Dragon 392 - Ampersand: Crisp Fall Days and Scary Autumn Nights

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Dragon 392
Ampersand: Crisp Fall Days and Scary Autumn Nights

by Bill Slavicsek

The R&D team is busy putting the finishing touches on Dungeons & Dragons products for the first half of 2011, and we’re playtesting a number of new board games for 2012.

Talk about this Article here.

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The Ranger power "Rapid Shot" needs to be re-written. As written it allows a Ranger to shoot every creature within weapon range.
Just a bunch of PR, no word about the Character Builder debacle.

Ceterum censeo capsum rubeum esse delendam

Yeah, poor choice of wording there. It is obviously intended to mean you attack "each creature in or adjacent to a (1) square within range." But instead it sounds like it says you attack "each creature in or adjancent to a (any) square within range." Ie, it lets you create an area burst 1.

Anyway, interesting preview. Somewhat disappointed by the Ampersand itself, but mainly because it set up some false expectations at the beginning, where he said he was going to "let [us] in on a number of secret D&D goings-on known only to the Director of R&D and a small, select group of other people here at Wizards."

And then... nothing. We saw the usual covering of upcoming products, but no new info among it. And the Ranger preview, which is nice, but... the same sort of preview Ampersand normally includes, and a product only a month away. Which normally I'd have been excited about, but the talk of actual R&D secrets left me hoping we'd see something really exciting and interesting and new. Communication, as always, doesn't seem WotC's strong point.

(And just to be clear - I'm not actually complaining here! I do appreciate the Ampersand previews. Especially with the current chatter over the CB, talking about R&D secrets and then just handing along a usual preview... may not be the smartest move. I just think Bill may want to review his wording on some of these things to avoid setting up false expectations, which end up just undercutting the cool stuff he actually does hand out!)
I hate to be the doomsayer, but the ranger build pretty much ate the seeker and stole his stuff, right?
Perhaps the fate cards were what he was referring to? I don't know.

I'm trying to remain optimistic about the changes to the game represented by Essentials, but I'm having hard time swallowing the "we're just adding new builds" arguement I keep hearing floated by WotC. Especially since they seem to go through contortions in the Essentials books to mention "other published sources" from which to take powers without actually naming them by name. Makes me feel like my 4e PHB suddenly joined the Betamax VCR and the floppy disk drive in terms of usefulness; in other words Non-Essential.

I'd feel more assured if I could play around with the Essentials builds in the CB, but that doesn't seem like it's going to happen any time soon.

And fate cards? Web-based tools? I'd rather have the CB brought up-to-date.

All that to say, Bill's article did nothing to make me feel better about the overall direction 4e is taking. Or, more accurately, it did nothing to inform me about the overall direction 4e is taking. I guess, like we have been for over a month, we'll have to wait and see.
Dragon 392
Ampersand: Crisp Fall Days and Scary Autumn Nights

by Bill Slavicsek

The R&D team is busy putting the finishing touches on Dungeons & Dragons products for the first half of 2011, and we’re playtesting a number of new board games for 2012.

Talk about this Article here.



I loved that they made a Martial controller...untill I saw that they also made him a half primal half martial. Sounds like he is just a seeker/ranger hybrid class to me.
Honestly, it looks a lot like the new assassin in that way. It seems the primal magic is mostly used for utility type powers. Though I could be wrong.

For full disclosure: I really, really like the new ranger at-will powers presented. I think they're very interesting and do a lot to rectify the old ranger problem (the fact that they're not very interesting to play and lack many tactical options).

The part I'm not sold on yet is the primal part. I mean, I can understand it as part of an effort to make the classes more like they used to be pre 4e but I really like the martial 4e ranger concept.
I hate to be the doomsayer, but the ranger build pretty much ate the seeker and stole his stuff, right?



I won't make the mistake to judge a class from its ampersand preview again.

Usually these previews give a very bad overview of what the class actually is all about.

I will wait for the book and make up my mind then

Ceterum censeo capsum rubeum esse delendam


I'm trying to remain optimistic about the changes to the game represented by Essentials, but I'm having hard time swallowing the "we're just adding new builds" arguement I keep hearing floated by WotC. Especially since they seem to go through contortions in the Essentials books to mention "other published sources" from which to take powers without actually naming them by name. Makes me feel like my 4e PHB suddenly joined the Betamax VCR and the floppy disk drive in terms of usefulness; in other words Non-Essential.



