Archive for January 2010

Anything You Can Build, Features Can Do Better

This article started out as a shoutout to the skirmishing warlord build, but I'll get to that in a bit. Or awhile. We'll see.

I remember a few years back when 4th Edition was launched that people were bitching that there was only one class that could really get anything out of bows (ranger). People would bring up how in the past that, well...fighters I guess, could also reliably use bows if you went ass-backwards and ramped up Dex instead of Strength, toured around in light armor, and burned all your feats on ranged shit. In other words, rangers used bows, and fighters could be better at them if you optimized properly. Otherwise? Fuck bows.

Oh, wait, artificers could also get some mileage out of a souped-up crossbow, which is why I find that artificer feat that lets you use a crossbow an an implement somewhat humorous. There are likely more in the mix, but 3E had around 60 classes and I dont remember them all. @_@

Even after about a bajillion books and dragon articles, the ranger is still the class I see people flocking to most for their everyday ranged needs. Bards got a ranged weapon build in Arcane Power, and the seeker playtest reveals a controller type that uses a bow and spirits in order to wreak AoE havoc and/or to get more ranged rerolls than a double-elf. What does this have to do with how it worked and the past and now?

Wizards has intelligently designed classes with a theme in mind and rolled with it, rather than giving you the illusion of flexibility that isnt so much an illusion at all but a trap. Classes get a solid concept that works without having to fiddle with optimization, aaand almost everyone is happier. For example, fighters are melee guys, period. Thats their deal. They layer themselves in heavy metal, pick up more metal, and clobber things with it. Recent builds have allowed fighters to wear slightly less metal and wield more of it, but in the end the concept is the same: melee warrior that relies on personal skill alone to kill monsters and protect her allies.

Want to use a ranged weapon? Pick a fucking class that uses a ranged weapon and quit bitching. I dont care how it "worked" in the past, it didnt work elegantly and certainly wasnt the ideal way to do it. You might gripe out some measure of lost flexibility, but frankly I'd rather have a class that sets out to achieve its mission statement then end up completely fucked by a player trying to do something that the class was clearly not intended to do. Kind of like all my failed attempts at making a melee-oriented wizard that relied on transmutation and abjuration magic. >_>

Now for the second part!

The skirmishing/archer/bowlord continues the aforementioned trend by delivering unto you the Archer Warlord class feature, which gives you proficiency with all military ranged weapons and lets you use Strength instead of Dex when making ranged basic attacks. Sweet fucking awesome. On the offside you lose proficiency with chainmail and shields, but its not like you were strapping a shield to your ass anyway. Cause, you know...bow. Takes two hands. Another option is Skirmishing Presence, which is a kind of Commanding Presence that lets allies shift before or after using an action point to make an attack. Thats also really cool.

This is all well and good, but without the proper exploits to back it up its not going to mean shit.
  • Paint the bull's eye lets you essentially fire a tracer arrow, granting allies an attack bonus against the monster. Kind of like lance of faith by another name...and with an arrow.
  • Risky shot lets you add your Int or Wis mod to the damage roll, but you grant combat advantage. Very nice.
  • Race the arrow is an encounter attack that lets you make an attack and have an ally charge the same target. If you have Skirmishing Presence (and why the fuck wouldnt you?) they get an attack and damage bonus.
  • Inspiring shot is another encounter attack lets you deal a hefty chunk of damage in addition to gaining a bonus to all your healing powers for the rest of the encounter. It doesnt get any kickers from Skirmishing Presence, but damn that sounds useful.
January 31, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

D&D XP 2010 Stuff

Compiled data from this EnWorld post.

PH3 RACES
  • Githzerai: +2 Dex, +2 Wis
  • Minotaur: +2 Str, +2 Con
  • Shardmind: is assumed to get +2 Con, +2 Wis from a cursory glance.
  • Wilden: +2 Con, +2 Wis
No changes were noticed on the minotaur.

Shardmind
racial is believed to be shard swarm, which is a close burst 1 that causes all enemies in the AoE to grant combat advantage...and you get to teleport 3 squares.


PH3 CLASSES
  • Ardent (psionic leader)
  • Battlemind (psionic defender)
  • Monk (psionic striker)
  • Psion (psionic controller)
  • Runepriest (likely a divine leader due to its healing ability)
  • Seeker (primal controller)
Battlemind's
Mark power is called battlemind's demand. Targets one creature within 3, lasts for the entire encounter or until you use it again. You can augment it so that it hits two creatures instead of one. It lets you use mind spike.

Mind spike allows a battlemind to deal the same amount of damage that an ally takes if the enemy makes an attack that doesnt include the battlemind.

Blurred step lets a battlemind shift 1 square when an adjacent marked enemy does.

One of its at-wills, "does something similar to eyebite," but makes an ally invisible instead of you.

