Archive for July 2009

Nebin, Gnome Illusionist

Ronak's totally awesome gnome illusionist from Monday's delve run.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Nebin, level 4
Gnome, Wizard
Arcane Implement Mastery: Orb of Deception

Str 8, Con 10, Dex 13, Int 18, Wis 14, Cha 18.

Str 8, Con 10, Dex 13, Int 15, Wis 14, Cha 15.

AC: 17 Fort: 13 Reflex: 17 Will: 19
HP: 32 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 8

Arcana +13, Nature +9, Insight +11, History +11

Acrobatics +3, Bluff +6, Diplomacy +6, Dungeoneering +4, Endurance +2, Heal +4, Intimidate +6, Perception +4, Religion +6, Stealth +5, Streetwise +6, Thievery +3, Athletics +1

Wizard: Ritual Caster
Level 1: Phantom Echoes
Level 2: Gnome Phantasmist
Level 4: Improved Initiative

Wizard at-will 1: Phantom Bolt
Wizard at-will 1: Illusory Ambush
Wizard encounter 1: Grasping Shadows
Wizard daily 1: Sleep
Wizard daily 1 Spellbook: Horrid Whispers
Wizard utility 2: Shield
Wizard utility 2 Spellbook: Float
Wizard encounter 3: Hypnotic Pattern

Spellbook, Cape of the Mountebank +1, Darkleaf Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing) +1, Orb of Inevitable Continuance +1, Magic Dagger +1, Adventurer's Kit, Flask (empty), Oil (1 pint) (2)
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July 31, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Generic Human Barbarian

A simple-but-effective human barbarian to compliment Greywulf's character concept render.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Human Barbarian, level 1
Human, Barbarian
Feral Might: Rageblood Vigor
Background: Geography - Mountains (+2 to Athletics)

Str 18, Con 15, Dex 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 11.

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

AC: 16 Fort: 17 Reflex: 14 Will: 11
HP: 30 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 7

Perception +5, Intimidate +5, Athletics +10, Endurance +6

Acrobatics +1, Arcana -1, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, Heal, History -1, Insight, Nature, Religion -1, Stealth +1, Streetwise, Thievery +1

Human: Action Surge
Level 1: Deadly Rage

Barbarian at-will 1: Devastating Strike
Barbarian at-will 1: Recuperating Strike
Bonus At-Will Power: Howling Strike
Barbarian encounter 1: Avalanche Strike
Barbarian daily 1: Bloodhunt Rage

Adventurer's Kit, Hide Armor, Greataxe
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Posted by David Guyll

Novakri, Kalashtar Avenger

I really like the idea of a kalashtar's quori spirit being able to manifest itself in badass ways. I did something to this affect for Bat Jew's cleric back when I ran Age of Worms: he eventually attained a custom psionic power that let him physicall transform partially into a tsucora quori (higher level variations let him "stack" these manifestations, perfecting the transformation and getting more and more out of it).

So, here's a simpler concept that will work for now until I can make some custom psion disciplines. This avenger channels her quori spirit in order to glean the benefits of her class: armor of faith creates a brief shimmering effect as her quori soul deflects attacks, and aspect of might actually affects a partial physical transformation.
This provides an interesting foundation for describing the look and feel of her powers, and really I didnt have to change anything at all.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Novakri, level 1
Kalashtar, Avenger
Avenger's Censure: Censure of Retribution
Background: Breland (+2 to Insight)

Str 8, Con 11, Dex 13, Int 16, Wis 18, Cha 12.

Str 8, Con 11, Dex 13, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 10.

AC: 17 Fort: 11 Reflex: 14 Will: 15
HP: 25 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 6

Religion +8, Acrobatics +8, Stealth +6, Streetwise +6

Arcana +3, Bluff +1, Diplomacy +1, Dungeoneering +4, Endurance, Heal +4, History +3, Insight +8, Intimidate +1, Nature +4, Perception +4, Thievery +1, Athletics -1

Level 1: Improved Armor of Faith

Avenger at-will 1: Bond of Retribution
Avenger at-will 1: Radiant Vengeance
Avenger encounter 1: Avenging Echo
Avenger daily 1: Aspect of Might

Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing), Greatsword, Adventurer's Kit
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July 30, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Monster Builder Review

I remember trying out my first D&D character builder almost a decade ago, E-Tools. It was an attempt to do...something. You could erect the very basic framework of what might be considered a character, but that was about it. Since it never got updated, ever, you were also resigned to the core rulebooks and fuck the rest. While it certainly wasnt very conducive to character creation, I suppose was a nice gesture by Wizards of the Coast to try and make our lives easier.

Along with 4th Edition came another Character Builder, and I must say I was incredibly skeptical about it, given that I actually had to pay for it (past Beta, anyhow). This was one of the many things that I was surprised to see from WotC: a digital whats-it that actually works. Slowly, but technically still works. They even patch it and update it, ensuring that it stays useful as their product line expands. Its one of those things that many in my group subscribe to DDI for, considering Dragon to be so much gravy (and I like gravy).

Now, WotC has ushered out a beta for "Adventure Tools", which comes loaded with a monster builder application. There are other buttons that dont highlight and offer absolutely no clue as to whats to come, but I suspect that this is the DM's digital toolset and the rest will be mapping stuff and other shit that we dont know about.

So, how does Adventure Tools the Monster Builder hold up? Pretty well. At least, better than what I'd expected after I'd seen the first iteration on the site (which I started to use, said fuck all, and went back to my Microsoft Office table that I'd built).

My major complaint is that its slow. Slow like Character Builder, which is to mean that I guess its "normal" speed. You click on something, and then after a bit of delay it rouses itself to perform whatever task you ordered it to do (such as type some text in a field). Kind of annoying, and honestly this is enough to keep me relegated to MS Office if it werent for a lot of key features.
Note: On my desktop it seems to run very well, despite my laptop having a 2.4Ghz dual-core Intel and 4Gb of RAM. Oh well, such is life.

First, it has every fucking monster in the game in a database. You can search these by level, role, and secondary role such as minion, elite, and solo. This means that I can sit on my ass and not have to surround myself with a million books in order to browse and compare notes with the stuff I am making. You can also just search by powers, if you are looking for specific inspiration.

Second, it does the math for you. This is actually pretty minor since I have memorized all the formulas for statting out monsters with the exception of paragon and epic-tier damage values. Mostly I think its going to stop me from making minor mistakes on the math if I decide to change a level or role. For others, this is going to be incredibly handy, especially if you are creating your first custom monster.

Third, it adds your creations to the database. This allows you to easily store and manage your creations without having a folder filled with text files and/or images. There is also a filter on the home page for Custom only, so you can quickly find what you've done.

Fourth, you can opt to copy a monster stat block as an image and paste it in a word processor that can handle images, or just use image-editing software. If you can print files as pdfs, you can also print them that way (though it seems to stretch them out quite a bit). You can also just copy it as text and port it that-a-way.

Finally, it lets you copy and edit existing "official" monsters. It will not allow you edit them directly, so you can be sure that you wont accidentally alter them from their official stats. This would let you easily find and edit monsters that work as a baseline for something else, or to just make your own "houseruled"versions.

The two major complains that I can find are the lag issue and much of the layout. Having a big fucking X button doesnt seem like an exit/back, especially when its by the save function. I thought it was a delete option at first.
The close button should be in the corner and clearly labeled as such, and the print should probably be located by the save option.
I would also make a button for exporting as an image, and if possible allow the program to export pdfs on its own (I have Adobe PDF), so you can quickly make a monster and immediately export it.

As a side note, there is a "Marital" keyword built into the keyword list for damage. Umm. Yeah.

Thats basically it. It looks very promising and very functional. Looking forward to the finished thing, as well other digital utilities from WotC.
Posted by David Guyll

Pathfinder Preview #12: The Wizard

I havent talked much about Pathfinder since plenty of people do that on RPGnet. However, I've always liked the idea of wizards in D&D, so this one hits closer to home than the rest. The guest star this week is Ezren, a really old dude that apparently is not too old for this shit. He's showed off at level 10, allowing us to see...nothing really new.

Coming into this fairly blind (I read the Beta awhile back), my impression is that if you've played wizards before its the same song with a slightly different dance. There are words that talk about shit you dont know about (hand of the apprentice and metamagic mastery), but mostly its what you can get in 3rd Edition: a list of spells per day, feats, skills, and trivial magic trinkets that people forgot about almost immediately after picking them up.

