What do players want more of?

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Hey all -

As posted in a recent thread, sometimes the goofy stuff in an adventure (whether it be in reference to roleplaying styles, monster types, or what-have-you) can be quite dividing for players.

So... what do you want to see more of in LFR? Particular creature types? More involved skill challenges, such as the multi-scene stuff in a few adventures
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like CORE1-2
?

Personally, I'd like:
  • More aberrations!
  • Intelligent undead that aren't simply filler - see the Skull Lords for examples
  • Encounters that be either skill challenges or combat, based on party decisions


Anyone else?

 

Alan Patrick

Associate Community Manager, D&D Adventurers League

http://dndadventurersleague.org

MOAR COWBELL!!!!
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
  • More use of Stealth, Perception and Thievery in general
  • More traps and locks, to utilize Perception and Thievery without requiring 4+ combat rounds to disarm (taking a character out of combat for that long just for one trap is brutal)
  • Modules that can be finished easily in 4 hour convention slots (to avoid the pressure of "we have to skip 2 combat encounters to finish in time")
  • More LFR combat modules (not delves, but official LFR) (less like the dreaded WATE series, where 2-3 hours are often spent on skill challenges)
  • More treasure bundles with generic +1, +2 etc magic items, so that the player can easily upgrade them with gold to items he actually wants
More Clerics! (Bards are acceptable to)
Ravens Bluff.



-karma
LFR Characters: Lady Tiana Elinden Kobori Silverwane - Drow Control Wizard Kro'tak Warscream - Orc Bard Fulcrum of Gond - Warforged Laser Cleric
My wishlist:
* Less skill challenges. I dislike skill challenges. I hate them when the number of successes is some large number due to XP considerations, and not because you actually need to reach that number. For example is you're walking through a maze and everyone has done everything they can think of to get through the maze easily (most common trick is to put your left hand on the wall and continue through the entire maze without removing your hand. Such is the nature of mazes that you'll eventually get to the exit). In EAST1-1, we all did a variety of things to get through the maze, and were then told we needed X more skill successes. Boring.
* More extended roleplaying sessions. My favourite mod is the DALE1-3 Master and Servant mod. Everything up to the
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gladiator fight
is absolutely wonderful. And beyond that its all still a good mod. But the opening is my favourite. And none of it feels like a skill challenge.
* More roleplaying-related systems like the reputation system from
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DRAG1-2 A Thin Gray Line
. Its a wonderful system, and although I did ignore it, it gave me a framework in which to determine how people react and what encounters they get. Even a reuse of this system in more mods would be wonderful.
* MORE DISPARITY between low level and high level. At the moment the low-level versions are (as a general rule) better suited to a low-level party. The high-level versions, however aren't. The one exception to this is SPEC1-2 where its the other way around.

Encounters that be either skill challenges or combat, based on party decisions

Definitely.
The biggest issue so far in the LFR night I go to is poorly written/edited adventures. The last one I played told the DM to require a nature check for every turn of a 10 day journey! He had common sense, thankfully.
A rampant issue is a discrepancy between the maps and text descriptions, often including things on the map that aren't described to the DM or whose description is later in the mod writeup than when the thing itself is encountered. In the one I DMed so far, there were several large blobs in the middle of a room that weren't described anywhere in the text.
I DMed a mod where the final combat is either a series of skill challenges or a really difficult battle, depending on how it is approached - more things like that would be good, where player/character decisions actually affect the outcome instead of everything being "Kill it! Kill it!". Skill challenges shouldn't just be a way to delay or take a break from fights, and there needs to be a bit more text in the adventures for RP of skill challenges. These can (and should) just be brief suggestions, but they should be there.
writers from the player base
Rule Zero: Save vs. Hivemind http://rulezeroblog.wordpress.com
I love the idea of being able to turn more combats into skill challenges, essentially talking/roleplaying your way out of potentially getting killed.

My Bard was so proud of himself for doing that during
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SPEC1-1


As a DM I love opportunities for odd or interesting characters and memorable chances for roleplaying. Strange twists or last-minute revelations are fun too.
writers from the player base

What makes you ask this? All the writers I am using are active players in the campaign.

As for fights avoidable through a skill challenge, that is actually quiet hard to pull off in LFR. We have to work with a set experience point pool, and we need to add a minimum of 2 fights. Furthermore we have pacing to keep in mind. The majority of players do not like 4 hours of roleplaying. Still, it can easily be done with DME. Players should not be afraid to give it a try on occassion ;)

As for editting: three or four people review the adventures and that is excluding the playtesters. It is impossible to catch all potential mistakes, especially when it is something like 'turn'. Turn is not round, but 1 set of actions. So in a skill challenge one turn can consists of 1 hour, 1 day or even the whole ride (= week in FR). Of course, the adventure text should mention this, but at times people experienced in the game miss such minor things because they automatically know the intention. Let us know when you come across errors. If they are truly confusing, we can and will update the adventure and if they are minor it is something we can keep in mind for the next time (e.g. I have a list of things of common mistakes).

As for the skill challenges, and the required successes. Again, that is something you need to discuss with your DMs. Usually I have a good idea of the number of checks required to reach success, but when I guess wrong I either extend the amount of rolls/successes (the PCs are not yet at the end of the scene when they score enough successes) or simply finish the challenge as a success (the PCs reached the end, but have not had enough successes). This is typical a DME thing were DMs should not treat the adventure as set in stone.

Personally, I find it funny we have people asking for more RPing and people asking for more fights. Shows we are on the right track ;)

Finally: aberrations and intelligent master mind undead tend to upper heroic and paragon level (deathknights, vampires and liches for example are all 11th lvl+). I am sure you will see more of those in the level 7+ adventures (in fact: I know several with aberations taking a prime role and at least one with an intelligent undead as the main villain).

In any event, I find this thread an interesting read. Keep them comming ;)
I was blown away by SPEC1-2 and would like to see every mod like that (I understand that it's impossible for 4 hours mods to be on par with a double-length special, of course).

