Tuesday, December 20, 2011

PC Profile: Fen Silverfang

  • Fen Silverfang was a respected berserker warrior of the Moonsilver tribe, an all-Shifter society whose territory included a Fey crossing to Brokenstone Vale. The crossing lies in a wide valley surrounded by tall mountains, one of the only productive winter hunting grounds for the tribe. Lycanthrope raids are common, and despite their ancestry the Moonsilver’s are their bitter enemies. The tribe relies heavily on its warrior caste, which includes the elite berserkers and bear warriors who have learned to channel the Primal Spirits to come to their aid in battle. Most members of the tribe (including Fen) fear the Feywild, and avoid the crossing.
  • While escorting a party of the tribe’s best hunters over a high mountain pass, Fen and his allies were ambushed by werewolves. The fight was brutal, and several good warriors were slain. Fen was grievously injured, and only survived after being pushed over a small cliff and landing in an icy tarn. He slowly returned back to camp, noticing an unusually large amount of werewolf tracks. When he finally made it back he learned that attacks had grown much more frequent, and that the tribe was planning on abandoning their territory. Within days they had packed up what they could and left the valley.
  • It didn’t surprise the Moonsilvers to learn that they were feared in most of the civilized lands. They ended up making a temporary camp in the foothills of the Dawnforge Mountains, relying on bundles of Wolfsbane hung outside of their huts and a few silvered weapons for protection against any werewolves that may have tracked them.
  • After several months of relative safety, the Moonsilvers decided to try and improve their situation. About half of the warriors were left behind to guard the camp, and emissaries escorted by warriors were sent out to look for anyone friendly toward Shifters. They weren’t openly shunned in Fallcrest or Nenlast, and so several members of the tribe settled in these towns temporarily. A friendly Shifter tribe that patrolled the coast of Lake Nen proved worthy allies, and they also had dealings with an Elven village on the outskirts of the Harken Forest.
  • Some of the warriors, including Fen, were sent out to seek the wealth necessary to amass more silvered weapons. The plan was eventually to increase their numbers and equip themselves better so that they could re-take their former territory. Each warrior went about this task in a different way, but Fen’s decision was to join up with the Red Frog’s mercenary guild...

Though his disposition is generally amicable, people are often uneasy around Fen Silverfang. His lycanthropic bloodline shows with a thin, silky coat of dark salt-and-pepper hair, thickening to wolf-like fur on his shoulders and jaw (though this “beard” is nearly all black). His lips are thin and jet black, with a slight sag where his upper canines protrude slightly from his jaw. Most wolf-like, perhaps, are his long feet which are unshod and bear large claws halfway between a wolf's and a bear's. An efficient gait places his heel on the ground only when walking at very slow speeds. When you first meet Fen, his amber eyes often give the uncomfortable impression that he's sizing you up (and he is). If you shake his large, thickly padded hand (criss-crossed with scars) you're surprised by a light grip that brings to mind the gentleness of an alligator carrying her young in her mouth. Looking back up to his eyes you notice the sombre longing of a warrior who grew up too fast and simply wants to settle down in peace. But that's not to diminish his skills as a fighter. He's about the size of an average human, but far stronger than most warriors of that race (and far less visibly muscle-bound). His technique confirms that he's been fighting all his life, though by channeling the Primal Spirits in battle he can go from precise, opportunistic strikes and parries to a full-on, trance-like state wherein his brute force is fully realized. His worn hide armor and thick, wooden shield suggest a primitive upbringing far from civilization, and yet his gleaming sword resembles the finest burnished silver and appears to be a curiosity (until you learn that what he grew up fighting were lycanthropes).

Character Sheet
Longtooth Shifter, Temperate Lands Berserker

Trained Skills:  Athletics, Endurance, Perception
Languages:  Common, Elven

Feats:  Weapon Prof (Bastard Sword), Shield Prof (Heavy), Master at Arms, Berserk Vitality

A-W:  Run Down, Stalk and Strike
E:  Batter Down, Implacable Advance, Curtain of Steel
D:  Sweeping Cut, Rage of the Crimson Hurricane
U:  Feral Rejuvenation, Cull Weakness

Equipment:  Vanguard Bastard Sword +2 (silvered), Magic Handaxe +1, Magic Hide +2, Vanguard Shield, Acrobat Boots, Lesser Badge of the Berserker +2, Belt of Vigor, Wolfsbane (4 bundles), Potion of Healing (2), Grey Rain Cloak, Standard Adv. Kit (with extra rope).

