Making stamina checks

I haven’t really thought much about the Endurance skill until this past weekend. I guess I’m typical, as taken by Wimwick’s point about Endurance’s usefulness in his writeup on Dwarves. Generally in my games endurance doesn’t come up; maybe it’s because we’re only at the heroic tier, playing in pretty temperate environment. Or maybe most monsters and traps just make use of a PC’s fortitude defense instead of tapping endurance. In addition, many of skill challenges I’ve seen are written as social combats instead of physical challenges (or obstacle courses) where endurance might be useful. This observation is just my experience, and I couldn’t say what the typical 4e experience is like.

If we accept that Endurance is a lackluster skill, my first question is when is it useful? Has anyone used in a game-saving or creative way? Has training in Endurance saved a character’s ass? When I think of a character with a high Endurance, I picture Colonel Quaritch from Avatar…there’s a dude who can take a lot of punishment. I just don’t know if it’s worth spending a “trained” slot to capture that aspect of a character.

I thought of a few things where I might house rule to let a player use Endurance check to do a super-human stunt. I don’t have my PHB handy, so if any these are actually in the rules, they’re a good idea.

  • Regain a spent healing surge, or a bonus to a roll where a consequence of failure is a lost healing surge.
  • Make an action when at 0 hit points.
  • Get a bonus to Fortitude defense or saving throw.
  • Resist elemental or force damage.
  • Reduce falling damage.
  • Allow the character to take feats that let him stay standing longer.

The other way to make Endurance more useful is to make it more relevant. In my games we often handwave a lot of activities where the characters aren’t active in a role-playing or combat situation. But it’s reasonable to expect Endurance checks if the characters are carrying bodies or heavy treasure back out of  a dungeon (failure means they have to stop and rest). Characters may be required to make Endurance checks to travel more than 6, 8, 10, etc hours a day (if on foot). I know that after a few hours of solid hiking, I’m ready to lay down and call it a day. I don’t like these uses of the skill, because it penalizes the whole party for having someone who is bad at endurance, rather than reward a player that took the effort to spend a training slot.

What are the parallels of Endurance to Stealth? If a party is mixedly stealthy, there are ways for the whole party to overcome the obstacles, but I feel like if a party is super hearty or wimpy it would affect which adventures they chose to go on (stay in town vs scale an impenetrable cliff in the Ice Mountains to get to a dragon’s nest) rather than affect an individual challenge in an adventure. I suppose some people could scale the wall while others charge the front gates…

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6 thoughts on “Making stamina checks

  1. Great article, Michael. If it’s ok with you, I added your blog to 4eblogs.com. If this isn’t ok, please email me and I’ll be happy to remove it. I’d send this to you in an email but I can’t find your address.

    Thanks!

    Mike Shea

  2. @Mike,

    Wow. It’s a great honor that you think my blog is useful enough to share on 4eblogs.com. Those are fantastic blogs that you aggregate there. I highly recommend that everyone subscribe to that feed.

    Thanks for pointing out about the contact info, I can’t believe I overlooked something so obvious. It’s mikesdndblog@gmail.com. I put in on my about page as well, but I’ll have to figure out a good spot to stick it in my layout.

  3. He he, all I can picture right now is players around a table all on stationary bikes. If you stop pedaling, your character is too tired to continue!

  4. With regards to the problem of PCs with poor Endurance hindering the party rather than PCs with good Endurance being able to help the party, I’ve let my players make Endurance checks to push the entire party along. This makes sense, as we explain it as the more durable character taking on some of the burden from the other characters.
    Examples:
    — “We’ll be able hike faster if I carry that backpack for you.”
    — “I’ll climb ahead and tow you up this part of the cliff.”
    — “This heat is killer, but you need the water more than I do.”

  5. @Dave,

    When you do that, is that the in game consequence of “aid another”, or do you use it a separate check (say to turn a failure around in a skill check, or let the failing player make a second attempt)?

  6. @Michael

    For this type of check, I’ve used a moderate DC and counted it as either a regular success or have it negate a failure. A meta-game reasoning for this is that my players usually find it’s a waste to use the “aid another” action in skill challenges, but they tend to like the idea that pushing the limits or your endurance can speed the entire party along.

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