Thursday, February 4, 2010, 4:28 PM
My party's going to run into a group of cyclopes this weekend, so I figured I might as well look at how they are in the Monster Manual.
Conceptually, they're great. Evil Eye lets each of them have some nifty and flavorful ability. They're big creatures with big weapons so clearly they do a lot of damage and... wait, hold on, hit the brakes. 1d10+6 from a 14th artillery or 17th skirmisher? Or 7 from a level 14 minion, for that matter. Okay, the damage needs help. I think in general they could also use a little spicing up.
So, I plug some data into my handy spreadsheet for comparing monster damage and survivability. Apparently the Battleweaver is doing about half the damage it should do, and you should need about _15_ Cyclops Guard minions to equal the damage of a half-decent level 14 monster. The Impaler and Hewer aren't quite as bad, but could both use some help.
As a melee only minion, the guard needs to have a solid punch. I also changed evil eye to actually trigger. Now there's a real choice on killing them early or letting them persist for a couple rounds. Incidentally upped their defenses and attack bonus to be appropriate for level.
Added a +5 bonus to damage onto Evil Eye which I'll admit is a little boring. I also changed the way it worked to lasting a turn, so that it will use evil eye every round. Along the way it gained the ability to briefly have two creatures eyed, in case you can swing that with Impaling Volley (which upped in ongoing damage and gained immobilize, to be slightly more interesting). Also reduced its AC + Fort by 1.
The Hewer's old Evil Eye was pretty interesting until you realized it would hardly ever matter. Free attack when an ally is missed by a melee attack (by someone eyed and in reach, etc) - meh. Being able to shift after a ranged character is nice for the occasional OA. So, instead I gave it retaliation so it has decent damage - triggering on any attack on an ally, not just one that doesn't include the Hewer. I didn't want to deal with multiple Hewers evil eye-ing the same person or one eye-ing a creature marked by someone else, so I had evil eye mark (though I'd just as soon avoid marked on monsters). I considered something about it costing extra movement to move away from the cyclops, but I kinda like the fall prone if end further away for making people think. Slight damage bump per swing and reduced its defenses.
The Battleweaver needed a lot of help in damage, so I made its evil eye very likely to give it free attacks (also changed it to slow since I didn't think it was necessary for a slowed eyed creature to have 0 speed). Upped its reach and blast to 3 and damage by 4. Didn't have to touch the defenses, though.
The one fight I did with them went well enough - I'm sure I'll get a chance to test things out more in the weeks ahead as they head into the Feydark.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 5:12 PM
The abomination's massive hands surge forward, plucking villagers out of the crowd. For a moment, it inspects its catch as they scream in its grasp, then it smashes the two people together in a gore splattering clap.
As the rest of the village flees into the night, it looks for something else to eat with its newly made jelly. Its eyes settle on you.
Basically, I wanted something that evoked the standard brutish hulkish trope from many a comic and film. It picks stuff up, and throws and smashes them. It worked out pretty well in play. I used a lower level version against two groups. In both groups I had people getting hurled about, and everyone knew (and said something appropriate of an Uhoh-ish nature) what was about to happen when I managed to get a hand on two people at once.
It is a bit more complex or, well, wordy than what I'd wanted for a relatively simple concept. I probably could have combined brain and clap in some fashion, but I wasn't as happy with the result. In the end I'll take it requiring a fair amount of reading and having lots of miss, effect type text for doing what I wanted to do and being fun at the table. Course, my own notes for the creature were just like four lines - it just takes a bit more to have someone else get it all.
After putting this into the monster builder it occurred to me that this could be a template. An entirely too wordy and unwieldy one, but eh...
Large or larger Brute humanoid
Saving Throws +2
Action Point 1
Hit Points +10 per level
Whenever this creature becomes subject to the slowed, immobilized, restrained, dazed, or stunned conditions, it may make a save against the condition, even if a save does not normally apply. If successful, the condition is removed.
M Grab (minor; at-will)
Reach 2 (Huge 3, Gargantuan 4); Level + 3 vs Reflex; the target is pulled into this creature's space and grabbed (escape ends). This creature may grab up to two Medium or smaller targets at a time, and moves normally while carrying them, without provoking opportunity attacks from them.
M Hurl (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; Level + 3 vs Fortitude; High Normal Damage* and the target slides 4 squares and is knocked prone. Any enemies adjacent to the target after the slide take 3 + 1/2 Level damage.
Miss: Half damage and the target slides 2 squares.
Hit or Miss: The target is no longer grabbed.
M Brain (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; Level + 3 vs AC; High Normal Damage* and the target is dazed (save ends).
Failed Save: the target falls prone.
Miss: Half damage.
M Clap (standard; at-will)
Requires two grabbed targets; Make two attack rolls and apply the higher roll to an attack on both targets; Level + 3 vs AC; High Limited Damage* and the target is dazed (save ends).
Miss: Half damage.
Hit or Miss: The target is knocked prone, slides into an adjacent square, and is no longer grabbed.
* per DMG p185
It'll end up 10 hp shy of a true elite brute of its level, and its damage output may be just a littly shy of where an elite should be unless it can get off a bunch of claps or has terrain it can use with Hurl. Easy fix is probably to use about one level higher than you might have otherwise been thinking. Or not worry about it.
