[4e] X-Crawl: The Extreme Sports Dungeoncrawl (call your local Pay-Per-View provider)

[4e] X-Crawl: The Extreme Sports Dungeoncrawl (call your local Pay-Per-View provider)

Has anyone heard of this?

It's a DnD 3.5 setting first conceived by Pandahead Games, now distributed under Goodman Games, with a variety of extra content books and adventure books in publication (go ahead and look it up!). I don't own any of the books, and will probably simply steal the core idea and then turn around and engineer my own setting and homebrew rules for it.

I am intrigued... no, fascinated by the concepts of this setting. I think that the 4th edition of DnD, with it's emphasis on superhuman Martial characters, cinematic and dynamic combat, and other 'action-adventure' upgrades could fit in incredibly well with the concept. Right now it's just a couple of vague concepts brewing around the back of my mind, but here's a quick list of some basic ideas:

Current IdeasThe Core Action It's basically DnD 4e at heart, with all of the races, classes, monsters, and equipment you've come to expect. The 'dungeon' is an alternate-future sports colosseum lorded over by a "DJ" (Dungeon Jockey) who is the Head of Ceremonies and orchestrator of the Team's challenges. You will fight through absurd, American Gladiator-esque 'Crawls' which feature sinister pitfalls, appearances from local Celebrity Monsters, wacky terrain challenges, and even wackier rewards (WIN this hybrid SUV, and an entire year's supply of MEGASHIELD-brand Car Wax!). It will also be brutal, probably with lots of hazardous stadium effects and additional goals beyond simply defeating monsters (save the "princess" actor-NPC, grab all 3 Gemstones before the Monsters do, or disable all 5 trap switches before the gates close to the Bonus Round). It will be just as lethal (probably even more so) than standard DnD 4th.

Fan Favor/Crowd Noise Fan Favor will be a scaling effect that can be managed by the Team (and even some opposing Celebrity Monsters/opposing Teams) in order to gain scaling benefits over the course of an encounter. Properly achieving stadium-specific goals, as well as usage of Signature Moves, Team Maneuvers, and Crowd Control can add to your Fan Favor (either your Athlete's personal Favor, or the Team's). Some sort of progression like this might make sense:
  • 1 point of Favor: Gain a +1 bonus to all Defenses and damage rolls.
  • 2 points of Favor: Gain Combat Advantage against any target you attack.
  • 3 points of Favor and above: Gain another +1 bonus to all Defenses and +1 to all damage rolls (cumulative with above)
  • BONUS -- 5 points of Favor: The character who reaches this threshold (in the course of most Crawls, it will be functionally impossible for a whole Team to hit this water-mark together), receives an Action Point he must use within either this encounter or the immediate next one.

Signature Moves Choose one Daily Attack Power you know (not a Stance or Zone effect only, it must have at least 1 distinct Attack Roll involved... for Warden daily attacks, this would be the Encounter attack power gained). On any turn in which you use that attack, you may use a Free action to give the "Tell" beforehand. The Tell is often a shouted slogan or "Called Attack", fancy piece of signature footwork or ominous pose, or could be displaying and subsequently drinking an endorsed beverage (or any combination of the above).

Name a single monster you have targeted with the Daily power prior to rolling the dice (ie. you'll note this in the title of the Dice-tag for your attack roll). If that target is Hit by the power, you gain 1 point of personal Fan Favor until the end of the encounter.

Team Maneuvers The party ('Team') may pick 2 different combinations of Encounter and At-Will powers to be their Playbook of Maneuvers (one contributing power from each member, each member must have at least 1 Encounter power among the 2 Team Maneuvers). On a turn, if the entire team can coordinate everyone hitting with all of the powers in 1 of their Maneuvers in a specific order (Yes, this means Delayed Actions -- In the style of Opener 1 [maybe a Leader at-will that gives an attack bonus], Opener 2 [a Defender or Striker hits the target with a power that further increases success chances of the combo], then Filler moves and Closers [Controllers and Strikers laying the hurt]), they gain 1 point of Team Favor until the end of the encounter. DJs and Monster squads will likely recognize the openings of a team's signature maneuvers, and will deliberately try to disrupt the maneuver from taking place.

Crowd Control (Social Skills) Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate are probably going to be of little use within the confines of the stadium. However, there is also a live crowd to consider, and currying their favor to raise your team's spirits (or crush the opposition's) is always a good thing. I need to flesh this out more, but my current idea is to have two opposing options for Athlete personality: to be either a Team Face (high charisma) or a Heel (low charisma). Both can be useful, and even having "negative training" (-5 instead of +5) in a social skill can be useful if your "Heel" Athlete thrives on fan negativity (this would be a reversal of the standard rule, a d20 roll in which the lowest result is best).