One of it's dailies lets you reduce an enemy's reach (minimum of 1). Sounds pretty rad.

Psion
New at-will, psionic trawl, that deals damage and has a pull effect that varies by how much (or if) you augment it. Its also a ranged basic attack, which is pretty neat.

Runepriest
At-will called word of diminishment that is a melee attack that either gives the target vulnerable 2 (5 when hit by opportunity attack) or -4 to attacks until the end of your next turn.

At-will called word of shielding is also a melee attack that deals either extra damage to the target, or grants temp hit points to an ally when the target first attacks anyone that hasnt marked it.

Encounter attack called flames of purity, which is a close blast 3 that only hits enemies but gives allies either a damage bonus or temp hp in the area of effect.

Has a "rune state" that effects allies depending on which state you utilize. Destruction is cited, which grants a damage bonus to your allies when they hit enemies adjacent to you.

Their healing ability has a range of 5, restores extra d6's of hit points, and also adds a kicker effect depending on your rune: Destruction doles out a +2 damage bonus to all allies in the healing's range (burst 5), while Protection gives a +1 bonus to all defenses.

Seeker
New at-will called grappling shot that slows an enemy and prevents shifting.
New daily called wildfire shot that deals ongoing fire damage and damages adjacent enemies when the target takes ongoing damage.
January 27, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Winning Races: Tieflings

I've always liked the idea that not all tieflings need share the exact same qualities. After all, there are many types of devils, and it stands to reasons that some tieflings (or tiefling families) might display other benefits from their pacts. I allow this sort of cosmetic adjustment in my games despite the "official" stance being that they all have horns and tails, and I've specifically stated that in my Eberron games players can opt to display the cat-like features of a rakshasa instead.

If a player bothered to play a tiefling, I'd probably allow some sort of feat tree to emphasize that...which is what The Broken Mirrors is all about.

Some families made a deal with Levistus, and in doing so can inflict misfortune upon the world. Any tiefling can opt to belong to the broken mirrors by picking up the Mantle of Misfortune feat, which is a tiefling bloodline feat that gives you an encounter feat power of the same name, as well as a bonus to Insight and Perception. The actual mantle of misfortune power is pretty potent, imposing an automatic attack penalty to all enemies within a pretty hefty range. To top it off, if they miss you get to slide them.

Like all bloodline feats, Mantle of Misfortune is a gateway feat to the few others included in the article. There are two that let you mark creatures or get an attack bonus against creatures that you slide due to mantle of misfortune, which is pretty sweet and gives tiefling defenders a nice edge. The last one is kind of wonky in that you get to roll multiple Insight checks against creatures affected by mantle of misfortune, which I guess gives it some interesting social encounter potential. >_>

The article also adds a paragon path called broken mirror, which is only open to tieflings with the Mantle of Misfortune feat. The features let you use mantle of misfortune twice, slide or prone creatures when you burn an action point (automatically), and eventually let you add your Charisma mod to mantle of misfortune damage.

The level 11 attack is interesting in that its an encounter kicker that you trigger with a minor action, and stacks on an attack you make. It adds a nice damage bonus and also prones a target. The level 12 utility lets you generate an area of effect that imposes attack and defense penalties in addition to sliding targets that stop in the area. It can be sustained, which gives you a really nice debuffing power. Finally, the level 20 attack is similar to the level 11 power in that you trigger it and stack it on another attack. It deals more damage, prones, and you can slide it whenever it misses no matter where it is.

Not a bad article despite its incredibly short length. I'm a massive fan of tieflings, and want to see more of these articles expand on specific devil pacts. My next campaign takes place in the ruins of Bael Turath, and I'm going to "encourage" my players to give them a shot. At least the article provides me with an interesting way to implement such specialties. ^_^
January 21, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Treasure Parcels and Magic Items

I kept getting people coming from the site My Girlfriend is a DM, but when I would try to go there I would get a WordPress login screen that didnt do shit when I made a WordPress account, logged in, and gave it another shot. Well, today I figured, "What the fuck, lets give it another go," and was rewarded for my labors by an actual front page. Their most recent article (as of this writing) discusses another article from Critical Hits about magic items and magic item-flavor, which I guess I'll touch on by proxy.

I kinda follow the treasure distribution method, by which I mean that players can hand me wish lists and I make the best of it. If I can drop something they really want into the mix, great! If I cant? Tough shit. Disenchant/sell it and move on. I try to meet them halfway, to be sure, but I'm not going to sacrifice logic for theme and/or consistency. Magic items in 4th Edition are not as necessary as they used to be, so they'll live if they their tiefling wizard doesnt get a master's wand of scorching burst asap.