The spoiler blocks contain spoilers of SPEC1-2, DALE1-3, CORE1-2.

* More fluff and regional flavor
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Zhentil Keep felt alive while I still have to try to remember anything about the three mods I played in Akanul that would stand out from any other region.

* Somethng to fight for other than gold
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No, we can't destroy and evil artifact every day, but there must be something more for heroes to do than to be hired by merchants.

* Encounters that have additions to the typical heroes vs monsters fights
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Guarding the ritual caster was nice - so was the skill challenge included in the final combat in CORE1-2

* Role playing opportunities - I totally agree with everything said about
DALE1-3 (a fantastic mod, though my ranger didn't get to
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free the bears in the arena
, and I loved the
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Orc scene
in CORE1-2
* Somethng to fight for other than gold
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No, we can't destroy and evil artifact every day, but there must be something more for heroes to do than to be hired by merchants.

I find this one a bit odd... looking at all the adventures I have run only the minority are about merchant hiring PC to do X with X being simple merc job. Sure, in many adventures the NPC pays the PCs to do something, but doing that something is usually heroic and a good act. The fact is that getting paid for a job is one of the easier more generic plot-hooks. A few quick examples (and there are much more): CORE1-4, CORE1-5, CORE1-8, DALE1-2, IMPI1-1, IMPI1-3.
More challenge. As it stands, the high tier version of most modules really isn't very difficult.

More good skill challenges. There are too many of them that are badly written. A good challenge would involve thinking, roleplaying potential, and creativity; a bad challenge is basically "roll endurance twice and lose a healing surge if you fail". Too many of them are either about boring tasks (digging through a bunch of rubble) or are way too restrictive about which skills can be used. Ideally they let you tackle a problem in different ways (e.g. do you climb the wall, or bribe the guard, or ...)
I agree with Kurald. Most of the skill challenges I've seen require too much emphasis on a certain set of skills - either only physical skills, or only social skills. Most classes focus on either one or the other, and as a result the typical party has a wide range of skills that don't always get utilized.

Prime example. DMing EAST 1-1 last night, and the skill challenge only uses
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Acrobatics, Athletics, Dungeoneering, and Endurance
. The paladin and the warlock, who had focused more on
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knowledge and social skills
basically had to sit around while the wizard and the fighter racked up the six successes. It wouldn't be too hard to think of a way to incorporate different skills (
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Nature check to analyze the most efficient way to move the rocks?
).
Gamma World Origins Half-Sheets: Horizontal (FiFG) Vertical (GW) FiFG coming soon
The big skill challenge in that module involves the party being caught in a massive cave-in. I happen to have also run it last night. So, yeah, social checks are not particularly applicable. But in addition to the physical skills, Dungeoneering is very useful. In fact that nature check to see how the rocks should be moved? That's the classic definition of what dungeoneering is used for. Heal was also a good check. Given the circumstances, a creative player could have probably convinced me to let a history check pass, although with a high DC. All in all, I think it is a well written skill challenge.

If a player doesn't feel they are getting much use out of a skill, they should retrain it. However, not every skill is going to be useful in every circumstance.
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More challenge. As it stands, the high tier version of most modules really isn't very difficult.

More good skill challenges. There are too many of them that are badly written. A good challenge would involve thinking, roleplaying potential, and creativity; a bad challenge is basically "roll endurance twice and lose a healing surge if you fail". Too many of them are either about boring tasks (digging through a bunch of rubble) or are way too restrictive about which skills can be used. Ideally they let you tackle a problem in different ways (e.g. do you climb the wall, or bribe the guard, or ...)

This is exactly what DME is meant to help alleviate.
More good skill challenges. There are too many of them that are badly written. A good challenge would involve thinking, roleplaying potential, and creativity; a bad challenge is basically "roll endurance twice and lose a healing surge if you fail". Too many of them are either about boring tasks (digging through a bunch of rubble) or are way too restrictive about which skills can be used. Ideally they let you tackle a problem in different ways (e.g. do you climb the wall, or bribe the guard, or ...)

Seconded. Skill challenges should present a problem and allow the party to figure out the best way to solve the problem. (The corollary to that statement is that the problem needs to be broad enough that there can be multiple approaches to it.) Some of the worst skill challenges I've seen have been problems that should be tackled by something like a single group skill check (as Kurald_Galain says, a good example of this is "clear the rubble", which appears at least twice that I know of).

Personally, some of the best skill challenges I've been through were:
  • SPEC1-1 - Wiiide-open - but with scenes there for when we got stuck. Our highlight was using bluff to sell a party member into slavery and then stealthing him back out once he'd gotten some info. (In our case this challenge was helped along by a great GM. Thanks, Jason!)
  • CORE1-7 - How can you go wrong with a huge free-form Law & Order episode? ;) Enough hints in place to steer the players in the intended direction but not so much that they felt railroaded, and still enough leeway to try pretty much anything.

I understand those who say that DME is here to fix this, but I shouldn't have to use DME to make a significant portion of a module palatable. DME should be used to make changes specific to my table to make the module more fun specifically for my players. When every DM everywhere has to make significant modifications to the exact same thing to make it fun for anyone, there's a larger issue.
Since this is me:

1. A complete removal of all skill challenges ever. The only reason that they do anything remotely resembling working is that players stock up on "That'll do" cards. (Seriously--to even have 50/50 odds of success on a complexity 6 skill challenge, absent "That'll do" cards, players need to have 75% odds of success on every individual roll they make; for a complexity 12 skill challenge, the 50/50 point is 85% success on each individual skill check (that is succeed on a 3 territory which means that players who want to have a good chance to succeed pretty much need to autosucceed on every individual roll since there is not much space between 85% and 100%). Skill challenges are a bad idea supported by a mechanic that would have to try hard to be worse.

