Diagonals in D&D 4e

Well, the latest change to 4e is making the rounds of the message boards, and it’s one that will probably be really embraced by my players – especially Bradford.

The change I’m talking about is the chance to the movement rules: diagonal squares count as 1 square, rather than the 1-2-1-2 scheme we used in 3.5e. Or rather, I used, for many of my friends are casual players that have more (and better) things to remember than strange movement rules in D&D.

I’ve often seen my friends move figures around the battlemat and going diagonally was something that didn’t occur to many of them. Sure, they could do it when I held their hand every step of the way, but I often – as a DM with more than one player – had other things to concentrate on.

Then too, I’d lose count of how many squares a figure had moved diagonally when I did it myself. I tried to get into the habit of counting diagonals as “1.5” and then rounding down, but “0.5” gets away from me. Although I know 5.5 + 1.5 = 7, I still had to think about it.

So, the change should allow faster movement around the battlefield now. I’ve got some experienced casual players in my group. Is that an oxymoron? Hardly. It just means they love playing D&D – and have played a lot of it – but they’re a long way away from being rules lawyers. 4e is looking better for them all the time.

The change has caused a predictable level of hysteria on EN World and I’m not game to try the Paizo “we hate 4e” boards. There’s a lot of chatter about square fireballs, and the way cones are going to go bye-bye. Hmm. All of this doesn’t bother me that much: templates can be used to make the spell effects ok, and to say I won’t miss cones is an understatement.

What I care about is how my players will find the rule and I’m betting that they’ll find it easier, quicker and more fun. With the enhanced mobility of D&D 4e combat, I think we’ll be in for some great new experiences in combat.

Combat in 4e – what I suspect:

You get a Standard action, a Move action and a Swift action per round (as per Saga).

Charging is a Standard action, so you can Move into position and then Charge in the same round. Charge only gives a +1 bonus to hit (per the DDM 2.0 rules, which are going to be very close to the 4e rules to lessen the gap for people going from one to another).

The Full Attack is gone. Instead you get to make one attack or attack combo; certain creatures will be able to go “Claw + Sting” or similar in the combo. Certainly Iterative attacks are gone – a 20th level fighter won’t get +20/+15/+10/+5. Intead he’ll get one attack, but that attack will have a damage bonus.

Individual attacks in 4e deal more damage than in 3e, but a character won’t have as many attacks, so the overall damage per round will be down.

Attacks have an immediate effect (and attacks can be against AC, Fort, Ref or Will) and may also cause an ongoing effect. You get a Saving Throw each round against ongoing effects: roll a 10+ on a d20 and the effect ends. Some characters get saving throw bonuses or rerolls, but they’re small. Consider the 26th level Pit Fiend gets only a +2 Save bonus! A natural 20 gives you some special bonus – perhaps all ongoing effects end, as in DDM?

Dying is an Ongoing Effect. Make a save each round. If you fail three times, you’re dead. On a critical success (a 20) you stabilize and get to use a Second Wind.

Second Wind – recover 1/4 of your hp as a swift action, 1/day or perhaps more often – will be a big part of keeping people alive.


  1. charlesatan

    I admit that Hexes are superior to Square Grids but the former is harder to make (all I need for the latter is a ruler!) so I usually prefer square grids. The diagonals didn’t bother my gaming group as much but I’d like to think we’re wiser that way.

    I think Full Attack is still in 4E but such uses will be extremely limited and we’re saying goodbye to iterative attacks. The bonus damage is 1/2 your level I think, being consistent with all the other bonuses (BAB, Defense Bonus, etc.).

    I suspect Second Wind will be 1/encounter but probably not as huge as 1/4 your hp.


  2. merricb

    1/4 your HP isn’t actually so huge: when you’re on the front lines, I expect you’ll probably take 1/4-1/2 your hp each round. It gives you another round of combat more than anything.


  3. tallarn

    I’m all for rules that make casual players more interested in playing. I have several friends who’ll play D&D with me but are unlikely to want to go in for the sort of system mastery that 3e required.


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