Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Out of Mirkwood

It's been a while, but thanks to a brief respite between out-of-state jobs I was able to run another session of my TOR campaign.  Here's a recap of what happened last time.  The Fellowship has just gotten through the worst part of their journey, the Mountains of Mirkwood.  But the dangers of the forest are still very real, and the remainder of the journey was through lands heavily tainted by the Shadow. 

Note that this post contains some minor SPOILERS from Tales from Wilderland.  While the adventures are of my own creation, I've lifted some elements from that book.

 The Forest Maze
After a day and a half of steadily decreasing elevation, the trees start to become very thick again.  All 3 PCs are miserable after the Mountains, and I call for an Awareness test.  Lowthesis fails with an Eye of Sauron, gaining his second flaw.  Mirkwood is proving to be a very dangerous place for fairly inexperienced characters.  Thinking he can hear the clanking of coins behind him, the dwarf turns around to see a chest of gold in a thicket of undergrowth.  Ranulf, the only PC to pass his Awareness test, notices that the trees are starting to hem in Grimwine ahead of him, and Lowthesis (now dashing for the treasure) behind (bout of madness).  Lowthesis lands with a thud as the illusory treasure wisps away, realizing that the vegetation is moving to hem him in, a shadow hanging among its branches.  By now everyone knows what's going on, and rolls a Corruption test.  Grimwine fails with an Eye.  Yeah.  The orc-slayer hears the sound of his hated foes marching ahead (away from his companions), and he hacks his way through the vegetation toward them.  Ranulf, meanwhile, is the only one left to desperately try to keep the dwarves together (to no avail, with just a small dagger to slash through vegetation with).  Lowthesis tries to Search for gaps in the writhing branches, roots, and vines, but always notices them too late, when they're already closing up.  The clearing he's in is constantly moving, as if the trees are corralling him somewhere.  The separated companions can soon hear a humming and whistling in amongst the leaves, which weaves itself into a melody.  Lowthesis and Grimwine use Riddle to decipher the eerie song's meaning, Grimwine failing and Lowthesis realizing that the melody predicts the movement of the plants (allowing him to predict gaps and force his way out).  Ranulf sings along with the song, trying to understand it, realizing that he can pick up on the emotions that the trees are communicating to each other. 

Grimwine simply muscles his way forward toward the orcs, eventually breaking out into a narrow stone path that leads to a clearing with a well in the center.  I used the well from Don't Leave the Path (Tales from Wilderland) for this scene, so SPOILERS will follow.  He can hear what sounds like an orc lair in the well, and after suffering some taunts from them he jumps in after them.  Meanwhile Lowthesis makes it out of the maze, using Explore to orient himself.  While walking back roughly toward the path, his mind grows increasingly occupied by the thought of treasure which he's sure is nearby.  He too comes upon a well, with a glint of gold shining from within.  He jumps in. 

Ranulf begins singing in opposition to the trees, a counter song which neutralizes their attempts to enclose him, and also gives him insight into the malevolent spirit in the center of the maze.  He senses that it's claimed two of his companions, and rushes toward it.  When Lowthesis and Grimwine enter the well, Ranulf is hit with a flash of the spirit's triumph and knows which direction to head.  When he reaches the well he sees Grimwine and Lowthesis both approaching it, apparently completely unaware of each other, and then both of his companions jumps in.  The sight is following by a sick squelching noise coming from within the well, as of mud being sucked through a vacuum.  Ranulf rushes forward.  Upon hitting the bottom of the well Grimwine and Lowthesis break free of their madness and realize what's going on.  The well's tentacles attack all 3 companions, seizing Grimwine and later strangling him with a massive amount of force (if I remember correctly, I rolled an extraordinary success here).  Ranulf aims at a tentacle with his bow, and then fails with an Eye of Sauron.  Yes, the entire fellowship suffered a bout of madness already, and Ranulf's caused him to simply walk away from the battle with disinterest, finally succumbing to the creature's spell.  Lowthesis landed a rare hit on the tentacle that was gripping Grimwine (extraordinary success for massive damage), severing the tentacle and freeing the Beorning.  As the two fought bravely in the well, Ranulf heard footsteps running toward him out of the forest.  Balin and Dwalin had found him, and hearing Grimwine's scream asked what was going on.  Dwalin slapped Ranulf out of his stupor, and the Barding and Dwarves helped finish the monster off. 

