Dungeon 186 - Eye on the Realms: Queen Flfaeril's Blades

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Dungeon 186
Eye on the Realms: Queen Flfaeril's Blades

by Ed Greenwood

Queen Filfaeril is dead, but her Blades continue to further her plans and aims.

Talk about this Article here.

Moving this discussion over from this thread: community.wizards.com/go/post/reply/7588...


Instead of "good human male 12th level rogue," how about:

"(Royal Eyes Elite Agent, advanced to level 12.  Rename Aundairian Elan to Queen Fee's ElanEberron Campaign Setting, p. X)"



I'd... find that to take up more space, while being of less use. And to be more intrusive in the article itself. "Good human male 12th level rogue" gives me some basics of character and a starting point if I need to stat him out. Given his position is one where I am more likely to be using him as an NPC who is conversed with rather than one who is in direct conflict with the PCs, the full stat block is less necessary.

I'd be perfectly fine if, at the end of the article, they included a short sidebar giving suggestions like that, for those who want guidance with the stats. I think that for a brief character description in parentheticals in the article itself, what we got is pretty much ideal.

Honestly, avoiding a description like "12th level rogue" out of a purely mechanical desire to adhere to a difference between PCs and NPCs... well, it's missing the entire point of creating that distinction in 4E. The goal was never to say that NPCs can't be rogues, and its silly to insist that is how things should be. Indeed, by doing so, you are only creating the same sort of rigid limitation that the change was meant to fight in the first place!


If the NPC is not meant to be spoken to instead of statted out, then little purpose is served by including the class/level parenthetical at all.  Why do I care what his level is?  Discussion DCs are going to be based on the parties level anyway, so I am not going to even need to figure out what his Insight, etc., is.  If that was the motivation, then it makes more sense to leave it out completely (like in the previous two months' EotRs).

And my motivation is not a pure mechanical desire for separation, instead, it is for ease of use.  That's why I was making earlier reference to "convention" rather than mechanical imperative.  Let's say for example, that the party does for some reason decide that the talking thing isn't working for them and attack the guy.  If I haven't prepared for that eventuality, my suggested parenthetical gets us into the fight with a relatively quick trip to the compendium/MB or the book in question.  The parenthetical in the article does not.  That is why as a DM I would prefer a parenthetical reference to an existing monster/NPC over a generic reference to a PC class and level.  While the 3.0/3.5 dmg contained NPC stats for each class/level combination, there is no 4E equivalent to that.
If the NPC is not meant to be spoken to instead of statted out, then little purpose is served by including the class/level parenthetical at all.  Why do I care what his level is?  Discussion DCs are going to be based on the parties level anyway, so I am not going to even need to figure out what his Insight, etc., is.  If that was the motivation, then it makes more sense to leave it out completely (like in the previous two months' EotRs).

You could use level as an inidication of when the PCs have a reasonable chance to both meet and be able to influence a particular NPC. Personally for example, I don't change the DCs based on the PCs level when they are interacting with one, but on that NPC's level. It really does not become suddenly harder to convince the poor peasant at level 10 than 1 just because the PC is a higher level. So if a NPC is level 12, having a scene in which the PCs have to negotiate with that NPC makes more sense around the low paragon levels than the heroic levels.

Class is a fast way to give the DM a clue in what direction to go when designing the NPC for the off chance of a fight. Being a rogue can also tell something about the personallity and combat tactics. For example, a rogue and an executioner assassin are both strikers, but you will likely select different attack powers as a DM and you would also use that info when working on the NPC's personality. Mind you, I agree that annoncing somebody to be a rogue does not define the NPC game mechanically nearly as well as in 3E. Is that rogue a lurker, skirmisher or artillery? All three are perfectly possible within 4E game mechanics. He could even be a controller with the right rogue powers.
If the NPC is not meant to be spoken to instead of statted out, then little purpose is served by including the class/level parenthetical at all.  Why do I care what his level is?  Discussion DCs are going to be based on the parties level anyway, so I am not going to even need to figure out what his Insight, etc., is.  If that was the motivation, then it makes more sense to leave it out completely (like in the previous two months' EotRs).



I've always considered it a common misconception that DCs scale based on the party, rather than the obstacles. Having scaling DCs let's you easily figure out how hard it is to bluff a level 14 Nobleman vs a Level 3 Nobleman - regardless of what level the party is. While it indirectly affects it (since a party will often be facing challenges of close to their own level), the DCs are designed to be based on the obstacle rather than the players.

The parenthetical includes his alignment, race, gender, level and class - all useful for both figuring out how he might behave as a person and helping provide the basics of his description. If you do end up needing combat stats for him, they provide an easy starting point.

At the cost of a half-dozen words, I see plenty of benefits to the parenthetical, and certainly no reason to 'leave it out completely'.

