Archive for February 2012

A Sundered World: Episode 105

Cast

  • Iron Jack (made human invented warlord)
  • Danh (male goliath serpent shaman)
  • Lothelle (female moon elf bladesinger)

Wandering through the city, the party eventually found a ziggurat. As they approach it alien runes began to glow, and they can see a spire jutting from the top, orbited by faintly glowing stones. The bite marks on Jack's arm had grown into mouths, and they began to whisper. Inside the ziggurat they found a channel filled with green water, with crystalline growths encrusted on the edge. Somehow Danh knew that these shards could boost their capabilities, and was able to easily remove a few clusters.

They find a pool deep underground, filled with fish-like humanoids. They attempt to speak to Jack, and after it is clear he cannot speak Deep Speech they begin to move towards Danh and Lothelle. Danh brandishes the rod they found, and they bow before him. They motion towards Lothelle, and a voice inside Danh's head tells him that if he sacrifices Lothelle that he will be given great power. Danh refuses and throws the rod aside, and the fish-people attack. They slaughter most of them before an aboleth arrives and halts the battle. It tries to manipulate Jack and Danh, but fails, and the characters flee.

Back in the city they try to escape, finding an edge after several hours of wandering about. They find a huge pit and end up confronting the star cultist leader from before (the one that shed its skin and scuttled away as a cluster of tentacles), along with a pair of grells. During the fight Lothelle manages to slice his head off and blast him into the pit, but he returns, his head replaced with a cluster of tentacles and a massive, worm-like horror. It eats Lothelle and as Danh tries to free himself from a grell, Iron Jack is telekinetically hoisted 50 feet in the air by the star cultist. It offers to spare him, seeing as he has already been infected, and Jack responds by throwing his orichalcum axe at it.

The axe is deflected, and Jack is also tossed into the worm's maw. Danh finally manages to kill the grell, and is badly injured from the fall. He throws Tempest and skewering the star cultist, but it lifts him high above the ground before dropping him, and he seemingly dies. Inside the worm, Lothelle and Jack desperately try to carve their way out of the worm with minimal success. Danh's eyes open, glowing a bright green. His skin is covered in thick scales, and he finds that he is able to conjure powerful serpent spirits that tear apart of the star cultist, tentacles and all. He then slices off the top part of the worm, and as its remains fall to the ground Jack and Lothelle spill out (along with lots of purple ichor and entrails).

Thanks to their sunrods and sending stone, the ship is able to find them and get them off of Acamar. During the trip back to Hammerfast an animal messenger informs Lothelle that Astrazalian was destroyed, and they change course of the Feywild. On the way Jack's arm heals, and Lothelle's studies of Draconic boost her fire magic considerably. At the Feywild all that remains of Astrazalian is a crater. They examine the ruins and find nothing, so head to Gwynneon to find out what happened. She tells them that they tried to duplicate the elemental lance and something went wrong.

With one of the greatest eladrin cities destroyed, fomorians on the move, and the looming threat of the clockwork horrors in the Elemental Chaos, Jack decides that their only course is to find Moradin's forge and hope that there is some weapon there that can help them. They give her a grell's brain in exchange for the location of the forge, imparting the vision to Danh.

Behind the Scenes

Thankfully I have a copy of CthulhuTech; it gave me some great eye candy. I figured I'd throw some skill shards with them from 3rd Edition to help them out, since none of them are playing psionic characters and they can be used by basically anyone, though they just forgot that they existed anyway. Had they gone deeper into the city I might have been forced to dredge up Expanded Psionics Handbook for some cool, thematic shit, but they ended up running because in Kamon's words, "I think we are outclassed, here". To be fair, exploring the dead shell of an aberrant star that is inhabited by aboleths, mind flayers, and who knows what else is a bad idea, especially when your DM is a Lovecraft fan and knows the score; everyone goes insane and/or dies.

This came across really well when they tried to find their way out and, well, they couldn't. They ended up wandering for hours before finding a pit, and even then it was monster-infested. The battle, like all the others, went really well; they fought the grells while the star cultist stayed out of the light and kept trying to pick off Lothelle. At the mid-point she thought she was doing pretty well, blasting him with burning hands before following up with a basic attack/unseen hand combo and knocked him in the pit. When he came back with the worm they really got worried, and Josh mentioned at the end of the session that he seriously did not think they were going to make it.

All in all I think I would have done Lovecraft proud. They went to what amounts to an aberrant planet, stumbled upon eldritch horrors from beyond time and space, almost went insane (in the case of Danh) or got mutated, and then ran the fuck out of there after realizing that they were the smallest fish in that amoebic sea. Better luck next time, though to be fair they were all pretty lucky to come out alive at all. Really the only reason that Danh was not driven insane was because when the World Serpent awakened it healed him and scoured away the aberrant influence, and there are special reasons why Jack was able to shrug off the mutation.
February 26, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Heroes of the Elemental Chaos Review

Heroes of the Elemental Chaos is the third planar-themed character book, in a similar vein to Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Feywild. I really dug Shadow and Feywild because the planes and concepts they focused on were parallels of the natural world, and thus easy--or at least easier--for characters to access early on.

The Elemental Chaos has been largely pegged as a paragon-tier stomping ground, so a lot of the book is options and story ideas on how players can take the chaos out of the Chaos or how it can affect the natural world and its inhabitants: you can basically use any of it without having to give two shits about the Elemental Chaos, though there is a lot of information to help you brainstorm some ideas and hooks.