Spells are still extremely limited, which I didnt expect to change. This just means that I also expect to fall back on a shitty mundane weapon with which I have no chance of applying with any efficacy. So, wizards are wizards for part of the day until they invariably putter out into glorified commoners. As a wizard player, this isnt something I enjoy(ed). I dont like having to determine somehow which spells to hoard, which to use, and also set the party's bedtime. On top of that, I didnt like having to guess which spells to use in a given day, hoping to get to use them and cursing Jack Vance when we came to an obstacle or challenge that would have gone a lot smoother, "if only I'd known!"

Anyway, thats just my impression at a glance. Nothing new, nothing impressive. I'm sorry, but it takes more than a larger Hit Die and additional mechanics like the Fly skill to graps my interest. Not to fret, as Jason Bulmahn is happy to explain these things to us in an effort to pimp his ride. Its just too bad that all it does is reinforce why I got out of 3rd Edition before 4th Edition had even come out. Before I get into the first part, I want to highlight the failback plan of every wizard before 4E: mundane weapons. He's got a club attack, which at a +5 to hit will never be used in any reasonable scenario. In the unlikely (read: 5% chance) situation that he does hit, it deals a whopping 1d6 damage...

...and hand of the apprentice is about as lame. Its like a ranged club attack, except that it actually has a viable chance of succeeding. The downside? Still 1d6 damage, because for some bizarre fucking reason it is keyed to Strength. I guess Pathfinder wizards can apply Xena-physics to their staffs or some shit. Seriously, there isnt anything "wizardy" about this. Its pathetic. Sure, it might hit, but the damage is crap. Why not let him add his Int modifier to the damage? You're letting him get away by using it for attacks. +6 damage isnt going to overpower him: he has the rest of his class features to do that.
It might be cool if you could actually do interesting things with it, but you cant (no combat maneuvers). So, there's that.

Metamagic mastery lets you add metamagic feats to spells up to a point, but you only get it at level 8, and you still have to apply it beforehand. At least with this mechanic I might be tempted to burn a feat on one of them and actually use it. Score a point, here.

He talks about how necromancers dont have to be evil, now (though they didnt before, and there was an issue of Dragon that had necromancers of all nine alignments). This school specialty lets you turn/rebuke undead, and even though (from what I recall) Pathfinder copy and pasted the mechanics from 4E I still think its kind of retarded since thats basically something that divine characters do. I could see a necromancer commanding undead, but not obliterating them into dust.
Still, if it gives necromancers an ability to actually use something thematic, its better than necromancers in past editions (which couldnt really do anything with undead until two levels after clerics were creating them). I'm willing to make a tentative concession here and dole out a half point (not that the points matter).

Specialists can now cast prohibited spells by doubling up the spell slot, though there is no mention of how this affects items (meaning that they can now freely use any and all spell completion items, so its not much of a restriction if you can call it one at all).
Teleport and other plot-ignoring spells get nerfed. They can still ignore the plot, but its just harder to do, so players are more likely to simply derail it instead.

Wall of force kinda-sorta-maybe got nerfed. It can be busted through after awhile...perhaps? Its got a hardness of 30 and about 200+ hit points, so while technically the tarrasque could claw through it in an average time of 80 rounds/8 minutes assuming the same damage from 3E (only the bite and tail have any chance at all of inflicting damage, and its a stretch for the tail to pull it off). Thats...plenty of time to either setup a plan or just to get the fuck out of dodge. It might as well be indestructible.

He's got a +2o to Concentration, which I guess means that he, "can defensively cast 5th-level spells on a 5+". Honestly, I never really liked Concentration at all. I mean, I liked it going into 3rd Edition because it let a wizard do something with a greatly reduced risk of auto-failing a spell. Now? It just seems like a lame-ass skill tax for spellcasters. "You cannot use your class features reliably if you dont dump a shit-load of points into this ability that basically negates all of that." Weak.

As with everything from Pathfinder thats not entirely reserved for art, I just dont give a shit. 3rd Edition was fun for its time, but there are better games that cater to the same genre and play style. Paizo can lump on all the mechanics and features that they want, but it still doesnt resolve the actually problems, instead trying to distract you with shiny jangling keys...except sometimes the keys arent very shiny or jangly.
July 29, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Delve Night: Gnolls

Josh stepped behind the screen again last night to run another delve for like, the third fucking time in a row. I think he's going to stop coming over because he invariably gets drawn into the role of a three-act DM every damned time. Last night was actually a scheduled run, to be fair. One of our players was off for a birthday or somesuch, and so we decided to have Josh run something (again). Plodding through Dungeon Delve, he decided to run something for a level 4 gang. Our impromptu party was as follows:
  • Dwarf great-weapon fighter w/ executioner axe
  • Human great-weapon fighter w/ big-fucking sword
  • Goliath warden w/ greatsword
  • Wilden bear shaman
  • Gnome illusionist
Holy meat-shields, Batman! I was strongly considering giving Branch the axe just so I could jump in with an avenger, since all the defenders had some kind of "gimme hp/regen" ability, an I wanted to make sure that combat didnt take forever. We just rolled with it, figuring that two fighters with two-handed weapons would carry enough "striker" to see us through, and in the end it was the gnome that walked away with MVP for the delve.

Ronak decided to try out a classic concept by combining the gnome with every illusion-keyword power he could pile on from Dragon articles and Arcane Power. We were both skeptical, since one of them didnt even deal damage but simply pulled a target towards the center of effect. Uh, yawn. He stuck to his guns, despite all things considered, and in the end we were oh-so-glad he did.

The first encounter opened up with a trio of gnolls just kind of gnawing on..."food". Simple and straightfoward. We rolled initiative and set upon them, using Branch's spirit Bear Muffin as point since anyone next to him got a constant bonus to NAD, unless he already made an attack during the round. With the combination of an all-defender phalanx, thp from Bear Muffin, and the gnome's ability to impose attack penalties and slide shit around, only New-Guy-Lex took any damage at all.
To be fair, he took quite a bit of damage as the gnolls manage to chew through four of his healing surges in one combat. You see, Josh is a fan of playing monsters as he thinks they should be played, and decided that the gnolls wanted to take down the dwarf first since they got first blood on him. This included having them provoke opportunity attacks to get to his leathery dwarf skin-and beard that probably had rotting meat in it anyway (and hyena's are scavengers!).

With that warmup out of the way, it was on to encounter two, which had a pack of hyenas, some gnolls with spears, and a few archers in the mix to shake things up. Things might have been a bit more hectic if Ronak wasnt able to drop sleep on everything except the archers (who would waaay in the back) and essentially change this battle into weak-sauce. We just kind of ignored the archers as we proceeded to turn everything else into spotted pin cusions. It was more anti-climactic than when Optimus came back to life in Transformers 2 (warning: that was a spoiler back there).
The biggest problem we had was when we were afraid that one of the archers was going to get away and trigger the third encounter before we could rest up a bit for it. Again, Ronak used one of his illusions to draw the gnoll away, and then we just stood in front of the hallway and mauled him to death.

Last encounter: gnoll demonic scourge, more hyenas, another archer or two, and a well. Dun dun duuuuun! Ronak used his goddamn illusion that pulls monsters to cause all but one hyena to pitch itself into the well and cause the scourge and other hyena to go prone in front of it. He then spent the rest of the battle constantly trying to use his at-wills to force creatures to blunder into the fucking thing, until a grell floated out of it, apparently pissed off that things kept (literally) dropping in on him while he was trying to nap.
With three defenders it was extremely easy to control the battle, as each of them paired up with something not in the well and traded blows while the gnome and shaman just provided support to whoever complained the most. Eventually it was reduced to Grell versus Party, and in the end Josh just declared us the victor to avoid a repetitive battle of attrition.

Having given the wilden a run, I have to say that I only noticed that I was a wilden because I was using a dryad mini to represent Branch. That was basically it. I could have played another dwarf, but I wanted to mix things up a bit. I should really try out a barbarian or druid, something that can better head into melee, and see how the various aspects hold up then. I used the bonus-damage one once because I kept forgetting about it the entire time until the last battle. Myeeeh... Otherwise, lots of fun to be had. Illusionists rock, even if not all the powers roll out shit-tons of damage.
July 28, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Players Handbook Heroes 2 Review

Player's Handbook Heroes 2 is, as the name implies, the second set of PC-centric minis for Dungeons & Dragons to be released by Wizards of the Coast. It makes it easy for players to get a mini for use as a character without having to buy a bunch of D&D Minis boosters, especially given that most of the PC figures were rares (meaning that on Ebay you could expect to fork over $5+ before S&H for a single). I guess it sucks if you only like one class from a given power source, but thats what your local game store/Ebay is for.

