Friday, August 13, 2010, 10:54 PM
One thing I remember reading a long time ago as a kid was a story in a book about Egyptian mythology. It featured Greeks who showed up and said, "Our god, whom you know as Horus."
Very simple little phrase, and the Egyptians used the same phrasing when they replied. There was no arguing over whose god was real, or whose method of worship was right, or which side had the accurate idea of what the god was like- it was simply accepted that there was a god, both sides worshiped him, and they had their own names and practices. And they went on from there.
It stuck with me (as you can tell), and it's something that I've always liked. So when I started building a new campaign world, it was in my mental design notes.
One of the things that always bugged me when I started playing D&D was the fact that you had racial gods, except for humans. Humans had this massive pantheon they could pick and choose from, but there was an elf god, and a dwarf god, and a halfling god, and a goblin god, and so on. Usually these are also gods who focus on one area. The halfling god of trickery, or the elven god of magic. Sure, you can worship other gods, but if you're a dwarf, it's Moradin 99% of the time, whether you've ever seen a mountain (or a hammer) or not.
So something I did was to eliminate that. There's a pantheon, and everyone's aware of them. And they worship them all, though some might give one or two more prominence than the others. There's differences in theory about what everyone's like, but there's no question that if you're worshiping the god of the sun, it's the same god as the sun god that guy's worshiping.
Which now brings us to the Drow.
As I've mentioned before, I don't like the idea of evil races. It smacks too much of racism. "Oh, they're orcs- of course they're evil." How can you tell? They drew steel and attacked you when you walked in the room. Nevermind you're effectively invading their home and have weapons ready, quite possibly weapons you took from their now-dead friends. They're evil, they're orcs.
So I wanted to change the Drow to make them more akin to traditional heroic races. But that also meant I'd have to come up with something to explain their god. What to do with her? She's evil, she's got evil minions, she makes evil warlock pacts, and so on. I'd need a wholly different god that would still justify the distinct nature of the Drow abilities and affinities. So what to do with the Spider Queen?
The answer, ultimately, was simple. I just declared one animal was as good as another, and one race's Spider Queen could be another race's Raven Queen.
And thus, it became easy. The Eladrin and the Feywild, the Drow and the Shadowfell. Because the Raven Queen was already cemented in place in my world's mythology as fulfilling a particular role (rather different than what you'll find in the official books, but based off that point two years ago when I first read the PHB), it wasn't tremendously difficult to modify the Spider Queen to simply be the elven races' version of the god of death.
They can be good, and they can be evil. They can be feared, and they can be respected. And they'll ultimately have to be judged on a case by case basis, simply because "our god, known to you as the Spider Queen."
I'm happy with it.
Saturday, August 7, 2010, 3:26 AM
Here's my take on the Slayer, based on what we've seen so far:
It feels like a pocket class.
What I mean by that is, I feel like they found an unexplored niche in the Martial options: a two-handed weapon Striker. And they wanted to do something with that. But as they developed it, they quickly found that this particular niche was very niche-like: you couldn't really add much depth to it without ending up with a character that overlapped the Fighter's builds.
So they ended up sitting on it. But once they started working on Essentials, they looked at it again, and they realized it would work just fine as a Fighter build that was, more or less, entirely self-contained. Suddenly you could be a Martial Striker that specialized in two-handed weapons. But it's called a Fighter, because it's not robust enough to stand on its own.
I also find myself wondering whether, with roles not longer being fixed for classes, if we couldn't get rid of classes altogether. It's not a tremendous jump; the biggest difference would be that you'd pick a power source and role, and then have a selection of builds that are available. From that point, you'd grab from a universal array of powers that are inherent to that power source. On their own they'd be fairly bland, but depending on your role, they'd be tweaked. And of course, a small number would be unique to given role/power source combos.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010, 11:08 PM
I hate Mummy Lords. There's a reason I hate them. On the surface it might seem that I hate them because this evening my group ended up fighting one for roughly two and a half hours, and we're now all spent in terms of healing surges, daily powers, and hit points- to say nothing of our prospects on surviving the Mummy Rot we all contracted, or the next encounter. No, the reason is that the Mummy Lord in question was a level 10 Elite Controller, and we were all level 7.