On another note I really dug the art; the cover is by Wayne Reynolds and thus rules by default, but the interior is of a similar quality as to what we got in Heroes of the Feywild (though it lacks the random background generator). It is a pretty cool book. I'd nab it if you like elemental stuff, though most of it is for arcane classes (meaning, yes, more spells and subclasses), or actually mine these books for ideas.

Chapter 1: Into the Maelstrom
Thirty-one pages of elemental flavor, this chapter has information on the nature of elemental magic, how it can influence the world and some races, a roster of primordials, how it works with other powers sources like divine and primal, primordial cults, planar breaches, how a character might gain it (such as exposure, primordial shards, or just by hitting the books), and more. Of interest to DMs are the last handful of pages, which provides information on choice primordials (including some free ones), and gives you ideas on how--and how much of it--you can work it into your campaign.

Chapter 2: Character Themes
I won't go into detail here since it would just be me talking theme mechanics, which I do in the next section, but this is a sweet and short chapter that adds ten elementally-themed themes to the roster. A lot are tied to specific elements such as fire and water, though one is synced to metal and another associates you with demons.

Chapter 3: Classes
This 62-page chapter provides new options for druids, monks, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards. Yes, this includes new features for subclasses as well as a pair of new subclasses, so que whiners bitching that this is an "Essentials" book or what the fuck ever.

The druid class can choose Primal Wrath, which gives you an attack bonus with energy attacks when not in heavy armor, while the sentinel subclass can pick Druid of the Wastes, which gives you a zephyr companion, bonus to AC and Reflex when using a spear or staff, a bonus to Endurance, and level 13, 17, and 27 features. There are also thirteen new evocations that range across all the levels.

There are two new monk traditions; Desert Wind and Eternal Tide, keyed to Charisma and Strength respectively. Desert Wind gives you scaling fire resistance, and its flurry lets you deal fire damage, as well as impose an attack penalty if the target was not the triggering target. Eternal Tide lets you resist forced movement, as well as shift for free after being moved, and its flurry has a Melee range of 2 and lets you pull the target, slowing it if it was no the initial target. There are also a lot of new thematic disciplines to choose from.

In addition to a bunch of new spells, sorcerers get their own subclass, the elementalist. It uses Constitution as a secondary ability score, dealing bonus damage and able to derive its AC based on it. You have to choose an elemental focus, which modifies the energy bolt spell that they all get, as well as determining the other at-will spells you get and other features; energy resistances, saves, and abilities like at-will flight at higher levels. They also get an elemental escalation, which is an encounter spell that triggers when you make an attack, and basically gives you a nice kicker effect. Even better, you can use it more as you level up.

New pacts for warlocks and hexblades. Yay. The warlock pact has you roll for a random energy type (which you can freely change after using a second wind), and at any time you can swap out various non-elemental keywords on warlock spells to your affinity. The pact boon lets you impose an energy vulnerability on the next creature you curse (oh, and it stacks), so being able to swap damage types freely lets you capitalize on the boon.
Hexblades gain the blade of chaos, which deals 2d4 damage and has High Crit. The boon here gives you energy resistance and lets you shift, while the at-will melee attack lets you choose an energy vulnerability to slap on the creature for a turn. Even better, the level 1 encounter lets you deal energy damage of your choice, strip away any resistances or immunities on the target, and generate an auto-damaging energy aura.
The downside is that there are not a lot of new warlock spells, so while most are tied to primordials there just are not enough to tie the theme together.

Last but not least oh hey it is another wizard subclass, the sha'ir. It is based on Intelligence and Constitution, and its main schtick is that it summons a gen servant that as part of the class flavor provides you with elemental energy to cast your spells. Mechanically you gain Arcane Familiar as a bonus feat, but you do not have to take a gen. Some of the gens have kickers based on your Constitution mod, but I guess the main thing is that you and allies next to your familiar gain energy resistance of your choosing based on your Con mod. Otherwise blah blah more spells blah blah.

Chapter 4: Elemental Options
We get ten new paragon paths--including one for each of the new subclasses, such as the boringly-named Legendary Hexblade--a pair of epic destinies, feats, rules for elemental companions (that anyone can pick up with a feat), and elemental magic items and gifts. The best part of this chapter, to me, is the elemental companions. You need to have Born of the Elements and then take Elemental Companion, which basically gives you a kind of familiar that anyone can have (not just arcanists). I would like to see this extended to other options, allowing characters to run around with a golem or undead companion.
February 19, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Character Concept: The Voice of the Stars

I love aberrants--especially when I get to unleash them on my players--as well as things generally associated with them, such as the star pact and psionics. I figure, why not have both?

This character could have been a survivor from an illithid colony, a failed ceremorphosis candidate, got too close to the Far Realm, read a tome she should not have (if you want to tap H.P. Lovecraft), or was otherwise exposed to some aberrant force. Perhaps her psionic talents attracted the attention of an otherworldly entity, or perhaps psionics were part of the package deal.

At any rate, you start with a hybrid psion/warlock, with the telepathy focus and star pact respectively. The theme is kind of iffy; if you have a background for what your character was all about before this went down, you could go with that (like guttersnipe or outlaw if you nabbed the book-that-should-not-have-been-opened), though seer is good if you want to focus on the whole fate aspect.

Powers are pretty easy to juggle, you will just want to make sure that your Intelligence and Charisma are both set to 16. The telepathy focus works out well, as it is linked to Charisma. I think the only real flaw here is that some star-pact spells are dependent on Constitution, which might be a problem if your DM won't let you just pen in "charisma" over the power description.