PC Profile: Keyleth Arwyl

I thought I'd create a post for each of my PCs that I could link to from the "Cast of Characters" section of my session reviews.  For now I'll focus on my new adventurers, who get to see their first real play in the next adventure (which we should start up in the next week or so). 

Note that I used the "Build Your Story" option from Heroes of the Feywild to jump start this (indeed, this was the character that I made when I first tried that chapter out!).  The link to that post is here.   Below is a somewhat abbreviated (and yet, expanded) version.
  • Keyleth was orphaned at a young age, and grew up in the city of Shinaelestra in the Feywild where her foster parents moved after fleeing the Gnoll force that destroyed their village. They made a meager living as farmhands at one of the local vineyards, and when Keyleth was old enough she was hired by an apothecary to collect rare herbs (in the Feywild, and in the Mortal Realm after Shinaelestra's nightly worldfall).
  • After learning that her parents were actually respected members of the Druidic Circle of Shelter and had left her in order to pursue a dangerous mission in search of a necromancer (Decius Derakh), she departed on a quest to learn what may have become of them. She suffered a mishap in the goblin-controlled Murkroot swamp, and was sold into Fomorian slavery for a time before escaping into Brokenstone Vale, the Valley of the Lycanthropes. There she befriended a werebear tribal elder, who advised her to seek out the Citadel Arcanum in Mithrendain. She was captured by the guards, but not before discovering records showing that Decius had attempted to get through the Maze of Fathaghn to steal a branch from the Mother Tree for some dark ritual. He was no match for the Dryad Queen that resided there, but perhaps she could be of help to Keyleth in locating him now.
  • On her way to the Maze the Primal Spirits began whispering to her, starting her on the Druidic path. The Dryad Queen was sympathetic, pointing her to where she had banished Decius into the Mortal World (and giving her a magical fire box that showed his face in its smoke). She advised Keyleth to seek out members of her parents' Circle.
  • Despite the Dryad Queen's warning, upon entering the Mortal Realm Keyleth became singularly obsessed with hunting down Decius. Though she slowly developed a mastery of Primal magics, they began to manifest her wild recklessness. After developing an unpleasant reputation, an elderly member of the Circle of Shelter (Bryce Calanor) sought her out and presented her with a task; he would train her in the ways of the Beastwalker Circle, and then she was to go on a personal quest. She was to remain in beast form with no outside contact “until her reflection acknowledged her.” This was the path to Wisdom.
  • Unable to make sense of her end goal, she alternated between many different animal forms for nearly a year. Most other creatures were wary around her, and avoided her despite her guise. Then one evening, while foraging through the forest in the form of a black bear, Keyleth heard the mournful howl of a wolf. For no reason that she could explain, with a swift leap she took wolf form and bounded toward the sound. She encountered a litter of yearling pups that had struck out on their own, and they greeted her enthusiastically. She traveled with them for several days, hunting and lounging and frolicking. She let her concerns about Decius and her quest melt away. Then, one of the young wolves approached her, sat down, and turned into Bryce! By opening her mind to the influence of the Primal Beast she had learned to view the world from a new perspective, and to shed away her dangerous single-mindedness.
  • Though he had no information about Decius or Keyleth's parents, Bryce advised Keyleth to live her life and to see the world, seeking out a variety of experiences and perspectives. The Dryad Queen's fire box would alert her when an opportunity to seek Decius arose. In the meantime, he pointed her to a treasure-seeking mercenary group that he had helped co-found years ago, the Red Frogs...
In her elven form Keyleth's moss green eyes slowly scan the room, with a focused patience behind them. With just a momentary wolf-like glance, you can sense her connection with the Primal Beast. Her dark brown hair (which shows flecks of autumn-gold in the sunlight) is long but tame; a braid on each side corrals it in place down her back as they weave through to beautiful but practical effect. An elven technique, to be sure. Every movement of her lithe-but-field-tested limbs portrays a calculated grace, as if she is at home in any environment, which the slight semi-permanent curve of her mouth confirms, conveying a relaxed joviality. And yet her gear reveals that she's not to be underestimated. Worn over her finely-spun woolen tunic are plates of reinforced animal hide – the thick but supple tanned armor of woodland bison which bears the evidence of averted injury. Around her left forearm is tied a short length of wood adorned with various protective wards, including carved runes and talismans of bone and gemstone. In her right hand she carries a full-length staff carved with the shapes of sinuous vipers and wrapped in a snakeskin grip. Light, thinly padded moccasins and the sure footing of a mountain goat allow her to travel with speed across any terrain.  Her favored beast forms are the black bear, wolf, and dog (wolfhound mix, mostly for civilized areas), though her forms vary based on her mood.