Like Player's Handbook Heroes (1), each set comes in a trio of minis organized by power source, and you can see everything that you are going to get (ie, not randomized). At $11 a pop, this means that you are paying about $3.66 per mini. This is a good deal for me since I expect to pay almost that much for unpainted metal, which I utterly despise since its prone to flaking and chipping. Add in the cost of supplies and time, and I'm more than happy to shell out a fraction of the price for a shit-ton of convenience.

I think taking the time to assemble and paint your own minis is actually a bad idea, unless you are doing it for display purposes only. Why? Well, having been "the guy" to almost exclusively paint his own minis, as well as Warhammer/Warhammer 40k armies for his friends, it cuts sooo much more deeply when one of your babies invariably breaks. If I could buy a pre-painted army for a pittance of what it took to do it myself, I think I'd be a much more dedicated wargame player nowadays.

And now, on to the actual product.

I'm generally willing to make a concession on the paint job so long as the its dynamic and versatile. I understand they have to crank out a lot of these fuckers, but I also understand that they have to look semi-decent (even if from a distance). If its got weapons, wings, or whatever hanging over the edge of the base its going to be a bitch to position in close quarters (the huge white dragon is guilty of this). Similarly, if its a dragonborn in plate armor using a trident, then its going to be very limited in what I can actually use it for.

For example, I really like the male human invoker. He's got a very cool pose, and is basically a robed dude wielding a staff. Obviously he's got what it takes for an invoker, but could also be used for a wizard or cleric. Hell, you could swing druid if you dont mind the color scheme.
On the other hand, I dont much care for the male shifter ranger. First, the pose is kind of weak. Second, he looks like he's just wearing a plain white shirt. Bright, light clothing isnt something I expect rangers to run around in. I would be more inclined to use it as a two-weapon monk, rogue, or perhaps even a swordmage. Something that actually uses cloth-or-no armor.

Martial Characters 3
  • Male dragonborn warlord isnt anything new if you were into Angelfire. Still, it works and would also do for a fighter or paladin. Dragon's tenacity is a encounter utility that grants you and bloodied allies an attack bonus, and if you're a dragonborn the bonus is increased.
  • Female elf fighter is falls flat on the color department. The pose is also very weak, like she's all bunched up from being too cold or something. Pretty meh. Would also double as a paladin or a sword-using cleric, I suppose. Close the gap is a level 2 utility that lets you move your Dex mod after dropping an enemy in addition to marking something that you end adjacent to.
  • Male gnome rogue is also kinda flat, but looks a bit better than female elf fighter. He's a but more action-oriented, which helps. I plan on using him as a barbarian of all things, but I could see him performing decently as a bard, ranger, or even fighter. Clever strike grants you combat advantage against the target at any time another ally is next to it and is able to attack. Another name for this at-will could also be called sneak attack-attack.
Martial Characters 4
  • I like the male tiefling fighter, but we really need a tiefling warlord that is using a polearm instead of...whatever the hell it is using kplzthx. Phalanx leader is a level 10 encounter utility that grants adjacent allies a bonus to AC, Reflex, and attacks for a turn, but you must be using a shield.
  • The male shifter ranger is one that I really dont care for, which I explained above. Shield of blades is an at-will attack that deals weapon damage and grants you an AC bonus for a turn.
  • Female human warlord is a basic sword & board archetype, and would work well as a fighter, paladin, or cleric using an edged weapon. Pretty versatile. Inevitable wave grants allies a damage bonus for a turn against a critter you hit. You can use it when charging.
Divine Characters 2
  • Male human paladin looks a bit comically grim-dark, and ironically will probably work better as a NPC villian. Would also work great as a fighter or warlord. I got the paladin cards mixed up, but I think this one had flare of divine vengeance, which is a daily utility that lets you burn a healing surge and gives you an attack bonus against a challenged enemy that hits you.
  • Warforged cleric is very meh. Too flat. Should have done a bit more. Will likely be used in my Eberron games as a warforged NPC or commoner, most of the time. I could also see him as an artificer or (very) mebbe a monk? Invigorating assault deals weapon damage and grants an adjacent ally your Wis mod in thp.
  • Female human avenger is a kalashtar bodyguard reskin. I dont like her for numerous reasons: the pose is bad (its like an after-action shot), her armor isnt something I see an avenger wearing (way too tight), and the colors clash. My least favorite out of the set, just narrowly losing to warforged cleric. Focused fury deals weapon damage, and if you hit your oath of enmity target it also pushes another target away from you.
Divine Characters 3
  • Male human invoker is made of win (see above). Astral wind is a close blast 3 that pushes targets, and deals Con mod damage if they move closer to you on their turn.
  • Male genasi paladin uses a too-short-sword, but otherwise works out alright. I would have rather seen a swordmage, but I'll take what I can get, damnit. Would also be very appropriate for a sword-and-board fighter. I cant remember which got which, but I think this is the one that had forbidding strike, which deals weapon damage and grants resist all to an adjacent ally. Very nifty, even if an AC booster is probably a better idea in general.
  • Female human cleric is great despite being a reskin of the combat medic, but I preferred her in red. Healing circle restores hit points to all allies in the AoE, and gives them a lot of bonus hit points whenever they burn healing surges within the zone.
Arcane Characters 3
  • Warforged artificer is okay, but I'm not exactly a fan of the pose (I prefer the warforged wizard from "back in the day"). Unbalancing force is pretty basic, dealing force damage and pushing a target if an ally hits it before the end of your next turn. Nice setup I suppose, and fits with the leader role.
  • Female human wizard is good for a wizard, obviously. She wields a staff and wears a mask that makes her look like Destro's daughter, but I think its because she was a witch-something from Forgotten Realms, originally. I dont know/care. Its one of the better ones, at any rate: good pose and at least a passing attempt at drybrushing for shadow effects. Refocus is a utility that lets you swap out a utility or daily for another one of the same level or lower, and gives you an attack bonus to boot.
  • Male human swordmage is very well done. The color scheme is good, there are shadows and highlight effects, and even the eyes were done perfectly. Combined with the invoker and female wizard, these guys set the bar on what I would like to see as the "bare minimum" for future sets. He would also do for a fighter or warlord, especially with wizard multiclassing. Frostwind blade is a cold-based at-will attack that deals Con mod cold damage to another marked enemy, making it somewhat like a ranged cleave.
Primal Characters 2
  • The male halfling barbarian is mostly naked, which isnt something most barbarians can get away with. Kinda meh, but would work alright in Eberron. Clawfoot berserker rage deals triple damage and grants you an attack bonus plus an immediate reaction basic attack whenever an ally becomes bloodied.
  • The male human druid is pretty darned good, and would also work very well as a staff-using wizard, nature-oriented cleric, and possibly even an invoker. Leaf wall is a daily utility which creates a wall (surprise) that grants concealment to allies and causes enemies to grant combat advantage.
  • Finally, the female human barbarian is okay. I just wish she wasnt If it was darker or a different coler (like, red), I think it would have been a looot better. Still, she would work out for my shifter barbarian. Frenzied berserker rage deals triple damage and lets you damage yourself as a minor action to deal automatic damage to an adjacent enemy.
Overall this set was good. I like at least half of the figures, which is more than I could have said for previous randomized sets. The quality seems consistent with the last PHH set, but hopefully we'll see an increase in quality in the future. A few looked waaay too plain, more at home as nameless NPC figures than anything else (especially the halfling barbarin, shifter ranger, and warforged cleric). At least they hopefully got the kalashtar bodyguard pose out of their systems, its just annoying to look at and the sword gets in the way.
July 24, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Divine Power Review

The third power source-specific book, Divine Power provides new options for avengers, clerics, invokers, and paladins in the form of class features, powers, and paragon paths. Chapter 5: Divine Options presents more widely applicable feats and epic destinies, but also has a fluff-section on deities and divine backgrounds.
Basically, the book serves to expand upon the choices you make when creating any divine character. In some cases, such as paladins and divine sanction, it adds new mechanics to the existing set, but without making it part of the core ruleset and "requiring" that you have the book in order to play the basic game.