The fellowship spent a day searching for and locating Ori and Oin, and then the rest of the journey through Mirkwood proved uneventful.  They met up with Gimli in the Long Marshes, and then headed north toward Esgaroth. 

Fellowship Phase
Each companion spent theirs in a different city: Grimwine in Esgaroth, Lowthesis in Erebor, and Ranulf in Dale.  The PCs each independently pursued the Meet Patron undertaking.  Lowthesis spent a lot of time in Erebor's Chamber of Mazarbul looking for leads on where to find treasure.  He came to know the expert scholar in that field, a dwarf by the name of Regin, very well.  Grimwine searched for a sparring partner in Esgaroth, and ended up meeting the Beorning mercenary Gerold (from Tales from Wilderland).  The two trained together extensively during the ensuing months (justification for Grimwine buying another rank in Axes with his experience).  Ranulf hung out around the Merchant's Quarter of Dale, just looking for excuses to travel afield to new lands.  He spent a lot of time at the tavern with Keilbrun, a retired merchant who still worked the streets of Dale but was too old to travel far enough to acquire any valuable items. 

The players were all upset with how expensive it was to gain new ranks with attribute points, but it's starting to make sense to me.  Experience cost tends to be cheaper because everyone needs Valour, Wisdom, and Weapon skills.  Moreover, Rewards and Virtues represent interesting choices for characters to make.  These things are the primary measure of a character's power level.  If Common Skills increased at this rate, it would be too easy for characters to just be good across the board at everything.  Making advancement points work more slowly maintains the level of specialization within the fellowship.  The side effect of this is that I'm less thrilled about so many of a character's skill ranks being determined by culture. 

The Gathering of Five Armies
The month of November saw the city of Dale preparing for the upcoming festivities.  With lodging being increasingly harder to come up, Grimwine took up residence at Ranulf's home.  The fields around the city became a tent suburbia, and Gandalf showed up again, always in too big a hurry to provide any details of his adventures dealing with the Nazgul.

Gerold was training for the upcoming Contests, and filled Grimwine in on the details (minor SPOILERS from The Crossings of Celduin follow).  The PCs were all eager to enter the Contests themselves, with Ranulf being eliminated in the second qualification round for both Archery and Horseback Riding, and Lowthesis losing in the first round of both Strength and Horseback Riding (the latter was entered just out of spite, and he ended up embarrassing himself spectacularly for the second time that day).  Grimwine just entered the Strength contest, but made it all the way to the Final Round where he lost to Gerold.  I ruled that it was good enough to get into the Grand Melee, and he lasted through the first 2 waves of enemies quite handily.  Finally it was down to just a few warriors, with the group of dwarves being too distant to engage, and a choice between facing down Gerold or Elstan.  Grimwine charged toward Gerold while Elstan, seeing this, lead his troupe toward the dwarves.  Once again, Gerold whooped him good.  His Terrible Strength ability gives him a pretty big advantage, though Grimwine did beat him earlier when we played out their initial sparring match during the Fellowship Phase.  Elstan ended up victorious, and Ranulf lead the crowd with a spectacular Song roll celebrating his victory. 

With Grimwine unconscious (and Lowthesis moping in his room back in the Lonely Mountain after the previous day's failures), Ranulf was the only PC to see Gandalf approach the crowd, frantically looking for someone.  When Gandalf spotted Ranulf, he sent him to gather Lowthesis while he grabbed the fatigued Grimwine; he had a mission for them.  Ranulf and Lowthesis soon met Gandalf, Grimwine, and Elstan in front of the fountain of Smaug's Fall outside the Royal Palace. 

It was here that we ended this session.  Unfortunately, we won't be able to resume the campaign until December, but I'm still glad that we got this one session in.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Star Wars, Sorcerers, and Warlocks oh my!

Not having computer access for a few days during Gen Con has its disadvantages.  I've missed out on a lot!  Still sifting through a lot of the new updates, but a few things stick out.

