Toward "Old School" style 4th Ed. D&D

Having run and played in a weekly 4th Edition game for about nine months at this point, I feel like I've got a basic sense of the system at this point, at least over the first few levels.  And while play isn't abysmally awful, I have had issues with a few aspects, mainly revolving around the omnipresence and tedium of combat.

However, other folks in the local group seem to enjoy the system well enough.  And 4E does have some interesting settings and material I would appreciate the opportunity to mine (Gamma World & Dark Sun in particular).

So, with that in mind I've come up with a few, five, patches I'm hoping to try out in the foreseeable future, once the current adventure path wraps up.  These are each intended to deal with specific issues, hopefully revamping them with an "old school" sensibility, but without gutting the system entirely.

1)  Combats take forever.  Characters will almost certainly win against all but the most extreme opponents, but it takes forever to happen, probably due to high hit points.

Solution:  All hit points halved (round up).

2)  Combat is the first, best option.  When you've got a fist full of different combat powers and a barrel of hit points, everything starts to look like a combat.  Why sneak or trick or build something, or use your environment cleverly when you could just walk in and blast everyone in sight?

Solution:  Combat is exhausting.  At-Will powers are free, but every Encounter power after the first, used during a given combat costs a healing surge.  Similarly the first Daily power used during a combat costs a healing surge, and each additional use during the combat costs two surges.  This is doubly useful in increasing character fragility, as I almost never had a session, or even an in-game day, where characters came close to using up most of their healing surges.

3)  Wiff factor - Part I.  In other editions, if I miss in combat it's no big deal, just one attack.  And if I'm using a power it is often either auto-hit, has a chance to hit multiple targets, or continues to be effective for awhile after a miss.  Trying to run a basic fighter in 4E I found that daily powers provided none of these benefits typically (granted this is not the same for all classes).

Solution:  Characters can spend a healing surge once per round to re-roll.  This is in addition to Elven rerolls and such.

4)  Wiff factor - Part II.  If average combats don't seem much challenge, then combats against high level opponents are a wiff fest for the unoptimized.  Unlike previous editions, 4th Ed. AC escalates right along with everything else.  Eventually even the bigger bads can get wittled down, it just takes way longer, with even less effectiveness for those who haven't bothered to min-max.

Solution:  Reduce all monster defenses.  Recalculate each as:

New Defense rating = (Old Defense rating - ½ Monster Level) (rounded up)

5)  Quirky spells not a thing so much.  Combat spells are just fancy combat maneuvers.  Fine as far as they go, but don't really give me the feel of weird, esoteric incantations.  On the other hand rituals exist to mitigate the issue, but they are pretty costly unless you expect the game to be raking in the gold.  Rituals also seem very much in the vein of, "Use X gold pieces to solve logistical problem Y."  I prefer my magic quirkier and of more varied flavor.

Solution:  Rituals and their equivalents are much more common with three results:

  • Finding Components - No need to pay for components most of the time.  Characters foraging for components roll a Nature or Arcana check every day.  The number rolled is the number of GP worth of components found.  Components may be traded with hedge wizards in rural economies to acquire the right ones for a given ritual.  In urban economies apothocaries may even trade components for gold.
  • Extracting Components - Many creatures have materials of intrinsic value as part of their flesh.  The average goblin, bugbear or kobald won't be worth any more than a human corpse, but more exotic foes such as a Roc or Mind Flayer may be broken down for components equal to their XP value.  This may seem a ghoulish task at best, but can provide a ready source of magical materials and income.
  • Scrolls & Potions - Rituals can take awhile to work.  However, at no extra charge a ritual caster may convert any a ritual effect into one-use scroll or potion which produces the same effect.  Potions may be used by anyone, while scrolls may only be used by those who could enact the ritual.  Level is not a limitation.  However, a scroll also be deconstructed to reproduce the ritual for later use.  For all you know dungeons are chock-o-block with these things.
  • Strange New Rituals - Old school non-combat spells may be converted to rituals as long as a ritual does not already exist.  The level of the ritual is the spell level x3.  Parlor tricks or very simple effects are normally only level 1 or level 2.  Component cost is equivalent to existing rituals of the appropriate level.

Update:  A revised version can be found here.  
Thanks to G+ OSR & O5R communities who gave feedback.