• Black Rage, Solo Brute: Take 1

    This is my first attempt at creating a custom creature for Dungeons & Dragons Forth Edition.  All comments and suggestions are welcome.

    The Black Rage is a giant that has been twisted by the necromatic powers within the Shadowfell.  The Black Rage has learned to live off of its pain, turning it against those that dare attack it.  In the middle of battle the Black Rage will go perfectly still, allowing its enemies to strike it, seeming to absorb the damage.  Then suddenly dark energy will burst forth from the Dark Rage striking against those that had damaged it.

    Black Rage Level 5 Solo Brute
    Large Shadow Humanoid (Shadow, Giant) XP 1,000
    Initiative +4 Senses Perception +4
    HP 252; Bloodied 126
    Regeneration 5
    AC 19; Fortitude 18, Reflex 15, Will 14
    Saving Throws +5
    Speed 8
    Action Points 2
    M Club (Standard; at-will) ♦ Weapon
    Reach 2; +8 vs AC; 1d8 + 4 damage.
    m Sweep Club (Standard; recharge 56) ♦ Weapon
    The Black Rage makes a Club attack against two Medium of smaller targets; on a hit, the target is pushed 1 square and knocked prone.
    r Hurl Rock (Standard; at-will)
    Ranged 8/16; +8 vs AC; 1d8 + 4
    Absorb (Minor; recharge 6)
    Chose either close attacks or ranged attacks. Until the end of the Black Rage’s next turn, anytime it is damaged by a power of the chosen type record the damage and who damaged it.
    c Reflect (Standard; at-will)
    Close burst 20; target creatures that have damaged to Black Rage since it used Absorb; +10 vs Will; Deal damage to the target equal to the damage that the target dealt to the Black Rage.
    Alignment Chaotic Evil Languages Giant
    Skills Athletics +12
    Str 18 (+6) Dex 10 (+2) Wis 10 (+2)
    Con 18 (+6) Int 12 (+3) Cha 8 (+1)
    Equipment hide armor, club

  • Removing magic weapons from DnD 4e

    In an upcoming Dungeons & Dragons Forth Edition campaign, I have decided that I don’t want to be bothered with giving out standard magical items.  Items like +1 longswords and +2 suits of platemail.   I want the magic items that I award to be special, not just an expected result of the leveling up process.  I want Excalibur, not +1 longsword.

    The problem with this is that the mechanics of 4e expect the players to regularly receive magical items.  Every five levels the player is expected to receive the next tier in magical items.  +1 around level 5, +2 around level 10 … +6 around level 30.  This type of equipment grind works in a computer game, but doesn’t really work in the episodic, fast-leveling campaign that I am planning.

    In order to remove these “mundane” magical items, and still allow the player a fighting chance at surviving at higher levels, changes will have to be made.  Making these changes will first require an understanding of just what exactly these magical items do for the player.  I plan on dividing this subject up into two or three posts, this first one will discuss magical weapons.

    There are two mechanical benefits from “mundane” magical items.  First, they increase the characters chance to hit.  Magical weapons do this by giving a bonus to the character’s Attack Bonus equal to the enhancement bonus of the weapon.  The second benefit that magical weapons offer is an increase in the damage dealt. 

    Magical weapons provide bonus damage in two forms.  Magical weapons add their enhancement bonus to any attacks made with the weapon.  Additionally, when the character scores a critical hit the attack deals extra damage based upon the weapon.  Most magical weapons have a critical hit die associated with them.  Most commonly this is a d6.  When the character make a critical attack they roll X dice of the specified type, where X is equal to the weapons enhancement bonus. 

    For example, a +5 longsword deals 5 extra damage on every attack made with the sword.  When that sword lands a critical blow, it deals 5d6 extra damage.

    Now that we understand how magical weapons benefit the character, what changes do we make to the system to balance out the removal of those magical weapons?  I believe that balancing out the damage will be pretty easy, so I will be focusing on balancing out the attack bonus first. 

    Before we can make any changes I think we need to explore the interaction between player character Attack Bonuses and monster AC.

    Monster AC increases each level.  From a post on Enworld , we know that average monster AC is level + 14.  This average should give us a good baseline to compare against, even though AC will fluctuate depending upon the monsters race, role and other factors.

    Player character attack bonuses are a bit more complicated.  There are many factors that go into determining a characters attack bonus.  Each weapon has is proficiency bonus, along with any enhancement bonus that is may grant due to its magical nature.  Player characters ability scores directly affect their attack bonus, and abilities increase as the character’s level increases.  Additionally, one half the character’s level is added to the attack bonus.  Finally, there are feats that can increase the character’s attack bonus.  The most common feat to do so is likely to be the new Weapon Expertise from Player’s Handbook 2.  This feat gives +1 to the character’s attack bonus; it then scales up at levels 15 and 25.