The first chaper is for avengers. I've never played one, but that might change since Josh is going to run something this coming Monday. Their new feature is Censure of Unity, which gives you a damage bonus against your oath of enmity target for each adjacent ally. So, unlike the other censures, this one rewards you for ganging up on a single monster. Sounds like it would be great for handling elites and especially solos.

Bonds of censure is a ranged at-will that pulls a target towards you, and deals radiant damage if they end adjacent to you.
Leading strike is a weapon attack that grants an ally a damage bonus if you hit the target.

Cataclysmic duel is a level 29 prayer that deals 7[W] damage, and for the entire encounter if the target hits you an ally gets knocked prone, but if you hit it, then one of its allies becomes dazed (save ends). Bad idea for a solo battle, but the dazed condition could prove extremely devastating against a group battle.

Clerics can opt to swap out channel divinity: turn undead for channel divnity: healer's mercy, which lets allies within 5 squares burn a healing surge, but weakens you for a turn. Great if you want more healing and/or a better pacifist concept.

Astral seal is a Wis + 2 vs. Ref attack that deals no damage, but imposes a defense penalty and heals allies who hit the target before the end of your next turn.
Recovery strike is a Strength vs. AC weapon attack operates in a similar manner, but actually deals damage and restores fewer hit points.
I like realm of battle, which is a level 19 prayer that creatures a close burst 3 zone of angels. It deals radiant damage, in addition to granting allies an attack and AC bonus.
Revive is likewise pretty sweet: its a level 22 utility prayer that can restore a dying or dead ally up to bloodied hit points, as long as the ally died during the encounter that you use this in. Also, it removes the failed death saves, so that if she falls again, she gets a fresh start.

The invoker is a class I wasnt terribly interested in playing until I saw the chapter art: its looks really badass. I've since made a tiefling invoker, and its one of many characters on my list of shit to play when I have infinite time.


Covenant of Malediction lets you push targets with your encounter and daily powers, and also grants you channel divinity: maledictor's doom, which imposes an attack and saving throw penalty for one turn to enemies in the burst (you can also push them if you nail them with a fear effect).

Visions of blood just sounds awesome. It deals psychic damage and a defense penalty, but hits all creatures in the area-of-effect.

Paladins, par for the course, have gotten quite a bit of flak even in 4th Edition. People accuse them of being shitty defenders due to their very limited mark, as well as Multiple Ability Dependancy.
Divine sanction is basically divine challenge, except that it gets applied by using various powers and feats. You can do both, so it allows a paladin to mark more than one creature at a time (thus being a stickier defender).
There are two new class features that can be swapped out with lay on hands. Ardent vow lets you deal bonus damage to a monster and automatically apply divine sanction for the rest of the encounter each time you hit it. Virtue's touch lets you automatically remove a condition on an ally as a minor action. Both powers can be used a limited number of times each day, based on your Wisdom modifier.

Ardent strike will probably end up being incredibly popular. Its a Strength or Charisma at-will that deals damage and applies divine sanction. Good for any paladin build, easily allowing you to lock down two monsters instead of just one. Better yet? You can use it while charging.

With all of the classes wrapped up, that brings is to the last chapter: Divine Options. The chapter opens by reintroducing Divine Domains, a throwback to domains and spheres from past editions. Of course, 4E does them a bit differently. See, each deity has a list of domains, which represent their "spheres of influence" or portfolio. Each domain has two related feats: one of them gives you a new channel divinity power, while the other one alters how your at-will powers work. A simple-yet-excellent way to better represent your devotion, methinks.

After domains, there's a section on deities and conceptually how each divine class works with them. Good stuff for a character foundation, and it can translate into settings with either gods that share a similar mindset or function. There's also a list of new divine-themed backgrounds, such as Followed a Cult and Out for Revenge.

Breath of Life is a dragonborn-cleric feat that prevents your dragon breath from hitting allies, but grants allies in the area thp. Works well with the leader role.
Taunting Visage is a very cool changling/doppelganger feat: you can use change shape to assume the form of your oath of enmity target, you gain combat advantage until the end of your next turn. Kind of like getting your racial twice per encounter.
Radiant Vessel really lets you pile on the healage, granting another +2d6 hit points on healing word if you use it after using any cleric attack with the Radiant keyword.
Divine Health is an epic feat that grants you poison resistance and renders you immune to any disease of level 30 or less.

New Rituals adds eight rituals, including Create Holy Water (level 1). Holy water is categorized as an alchemical item, has a throwing range of 3/6, and deals 1d10 radiant damage to only undead and demons. Ease Spirit is pretty handy, as it reduces the death penalty by 1.
Mark of Justice debuts as a level 12 binding ritual that forbids specified behavior, or suffer from a 24-hour flexible penalty (specified by the ritual caster). Penalties can be that you have to roll again if you succeed on a check, gain vulnerable 10 all, or even become blinded and defeanded.
My personal favorite is Hallowed Temple, which creates a 15 square by 15 square temple that you and your allies can shack up in, is immune to damage, and undead and demons cannot enter.

The sidebars have been getting quite a bit of attention for containing a lot of really good story content. Here is every sidebar, and the page that it can be found on.
  • Avenger Origins (pg 6)
  • For the DM: Avengers in the Campaign (pg 140)
  • Serving Multiple Masters (pg 16)
  • Whom To Hunt? (pg 18)
  • Dwarves Who Dont Worship Moradin (pg 36)
  • Small Devotions (pg 39)
  • Dead Gods (pg 40)
  • Rise of the Raven Queen (pg 43)
  • Crafting a Covenant (pg 60)
  • Destined for Greatness (pg 63)
  • Words of Creation (pg 64)
  • Serving Evil Gods (pg 65)
  • Invoker Origins (pg 66)
  • The War of Winter (pg 67)
  • Avandra and the First Doppelganger (pg 69)
  • Divine Sanction (pg 82)
  • The Divine Compromises (pg 92)
  • For the DM: Evil Feats (pg 122)
  • Rites for the Deities (pg 143)
  • Avatars Have Many Uses (pg 145)
  • Creating Avatars (pg 147)
  • Trappings of Justice (pg 148)
  • Divine Allies Bring Divine Enemies (pg 152)
  • Dark Saints (pg 155)
All in all, this book succeeds because its got me wanting to play a divine character more than I wanted to before. My first 4th Edition character was actually a cleric, but I branched away from the divine power source and started doing my warlord and barbarian thing until PH2 came out, at which time I got more interested in the bard and shaman (being leaders). The avenger got some gears turning, but failed to maintain my interest against other strikers.
That being said, Divine Power has shown me the light, and I think for the coming delve this week I'll give a tiefling avenger a shot. If you like divine characters (especially paladins), this is a must-have.
July 23, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Delve Night: Psion Playtest

Josh came over at random today, and so it was declared after much Taco Bell that he run a delve for one of our neighbors (since apparently my neighbors are a collective of like-minded geeks) and myself. We ran Orc Fortress, the level 3 delve out of Dungeon Delve. The party consisted of a dwarf great weapon fighter, tiefling psion, and longtooth shifter beastmaster ranger, all level 4.

The first encounter was kind of shaky, and served as a portent of things to come. I'd taken an artificer multiclass feat since no one was a leader, and that barely saw us through the delve. Honestly, we only won because Josh was juggling stats and shit around to account for the fact that we had a smaller party than normal, new people, and no leader. That, and the ranger kept forgetting basic ranger-stuff like designating quarry, using encounter attacks, and sometimes attacking period. Even by removing monsters to adjust the XP value there was simply no fucking way we stood a chance without some hardcore fudging and outright removal of monster powers.

But, thats really not the overall point of this. I want to talk about my brief experience with the psion. I really like the psion. Before, the power point system was really just a more flexible spontaneous spellcaster that required more bookwork and headaches for the DM that didnt have a shitload of time to prep/didnt own the book. Plenty of potential for abuse, and also if you made it so that magic and psionics were "different", well, that was just another thing you had to worry about accounting for in your adventures. Bleh.

