Power Design (4e Guideline)

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General advice[edit]

Power Source[edit]

There's little justification for creating a new power source, since almost everything falls under the existing sources. In addition a new power source cuts of your class from many feats and options that are linked to a power source.

Arcane covers anything to do with the Elemental Chaos (i.e. demons, the elements), Dragons and most things vaguely magic-like. Arcane powers are also gained in a variety of methods; making pacts, studying and hard work, or receiving it from planar energies.
Divine covers the Astral Plane (devils, most deities). Divine powers come from the direct worship of god or great being.
Martial covers most any physical ability and is the manifestation of the characters strength and willpower. Training and dedication allow martial characters capabilities beyond ordinary mortals
Primal covers the natural world and spirits. It is used by calling upon the spirits of nature that pervade the world. Some channel spirits through their bodies transforming themselves, others evoke primal spirits to create external effects.
Psionic covers mental abilities and is harnessed from the potential of ones mind to create dramatic effects. Some psionic powers manipulate the mind while others create more tangible effects. Psionic power is thought to be the worlds response to the intrusions of the far realm, similar to a mortals reaction to disease.
Shadow covers anything directly related to the Shadowfell. In cannon this is specific to characters sacrificing a shard of their soul, but it could be stretched to included corruption of the Shadowfell.
  • Arcane - Spells
  • Divine - Prayers
  • Martial - Exploits
  • Primal - Evocations
  • Psionic - Disciplines
  • Shadow - Hexes


Familiarize yourself with PHB, p. 55. Your power should have the following keywords:

  • Your power source: Martial, Arcane, Divine, Primal, Shadow or Psionic
  • Attacks need the Weapon or Implement keyword. Most racial attack powers are an exception, see the Racial Powers guidelines.
  • If an attack power causes typed damage, the power gets that keyword.

Damage Types[edit]

Some powers have Varies as a keyword which means the damage type can vary among any of the listed types which the user or circumstances determine.

  • Acid: Corrosive liquid vapor.
  • Cold: Ice crystals, arctic air, or frigid liquid.
  • Fire: Explosive burst, fiery rays, or simple ignition.
  • Force: Invisible energy that can be used as if it were solid.
  • Lightning: Electrical energy.
  • Necrotic: Deathly energy that deadens flesh or wounds the soul.
  • Poison: Toxins that harm or hinder.
  • Psychic: Effects that assault the mind.
  • Radiant: Searing white light or shimmering colors (usually divine light).
  • Thunder: Shock waves and deafening sounds.

Effect keywords[edit]

  • Augment is used by Psionic classes. Spending augment points will alter the attack based on how many points where spent.
  • Aura - Zone that fallows the character (similar to a close blast)
  • Beast (Martial Power, p. 42) is used with classes that have a Beast companion. Used when the Beast companion makes an attack.
  • Beast Form (Player's Handbook 2, p. 84) is used with the druid Wild Shape class feature. Used for attacks while within the wild shape.
  • Channel Divinity - Class specific powers that harness the magic of the gods (very specific). No more than one can be used per encounter.
  • Charm - Mental effects that control or influence the subject's actions.
  • Conjuration - Powers that create objects or creatures of magical energy. Do not confuse with Summonings.
Occupies no space - and does not need to be supported by a solid surface
Unnaffected by environment - an ice conjuration is still effective inside of an inferno.
Creators defenses - Most conjurations cannot be attacked. Those that can be attacked share defenses with its creator. Only direct damage can effect the conjuration, ongoing damage and conditions have no effect.
Attacking - Most conjurations cannot attack but, if it can the creator makes the attack with the line of effect if the creator was in the conjurations space, if line of sight is relevant determine line of sight from the creator.
Moving - A conjuration must be within the range (determined by the power) a conjuration with movement moves at the end of it's creators turn. If a conjuration is not in line of effect of the creator or out of range, the conjuration ends.
Death - Death of the creator immediately ends the conjuration.
  • Disease - Expose a creature to a disease. forcing the creature to make a saving throw at the end of the encounter to determine if the disease is contracted. If the save fails the creature is infected (normally reserved for monsters)
  • Fear - Effects that inspire fright.
  • Full Discipline is used by Psionic classes. Contains what is effectively two mini powers, one attack power and one movement power.
One per round- If you use an action point to use
  • Healing - Powers that restore hit points.
  • Illusion - Powers that deceive the senses or the mind.
  • Invigorating (Martial Power, p. 7) is used with Martial attack powers only.
  • Poison - Substances that hamper or impede a creature.
  • Polymorph - Effects that alter a creature's physical form.
  • Reliable - If you don’t hit when using a reliable power, you don't expend the use of that power. In practice, this is only used with Martial daily powers.
  • Rage -
  • Rattling (Martial Power, p. 7) is used with Martial attack powers only.
  • Runic
  • Sleep - Powers that cause sleep or unconsciousness. Be careful with this, see below.
  • Spirit -
  • Stance - A stance power lasts until the end of the encounter, for 5 minutes, or until you use another stance power.
  • Summoning -
  • Teleportation - Powers that transport creatures instantaneously from one location to another.
  • Zone - Powers that create lingering effects that extend over an area.

If you want your powers to use a keyword used by a specific class, your class is probably a "type of" that class. For example, Mages are a "type of" Wizard, so inherit everything that has Wizard as a prerequisite.


Some conditions are more powerful than others.

  • Stunned and restrained conditions should not be introduced until paragon tier.
  • Restrained and unconscious should be considered carefully before being used in a power.
  • Dominated and petrified should be restricted for use by monsters.


  • At-will powers and Encounter powers should not have effects that last beyond the end of the player's next turn.
  • Daily powers may have indefinite durations. This might include:
    • Ongoing damage, or a condition that ends on a saving throw.
    • A stance
    • A zone, conjuration, mode of movement or some other effect that can be sustained, or that lasts until the end of the encounter.

Misses and Effects[edit]

  • All utility powers have an Effect that describes what the power does.
  • For attack powers, Effects occur wherever or not the attack hits, after the attack is resolved. Its use in at-will and encounter powers is limited in scope - often used for maneuvering ("Switch places with a willing adjacent ally"), to lay down a temporary zone, or to grant a minor benefit to the character or an ally.
  • Misses are almost exclusively used with daily attack powers. This is usually some lesser form of the hit result: hit damage is halved; "save ends" conditions just last until the end of your next turn, and so on. A power would not have both an Effect and Miss. Rarely, an at-will might have a Miss, for example the Fighter's Reaping Strike or the Cavalier's Vengeful Strike. These are acceptable because they are limited in scope.


In the Essentials line, class encounter powers are designed such that the player won't feel like they can be "wasted". Instead of having an attack power that is either hit-or-miss, they might:

  • be an effect triggered by the player hitting with a basic attack (Power Strike causing an extra 1[W] damage) or even just by targeting an enemy (Holy Smite causing extra fixed damage, and a condition if the attack hits)
  • cause half damage on a miss (Burning Hands)
  • cause an Effect
  • has a minor benefit on a Miss

If you adopt this style of power design, remember that the power distribution of Essentials classes is different to classic classes - there's usually only one encounter power that is improved at later levels, rather than a choice of encounter attack powers at level 1, 3, etc.

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