2. Opportunities for our parties to make meaningful choices. Thus far most modules have simply been tactical miniature scenarios. (Don't get me wrong, I like tactical minis combat and played the D&D minis game for some time, but I like my role playing games to offer more than just tactical combat scenarios. The opportunity to play magic tea party in the obligatory skill challenge doesn't cut it). There have been, as far as I can tell, four notable exceptions to this trend:

A. Impiltur 1-1. Alone
spoilers
You actually make a decision to stick with the original mission and escort the maiden in distress to the city or to go and rescue the villagers kidnapped by the goblin tribe. (Unfortunately, this was not presented as clearly as it could have been so when I played it the first time and every time I ran it, the party figured that the railroad tracks were clearly leading to the goblins and walked that way without realizing that they had just made a significant decision.)

Future scenarios of this type could be improved by making there at least be apparent reasons to choose to ignore the plight of the villagers other than apathy and contrariness. Perhaps the area is dangerous and the girl cannot simply be left alone/left with the halfling. (Maybe a series of skill checks and a good plan (though preferably not in the skill challenge format--see item 1 above is necessary to keep her from being kidnapped by bandits or eaten by wild beasts). Perhaps there is something time-sensitive that needs to be delivered to the city tonight and delay will prevent success in that regard).


B. Cor 1-2 Radiant Vessel of Thesk
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As originally written and interpreted by the first DM who ran it for me, you hear the woman's screams immediately after second combat finishes. This left the party with the choice to: A. take a short rest and probably let the woman die B. Go into the next fight without a short rest because that's what heroes do.

From a role-playing perspective, I appreciated the choice. Taking risks because it is the right thing to do is what separates heroes from wannabes. From a mechanical perspective, on the other hand, two tough fights without a short rest is extremely difficult in 4th edition. Unlike previous editions, characters don't have short-term buffs that will mitigate the situation and since their powers (especially healing) are mostly encounter based, rather than daily, the heroic decision is likely to be setting up a TPK rather than merely a tougher than usual encounter. (The two previous tables run by that judge had been TPKs and our table was two or three rolls from a TPK). I think this would be a very difficult choice to write well in 4th edition, but if it can be done, it would probably involve two factors:
a1. Have the choice follow the module's easy fight. Most mods have a fight that is not a big challenge. This should be the one to follow-up.
b1. Have the choice follow an even numbered xp granting encounter. This would at least ensure that every character has an action point and a daily magic item usage to spend in the encounter should they choose to take on the challenge of the second encounter without a short rest.
c1. Make the choice less loaded. Let the NPC you are here to save die is too large of an implied risk and loads the choice towards: Coward/hero. There is not much room for middle ground. An example of a less loaded choice might be: let the bad guy get away and track him later vs. confront him now and possibly lose. There should be ways that a broad spectrum of PCs can conceivably make either choice and live with themselves afterward.


C. Dragon coast 1-2 Thin Grey Line
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I haven't read this module so I don't know exactly what choices you have--my party reacted similarly both times I played it. However, I get the sense from the module and the rewards at the end that you can play by opposing the guard, by joining them completely, or by taking the middle path. This is an excellent example of a module that provides meaningful choices and the best part is that it was written in such a way that it was apparent at the time that out characters had choices to make.


D. Corm 1-2 Gangs of Whaeloon
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Again, I have only played this module and I have not run it. (Also, I have no idea how much DME was employed in terms of the encounters the first time I played it--suffice it to say that I didn't even recognize the encounter structure the second time through). However, this module seems to be structured in a way that allows multiple paths through the module and that makes it appear that the choice of which path to take effects the module. (Though the second time through our DM implied that our choice of which gangs to ally with made no difference--if so, that is very disappointing).


3. More looting the corpses and treasuries of our fallen enemies. Seriously. The standard method for gaining magic items in LFR seems to be: "meet a random dwarf who gives you a pair of magic boots unless you are a total jerk" or "at the end of the adventure, you are approached by a random NPC who may or may not be thematically appropriate to the adventure who offers you bundles C-E (A-D at low tier), provided you do this trivial social skill challenge and/or don't treat him like a total jerk." That kind of thing is fine every now and then (though I'm not so sure about random dwarves giving away magic items--whatever happened to our stereotypical greedy dwarves?) But for me at least, D&D is about taking the orc warlord's sword from his cold, dead, hands, prying the magic gems from the eyes of the evil idol, and finding awesome weapons and spiffy armor in the secret armory of a long-abandoned dwarven temple. But for some reason, all the LFR mosters (except a certain gnoll in East 1-2) seem to be wielding completely worthless weapons, the eyes of the idols are worthless, and the treasuries and armory are mostly empty wastes of space on the map.

4. Writers given meaningful options other than the use of the abysmal Dungeon Tiles. I could live with having to use Word 2007 (though other than the RPGA's requirement, I don't see any reason to upgrade from the Word 97 that is perfectly good for everything else I do). I could live with the other restrictions. But if I have to use the Dungeon Tile product to generate my maps, they can find other suckers to write these mods for them.
An interjection about the use of dungeon tiles:

The tiles are utilized by the writers, I feel, in order to help flesh out the feel of the encounter and surrounding areas. While the obvious draw here is to give us - as players and DMs - a more fully-realized world/ adventure/ sidetrek/ what-have-you, I must admit that the tiles simply are not consistently used by the gaming community for several reasons:

  • Usage of out of print tiles!
  • Using more than one set of a specific tile set
  • Size of maps/ transportation options


I try to use the tiles that I have as often as possible, but if I weren't a collector as well as a player I probably wouldn't have 2 sets of all of them to date. Also, if I have to travel anywhere outside of my hometown for a gameday I will most likely not take the completed tilemaps, as they are prone to breakage or separation (and possibly losing a piece or two!).

What I'd like to see for dungeon tiles from WotC and the RPGA:
  • Dungeon tile sets as DM rewards (not pieces, *sets*) for DMs with huge point pools
  • Longer print runs on dungeon tile sets
  • Stricter limitations on what writers can use for their maps - multiple sets allowed, but one unique set maximum over the entire adventure, perhaps?