If they dont like what they find, they typically just pawn it when they can, but now they are starting to see some reason to my rhymes and hanging on to some of the odder shit because I like to foreshadow things or give them an edge. If I want to throw a hard encounter with undead at them, I'm liable to put in some gravespawn potions to give everyone an easier time. This rewards the players who recall and think about their inventory. Of course, sometimes they just fucking forget about it, to their detriment.

For my players: does anyone recall that magical tattoo from The Hounds of Ulster? Jerks.

As for keeping magic items magical, I rarely just drop in a magic item with just its label intact. In Songs of Erui magic items can be created through the standard means of arcane magic, but many are made by taking objects with powerful spirits and carefully shaping them. A spirit might inhabit a vein of metal that is used to make a sword, or a tree that is made into a bow. Sometimes spirits are also forcibly bound to something, as well. This allows me to easily make legacy/intelligent weapons that grow in power after becoming acclimated to a specific user.

Giving a powerful item a history is also a good way to add to the narrative of the game, especially if the owner isnt dead and/or has relatives that know about it. It can also be a necessary component for later in the game, as a symbol to prove something (lineage, honor, bravery, etc) or even a key of some sort (like a rod that can unlock a door or staff that can activate a portal).

Even fairly common items like potions might not look or act like the average market fare. Found some potions on gnolls? They're thick and viscous, like blood, and taste terrible. You can drink them, but dont plan of finding a lot of buyers if you're looking to sell them. Sometimes I like to add in some minor kicker effects. Like, orc-brewed potions might grant a damage bonus but impose a defense penalty for a turn in addition to the normal effect.

I also add a lot to item crafting if the players want to entertain that particular indulgence. Monster parts, powerful locations, or gifts from powerful beings can reduce the cost of a magic item, allow a character to create an item more powerful than they could, or even imbue an item with a special property. In Erui, ley lines can be used to reduce the cost/pretend you're one level higher than usual.

For example, in The Bone Forest, the players discovered an ancient druid ziggurat. It was built atop a ley line nexus and had an affinity for storm magic. I would have allowed them to reduce the time spent creating magic items, and if they had thunder/lightning shit would have let them make higher level magic items since it would represent them harnessing raw magic energy instead of just doing it themselves.

This is a bit more difficult to do, and I mostly just eyeball things and go from there. If I think they are getting too much shit, I hold off later. Its not hard to make up the gap or widen it later if things get out of hand one way or another. This probably wont work well for sticklers that really like to adhere to the treasure rules.

As an example, the party found lightning-charged crystals underneath the druid ziggurat, and after some careful scrutiny discovered that they were highly unstable but could be used to make some magic items tied to lightning (reducing the cost or letting you make an item of 1 level higher than normal), sold for some cash, or just lobbed like a grenade. You know, whatever works!

Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn Review

Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn is a ten dollar...book, I guess...that weighs in at 32 pages. I'm a fan of the online articles that Wizards now delivers every damned day via Dragon and Dungeon. They are more often than not sweet and short. I can head over to the site, ignore all the Forgotten Realms articles (and not be terribly disappointed if thats all thats up for the day), and quickly plow through a few pages that get to the point. In a nutshell, small articles that deliver interesting content are better than walls of text that somehow do not.

However when it comes to dead-tree format, I prefer a larger book since it helps whittle away the hours in commute. It is mostly during these times that I can actually read, and with essentially nothing else to do I dont mind having hundreds of pages to plow through. So the size and subject matter didnt do much to bolster my hopes, yet...strangely, I thought it was alright.

Before I talk about why I like it, I'm going to complain about the low points (as I tend to do). First, its soft cover. I fucking loathe that. Also, there's no table of contents...which I guess is mostly alright since its not exactly the largest book on the shelf. A much more legitimate complaint is that the book pamphlet is a pain in my ass to flip through. I just cannot seem to flip through a page or two at a time, and when I try it just flaps open to the middle part. Finally, almost all of the art (if not all of it) is recycled. I dont like this in any game, period.

Just be gentle with it. I've never had a D&D book collapse on me before, but there's a first time for anything. Now, the pros.

The first nine pages are devoted to recapping the whole racial concept and some story exposition on their history and clan stuff. You get a sidebar for names and a shit-ton of backgrounds, too. Didnt bother to check to see if the information was taken from Dragon, but much of it is shit you already knew if you like dragonborn and kept up on that. Still, having a physical reference on hand has its appeal. I think people are going to bitch about this no matter what. I have a DDI subscription, and I dont really care.

After that its a series of sections that divide them up by power source, talking about how dragonborn in general cope, and also dishing out a pragon path at the end for your efforts. This is good for players that arent terribly sure how to approach building a dragonborn wizard, or barbarian, or whatnot. The paragon paths were well done and stuck to the popular dragonborn approach of a badass melee warrior. Were I to play a dragonborn I'd be tempted to take honorable blade and platinum templar, and the fact that it got me considering dragonborn for reasons other than optimization theory came as a surprise.