And my motivation is not a pure mechanical desire for separation, instead, it is for ease of use.  That's why I was making earlier reference to "convention" rather than mechanical imperative.  Let's say for example, that the party does for some reason decide that the talking thing isn't working for them and attack the guy.  If I haven't prepared for that eventuality, my suggested parenthetical gets us into the fight with a relatively quick trip to the compendium/MB or the book in question.  The parenthetical in the article does not.  That is why as a DM I would prefer a parenthetical reference to an existing monster/NPC over a generic reference to a PC class and level.  While the 3.0/3.5 dmg contained NPC stats for each class/level combination, there is no 4E equivalent to that.



Like I said, I'd find it reasonable to also include a side-bar with those sorts of suggestions. But I suspect, especially for NPCs not primarily intended as antagonists, that it would come up less often than other basic details. Pretty much every single party that interacts with this guy will benefit from the DM having a defined background for him, as opposed to having a bunch of combat stats (if he has the right book), but no immediate reference to race or gender! Whereas only in the occasional game will the party end up in combat with him while the DM is unprepared. More often, I imagine, if the DM decides to use him in a combative role, there will be time for the DM to prepare him as such.

It's just... the original suggestion, here, was to either remove the reference entirely or include a combat stat block (or even a basic idea for a stat block). I can certainly get behind the idea of wanting a stat block - I found the absence of one especially disappointing in the recent Eye on the Realms with gravedigger who were obvious antagonists. But I can't see any benefit to removing the information that is there, and depriving DMs of any insight into this character.

You could use level as an inidication of when the PCs have a reasonable chance to both meet and be able to influence a particular NPC. 



 

Having scaling DCs let's you easily figure out how hard it is to bluff a level 14 Nobleman vs a Level 3 Nobleman - regardless of what level the party is.



Granted, I over simplified-DC is based on monster or encounter level, not party level.  That I generally keep challenges I throw at my players within a few levels of their actual level doesn't give me a basis for assuming that other DMs don't deviate more.  

In either case, referencing a level 12 monster or a level 12 PC class amounts to the same thing for the purpose of determining the DC of a skill check.  I'd call this one a push, and say it doesn't support going with one type of parenthetical over the other.  I think that based on my previous positions, it is clear that I would prefer a reference to a monster.


At the cost of a half-dozen words, I see plenty of benefits to the parenthetical, and certainly no reason to 'leave it out completely'.



Based on the point I made just above, I'll withdraw the suggestion that the parenthetical be removed completely and merely advocate a reference to an existing monster/npc stat block.


Class is a fast way to give the DM a clue in what direction to go when designing the NPC for the off chance of a fight. Being a rogue can also tell something about the personallity and combat tactics.



Referencing a monster is faster, and the monster's powers also indicate personality and combat tactics if you look them up.  Plus, the name of the monster I referenced in my suggested alternative does as much as "rogue."  Which gives a better clue: "Royal Eyes Elite Agent" or "Rogue"?



The parenthetical includes his alignment, race, gender, level and class - all useful for both figuring out how he might behave as a person and helping provide the basics of his description.




 I'll grant that alignment and race is helpful in that regard, but given that this is a fluff article, I think that I'd like to be able to garner that information from the fluff itself-and there is a description in the text of the article of the NPC's goals and methods.  I'll also point you to the quick-fire parenthetical character portraits of Maharantrae and Daskur, which blend the PC class information (to which I object) with a six-word description of a character trait (which is fine).


(if he has the right book) 



As only DDI subscribers should theoreticaly have access to Dragon articles, I think it is safe to assume that the DM will have some sort of access to the stat-block (through the Compendium or MB), if not to the book, at some point before game night.  I don't own the Eberron Campaign Guide.

In summary:
1.  Passing parenthetical reference to game mechanics = better than nothing.  
2.  Parenthetical reference to a PC class = anachronistic, more work for DM = less helpful.  
3.  Parenthetical reference to an existing, referenceable monster statblock = fast, effective, makes use of existing resources and conventions = more helpful.
4.  Therefore, use a reference to an existing monster statblock. 
Yeah, I think I'm not as opposed to what you are suggesting as it might appear. I think that having a fuller description in the text and suggested stat-block in a sidebar undeniably provides more information and use to the DM. The question becomes whether a specific NPC needs that much attention. In this case, I think the quick parenthetical - for both this guy and the others - provides some useful context without taking up much space.

In summary, I certainly don't object to a desire for more information and more tools for the DM. I do think that not every entry requires it, and that the brief amount of information we did receive here was still useful and was perfectly in keeping with the design of 4E.
Granted, I over simplified-DC is based on monster or encounter level, not party level.  That I generally keep challenges I throw at my players within a few levels of their actual level doesn't give me a basis for assuming that other DMs don't deviate more.

Even if you don't, and I rarely do, knowing the level of a NPC gives you an indication on what level you can use that NPC as a reasonable obstacle for the PCs to deal with.

What bothers me about this article('s title):

How the smeg am I supposed to pronounce 'Flfaeril'?! ;)
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
What bothers me about this article('s title):

How the smeg am I supposed to pronounce 'Flfaeril'?! ;)

If it is FR, what did you expect? ;)