You will probably want to dump your first feat on Hybrid Talent so you can pick up something extra. After that just nab a rod or orb and you are good to go, though if your DM is cool with it you might want to ask about re-skinning a few more things:
  • Tentacle Lash: I like the idea of a servant (or slave?) of the stars being mutated by her "gifts". The tentacle might always be present, or extend from her hand or even mouth. You could even go so far as to have the character have an entire face of tentacles, complete with a lamprey-like mouth or beak ala the mind flayer. This is just a re-skinned basic melee attack, or even eldritch strike. I would have it otherwise function as a short- or longsword.
  • Maddening Drone: More of a warlock power, you have lots of little mouths that whisper secrets and prophecies. This would just deal psychic damage within a close burst. Might not be "balanced", but is thematic and cool. Could have a push effect. If you went with this as a daily I could see it dazing or even stunning.
  • Mind Blast: You could simply reskin thunderwave to deal psychic damage and swap out of the push effect for something like a defense or attack penalty, or prevent targets from making opportunity attacks for a turn. Alternatively, save kickers for the augmented versions, up to and including a one-turn daze effect.
  • Thought Shackles: The dominated condition does not start until 5th level, and even then it is for one turn. Still you could deal psychic damage, then have the target make a melee basic attack. Or you could have it so that you can make the target use one until they shake the effect off with a save. Like, they get to take their turn, but on your turn you can take control briefly. Something that seems quasi-mind flayery.
As a fan of homebrew content and sticking to a concept, I would consider my patron star's goals and theme when picking, altering, or creating new spells, as well as how the character's psionic powers develop. 
    I guess the only bad part about this character is that it is seemingly more suited to a villain, though you could go the route of a kind of grim-dark hero. Depending on the complexity of the star's machinations, the character's actions could coincide with the rest of the party. Hell, one star might have the character move against the other one.

    A Sundered World: Episode 104

    Cast

    • Iron Jack (human warlord)
    • Dahn (goliath serpent shaman)
    • Lothelle (moon elf bladesinger)
    The doors to the armory close, and without astral essence the ship slowly drifts to the ground. Jack, Dahn, and Lothelle disembark and begin exploring the place. They find a large shaft containing the body of a dormant humanoid, roughly 100 feet tall and made of metal, trapped within a stasis field. Five passages branch off, and a set of stairs descends further down.

    Each passage is sealed with a warded door. Lothelle's glasses allow her to read the words, which indicate that certain levels of permissions are required to open them. They find one that is damaged, with mechanical spiders attempting--and failing--to restore the magic bonds that keep it closed. They end up fighting the spiders, which combine to form larger constructs. Eventually they stop after a vibration resonates through the installation, allowing Lothelle and Jack to disable the door and get inside.

    They find weapons made of a strange, golden material, and an enchanted javelin labeled as "Tempest", which allows the wielder to summon wind storms and elementals. They manage to access two more rooms, picking up a collection of golden weapons, a pair of linked swords referred to as Lightning Twins, and a golden fleece. The swords require two separate wielders to properly use, allowing them to channel lightning or make a combined attack, while the fleece provides damage resistance to the wearer, as well as allowing him or her to deflect an attack.

    Unable to access the rooms for siege and geomantic weapons, they head downstairs, where they find a few rooms that require level 3-5 permissions. They head back up stairs and notice a console in front of the stasis field, and deactivate it. The metal colossus refers to itself as Autocthon, and after reminiscing about the Dawn War agrees to let them take the weapons and go if they promise never to return. They agree, and pick up a magic cannon and a bunch of elemental charges. In the geomantic weapon vault, they find an elemental lance and three fire charges.

    They notice a door at the back of the room. Inside is a metal pyramid with elemental cores 200-feet high jutting out of the top (the ones they have found have been roughly fist-sized). The floors open, and green lightning carries raw metals into openings on the pyramid. It speaks to them, asking what their race is, what they are doing, and where they have been. When they mention going to Shom it claims to recognize them, and explains that it was there when they destroyed it. As in, the golden-bug-construct. Iron Jack asks it what it is trying to do, to which it responds that it is going to finish what the primordials started.

    The pyramid thanks them for opening the vault, and energy courses along the walls, giving birth to more constructs that begin to pry themselves free and advance upon the party. They flee back to the ship, and thankfully the doors have opened, allowing essence in for the ship to fly. Demons block the door, and they are grabbed by a goristro, which is quickly taken apart by the machines. As they flee, they notice hordes of demons descend upon the armory, but are seemingly easily destroyed.

    They make it out of the Elemental Chaos and head to the Feywild. Iron Jack tries to make peace by offering up the elemental lance to Lothelle's father, but he forbids her from leaving. After a lengthy argument, Lothelle's father pits her against one of his elite soldiers to see what she could possibly have learned from a "pathetic, drunken coward". She wins--fairly easily due to a combination of Kia's creativity and Josh's encouragement and taunts--and her father reluctantly drops the charges levied against Jack, takes the elemental lance, and storms off.

    They then decide to head to a corpse star to see if Gwynneon can help them out further. On the star Lothelle is greatly sickened, and she has a harder time working magic because of all the cold iron. They encounter "voices"; pale humanoids covered with whispering mouths that disorient the characters. As they try to flee they are stopped by a humanoid with a single large eye and lamprey-like mouth. It offers them salvation if they would but open their minds to the songs of the stars (or at the least help feed the sleeping god). They decline and he uses his psionic powers to mutate the characters and rend the planar fabric, allowing an entity of the Far Realm to try and consume them. Ultimately they prevail, but after Jack slices him open a lump of slimy tentacles slithers off into the darkness.

    Next Time: The Depths

    Behind the Scenes
    I have been waiting a long time to use clockwork horrors in a campaign, and now I finally have. It was fun dropping them in to the pilot episode, and again in Shom. They got to see how outclassed they were, and have now unleashed an army upon creation. I am curious to see how they deal with it, as well as how I will respond to their plans.