Not any more. Power points give it a different feel, as well as a nifty resource management mechanic that doesnt require a lot of paperwork to manage. It adds flexibility, but not all the abuse that could come with it.
Its a lot of fun having a huge bundle of at-wills that I can boost in power as the situation calls for it. Against one critter, I could just roll out mind thrust or memory hole. Oh, a bunch of minions clusterd up? Fine then, lets boost up memory hole with a couple points and explode all their heads. Big bad brute has a pretty powerful attack, so I'll roll a few more points on to betrayal and let him maul his own commander to death. Shit like that. I love it. I normally hate complicated subsystems, but this really isnt. Its simple, easy to figure out, and pretty damned easy to use.

Josh is going to run another delve on Monday. I'm going to give the monk a shot and see how it works. That, or a tiefling avenger. We'll see.
July 21, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Reed, Half-orc Warden

A foundation for a playtest that I want to run using fell taints and taking place in the Shadow Marches (Eberron). Thus, a half-orc makes perfect sense. I've never played a half-orc, and no one has tried the warden, and I think this works out really well. No shield, so I'll see how well a two-handed warden fares.

I'll only be using three characters, and one of them will be a psion of some sort since want to see how it works (and is mostly the reason behind doing this delve). Not sure which race for the psion, or what type of leader I want to make, but I'm leaning towards goblin shaman with a rat animal spirit...

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Reed, level 1
Half-Orc, Warden
Guardian Might: Earthstrength
Background: Shadow Marches (+2 to Nature)

Str 18, Con 16, Dex 13, Int 8, Wis 13, Cha 10.

Str 16, Con 16, Dex 11, Int 8, Wis 13, Cha 10.

AC: 16 Fort: 15 Reflex: 11 Will: 12
HP: 33 Surges: 12 Surge Value: 8

Nature +8, Athletics +8, Perception +6, Endurance +9

Acrobatics, Arcana -1, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering +1, Heal +1, History -1, Insight +1, Intimidate +2, Religion -1, Stealth, Streetwise, Thievery

Level 1: Weapon Proficiency (Fullblade)

Warden at-will 1: Strength of Stone
Warden at-will 1: Earth Shield Strike
Warden encounter 1: Thunder Ram Assault
Warden daily 1: Form of the Fearsome Ram

Fullblade, Hide Armor, Adventurer's Kit
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======
July 18, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Class Acts: Ranger Revision

Apparently there were more than a few typos in the original Class Acts: Ranger article. They fixed it and put up a new version. I didnt read the article too close since I dont play well, ever, and when I do its never a ranger (not that I hate them, there are just about a million other characters I wan to play first).

My understanding is that there were a lot of powers that were triggered as immediate actions, and some of them werent too clear on condition duration. I dont know. What matters is that its fixed. Well, except for the graphic at the top of the page, anyway.
Posted by David Guyll

Dragon: Familiars by Artifice

Just in case you play D&D in several temporal dimensions at the same time, and managed to play out all of the existing familiar options, Wizards has seen fit to push out another article chock full of the Tiny bastards.

Its primarily geared towards Eberron, but you can use them anywhere with a few name changes when it concerns stuff like dragonshards/marks. The author is quick to point out that magical tattoos, which can be found in Adventurer's Vault 2, work great for replacing dragonmarks...not that we actually know what those will do until next month.
The article has a few quips from future releases that it "recommends", its just too bad that we have no fucking clue what they are/do. As an avid Eberron player, this doesnt effect me at all. Hell, it wouldnt even matter if I wanted to use it in my homebrew games, since I'm perfectly fine to change a few names or fiddle with the prereqs.

Concerning the actual familiars, there are quite a few: 14 Heroic, 7 Paragon, and 2 Epic, and there arent any reprints. Some of them have leader-like qualities, such as the dragonmark reflection which buffs your healing infusion when active, or the clockwork scorpion which lets you or an adjacent ally benefit from its stored poison.
Best Heroic-tier familiar goes to the tome caddy, which lets you use a tome as an implement even if you cant, and when active lets you use a tome hands-free in addition to boosting summoned monsters.
Best Paragon-tier goes to the minor foulspawn, which looks like, "an inside-out cat with three eyes and two mouths." What can I say? I like cats. That aside, it gives you a bonus to Dungeoneering and fear effects, but also can babble a bunch of insane shit at something you hit with an arcane power, dealing bonus psychic damage.
There are only two Epic-tier familiars, so I'll just give best familiar to the lingering nightmare by virtue that the other one is thematic to the Silver Flame, and I just dont care for them. A lingering nightmare is psychic residue that looks like a small cloud that changes with the master's mood. It gives you a bonus to Intimidate and resist psychic when passive. When active it lumps on a random condition whenever you hit something with a fear effect. Each time. Very cool.

There are seven feats, each of which obviously boosts your familiar in some fashion. You can make it bigger, allowing it to flank for a bit, let it move 20 squares farther away than normal, or create an energy shield that reduces damage but also shields your familiar completely from harm. Ranges from nifty to meh, but mostly good.

There's also a set of four magic items, three of which are for the Familiar item slot. One of them is a magical jar that your familiar can 'port into when destroyed. The others are basically various collars that let you teleport to your familiar, grant a bonus to defenses, and provide cover when your familiar is in the same area as a larger creature.

The paragon path, familiar bloodsmith, is an artificer paragon path that lets you regain bonus hit points when you burn a healing surge and your familiar is in passive mode, originate attacks from your familiar when you spend an action point, and get two familiars at level 16 (one be Heroic tier).
Bloodbond rebuke lets you knock an enemy back if they use an attack that has your familiar as a target, rescue familiar lets you teleport your familiar to your square in passive mode immediately after slain, and bloodbond swarm lets you turn your familiar into a mobile zone that deals automatic damage with a slow effect (your familiar is restored when the power ends).
July 16, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Creative Licensing

I've played a good number of role-playing games, and most editions of D&D, and I really like how 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons goes a long way in making sure that players have a lot of options on their plate. Most of these options are determined by race and class, though there is a short-list of things that every can at least make an attempt for (grab, bull rush, and melee/ranged basic attacks, for example).
I enjoy this design move because it provides a lot of thematic and effective decisions for players, so anyone playing the game has an understanding of what it is they can do, or what they should be doing. This is great for new players, or even veterans playing a new class.

What about "non-standard" maneuvers, however? Stuff like swinging from a chandelier, knocking over a book case, or dropping a tapestry on the bad guys. Most of my players tend to overlook the environment and just use what they know works, and honestly I think this is a syndrome of playing in older D&D editions where in most cases it was a bad idea to try something off the cuff. You never tried to make a grapple in 3rd Edition because it was very hard to pull off, and when you got it to work you wondered why you'd bothered since it didnt really seem to do much.
The same thing could be said for many non-standard actions, which probably required several very difficult rolls (if a roll is even called for) and amounted to some got better and more reliable results with your standard array of swords and spells.

When I design encounters, I try to put in some interesting environment elements that the players or monsters can work with. I then decide what I should immediately inform them about, or use their "passive" skills to determine what they should know. I might point out a book case, for example, and tell them that it can be knocked over. I might just mention it and wait until they try to use it...but I might also use it on them. For things like fungus, or glowing crytals, I rely on the passive skill. If its high enough, I'll tell them what it does. If not, they need to call for a roll to see if they can puzzle it out.

Case in point, in the first Songs of Erui adventure, there is a chamber with a massive glowing crystal set in the floor. Grynn was able to determine that it could be used to channel cold magic, assuming one could harness it and direct it. When they got attack by undead, some of the casters started doing just that, and proceeded to ransack the chamber with ice blasts. Once Grey and Grynn got them away from the crystal, Grynn took over and started using it against the bad guys.
Of course, some players like to throw things at you that you werent expecting. I've said it before: Josh is one of the players I can count on to always try something really bizarre or different, about once per game (if not more). He pitches me an idea, and I give him the odds. Sometimes its easy to figure out a mechanic, but sometimes not so much. It doesnt always work, but thats the fun of risk versus reward.
For example, how about a flying drop kick? Gimme an Acrobatics or Athletics, and Strength vs. AC roll, and you'll deal 1d4 + Str mod damage. If you succeed on the skill roll, you'll also knock the guy prone (and if you succeed very well, you wont fall prone). All in all, it adds another die roll to the attack routine, and doesnt give him an awesome attack that is better than his usual fare: its effective and fun.

Mostly, I have a hard time wanting to allow non-standard actions that dont rely on the environment, because I'm concerned that some players might try to do it all the time. I actually give them a clause in many situations, "I'll allow it for now, but I reserve the right to prevent you from doing so in the future. If you're okay with that, lets continue."
Its easier to allow Grynn to channel powerful beams of cold energy when he has to make Arcana checks and touch a massive crystal set in a chamber. If he could use Arcana all the time to do something like that, well...its basically like giving out another at-will attack.