Character Sheet
Elf, Circle of Shelter Protector

Trained Skills:  Athletics, Insight, Nature, Stealth 
Languages:  Common, Elven, Goblin
Primal Attunements:  Air Spirit, Senses of the Wild, Call the Spirits

Feats:  Superior Implement Training (Accurate Staff), Beastwalker Circle, Staff Expertise, Cunning Stalker

A-W:  Grasping Claws, Magic Stones
E:  Gust of Wind, Predator's Flurry, Charm Beast
D:  Summon Natural Ally, Vine Serpents
U:  Sudden Bite, Camouflage Cloak

Equipment:  Staff of the Serpent +2, Aversion Staff +1 (reflavored), Pouncing Beast Armor +2, Claw Gloves, Lesser Badge of the Berserker +1, Siberys Shard of the Mage, Hamanu's Terrible Roar (boon), standard adventurer's kit (with extra rope), Dryad Queen's fire box (story item)

Civilization Board Game

This past week we took a short break from D&D to play the Civilization board game, which one of our players picked up.  Such breaks can keep a campaign from becoming monotonous, in addition to providing a much different experience for "game night."  I'm not going to go into a full review (because quite honestly, I don't know the game well enough to do so), but I will offer some first impressions.

It was obvious from the second I walked into the room that this was going to be a complicated game with a lot of depth.  The "board" was actually made up of 16 (if I remember correctly) smaller pieces, and there were several different types of cards, many different tokens, and a player card for everyone that had multiple dials in addition to the traits of your civilization.  As we finished setting everything up, I started to get a vague sense of how the game played (though it wasn't until we were a few turns in that I really got the hang of it).  All told, the game has a lot of depth.  In addition to the general complexity, there are several different "tracks" that you can build up to win the game (military, technology, economic, and culture). 

In brief, each player (2-4) gets to choose one of 6 different civilizations (America, Germany, Russia, China, Rome, and Egypt).  The "homeland" tiles are placed in each corner, with the rest of the board tiles placed face down (these lands haven't been discovered yet).  Everyone starts out with a capital city which you can place wherever (though there is a recommended location on your tile), as well as 2 armies and a scout/settlement party.  Each tile is broken up into a grid, and each grid square has a terrain (mountains, forest, grassland, desert, and water), as well as different trade values, production values, and resources (iron, wheat, etc).  The turn is broken up into phases, and you go around to each player during each phase.  Start of turn phase you can activate certain cards, change your government, and you build cities (a lot of the time nobody does anything in this phase).  Trade phase is when you collect your trade points (move your trade dial up by however many points are adjacent to your cities/settlements) and you can trade resources with other players.  This is rather open-ended.  City Management Phase is a big deal, since this is when you can actually build your civilization up.  Each city you have gets one action, and you can use these actions to build in a square adjacent to your city center (for example, put up a library).  The different buildings have different resources, production, and trade values that you can take advantage of.  You can also build up your military (through artillery, mounted, and infantry cards, and eventually airplanes), or build another army or scouting party.  Construction buildings or adding units/building your military all key off of the production value around your cities (you can spend trade value to increase production as well).  Another action is to harvest a resource (for example, mine iron).  Finally, you can use this turn to devote your city to the arts, which moves you up on the cultural track and gives you access to different sets of cards with some nifty abilities.  After that there's the movement phase, where you move your armies and scouting/settlement parties.  You can use a square of movement to flip over a tile "discovering" new land.  New areas will contain huts and villages (huts you can take over without a fight and gain resources from, villages you need to fight to obtain).  When you move your scout/settlement party you can use them to obtain resources, or if they're placed favorably you can build a new city (which "absorbs" that unit) during the next start of turn phase.  The last phase is the research phase, where you can spend your trade value (if you have enough) to research new technologies.  Technology is leveled 1-5, and you need at least 2 of a lower level tech in order to research 1 higher level tech (in addition to higher trade cost).