    They also finally got their hands on a nice collection of magic items (they are level 4, by the by), all of which are custom-made:

    • The Golden Fleece: Magic leather armor that grants the wearer resist all 1 and lets him use an Immediate Interrupt to deflect a ranged attack against anyone within 5 squares.
    • Lightning Twins: Magic longswords that have an encounter ranged 20 lightning bolt, but let two wielders use a daily lightning blast that deals way more damage and knocks the target back. How it works is that one person uses their Standard Action, while the other uses an Immediate action. I also told them I would give them a +1 bonus to the attack roll if they gave it a name. They decided on Gemini Lightning Maelstrom, and it is funny hearing Josh and Kiara try to time it.
    • Tempest: Magic javelin that can create a blast of thunder damage on impact--kind of like a thunder-themed scorching burst--or summon an air elemental, similar to any other summoning power out there. 
    • Elemental Lance: With a range of 100 squares (and a 2-square blast radius) and 5d10 + 50 fire damage, I was surprised that they parted with it even though it only had three shots. Lothelle doubted she could make more since it required "a massive amount of fire energy, condensed in a kind of singularity". Very unstable and difficult to make.
    • Magic Cannon: Basically a magic ballista that can fire cold, fire, and lightning typed shots. The shells just require elemental cores to fabricate.
    There was a hiccup when they went back to Astrazalian. Josh wanted to hand over the elemental lance and try to patch things up, but I figured Lothelle's father would not have any of that. They had a huge argument, but ultimately the right things were said to the point where I figured that he would want them to put up or shut up. The duel was ran as a kind of skill challenge, with some instances Kia and the soldier making opposed attack/defense checks to see what happened. My players realized early on that I am not going to pull punches and that there are plenty of things more powerful than they in the Astral, and there has yet to be a session where they had to flee from something.

    I did not expect them to seek out a corpse star, seeing as all I had for Acamar was that crappy drawing I posted awhile back. Given that cold iron comes from corpse stars, Kiara was very much against it as she figured it would hurt Lothelle. She was right to a point; Lothelle feels feverish and her skin itches everywhere. Seeing as I am playing up cold iron's efficacy against magic, it is harder for her to use Arcana to detect magic (skill penalty), to cast spells (attack penalty), and when Dahn missed with Tempest it got stuck in the ground instead of returning to his hand.

    Skill and attack penalties; much scarier than any city of aberrant horrors.
    Josh is both a clever motherfucker who is not afraid to try some crazy shit. While fighting the voices, he decided to zap the Far Realm entity in the eye with his Lightning Twin's encounter shot, stating that he hoped to "daze it so that it stops grabbing us". He rolled and hit it, so for the next round I figured it would stop grabbing them and also give Kia an immediate save to escape it. For his next trick, he ran into a building and made a Streetwise check to kick down a wall (the walls were not mortared and fairly brittle) and double back on the cultist (who assumed he just ran off), giving him a chance to sneak attack him. He rolled well enough, and leaped out of the shadows, skewering the fucker, ending the fight in a decidedly climactic fashion.

    On the downside, for them, Iron Jack got bit, meaning that now I have to come up with some sort of mutating disease (he failed the save), and Kamon actually had Dahn pick up the cultist's rod. I just laughed manically and called the session. Partially, I wanted to keep them guessing as to what was going to happen, but also because I had no fucking clue.

    Four sessions in and my players claim that they are having "the most fun they have ever had with D&D". Sure, there are some problems with people remembering who was where, or if they can maneuver into a flanking position, or how far one thing is from another, but..fuck it. I'm tired of running low-level campaigns that barely hit 6th-level before the campaign falls apart and a lot of the shit I have planned never sees the light of day. They like the speed, the flexibility of their skills and powers, and that they are getting shit done.
    February 18, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

    Multiple Attacks

    How should multiple attacks--if any--be handled? The poll breaks this up by asking if they should be penalized for multiple attacks (albeit by giving you two contradicting polls), or just make one attack that either spreads the love or just lumps extra damage on one target.

    If fighters are going to get multiple attacks, then they can not be penalized. This was one of many reasons why fighters in 3rd Edition sucked so bad. Yeah you got multiple attacks faster than in older editions, but you had to spend your full turn swinging and you took a pretty severe penalty to your attack rolls, meaning that you were not likely to hit. If you are not going to give the fighter multiple attacks and instead allow it to divvy up the damage in another way or just deal extra damage, then this needs to come as a feature and not a cost. The fighter should not be forced to spend feats in a futile attempt to remain viable as in 3rd Edition.

    Personally I want a fighter to have scaling damage built in. This is one of the reasons why the warblade was sooo much better than the fighter; where the fighter was doling out 1d8 damage, the warblade was stacking an extra 1d6 from a stance, and could easily roll out an extra 2d6 every other round through a maneuver. The best part? She didn't fucking have to spend a full-round doing it. Even better as you got higher level you got more powerful maneuvers that could be used with a single action, so while the fighter was wiffing with extra attacks you were landing one super-attack with a shitload of d6's piled on top.

    I guess my answer is to have both: allow fighters to deal scaling damage, make multiple attacks at no penalty, and preferably have some other benefit keyed to a weapon category (so hammers could knock creatures around, swords could give a defense bonus, etc). Oh, and no feat taxes. Fighter players should get what they need to remain viable and spend their feats, talents, whatever on ways to make their character more unique. I would prefer to avoid cookie-cutter fighters of editions past.

