Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trimming the Fat, Part 1: Death to Sunrods!!!

This is Part 1 of a short series of blog posts about parts of 4e that I am cutting from the game for my 4e Forever mag. First thing to go: sunrods.

Oh, how I hate sunrods. They make Demi-Human vision meaningless. They make imaginative notions of light and shadow evaporate in a 20 square radius. They take a DMs attempts at moody Gothic atmosphere, and bathe them in garish fluorescence. It is as if the designers just decided that darkness was not going to play any role in 4e, unless it is from a PCs perma-invisibility build. A player saying that their character ties a sunrod to his belt is to me the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. 

I have heard of lots of houserules on sunrods, everything from having them sometimes fail, to having certain structures prevent them from working, and on and on, but I think it best just to go ahead and take them out behind the woodshed and shoot them.

I like ditching them for several reasons. I like resource management, and using torches and lanterns adds an extra layer of this. Torches can burn out fairly quickly, and since 4e Forever uses "turn"-based exploration (more on this another time), those suckers can be going out before you know it. I like Demi-Human vision, or powers that give you unusual vision, to mean something more than just "I don't have to be the one to put a sunrod in my belt". I like being able to design encounters where every PC on the table cannot immediately see a clear-as-day 20 square radius, without having to trick the system with a gas cloud or other convoluted crapola.

Long story short: they take away from one of the greatest aspects of D&D exploration: darkness. Cave-black, impenetrable darkness. And so they have to die.

I am always interested in readers' thoughts! Do you have an opinion on sunrods? Let it fly!


  1. I'm with you. Underground, it should be frickin' dark...

  2. I also ban sunrods.
    A way to discourage sunrods and other light sources is that monsters detect the PCs much easier.

  3. I absolutely agree and wish I'd thought to do this before I started running my first campaign. Now that they already exist in the world, it will be hard to say they aren't available. GARGLBALARLGLALBALLGGG. Yeah, I wish I'd taken them out before hand.

  4. I actually like sunrods because I despise resource tracking. I get your point about banning them, but I will definitely keep them in my game. My suggestion (or intention) for keeping a bit of the mystery in the dark is talking about the tone of the game before hand with the players and letting them know that while sunrods (and other pc resources) will work as described in most cases, that I may have them work differently in order to improve the narative of the game.

  5. Hate sun rods. Fine if wizard can conjure light through cantrip, but light radius should be less than torch or lantern. I am returning to the old school idea of bringing retainers into adventure to carry light source, sacks of treasure, etc. Make retainers or hencman same level minions as party and they can even serve to make the characters look so much more heroic in comparison.

  6. Sunrods are fine...for Paragon and above! At low levels though, PCs should be only a notch or two above the NPCs of their level as far as Tech goes. Finding that first Sunrod should be something of great wonder along the same vein as finding their first Magic Weapon. And it should be limited as well. Using that Sunrod should be an important choice too, on par with using the last Healing Potion.

    Just my two CP.


  7. I agree, I don't like them either. I found that the minimum possible to make them tolerable was to cut the light radius to 10 squares; this quarters the area covered, makes them equivalent to lanterns, and makes darkness possible in large areas.