I had an idea that I jotted in my notebook but hadn’t blogged about yet — sometimes I wish I had some ability to transfer ideas directly from my handwritten notes to my blog, but on the other hand, I’m glad the two are different.

Anyway, the idea goes something like this–

3e Dungeons & Dragons introduced the Power Attack feat, which allowed a character to convert attack into damage. It was pretty overpowered when used in conjunction with magical attack bonuses, particularly when using a two-handed weapon, which converted attack to damage at a two-to-one ratio.

4e D&D had a similar Power Attack feat, but I think the combination of a saner exchange rate and more predictable attack bonuses made the feat far less popular, especially with Expertise and Defense feats being so highly prized because of duh. At the same time, 4e codified the Basic Attack.

If you played Chrono Cross and loved the combat system the way I did, you may have drawn parallels between its “Elements” system and 4e’s Encounter powers. Maybe not the same parallels that I drew, but it was enough that I looked for other ideas to borrow — in particular “light” and “heavy” attacks.

See, in Chrono Cross you didn’t have “Mana Points,” and to offset the absence of MP, you didn’t have immediate access to your magic. Using physical attacks build up a kind of charge which you could then use to cast spells of escalating power. Bigger physical attacks were less accurate but built the charge faster.

Light attacks by comparison, dealt less damage but were more accurate. It was a viable strategy to make numerous small attacks to build up a magical charge — especially with magic-users who had a lower accuracy with weapons.

Now, I’m already fond of 4e’s “Basic Attack” concept, and there’s an additional layer of complexity in “Basic Attack replacement” powers — for example, the Wizard’s Magic Missile can replace a Ranged Basic Attack. So, I had an idea.

What if amid the Basic Attacks that every character gains access to — there are two “Basic Attack Replacement” powers that represent the sort of “Quick Hit” and “Power Attack” options available in Chrono Cross? Forget about charging up magical attacks for the moment, I’m just talking about accuracy and damage.

Let’s say a “Quick Hit” attack granted the player a +2 bonus to hit at the cost of their Strength modifier in damage — they only get the weapon’s damage die. This actually works out to be a net gain for magic-users whose Strength is typically abysmal — a 10% probability boost and no Strength penalty to damage.

I went back and forth on the settings for “Power Attack” though, as I don’t want to see it abused the way it was in 3e — I figured a straight -2 penalty to accuracy in exchange for a flat +2 bonus to damage is a good starting point, with the damage bonus increasing to +5 at Epic tier. It might not sound great at first…

Given the assumption of their existence, these Basic Attack alternatives add a new layer of complexity to combat encounters. When a leader grants a Basic Attack to the Wizard, the Wizard opts for a “Quick Attack,” which is more likely to hit — the Fighter can take advantage of his greater accuracy and risk a “Power Attack.”

Beyond this obvious use — races, classes, feats, and themes can all be keyed to Basic Attacks, Quick Hits, and/or Power Attacks — creating a greater degree of variety in character-based tactics at a very “basic” level.