Friday, April 2, 2010, 3:02 PM
I have managed to find some time to actually play a 4e character, and as with every version of D&D, I had to start with a character of the wizard class. I created an eladrin wizard and showed up as a player at one of the two D&D Meetups I organize. I've played three sessions with this character and I have to say that playing a wizard is more enjoyable than ever.
In Basic D&D through 2nd Edition, I played wizards as my first choice and always enjoyed them. In 3rd Edition and 3.5, sorcerers grabbed my attention as wizards still had the problem of running out of spells. It was a lot harder for a sorcerer to run out of spells, but they still had the feel of a wizard.
4e, well, wizards rule my world again. This system gives them something to do as long as they are still standing and are effective and I don't have to worry so much about my character being taken out with one hit at low levels.
And rituals! Rituals give wizards the flavor of the older versions. I don't understand why rituals aren't used more (actually reviled by some players I know). They're like crack. You use one in an adventure effectively and then you can't get enough of them.
Now, if role-playing balance can be worked out (still way too much emphasis on combat), even finding someone who can run a skill challenge without it feeling like a skill challenge would help, I'll be hooked for good.
Sunday, October 11, 2009, 11:50 AM
My first 4e adventure as a DM has occurred and I believe was a success. It was a re-write of an adventure I have done so for all editions of D&D, so my vision and concept of the adventure is strongly engrained in my brain and makes for an excellent test for each edition. Except for being caught up in the moment and letting the wizard's sleep (which should really be called drowsy to prevent the obvious assumption) spell effectively act as if the kobold horde had failed its first saving throw immediately instead of just slowing them, it all worked out. The coup de grace attacks I allowed were balanced out by forgetting to apply the 10 vulnerability to area attacks, so no harm done there. The modified kobold horde (Level 2 Elite Skirmisher - thank you Monster Builder for making that so easy) still managed to knock down three of the four characters around it (dwarves are hard to knock down) and bloody them up good.
A short rest and some exploring later and the group encounters my modified Level 1 Solo Brute Gelatinous Cube. The rogue rolled a natural 20 (25 total) on the Perception check and warned the rest of the group of its presence. As expected the paladin challenged it, the cube obliged by engulfing the paladin and proceeded to be damaged by the challenge as it damaged the paladin with ongoing acid damage of like amount by attacking the other characters. The paladin managed to escape the cube before it was killed. My intention with this encounter was to be a hindrance more than anything else and it worked out perfectly.
Next, I threw in a skill challenge to navigate tunnels in search of "The Treasure" they were after. It looked at first that they were going to succeed and find the treasure, but then a close miss and two bad rolls sunk them and left them with three fewer healing surges for the battle with the really dangerous denizen of the tunnels my Accidental Dracolich.
I took the weakest of the dracoliches from the Monster Builder and modified it into a Level 1 Solo Brute.
The characters had an ancient map that indicated that the cave they had found as a result of failing the skill challenge was a deadly place, but they were lured into the ice-hung cave by a glowing weapon embedded in the ice. The first two to enter the cave provoked the dracolich's breath attack, which bloodies them, but the flensing attack missed both of them, so the rest of the characters had a chance to rush in and aid them. Under the assault of the characters that almost all managed to do damage to the dracolich, its turn came up again and to the dismay of the characters, all but one of which were in its breath attack area, its breath attack recharged. Needless to say, one was heavily bloodied, one barely dying and one with less than one round of ongoing necrotic damage way from being negative bloodied and thus dead. The paladin had managed to maneuver to the other side of the dracolich and was not targeted by the breath attack (I had a turn of "chaotic evil DM" targeting as many characters as possible with the breath weapon even though the paladin had challenged the dracolich) unleashed his heedless fury attack leaving the dracolich in pieces on the cave floor, leapt to the aid of the cleric, who was the one about to die, and laid hands on her. One of the other characters managed a DC 15 Heal check to allow her a saving throw against the ongoing damage, which succeeded as everyone else managed to save as well.
A close call, but everyone survived an exciting encounter and got the Sunblade +1 out of the ice (Yes, how ironic. They'll need it later).
The end of the adventure was anti-climatic after that, as they wandered the tunnels a bit longer to find that their "Treasure" had been long ago absconded with, though they did find a Flaming weapon +1 in the clutches of a skeleton draped across the open chest.