So far the game is a lot of fun, but we didn't finish it despite playing for around 3 hours.  We're planning on picking it up this week, though, and perhaps getting a little D&D in if it doesn't take too long.  The civilizations in play are China (me), America, Germany, and Russia, and all of them have different strengths (which seem to favor at least 2 different victory tracks).  Interestingly, we're all going for different tracks, perhaps to subconsciously avoid direct competition.  I'm going for Cultural, Russia is going for Tech, America is working on Military, and Germany is focusing on Economic.  Of course you can't just focus on one single thing, and our game was somewhat complicated by "alliances" that were drawn early (China and Russia vs America and Germany).  Interestingly, my Cultural track gave me access to a lot of cards that allowed me and Russia to trade our Tech knowledge, giving me increased ability (some of the techs directly impact Culture) and moving him along the Tech track faster.  America and Germany have emphasized military a lot more, as has Russia to a lesser extent, but I personally have only expanded my military by 1 card, and haven't attacked any villages.  Risk, this is not :P

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Heroic Tier Sweet Spot

For this post I'll simply link to an article from Dungeon's Master, The Golden Level of Heroic Adventure.  Though I would disagree that level 12 is a sweet spot (there's a greater power jump at 11, which is when you finally get to experience Paragon tier), I think that the author is otherwise right on the money.  I'd add that the sweet spot starts at level 5 when you get your second daily, peaks at level 6 (which as the article mentions is an important feat level and you get a utility power, which is one of the most customizable elements in the game), and continues into level 7 (having three encounter powers increases your offensive capacity, particularly nova or alpha-strike in many cases, and boosts your overall versatility for many classes).  Level 8 gives those PCs who started with even abilities (which is probably most of them) their first numerical boost, and the feat is certainly nice, but this is where you start inching toward Paragon tier and the challenges become much more difficult before you're fully equipped to deal with them.  Status effects begin to creep up more often, and many fights pit you against Paragon level monsters (level + 3). 

I think the most important issue that the author touched upon, however, is that as a DM you should use these sweet spots as benchmarks for your campaign's pacing.  Something should culminate within the level 5-7 range, and after that a more difficult challenge should rear its ugly head.  I've found late Heroic (levels 8-10, but especially 10) to be almost as challenging as early Heroic precisely because of the Paragon level threats that the Heroic PCs will face regularly.  Using the same encounter design principles that you've been using (perhaps throwing a little more at the PCs since they're gaining power) will result in the PCs feeling slightly overwhelmed without much effort by you as a DM.  Make sure that the plot matches this increase in difficulty, and then have the PCs finally reach a major turning point at level 10 or 11.  At level 10 the PCs will be struggling by the skin of their teeth to defeat the final "boss" encounter.  At level 11 you have a couple of choices as the DM; either use the power boost as a narrative element corresponding to a major advantage that makes the boss fight easier (showcasing the new power of the PCs), or take advantage of the PC's newly-acquired power to go all out with the boss fight (something that the PCs would be unlikely to have survived in Heroic tier).  Either way, it pays to be aware of these sweet spots as you try to set your campaign's pacing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recovery: Viral's Diary (Session 3)

Cast of Characters (Level 6)
  1. Lyra Cinderfield - Human Staff of Defense Wizard
  2. Berylis Lindelenon - Elf Panther Shaman
  3. Unit 27 - Warforged Weapon Talent Fighter
  4. Rozzle - Elf Brutal Scoundrel Rogue
  5. Zeus - Dwarf Wrathful Invoker
Approach to the Tomb

The PCs began this session continuing their journey down the river, eventually coming to a small clearing that led into a very old and overgrown cemetery.  As Nero had warned them, the party circles around the cemetery to find Midos' grave near the back.  Rozzle and Berylis scout ahead to keep an eye out for danger.  It's too bad they didn't have tremorsense; as they follow Nero's tracks skeletal hands burst out of the ground and knock Rozzle prone, as well as grabbing him.  The party is soon beset by several more skeletons, two of which can hurl fire from range.  Given the undead theme of this adventure, we'd really missed Zeus last session.  Unfortunately, his dice were extremely cold tonight (actually, he was borrowing mine, and that's usually one of my hottest D20s), and he missed with his first 4 attacks.  Disappointing to be sure.  Ultimately we were able to protect Rozzle (who had only 2 surges remaining) really well, but at a huge cost to both Berylis and Zeus (Zeus used 4 surges in that combat, and Berylis ended up down to only 2 as well). 