Overkill Wasting monsters with excessive violence (ie. when Characters continue to attack a target that is at 0 hit points but still standing) will be rewarded with 1 point of personal Fan Favor. The window to pull off Overkill is a small one: the player making the attack must do so as the immediate next action in the Initiative count after the monster is reduced to 0 HP. Any melee attack power that causes damage may be used to achieve Overkill, and Ranged caster/archer characters will have a special combat action that allows them a modified "melee Basic attack" with their primary attack stat for this purpose. Simply peppering a dead orc with arrows from a distance will not satisfy the crowd: you must walk right up and put a round through his head execution-style! Overkill is probably going to be one of the easiest and most renewable ways (1/encounter) to achieve Fan Favor, which is an exchange for the 'opportunity cost' of spending a Standard action on a dead creature.

Time Most crawl events are timed, which is one of the major factors in determining a team's final score (compared to other teams that complete the same Crawl). The Team will never take Extended Rests in any crawl (only natural, being that they are televised live events), but at specific intervals in most Crawls are strategically placed Break Rooms that allow the program to take a quick TV Time-Out when they are reached (that would be a Short Rest). Note: This does not mean between every challenge! The Team will also have access to a number of discretionary Time Outs, which may be called upon when they are hard up for resources between Break Rooms. The fewer Time Outs they need to call through the course of a Crawl, the better their score will be.

Scoring To be determined (ie. this is basically going to end up being excessively fudged by the DM), but know that in some way the Teams' proficiency at completing the course will be graded and will have an effect on the 'storyline' of the tournament brackets, as well as the fame and fortune of the Team.

Martial classes The gold standard of X-Crawl, martial characters are the hyper athlete All-Stars of the future. Whether you are the team's offensive Line (Fighters, Two-Blade/Beast Rangers), the Scorers (Rogues, Archery rangers), or it's Quarterback (Warlord), your approach to X-Crawl is one of extreme professionalism and constant off-the-field training. The martial characters are often-times the most fan-celebrated due to their (perceived) status as hard-working athletes who have to earn their right to compete in X-Crawl every year... against the pressing demands of age, fan pressure, constant abuse of their bodies, rampant alcoholism, and even scarier... the League's (admittedly lax) steroid policies.

Arcane classes The Guild of the Magi sees X-Crawl as useful publicity fodder, and so can be depended upon to provide funding for a certain number of Guild-approved Arcane Teams as well as a good few Free Agents every year. Arcane X-Crawlers tend towards cultivating ominous or mysterious personalities, often enhanced by elaborate attire (Capes and masks are common) and over-the-top "In-Character" personas. Some outlaw spell-casters and Sorcerers view X-Crawl as their best chance to 'go public' safely: once you become a super-star celebrity, surely even the Magi won't be able to touch you... right?

Divine classes The Rituals of divine investiture are tightly guarded by the Megacorporations, to whom they are incredibly valuable military/medical assets. The average citizen could never hope to legally gain such a ritual. But then again, X-Crawl is serious business in the North American Empire. Plenty of well-trusted athletes are gifted with the Ritual and allowed to train as Divine X-Crawlers, but such "Mega-sell-outs" tend to get a negative fan reaction in spite of their Corporate-approved smiling faces. It could be the fact that their Crawl Armor tends to be covered head-to-toe in scrolling corporate sponsorship Microboards, or the perceived fakeness of their perpetually grinning pretty-boy (/girl) personas, or maybe it's just the fact that vividly shiny attacks like the "Pepsi-Cola(tm) Radiant Slam" have difficulty translating on SuperHDTV. Actually, it's probably not that last one.

Primal classes from Twen5's excellent suggestions: Primal characters are the real animals of X-Crawl. While Martial Crawlers might dabble in the occasional performance-enhancing supplement or Macro-Protein beverage, Barbarians and Wardens bring a new meaning to the term "juiced." Many Primal characters are genetically-enhanced, then raised from birth for the purposes of creating an unholy terror on the X-Crawl circuit. The major labs that supply Primal Crawl athletes are all militarily-funded by the AIPF (American Imperial Peace Forces), and each such Crawler is often a unique blend of biological "improvements" intended as a test-bed for new combinations of terrifying modifications. It's not uncommon at all for Wardens to alter their form in the middle of the Crawl, bio-forming their bodies into ice, wood, and stone and crushing the opposition. Druids take this fearsome ability to a new level, having been exposed before birth to sometimes-lethal morpho-genetic cocktails that enable them to alter their fundamental shape for animalistic forms and ravage the opposition horrifically. And Barbarians... well, they simply redefine the phrase "psychotic." Hilariously, recent advances in benign sedative drugs have allowed Primal Crawlers to interact meaningfully with their Teams and Fans while off of the field, and more than a few children's lunch-boxes are marked by the benevolently-smiling face of "Blood-Hot" Sam Orstin, striking a bear-ish pose in one of his more lucid press appearances.