Remember one of the main points of Essentials is that it will be in print for the entirety of the edition, meaning that putting a list of specific books would imply that the list was exhaustive and therefore no future books would have legal options based on that logic.
Good point. That makes very good sense. Still leaves me feeling a little unsure, but a good reminder regardless.
Martial + Primal? The loss of mystical crud from 3.5e to 4e was keenly felt. Kudos on the choice. (...And if y'all hate it with Hunters, just take Martial Utilities and obstinately refuse to use Aspect stances). There was really no equivalent to Stormwarden for ranged builds, and that flavor should have been there since Heroic.

Weapon Talent: +1 to hit with ranged weapon attacks? All weapon attacks? Will there be a damage boost in there? 

Disruptive Shot: Encounter tack-on power that does... what? Gives more damage and...? Gives a to-hit penalty? Dazes? I can't imagine that it would duplicate Clever Shot effects.
D&DNext: HTFU Edition

This ampersand said that HotFK will include human's in it's write ups? Weren't the humans in HotFL?

This ampersand said that HotFK will include human's in it's write ups? Weren't the humans in HotFL?

Yep. The Bonus At-Will Power (as an alternative to Heroic Effort) hasn't been in an Essentials product yet. So it's probably going to look like the PHB human.
D&DNext: HTFU Edition
Honestly, it looks a lot like the new assassin in that way. It seems the primal magic is mostly used for utility type powers. Though I could be wrong.

The part I'm not sold on yet is the primal part. I mean, I can understand it as part of an effort to make the classes more like they used to be pre 4e but I really like the martial 4e ranger concept.

This.

The basic idea of dual power source classes has some potential but the implementation is all wrong.  Both the new Assassin and now the new Ranger feel too much like MARTIAL classes with a side of OTHER tacked on.  That's not a mixed source.  A proper mixed power source class should actually feel distinctly of both powers.  It should either be impossible to ignore a single half (such as giving all the powers dual keywords), or it should at least be possible to completely ignore either half (so far what we've seen allows only for mostly MARTIAL builds, but not mostly OTHER builds).

Which brings me to my other problem, that so far all we've seen is MARTIAL+OTHER combos.  This just feels lazy to me, and even a little insulting.  It seems to almost suggest (warpriest aside) that all weapon reliant characters are MARTIAL by mandate.  Making significant use of weaponry should not be the defining quality of the MARTIAL power source, having physical prowess so extreme that it seems almost magical without actually being so should be.

I think this has far too much potential to muddy down the distinction between classes (flavor not mechanics).  I like the way 4e made classes more distinct.  Paladins are no longer just Fighters with a few minor prayers, they are soldiers of faith empowered by their god so that they might protect the faithful.  Barbarians used to just be angry and primitive Fighters, but now they are fierce warriors who channel the feral savagery of nature.  I don't want to see these concepts backslide, yet I'm all too fearful that they'll eventually be Essentialist into MARTIAL+DIVINE and MARTIAL+PRIMAL.

Too reiterate though, I'm not innately opposed to dual power classes, but please WotC make them feel like something that actually seamlessly blends the two-concepts into a unified whole, not just mostly ONE with a splash of TWO.

Martial + Primal? The loss of mystical crud from 3.5e to 4e was keenly felt. Kudos on the choice. (...And if y'all hate it with Hunters, just take Martial Utilities and obstinately refuse to use Aspect stances).

Yeah, and before this a player that wanted an old school style Ranger could multiclass/hybrid for PRIMAL powers.  Which over all I think was a better system.  It allowed each class to be more distiled and pure concept.
  • Want to play a highly trained and disciplined archer?  Play a Ranger.

  • Want to play a bowman that channels the powers of nature itself throw his arrows?  Play a Seeker.

  • Want to play an 'old school' Ranger?  Multiclass/hybrid the above, or replace seeker with druid for an even more old schools style.

Weapon Talent: +1 to hit with ranged weapon attacks? All weapon attacks? Will there be a damage boost in there?


The hunter gains Weapon Mastery at level 5, which I think we can safely assume is exactly the same as the knight class feature of the same name (and which gives +1 to damage with weapon attacks).

It seems a fairly safe bet to say that the scout will be gaining both these features, too.

Want to play a highly trained and disciplined archer?  Play a Ranger.



As someone already mentioned, playing a purely martial hunter is pretty easy. Either ignore the Aspects of the Wild powers, or work with the DM to create some new martial ranger stances (many of the existing ranger at-will attacks can easily be converted). Then, if other hunter utility powers turn out to be primal, simply take ranger utility powers from Player's Handbook and Martial Power 1 & 2 instead.

