Gaming Tonic

Product Review-Enhanced 4E: Combat In Motion by Christopher F. Ash

 front+coverI've played a lot of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (4E), but the popularity of the system has diminished with most of my group over time.  The reason for a lot of the loss of love with 4E seems to be that the system itself was a little too unrealistic and predictable for some tastes.  So I stumbled upon a product which claimed to add a new level of realism to the system, Enhanced 4th EditionCombat in Motion  by Christopher F. Ash.  I think if my rpg group was using a few of the modules four years ago then 4E wouldn't have fallen out of favor with some players.

I’ll tell you right up front that this book is not the easiest read.  It’s a little like a text book actually.  Fortunately there are many great examples in the 72 pages of Enhanced 4th Edition: Combat in Motion.  The illustrations that are provided in each of the seven chapters clearly help the reader to understand the ideas that are being presented and how you use them in your game.  Not every option presented has to be used in your game.  That is kind of the beauty of the optional rules, they’re independent of each other for the most part.  Now let’s talk a bit about each of the options and what each one can bring to your 4E game.

The first section is a redesign of the battle grid.  The New Battle Grid explains the changes that are necessary for many of the options in the book and the purpose in changing the way the battle map is laid out.  This section is really easy to understand and implement, and if you choose to use it will bring a lot of realism to your 4E game.  If you are happy with the way your game is running then this might not interest you, but I suggest you take a look at the chapter and it might change the way you look at your combats.

Motion States is the second section and one of the easier ones to add into your game.  Dungeons and Dragons can sometimes feel like chess instead of a battle and these options can change that up some.  The explanations for some of these options made a lot of sense to me although they will complicate your game some.  This is the one section that seemed a bit more like GURPS than 4E to me and I also received that feedback from the most hardcore 4th Edition D&D player I know.  Like I said not every section is for everybody and the ability to pick and choose which options you want to implement in your game is the beauty of these optional rules.

The third chapter is Off Turn Actions and probably the most interesting section in the book.  I see how these options could really speed up your combats but might require a little more book work to keep things straight.  This really allows PCs to react to what their opponents are doing as they’re doing it.  As a DM you really need to be aware and allow the monsters to take advantage of these rules, or else your players might just flatten the challenges in front of them with very little in the way of cost for going off turn.  Essentially an off turn action is giving up a future action for an immediate action.  If the whole adventuring party does this it’s a lot of extra attacks.  It will work but proceed with caution until you’re comfortable handling these options in your game.

Special In-Motion Movement is the fourth chapter and covers new ways to look at movement.  It adds a lot of depth to movement, complete with the advantages and disadvantages of these extra movement options.  It even covers flying and vehicles, which isn't really something you find a whole of rules expanding upon.  It’s also one of the sections I can see a lot of gamers not using in their game because it adds a lot more detail and complication to movement. Many 4E fans enjoy the system because of the heroics that there PCs are capable of accomplishing through simple but superhuman movement abilities.  It’s a section that was not for me personally, but something worth checking out to get your brain thinking about mechanics in a more real world way.

The next chapter covers Active Defens and Counter-Offensives.  I really liked this section because I enjoy the ability of characters to actively defend themselves in games.  The illustrations in this section used to explain some of these principles are topnotch and that is good because it’s a little complicated.  Christopher F. Ash is obviously really intelligent and wanted his 4E game to mirror what happens in actual combat.  His explanations for each of the options presented in this section are helpful in case you find yourself asking why.

Chapter Six is called Terrain Dimensions and outlines a lot of options that are really common sense and probably should have been included in a 4E supplement at some point.  The mechanics of higher and lower ground are discussed in-depth and the quick rule insets (that are used in every section of the book when discussing optional rules) our exactly what you need to have the mechanics at your fingertips.  I don’t really like looking in a rule book for some ticky-tack rule in the middle of a combat, so the quick rules are awesome.  The idea of support is also introduced and might be one of the better optional rules for adding a touch of realism to your game that I have seen anywhere.

The last chapter is called Dramatic Direction and is complicated and abstract but to a hardcore 4E fan might really cure light wound on a stagnating game.  The ideas presented in this chapter can end up changing the pace, order of initiative, action, and reactions of your characters and their opponents in every round.  To really absorb these ideas you are going to have to reread the chapter several times more than likely but it is a read that is worth the time.

I am a fan of house rules and this supplement feels a collection of some of the best I have seen.  You don’t have to replace the game you already know with any of these, just shake things up perhaps.   Combat in Motion: Enhanced 4th Edition is available at Drive-Thru RPG and in both PDF and softcover for $9.99 and $25.95 respectively.  Check in at for more about the supplement.  If you want to find a lot more cool stuff for 4th Edition D&D than make sure to check out 20 ft. Radius, the coolest 4e site around.  For the 4E fan the PDF is a must have at a minimum and until next time, Roll Hard!

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