I must admit, though - the DM Rewards at GenCon and DDXP have had a *really* nice selection of Dungeon Tiles for DMs that don't already have them! Hopefully this will continue; it's pretty cool to use tiles at a table that's never used them, their reactions are fantastic.

 

Alan Patrick

Associate Community Manager, D&D Adventurers League

http://dndadventurersleague.org

I use tiles at home games, but not at games at the FLGS, I find they shift too much when crammed onto the smaller tables used at stores. They look great when they stay together, I have tried using post-it note style clear tape to hold them in place, but no real success, they always seem to get pushed around and bumped. For those of you who use them regularly, how do you keep them from shifting?
I use tiles at home games, but not at games at the FLGS, I find they shift too much when crammed onto the smaller tables used at stores. They look great when they stay together, I have tried using post-it note style clear tape to hold them in place, but no real success, they always seem to get pushed around and bumped. For those of you who use them regularly, how do you keep them from shifting?

I've seen a DM use a sheet of felt under his tiles to help the base layer stay in place.. Seing it in action has made me want to make my next game table like a poker table with a felt covering for this reason. Also avoid using small tile pieces because just moving minis sometimes bump them. Instead buy some of the novelty items like 3d barrels, crates, pilliars, tables ect. Not only are they harder to move outs place but they add flavor to the game.
Since this is me:
2. Opportunities for our parties to make meaningful choices.

I'll second this. And not choices which the party doesn't realize they are making (e.g. CORE 1-1).

One example of a real choice is DALE 1-1 The Prospect.
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At the end, the PCs have to choose which twin to side with.


B. Cor 1-2 Radiant Vessel of Thesk
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As originally written and interpreted by the first DM who ran it for me, you hear the woman's screams immediately after second combat finishes. This left the party with the choice to: A. take a short rest and probably let the woman die B. Go into the next fight without a short rest because that's what heroes do.
This is actually very poor writing. First, if it's intended that the party cannot take a short rest, that needs to be spelled out explicitly, because 4E combat is designed around the mechanic of using the short rest to replenish encounter powers. I have always run "immediately" to mean "immediately after the first short rest".

Second, the last combat is quite difficult and it's likely the party has expended all their healing powers in the second combat. Going into the last combat without any healing is [italic]lethal[/italic]. Railroading PCs into a TPK or near-TPK is terrible encounter design.
I'll second this. And not choices which the party doesn't realize they are making (e.g. CORE 1-1).

One example of a real choice is DALE 1-1 The Prospect.
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At the end, the PCs have to choose which twin to side with.

Strange--that seems to be an illusory or meaningless choice to me. I thought it was one of the weakest parts of the module. At every table I've played, it's gone the same way and mostly without any discussion.

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The deck is stacked in favor of giving it to the sister because she hired the party in the first place--thus to any character who likes to honor their word or who values their reputation as someone who can be hired to perform a job she is the go-to choice. Additionally, her brother's argument that the temple should be returned to service as a temple does not appeal to characters who do not worship his god and since that's not Tempus, that's pretty much everyone in LFR. (Tempus, Amaunator, Selune, Corellon, and Moradin are the only gods I've seen characters following, and Tempus and Selune are the only ones with more than one local follower).

In any event, this is more of a pick your reward scene that happens at the end of the module than a meaningful choice that takes place in the module and has an impact on how the story progresses


This is actually very poor writing. First, if it's intended that the party cannot take a short rest, that needs to be spelled out explicitly, because 4E combat is designed around the mechanic of using the short rest to replenish encounter powers. I have always run "immediately" to mean "immediately after the first short rest".

Second, the last combat is quite difficult and it's likely the party has expended all their healing powers in the second combat. Going into the last combat without any healing is [italic]lethal[/italic]. Railroading PCs into a TPK or near-TPK is terrible encounter design.[/sblock]

I agree with this. It is lethal unless the previous fight goes very quickly. When I played the first time it was a near TPK and we didn't even get a chance to attempt the skill challenge. (The second time I played due to some good luck and good tactics on our party's part the second fight went quickly and we had only used about two encounter powers and one healing word). However, I think it's a valuable kind of choice that may be able to be done well. That's why I put the commentary on how I think it could be done--follow up an easy fight and make it a choice that most characters are able to make in either direction.
Seconded on the meaninful choices. DALE1-2 and CORM1-2 are both good examples of how, in different ways, players can have meaningful choices within the confines of a mod.

I'd also like to see more meaningful RP outside of skill challenges (ties into the above), with more ways to use skills and information outside XP granting encounters. As an adjunct to that, ways to reward some non-combat character build choices (e.g. the linguist feat, ability to make a secure encampment, your regional background). Such rewards should be occasional, and characters without such feats should never be stuck, but a +2 bonus to diplomacy for speaking the local lingo, or +2 to history for having the appropriate background might be nice.
I would like regional backgrounds to mean something more often.
I'd like obvious tie-ins to previous influence/story awards.

I'd like for everyone working on modules to coordinate creature, trap, and treasure bundle selection so that repeats are not overly repeated. Obviously some repeats are fine, and expected, but please.

Along those lines, I'd like to see treasure bundles actually interesting and worth considering more often. Interesting, in this case, does not necessarily mean mathematically best, though it hopefully means fun.

I'd like modules to be designed to finish in about 3 hours, so that it's safe to take time to roleplay or do optional encounters, or to just go 'Oh, the DM is late, we still have time to finish without missing the bus'.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
This thread is really useful. In the past, I would likely have been louder. Now as an author, I'm more of in a listening mode (maybe that's their evil plan...). The comments everyone is making are, I suspect, useful to many authors and admins.

I've often thought about the 3-hr time limit that Keithric suggests. It is really hard to do with the current format. Your best bet to do that is a high complexity skill challenge that does that, plus three encounters that just use the remaining XP. It's just really hard to end up with a fast mod... if you go with two combats, they will be long difficult ones. Too many could work (5-6 combats), if you had a mechanic to keep them strung together so as to increase the difficulty and kept the monsters low on HPs... but you can't do that as a policy. So, at the core, you are looking at a hard task to keep mods brief. And many of us want lots of RP. I suspect paragon mods will almost always run long. Very hard for all those high HP monsters not to take a while to go down unless you have a bunch of strikers at the table.