With a willing DM, it's also pretty easy to homebrew a slayer archer; the necessary changes aren't really much more more drastic than those presented in the Staff Fighter article. Heroic Slayer and most of that build's stances already work with any basic attack, not just melee basic attacks, and many of the utility powers are equally useful for ranged characters as they are melee charcters.

Power strike is going to be pretty useless, but a ranged alternative (power shot ) doesn't exactly seem overpowering. Alternatively the DM could let you take Hunter's Quarry, or disruptive shot if that ends up being a purely martial power. If your DM's not happy with that, an alternative could be a new Weapon Specialization choice at 7th level that lets power strike work with ranged basic attacks.

Once you hit paragon there's Mythic Slayer and Greater Weapon Specialization to consider; an extremely simple, non-house ruled solution to that is to take a different paragon path - perhaps a racial paragon path such as those in PH2 and PH3. The only real issue at epic is slayer's defiance; all you need to do there is take fighter utility power from PH, MP, or MP2 that's useful for ranged characters (maybe act of desperation from PH, or instant getaway from MP2).

In fact, even a ranged knight isn't too hard to put together. Weapon Training and Weapon Mastery work with any weapon attacks, and again most of the utility powers should be useful for a ranged character. However, you're limited to battle wrath and poised assault as your stances unless you homebrew some new ones or borrow them from the slayer.

As with a ranged slayer, you're going to want to replace/alter power strike and Weapon Specialization/Greater Weapon Specialization. You also have defender aurabattle guardian, Shield Finesse (take Bow Expertise or Crossbow Expertise instead?) and shield block to consider.
@nb_nmare: I think you kind of missed my real point.

As I discussed in the text above the single line (out of a list of three no less) that you chose to quote, I am well aware that the Essentials Ranger can be played as mostly MARTIAL, which is part of my problem with the new mixed source classes being presented.  They aren't mixed, they are mostly MARTIAL with only a smattering of OTHER grafted onto them.  They are poor implementations of what could have been a very interesting new thematic direction.

Also, I find the fact that they are all MARTIAL+OTHER to be somewhat unsettling.  It seems to be backtracking to the days when all warrior like classes were just Fighters with a few special abilities.  Yes these new classes are all mechanically distinct, but thematically things may start to get a bit muddy.
The basic idea of dual power source classes has some potential but the implementation is all wrong.  Both the new Assassin and now the new Ranger feel too much like MARTIAL classes with a side of OTHER tacked on.  That's not a mixed source.  A proper mixed power source class should actually feel distinctly of both powers.



I don't know - for me, that's pretty much the perfect flavor. They are primarily a martial class that dabbles in some amount of magic (either shadow or primal). I don't think either is intended to be a fully mixed source, nor would I personally like it if they were. If they made, say, a new Essentials Swordmage... I could see that as a fully mixed source class that is a true blending of martial and arcane.

But I don't think that is the goal for these specific concepts, nor do I think it should be.
@Tharag_Bocc:

I was just pointing out there are other options, and that the hunter being martial & primal is not the end of the world if you want to play a purely martial Essentials-style archer.

As for your main point, I do agree that it should be possible to pretty much ignore either source if you want to. After all, not every single dual-power source character in the entire world is going to rely on both sources to the exact same extent. On the other hand not every single dual-power source character in the world is going to rely mainly on one source and only dabble in the other either.

My view is that the player should have the freedom to choose for himself how much he wants his character to make use of the two sources. However, trying to have every build of the class allow for players who are mostly/entirely one source, players who are mostly/entirely the second source, AND players who want to mix them to an equal degree would require a lot of class options, which could make things very confusing (not to mention potentially unbalancing).

A more elegant and simple solution would be to have different builds emphasizes each source in different ways. The hunter makes attacks that are strictly speaking both martial and primal (e.g. if you make a basic attack with rapid shot while in the aspect of the dancing serpent stance, the ability to attack multiple targets is martial, but the bonus to attack and damage and ability to shift afterwards is primal), but you can ignore the primal aspect by not using the stances and only taking martial utilities. Therefore, we need a ranger build that makes primal attacks and can choose entirely primal utilities (it's highly unlikely the scout will fit this role).

Of course, the players who want to mix the two shouldn't be ignored either. If the entire class is supposed to be dual-source, then we will need options from both sources in all builds; there should be at least one utility power from the other source at each level (and one source certainly shouldn't suddenly cut out at level 10 Laughing), and yes, powers that make use of both sources. Also, I think it needs to be better emphasized that you are free to take utilities from other builds for your class (personally I think you should be able to take at-will attacks from the other builds, but that's another matter entirely ;)).