    To see how all of these factors work together see the chart below.  For this chart I am using a player character that starts with an 18 in their primary attack ability.  The character will be taking the Weapon Expertise feat, and will be following an epic destiny that increases their stats at level 21.  Magic Weapons are being awarded at levels 3, 7, 13, 17, 23, 27 to help even out the chart.

    Player Character’s Attack Bonus      
    Level Level
    Bonus
    Ability
    Bonus
    Weapon
    Proficiency
    Magic
    Weapon
    Feat TOTAL   Monster
    AC
    Difference
    1 0 4 3 0 0 7   15 8
    2 1 4 3 0 0 8   16 8
    3 1 4 3 1 0 9   17 8
    4 2 4 3 1 0 10   18 8
    5 2 4 3 1 0 10   19 9
    6 3 4 3 1 1 12   20 8
    7 3 4 3 2 1 13   21 8
    8 4 5 3 2 1 15   22 7
    9 4 5 3 2 1 15   23 8
    10 5 5 3 2 1 16   24 8
    11 5 5 3 2 1 16   25 9
    12 6 5 3 2 1 17   26 9
    13 6 5 3 3 1 18   27 9
    14 7 6 3 3 1 20   28 8
    15 7 6 3 3 2 21   29 8
    16 8 6 3 3 2 22   30 8
    17 8 6 3 4 2 23   31 8
    18 9 6 3 4 2 24   32 8
    19 9 6 3 4 2 24   33 9
    20 10 6 3 4 2 25   34 9
    21 10 8 3 4 2 27   35 8
    22 11 8 3 4 2 28   36 8
    23 11 8 3 5 2 29   37 8
    24 12 8 3 5 2 30   38 8
    25 12 8 3 5 3 31   39 8
    26 13 8 3 5 3 32   40 8
    27 13 8 3 6 3 33   41 8
    28 14 9 3 6 3 35   42 7
    29 14 9 3 6 3 35   43 8
    30 15 9 3 6 3 36   44 8

    As we can see from the chart, the player characters attack bonus increases at pretty much every level.  This balances out well with the increase in the monsters average AC. 

    Note that before the addition of the Weapon Expertise feat with PHB2 the character’s attack bonus would have fallen behind by 3 points at level 30.   To me this indicates that the feat is just a band-aid on the system.  A band-aid that works well, but one that I think we can do without.  So in addition to removing “mundane” magical weapons from my campaign, I also intend to remove Weapon Expertise.

    Now if I take the total attack bonus that magical weapons can grant (+6) and add the attack bonus from Weapon Expertise at level 30 (+3), I determine that any changes to the system will need to balance out a total of +9 to attack bonus across 30 levels.

    To make this easy on the players, allowing them to use the Character Builder without modification, I have decided to handle the alterations on the DM side.  This means that I will be decreasing the AC of the monsters as the players level up. 

    Dividing the 30 levels by the +9 attack bonus, we get 3.33.  To make the math easier, I’ll just use 3.  So every 3 levels, I will decrease the AC of the monsters by 1.

    So for a level 10 monster, I will be decreasing its AC by 3.  In fact, I will be decreasing all of its defenses by this amount.  While I have not included a detailed study of non-AC defenses they follow the same pattern.

    Returning to the topic of damage, I plan to mostly ignore the bonus damage that magic weapons add to each swing with a weapon.  I will likely end up doing something in regards to hit points or damage to speed up combat, but that would be a future post.

    Bonus damage on critical hits is a different matter.  I have a harder time just throwing this damage out the window.  There is a fairly simple solution for this however.  I’ll simple give all weapons the ability to deal bonus damage on a critical hit determined by the level of the character.  Bonus damage will be in the form of the default d6.  Critical hits will deal 1d6 bonus damage for every 5 character levels.  (Level / 5 rounded down)

    The magical weapons that I do hand out, Artifact type items, may increase the size of the critical hit die.  For example, Excalibur may deal Xd12 damage when a critical hit lands.

    To achieve my goal of removing “mundane” magical items from Dungeons & Dragons Forth Edition I will be making two changes to the game.  First, I will subtract 1 from every creatures AC for each 3 levels.  (Level / 3 rounded down)  Secondly, I will make all weapons deal bonus damage on a critical hit, 1d6 damage for every 5 levels.  (Level / 5 rounded down)

  • Making Rituals More Usable

    Earlier today Mike Mearls asked “Thursday’s #dnd question – have rituals seen much use in your game?”