Friday, January 15, 2010, 12:32 PM
I wanted to post my goblin pyro today, but when I went to do so I realized I needed to put a little more effort in, cause of his goblin tactics line.
See, I'm an incorrigible rpg tinkerer. I love to see all the parts, figure out what I like, what I don't, tweak, mutilate, and really see what I end up with. Then I drop a bunch of it because, frankly, it's not worth confusing a home group excessively. So, at one point or another I decided to redesign most of the monsters in the monster manual. Good exercise, fun to do, and the D&D audience has learned a lot about monsters since it came out.
One monster that was very unpopular, let's just call it hated, by a lot of local players was the goblin hexer. I never had quite the same hatred, but I could see where it was coming from.
Basically, people hated that it was handing out this massive field of -4 to attacks, while also occasionally blinding or immobilizing via intimidation. In general, I am all for encouraging faster combats, so trading -4 to enemy attacks for effectively +4 to the goblin's sides was an easy trade. After that, I noticed how long the hexer's stat block was and decided to trim a little in terms of abilities, namely in Inspire Bravery and Lead From the Rear. They were competing immediates, along with goblin tactics to begin with, and while I think Lead is fun I'm also okay with not encouraging bunching up around the hexer or him living too long.
Inspire Bravery, though, is just my kind of ability, so why'd I drop it? Well, ends up before I got to the Hexer - back when I was doing those level 1 goblins, I'd changed Goblin Tactics. I did this because I'm not sure I'd ever seen it trigger, and I was almost positive that a lot of players just didn't associate it with goblins. So I gave them a racial ability that would trigger, and had teeth. It's only once per encounter, but it now triggers on any attack, not just a melee miss, and it gets a basic attack with combat advantage after the shift. This helped me beef up the damage of the minions and lower level goblins to respectable levels. It does less for the hexer, but now inspire bravery is superfluous. So, instead I added it on as an aura that increases damage with combat advantage. Cause goblin bravery should still involve being a sneaky little git.
Which brings us back, after far too many words, to the Goblin Pyro:
Inspired by the torch-wielding and slightly comical goblins from Rise of the Runelords, and their accompanying miniatures, his powers are slightly dangerous all around. Lament I'd really like to playtest some more, but I just love the idea of he gets hit hard enough and all the flaming oil he's carrying bursts all over him, and he just runs around like a flaming party favor giving out ongoing damage until he's... out of fuel.
If anyone wants a version of either stat block with the standard goblin tactics replaced, I can do that very quickly. Just let me know.
Thursday, January 14, 2010, 1:11 PM
I've never been happy with the Monster Manual's wraiths. Insubstantial, regeneration, and weakness are just three things that should never come together. Add on the autodazing from the mad wraith and some problems with spawn wraith, and you've got a recipe for frustration and unhappy combats.
Its defenses have been increased to bring it more in line with other creatures of its level, but otherwise it's a more fragile creature that does a ton of damage if it can secure combat advantage. That damage is limited in terms of stacking multiple wraiths, however, since the combat advantage effect won't stack and the ongoing won't stack. It's also more likely to be able to occasionally kill PCs without taking coup de grace actions. Which the old spawn wraith encouraged, since the swing on adding more full-fledged wraiths to an encounter might be TPK inducing. So now instead it immediately gets a minion and that minion is a lot like the current wraith offering some synergy and should be easy to run.
The intent is that some time afterwards - enough time for a rest, perhaps requiring killing someone else, the wraithling turns into a full Wraith. That way you keep the undead spawning its own army shtick, but in a way that can be balanced around without the wraiths suddenly going to snack on nearby wandering humanoid minions.
The Mad Wraith is a little trickier:
It's a pet peeve of mine that I hate automatic damage and effects that you have no ability to avoid, such as ones that hit you on starting your turn. So, changing the aura to end of turn was an easy pick. By making it daze from the end to the start of your turn, the aura is also far less powerful and annoying. It still sets up combat advantage, which is a boon for wraith allies, allows movement with provoking, but it doesn't instill quite as much pure hate from the players. Touch of Chaos I had to change to a shift, because you could use it to trigger multiple OAs before, which is just poor.
The vulnerability mechanic I continued to the mad wraith, and it works well with its aura. I was tempted to make it deal psychic and necrotic damage, as I think that's generally a good tactic for dealing with resistances, but decided it was less complex to just stick with psychic. I also suspect there's also a ton of table variation on how to deal with vulnerable 5 psychic and vulnerable 5 necrotic, then take 5 necrotic and psychic damage.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 9:15 AM
I couldn't find a derro for 4e yet when I needed one, so I made this one.
It worked out reasonably well in play. It is a fairly controllery skirmisher, I'll admit. Still, its combat style is to rush into melee and backlines then mix things up. The party was kept on its toes trying to avoid the battle madness and it let the derro feel free to provoke opportunity attacks in many cases. I very much liked the Reliable mechanic on the encounter power in play. I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but it made sure that the signature ability had a chance to actually trigger in the combat before the derro all died.