First, there's already an update to the most recent D&D Next playtest packet.  An adventure, Reclaiming Blingdenstone (which I haven't even skimmed yet) is included, but more importantly playtest versions of the Sorcerer and Warlock classes!  The Sorcerer uses a spell point system, with spell points being "Willpower."  You spend Willpower to cast spells, and spending too much causes your bloodline to start manifesting, resulting in physical (and mechanical) changes.  The bloodline that we have is Draconic Heritage, and from what I've read (skimmed) so far it seems like as you deplete your Willpower you start getting better at melee.  In other words, it's a gish class, but whether you're better at spells or melee depends on how much Willpower you've spent.  Interesting.

The Warlock looks like it's more my style.  The example pact is Fey (may favorite, yay!), and the class mostly functions via using "favors" from their patron that recharge after any short or extended rest.  So, encounter powers, yep.  Favors can be used for social-type stuff, as well as casting more powerful invocations, and not surprisingly the Warlock gets some at-wills (including Eldritch Blast) for free.  And Eldritch Blast is NICE!  This is definitely a striker-y spellcaster, with damage nearly matching a Fighter spending an Expertise dice on Deadly Strike.  Of course the Fighter is much more durable, but the Warlock seems to have its fair share of very cool magical abilities, so I'd say it's pretty balanced.  Now I can't decide whether the Fighter or Warlock is my favorite D&DN class!

Finally, this is happening.  It seems to roughly mirror the initial release schedule of The One Ring, but for Star Wars.  It seems like it's more its own system as opposed to trying to fit the Star Wars universe into D20 (as with Saga Edition), which is intriguing.  And here I thought my best option would be to use Savage Worlds to run a Star Wars campaign.  I'll have to do some more research, because I really like Savage Worlds on paper (still haven't played yet), but this game looks like it has some potential.  I'll wait until people who bought the beta rules give feedback online, and then I'll decide whether it's worth pursuing.  Star Wars is still one of those things that I've always wanted to run as an RPG, but just never got the chance to. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

D&D Next Second Playtest Packet: First Impressions

The second packet of the D&D Next playtest is now available.  It includes character creation up to level 5, with separate PDFs for races, classes, backgrounds, specialties (formerly themes), and a character creation document.  There are also PDFs for equipment, spells, and of course a character sheet, as well as the generally useful How to Play document, and a PDF detailing the changes in this version.  There are also several pre-gens, and for DMs a guidelines document and a new Bestiary.  No adventure is included in this packet, so you'll either have to stick with Caves of Chaos, check out Rats in the Sewer, or come up with your own stuff.  I heard somewhere (on the WotC forums, I believe) that an adventure would be coming next week.  Perhaps they're waiting until after Gen Con so attendees get the first look at what's being offered?

I've skimmed through most of the documents, and while I haven't had the time to digest everything properly yet (or make a character!), a bunch of things did jump out at me.  I'll explain below.

Sneak Attack
Its damage was increased to 2D6 at level 1, and goes up by 1D6 per level.  This was a necessary change, as using an action to hide and attack every other round used to result in much less DPR (damage per round) than simply attacking each round without sneak attack dice.  Coupled with the overall reduction in HP across the board, it's actually worthwhile now, and the Rogue is no longer completely gimped in combat.  He's still no match for the Fighter (or a 4E Rogue), but at least he contributes.  Furthermore, we get a new Rogue scheme, the Thug, which allows for an alternative way to gain sneak attack damage; simply attack a creature that is within reach of 2+ allies.  The Thug is more combat-focused than the Thief and less skills-focused, and while he's still a bit squishy at least he can bring on the hurt very effectively.  The Rogue is shaping up to be pretty cool.

Opportunity Attacks
They're back, and how necessary they were!  In the first playtest packet nothing stopped monsters from ignoring the big, imposing Fighter and bashing the Wizard's skull in.  Now doing so is a dangerous move.  When an opponent leaves your melee reach, you can use a reaction to make a melee attack with advantage.  Ouch!  Note that this doesn't prevent enemies from running circles around you, though opponents engaged with each other will be doing that anyways.  It also effectively puts an end to annoying shift+charge tactics that were rampant in 4E.  As a final note, one can use the Disengage action to avoid taking an OA; this action lets you move 10 feet without provoking.