    February 16, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

    Fighter A-Go-Go

    Et tu, Schwalb

    Before I go into some of what is wrong with both the article, I will answer that none of the options individually portrays what a fighter is or should be, and they aren't even mutually exclusive. Why cannot a fighter have fighting styles and focus on a weapon? Do any of those things mean she cannot defend her allies?

    When I think of a fighter I tend to cleave to the archetype of a tough, strong, skilled warrior clad in heavy armor, usually keeping her allies safe from harm. That is to say that I don't think that a fighter must be a tank, but the archetype is common enough that it should certainly be an option.

    Personally I think the slayer and knight best evoke the two strongest fighter concepts; the slayer is all about damage output with a big-fucking weapon, while the knight is more durable and has mechanics that can actually keep her allies safe. I guess my preference would be:

    ·         Exclusive weapon (or preferrably weapon-category) perks of some kind. This can be class features, feats, or exploits that make you better with a weapon or let you do something else with it in the vein of 4th Edition. Like, knock people around with a spear, knock them down with a hammer, etc.
    ·         Stances were a great addition and provide a simple mechanic for allowing a fighter to mix things up without a lot of book-keeping.
    ·         At the least an option for a fighter to actually be able to defend her allies. None of the bullshit from older editions that said you could do that even though you really could not (short of fighting in a narrow tunnel so that nothing could squeeze by your corpse).

    Normally I can really get behind the stuff that Rob talks about, but this time? It reads like Monte Cook logged in to his account and is trying to post something in his name, just to see if anyone would notice. Hell, there is a 40+ page thread on RPG.net, and plenty of peole there assumed it was Cook even after being told that it was Schwalb. As someone in the thread put it, these polls feel less like they are actually trying to gather data, and more like they are trying to covince you of decisions that they have already made.

    "The fighter is the class you hand to the new player who doesn't know much about RPGs."

    Maybe in older editions, where all the fighter did was spam the same attack over and over again while inexorably being eclipsed by the wizard, but current fighters are just as complex and flexible as any of them. Hell even the knight and slayer provide more options and better balance without sacrificing much of the simplicity, making them ideal choices for players that don't want to have to juggle a lot of mechanics around.

    At any rate this is a stupid mentality. A player new to a game should be able to play whatever the fuck they want. It is a fantasy game, and if a player wants to play a wizard they should be able to without having to go through an unrelated tutorial class first.

    "The fighter also protects his or her allies."

    In 4th Edition, sure. In previous editions, how? There was literally nothing from stopping a monster from just walking past the fighter and mauling the cleric or wizard to death. I guess the fighter might be able to make an attack of opportunity in 3rd Edition, but otherwise the fighter cannot do anything about it. This is not a major problem for monsters in the Ingelligence range of nil to stupid, but smart ones that know what magic is or employ tactics are likely to focus on the wizard or cleric.

    Of course, none of this matters if the fighter cannot even touch the monster or is easy to take out of the fight, which can happen in the mid-level range due to monsters that can fly, teleport, or just cast a Will-based spell to confuse, scare, or just mind-control her.

    "The fighter leads the charge, hacking down enemies with sword and axe, at least when the fighter isn't sitting in the back loosing arrows against gibbering horde."

    I really don't like how Schwalb interjects the archer bit in there. It feels forced. Like, Monte Cook-forced. Outside of 4th Edition I have rarely seen players make archers, even with 3rd Edition rangers. He makes it sound commonplace, or that it should be. It sounds more like he is trying to pander to the whiners who did not want to play a ranger (or just multiclass, hybrid, or talk to their fucking DM) and instead wanted a fighter that would basically be the same fucking thing.

    "The fighter is the knight, the mercenary, the archer, and the warrior wielding two weapons."

    Hey again archer. I like how he slaps it in the middle. Reminds of of that part in the Simpsons where Homer is tryingto buy illegal fireworks.

    I am not saying that fighters cannot used ranged weapons (they can in 4th Edition, and lose out on all of a minor benefit), but fighters specifically focused purely on using a bow? This sounds like Schwalb just interjected archer in the list of actual fighter archetypes in the hopes that people would at least overlook it if not accept it. Archers do not make me think of a heavily armored warrior that protects her allies. I think light armor and high mobility.

    Like, oh...the ranger, which also no longer has an animal companion or casts divine spells, so...what the fuck is the problem, again? Really the ranged fighter that comes to mind is using her Strength score chucking throwing axes, javelins, and spears. These also have the benefit of being usable with one hand, and I can envision a fighter opening up a battle chucking a throwing axe before drawing her sword and charging in.

    "What made the fighter interesting in the previous editions were the choices you made with weapons, armor, and later, feats. Fighter players had a great deal of freedom to build the warrior they wanted to play, whether that warrior was a knight or an archer."

    So the fighter was interesting because you got to pick from various weapons that did 1d8, or perhaps 1d10 or even 2d6 damage? Wow. Very compelling. Not as compelling as armor, though; I would start with scale mail, then move up to half-plate or full-plate depending on where I was and how much cash I had. So many options. Why would I ever want a class feature that allows me to go with the weapon style I want, or maneuvers that make my weapon choice actually matter? No, picking my damage die is enough for me.

    Sarcasm aside the feats were a kind of class feature patch for the fighter. You picked a weapon you liked and dumped a lot of feats on it in a vain effort to try and keep pace with the numerous other classes that were better than you, and did not have to spend feats to suck. Going for a duel-wielder was an even bigger hassle, especially if you wanted to mitigate the attack penalties by taking two different weapons as they each required their own slew of feats.

    No, feats-as-a-feature were bullshit and 4th Edition went a long way ensuring your fighter got what she needed to remain viable without you having to strictly adhere to a build mentality.