I've seen this far too often- and I've done it myself, once. You look at the way that encounters are built, check out that xp budget, and realize that, hey, you can have your group of level 1 PCs go up against a single level 6 elite monster. That's fair, right? It's within your xp budget after all.
The answer is, no- no it isn't. And the reason that it isn't is encapsulated in a small, seemingly casual warning in the DMG: stick close to your PCs level.
You see, what folks don't seem to realize is that xp value is only half the story. A monster's level is important too, and while you have some wiggle room, there is an upper limit to what's viable. There's a certain point where your group is going to end up frustrated, drained, and bored of the encounter- and your monster (or monsters) are likely not even bloodied yet.
Let's take that Mummy Lord as an example. It's a Controller, so it's not particularly suited to melee- at least on its face. However, with its lowest defense at 20, your players need a +10 to hit 50% of the time, and need to be able to target that defense (REF, in this case). Against any other defense, the target number goes up. This can already be problematic; my own character has a +10 to hit: +2 for magical enhancement, +2 for proficiency bonus, +3 for STR, and +3 for level. And I have the option to target REF with some of my powers. I'm not optimized, but I'm no slouch.
Now add on to that the Regeneration 10 that requires radiant damage to turn off, and the +1 AC that the Mummy Lord enjoys with his basic melee attack. Suddenly things are looking a heck of a lot worse, if only due to the fact that you need to deal at least 10 damage to this thing each round just to keep it injured. The fact it can boost its defenses while hitting you makes it worse, because if you're my character, that boost to AC means my prospects of hitting have now dropped to 25%. And again, I'm no slouch.
Tack on the fact this thing has over 150 hit points and it becomes interminable. With a group of six, you can expect roughly 1.25 hits per round versus AC. If we assume that 0.25 is the group's Wizard spamming Magic Missile, you can round that up to two. On average, a hit will do around 10 damage- or with MM, and again using my group, you're hitting for 18 per round if the entire team gangs up. That means you're hitting for a net 8 per round. If you can consistently smack this guy every single round like this, you've got a 20 round fight on your hands. And that's before he hits back, and assuming you're lenient and ignore the words 'Second Wind' on the Mummy Lord's stat card.
I ask you- does this sound like fun? It isn't. It's a long, frustrating slog through a tremendous amount of hit points while constantly burning healing surges, encounter powers, and other resources to stay in the fight. Change it to an Elite Soldier, and you might as well just have your party throw their dice at the wall and call it a night.
So I'm asking you- begging, if you prefer. Keep your monsters close to your party's level when you build your encounters. Think of the Mummy Lords.
Sunday, July 25, 2010, 11:15 PM
One of the key details in the writeup of the Knight for D&D Essentials is this:
As a fighter, you make most of your attacks using basic attacks. Some classes rely primarily on class-specific attack powers, whereas you typically make basic attacks enhanced by your fighter stances and other class features and powers.
That seems to get people concerned. Why? Because that sounds huge. Fighters in earlier editions of D&D were simple creatures: your action each turn was either swinging your sword (or whatever) once because you had to get close to your target, or swinging your sword (or whatever) many times because they were in reach. Every time it was the same: a melee basic attack, in 4th edition terms.
So the idea of losing all of the changes sounds frightening and undesirable. But I realized something a long time ago that's worth sharing:
You're already doing this.
I play fighters. I like them; they're my default class that's guaranteed to be useful in a fight. I can easily rearrange stats, feats, and weapon choices to come up with a character who fights far differently than another fighter.
But here's a simple truth: ninety percent of the time, we're making melee basic attacks. I'm not even talking about Opportunity Attacks or Combat Superiority allowing you to get in an MBA now and then. No- I mean ninety percent of the time, we're using a MBA to hit things with. It just happens to be an MBA with something added.