One thing I'll make clear in case I havent before: I'm not a fan of arbitrary decisions and resolutions. I'm not going to let any character give it a shot, and just say it works, say it doesnt, or even give them the same odds. You want to push over a book case onto some monsters? The strong characters are going to have a better shot at it than, say, most wizards. Similarly, if you want to swing from a chandelier then you'd better be pretty damned acrobatic, otherwise you're going to fail.
I'm more than willing to let my players try creative actions that arent covered by the rules. This does not mean it will work, or even be as easy. It might require an extra roll to see if we can even get to the next step, or to avoid having something bad happen to the character.
You wanna use thorn whip to pull a fellow team member out of a bad spot? They're going to take damage. You want to use thorn whip to create a rope for a fellow team mate to climb out of a pit? Gimme a Nature check and we'll use that in place of an Athletics check to Aid Another. If you roll bad, they'll take damage (or perhaps even fall from grabbing thorny parts of the whip).
Of course, if druids start abusing thorn whip for all manner of bizarre instances, then I wont let them do it anymore.

I think the best way to encourage your players to do things other than whats covered by powers is to start out by making such extra options very clear for them. If they decide to give it a shot, make sure they know what check(s) will be used, and at least what general effect it will have. For best results, try to make it stuff that will give what they can already do an extra oomph, or so that the damage is roughly on par/adds a condition that they cannot easily do.
A falling book case, for example, might deal "okay" damage, but knock the target prone and immobilize them for one turn. Thats something that most Strength-based characters will want to use, since they cannot easily do those effects with an at-will attack. Hell, you might say that the books grant a one-time attack bonus with a Fire effect and/or bonus fire damage.
Posted by David Guyll

Mind Flayer Feat "Beta"

Here is a list of feats that I made for mind flayers. Some were written up over a year ago, while some I thought up after the psion was released (obviously). Are they balanced? No clue. Lemme know what you think! You can either email me at with stuff, or throw it in the comments.

Heroic Tier
Any mind flayer can pick these up.

Augment Mind Blast [Mind Flayer]

Prerequisite: Mind flayer, psion
Benefit: You can augment your mind blast power in the following ways.
  • Augment 1: Affected creatures are immobilized until the end of your next turn.
  • Augment 2: +1d6 damage, and targets take a -2 penalty to their Will defense (save ends).
Crushing Tentacles [Mind Flayer]
Mind flayer
Benefit: When you grab a creature or sustain a grab, you can deal automatic tentacle damage as a minor action.

Dazing Mind Blast [Mind Flayer]

Prerequisite: Mind flayer
Benefit: Creatures affected by mind blast are dazed until the end of your next turn.

Expanded Mind Blast [Mind Flayer]
Prerequisite: Mind flayer
Benefit: Your mind blast becomes a close blast 5.

Designer's Note: Stole this from dragonborn.

Focused Mind Blast [Mind Flayer]
Mind flayer
When you use mind blast, you can instead have it affect a single creature up to 10 squares away, and the target takes extra damage equal to your Charisma modifier.

Psionic Assault [Mind Flayer]

Prerequisite: Mind flayer
Benefit: You gain a +1 feat bonus to attack and damage rolls with powers that have the Psychic keyword.

Designer's Note: Took something from tieflings. I think it fits very well.

Psychic Caress [Mind Flayer]
Mind flayer
Benefit: When you use your tentacle power, you can choose to have it deal psychic damage and gain the Psychic keyword.

Designer's Note: The idea behind this feat is that the mind flayer sends surges of mental energy across his tentacles.

Warrior Sept [Multiclass]

Prerequisite: Mind flayer, fighter
Benefit: The dice used for your tentacle damage increases to 1d8.

Designer's Note: This feat is intended to allow a mind flayer to rely more readily on his tentacles than "mundane weaponry".

Paragon Feats
Any mind flayer at level 11+ can snag these.

Devour Brain [Mind Flayer]
Prerequisite: Mind flayer
Benefit: When you kill a creature, you can devour its brain as a minor action to gain temporary hit points equal to your 5 + your Intelligence modifier.

Designer's Note: This is kind of a placeholder effect until I can find more stuff that does something similar. I'm thinking that once per encounter, the mind flayer can chow down to regain a power point, but I dont want to make it specific to psions...unless I make another feat that lets him do that...hrmmm.

Psychic Boost [Mind Flayer]
Mind flayer, psion
Benefit: When augmenting a psion power, you can instead expend your use of mind blast to pay the augment cost equal to one power point. You can still spend power points normally if you wish to augment the power further.

Designer's Note: Not sure how "balanced" this is, but I like the idea of a mind flayer being able to use his inherent psychic energies to charge up another power. Fits the theme of the flexible nature of psionic energy.

Stunning Mind Blast [Mind Flayer]
Prerequisite: Mind flayer
Benefit: Creatures affected by your mind blast are stunned until the end of your next turn.

Designer Note: This feat lets the mind flayer's encounter power deal a short stun effect, which is on the level with many other paragon-tier powers that I found that also stunned targets until the end of the attacker's next turn. I found a few ranger exploits that could stun (save ends), but those were dailies and/or required multiple attacks to hit the same target.

Epic Feats
Only level 21+ mind flayers need apply.

Destructive Mind Blast [Mind Flayer]
Prerequisite: Mind flayer
Benefit: Creatures affected by your mind blast gain vulnerable psychic 5 until the end of the encounter.

Mind Blast Savant [Mind Flayer]
Mind flayer
Benefit: You can use mind blast as an at-will power, but only once per round.
Posted by David Guyll

Divine Power Pre-Release, Part 2

Not a huge update, just whatever I could find on the thread before I had to head off to work.

Okay, divine sanction is a mark effect that compliments divine challenge. A paladin can use divine challenge to mark a foe, and then use a power to trigger divine sanction. Specific powers allow a paladin to roll it onto a monster, and in this way it functions in a similar manner to how a fighter marks. You can also opt to swap out lay on hands for ardent vow, which lets you deal damage and apply divine sanction a number of times each day equal to your Wisdom modifier.

Trumpet the star's fall is a level 5 daily for the invoker that deals 2d6 fire and radiant damage, knocks the targets prone, and creates a zone of smoke that makes everything inside heavily obscured.

Power of Death domain feat gives you a bonus to Religion, and when you use enfeebling strike, radiant vengeance, righteous brand, or visions of blood you deal +2 damage.

Power of Life domain feat gives you a bonus on Heal, and when you use avenging light, bolstering strike, astral seal, or radiant vengeance and hit an enemy, an ally gains 3 thp.

Seldarine Dedicate paragon path lets you use short- and longbows as implements, but you dont use their range. You also have to be an elf or an eladrin to pick it up.

Dervish of Dawn gets +2 to all defenses when using an encounter/daily that has the Radiant keyword. If you get bloodied, you can use Channel Divinity again. Finally, as a daily stance you heal hit points equal to your Wisdom score every time you hit your target.

Watchful Shepherd is a defensive avenger path that lets you heal yourself when using an action point, heal other allies when you burn healing surges, has encounter powers that deal damage to enemies if they attack you or your allies, and a daily stance that gives you +2 to your defenses.

Avatar of War
, which I am guessing is an epic destiny, gets to deal +25 damage on the first attack during an encounter, and never grants Combat Advantage.

Exalted Angel gives you wings and "angelic qualities".

July 15, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Khyber's Harvest Download & Exemplars of Evil Conversion

You can now get Khyber's Harvest, Free RPG Day adventure, and conversions notes for Exemplars of Evil off of the site. For free. I was able to get Khyber's Harvest on the day, and I really dont care about Exemplars of Evil anymore, but you might! If nothing else, you can use the stuff on Kyuss if you are still running/going to run Age of Worms.
July 14, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Divine Power Pre-release

I was beginning to think that no one would get it early, but doesnt fail.

Avengers get censure of unity as their new build feature, which grants a +1 bonus to damage for each ally next to your oath of enmity target.
At-wills are bond of censure and leading strike.
Bond of censure
is a ranged Wisdom vs. Will attack that lets you pull the target a number of squares equal to your Int mod, dealing radiant damage if they end next to you. Also, you can roll twice if they are your oath of enmity target and there arent any other enemies adjacent.
Leading strike is a melee Wisdom vs. AC attack that deals weapon damage and grants an adjacent ally a damage bonus equal to your Int mod against the same target.