    Looking through several responses, it looks like many groups have not used rituals.  Those groups that have used rituals, do not use rituals very often.  The largest complaint about rituals were the casting costs associated with them.

    My proposed solution to this problem is to follow the example given in the Player’s Handbook II with the Bards.  Bards are allowed to perform one ritual per day of their level or lower without having to pay the component cost.  The only catch is that the ritual must be a bard specific ritual.  At paragon and epic tiers the bard is allowed one additional ritual per day for free.

    Following this example I would extend this class feature to the Wizard, Cleric and Druid classes, since I consider these to be the main ritual casting classes of their power sources.  Wizards would be only be allowed to perform Arcane based rituals for free.  Clerics would be restricted to Religion based rituals, while Druids would only be allowed to cast Nature based rituals without component cost.

    This house rule should increase the usability of rituals in your campaign, and make the Wizard, Cleric and Druid classes the best ritual casters of their power source.

  • WotC announces changes to D&D event scheduling

    So when I recieved an email from WotC this morning, I figured it would have something to do with yesterday’s fiasco.  But apparently I was being naive, and instead its an announcement for changes to how you register Living Forgotten Realm events.

    Dear WPN Organizer,

    This Wednesday, April 8, we’ll be implementing improvements to the D&D event scheduling process. Below is a list of these changes and how they impact your D&D event scheduling.

    Two Logos for D&D Events

    When you log in to schedule a D&D event (including Living Forgotten Realms, D&D Delve Night, and Worldwide D&D Game Days), you’ll now see two logos.

    ·       If your game is private, meaning it is not open to the public, click the Dungeons & Dragons Private Play logo. Private D&D events can be run anywhere, including homes, stores, etc. We will no longer ask where you are holding your private events.

    ·       If your game is public, meaning it’s run at a public venue (like a game store, library or hotel) and is open to the public, click the Dungeons & Dragons Wizards Play Network logo. 

    Living Forgotten Realms events can be either public or private, but only public LFR events count for purposes of the organizer’s standing within the Wizards Play Network.

    Note that D&D Delve Night and Worldwide D&D Game Day are always public, so click on the Dungeons & Dragons Wizards Play Network logo to schedule those events.
    Phone and Email Required for Public Events

    When you schedule a public event, you will now be asked to provide a phone number and email address. Please provide the contact information for someone that can provide comprehensive information about your event to potential participants. If you are running a public event at a non-retail location (hotel, library) you should usually not provide the facility phone number or email address.

    Improved Shipping Info Form

    When you finish scheduling a D&D Delve Night or Worldwide D&D Game Day event, and you live in a region that receives physical materials for these events, you will be required to fill out a mailing fulfillment form so we can ship the materials to you. You can have the materials delivered wherever you choose (except PO Boxes). There is a new drop-down box that will help you enter shipping information.

    As a note, Living Forgotten Realms events don’t have physical materials to ship; you’ll always find your download materials available instantly after scheduling your events via link to a .zip file in the “My Events” section of your profile.

    Please note that you may not be able to schedule D&D events between noon and 5pm (Pacific Time) on Wednesday, April 8 while the scheduling system is updated to implement these improvements.

    We trust these changes will make scheduling D&D events even easier. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments about these changes.

    Thank you,

    The WPN Team

    Wizards of the Coast

    I have yet to determine if the red text above means that games that you run in private will no longer help to earn you rewards.

  • Introducing new players to DnD 4E

    I just responded to a post on ENWorld, in quick a user asked:

    Great ideas you did (or wished you had done) for your first game?

    Here is my reply (posted in the thread @ ENWorld also):

    What do your players enjoy?

    If they enjoy combat, give them a nice interactive battle. Use some interesting terrain, something that changes can be fun (a sinking ship comes to mind). Toss in some minions so they can get get some one-shot kills in. Make it a fun tactical encounter. DO NOT USE KOBOLDS. Not for your first combat at least. Their shiftiness will frustrate your melee fighters, and their high reflex will frustrate your ranged casters.

    If they enjoy a deeper role-play encounter more, try an interesting skill challenge. Make sure its not just a “clear rocks with Althetics check for 10 hours”. A chase scene through the dark allies of a city with the guard in close pursuit. (Or it could be a band of thieves, a cabal of dark necromancers they stumbled upon, whatever.) Let your players describe what thye are doing in detail, asking for skill checks as appropriate. Try to get through the skill challenge without ever letting them know it is one, until the end when you say “you just defeated your first skill challenge” or “the guards have you surrounded, there is no where to escape to… you just failed your first skill challenge.” Success means they get away. Failure could lead to a combat, or them getting captured and taken to the Captain of the Guard.