Then came feats. Whoo-boy, there are a lot. There is no feat table, and with damn near 40 of them that is bullshit. At least it'll get lumped into CB so it'll be easier to handle...next month. There are a lot of good feats in here, as well.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the feats pertain to dragon breath, but some are thematic to the other aspects of a dragonborn. For example, Glorious Victory lets you burn healing surges when you drop monsters, while Draconic Zeal gives you an attack bonus when you burn a healing surge in addition to a level 12 utility power that lets you auto-heal when you get dropped. A couple let give you even more bonuses while bloodied: Io's Challenge lets you do more damage with divine challenge, and Rage Drake Form gives you an untyped attack and damage bonus while in beast form.

Magic items has five weapon properties and an item set, Silver Dragon Regalia. The set seems mostly suited to warlocks and martial characters since it includes a rod and weapon, but frankly I could see many people wanting the tabard since it lets you save against all ongoing damage effects at the start of your turn. I really like the weapon because it deals a shitload of damage on a crit if you're bloodied, and pimps out dragon breath by adding its bonus to both the attack and damage roll, but can also change it into a hefty close burst. This works well if you took the heroic feat that makes dragon breath ignore allies...except by giving them an attack bonus.

Lastly, there's some pages on dragonborn quests and the avatar of Io epic destiny. Avatar's of Io gives you a Strength and Charisma bonus, which immediately tells me that its gonna be best for sorcerers, the bard build that also likes Strength (or was it Con?), thaneblood barbarians, many paladins, and inspiring and resourceful warlords. There might be some other Str/Cha types that I'm missing. Probably. Anyway.

Again, it adds shit to dragon breath, this time by having it ignore any kind of damage resistance, changing the damage type on the fly, and gaining an attack bonus right after you do so. You also get an always-on fly effect and a very strange resurrection ability that should just read, "When you die, you are actually only dead (save ends)." The level 26 is kind of weak, letting you make a save right after you get hit by a save-ends effect. Yawn.

What this all boils down to is that I didnt think I was going to like PHR:D one fucking bit. It didnt help that I'm not exactly a fan of dragonborn, but at ten bucks I felt like I got my money's worth. Lots of good stuff that dragonborn players are going to get a kick out of. I'm looking forward to the one on tieflings, now.
January 19, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Class Acts: Bard

You know the drill: more spells, a couple feats, and a trio of magical instruments. A lot of the spells seem to add in various controller effects such as forced movement, or "encouraging" a monster to move in a specific manner. Almost all of them are linked to instruments, which is a shame since after so many lame-ass bards in past editions I like my bards wading into battle hacking things apart with vibro-swords.

Staggering note is a new at-will attack that deals a minor amount of damage, but lets you push a target while allowing an ally to make an attack with a bonus at any point during the forced movement.

Strike up the dance is a level 15 spell really plays up a controller theme by letting you slam up to three targets with some psychic damage, negating their movement, and sliding them either at the start or end of their turn. The best part is thats it only ends on a save, so you get at least one shot at essentially moving up to three monsters wherever the fuck you want and locking them down. If they have shitty luck, well...

Cherub's song is a level 22 spell that lets you fly and creates a zone on you that lets your allies fly. As an added bonus, you get to add your Con modifier to the speed.

As for feats, one gives you a bonus on all untrained skills, while the other grants save bonuses to allies affected by majestic word. Not bad, I suppose.

The magic items follow a similar pattern as the rest of the bardic instruments: they each have a set enhancement modifier and some form of nifty effect that you can trigger while resting to give your allies a bonus. One lets you ramp up defenses against mind-affecting shit like charm, psychic, and fear attacks, another lets you give all allies temp hp, and the war drum (my favorite) gives a speed bonus in addition to letting them reduce forced movement effects.

Decent addition for instrument-themed bards. Despite my preference for weapons, I'd certainly take some of the spells, especially cherub's song since allowing everyone to fly is too damned cool. I doubt I'd pick any of the feats, though Saving Breath is somewhat tempting (especially if I were to play a goliath bard).
Posted by David Guyll

Game Balance

Its rare that Mearls seems to post anything on his blog, but his latest post is of particular interest to myself and a shitload of other people (at least on RPG.net).

Balance is...a touchy thing, but I dont know why. Some people get all butthurt about it because they think that for some reason games are actually magically worse off for the designers trying to implement some, if any, degree of game balance. This fucking baffles me since game balance is one of the first things I learned in my game design class (coming in right after a history of mainstream gaming). A balanced game is important so that players dont end up overshadowing eachother, either on purpose or accident. In other words, game balance helps maintain fun. Yes, I said it: fun.