Combat Superiority
The Fighter looks like SO MUCH FUN!!!!  The Fighter's Combat Superiority grants them a number of Expertise dice (it doesn't increase to 2 until 5th level, but your die size increases before that) that they can use each round for Maneuvers.  All Fighters start with 2 basic maneuvers, Deadly Strike and Parry (which allows them to roll the Expertise dice for extra damage or roll to negate incoming damage, respectively).  They then gain one maneuver based on their Fighting Style at first level, and more as they increase in level.  The old Slayer theme has been eaten by this system (the Slayer Fighting Style grants very similar benefits), and joining the party are the Sharpshooter, Protector, and Duelist Fighting Styles.  While there are many cool maneuvers overall, I don't like that you're "on rails" in terms of what you gain.  I would personally prefer that Fighting Styles be more like suggested builds, giving you the freedom to choose any maneuver in any order.  As it stands, each Fighting Style has at least one maneuver that I wouldn't have picked myself (a lot of times at 1st level, ugh).  Still, the concept has a lot of promise, and combined with different specialties I find myself getting excited about tinkering with multiple different kinds of Fighter builds.

Slow Healing Variants
Healing was apparently a very divisive issue in feedback from the initial playtest packet.  Four options are presented for healing during a long rest:  1) regain all HP and HD as in packet 1, 2) regain no HP, but all of your HD which you use to heal yourself, 3) regain all HP but HD only equal to 1+Con mod (I don't like this option because there's no difference at 1st level, and its effects increase the higher your level), and 4) regain no HP, and HD only equal to 1+Con mod (players who want injured PCs out of commission for days after a tough fight will be happy, but the problem of affecting higher level characters more severely still remains).  It's a start, but I definitely don't like how options 3 and 4 make lower level characters able to get back into the action sooner than higher level characters (it should be the opposite, or there should be no difference).

More On Healing
The second concern regarding healing is how necessary a Cleric is to any given party.  At first glance it looks like Clerics are very necessary because HD-based healing just isn't very potent (especially at first level).  However, characters have the option of taking specialties to make up for the lack of a Cleric (specifically, Survivalist boosts your HD-based healing and total HP, while Healer gives you reliable access to healing potions, which eventually benefit from max value).  The first playtest packet was mostly disconcerting because one of the Clerics was built as a healbot because he also had the Healer theme, but any party can probably cover their bases pretty well as long as one or two PCs pick up Healer and/or Survivalist.  The presence of these options even this early in the playtest process (we haven't even seen any classes outside of the core 4 yet!) is certainly promising. 

Skills took a huge step backwards, in my opinion.  We're back to a defined skill list, with each skill being strictly tied to a single ability score.  Even worse, this skill list resembles 3rd edition's more than 4th editions, with THIRTEEN different "Lore" skills, some of which have sub-categories, like Professional Lore (you get whatever your chosen profession is), or Local Lore (the region you're from).  There's also Spot (but no Listen) in place of Perception, and Sleight of Hand, Find/Remove Traps, and Open Locks in place of Thievery.  What's more mind-boggling is that Find/Remove Traps is Int based, despite the fact that noticing things should be a Wisdom check, and depending on the nature of the trap a Dex check might make more sense than an Int check (a trap with quick moving parts as opposed to a complicated design).  The open-ended skill system from the first playtest packet allowed you to simply apply your skill bonus to any relevant ability check, so the DM could vary the ability based on the design of the trap.  Though it's subtle, this new skill system is actually a new subsystem in the game, where you make a skill check instead of an ability check with your skill bonus applied.  I thought the point was to encompass as much as possible under the core mechanic of ability checks?  That's why each ability gets its own save, right?  Oh well, at least the skill system from 13th Age will be easy enough to port over (indeed, the first packet resembled a middle ground between 13th Age and traditional skill lists for D&D, which is what I loved about it). 

They're totally overpowered.  Whereas the other races can bump ONE fixed ability score up by ONE point, Humans bump one ability of their choice up by two, and all of their other ability scores by one!!!! In a game where most out-of-combat rolls are ability checks, and saving throws are spread out across every ability score, every ability is important.  This is a huge advantage for Humans.  Not only that, but they have a point buy (and theoretically a rolled-stat) advantage, in that they can buy cheaper odd abilities and benefit from the higher modifier of the next even ability up.  So what are the other races gaining by giving up numerical superiority across the board?  Mostly situational stuff like immunity to poison (Dwarves), Stonecutting (Dwarves), Low Light Vision (Dwarves and Elves), Immunity to Charm (Elves), advantage on perception checks (Elves), Trance (Elves), the ability to move through larger creature's space (Halflings), and a 2x/day re-roll (Halflings).  Oh, and a die increase in axes and hammers (Dwarves), daggers/short swords/slings (Halflings), and longswords/longbows/shortbows (Elves).  And some more situational benefits from your subrace (5 extra feet of movement for Wood Elves and the ability to hide better in natural environments, a free cantrip from the Wizard list for High Elves, etc).  Each race has a lot of little things, but they're all fairly minor, and sometimes they won't even come up in play.  I'd rather see Humans gain a +1 bonus to 2 abilities of their choice, get training in a free skill, and perhaps have a Heroic Effort type ability (since the Halfling has an Elven Accuracy type ability). 