On my end, I like the idea of more story, especially at the low tiers. I get the concept of starting small, but small should still be 'heroic' and interesting. Mods should feed off of one another. We are starting to see this.

I want to see interesting terrain, variations on skill challenge formats (the rules seem to allow for this), and some clever uses of situational effects to modify otherwise dry combats.

I would like to see monsters carry treasure, instead of the bundles only showing up at the end. Let us try out and play with those toys! (Especially since 'more gold' is such a common pick).

I would like to see compelling story, where we care about what we are doing. Not just because of the fate of Faerun (paragon/epic), but because of compelling NPCs and story elements.

I would like to see region matter.

I would like more interesting impacts from encounter success (whether skill challenges or otherwise) and of approaches (stealth, nature, history, and other checks before encounters). I agree that choices should matter (or feel they matter) more often.

I do see tremendous improvements if I compare the 4-7 and 7-10 mods with earlier mods. I think everyone is getting better at this!

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More challenge.

SPEC1-2 was perfect as far I am concerned. Playing up should be suicide at the bottom end of the level band and still challenging for characters at the top part of the band.

More chances to explore/learn about the new realms in character.

The Realms is drastically different from the Realms I knew and loved in 3.5. I can cope with change but show me cool parts of the changes. The realms used to feel like a fully fleshed out and realized game world. Now it just feels like generic high fantasy.

More positive interaction with interesting characters.

Many of the NPCs/hooks we're given to interact with in mods feel downright mundane. I would love more of the characters featured in CORE1-2 and DALE1-2/DALE1-4. We need less priests/priestesses of *insert good god* who wants us to clear out an abandoned temple in their name.

More flexible loot.

The parcel system is alright but not with what we're given to work with. Some characters have it rough (implement users) and others are simply screwed from the beginning (shamans). Also, the current system makes it very hard to be original and still keep competitive with your peers. It is very hard to play a melee character without being stuck with the same vicious/bloodclaw weapon everyone else is using.

More meaningful favors.

There are a few good/cool ones out there. One square of light off of a piece of equipment is useful and a cloak made from the hide of a bear you brought down with your own hands is cool and something you can imagine and describe your character wearing. An intangible favor of person X is not. Especially when the intangible favor does nothing other than provide a story hook in the next mod. I don't even collect the little story reward slips anymore, they were making a mess in my binder. Now I just write down story codes.

That's enough for now. I'll rant more later.
I want better information as to the various connections between modules and quests. As a DM, I am finding that my players are missing out on the second half of many quests because they have leveled past it. Quests are being continued in adventures of the same level band. They are being continued two or three quarters later. There is very little ability for either DMs or players to plan for what they want to play in the future.
This little signature is my official and insignificant protest to the (not so new now) community redesign. The layout is lousy. The colour scheme burns the eyes. The wiki is a crippled monstrosity. So many posters have abandoned this site that some major forums are going days without posts. The 4e General Discussion board regularly has posts on the front page from two or even three days ago. This is pathetic. Since I have to assume Wizards has a vested interest in an active community I wish someone in charge would fix this mess.
For me the #1 area that mods need to improve on is Skill Challenges.

I want smaller Skill Challenges. Complexity 1 and 2.

I want larger skill challenges, if they must be used, to be dramatic and to matter, not just be ways to fill out 20-30 minutes of play time while everyone sits around trying to figure out what to do according to the module author based on cryptic hints from the DM, and filling up the xp quota the easy way.

A skill challenge should reveal things, and make the next step in the challenge clear. Not just be a bunch of things sitting there hoping the PCs do something.

Example
The PCs must chase a monster who kidnapped a local lord's son into a marsh.
  • perception find the tracks which lead to the marsh
  • history/nature (maybe Arcana or Religion depending on where in the Realms) to know something about the marsh
  • nature/perception to find the safe ground
  • athletics/acrobatics/edurance to work your way through the marsh
  • stealth to avoid alerting the denizens of the marsh to your passage or bluff/diplomacy/intimidate/insight to get their help.

That's 5 "check points" with a range of options so each PC can participate, and a logical progression from one point to another.
That's a Complexity 2 challenge, not the complexity 3, with hard primary DCs that would appear in most LFR mods to hit the XP budget of a level appropriate encounter.
In short; skill challenges for plot not xp.

Make them easier to complete (number of rolls, useable skills) and make them self explanatory in terms of the modules goals.

Maps as a Potential Author
4. Writers given meaningful options other than the use of the abysmal Dungeon Tiles.

While I don't think Dungeon Tiles are bad, I do think we need to be able to write modules without regard for how they will be mapped with Dungeon Tiles. Around here, at least, most maps are done with a whiteboard marker on some style of battlemat (either laminated 3E DMG sheets or commercial ones).

Now, if this "In the near future, D&D Insider will have a Dungeon Tiles Mapper application available for free, which you can use to build your encounters." (LFR Writer's Guidelines pg 6) had any hope of being true it would be less of an issue. Alas that such a critical product is only supported by a fan product that is now 12 months and 3 products out of date.

There are still problems with Dungeon Tiles as a restrcition - try making a map that looks like it is a ship with Dungeon Tiles (Hint there are 2 tiles for wooden floor.) so yes I'd like that waived.

Harder Fights
Yes I want these, but I also realise that the XP constraints can prevent them from happening.
Harder Fights
Yes I want these, but I also realise that the XP constraints can prevent them from happening.

I suspect that this will be less and less of a problem as characters increase in levels--or perhaps I should say, this will frequently be less of a problem as characters increase in levels.

Here's why:

A. 4th edition characters grow increasingly dissimilar as they increase in level and therefore the capabilities of an unbalanced party become increasingly unbalanced. At level 1, a dragonborn fighter with dragon breath is a decent substitute for a wizard with burning hands. Not as much damage, but it will clear minions just as nicely. At level 11, the dragonborn fighter probably does not have anything that will duplicate the utility of wall of fire, stinking cloud, or blood pulse.