Other Stuff If we wanted to, there could be emphasis placed on the "off-field" contract negotiations, training camps, and League politics that dominates the IXL (Imperial X-Crawl League). The Goodman Games books (I am told) have an incredibly detailed history that explains the alternate-world's development since early medieval times (read: Standard DnD setting). Rather than mess around with all of that, I'd rather just place the game in a broadly conceptual Near-Future Dystopian Whatever that allows plenty of room for players to come up with their own reasons for why anything is the way it is.

With that said, I need some time for more ideas to percolate (and some more stuff to line up in my RL schedule) before I'm ready to declare open season on a game of this. I would like to hear from people who have read the 3.5 books, or have suggestions of their own to add to this, or would be psyched to play in such a game once I'm ready to run it. Give me Ideas!

I'm not actually a fan of 4e, but this kinda wants to make me give it another chance just to play in this.

I'd like to give a fey pact warlock a shot in this.

I would suggest against giving combat advantage for every attack, at least 4 the 1st tier of crowd favoritism, it gives rogue characters a huge advantage and all they need to do is use their signature attack early on to get it for themselves.

what level where you thinking of? and considering the style and increased lethality you're talking about I'd guess we get something a little better than the standard point buy.

It looks interesting...I would be down for trying this out

Someone enjoys their professional wrestling!

I'd totally be down for this. I think there could be a more interesting mechanic for pulling heat in from the crowd, but most games that integrate crowd mechanics tend to run Dice Pools, so you can devote dice to the crowd and/or claim successes for the crowd.

One thing that could happen is you could add a new action associated with the primary social traits (Intimidate and Diplomacy) which reads as follows:

Cheap Pop
Move Action

Target: The audience
Effect: Apply a modifier to your current Heat equal to a d20+Diplomacy or Intimidate skill modifier. This roll has no target number, therefore 1 and 20 have no special effect. If your Heat is the highest Absolute Heat among the participants, you gain Crowd Favor.

So, Heat is just an abstract term that measures the amount of momentum and crowd appeal you have (and I'm using your "Intimidate and Diplomacy can go negative" idea). Absolute Heat is the absolute value of your heat, so a character with -38 Heat has higher Absolute Heat than a character with 20 Heat. Crowds may react differently to a character with negative heat than they would to a character with positive heat, but the game mechanic remains the same. A character can claim Crowd Favor for a group or just himself, depending on the situation. If you're rolling for Group Heat you affect the total Heat of the group with your roll, instead of your personal Heat. Crowd Favor has tiers which give better and better effects as you tier-up.

One can also declare an action a "Pop" action. So, a fighter could have a "Pop" Tide of Iron, or a Warlord could have a "Pop" Commander's Strike. A character can only have one Pop action every so-many rounds (maybe have it recharge like some monster powers? or maybe just have it so you can only use it once every round?). If the attack hits he may apply his attack roll as a penalty or a bonus depending on his goal (Face or Heel) to the Group Heat or his Personal Heat much like a Cheap Pop. If the attack misses, modify the Group or Personal heat in the direction opposite of the attacker's intentions.

There's just a rough idea of what crowd interaction could be. I think it should be a big part of the combat, and I think that (much like Pro-wrestling) the combatants should always consider the crowd in addition to the action around them.

RE: Combat advantage --That's not a bad recommendation, I may flip the 1st and 2nd Tier advantages. Giving rogues that increased lethality doesn't bother me too much, as it helps the combat move faster (things dying quickly isn't all that bad really!) and because plenty of Monsters can get similar benefit from it as well (Dueling Fan Favor scores should factor into most major encounters against big Solo Monsters and Elite squads).

The level chosen could really be anything,although I picture late heroic and the Paragon tier as being the general range. I could see myself running it anywhere in that range, probably whatever people want most. So tell me what you want.

I will say that if you aren't a fan of 4e's core mechanics, nothing I do in this game will likely change your mind... so you might want to be cautious in that regard. All of the extra rules will just be garnish to what (I think) are already very impressive game rules.

I don't mind the mechanics of 4e all that much, streamlined is nice. the times I've played it's just seemed like the powers were geared towards WoW players and the like. But in a game like this I don't really foresee that being much of a problem. (not trying to start a flame war, just expressing my opinion.)

personally I think early-mid paragon would work well for this, well above the norm but not to the point where we'd need to be fighting god-like beings to have a challenge.

I am kinda in the same boat with sidhe_blooded of my opinion of 4th edition. Not trying to make anyone angry with the comment earlier. This idea has peaked interest.

Peaked, as in there is no more interest, or piqued it, as in it raised your interest?
Because I am not a big fan of 4ED, mainly because I have never had the chance to play!

But the Xcrawl idea sounds great. I wanted to give it a shot in 3.5 but instead I played in other Goodman Games modules, which are all good, and in one case excellent, throwback hack 'n slash adventures.

So I would love to play and give my dusty 70 dollar box set a workout finally.


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