I continue to be impressed by the Shaman class (in the Heroic tier at least, Spirit Hunt and Twin Panthers end up being equivalent to optimized striker powers).  I'm finally starting to get used to the "splash heal" style of Healing Spirit, which was really useful for healing up what little damage Rozzle took without dipping into his two remaining surges.  Despite the fact that I don't normally like strikers, it's nice to have hefty damage in your back pocket, in addition to all of the fun positioning and control tactics that the spirit companion entails.  My trend of "not feeling" the Wizard recently continued tonight (at least in combat; she proved invaluable OoC later).  Missing with Charm of Misplaced Wrath sucks quite a bit, and it seems to happen quite a bit.  My multi-target control power (Icy Rays) has been serviceable, but unless I blow a daily it's usually the most interesting thing I have to do.  At-wills have tended to be underwhelming; I don't think I've used Beguiling Strands this whole level, and the best thing about Winged Horde has been its minion-sweeping utility (the Rogue is mobile enough to avoid OAs on his own most of the time).  I'll be glad to get back to playing a Druid again, though I'm sure I'll pick Lyra back up at some time during this campaign.

Into the Tomb

The PCs find the gravestone they're looking for, and Unit 27 unceremoniously picks it up and tosses it aside to expose the tunnel.  Berylis and Zeus notice that the tunnel was only dug within the last year or so.  It opens into a hole in the floor, which leads into the tomb's interior.  Lyra sends Helo, her Dragonling familiar, down to scout it out and make sure the room is safe (which it is).  It's a large room with an altar at the center.  The altar has a round well and a square well on it, with a round and square lantern on a nearby table.  A glass sphere (actually, it's more oblong) hangs from the ceiling above the altar.  Two pillars flank a sealed black door (which presumably is the front entrance that we were warned by Nero to avoid).  The pillars do not reach the ceiling, and dials on them cause gas to emanate from the tops.  Opposite the black door is a purple door with a symbol of the sun above it.  On the remaining walls are a door each; one red, and one blue.  After playing around with a pebble that had Light cast on it (carried around the sphere via Mage Hand) it became obvious that a light placed on the line between the glass sphere and either pillar caused a beam to focus on the sun symbol above the purple door.  Since the PCs were warned to beware the blue door, they started with the red one.  Behind it was a large room with a red flame burning on the opposite side.  Being paranoid, Lyra simply used Mage Hand to carry the lantern across the room and sweep it into the flame.  The lantern lit, and she placed it onto the pillar with the dial turned (focusing a red beam of light above the purple door).  It turns out that by using Mage Hand and not entering the room, the party was able to avoid a combat encounter altogether.  Sweet!

The blue door revealed a long (25 square) hallway, which was only 3 squares wide.  The floor was made of extremely slippery tile, with a pattern of blue tiles winding back and forth across a matrix of red tiles.  Lyra had her dragonling step on one of the red tiles, which triggered a dart trap (which missed the familiar, not that it would have mattered).  Crossing the hall without triggering red tiles looked to be extremely difficult, as evidenced by the body lying near the opposite end (at which a blue flame burned).  Though this flame was out of range for Mage Hand, Lyra simply cast the Familiar Mount ritual and flew across the hall on Helo (recovering the body, which turned out to be Nero).  The heroes lit the blue flame which unlocked the purple door, and placed Nero's body in their bag of holding.  Once they were finished here, they would give him a proper burial, including fare for the boatman.

Viral's Chamber

The purple door revealed a simple room with a long, stone bridge across a subterranean creek.  The bridge led to another door, which Lyra opened via Mage Hand and sent her (now large) Dragonling to scout out.  Helo poked his head it to find 3 women sitting on a large bed, and a man that looked to be in his 30s reading a book at a desk.  The man looked shocked to see Helo, who retreated.  Lyra used Ghost Sound to imitate the sound of a large army crossing the bridge toward the room (succeeding her Bluff check to fool the occupants), and the party entered.  The man seemed excited to see the PCs, exclaiming that it's not often that he receives visitors.  When questioned about his diary, he explains that Emaf (the PC's current employer), Gibs (the adventurer-turned-zombie, Athos (the farmer whose daughter the party rescued earlier), and himself were once an adventuring party themselves.  They discovered this very tomb, and within it woke the relic of a mysterious deity.  They were each granted 1 wish.  Emaf wished for fame and glory, which he was granted via knowledge of many ruins which he plundered for their artifacts.  The deity, it turned out, was not benevolent, and turned each wish against its recipient.  Emaf eventually looted all the ruins that he could find, and sought to once again find the tomb where they now stood.  He had lost knowledge of it, however, and it had driven an insane obsession (which eventually led to his hiring of the party).  Gibs just wanted to retire, settle down, and live a quiet life.  He was given a nice house in Deadwood Falls, but he never specified that where he settled down would need to remain forever safe (obviously he paid his price for that).  Athos wished for good health and longevity for his family.  While his daughter reaped this award, he himself was killed. 