Check out the at-wills in the PHB. They're all more or less the same. Roll Strength vs AC, and do 1[W] of damage, plus a little something extra. Pick this one, you hit a second target for a bit. Pick that one, you get no other effects but you hit more often. Pick that one, you can push the target.
Given that, couldn't you write Tide of Iron as 1[MBA]+push target 1 square?
That's effectively what you get with these new at-wills. Cleave stance- I make a MBA, but get extra bits that just so happen to match the effect of the Cleave at-will power. Next round I switch to some other stance, which does largely the same thing.
The biggest modification this would make to an existing Fighter is twofold: first, all those Dailies you have that have the word Stance in them? Yeah- issues arise. No longer can you use one that boosts your defense while making at-will attacks. Instead, you use that bonus plus make MBAs to stay in the stance. Because your at-wills are all stances, and you can only have one stance active at a time.
End result there? Probably going to see those stance dailies get redone, or at the very least, they'll get better so you don't mind sitting in them being boring. I'd guess something like Warden forms- take this stance, get access to this new at-will.
Second, anything that gives us a free MBA will make us bad-ass. Combat superiority? Use the equivalent of your current at-wills to hit 'em. Opportunity Action? Cleave's an option. Warlord tells you to hit that guy? You're gonna do more than just a plain old 1[W] damage.
End result here? We'll fight better. Yes, the fighters will get to do more than anyone else when it comes down to flat out fighting. Not exactly a bad situation. I expect juggling of other bits and pieces to ensure we don't get too good at hurting things (we are Defenders after all), but we'll be good at what we do.
So yeah- I'm not panicking. I'm looking at this as Wizards answering the complaint of, "This doesn't feel like D&D," much the same way that they answered the complaints about Vancian spellcasting and 'the party heal-dispenser' (aka Cleric 1.0 - 3.5).
Sit back, relax, take it easy. It's not as drastic as it seems. Fighters will get through this just fine.
Sunday, July 25, 2010, 1:05 AM
One of the lines in the Player's Handbook that I found most interesting, and by interesting I mean "I could drive a bus full of potential through this," was the statement that the various races as presented in the PHB were the 'good guys' only at this particular moment. They'd aligned together mostly because of the fact that's the way the alliances broke down in the last major war, not any divinely-ordered "You are the good guys and work together- and you're not."
Of course, some of the races made this fragile state more evident than others: Minotaurs and Tieflings in particular come across as the anti-heroes who aren't one hundred percent trustworthy. But as you start going through the different races, there's much more of a sense that these temporary alliances are more solid than they look. Could anyone really see a geopolitical shift that ended up aligning the Gnolls with the Elves? Or Dwarves finding common ground with Hobgoblins? Eladrin deciding they can get along with Orcs after all? Humans deciding that the Drow were on the right side of things all along?
I don't particularly care for that. I want the potential to mix and match as I see fit, and if need be, take advantage of holes and gaps to fill in the blanks. That requires a lot of work, but work like that is something I consider enjoyable.
So at least to my mind, there's one major modification that should be done with regards to a great many races: the alignment becomes unaligned.
I'm not saying that they're all unaligned, only that the race as a whole has no overriding alignment. You can fight human slavers (evil) while playing a human paladin (good) alongside a human thief (unaligned). Why shouldn't the same be possible for any other race?
One reason: deities. But honestly, how many people look around and say, "You know, I feel like sacrificing babies today. I wonder what god would like a good roast baby?" It doesn't happen. The more logical thinking can be found when you look at gods like Kord and Waukeen: they're worshipped by people looking to avoid their wrath and placate them. Worshipping a god of murder because, hey, who doesn't like murder? Less commonplace outside two-dimensional antagonists.
So for me, that's one of my big decisions- one of those things that will form an underpinning of all my work hereon out when it comes to campaigns and people. "He's a hobgoblin, he must be evil" doesn't work anymore.