The layout is better with fluff clearly separated from crunch.  I haven't read through the spells in much detail yet, but one oddity that I noticed is that some spells use a creature's maximum HP as a threshold (Ray of Enfeeblement), whereas others use a creature's current HP (Sleep).  I'd like to see all spells use current HP, as the notion of beating up stronger enemies in order to hit them with spells was a really cool idea.  It forced a tactical choice between spreading damage to affect more enemies with crowd control vs the traditional focus fire tactics, as well as using your spells as openers vs using them as finishers.  These two considerations have a lot of tactical potential, and I think that the way spells are designed should reflect that.

Multi-Attacking (Dual Wielder and Archer specialties)
There have been a LOT of complaints on the WotC forums about these abilities, but I for one think that the designers hit the mark surprisingly well here.  In the past multi-attacks have just been flat-out better; think about 4E Rangers, which have no tactical choices to make in combat because Twin Strike is always the right choice (or one of the Twin-Strike-plus encounter or daily powers, or Twin Strike in addition to a minor action attack or immediate action).  In this playtest packet, you can choose to make 2 attacks, each of which deals half damage.  Two Weapon Fighting is drawing more flack because you're forced to use finesse weapons, which have a lower damage die, and thus even a hit with both attacks will deal less damage than a guy wielding a big two-hander (or even sword and board, though the difference here is smaller).  However, insane and broken amounts of damage is no longer the point of dual wielding anymore, as it's more akin to AoEs.  Consider the fact that monsters fight equally well when they have 1 HP as they do with full HP (the only damage that reduces enemy offense is the hit that brings them to 0 HP).  A multi-attacker in Next is going to go after weak targets (whether they're naturally low HP enemies like kobolds, or enemies that the party has whittled down to near-death), thus eliminating potential sources of enemy damage as quickly as possible.  Not only that, but it actually allows your party to apply damage more efficiently because a full-damage attack from a Rogue using Sneak Attack or a Fighter with a 2-hander is going to be largely wasted taking out weak opponents.  Just let the multi-attacker finish them off!  Also keep in mind that the Wizard is unlikely to be relegated to this role, since his AoEs are all daily spells.  The best part, though, is that the multi-attacker has an actual tactical choice to make because if he doesn't think his half-damage attacks can finish anyone off (or if some big, tough dude REALLY needs to be focus-fired) he can always opt to simply make a single, full damage attack instead.  As a final note, I'll just say that a dual-wielding Fighter with Cleave can potentially wipe out 3 weak enemies in a single turn, which is phenomenal. 

Survivalist Specialty
Is overpowered (at least at low levels).  The Toughness feat gives you an additional d8 Hit die, which at first level doubles the amount of HD healing that you can accomplish.  On top of that, you gain HP from this HD (taking average nets you 5 additional HP).  To put this in perspective, the Dwarf Fighter pregen starts with 14 HP (the highest of the bunch), so the extra HP from Toughness is more than a third of his total starting HP!  And the Elf Wizard starts with a mere 6 HP, so taking Toughness would nearly double his total HP!  Granted, the feat doesn't scale terribly well, but first level is when your own survival is most in doubt, and a character that doesn't survive this level doesn't benefit from any of his higher level stuff. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hackmaster Basic is FREE

The basic version of the newest edition of Hackmaster can be downloaded for free.  I figured for that price, it's certainly worth a look.  Looks interesting, but VERY different from what I'm used to.  The general concept is the same as 1st edition D&D, but the mechanics are VERY different.  It's a little crunch-heavy for my tastes, but looks like a good take on a simulationist design philosophy (certainly WAY better than 3rd edition D&D).  Seems like a very gritty and dangerous game.