When the party asked Viral what his wish was, he kept trying to evade the topic.  They worked out that he was trapped down here (had a lot of time to read), and he let slip an implication that perhaps he sought immortality.  The party asked why he couldn't just walk out, and whether the women were free to do so.  When he finally admitted that it was the creek that kept him in his chamber, the PCs knew that they were dealing with a vampire.  They suspected that he was feeding on the women, and so they kept questioning him without letting him know that they were on to him.  He kept pressing them to stay, but they wanted time to regroup and think things over.  They tried to let 27 (who has no blood for a vampire to feed off of) stall him with conversation while they went back into the hall to talk things over in private, but the door slammed shut.  Two invisible creatures (Pale Reavers) materialized near it, and the party immediately rolled initiative. 

The fight turned out to be fairly difficult, and quite appropriate for a final battle.  After 1 initial attack the party focused their status effects on Viral (the most effective which was Zeus' Silent Malediction).  The women turned out to be minion Pale Reavers who could take human form, and halfway through the battle more Pale Reaver reinforcements showed up.  Berylis, Rozzle, and Zeus all had a fairly typical encounter, with all of them performing their roles admirably.  Unit 27 and Lyra had a quirky fight.  First of all, it should be mentioned that the Pale Reavers could drain healing surges, which was extremely dangerous for Rozzle and Berylis, who each had only 2 left.  I was extremely surprised to learn halfway through the battle that Unit 27, in contrast, had TWELVE surges yet!  It hadn't occurred to me before this, but he really wasn't suffering very many hits at all before this, and this encounter was no different.  This was partially because he was being missed (there were many rounds where he dutifully protected Rozzle), but a lot of the time he was off on his own going toe-to-toe with a single enemy.  I think that the player controlling him was more focused on running Rozzle overall, and he often just got somewhat forgotten.  He was usually locking down minor enemies instead of the biggest, baddest target that a defender should be going after. 

After suffering a nasty blow, Lyra took her second wind early on (round 2 I believe) and then activated Fire Shield.  Her plan was to move away from the Pale Reaver that was causing her trouble, and park herself adjacent to one of the minions who happened to be backed into a corner.  She was going to provoke an OA to deal Fire Shield damage to it, and after all why not?  The Reaver was marked, she had her defense bonus from Second Wind, and she hadn't used Shield yet.  Her effective AC was 29 (at level 6), without accounting for the Mark (so it was actually 31).  Simply put, the Reaver could only hit her with a natural 20, and if it took a swing it would be sucking fire damage.  Well, it took the swing and it made that crit, leaving Lyra with a scant 10 HP.  Fortunately, the cornered minion tried attacking her, killing itself with Fire Shield damage (I think the DM felt sorry for Lyra's luck, lol).  But the shenanigans didn't stop there.  It was during this round that the Dark Reaver reinforcements arrived, and two set themselves up in a flank with Lyra.  I dared the DM to set them up that way, knowing that I still had my second wind bonus (and Shield was unused).  Before CA they could only hit me on a natural 20, and including CA into the equation doubled their odds (19-20 would be a hit).  The DM rolled ANOTHER FRICKIN' TWENTY!!!!!  Poor Lyra took 30 damage, while she only had 10 HP remaining.  This was two away from her negative bloodied value of 22.  Talk about a close call!  Sucks that my "fire tank" strategy backfired so badly, but who expects 2 crits in a row after becoming nearly untouchable thanks to second wind + shield? 