Most gamers do not enjoy a game where one player gets an advantage other them, all circumstances being equal. This is not like how in World of WarCraft an asshole player might tour up to you, 50 levels higher, and bitch-slap you without even using his hand. Think how in 2nd Edition D&D, how you could pick a "better" class if you were lucky and rolled high. Thats bullshit. Lucky players are rewarded? Fuck that. For a more recent example we can look to 3rd Edition (or hell, Pathfinder) and its legion of races, classes, feats, etc. There were (are) plenty of terribly designed options that would often result in a disfunctional character, something a handful of players just handwaive because they think that its part of the "challenge" is to figure out whats sound and whats shit.

This trend was a massive problem in Rifts, where new classes would be cranked out that could do what multiple classes could and sometimes more. For example, the first Rifts book had a pair of classes called the headhunter and ley line walker. When they came out with Federation of Magic (book 12 or 13 I think), there were several magic using classes that totally blew the ley line walker out of the water: they got more spells, more magic points, better starting gear, the works. It was a bit later that another book came out with "new and improved" headhunter classes that got shit like power armor as their starting gear.

It was like some kind of bullshit character options arms race, and it was much worse off for its blatant disregard of anything remotely resembling game balance. The excuse? Not everything in real life is equal, which is akin to saying, "I'm far too lazy to put in playtesting time." You arent designing a reality simulator, you're making a fucking game, so take it seriously kplzthx.

Aside from balance, I think games also do a lot better if the designer(s) gets a concept or theme in mind during the entire process and try to cater to that, as opposed to trying to do everything at once. D&D has always had an emphasis on combat. Always. Action-adventure is one of the (if not the) most popular game genre out there and it comes to no surprise that the designers stuck to this throughout its lengthy history. This is also why I thought that classes like the bard were really shitty. Its like, you're playing Rifts, a game where its fucking aliens, dragons, demons, lasers, robots, and basically the entire action genre hepped up on steroids and PCC running amok, and then throwing something like a...I dunno, a barmaid into the mix.

Oh...wait.

So...yeah...

Me and the bard had a long-standing hate-hate relationship. Their universal ineptitude at any task beyond making Charisma-based skill checks always pissed me off, but was justified by their ability to do attempt...stuff. Like, they sucked at melee combat, were probably "okay-enough" at ranged combat to occasionally hit something with a kind of projectile, could cast TWO cantrips per day, and be a party liability. They were fucking awesome at that last part, and not awesome at all in filling an appreciable role in the party despite statements to the contrary. Jack of no trades, unless the jack was shit.

As a quick aside, nowadays me and the bard get along great. I love this class. If combat breaks out, I'm consistently able to contribute in a meaningful way that I feel does not violate the theme of the class. When social elements are called for, well...I'm good at that to, but the rest of the party has a much greater chance of being able to likewise pitch in their two cents without fucking things up.

Why? Why make a class so hamstringed at the core of experience the game was purported to deliver? It makes no fucking sense! Was it social thing? I'm not sure, but one of the many things that I couldnt stand about older editions was the disparity between combat challenges and "challenges-that-are-not-combat" (which usually meant the part of the game where you tried to talk in character). Some people put an emphasis on social role-playing, believing it to be superior to other forms of role-playing.

Hint: They're fucking idiots.

Its bad design to make a series of classes in which some just frankly cannot perform even adequately. For fighters this used to be the whole diplomatic angle. In 2nd Edition this relied entirely on the controlling player to try and feed the DM a plausible explanation/plan/oratory and let the DM roll even though he'd likely made up his mind whether or not it succeeded. Fuck ability scores and character history, this was hardcore role-playing as defined by those that dont actually know what they word means!

At least in 3rd Edition you could give yourself something that distantly resembled a chance (or rather the illusion thereof)...you just had to burn all your skill points on a single skill, which in the end resulted in you still being less than half as capable as a class that could otherwise easily be so amazingly proficient at it that by level 2 they could easily beat the hardest slated DCs (and by the rules essentially make anything sympathetic to them). The real downer? They didnt have to dump all their goddamn skill points to do this.

This is horrendous.

On one hand, making classes like the bard be utterly worthless to have around except to beat any Diplomacy DC they DM cared to impose on a natural 1 is retarded. Having a select few classes have a snowball's chance in hell of lasting for more than a half-round? Also retarded. 4th Edition finally--after over thirty years--manages to strike a balance that works, and works on so many more things than just social interaction.

Does it make sense for you as part of your character's background to be great at talking? Know a lot about arcane stuff? Be fervently religious? Burn a feat (either Skill Training or one of many thematic multiclassing feats), take a skill. Want to help bridge the gap between you and a class thats trained in that sort of thing? Burn another feat. Hell, backgrounds add a +2 to one skill and if the shoe fits, why the hell not? The fact that with just 1-2 feats you can add in a lot of flexibility is awesome. Bonus points for them being mechanically sound feats, too. It opens up the door for so many more viable character concepts, and thats the keyword here: viable.