LFR parties are frequently unbalanced because of the semi-random nature of who has what characters at what levels. Coordinators do what they can in order to balance tables as best they can, but at the end of the day, most LFR parties will be lacking in one area and overcompensating in others. This will produce difficult fights that will get more difficult as the missing roles become more distinct and more difficult to replace.

B. 4th edition parties depend heavily upon synergy in order to be effective in combat. The higher level the party, the more powers you have that can either work together or against each other and therefore the greater the difference in performance will be between parties that work well together (see the reason A here--you can fill every WotC approved role and still not work well together) and those that don't. Having more powers creates the possibility--and indeed the expectation--of more complex combinations of powers. The difficulty? Unlike a home group where players would play together and develop and practice combos of powers and might even work out some planned strategies, the typical LFR table does not even know the full capabilities of all the other characters at the table, much less have a plan for working together in a complex manner. Therefore, the types of tactics combining powers and abilities in LFR are likely to be more rudimentary and less smoothely executed than they would be in a home game.

To give one example, a group of five warlords could theoretically squeeze two--maybe even three turns (if they add readies into the mix)--of offense for every character into a single round of instant planning with a carefully coordinated series of guileful switches. However, if someone guileful switches with the wrong character, it can easily wind up being less than the normal one turn of offense for each character that instant planning would normally provide. That is a level of coordination that is theoretically possible in a home game but is simply not possible in RPGA play. There are undoubtedly less complex combinations of powers that are actually possible in home play that will be very rare in RPGA play because they depend upon coordination of the abilities and positions of multiple characters which is something that takes practice--and in a situation where the same table rarely plays more than once, such practice is not a realistic possibility.

Monsters and encounter levels were playtested in home groups. RPGA players have some inherent tactical disadvantages vis a vis home groups that will become more significant as the campaign increases in level.

To use an analogy, if you pick a random group of under 10 soccer players and pit them against a team with players of similar talent who have just finished a season playing together, they will be at a disadvantage. On the other hand, if you picked a world cup style team from the best players of any given nation and, without giving them any practice, pitted them against another world cup team that had just played through the tournament, they would be at a much greater disadvantage. The better players get, the more they can accomplish through teamwork and the more significant practice becomes.
Alas that such a critical product is only supported by a fan product that is now 12 months and 3 products out of date.

You can get all the latest files... there's a dungeon tiles yahoo group that has them for download.

There are still problems with Dungeon Tiles as a restrcition - try making a map that looks like it is a ship with Dungeon Tiles (Hint there are 2 tiles for wooden floor.) so yes I'd like that waived.

I've done it online and it's worked just fine - in real life, though, it's not happening cause there's no way I have enough wooden tiles. That said, I do have a map that has ships on one side of it...

The DM Rewards will soon be giving out a dungeon tile ship, judging from a recent interview so that'll be nice
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
I've often thought about the 3-hr time limit that Keithric suggests. It is really hard to do with the current format.

A basic problem is that an actual adventure typically requires about 10-15 encounters, not 4.

Sure, you can do a dungeon crawl or short side mission in 3-4 encounters, but to do an actual story with a beginning, middle and end requires significantly more.

In addition, each time you change an adventure's setting, you typically need about 1-2 encounters' worth of time to establish the location's flavor and NPCs, deal with the adventure hook and wrap up the adventure. You can cut this time in half by cutting out the first part, at the expense of substantially harming player immersion and connection to the campaign.

Past campaigns dealt with this issue by having modules interrelate. Each module wasn't a standalone, but merely a chapter in a larger narrative. Sometimes this meant a direct sequel to a previous adventure; sometimes it meant that the module took place against a larger backdrop (a war, struggle or calamity of some kind); sometimes it just meant that you were dealing with the same NPCs or organizations, or just that your character woke up in the same location he went to sleep in the last module.

Deciding to do a campaign of stand-alone short adventures in which PCs wildly careen around the Realms is not doing the campaign any favors.

My hope is that regional modules are essentially phased out as we get into the Paragon tier. This accomplishes several things:
- If regions are only putting out Heroic modules, that means that we'll start getting to a point where a new player can go through the first ten levels focusing on just one (or a few) regions, allowing for greater immersion;
- If Paragon modules are primarily core, that allows for nine months' worth of modules focused on a small number of storylines, where each adventure can be a part of a larger whole instead of having to carry a whole story by itself.

Heroic modules can get away with being "Go kill a few rats and bring me some seashells" adventures; I hope to see more from Paragon, and the only way we can do that is to get away from the short stand-alone "It's Tuesday, so this must be Aglarond" style.
Sure, you can do a dungeon crawl or short side mission in 3-4 encounters, but to do an actual story with a beginning, middle and end requires significantly more.

While I agree with your concerns about Paragon and Epic tier modules and their apparent scope, I disagree that a module cannot have 3 Acts and function appropriately as a story.

In fact 3-4 Encounters just about sets itself up for Act 1 - 2 Scenes, Act 2 2 Scenes Act 3 2 Scenes. You then have space for 3 fights, 1 or 2 skill challenges and some general RP no problems.

You can get all the latest files... there's a dungeon tiles yahoo group that has them for download.

And where is the RPGA providing this information in the writer's guidelines etc?

I shouldn't need a secret handshake to get a module started and neither should anyone else.


I suspect that this will be less and less of a problem as characters increase in levels--or perhaps I should say, this will frequently be less of a problem as characters increase in levels.*snip well reasoned arguments*

Conversely we have this problem:

Level 1-2 Mod: 1875 xp available, 1500xp for 3x level 1 encounters, 1875xp for 3x level 2 encounters. Complexity 1 Level 2 Skill Challenge: 125xp

Level 3-4 Mod: 2625 xp available, 2250xp for 3x level 3 encounters, 2625xp for 3x level 4 encounters. Complexity 1 Level 4 Skill Challenge:175xp

Level 4-5 Mod: 3000 xp available, 2625xp for 3x level 3 encounters, 3000xp for 3x level 2 encounters. Complexity 1 Level 5 Skill Challenge: 200xp

Do you see a pattern?

