The purpose of a Delay encounter is to simply postpone the progression of a quest until the next gaming session.  These are Optional/Flexible encounters that are designed to occur at any time where the conditions are met.

These are "Stalling" encounters that can be prep'd by the DM and then dropped in at any point where the party begins to wander down a path that hasn't been fully prep'd.  Typically these occur at the end of a session that the party wrapped up earlier than expected, and everyone wants to keep going, but the DM doesn't have the information on hand to allow the party to get to where they want, or the DM just wants to further prep the next area that the party is heading into.

Weakening (W)
Very similar to the Delay encounter type, but the difficulty of the encounter is much greater.  These serve to cost the party a number of daily powers, and Healing Surges and grant a significant XP payout.  Often the reward of a weakening encounter is a magic item payout, replenish consumable supplies, as well as goal related information.

A trick often used in a weakening encounter is chaining multiple encounters together, thus removing the ability to recovery health and encounter powers in-between encounters.  Additionally, terrain effects can have interesting effects that cause endurance checks or the like where failures result in the loss of a healing surge.

Extension (E)
This is an encounter that should be presented to the party as a relative obviously optional encounter.  Most often this is presented as an encounter following a Climax.  Extension encounters are ones that pose risks versus rewards, and are meant to reward players that have managed to achieve the quest reward while keeping enough reserves for another foray.

These serve as exceptional accomplishments, with great rewards for completion.  The difficulty of extension encounters governs the reward, or these could be chained together with the possibility of allowing parties to significantly alter the Campaign.

With great rewards come great risks.  With these encounters designed to occur after the Goal has been gained, and with a significantly telegraphed optional nature or danger element, it should be clear to to the party that they are progressing at their own choice, and if they are not prepared it is these encounters that could result in a TPK if the party is too stupid to realize that they are out of their league.

An Extension encounter is only an extension if undertaken immediately after the Goal is achieved by definition.  If the party has the option to rest, and does so before progressing onward, then the reward for the Extension is significantly reduced.  However, completion of the encounter my still reward in it own minor quest reward if completed.

Story Arc
The Story Arc of a Campaign is the underlying Major Quest that is driving the party.

Guided Arc
In these story arcs each one leads perfectly into the next, and each is required to occur before the next.  This works well for beginning players or DMs with little time to prep for play, as you always know where the party is going next.

Side Trek Arc
In these stories the party knows the end goal, but is continually distracted from achieving it, due to other more urgent tasks continually coming up as they slowly progress toward the end goal, or the underlying Goal keeps getting further away after each distraction.

Uncovering Arc
Often this is like an iceberg, where only the tip is seen by the party during the initial campaign sessions, where more and more is uncovered the closer to the goal the party gets.  These typically begin with one or more Quest Paths before the underlying story is even known to the party.

Fast Conflict Resolution

The goal of HitDice is to be a fast resolution system, that at it's core makes sense.  This allows more GM control to adjust things on the fly as far a what's the bonus for cover and such, how much an attack advantage a given situation may provide, but there's definitely enough consistency that the players get an idea of game mechanics such that they know what they are getting their heroes into with the decisions that they make.

With the number of game system choices out there, I think really everyone can already find pretty much what they are looking for in game that they want.  However, diversity is definitely a part of any gaming group, so the system has to allow each player and the GM to get what they are looking for out of the game, especially in campaign play.

For one-off sessions it's easy for individuals to play one night almost anything, especially when the GM is the one doing most the work (in nearly every system), and at its core role-playing is role-playing, from Savage Worlds to Pathfinder, it's the ability for one to put yourself in your characters shoes, and just say what you want to do and then the GM "figures it out".

Understanding how systems handle ranged attacks or spells in melee combat can be critically important when you have a character that simply can afford to allow enemies extra attacks on them.  Plus, all of this simply is just a modeling of the fantasy world with mechanics and dice added for chance, so the more you understand the mechanics you can better "play" your hero.  There's hope that a GM will rule consistently and fairly, but we've all seen cases where that is simply not the case, or for sure might not seem so at the time.

In the HitDice system I really tried to keep it, at its core a "fast conflict resolution system".  I do like the "Epic Battle" idea, but don't feel the need for every encounter to be played out in that scale where it takes two hours to resolve a fight with a dozen goblins.

To do this modeling, I essentially started with a skirmish system, one that I was designing for a board game environment, that was designed to be fast paced.  As I began modeling the combat, I liked how quickly they came to a resolution.  After a number of play testing scenarios, I realized that even with these simple mechanics, there were a lot of "levers" that could be pulled to model different situations, and they really could grow in complexity.

In general HitDice is meant to handle the "old-school" adventures with 30+ rooms (maybe not all of which will be thoroughly dealt with), along with quest hooks, the journey and boss battle in a session or two.  So you can imagine that the resolution of any particular task is handled relatively quickly.  Thinking of the earlier RPGs, most encounters fell into the "non-critical" (or filler) category, designed more to paint the environment than something critical to the story.  So why should these take longer than a few minutes to resolve?

Skills are normally fast resolution, but I felt they should land more on a probability curve than a linear one, and everyone should have some chance to do anything (some things still require training, such as spell casting)...though this chance may have odds of 1 in 1,000.  With linear odds the result is more about who rolls higher on the dice, where end up with things commonly occurring that just don't make sense, the 18 Str warrior fails to open a door, and the 10 Str Mage comes up and rolls a "Nat 20" and succeeds.

I also agree many systems do this well, but I think dice pools do a much better job of capturing results than system that use linear-systems/one-dice (d20 or d%).  On top of the pool. the exploding dice add essentially an unlimited degree of success that can really generate 1 in a million probabilities, which at critical times can generate extremely heroic results, as well extremely unfavorable results when achieved by the opponents.

I know HitDice is not the only one that allows for this, but what I've tried to do is to keep the mechanics simple.  So that they work even in simple board games very similar as they do in more complex system to govern all scenarios.  Other similar systems have much more complex methods of determining success and/or the number of dice requires special utensils and a large surface space to allow the roll to be made.

The system has been designed as an evolutionary mechanic that one can learn in one of many board game settings, and then progress into and overlord/referee system and ultimately into a full blown RPG environment with little change to the game mechanics at their core, but simply by expanding the player options and integration of the story telling aspect into the game.