The biggest thing that strikes me as unique is that there are no turns.  The GM does a count-up in 1 second intervals, and you can act whenever you want (within the scope of the mechanics).  You roll initiative and you want to roll low because that's what second you're allowed to first act.  You move 5 ft per second (or half that for Dwarves and Halflings), and you have weapon speeds.  The way these work is that after your initial attack, you can't attack for another X number of seconds, where X equals your weapon speed.  For example, a longsword has a speed of 10 seconds, a battle axe is 12, and a dagger is 7. GM bookkeeping strikes me as being potentially difficult (perhaps even an outright headache!), but the advantage of this system is that all players are engaged all the time instead of waiting for their "turn." 

Armor makes it easier to be hit (because you're slower), but soaks damage.  Shields make it harder to hit, and can soak damage as well, but they can be shattered (by high-damage attacks, often after making an opposed roll to confirm the shatter).  You make a defense roll every time you're attacked, and compare that to the attack roll result.  Rumor has it that combat is still fast despite all of this dice rolling.  If you take a certain amount of damage (equal to or greater than your threshold of pain) then you must make a trauma check, and if you fail you're down on the ground, unable to act for a certain number of seconds. 

Anyways, I've only skimmed through it briefly and those are the major things I've picked up.  I'm not necessarily sure that I'd want to run it regularly, but I'd be willing to try it out. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

HILARIOUS Actual Play Snippet

I saw this and just had to link it here.  I love RPGs. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Escalation Edition 3: The Barbarian

Thirteenth Age Escalation Edition is up to 3 pips, and there have been some interesting changes.  The biggest change is arguably the fact that monsters now deal static damage instead of damage dice.  Playtesters pointed out that monsters were "too swingy," but given the reliance on dice instead of modifiers across the board, as well as the existence of dice conventions, I didn't think it was too much of an issue.  In any case, I've updated my custom monsters to reflect the change.  While this might be the most obvious change, I'm more interested in the Barbarian.

Barbaric Cleave, Building Frenzy, Slayer, and Unstoppable have all remained unaltered.  Strongheart has been fundamentally changed in concept; whereas before it granted free saves after hitting with an attack, now it boosts your recovery die up to a d12 and the adventurer feat grants you another recovery.  This helps with the Barbarian's durability, but it's still a class with low base AC and its HP factor is merely average (unlike D&D 4E, where it was equal to the Fighter or Paladin in HP, or 3.x, where it had more HP).  So despite the boost, it's still not the "tough guy" striker that it has been in the past.

The biggest change has been with Whirlwind.  Before when you were engaged with multiple enemies, you could attack all of them and deal half damage.  Now you make an attack at full damage vs all enemies, and take a hefty defense penalty.  It emulates the flavor of big, reckless swings really well, though since the Barbarian already has extremely low AC you'll almost be auto-hit by enemies.

The Whirlwind change is interesting because while the Barbarian definitely still needs some work (I feel like it's still underpowered), at least it potentially has a unique niche now.  Let's compare the classes that were traditionally (to use a 4E term) strikers.

  • Barbarian:  With Whirlwind, it's a glass cannon AoE monster.  Again, I'd advocate that it needs a defense boost; after all, Monks in 4E could get killed pretty easily and they actually had great defenses.  Putting yourself in the thick of things to maximize your offense is simply dangerous.  As written, using Whirlwind to maximum effect is pretty much suicidal (the caveat being that I haven't seen the Barbarian in play).  Barbaric Cleave gives him more multi-attack potential, further reinforcing the theme.  Rage gives him impressive spike damage for an encounter as well, and as a class feature all Barbarians get it.  Slayer and/or Building Frenzy are good ways to situationally add damage dice to your attacks, meaning that unlike most traditional AoE specialists the Barbarian hits multiple targets hard.  Who knows, maybe a well-built Barbarian does have enough offensive punch to keep up with the Ranger and Rogue, but I still see them as the class that's most easily killed, and you don't deal any damage when you're dead.
  • Ranger:  This guy's the versatile striker, but virtually all builds will emphasize multi-attacking to some extent (whether that's via two-weapon fighting, ranged attacks, or by having an animal companion that can attack).  He has the best defenses of the bunch, but also the fewest defensive "tricks" to mitigate damage (unless you count the animal companion's damage-soaking ability).  Ultimately, the flexibility to lay two attacks on the same target or to attack two different targets is useful, though most significant is arguably the ability to get a "second chance" to hit if you roll a natural even (or have an animal companion), making the Ranger highly accurate.  The class also has several versions of "situational improved criticals," and the spell-dabbling just makes it all the more flexible.  While he's probably not the damage monster he was in 4E, his versatility and well-roundedness better represent the self-sufficient woodsman that he typically represents.  
  • Rogue:  The Rogue is a bit swingy, and specializes in single high damage attacks.  Again with the caveat that I haven't really played the game yet, he's probably the class with the highest damage potential.  His numerical defenses are really low, but with the momentum mechanics he'll have plenty of opportunities to mitigate damage, and his powers very much support a highly mobile "skirmisher" playstyle so he'll probably be safe from attacks a lot (or at least open up enemies to being intercepted if they do go for him).  From a meta-game perspective, he's also the most complex striker in-play, unlike the relatively simple Barbarian and Ranger.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Choice in Games