The Writer's Guidelines expressly remove 1 monster of level from an encounter for every point of complexity. So the typical Complexity 3 Skill Challenge even at module level removes 1/5 of the xp available for monsters from each encounter. 4E Encounters are intended to have 1 monster per PC, and now you have 0.8 monsters per PC on direct XP conversion (it gets worse if you want to use higher level monsters).

Challenging 4E encounters typically have an XP budget 1-2 levels above the PCs level and uses monsters +/- 2 on the PCs level.

So taking a Level 4-5 module you are looking at - Complexity 2 Skill Challenge (400xp) + 2 Encounters (2600xp - or 1300xp each) - to have the flexibility to make encounters that are challenging and level appropriate.

The fact Skill Challenges are eating up 1/5 to 1/4 of the xp and being combined with 3 encounters is why a balanced party of level 4 characters can play high. We are seeing 6-7 modules being written with XP budgets for their encounters of 1125-1500 xp each - well within the reach of 4th level characters depending on the monsters that are involved.

Your points about "character specialisation" are larely mitigated by players making sure the fill roles. It doesn't matter if table one manages to pull of the Warlord turns of Doom, and table 2 doesn't. As long as table 2 has at least 1 of the 4 basic roles (thanks Invokers and Druids). At Paragon Tier and above the extra abilities of characters beyond the basics of their powers will start mattering, and will smooth out that problem you are worried about.

As long as no one is entering the Campaign at Paragon tier the potential problems you mention are not the concern that a lack of xp to build encounters with is for making a challenging encounter.

There is the scope for up to 20% more xp budget in the guidelines already - that budget needs to be embraced, used, and awarded imo.
• Treasure-bundle variety, such as that offered at the end of CORE1-8.

• Skill checks (during challenges?) that are more than "who has the highest bonus?" (i.e. At some point, everyone needs to make a Skill X check.)

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

While I agree with your concerns about Paragon and Epic tier modules and their apparent scope, I disagree that a module cannot have 3 Acts and function appropriately as a story.

Reading Cailte's and Brian's thoughts made me happy. I think we need more of this type of conversation (assuming more people are listening, and I'm pretty sure they are!).

I agree with Cailte that the LFR format's number of encounters still allows for story. You can have non-combat encounters (the Player's Intro is essentially one of these). They will greatly help introduce story. You can also have story elements before and after the 'meat' of a combat encounter. There seems to be a lot of flexibility to writers as to what to put in a non-combat encounter or in Setup or End the Encounter areas. That's good, as long as the playtests and reviewers make sure the overall effect is sound.

I do see, along the lines of what Brian is saying and combined with Cailte's XP analysis, that most authors will naturally want to use 3 combat encounters and at least one skill challenge to tell a story. It feels right. Part of it is our LG upbringing (compare to Legend of the Five Rings, which may have one combat, or Shadowrun Missions or Spycraft... all living campaigns that don't use this 3-combat formula). Part of it is that it does work well in the 4E style to have three combats.

When you use 2 combats, the monsters have higher levels and HPs and the grind can set in and the challenge can be too high. (Yes, authors can compensate, though that takes work). 4 combats makes each combat a bit too easy. 2 combats and a skill challenge are ok if the skill challenge is high complexity, but otherwise the combats still can suffer. 3 combats and a skill challenge ends up being a bit too easy.

So, I do see a problem where the XP amount, which is set based on how fast we should level, makes it hard to appropriately challenge PCs. If we ran with the Dungeon format, or even look at Adaptables, you end up with longer mods that can more easily give the author freedom to have hard combats where they want them but still easily have the easy combats and the skill challenges where they make sense.

What's the solution?

- Well, at the author and admin level, I think everyone there needs to be knowledgeable of the issue - they should understand the difference between DMG suggested difficulty levels and what you can provide in the LFR format. Being informed you can aim for the best with what you have.

- As Cailte said, you can as an author ask for the up to 20% greater XP to make a mod more challenging. Admins can also suggest this when reviewing a mod. I will note that a small XP nudge can make the right difference. And, authors and admins should aim for NOT having an entire mod be hard and to give relief points. If I look at SPEC1-2 and BALD1-2, for example, both mods would be better with a re-organization of where each hard/easy/mid battle lies. (Just my humble .02, and it will of course play out differently at different tables).

- With skill challenges, you can increase the penalty of failure. Depending on the type of challenge, these could make combat encounters (or an ensuing second skill challenge) much more challenging.

- Encourage better player introductions and conclusions and better use of non-combat encounters when merited.

- Watch monster roles and HPs so as to keep mod time as reasonable as possible. This is getting harder. We are starting to see mods (SPEC1-2, some others) where the HPs and conditionals are using up 2 hours on one fight. That's hard for a DM to make up without severely impacting story/RP.

- I like how Paragon received a 1-level boost in difficulty. I would like to see the same at the next level. This gives more XP for authors and more of a challenge across the board.

- Based on playtests, you can adjust XP for encounters in a non-constant manner. For example, you could have the high-tier of one encounter gain a high XP monster, then have the easy encounter gain a smaller XP monster. Low and high end up doing their jobs better. (As opposed to the blanket guiding rule of just aiming for the logical same difficulty level at both tiers... sometimes playtests will show an encounter plays fine at low but too easy/hard at high, so you adjust.).

- When steps are taken to make things very difficult (such as using the +20% XP, or when there are fewer combats or no skill challenges) provide options so DMs can tone things down for groups that are weaker. Some players will reach paragon playing sporadically. Giving DMs options can ensure fun.

- When Scaling the Encounter includes adding/subtracting a level, go ahead and explain how to do that. Too many DMs don't know. (At least explain it at low level).

