Page 42

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This page is a rewrite of page 42 of the 4e DMG.


Actions the Rules Don't Cover

DM's Best Friend

Circumstances may happen that help or hinder any particular action. If something comes up that seems it should grant a bonus a penalty, give a bonus of +2, or a penalty of -2.

Actions as checks

The easiest way to cover actions that the rules don't cover is to cast that Action as a check. How you may wish to go about this depends on the type of action.


If the action is essentially an attack, then it should be a roll of some sort vs a sensible defense of the target. For example, rolling logs down the tree at a creature might be a Dexterity +2 per tier vs Reflex check.

In general, attacks can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Determine the Usage of the Attack - Is it an action that is essentially Daily (Requires some payment on the players part that will last all day, such as paying healing surges, or is literally impossible to have happen more then once a day), Encounter (Requires some payment on the players part that lasts for the encounter, such as damage, or by its nature can only happen once per encounter), or at-will (Essentially no-cost and usable repeatedly). The Usage determines what sort of power it should be equivalent to: At-wills shouldn't be better then at-will class powers, but perhaps be more useful in this circumstance. Encounters should be about equal with encounters, but again, may be more useful in the circumstance. Daily abilities are essentially always at least daily power, and are a huge increase in power whenever they appear.
  2. Determine the Ability Score to attack with - This is both a player and DM problem. First choose a basic sensible ability (Pushing a column down onto an ogre? Strength check!) and then give the player the ability to say "Wait, what if I cut small parts of it out quickly, causing it to fall over? Can that be a Intelligence attack instead?" or some such substitution scenario, and then consider whether that would work or not. If this attack doesn't use a weapon or an implement, the player should get a free +2 bonus to hit in heroic (+4 in Paragon, +6 in epic) to make up for the lack of enhancement bonus.
  3. Determine the Defense to Attack - This is usually intuitive. Is the attack Dodge-able (Reflex), blocked by Armor (AC), Something that requires Force of Will to stop (Will), or based on the bodies endurance (Fortitude)?
  4. Determine the effects - This means conditions, how long they last, and damage. Generally conditions and how long they last will be intuitive: Being crushed under a pillar makes you prone until you crawl out, or push it off you. Damage is less so. In general at-will abilities use the Medium Damage on the chart below, Encounters use the high damage, and Dailies use the Low limited. Certain circumstances might push any a step up. In addition, add the ability modifier used to attack with to the damage dice listed.
Level Low Medium High Limited Low Limited Medium Limited High
1st-2nd 1d6 1d10 2d6 3d6 2d10 3d8
3rd-4th 1d6 1d12 2d8 3d6 3d8 3d10
5th-6th 1d8 1d12 2d8 3d6 3d8 3d10
7th-8th 1d8 2d6 2d8 3d8 3d10 4d8
9th-10th 1d8 2d8 2d10 3d8 3d10 4d10
  • Paragon: Find your level -10, and Add +1 Dice.
  • Epic: Find your level -20, Add +2 Dice, and increase size by one.

As a consequence, you deal more damage with certain things as you level. This is mostly to keep the damage relevant.

Other Checks

Usually, if tis not an attack, it is a skill check or an ability check. This is mostly a matter of choosing which check to use, and the Challenge Level.

  • Deciding Which check to use: Generally, this is obvious. If a particular skill fits the description of the task, use that skill. Otherwise, use the closest applicable ability check.
  • Deciding Difficulty: Should this task, by its nature be an easy check, a medium check, or a hard check?
    • For Skills, an easy check is a check that an untrained person has a 50/50 Shot at, A medium check is something that a trained individual has a 50/50 shot at, and a hard check is something that a trained individual has problems against. These values might fluctuate based on the Challenge level of the task.
    • For Ability checks, an easy check is something that someone who doesn't have a high score has a good chance of doing, a medium check is something someone who does have a high score has a good chance of doing, and a Hard check is something someone with a high score has a bad chance at.
  • Deciding the Challenge level: This is more difficult to decide, and is mostly a choice necessarily left to the GM. The goal here is to "Guess" At which level you would expect this sort of action to first come up with a chance of success.

Once you have this data, the following table gives you a baseline for DCs.

Challenge Level Easy DC Medium DC High DC
1st-2nd 5 10 15
3rd-4th 6 11 16
5th-6th 8 14 18
7th-8th 9 15 19
9th-10th 11 17 21
  • If this is a skill check, add +5 to the DC.
  • Paragon: Find the challenge level -10, and Add 6.
  • Epic: Find the challenge level -20, Add 12.

Can't Fail

If you cannot fail at a task (That is, you'd need to roll a 1 or less to fail), then you automatically succeed on any check to do it.

Combined Checks

Sometimes, an action is a combination of checks. This introduces multiple chances of failure, and so, in general should have an increased effect when successful. For example, you might have a character swinging from a Chandlier in order to jump onto some rafters, and cut down a sandbag to hit an enemy. That would require an acrobatics check, at likely 2nd challenge level, and then a level-appropriate attack vs reflex. Two chances to fail, but it might, for example, knock the enemy prone and do increased damage.

In general, for every check in which you can fail past the first, add a bonus of some kind (more damage, increased duration, a new effect, +2 to hit, etc.).

Degree of Success

In addition, you may want to take the degree of success into play, giving the character bonuses to certain checks if they roll particularly well. This is especially helpful with combined checks: Failure at any point usually means a loss of actions. It sucks when you succeed on three checks to fail on a 4th, after all.


The following Example uses a 3rd Level Dragonborn Paladin named Ancil as the player.

Ancil wishes to jump onto a dinosaurs back, from a floor above, in order to damage it. He is wearing full plate, so he figures that he can deal some fair damage by hitting him. The DM tells him to roll a Dexterity+2 vs Reflex check, figuring that its about aligning yourself to fall properly, more then anything else. Ancil argues that since he is trained in athletics, he is trained to jump and fall at various distances, and should use his strength instead. His DM agrees this is fair, and Ancil rolls. Ancil hits the creature, but only barely.

The DM then decides that this is half way between a daily and an encounter effect, but has an idea based on Ancil's roll. "Okay, you hit the dinosaur, but are winded from the fall. You lose a healing surge and take 1d10 points of damage, but the dinosaur takes 3d6+Your Strength modifier in damage." Ancil grumbles about taking the healing surge, but is glad that he is close enough to fight his foe, and dealt quite a bit of damage.

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