I'm not talking about making fighters better at diplomacy than a bard, or allowing a barbarian to be better at stealing than a rogue, I'm talking about integrating those traits into a character as part of a concept, but not having it fucking backfire into your face. You probably wont be as good as the class thats supposed to be good at that, but at least you have feasible odds (and just one more feat can really bridge that as well).

A lack of game balance also makes it harder for me to design adventures, since I dont always know what everyone is going to do, if they're going to randomly die, want to change characters, have to duck out of the game, add a new player, etc. Too many goddamn variables. I cant put a trap in because someone might not make one of five classes that can detect traps with a Search DC greater than 20. I cant put in a social challenge because someone might not max out Diplomacy (which doesnt do shit unless they also have it as a class skill). There were many things that I just didnt want to do in case no one used the requisite class in order to make it all fit.

To me, that adds a lot of fun factor to the game. No ones left out in the cold, no one feels like a dick for choosing the "wrong" class. No one has to "wait their turn to shine," in hopes that the DM managed to account for everyone and make an instance that allows you to do...something, all without another player just being able to belly up and steal the show because they picked a better class than you did. Balance is necessary to avoid one character overshadowing another character, in any situation: when the shit hits the fan, before, and after. This means that no matter where the shit is, the characters can meaningfully contribute to where the shit goes.
January 16, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Class Acts: Wizard

When you actually get down to it its only about a page worth of content, but then wizards arent really short on spells anymore, are they? I'm so fucking glad that Character Builder exists.

It was hell enough in older editions to keep everything sorted and accessible, and I recall players building clerics with Player's Handbook, Complete Divine, Spell Compendium, and others on hand so that they could rummage through the massive spell lists. Of course, we cant forget that in 3E clerics had access to all spells.

This episode of Class Acts adds eight spells ranging from levels 1-9, starting with a level 1 encounter.


Arcane whirlwind is pretty neat and really plays up a controller aspect by creating a zone of wind that you can use to slide creatures around by burning minor actions. You can also move it pretty fucking far with a move action. It can be used to slide any creature, not just enemies, so you could even use it to maneuver allies about (hell, you could use it to get yourself out of dodge). Really badass.

Mystical debris lets you create difficult terrain squares. Its a level 2 at-will, but there's a cap on how many squares you can maintain at any given time. Its also a minor action to use, so I could see a wizard knocking out three of these things to slow down enemies. Also pretty badass.

Cinderfall is an area-effect that does the damage I'd expect, but also has an effect line that deals automatic damage to any one enemy in the area. Could be handy for clearing out a minion that you missed, or just dealing a nice chunk of damage to a priority target.

The last one I'll touch on is scattering shot, which is a level 5 that doesnt quite scatter shit. What it does is draw a bunch of monsters together in a cluster before blowing them up (but doesnt move them away). Like hypnotic glyph, I could see this as a great setup for an action point plus an AoE attack of your choice.

Some good controller-heavy spells as well as a couple classic area-effect explodies.
January 12, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Where Do Adventurers Come From?

According to this article, one d10 roll on four separate tables.

Ba-dum, psh!

I've always had a love-hate relationship with random background generators, partially because they are inherently too limited, but also because I often ended up with a bat-shit crazy history. The latter rationale is closely linked to my dislike of random character generation elements, period (you know, ability scores, hit points, etc).

I know some players think that having random ability scores is more "realistic", but realism usually never works out when it comes to balanced game mechanics. Players should be in total control of character building, relying on random dice systems if they want to gamble on it.

On that tangent, I'm also of the opinion that randomized generation, when used, shouldnt result in a superior character than what you would get through picking what you wanted. Like, we did a game once where we randomly rolled our races and classes, which in 3E could easily result in a crap-tastic character. Perhaps we could try it again with 4E?

Going back to the reason of this post, this article does not give you anything that you couldnt get by simply picking shit yourself. In a word: yay! "But Antioch," you inquire, "why the fuck would we use it?" I suppose that if you cant think of anything on your own, want some ideas, or just enjoy the challenge of taking random historical events and trying to arrange them so that they form a complete (if anarchic) picture. So, something for everyone someone...I guess.

In all seriousness I figured that, what the hell, I'll give it a shot. Actually, I'm going for a two-fer and rolling up two sets of random backgrounds using my trusty GameScience d10 (which has an equal chance of rolling all sides!). Why two? For the first set I'm going to pick a race and class ahead of time and try to shoehorn the plot to fit, while the second one I'll roll first and ask questions later.

Character one will be a tiefling wizard, since I like tieflings and wizards (and I dont give a fuck what anyone on any forum says).

*roll x4*

Okay, I got 10, 8, 6, and 7.