Separately, I will note that I think it is easier to challenge players at high levels. High level monsters have more powers/auras/etc. and thus you can build for monster synergies that have huge effects. Throw in a -2 to attacks aura on top of some ridiculously high-defense soldiers... throw some lockdown auras on top of lockdown creatures, then top with some AoE at-will monsters... take traps that bog you down and throw in brutes that are unaffected and top off with foes (controllers, artillery) that have 15 to 20 ranges...

It is much harder to pull that off at low levels.

Personally, I like the idea of levels 1-4 being fairly mellow. Every DM should know how to adjust levels to give players a challenge if they want it.

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

What do players want more of?

Answer: "A life"
One of the things that really gets me about LFR is that encounters are corralled into either a combat challenge or a skill challenge.

To me, one of the best things about D&D is the lack of "corrals", as it were. When the party is faced with a sentient, highly intelligent opponent the situation does not always have to devolve into swords & shields - bribery, flattery (beholders just LOVE flattery), and straight-up negotiation can occur at just the right moment!

I know I would love to see more encounters in the LFR adventures that can be either combat or a skill challenge. It would incorporate more pages into the download packet but I think this would allow for more options in terms of storylines, award bundles, and player fulfillment. Some of the adventures out there can be easily worked this way, but DME isn't supposed to be handled in such a manner - and yet, the skill challenge can sometimes take just as long and be as dangerous as the combat. Ask the members of The Pack about my table of SPEC1-2 during DDXP... more specifically, ask about the football scene. They'll tell you; it was quite humorous but also potentially the most dangerous thing they did all day.

Thoughts?

 

Alan Patrick

Associate Community Manager, D&D Adventurers League

http://dndadventurersleague.org

I think it is a mistake to assume that any character with a class assigned to one of the four WotC roles is equally effective in combination with another character filling another role. For instance:

leader/defender

Tactical warlord plus great weapon battlerager=excellent synergy
Tactical warlord plus charisma paladin=minimal synergy
Battle cleric+tempest fighter=excellent synergy

leader/striker
Tactical warlord+Avenger w/melee training=excellent synergy
Tactical warlord+artful dodger rogue=no synergy
Bravura warlord+artful dodger=minimal synergy
battle cleric+TWF ranger=excellent synergy

leader/controller
battle cleric+wizard=minimal synergy
Bravura warlord+druid=frequently no synergy at all. (The last three druids I've played with did not have any basic attacks--either beast form or ranged).
resourceful warlord+wizard=excellent synergy

You can have a party that fills every WotC approved role, but if there is no synergy there, it will not be nearly as effective as a party where the characters work well together by design. (For an example of this, yesterday I played my inspiring warlord in a party consisting of two warlocks, a shaman, an archery focused ranger, and an artful dodger rogue. One of my at-will powers (Commander's strike) and one of my two encounter powers (hammer and anvil) were next-to useless. On the other hand, trade the rogue for a barbarian and our characters would work in tandem much more effectively).

I expect the transition to paragon to exacerbate rather than mitigate these problems. A tactical warlord/battle captain brings vastly different things to the table than, for instance, a strength focused cleric/kensai. Both parties have a leader, but expecting the battle captain to hold the line or kill enemies personally is probably overly optimistic. On the other hand, the battle captain will grant bonuses to ranged characters much more effectively and has more opportunities to act as a force multiplier for the party. At level 16, the difference in what they bring to the table is much more pronounced than it was at level 1.

Your points about "character specialisation" are larely mitigated by players making sure the fill roles. It doesn't matter if table one manages to pull of the Warlord turns of Doom, and table 2 doesn't. As long as table 2 has at least 1 of the 4 basic roles (thanks Invokers and Druids). At Paragon Tier and above the extra abilities of characters beyond the basics of their powers will start mattering, and will smooth out that problem you are worried about.

So to summarise, players want:

More skill challenges
Fewer skill challenges
Longer skill challenges
Shorter skill challenges
More challenging combats
More interesting encounters
Better RP opportunities
More plot hooks and ongoing stories/characters
And the whole mod to wrap up in 3 hours.

Good luck, writers!

Seriously, the wide variety of opinion here suggests that while you can't please all the people all the time, you can please most of the people most of the time, and the writers are currently doing a pretty good job, and it's getting better. I'm certainly enjoying the ongoing stories that are starting to emerge, and I hope to see more.

I notice that the thread has descended into another "LFR is too easy" thread. This discussion has been done to death already, and we know why the challenge level is low (a number of reasons). The desire for LFR to cater to all types of player and the strict module XP budgets mean that it's not likely that this aspect will change anytime soon, and I'd argue that neither it should (but that's a discussion for the 'LFR is too easy' thread).
I know I would love to see more encounters in the LFR adventures that can be either combat or a skill challenge. It would incorporate more pages into the download packet but I think this would allow for more options in terms of storylines, award bundles, and player fulfillment. Some of the adventures out there can be easily worked this way, but DME isn't supposed to be handled in such a manner - and yet, the skill challenge can sometimes take just as long and be as dangerous as the combat.

Actually, DME is exactly supposed to be handled in this manner. You are not changing the adventure. You are changing how it is run to make things more fun for the players. One thing though, before you decide to allow a skill challenge to replace a fight, make sure the majority (preferably all) players like it and also take a good look at the impact the change is going to have on the pacing of the adventure.

One thing I have observed is that on many occassions players seem to suggest talking and offering the NPCs to give up at the start of the fight, but once combat has started they completely forget that option. Once the dice start rolling, the players do not stop until the last enemy is down. Even though at the start of the fight, the NPCs might very well feel superior, while halfway it quickly becomes clear the PCs are stronger.
So to summarise, players want:

More skill challenges
Fewer skill challenges
Longer skill challenges
Shorter skill challenges
More challenging combats
More interesting encounters
Better RP opportunities
More plot hooks and ongoing stories/characters
moar cowbell
And the whole mod to wrap up in 3 hours.

Good luck, writers!

Fixed that for you... you left out the most important part. :D
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
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