    "In 4th Edition, the fighter’s focus shifted from total customization and instead grounded the fighter into a particular niche—a role that would continue until the slayer came along in the Essentials products."

    The 4th Edition fighter was "locked" into a niche? What...having a larger selection of weapons (as opposed to a handful of "good" choices), class features, feats, and exploits was not enough? What the fuck?

    Given that some fighter exploits applied a bonus to one or more weapon categories, this statement is fucking bullshit. Covering attack works with any melee weapon, so if you somehow lose the weapon you are carrying (which happens almost exactly never in any edition), you can still use it with an axe, flail, spear, rock, or your fucking bare hands. Actually at the launch of 4th Edition none of the 1st-level exploits required specific weapons, though tide of iron required a shield, and reaping strike gave you a slightly better benefit if you used any two-hander.

    I also like how he says that the fighter was grounded into a niche, even though that the various fighter features and exploits could easily usher you into more of a damage dealer or controller, or just make you damned hard to kill. Hell in Martial Power 2 the fighter finally had a viable unarmed mechanic, and any fighter could go from adding Wisdom to opportunity attacks to chasing a fucker and knocking them down, giving them a lot of mobility.

    I am going to quote someone from RPG.net, who mentioned something on this subject that I agree with:

    "While it may not be the whole point of the blog, it does present a veritably Straw Man of the 4e fighter.

    It points out that the 4e fighter is a defender and (like most defenders) melee-focused. It makes it sound like that's the only thing 4e did with the fighter, force it into a Role (like very other 4e class).

    A much more momentous thing happened to the fighter in 4e. It stopped sucking. It became the equal of other classes. It was as good (at least) a defender as the Paladin or Swordmage. It was on the same playing field as casters, able to bring some round-by-round versatility in combat, and some peak-power when really needed. Able to 'nova' in those benighted 5-minute workdays. That balance and near-parity was something the fighter never had before. Never.

    And it's not even acknowledged, let alone valued."

    "I find myself looking back to the 3rd Edition fighter with a great deal of fondness."

    Yeah...being overshadowed by non-fighting classes, having to go toe-to-toe with monsters that could kill you in a full-round action (if they wanted to go toe-to-toe at all), and getting to make the same routine attack over and over again...those were the days. Seriously though, the only reason that you should look back to the 3rd Edition fighter is as a lession to be avoided.

    "I liked how a player could customize the fighter in any way he or she wanted."

    You mean a one-hander, two-hander, or I guess ranged-guy? Even if you blatantly want to ignore the ranger (even for multiclassing/hybrid purposes) due to the name, and even if you don't want to take lots of bow feats and rely on ranged basic attacks (basically what fighter arrow-attacks where in older editions, but still better) two out of three is not bad, especially given how much more competent and flexible they are.

    And, again, there are the six or so class features, two sub-classes (with their own customization options), and exploits. Just throwing that out there...

    "As well, a player who wanted to be a damn good archer could just go to the fighter without having to embrace the ranger’s narrative (and attendant features)."

    Fuck the narrative. That is a lame excuse. Look at the mechanics; a lightly-armored warrior that could be good at both melee and ranged stuff, which is what I think of when I envision an "archer". A big, tough guy clad in scale or plate mail with a bow? Not so much. As in, not at all.

    It feels like that rather than just make a class feature to shut the vocal minority up about their ranged fighters, or trying explain to them how it "okay" to call your class something else, or even just making an entire archer class (that would likely just be a fighter with copy-and-pasted ranger exploits), that they are going to fold and solve a problem that I am not convinced exists.

    February 12, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

    A Sundered World: Episode 103

    Cast

    • Lothelle (moon elf bladesinger)
    • Dahn (goliath serpent shaman)
    • Iron Jack Derro (human warlord)
    Heading towards the mountains, the characters are hit by a sound-storm. They continue, undeterred, and discover a white ziggurat at the base of the mountains. Some bereft angels are shuffling about the foundation, but they easily evade them. At the top of the ziggurat they find one passage underground, ominously marked with skeletons.

    Inside they find a door with a sound-lock, which Iron Jack manages to open after studying the walls for similar symbol patterns. The room beyond is a ransacked library; they rifle through the papers and find a moldering skeleton with an enchanted pair of glasses. Searching the books, they discover a string of floating, shifting words that they cannot understand. Lothelle dons the glasses and discovers that they translate any language, including the floating words, which happily answers her questions.

    After grilling it for information on primordials, weapons, angels, etc they continue searching the ziggurat, quickly realizing that it is much larger on the inside than the outside. Further inside they find an archive with stone tablets and a staff that stops time, preserving certain areas of the ziggurat from decay. They find more information in the archive, and nab some tablets to read later. Across the hall is a scriptorium, which has high quality inks and paper. With books and tablets in tow, they decide to rest for the night before heading back to Gwynneon.

    During the night a golden, beetle-like golem arrives, killing all the angels. Lothelle and Danh warn Jack that the copper one they encountered before could channel devastating lightning, right before the gold one unleashes an intense beam of heat, easily cutting through the walls. They get the staff and use it on the golem, causing it to rapidly age until it turns to dust. Before they can rest a colossal stone golem rises from the floor, apparently a defense mechanism. They barely manage to escape as the golem destroys the ziggurat, burying it in the sands.

    They return to the ship without further incident and head to Hammerfast to load up on supplies. They show the mimir the stone tablets and staff, learning about some place called the Armory of Autocthon, the use of angelstones, and that the staff was forged by a god and while depleted could gradually be recharged. Iron Jack installs a ballista and buys enough ritual components to make several major ship repairs "just in case". With that out of the way they head to the Feywild.

