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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

4e: What I love about thee

Now, before we start, regardless of this post's title, this isn't a love letter to 4e. On the contrary, I want to dissect the things about 4e that I really, really, really like and think set it apart from other editions or even systems.

I started thinking about this off and on when I first started playing 4e again in comparison to my other go-to game, Pathfinder. I started thinking about this more frequently, though, when designing my 4e variant, Legend4ry

So, without further adieu, 

  • Healing Surges - I love the idea of healing surges as an abstraction of a more realistic health for a character. I know 4e is far from simulationist, but I like the realism more than anything. A human (or insert race here) can only take so much punishment throughout the course of any given day before catching ones breath (short resting) and magic healing take their toll or are just no longer effective. In order to heal, a body needs real rest, an extended rest as it were. While this isn't entirely realistic, I like the idea of it and it just clicks in my head perfectly. 
    • Subsequently, I also love Second Winds. Being a runner myself, I understand how crucial and awesome a second wind can be in real life. It turns the race around, it makes you strive to finish when otherwise you'd be likely to give in. You're beat, bruised, battered and yet still you persist as you get that tiny burst of energy to send you over the top. If I can do that, why can't my character? Oh, wait, I can, thanks 4e!
  • Multi-Class Feats - I know I might catch some flak for this, and that's fine, but there is a reason for this, I swear! It mainly involves the overall narrative of a game. Sure some games are beer and pretzels, some are just straight up "don't get attached to your numbers on a sheet as they will die" dungeon delves, and others are just narrative madness that I don't quite understand. Regardless, I've never really understood multi-classing in previous editions. Sure I know how it works mechanically and have done it in the past, I get that, but what I don't get is how it fits into the narrative even if the only narrative for the game is going on in my mind. For example: Oh Mr. Fighter wants to delve into the realm of wizardry and multi-class into the first level of Wizard. Cool. But from what I understand of magic, it's hard to grasp and takes years of concentrated study. So when is Mr. Fighter actually taking time to study? Between monster slaying? Is he taking night classes while everyone else is sleeping? For me, this makes no sense. So let's re-imagine this situation in 4e terms: Mr. Fighter wants to learn a little bit of magic, so he goes to the party magic user and over the course of a few weeks Miss Mage teaches Mr. Fighter a single Arcane spell. That just makes sense, and I love it. If Mr. Fighter wants to learn more magic, he can invest in it at later levels. Perfect.
  • Hybrid Classes - Now this one doesn't make sense in terms of the "real world" examples I've given above and that's fine. I like the concept for pure customization. I like being able to break out of archetypes or maybe build a character from fiction that I really, really like. Or maybe I just want to build something silly out of two classes (here's looking at you surprisingly effective Cleric Vampire...) I like the Hybrid Talent Feat to unlock more of Class A or B's abilities, I like the customization, I like the fun, I like... Wait, well there is one thing I don't like about it. I don't like being forced to have an even balance of Class A and B powers. I understand this is so someone doesn't dip into one class only to reap the benefits and only take Class B powers, but it doesn't make sense. Maybe Mr. Fighter/Mage needs to focus for a level or two only on Mage powers or visa versa. This is one thing that I don't think breaks any balance whatsoever and is easily fixed, at least in my games, by house-ruling said restriction out.
  • The Warlord - In my opinion after having played every Leader save for the Runepriest, this is the best Leader out there. In play I've done some crazy things that have been game changing (this happens most sessions, in fact) and on the other side of the screen I am always amazed at how a well-played Warlord dominates the battle field with heals, strike directing, and more. This is my favorite class in 4e, hands down.
  • The Warlock- Before 4e I was never interested in the Warlock class mainly due to watching someone play a broken one in 3.X. It just never appealed to me, I didn't care for the fluff and then 4e came and changed that. I love it's fluff, I love the options, and I love the versatility. You can build a Warlock to be a little bit of everything and it's great. In my opinion a well-built Warlock could effectively solo (though the same argument could be made for a well-built Avenger.) Also, as a comic book nerd, the Warlock is my go-to class simply from power diversity for recreating super heroes. Dr. Doom? Warforged Warlock. It's just perfect fluff-wise and works well mechanically. 
  • Essentials Classes - I know, I know, I'm in the minority and about to get roasted. You know what? That's fine.  I love Essentials. They offer simpler classes that are great for beginners and keep you from being bogged down by way too many choices power-wise (thanks ___ Power line...) Now, don't get me wrong, I love choices, I love the AEDU classes (as noted above) but I also dig the older edition/school feel of Essentials classes much the chagrin of Grogn4rds everywhere. Essentials classes are what brought be back into 4e after a bad introduction to the game (admittedly I was experiencing my first bout of grognardia when transfering from 4e and kept thinking of 4e from a 3.X mindset, my bad.) I mainly like the synthesis of the Essentials line; they effectively boiled down the basics of a class, the iconic bits, and got rid of the extra stuff leaving you with an effective and not bogged down version. It's great and they work great in unison with AEDU classes as well. 
  • The Racial Options - Seriously. There are so many races. I love it. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the archetypal PHB1 races as much as the next guy, but I also like being able to spread by wings and play as the Half-Vampire Vryloka or a Pixie for Orcus' sake! (Disclaimer: I will never actually play as a Pixie. This is the one thing I disliked about Heroes of the Feywild.) I love the lack of Level Adjustments and being able to jump right in as a Minotaur without having to worry about investing 8 levels into actually being one. 