So all-in-all, I must say D&D 4e has proven itself, so far, to be balanced, usable, playable and damn fun. I have been calling the designers of D&D, in all its incarnations, geniuses for decades and 4e has not disappointed despite my livid, violent dislike (OK, hatred) for the business aspect of D&D that WotC and Hasbro employ to sell a new product before they finish an old one properly and make it totally nonconvertible. 3.5 was the ultimate evolution of AD&D, like a great literary masterpiece; 4e, a totally new creation, a movie, loosely based on the original work, but still just as enjoyable, thankfully.
Friday, October 2, 2009, 5:21 PM
So, the development of my first D&D 4e adventure is nearing completion. It is a conversion of an adventure I developed when I first started being a DM using AD&D 1st-Edition. I have re-written it for each edition I have DM'd since and I have got to say 4e made me think hard.
This adventure is a dungeon crawl and in previous editions I developed the whole dungeon, but 4e I decided to focus on my favorite parts. It is now four encounters the details of which I am not giving away yet as at least one of the players may read this before I run it:
- The entrance to the dungeon has the characters running into a horde of weak monsters with a pet. The horde of weak monsters has a leader. I used the encounter builder to make 575 XP 1st-level encounter.
- Wandering around this dungeon can be really dangerous if you cannot see what is coming at you. It only is a 400 XP encounter.
- This is something new, as I hadn't done anything like a skill challenge in this adventure before. I don't expect the characters to pass it the first time, which leads to the fourth encounter.
- Nasty, scary, vile, surprising creature to fight for low-level character, but it scaled. Specially modified a monster from the new monster builder that fit perfectly with the concept the encounter has always had.
The game I am running uses pre-gen characters, so I took five of them: a human paladin, a half-elf cleric, a dwarf fighter, an eladrin wizard and a human rogue and play-tested.
- This proved to be a very tough encounter, in my opinion. The paladin and rogue were knocked unconscious multiple times and the wizard and fighter used daily powers to keep them all going. They pulled it off, but the paladin and rogue used more than half of their healing surges before the second encounter. I adjusted the horde into a 2nd-level Elite so that its attacks aren't so brutal, so the characters should have enough left to make it through the other two combats.
- This encounter was a debacle. Besides the characters rolling awfully, the encounter killed three of the characters, pretty quickly. I took the monster and adjusted it into a 1st level Solo which lowered its defenses and attack rolls enough for the characters to have a chance.
- The skill challenge is right where I want it. If the characters are really lucky, they will succeed, but not twice in a row. One way or another they get to encounter four.
- As I suspected, this encounter is vicious, but not TPK lethal. It is a tough 1st-level Solo. With the items recovered from the previous battles (and the skill challenge if lucky), they all manage to live, but it is close.
Of course, this was only one test and I am not sure I will be able to do another one. Players are funny, though. No matter how well I plan, they always find a way to survive better off than I expect. If I hadn't of tested, though, this would certainly be a short game.
Saturday, September 19, 2009, 8:42 PM
In the past, I have been an avid promoter of the latest edition of D&D, dragging my friends along, kicking and screaming more and more with each new release. Finally, after having realized I spent nearly a grand-and-a-half on 3.5e (see picture below), I found myself violently opposed to 4e and made this blatantly known on my personal campaign setting's wiki.
I found many supporters (my wife included, who thought I should have stopped with 2nd Edition AD&D) initially in my quest to remain entrenched in 3.5, but this summer I became the organizer of The Milwaukee Dungeons & Dragons Meetup Group. This group promotes D&D of all editions and runs convention-style one-off adventures, as well as bringing folks together to form long-term campaigns, for its 200+ members. However, 4e has become so prevalent and demanded that I am finding it impossible to avoid becoming drawn to it; even as much as I find it nothing like D&D has been in the past.
Well, having just organized a wildly successful Meetup in conjunction with the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 Game Day, I find my Will Defense may be inadequate to the task. I plan to borrow the boxed set that I purchased for use by the group to develop my first 4e adventure for them and have subscribed to D&DI, which appears will make such a project quite easy, being that I have been a DM for 30 years already. I must say that I am impressed with the tools that have been released so far. A skill challenge creator program should definitely a priority.
So, the drift has most definitely begun. Full-blown ideas for the transition of my campaign setting to 4e have even already begun blossoming in my brain.