    Gwynneon performs a ritual, using one of the books from Shom, a weapon and shield, and Iron Jack's blood to bind the location of the Armory of Autocthon to his mind; he becomes unable to unerringly locate it within the churning mass of the Elemental Chaos, just one the edge of the Abyss. Dahn offers up a service to Gwynneon in exchange for information about the World Serpent, and she gives him a stone idol.

    As they depart, Dahn manages to undergo a kind of vision quest, where he defeats the World Serpent fragment in the idol, gaining its power. Within the Elemental Chaos, they manage to avoid numerous disasters and fend of elemental monsters before arriving at the Armory. They end up having to clamber inside the door to trigger the mechanisms and safety precautions to open it. The session ended with them at the Armory's threshold.

    Behind the Scenes


    Sound-storms are the verbal components of spells gone wrong, or mispronounced Words of Creation. They just race across Shom, knocking shit around.


    Sound-locks are metal rods in doors that open when the rods are struck in a specific order. These pertain to illumian runes, and form a word. The idea was that the players would find a journal, book, or use a Comprehend Language ritual to figure it out. However Josh decided to scope the walls and look for patterns using History (for cryptography) and Thievery to increase his odds.

    The script was a kind of NPC that could help give them some information when stuck, or at least give them a foundation to work with. Unfortunately it took them awhile to realize that the magic glasses radiating divination magic could translate languages. :-P

    I was really shocked when I mentioned a staff that Kiara did not detect magic on it. They just entered the archive, raided it for useful information, and then left. Hell, they jacked all the ink from the other room! I am glad that they decided to camp so I could throw a random encounter at them, though even then they did not think of going for the staff. What got them to do it was when they asked the script what they should do, to which it replied to use the staff. While not a plot coupon, it was just one of the really rad magic items I promised (+6 staff, though it got reduced to a +1 after discharging all its temporal magic).

    Also, it lead to a really rad skill challenge...

    The stone guardian was fucking awesome. It kept trying to nab the staff while they characters, pinning Iron Jack, knocking them around, and generally tearing the place apart. As they got into the halls the place started to sink, causing the floors to turn into walls. The best part was when they were stopped by a bereft angel; Kamon had Dahn chuck snakes at her, causing her to fall into the guardian's hand, which crushed her. Their only regret was that they did not get her angelstone.

    The low point, for me, was the Armory door. I really was not prepared for them to get that far at all, and was also pretty damned tired. The mechanics to opening it felt rushed--I had actually forgotten to have Gwynneon give them an item that would hePublish Postlp it make sense--and I just think I did not give it the epic feel it deserved. Even so it was a learning experience for me; take notes, maybe plan more. :-P
    February 10, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

    A Sundered World: Asmodeus Concept

    Th capital of Bael-Turath is Asmodeus. No, not the devil-turned-god, but a hellish metropolis built upon his corpse, chained to what remains of the Nine Hells (an iron spehere).

    The city is ruled by a tiefling who claims to be directly descended from Asmodeus himself. Laws are complex and strictly enforced. The denizens are divided into castes, with arcanists and nobility on top and slaves firmly entrenched at the bottom. Devils are commonplace, and souls are a currency, fuel supply, and crafting material.

    The players have not been here, and for their sake they might never have a reason to go here. Hopefully--for me at least--they find one. :-)

    February 05, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

    Character Concepts: The Thief of Wind

    I forgot exactly how and when I came up with this character concept. Maybe it was a character that I would play had I been playing in A Sundered World instead of running it, though it could also be a rad NPC to throw at my party as a part-time antagonist. Like a D&D-based Faye Valentine or Saffron. Basically it is a rogue that managed to swindle a wish from a djinni without it backfiring (or at least, not in an immediately noticeable way), or discovered some kind of item that grants a measure of elemental power, like a could be a djinni's bottle or air elemental core.

    Now I could go with elemental heritage (or even windsoul genasi), but I like the idea of a rogue that managed to actually steal power, as it would ideally give a DM a very definitive adventure hook and a motivation for the character. 

    Mechanically you can get away with this by going with a human rogue and multiclassing into wizard for an encounter thunderwave, re-flavoring it to be a gust of wind instead of a thunder clap. The problem is that that gives you one wind-based power, and only on a per-encounter basis at that. I think what I would prefer more is a hybrid rogue/sorcerer. The problem here is that none of the at-wills really have a wind-motif. Well...storm walk is kind of wind-ish, but I would prefer to reskin thunderwave and just make it a Charisma attack instead of Intelligence. 

    After that it is a simple matter of divvying up your exploits and spells to taste, and nabbing Hybrid Talent for a sorcerer's storm soul class feature, artful dodger, or weapon talent if that is your thing. Personally I like storm soul because I imagine the part where you lose your energy resistances as wind shielding you from harm.
    February 04, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

    A Sundered World: Episode 102

    Cast

    • Captain Iron Jack Derro (human made-up warlord)
    • Danh (goliath serpent shaman)
    • Lothelle (moon elf bladesinger)
    Danh and Lothelle, stranded on the moon, wandered towards a petrified forest bordering some mountains, which were predictably infested with petrified dryads. After killing them they were met by Gwynneon, a hag that offered them food and shelter. Weary after almost an entire day of travel and fighting, they accepted. She offered them the comforts of her surprisingly well furnished cave, putting them to sleep with her magic.

    Meanwhile Captain Iron Jack Derro was wrapping up a smuggling deal. He had just dropped off a shipment of efreeti fire-brandy and was looking for another job. His contact informed him about an "oracle" living in mountains near an afore-mentioned petrified forest, and that she purportedly would know of a cache of ancient treasures. Iron Jack decided to take him up on the offer and set sail, arriving at the cave just a few hours after Danh and Lothelle did.