Well...hrmm. Looks like she was raised by angels...imprisoned for a reason to be determined later...uh, given a divine decree by a god/godly envoy...and eventually chose to live a peaceful life as a commoner (before shit hit the fan and made her an adventurer anyway). Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that each of these random rolls actually made more or less cohesive sense which is ironic given that it has a lot of angels and a part-devil. Hmm. Technically angels dont have to be good guys, so I'm going to say that they were angels allied to Asmodeus.

That picture is weird.

I could crib from Dresden Files and say that this character was born under specific conditions for a purpose, or perhaps given away as part of some kind of insidious bargain with a devil. Nebulous, perhaps, but I like to iron out the cold hard facts with the DM on hand. Since I elected the wizard class, obviously she was taught arcane magic during this period of time, but for an unknown purpose.

For the early life phase, the most immediate logical thing that comes to mind is a shitload of adventurers show up and start ruining the angels' shit, and when the astral smoke clears they're left with an infernal child. Not wanting to kill her outright, she gets taken away and locked up for awhile as authorities try and figure out what to do with her (like kill her later).

Next up is that fucking divine decree. Oi, in hindsight maybe this isnt as logical as I originally had thought...

I figure that perhaps while in the slammer she gets released under the watchful eyes of a paladin or other good-aligned divine character. Not wanting to steal too much shit from Dresden Files, the ruling authorities decide to put her under house arrest for a lengthy period of time in order to determine if she's fit to be a contributing member of society.

Eh. Not bad for working with what you got given the time constraints (ie, wrapping this up in two hours so I can do homework).

Next up is the mystery character. My second set of rolls are 4, 7, 6, and 2. This character was born a noble, took up with a band of dwarven misanthropes, also got a divine decree (sigh), and recently got lost in the feywild for a "spell".

Since this character starts out as a higher-class citizen but ultimately hangs out with the wrong crowd, I'm strongly considering going with rogue. He's dislikes the boring life of a noble and wants some excitement. Since the "wrong crowd" is a bunch of dwarves, why not make him a dwarf as well? Dwarves like money, but they are usually well "grounded" in tradition, so it makes for a fairly unique character.

The divine decree really bites me in the ass. I think that perhaps while touring around underground he accidentally found a holy relic, or maybe even awoke an ancient evil. He might also ended up doing something really bad, like accidentally kill one of his own family members during a botched heist and seeks to atone for it. I'll go with that, since going after his former gang of misanthropes makes a pretty easy Heroic tier goal to tackle.

Given this twist, I'd go with avenger with some rogue MC to top if off. Very much against character tropes, which is something that I enjoy a lot.

Shit, he's also lost in the Feywild. Umm, I'm going to say that while he was pursuing his targets that he ended up getting shunting into the Feydark, which is fine since its technically a part of the Feywild. He barely managed to escape alive after making a deal with an ancient spider god, and will have to make good on that later (another adventure hook, yay!).

Huh.

I'm actually somewhat impressed with this generator. I ended up making a character that I normally would have never played, ever, and am passably interested in it. I even managed to get two viable hooks to throw at a DM. I'd give it a shot, especially if you are feeling lucky and/or...adventurous.
Posted by David Guyll

Devotees of the Gibbous Moon

Devotees of the Gibbous Moon: Secrets of the Beast Form, aside from having an insanely long fucking title, is a focused druid article that contains roughly an equal mix of fluff and crunch pertaining to (what else) wild shape. This is the defining feature for the druid, and I'm hoping to see additional "official" content that allows players to make very thematic characters, since I love me my themes (damnit). I would also like to see added content that lets you take shapes that are not just animals, such as dragons and elementals...

...and if there already are, then let me know, cause I want to make an elemental druid that isnt broken or takes a bajillion fucking levels to do that. >_>;

It does ask some interesting questions of the player, such as how your character regards wild shape, do you retain any animal features in human form, do you have a favorite animal form, do you prefer a beast or human form, etc. Obviously a player can get away without answering shit, and I'm sure many players dont bother, but this is a prime case of a show-not-tell method of delivering character traits and quirks: you can describe your appearance and retain animal features, or you can spend much of your time in beast form to illustrate your preference.

The feats are also really cool, and reinforce a preferred animal theme that I initially saw in Silent7Seven's Favored Forms supplement (which is like, one fucking dollar). Ape's Reach gives you an Athletics bonus, as well as increased Reach when you are bloodied and in beast form (which I assume to be some kind of monkey). Monkey Rush also grants a typed Athletics bonus, but lets you slide instead of push on a bull rush. The only shitter is that they are both feat bonuses...