As another example of what I'm talking about, take the assassin. The executioner is fairly obviously more focused on martial exploits than hexes, given the complete lack of shadow attack powers. Okay, fine. There should be a second build that uses shadow attacks (shadowdancer anyone? )... and martial and shadow utility powers should be available at every level.

(BTW a quick way to make a shadow-focused Essentials assasin yourself: dump the 1d6 damage bonus from Attack Finesse, use assassin's shroud instead of assassin's strike, and let the player take a couple of non-Essentials assassin at-wills instead of Guild Weapon Attacks.)

Regarding the paladin, and the swordmage: I suspect I'm in the minority here, but personally I would prefer them to be dual-source classes. After all, there are three types of warrior/mage and warrior/priest hybrid archetypes: those have no martial skill whatsoever and enhance their skills entirely via spells/prayer; those who seemlessly blend their abilities in both; and those who apply a few spells/prayers to give an extra edge to their already impressive fighting skills. A single class that allows for all three archetypes would be nice indeed.

Oh, and incidentally, how're these for dual-source powers?

Booming Blade                                                      Swordmage Utility
At-Will * Arcane, Martial, Stance, Thunder
Minor Action                
Personal
Effect: You assume the booming blade stance. Until the stance ends,
whenever you make a basic attack using a weapon, the attack deals
thunder damage and gains that damage type as a keyword. If the attack
hits, the target takes thunder damageequal to 1d6 + your Constitution
modifier the first time it moves away from you before the start of your next
turn. A creature cannot be subject to this penalty more than once during
the same round.



Martyr's Smite                                                      Paladin Utility
At-Will * Divine, Martial, Stance
Minor Action                Personal
Effect: You assume the martyr's smite stance. Until the stance ends,
whenever you make a basic attack using a weapon, the 
attack deals
radiant damage and gains that damage type as a keyword. If the attack hits,
you can spend a healing surge. If you 
do, you do not regain any hit points, but
instead deal extra damage to the target equal to your Charisma modifier.

They are primarily a martial class that dabbles in some amount of magic (either shadow or primal)



I think the issue is that multiclassing as originally presented in the PHB fits this conceptual space rather nicely. It's also much more flexible.

As for your main point, I do agree that it should be possible to pretty much ignore either source if you want to. After all, not every single dual-power source character in the entire world is going to rely on both sources to the exact same extent. On the other hand not every single dual-power source character in the world is going to rely mainly on one source and only dabble in the other either.

This is true, but this was in many ways exactly what the old multiclass and hybrid options did.  Multiclass was for concepts that were primarily from one source, but could dabbled in a second.  Hybrid was for concepts that borrowed equally from two different sources, but had little too no ability to actually mix them.  As such, classes that actually have dual power sources as their default state would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce concepts that not only use two sources equally, but that blend them together to a degree at which it becomes difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins, and it's that lack of delivery that most disappoints me about these new classes.

They are primarily a martial class that dabbles in some amount of magic (either shadow or primal)

I think the issue is that multiclassing as originally presented in the PHB fits this conceptual space rather nicely. It's also much more flexible.

Exactly.
They are primarily a martial class that dabbles in some amount of magic (either shadow or primal)



I think the issue is that multiclassing as originally presented in the PHB fits this conceptual space rather nicely. It's also much more flexible.



Perhaps, but the counter would be that the Hybrid rules would thus easily fit the need for a pure mixing of two power sources. :P

Personally, I think there is room for both options alongside classes that blend the two. Whether that blend takes the former of a martial ranger who dabbles in nature magic, or a class like Swordmage that could easily be a pure mix of martial and arcane, will depend on the class itself more than anything else.
The bipolarism of Multiclassing and Hybridclassing isn't present in these dual-sourced kits.

A Ranger using a Primal Aspect utility to augment a martial attack is quite different from a Ranger/Seeker switching between using Ranger powers and Seeker powers.  It's more fluid, and frankly fits the concept of dual-source user better. 

I'm not saying this should replace MCing or HCing by any means.  But that there is its own niche.

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

I think Thorag is onto something here. The way dual sourcing has been presented so far could easily have been done with multiclassing alone. I mean, all I have to do is take the feat to give me a non martial utility power, right?

I'm not arguing we shouldn't have dual sourced classes. I just think they should offer something different than what we already have.