In any case, the party was mopping up by the time Lyra got an opportunity to act again.  It was pretty late by this point, and we all decided to call it a night immediately after the fight without RPing the conclusion.  We'll probably take care of that next session.  Overall, it seemed like we were all running a little slow, and there were a lot of distractions (the cats and dog were being quite rambunctious).  It was a fitting end to the adventure though; an unexpected plot twist (we figured Viral was dead, not undead) followed by a suitably challenging final encounter.  I'll certainly remember Lyra's terrible luck for a good, long while after this. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

First Look: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos Art

I recently discovered Tyler Jacobsen's blog, which showcases some of the art that he does (including some published D&D pieces).  He recently posted a first look at some of the new characters that will be in HotEC.  The new subclasses presented in this book will be the Elementalist (rumored to be a Sorcerer build), the Shugenja (rumors point to Monk), and the Sha'ir (a confirmed Wizard build).  Actually, truth be told the Sorcerer and Monk rumors may have been confirmed at some point (I vaguely remember reading that), but I can't be sure so I'm going to play it safe.  Anyways, the current speculation is that Anise is the Sha'ir, Galafaer is the Shugenja, and Scar is the Elementalist.  Now, the current builds for all of these classes should (interestingly enough) all be wearing cloth armor.  So if Scar's appearance seems problematic for a Sorcerer, the same would be true for a Monk or Wizard as well.

It is, of course, possible that he's supposed to be a different class with an elemental flair (and that a named Elementalist character is not included in the book's art); after all, HotF featured Rowena (a Warlock/Hexblade) and Viltham (a Wizard, likely Illusionist) in addition to examples of the 4 subclasses featured in the book.  It's also possible that this plate doesn't include all of the named characters from the HotEC art.  But what if Scar is the Elementalist?  There's already a precedent for Sorcerers fighting with weapons (namely daggers) in melee; what if HotEC simply stepped it up a notch?  After all, the Cleric (and Bard, and Warlock) supports both a ranged-caster archetype as well as an armored weapon-user, so what's preventing the Sorcerer from doing the same?  Sorcerers have a history of being a bit more physical (if only marginally so) than Wizards, and this would be a nice way to further differentiate the two classes.  A differentiation that is sorely needed in my opinion, since well-built blaster Wizards can already beat the Sorcerer at his own game. One of the more radical possibilities is a dual source Martial/Arcane Sorcerer. 

A while ago there were rumors (though I can't recall how reliable they were) of a simplified Essentials-style caster.  A boomstick Sorcerer, if you will, that functioned very much like the basic attack spamming builds (Slayer, Thief, etc).  Or maybe people just wanted such a build (why should spellcasters always be more complicated?).  This being the case, it's possible that the designers went the lazy route and made a MBA-spamming Sorcerer build, either like a Skald or a Slayer with an Arcane flavor.  I actually hope this isn't the case, because it strikes me as disingenuous.  A ranged basic attack spammer would have been interesting.  Sure, the concept has been touched upon with the Hunter and Seeker, but those guys aren't lobbing fireballs around.  A simplified design for a caster that just wants to make things go "boom!" is fitting.  Forcing the Sorcerer into the MBA (but with magic) spamming mold is much less so.  Since the "blow stuff up" ranged guy is out based on that picture, and I don't like the lazy MBA spamming possibility, I'm hoping that something much more innovative was done with the Elementalist.  Something similar to the Berserker's dual role, perhaps?  A unique take on a gish?  Maybe a character that plays as a defender until some trigger causes an uncontrolled burst of elemental energy to surge through his veins, turning him into a controller or a striker?  Pure speculation, of course, but that picture of Scar just begs for it!

On a related note, he also published plates of the HotF characters: Keldar, Andronus and Rowena, and Viltham, Lyrindel, and Nistyncia.  I'll just say that I love this picture of Lyrindel, and I'm at a loss as to why this wasn't included in the book.  All of the other pictures of her look a bit "cartoon-y," and some seem almost like caricatures compared with the art of the other characters.  I never got the sense for what a Hamadryad would really look like from the book's art, but this picture hits it perfectly.  She looks like a more alien version of a Elf, with the dark blotches giving her an almost reptilian flair.  Perhaps not the paragon of beauty that her Nymph aspect is supposed to evoke (nor does it have any plant-like characteristics reminiscent of the Dryad aspect), but I like it nevertheless.  I imagine this being her "default" form, with her racial power offering a peek into either her Autumn Nymph heritage or Dryad future (think Galadriel when Frodo offers her the Ring in Lothlorien).  A transformation that lasts only for a split second, but forever affects all who behold it.