Aside from that, there's two feats for snakes and then about six others that pertain to their own animal. I particularly like Turtle's Shell, which gives you resistance to all damage types when you take a total defense action or burn your second wind. Logically, each feat demands that you be in beast form (and often bloodied), so that should allay much multiclassing abuses. Hopefully. ^_^;

The last few pages have nine daily evocations ranging from levels 1-9 that let you assume the form of some primeval animal. These are exactly like warden daily attacks mechanically, except you can use wild shape to end them: you get an effect that lasts the entire encounter as well as a one-shot attack form. I think that these are also great for effecting a theme, allowing a player that really likes wolves to just take a bunch of shit that mechanically enforces the flavor.
January 07, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Limited Edition Orcus

I guess they are actually going to release a limited edition gargantuan Orcus. Glee.


No mention as to when or the price, but I'm expecting (and willing to pay) the $40-50 range. He cna sit right next to my Colossal ancient red dragon. :-3
January 06, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Katho, Goliath Bard

Katho, level 1
Goliath, Bard
Bardic Virtue: Virtue of Valor
Background: Geography - Mountains (+2 to Athletics)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 13, Con 16, Dex 15, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 16.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 11, Con 14, Dex 15, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 16.


AC: 15 Fort: 13 Reflex: 13 Will: 15
HP: 28 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 7

TRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +4, Diplomacy +8, Insight +5, Athletics +9, History +4

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +2, Bluff +4, Dungeoneering +1, Endurance +3, Heal +1, Intimidate +4, Nature +3, Perception +1, Religion, Stealth +2, Streetwise +4, Thievery +2

FEATS
Bard: Ritual Caster
Level 1: Goliath Greatweapon Prowess

POWERS
Bard at-will 1: War Song Strike
Bard at-will 1: Guiding Strike
Bard encounter 1: Shout of Triumph
Bard daily 1: Slayer's Song

ITEMS
Ritual Book, Hide Armor, Greatsword, Adventurer's Kit
January 02, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Class Acts: Ranger

I guess its out earlyish? Maybe you can still get it before its fixed.

First things first, the header on the article says "Class Acts: Invoker". Just a typo, and really...fuck it: the rest is undiluted awesome. The exploits are all weapon-ranged, giving them lots of utility while pimping some heavy controller mechanics.

For example, warning shot is a level 1 at-will that lets you take a shot, select an area, and take another shot if a creature moves into that spot. The first attack deals full damage, and I can see characters working together to shove monsters into the affected space.

But wait, there's more!
  • Archer's stairway is a level 2 encounter that lets you shoot arrows into a wall that you use as handholds, reducing the DC to climb by a lot. Its a standard action to trigger, but otherwise just does what it does for the rest of the encounter. ( ゚ ヮ゚)
  • Arrow of the savior is a level 6 encounter that lets you pin a falling ally to a wall, assuming you have an immediate interrupt handy.
  • Back on target is a level 16 daily that lets you deflect an ally's attack, allowing them to reroll with a bonus. Thankfully Peter preserves logic by restricting it to only ranged weapon attacks. ヽ(´ー`)ノ
  • Defensive volley lets you reduce damage to an ally by shooting the attack out of the air.
Very fucking cool, but thats just some of the utilities. Peter does some creative shit with attack exploits as well, allowing you to make extra attacks against enemies that get to close, move next to a specific enemy, or even let you generate a "zone" effect that you can shoot into.

As I said, it adds a heavy controller layer to the class. If you're reading this Josh, feel free to power swap before next session. I know you fucking want to.
January 01, 2010
Posted by David Guyll

Pryamid of Storms Monster Mash

Some new monsters that I wrote for the third adventure for Songs of Erui. Some of them I probably posted before, but I updated them with Adventure Tools. Since the party hasnt encountered a lot of them, timely critiques are welcome!

Posted this before and got some feedback, but lost the comments after an author tried to delete the blog. This is a lower-level thematic elemental that I needed to round out an encounter.

Apparently there arent any 4th Edition stats for stags. I yanked goring charge from a minotaur since I think it worked well and also gave it a nifty skirmishing tactic, not to mention that the encounter I'm tossing this in has something that the party wont want to get pushed into. :-3

Took a cave bear, made it a standard monster, and gave it a soul-rending ability to make it more thematic as a "bear ghost". Mostly I wanted high damage output since the party thinks things are too easy. >_>

And lastly a two-part elite. I based Taranis off of a warden, and originally his stat block looked very much like one: he would change into a partial bear shape, do extra damage, and also get access to a rending attack. I like "boss" monsters to really mix things up during battle, so instead made it much more extreme and had him use an entirely new stat block when he becomes bloodied.

As a human is a ghost that wields his iconic warhammer, and looks very much like your typical warden might. I also gave him a recharging marking mechanic that does damage but otherwise acts like the warden's mark.

Once he's on the ropes, however...


Well...its different. No more marking, just lots of damage output. I still wanted to keep his defenses up there, so kept his role the same (especially since in this fight there are other brutes around). Though its not called in the stats, he doesnt regain anything: lost hit points are still gone, and a spent action point is still spent.

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