    Or combine both into one session.

    Your PCes are making a journey on a ship, but when they reach their destination they find the port under attack by pirates or a enemy state. Another ship engages them on the sea, damaging their ship and sending over a raiding party. The PCes must ward off the attacks as their ship is sinking. (Every turn one square of the ship sinks under the water. And the edge of the water there are 2 squares of difficult terrain, beyond that its too deep to stand and athletics checks are required.) If the PCes win the combat, they must sail for the port which is under pirate attack because their ship is too damaged to make it anywhere else. (The pirates ship should be damaged and sink during the combat.) As the ship lands at he dock (enter Pirated of theCaribean scene of Jack Sparrow stepping onto the dock just as the ship finally sinks under the water), other pirates/attacks see them and the chase is on. They may have to fight small bands of pirates along the way of the skill challenge (make a failure mean they get caught by a few minions, or a some minions and a couple stronger pirates). Eventually they either get captured by the pirates, or they escape they city. End the session there =)

    How would you introduce new players to Forth Edition?  How about new converts from older editions?

  • First Game, First Death

    It seems that I have always wanted to try Dungeons & Dragons (DnD), but never really had the chance to.  It was never an all consuming passion or anything, but when I would hear about the game I would say to myself “I’d like to play that sometime.”

    The release of Dungeon & Dragon’s Forth Edition finally spurred me to actually seek out a game.  I ordered the Player’s Handbook (PHB) from Amazon, started reading a few blogs and started looking for a game that I could play in.

    I did have some difficulty in finding a game.  I asked my friends if they would be interested in playing, but met with very limited success.  James wanted to play, as did Chris said but he probably wouldn’t be able to.  No one else that I knew wanted to play.  Having met with my first failure I moved on.

    Next, I looked for a game online.  I tried several websites, but most of them were unhelpful.  Wizard of the Coast’s (WoTC) own website, which seemed to be a logical place for people to post games that were looking for players, didn’t seem to have a forum dedicated for such.

    Finally, I found Meetup.com and saw that there was a DnD group that meet in Kalamazoo once a month.  So I registered to the site, joined the group and signed up to next meeting (called a meetup).  In the groups forum there was a sign up to play a Pathfinder game at the next meetup with pre-generated characters.

    The Friday of the meetup rolls around and I head over to the coffee shop where the meeting is to occur, which incidently is on the second floor of a video rental store.  I met the people there, they are all nice and welcoming to the newbie.

    About half an hour later, those that had signed up to play in the game push some tables together and we get down to business.  Kevin, the organizer for the Meetup group and the DM for our adventure, had created 4 characters ahead of time: a human fighter, an elf rogue, a human cleric and a human sorcerer.

    Kevin had the four players roll a twenty-sided die (d20), with the highest getting to chose thier character first, then down the list.  I rolled the third highest.  The first person chose the fighter, the second took the elf, leaving me a choice of the cleric or the sorcerer.  Now, while I have not played DnD on a tabletop before I used to play Neverwinter Nights for years, which are based off of the DnD 3.0 ruleset (maybe the 3.5), so I was familar with the classes.  I have never been all that fond of sorcerers for some reason, so I decided to go with the cleric.

    With character selection done, we begin playing the adventure.  The adventure that we were playing is an introduction to Pathfinder, both its rules and its setting.  I won’t go into the full details of the adventure here, but the general story is that we were looking to retrieve a stolen book and return it to this little old lady who cooks a lot of muffins.  The fighter and I learning this information, proceed in making jokes about muffins all night.

    After much hunting around town, we finally find the book at the town dump.  Just as we are retrieving the book from the top of a pile of trash, a group of goblin’s appear and attack us.  Did I mention that the major industry in this town is glass making?  Which makes the town dump a big pile of glass shards?  No, I guess I forgot to mention that.

    I really do not recommend fighting on top of a pile of glass shards, just FYI.  Every turn we would slide one square down the pile (away from its center), unless we spent our movement on staying in place.  Sliding down the pile would also cause a point of damage, and first level characters in Pathfinder don’t have many hit points.