The featured paragon path is ardent champion, which lets you crit if both attack rolls result in the same value (except double 1s), shift-or-save when you burn an action point, and shift and make another basic attack if you crit your oath of enmity target.
Fanatical flurry is a close burst 2 attack that deals double-weapon damage, but you take a defense penalty. Battle rapture is a stance that lets you deal 1d10 + half-level bonus damage against your enmity target, but you take 3d6 damage if an ally hits it. Finally, irresistible ardor is a melee daily that deals quad-weapon damage and you recharge a spend encounter power used during this encounter.

Paladins, on the other hand, get some nifty additions. Chaladins rejoice.
Virtuous strike is a radiant Charisma attack that works as a melee basic attack and grants a +2 to saves.
Ardent strike is a Strength-or-Charisma vs. AC attack that can be used on charges and also imposes divine sanction.

Divine Sanction is similar to divine challenge, but it doesnt need to be maintained by standing close/attacking the marked critter. The damage is still based off of Charisma. I guess you lose lay on hands, instead getting ardent vow, which seems to have the same limitations (Wis modifier) but deals bonus damage against a sanctioned target (and each time the target is hit, they get sanctioned again?). No mention of how the sanction goes away, if at all, during the encounter.

Clerics get recovery strike, which is a melee weapon attack that restores Charisma mod hit points. Astral seal is a ranged attack that imposes a defense penalty and heals the next ally that hits the target (doesnt seem to deal damage on its own).

Invokers get hand of radiance, which hits 1-3 targets and deals 1d4 + Wisdom mod damage. Mantle of the infidel has a range of 20, deals 1d6 + Wis mod damage, and doubles the attack penalt from a mark if the target is currently marked. Finally, visions of blood is a close blast fear effect that deals psychic damage and imposes a -1 penalty to all defenses. Me likey.

Divine Distraction is an avenger feat that grants allies a +1 damage bonus when you are adjacent to your enmity target.

Fist of the Heaven is another avenger feat that imposes a -2 to your enmity target's saves.

Pacifist Healer lets you add 1d6 + Cha modifier to all healing, but you are stunned if you hit a bloodied enemy.
Posted by David Guyll

Songs of Erui Session 7, Part 1

Party (Level 3)
Grey; razorclaw shifter archery ranger
Grynn; gnoll artificer DEAD ^X_x^
Kegan; dwarf paladin (Strength primary)
Maev; elf druid
Sigis; goliath valorous bard
Zan; stormsoul genasi assault swordmage

The last session ended on a cliffhanger. They party had defeated a pair of bear-totem eladrin wardens, and were trying to open the door that someone had closed behind them before the fight ever started. After a bit of fumbling they managed to open it, and they heard something say, "Hello, Grynn."

What they saw, I described as such: it was about three-feet tall. The head looked like a crude wooden mask, with one eye missing and the other constantly bleeding stuff that made it look like it might be crying blood. There was no actual mouth, but what might be considered a jagged smile was carved where the mouth could be. This "mask" was attached to a wolfen head, which in turn was stuck on top of an exposed spinal column that ran into a rounded, cracked, woody torso that was oozing blood and had fungus growing out of it.
It had two arms, one that looked like a hyena leg with a spidery, wooden hand stuck on the end. It was rotting, with exposed muscles. The other arm was entirely of wood, with circles and whorls running along its entire length. It looked slightly longer than the other.
Of the legs, the front two were wooden and looked like a cross between a crab and spider, with more fungus growing out of the joints. One of the hind legs was a hyena's, while the other was a human arm (both also rotting, of course).

Before initiative was rolled, he commanded Grynn to step forward, which triggered Josh to immediately declare initiative time as Grey sprung into action....or would have if the creature hadnt rolled a 29. Its action was to simply touch Grynn, causing much of his skin to peel off (25 necrotic damage right up front).

After that Grey tried to pull Grynn to safety, and the rest of the party tried ineffectually to damage him. A new player arrived with Zan, a stormsoul genasi swordmage, managed to arrive just as combat started. He had been sent by an eladrin council to investigate who had violated one of their crypts, and took a round or two just assessing the situation (not sure who to attack).

The creature did get hit, turning invisible (this is when they realized that whatever it was, it had probably been a gnome). One its turn cycled back around, I had it teleport next to Grynn and finish him off. Since it was invisible, they just saw Grynn's head jerk up, and a black aura surrounded him. All of his skin and organs melted off, and every part of his skeleton except his skull turned into dust before getting sucked into nothing. The creature then appear, holding Grynn's skull, and attached it to a cord on its waist.

For visual effect, I had it wipe its hands as if it had just made a sandwich, and then burn an action point to summon a wall of zombies. Unfortunately, only it and Grey were on one side, and everyone else was on the other.

Grey started his turn grabbed by the zombies, and the rest of the party tried to chop their way through. This display of powerful necromancy caused Zan to declare the bizarre spider-gnome-undead-plant-thing as the greatest threat, and he ran in and started detonating zombies with his thunder attacks (showering the party with zombie guts in the process).

The creature was able to effortlessly clamber up to the top of the wall, and it blasted Kegan with a powerful necrotic bolt that also weakened him. Zan critted him with lightning lure, which accounted for one of two hits they were able to land the entire battle. The creature simply teleported away and used another wall of zombies to cut off everyone else except Maev from the exit.

With Maev by herself, she really didnt want to do anything to it. Almost no one was landing any actual hits on the thing. It walked over to the corpse of the tree god that they'd kill last session and animated it again, before booking it to the exit. Zan got crit in on the wall with an encounter power, blowing out about a quarter of it, allowing the party to usually wiggle to freedom if they didnt get grabbed. The zombified-tree-god, however, blocked the hallway leading to the exit portal, so Zan teleported through, then swapped places with Kegan. This allowed Kegan a clear shot at the creature, which he totally did not take.

Instead, they clustered around the zombie-god and beat it to death, and the creature got away.

And thats how the first encounter for the session went.

They took an extended rest and introduced themselves to Zan. He was an agent of the eladrin Winter Court, and after some...words, were traded, decided that they werent responsible for breaking into it and robbing everything. After their rest they checked out the rest of the room and found two more hidden passages. One contained six statues carved like owl totems, which Grey's sword identified as "god-houses" that were used when a spirit wanted to sleep.

Then Kegan decided to smash one, which fell on another...and another, leaving three, three god-houses. Ah ah ah ah.

The spirits looked like flowing white tendrils with white masks, a theme that they'd seen quite a bit. They'd encountered the spirits before, but they didnt really do anything except scare them. Until now, that is.

The three spirits who were recently evicted from their homes were none to happy about the whole situation, and started attacking them from the walls. Sigis and Maev wanted no part of it, and just left, and eventually the rest of the party followed suit. Thinking that everything was okay, they went into the last hidden door, which contained a massive idol of a bear god.

...with six of those white spirits that they had just angered floating around it.

What followed was a lot of dialogue as Sigis traded her magical spear for knowledge of the "weapons" required to defeat the Sleeping God in her mountain. She learned that three songs are required, but that it didnt know what or where they were. The rest of the party, except for Zan, traded items in exchange for their lives (since they'd pissed off a lot of spirits and violated a lot of graves on the way down).

With that out of the way, they started back to Dorsen.

To be continued...dun dun duuuuun...
Posted by David Guyll

Class Acts: The Ranger

Out of all the potential classes, I dont think ranger was on the list of likely candidates for a Class Acts article. Its short-yet-useful, spanning all of three pages. The first is devoted to some history on the Verdant Silence order, with the other two spent on actual crunch. There are a dozen powers in total, each suited for two-weapon rangers, as well as a weapon property that lets you shift whenever you hit an enemy twice with a ranger exploit that requires two weapons (and a daily power that makes them grant combat advantage).

The powers range from level 1 to 27, and they are all either encounter attacks or encounter utilities. I really dig the utilities, in particular death threat, which lets you deal ongoing psychic damage to another monster after you drop your quarry. It helps play up hit point abstraction, as well as the fact that not all damage of a specific type has to stem from the same source or inflict damage the same way. Basically, the damage caused by death threat is rooted in fear and stress, and I think its a great concept to play with, allowing martial classes to do stuff like that.
July 12, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Branch, Wilden Shaman

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Branch, level 1
Wilden, Shaman
Companion Spirit: Protector Spirit
Background: Geography - Forest (+2 to Nature)

Str 10, Con 18, Dex 11, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 13.