    Danh and Lothelle woke at a table, complete with food and tea, as Jack arrived. Gwynneon told them that she could help Lothelle find the weapon she seeked, as well as Jack find untold riches, if they would bring her something that contained knowledge; the brain of an illithid or their memory stones, or books from the archives of Shom. Anything associated with great knowledge. They accepted her deal (even when she used the word "deal"), and decided to set sail for Shom as Lothelle was deathly worried about contact with cold iron.

    Before heading out they decided to stop off at Astrazalian for supplies. Unfortunately Lothelle encountered her father, who was not pleased with her three month absence (which to her was only five days). He tried to stop her, but she made it back to Jack's ship after an evaded wall of ice, and they narrowly escaped as he tried to skewer the ship with ballista bolt-sized icicles.

    On the first day of their journey to Shom, Jack sized up Danh and Lothelle, and helped train them in melee combat. They also busied themselves with chores around the ship, Danh helping keep a lookout and Lothelle helping Clik'r with the ship's forge. A bladeling warship spotted them, and after narrowly avoiding a collision a gith-mounted red dragon also joined the fight. The bladeling ship managed to clip theirs and breach the hull, but ultimately provided a nice distraction for the dragon; it tore the ship in half, breathed fire in one half while the gith engaged the bladelings in the other. Lothelle poured her magic into the forge, providing a massive boost to speed, but the dragon pursued. They only got away after Jack dumped off a trove of treasure at the dragon, which happily stopped to scoop the gold and jewelry into the remains of the bladeling ship that it was still carrying

    The days passed and they continued to train, interact, and in Lothelle's case gradually learn Draconic, and made it to Shom without further incident. Inside the dominion they were met with a vast, endless white desert with a brilliant sun constantly beating on them from above. Setting out into the desert, they encountered an insane, bereft angel that attacked them in a blind rage. After killing it they found a great stone colossus mostly buried in the sand. Lothelle deduced that it was a very advanced golem of some sort that could theoretically teach itself. Standing on top of its remains, Danh noticed some mountains in the distance and we called it a night (having played for about five hours).

    Next time: The Lost Library.

    Behind the Scenes
    This was such an insanely fucking epic session that I am fairly confident that I will forget things and/or retell them incorrectly. Hopefully my players will correct me. As before I improvised almost the entire session. I knew that they would meet Gwynneon and that she would give them various directions, but that was about it. I had no idea if they would go to Acamar, Shom, or somewhere else. I had no idea exactly how Iron Jack would run into the party. Regardless everything fell together, and everyone did an awesome job.

    I want to congratulate Josh on not only inventing his own class on the spot (a combination of a warlord and skald), but also a diverse cast of NPCs to crew his ship. I had a lot of fun taking on the roles of a cynical elf, thri-kreen arcanist (whose carapace was graven with arcane formula and symbols), and a dwarf cook that was so ancient he was starting to turn to stone. Josh also did an excellent job of portraying a jaded war veteran somewhere between Malcolm Reynolds and Rooster Cogburn (I particularly liked the part where he was using his war honors to crack nuts).

    I want to apologize to Kiara. I kept prompting her for numbers during the course of the game after I asked her what her odds were of bumping into her father. Her response was, "Oh I dunno, about 1 in 20", to which I replied, "I like those odds" while maliciously hefting a d20. I asked her for a number, rolled it, and thus a trend was born; for the rest of the session I kept asking her for one or more numbers, for even or odds, for highs and lows. She was a good sport, and I also thought she did a great job getting into character and describing things.

    The fight against the bladelings and red dragon worried me at first. I decided to initially only throw a bladeling warship at them. Once it missed them, Kiara's bad luck caused a red dragon to show up. They decided to leg it, and thankfully the dragon went after the bladeling ship after ricocheting off of Jack's ship, right into the dragon's clutches. After it tore the ship apart and chased them, Josh had the idea of lobbing a chest full of treasure at it. I let him roll a Bluff check, he succeeded, and so I figured it would distract the dragon long enough to let them escape.

    The bereft angel got more than a few shocked expressions. When they found it and got its attention, it stalked towards them, muttering phrases like "I cannot hear her", "where did she go", and "what did we do wrong". When it got closer it started accusing them of not believing in Her and blaming them for, well, something. Kiara guessed that it was, "one of those angels David was talking about". What can I say, I have a big mouth... Anyway, it was good that she jokingly suggested looting the sand that it turned into after slain, as angelstones are great sources of condensed astral potential.

    They leveled up to two, and in addition to the usual I gave Danh Melee Training (Wisdom) as a bonus feat, Lothelle a +1 on melee attacks, and Jack a bonus on History and Insight checks due to the consistent training drills that they were doing every morning. I am considering foregoing the usual level up process, instead giving them organic bonuses as the situation warrants. If they are up for it, removing the scaling bonuses to attacks, defenses, and skills (as well as those from monsters) might also be in order. They only have one magic item so far, but I told them that monsters do not "assume" attack/defense feats or magic items.

    I am sure that I missed some things. There was a lot of social interaction, and everyone was really pleased with how much they did in such a short time. Again none of the encounters used minis, and the skill challenges displayed a huge amount of creativity on their part: while fleeing from her father he tried to trap Lothelle with a wall of ice, so she made an Arcana check to try and dispel it. Even though she failed, she was able to create a gap that her and Danh could squeeze through, taking some cold damage but pushing the story forward all the same.
    February 03, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

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