    Now may be a good time to talk about the interesting initiative system that Kevin, our DM, had us running for this adventure.  During our first turn of combat, we all rolled initiative.  The person who rolled the highest determined the parties initiative for that turn.  That number was compared to the NPCes initiative and whichever side that won went first for that round.  The rogue won for us, beating the DMs roll, so he went first.  After he finished we went around the table, the sorcerer then me and finally the fighter.  After we had all gone, the DM played all of the NPCes.  In the second round, the next person around the table rolled initiative for our side.  So the sorcerer rolled, beat the NPCes and played his turn.  I made my turn, then the fighter, then the rogue and then all the NPCes.  Initiative continues like this, with one player rolling initiative for the whole party, then each side using all of its turn in one block.

    Back to the battle itself.  When my turn came up, I look down at my spell list and saw Command.  Then I looked at the map and saw what looked to be the leader of the goblins charging at us, and I had this crazy thought.  Following my brilliant plan through, I ran out in front of the rest of my party and cast Command at the goblin… who proceeded to make his save, meaning I not only just wasted a spell but also put myself out away from my party to do so.

    The battle continues, I get hit a few times but am able to back up to where my fighter is.  He gets hurt and I use my other spell on healing him.  It only helps for a few rounds and soon the fighter is down on the ground.  But he was able to take out a few goblins with him, leaving me facing off alone against an archer while the sorcerer and rogue and working on their own goblins.

    The exact details are hazy here, but I recall charging up to the archer and hitting him with my mace a few times.  The archer shifts away from me and starts shooting arrows at me again.  By this time, I’m so injured that if I even attempt to walk over the glass I’ll be dead, so I switch over to my crossbow to shoot back at the goblin.  I’m able to hit him once before he nails me with an arrow, dropping me onto the pile of glass shards.

    During this time the rogue had run over to help the sorcerer and had gotten himself stabbed, but the sorcerer was able to finish off the goblin.  Apparently I had hurt the goblin enough that he decides to flee after taking me down.  So as I lay there bleeding out onto the glass, the sorcerer sits down and begins to read the book that we have been hunting down.

    The rogue and fighter are able to stabilize before help arrives, but sadly my cleric takes his last breath cursing that sorcerer, who it turns out had been down to 1 hp himself so if he had tried to move he would have died to the glass also.  So at the end of the fight, the sorcerer has 1 hp, the fighter and rogue are unconscious and the cleric has died.

    In the end I had a great time playing despite, perhaps because, my character dieing.  I will be playing much more in the future and will be reporting back often.

  • Comments on Forth Edition

    I originally posted this in response to some comments about the forth edition of Dungeons & Dragons on another forum, but wanted to save it.

    This post does a good job comparing 3.5 and 4.0 on the theory level.

    From my reading through the PHB (about to start on the DMG) and various posts in different places, I would make these comments.

    • Yes, you need to use a battlegrid.  But as a mostly CRPG player, thats fine with me.
    • They have simplified combat, and especially simplified character creation.  Mostly for the better IMO.
    • I would say that the system is an attempt to make it easier for new players to get into the game.
    • They seem to be following the “Rule of Fun“, which is basically give the players something cool and fun to do as often as possible.  No more healbot clerics, or level one mages out of spells after two magic missles.
    • They’ve really made an attempt to give everyone something cool to do, while at the same time streamlining it so that turns go by more quickly, meaning everyone gets to be more active in a fight (or even non-combat encounter).
    • The game is less of a fantasy simulation now and more like being part of an epic fantasy movie or adventure.

    One example of that is the concept of “minion” monsters.  Minions are monsters with pretty decent stats, but only 1 hp.  Their whole purpose is to get slaughtered and by in the way when you’re trying to beat on the encounter boss.  An encounter seems to normally consists of 2-4 minions, 1-3 other guys and then a leader.  Minions are really very unrealistic.  But its fun to have a bunch of guys that get beat down easily, and to have the battlefield littered with corpses at the end of a fight.  And remember that minions can still hurt you, dealing the same damage as normal monsters.

    For a good look at how 4.0 actually plays, I would recommend downloading and listening to the podcasts that Wizards has of the Penny Arcade and PvP guys playing through an adventure with a couple guys from the Dev team at Wizards DMing.  There are 6 episodes, each about 45-60mins in length.  Actually it looks like they just put up #7.  You may have to sign into D&D Insider to get to them (free sign up) but I think the direct links may get past that.  Spoiler Alert: It looks like they are playing through the Keep of the Shadowfall module.

    Episode 1
    Episode 2
    Episode 3
    Episode 4
    Episode 5
    Episode 6
    Episode 7

    Update:  The eight and final episode is online now.

    Episode 8

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