Well, now I'm drawing a blank and I know for a fact that I hard a larger, longer list in my head. Perhaps I'll mention them in future posts when I remember! What are your favorite aspects of 4e?

As promised, next time I'll post the adventure entitled: Escape from Bitterkeep Stronghold

Until next time,


Edited to add: How could I forget two of my favorite things of 4e?!

  • Inherent Bonuses - This is easily  my most favorite aspect of 4e. I don't have to worry about magic items and still the math works, if I do decide to give magic items out it doesn't affect anything mathematically and if anything, it makes magic items rare and dynamic, which is how they should be.
  • Encounter Building - Seriously, this is fantastic. I don't have to mess with CRs and other nonsensical stuff that makes it hard to properly build an encounter that is a challenge yet doable. 4e? No problem due to experience budgets and what not. Monster/Character roles help here tremendously as well. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Legend4ry D&D

Recently I started a new blog to coincide with this one. This blog has always been intended to be a more broadly focused D&D blog as opposed to a Fourthcore/old school-esque one. That said, I really want to delve into the dynamic adventures and deadliness that is the old school dungeon delve, but specifically for 4th edition. 

This blog will continue to be a more generally focused one dealing with my gaming philosophy regarding mainly 4e D&D, while my new one delves into trying to bring that hardcore old school feel into my games.

You can find my new blog here, entitled Legend4ry D&D, or just Legend4ry for short. The name itself comes from playing through the various Halo games on legendary mode with a friend of mine and concluding that the only way the game was meant to be played was on its most hardcore of settings, legendary. This philosophy, for me at least, is something I want to delve into for my table top gaming experience.

While I may be coming into the game late, a lot of the ground work has been dug by sites such as Save Versus Death, DMG42, Dungeon Oracle, Dread Gazebo, and more. Here's to hoping that I can make some meaningful contributions to this awesome community. 


Next post: the first of the aforementioned one-shots, a (late) review of Heroes of the Feywild, and a discussion over a magic-lite setting I've been tinkering with off and on for a month or so. 

Until next time,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Olde School 4e Dungeon Crawls?

So, I hate using the term "old school" as it just evokes a somewhat grognardian outlook on RPGin' that I just want to avoid if at all possible. BUT, that said, I love the idea of the "old school" dungeon and systems. I know, I know, I'm a hypocrite. This is one of the reasons that I love Fourthcore and Goodman Games circa 3.X (sadly their 4e stuff just wasn't able to really give that feel very well, despite some great ideas.) Goodman Games has a game system coming out in early 2012 called Dungeon Crawl Classics that is inspired heavily from older editions of D&D that I am beyond looking forward to. At FreeRPG Day this year I happened to pick up their supplement and have been inspired and left wanting since first reading it. And then WotC released in Dragon 403 an interesting article entitled Heroes' First Steps which entails rules for creating level-0 characters within the 4e rule-set. Awesome, right? Now, I've yet to give the rules a shot and as a result am going to withhold passing judgment until then. 

But, now that we have moved passed the above text-wall, down to my idea: "old school" style deadly dungeon crawl with 4e level-0 characters.

Now, in terms of making it as "old school" as possible, I'd like to employ a bit of randomness to it (though not with ability score generation as that's something I am thrilled is not in common use any longer.)

Here's what I am thinking:

Power Source: Roll a 1d6 to determine power source.
  1. Arcane
  2. Divine
  3. Martial
  4. Primal
  5. Psionic
  6. Shadow
Race: Roll a 1d10 to determine race. (Sticking with just Essentials races for simplicity, love it or hate it.)
  1. Human
  2. Dwarf
  3. Eladrin
  4. Elf
  5. Halfling
  6. Dragonborn
  7. Drow
  8. Half-Elf
  9. Half-Orc
  10. Tiefling
Ability Scores: Either pick the Promising or Prodigy array.
  • Promising (14,14,12,10,10,10)
  • Prodigy (16,12,12,10,10,8)
Skills, Feats, Equipment, Defenses, Hit Points, etc: As per the Dragon 403 article. 

Each player would play 3-4 randomly generated characters in a puzzle (and occasionally combat-heavy dungeon) that is specifically designed to leave each player, if they are lucky, with 1-2 characters apiece with the possibility of leveling up to 1 (and then followed by a deadly dungeon meant to weed them down to 1 apiece, again, if they are lucky.) The crucial focus here is on the difficulty and deadly puzzles ala the original Tomb of Horrors and its ilk. 

