In 4e, they give you Arcane Defiling. A Mechanic that, to me, is so skewed in the pro/con exchange, and really doesn't capture the feel of what it means to be a Defiler vs a Preserver. So, I made a few tweaks that I use in my game, as quoted from my rules post on my group page.
Arcane Defiling will be mostly the same. You can use it as an interrupt to either an attack roll, or a damage roll. When you use it, all allies in a Close Burst 20 take damage that is necrotic, unresistable, and un-reducable in any way.
The Differences are as follows.
- Each ally in a burst 20 takes damage = 1/10 of their max HP
- Until the end of an encounter, anyone that has taken damage due to Arcane Defiling that drops to 0hp or below falls unconscious and moves back to 0hp the first time only. Arcane Defiling may affect the outcome of a fight, but it won't be responsible for any deaths. Of course, ongoing damage still takes effect, as does the damage anyone chooses to do to an unconscious foe. Also, being reduced below 0hp again takes normal effect
- When you use Arcane Defiling to make a reroll, you make that reroll with a +1 bonus to the roll for every 2 allies (round up) in the burst. Example. If 3 allies are in the burst, then you make either the attack or damage reroll with a +2 bonus. So, +1 for 1-2 allies, +2 for 3-4, +3 for 5-6, etc. (So, essentially, if there are no allies affected by Arcane Defiling, then the reroll gains no additional bonuses outside of what Arcane Defiling already gets). Every 3 minions count as 1 ally for this calculation
My reasoning here is based on the flavor of Defiling. Originally, only the most powerful of Defilers (The Dragon, Some Sorcerer Kings, etc) actually damaged living creatures when they Defiled. For your average, run of the mill, spell caster, they drained the life out of the plants/vegetation in the area, and caused some discomfort/annoyance to creatures. I tried several ways to adjust Arcane Defiling to take the damage out, but it just changed too many Prestige Classes, feats, Epic Destiny options. So, I settled for a slight math tweak to make it a lot quicker/simpler to figure how much damage any given creature takes. And, as HP values increase in higher levels, this equation is a little more forgiving, and has less potential to be an Encounter killer, by which I mean it has less chance of allowing a Defiler to kill his own group if he needs to AD to land a spell on a BBEG.
And since Defiling originally just caused discomfort, I added the no-death effect the first time you drop to 0 if you had suffered from Arcane Defiling.
And, because the damage in a close burst 20 is very harsh, that it seems your average player would choose not to damage his allies by ADing, I threw in the extra incentive of an increasing bonus for more allies in the area. I made this untyped, so that it would stack with any additional bonuses from feats/items/PP/EDs, and would give players of Defilers a little extra incentive not to try to make sure as few allies as possible are in the radius.
Certain classes are inherently Defielrs by nature, and certain mentalities. If you are a Defiler, then you have a few effects.
Because a defiler destroys life as a natural matter of course, his aura has a permanent taint that increases with every rise in level. At low levels, this taint is simply a bad feeling that others sense dimly. At higher levels, the taint becomes a malignant air of death that even the dullest half-giants can detect. In game terms, this is reflected with a Charisma-based skill penalty that’s applied whenever a defiler interacts with other characters that may have reservations about defilers. This penalty is a -2, regardless of level, for any favorable interactions. For sake of Intimidate, there is a +2 bonus in some situations.
Because Defilers don't care about limiting the energy that they draw from their surroundings when they use magic, there is an obvious affect on the environment. All plant life in a Close Burst 1 (per tier) turns to ash. Also, all allies in this burst suffer a -1 to all d20 rolls until the end of their next turn. However, because of this draining of power, the Defiler gains Brutal 1 on all Powers (even Arcane Healing Powers)
In AD&D Darksun, there was only 1 Arcane class, the Wizard, which was split to Defiler and Preserver. 4e has several Arcane classes. Some of which, when you look at them, are classes which use Arcane casting as a convenience. They rely on it, and by their very nature, this points out to me that they shouldn't start out as Preservers. Like the Sorcerer. Look at the description..
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy through their bodies. They gain their power not through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield swords, a sorcerer’s magic is the arcing greataxe of a raging barbarian
This screams Defiler to me. So do some other classes. Artificer, Swordmage, Warlock, etc. So, as the DM, I let my players know that some of these classes will start out as Defilers. Of course, most will have the option of questing, and roleplaying a journey that would allow them to become a Preserver, but it's all in-game events.
The charisma skill mod is lifted directly from original Darksun, and tweaked to something I figured was fair for 4e. I originally had a tier-based mod, but dropped it for a flat modifier.
Traditionally, Defilers leveled up faster than Preservers, which gave them a little powerboost over the Preserver. They received access to spells faster, more HP faster, etc. I wanted to give that back to players who chose to play a Defiler. Brutal 1 seems, in my opinion, like a nice powerboost. It doesn't let a Defiler do any more damage than a non-Defiler, but it keeps the minimum from being as low. Defilers don't care to limit themselves, they don't take the time to only draw the power they need, and give the rest back, so this seemed a good effect for me. And my players tend to agree. And, to flavor Defilers back to the origins, when they would drain an area around them equal to 5 yards per spell level, I figured a Close Burst 1 per tier sounded about right, with a -1 to all d20 rolls of allies caught in this radius, until the end of their next turn.
So, that's my take on Defiling, and really trying to take it back to the roots of what it means to be a Defiler. Use these ideas if you like, or post tweaks if you have your own.