Another short post linking you guys to something else, but this is why I really like both the Virtues and Traits (Specialties and Distinctive Features) in The One Ring.  It's also why I think 13th Age might have the best skill system (backgrounds) of any game I've tried yet.

Describing Hit Point Loss

There's a very good article by Robin Laws on the Pelgrane website that offers suggestions on how to describe non-lethal hit point loss from lethal sources:  Not A Significant Bullet

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rats In the Sewer, and New 13th Age Monsters

First thing's first, I downloaded an excellent fan-made adventure for D&D Next called Rats in the Sewer (I'd ask that any of my players who reads this NOT look at the adventure, which I plan on running at some point).  While I may run it for D&D Next, I was also thinking that it would work pretty well with 13th Age, since the simple-to-create-monsters in that system makes adventure conversions very easy. The adventure uses monsters from the Bestiary of the first D&D Next playtest packet, not all of which are currently available in the Escalation Edition of 13th Age.  So I figured I'd write up some stat blocks for them.

Fire Beetle  Level 1 Troop   Initiative +2
M  Bite +6 vs AC, 4 damage
AC 18   PD 15   MD 11   HP 26
Luminescent Glands:  Fire Beetles emit their own source of dim light.

Giant Centipede  Level 1 Mook   Initiative +3
M  Bite +5 vs AC, ongoing 3 poison damage
AC 16   PD 15   MD 11   HP 7 (to kill a single mook)

Grey Ooze   Level 2 Wrecker   Initiative +4
M Slam +7 vs AC, 8 acid damage; +4 damage and daze on a natural 16+
AC 15   PD 13   MD 10   HP 50
Resist 16+ cold and fire damage, Blindsight, can climb vertical surfaces at full speed

Gelatinous Cube   Large Level 3 Troop   Initiative +3
M Slam +8 vs AC, 20 acid damage and engulf (save ends) on a natural even hit
AC 18   PD 17   MD 13   HP 100
 Engulf:  Target takes 10 acid damage at the start of its turn; up to 3 creatures
Blindsight, Transparent (increase DC to spot it by +5)

Goblin King  Level 2 Leader   Initiative +6
M Short Sword +7 vs AC, 6 damage (9 if target is engaged with ally)
R Short Bow +7 vs AC, 6 damage, nearby allies can roll attacks twice against target and use better result
AC 18   PD 16   MD 13   HP 40
Disengage +5 (only needs to roll a 6+ to disengage)

Human Barbarian Warrior  Level 2 Wrecker   Init +5
M Longspear:  +7 vs AC, 7 damage + Reach Tricks
OR M Greataxe:  +6 vs AC, 10 damage
R Javelin +7 vs AC, 6 damage
AC 16   PD 17   MD 12   HP 40
Reach Tricks:  If equipped with Longspear, 1/battle succeed at a normal save to use reach to your advantage (attack enemy you're not engaged with, OA vs enemy who disengaged + moved, OA vs enemy who engages, etc). 

Comments and criticisms welcome.  13th Age is currently available for preorder.

EDIT:  Changed stat blocks so that damage expressions are in line with EE3; removed goblin warrior since Goblin Grunt is now a troop instead of a mook.