What's the verdict on this crazy/deadly/evil idea? Thoughts on building deadly puzzles, traps, and encounters for a level-0 dungeon crawl?

Until next time,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Healing Surges as Currency?

So, I've wondered for some time now about the possibility of using Healing Surges strategically as a type of currency. In many sense this would encourage a more tactical and perhaps meta-aspect to 4e, but at the same time it could very well increase the power of PCs at a price, and that's something I like the idea of. 

What I mean by currency is as follows (and keep in mind that this is only me just throwing out un-refined and un-play-tested ideas):

  • spend a Healing Surge (without gaining any HP) on your turn as a trigger to having missed with an Encounter or Daily power. 
    • 1 HS for an Encounter, 2 for a Daily? I don't like this and I feel like 1 HS for each would be more sufficient. 
    • Perhaps have this only usable once per Encounter?
  • spend a Healing Surge (without gaining any HP) at the end of your turn on a trigger defined as having failed a Saving Throw and immediately reroll the Saving Throw using the second roll.
    • I think that this, too, should only be usable once per Encounter.
Those are just a few ideas I've been tossing around and I like the idea of having to make a rough choice of a short-term gain at the cost of a long-term resource. Now, I do realize there are some issues with this as it favors some classes tremendously over others and could potentially make Durable a very popular feat choice for obvious reasons. 

What do y'all think? Any other potential ideas for the HS currency?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's been awhile...

So, first off let me say, whoops! Life has gotten lifey and I've been busier than I first thought I'd be. Now, that all said, I have some exciting news:

1) I have spent some free time, what of it I have, painting the minis from the Castle Ravenloft board game. I am almost done, finally having gotten to the PCs themselves. Now, I'm actually a little nervous for this, with the monsters at least I can paint them one to three colors and they look fine, the PC minis require a bit more detail (and I don't have any fleshtone paint!) Once I finally finish with the PCs I'll post the some pictures of the whole bunch with some tips and tricks of my admittedly short painting "career."

2) I recently took a group of friends under my wing and corrupted them and taught them how to play D&D. These guys are addicted now and cannot get enough. Every couple of days I get a text asking if we can play or do an impromptu one shot or something. It's awesome! Now, mainly we've been running through Keep on the Shadowfell, despite some of its more glaring flaws, with some minor (and major) alterations. The game has gone swimmingly and has been a lot of fun on both sides of the screen.

The reason I bring up teaching some buddies how to play is that we've done a number of one shots that I have written up and I plan on posting them on here for frizzles with some author notes. Now, given the nature of the group (they're newbs) the adventures themselves are fairly (read: very) railroady. Despite the as-written rail road that is the plot, I do do a lot of impromptu on the fly type stuff based on how they react to certain things or try something crazy that I hadn't accounted for. Now, once I finally get these bad boys re-typed to be more clear in pdf format I'll upload them here, likely one every few days or so.

Here is a brief teaser/spoiler for the one shots I've written:

  • a prison break
  • a tongue-in-cheek Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque parody (don't ask...)
  • a delve to a forest temple filled with ancient cultists (meant to be a one-shot set within the events of Keep on the Shadowfell)
  • a classic armies of the land versus the sea the contains prisons and gladiatorial combat
  • a delve into the Underdark
  • a time travelin' trek into the Underdark (a sequel to the first delve)
If there is an interest in any of these, please do not hesitate to let me know either in the comments or via email! Regardless of reception I am planning on posting the above rail-road-tastic one shots and if I receive enough buzz I will post a very deadly Castle Ravenloft inspired work that I am currently writing in my spare time. 

3) I am currently writing two different settings. The first of which is the aforementioned Castle Ravenloft inspired setting which is probably going to lean on the side of somewhat grimdark, for better and for worse. As I stated, it's going to be deadly and I will likely be making use of a lot of homebrew stuff as well as the Fourthcore Armory and the Fourthcore Alphabet. (I will also review the Fourthcore Alphabet once I receive it in the mail!)

The second setting is more of my attempt at 4e world building. I have built worlds and concept in the past that I've gotten 75% of the way into before I just start drawing blanks. A big problem with this was years ago when I was very much on my Pathfinder kick. Ever since I delved back into 4e a couple of years ago, I have been inspired and this second setting is the fruits of that labor realized in a low magic church inquisition type setting. More on this in a subsequent post.


Well, that's all for now. I know I've written a lot of checks in this post and I'm going to make a concerted effort to uphold my end of them. I'm going to try and be more active during the tail end of this year and throughout the year next year because Sorcerer Blob has lots to say about the wide world of gaming!

Things to come: product reviews for Brother Ptolmey and the Hidden Kingdom (finally!), Heroes of the Feywild, the Fourthcore Alphabet and Armory, and finally Altered Earth. In addition to this will be pictures, blog posts, my own adventures and reviews of published adventures like the Madness at Gardmore Abbey and the Saturday Night Delves over at Save Versus Death.

Until next post!