Str 10, Con 16, Dex 11, Int 8, Wis 16, Cha 13.

AC: 12 Fort: 15 Reflex: 10 Will: 16
HP: 30 Surges: 11 Surge Value: 7

Nature +13, Insight +9, Heal +9, Perception +9

Acrobatics, Arcana -1, Bluff +1, Diplomacy +1, Dungeoneering +4, Endurance +4, History -1, Intimidate +1, Religion -1, Stealth +2, Streetwise +1, Thievery, Athletics

Level 1: Protector Spirit Adept

Shaman at-will 1: Defending Strike
Shaman encounter 1: Thunder Bear's Warding
Shaman daily 1: Wrath of the Spirit World

Adventurer's Kit, Leather Armor, Club, Totem
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======
July 10, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Mind Flayer Race

A mind flayer race that I made when 4E was launched. I based its mind blast on the dragonborn breath weapon, since they're both area-effect attacks that target a non-AC defense.

July 09, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Songs of Erui, Session 6: Improv-Edition

Got back to running Songs of Erui after about a 3ish-week hiatus while we got some new players added to the mix, giving us a nice, stable party of five to play with (technically six since I have to NPC Grynn for about ten minutes into the next session, hee).

I wanted to do something a bit different with my dungeon layout, and ultimately decided not to draw a map at all. Instead, I jotted down a list of monsters, role, and level, and left it at that. Each monster that the party encountered was an original creation of mine that had no stat block at all: they just did things that I felt were appropriate for them, and had hit points roughly where I wanted them to be, and that was it.
This was a dungeon that, aside from my shorthand Notepad notes that amounted to a vague monster listing, was entirely winged from start to finish. I added details and changed existing ones as I thought of them, with only a vague notion of what was going to happen.

Encounter one had two dire bear skeletons (level 2 elite brute) and two skeletal bear warriors (level 2 skirmisher). Initially I wanted them to be riding the bears, but I ended up changing it so that the bear skeletons would come out of illusionary walls that were carved to look like entrances to caves, and the warriors would just teleport in through a hidden door. I made the room fairly large to account for two Large creatures and give the warriors some room for mobility, though there were a lot of roots that were difficult terrain/provided cover against melee attacks.

Encounter two had a minor tree god (level 4 solo controller) that was tasked to guard this area of the crypt, and had a bunch of gravestones and corpses stuck inside. It was Huge-sized, so I made the room even bigger than the last and added a bunch of roots that would deal automatic damage at the start of its turn to anyone that was too close, since I figured that the ent could animate them to attack people. This aura effect (created on the fly) would also act as difficult terrain, and he had threatening reach to boot.
I didnt give him full solo hit points, since they can take awhile to beat down, and in the end I think that the fight ended about when it should have.

The third and final encounter involved two mummy wardens (level 3 elite soldiers) that could also summon bear spirits (level 3 minion brutes) as a minor action to harass everyone. On the downside, they kept getting killed too quickly to make a major impact, but I didnt have an established "cap" on the number so that was good for the party. They could also deal a lot of damage with a big slide effect, and had the warden's marking mechanic. Unfortunately (for me) they died too quickly to use their bloodied ability that gave them a bear spirit aspect. Sigh...

The players really got a kick out of this session. I think it went well, considering that I had only a rough idea of what I maybe kinda-sorta wanted to happen. I didnt have time to consider a lot of interesting or more dynamic "role mechanics", so the brutes did lots of damage with a push, the controller had lots of area-effect attacks and a controlling aura, and the soldiers were a bitch to hit and could mark. I decided to let them summon spiritual allies because initially I think I was going for some kind of leader-type shaman warrior concept, but changed it at the last second.

One thing I did like about this method was that I wasnt "married" to specific events ahead of time. I think it made me more open to let bizarre and unexpected things to occur, since I didnt have anything remotel close to a solid plan in the first place. For example, during encounter three, I was able to have a "creature" yank Maev's sunrod off of her necklace, plunging the room into darkness. I was also unexpectantly able to leave it on a cliffhanger: they'll get to see who/what Grynn's been running from since before the campaign started.

Not something I would recommend all the time, but an interesting mental exercise nonetheless.
July 08, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Angra, Tiefling Psion

A tiefling character that has been trained by cultists of the Dragon Below. Nothing too fancy with the concept, just playing with CB to see some of the options, and I really like tieflings.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Angra, level 1
Tiefling, Psion
Discipline Focus: Telepathy Focus
Background: Khyber (+2 to Dungeoneering)

Str 10, Con 12, Dex 12, Int 18, Wis 8, Cha 18.

Str 10, Con 12, Dex 12, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 16.

AC: 14 Fort: 11 Reflex: 14 Will: 16
HP: 24 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 6

Arcana +9, Insight +4, Dungeoneering +6, Bluff +11

Acrobatics +1, Diplomacy +4, Endurance +1, Heal -1, History +4, Intimidate +4, Nature -1, Perception -1, Religion +4, Stealth +3, Streetwise +4, Thievery +1, Athletics

Psion: Ritual Caster
Level 1: Precise Mind

Psion at-will 1: Mind Thrust
Psion at-will 1: Memory Hole
Psion daily 1: Ravening Thought

Adventurer's Kit, Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing), Spiked gauntlet, Dagger
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======
July 07, 2009
Posted by David Guyll

Debut: Meet the Psion

Now that I'm back from my foray into the sun, I've been able to kick back and take a gander at the psion class. Its a psionic controller that can mess with enemy perceptions, alter memories, and in general do some of the crazy shit that Tetsuo could (screaming optional). I've been a fan of psionics since 2nd Edition, but was never able to use them since every DM I had utterly despised the system because they either didnt own the book, or didnt think that psionics, "had any place in a fantasy game."

I had a bit better luck in 3rd Edition, after convincing one DM that psioncs wasnt overpowered anymore, and got to try out the psychic warrior with some very underwhelming results. I let another player try out a psion that preferred using baleful teleport after locking enemies down in an ectoplasmic wall, since psychic effects could pierce it without any problem. That made it very, very hard to make difficult encounters.

As with clerics and bards, 4th Edition makes the psion a very interesting, balanced, useful class choice. Its definitely more complicated than classes from Player's Handbook, since you have to track power points, but more on that in a bit. As expected, they get to run around in cloth armor, and can use staffs and orbs as implements. I was kinda hoping for some kind of crystal-type implement, like a dorje or whatever, but thats a very simple reskin (and the commentary article supports this notion).

The powers are called disciplines, and they maintain a lot of the older names from previous psion/psionicist incarnations (mind thrust, id insinuation, intellect fortress, etc). Psionic focus seems to be out, but power points are still in, just not used to fuel everything that the class can do (including power-scaling). Instead, you can burn one-or-more power points in order to augment a power, but you can only trigger on augment at a time.

Augmenting your powers is important, because the psion does not get encounter attacks outside of your discipline focus and paragon path: they are all at-will powers that can be augmented to get better effects out of them. For example, id insinuation is a level 3 at-will, ranged 10 burst 1 that deals 1d8 damage and imposes a Fort penalty to the affected creatures. You can dump a power point on this ahead of time in order to increase the Fort penalty, or you can dump two in order to double the damage in addition to tacking on bonus damage if someone nails it with a Fort attack.

Since power points refresh during a short rest, what ends up happening is that your psion has a massive array of at-will attacks that can be boosted up to "encounter-grade" on a limited basis. This is a very interesting way to make them feel different from the rest of the power sources, without overpowering them or making them play by different rules (players of 3rd Edition should remember the "Magic and Psionics is/isnt Different" optional rules). They're definitely not going to play anything like wizards, but arent going to break the game in the process.

Aside from 40+ powers and one build, the debut article also features six feats and a couple paragon paths to go with the whole package. Its not the entire thing, as they are leaving out the "force blasting" build, more paragon paths, and epic destinies, so it feels more like we're getting most of one-half of a entire class. Its technically playable, to be sure, but I think that some magic items and at least one epic destiny would go a long way to making this glass feel half-full.
That being said, its cool, and I'm going to have some fun making a couple psionic characters that I'll never get to play because no one in my group besides me ever runs this show.


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