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Tuning the 4E Wizard – Level 2

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi all.

I got to play Bayne, my 4E wizard, last night and try out his level 2 powers. Considering how unusually poor most of my rolls were, Improved Initiative kept me high enough in the firing order to get in some good one-two shots.

On one encounter, Bayne caught five goblins clustered together during a surprise round and managed to hit all of them with Scorching Burst. Rolling an underwhelming ‘3’ on a d6, he did eight damage each for 40 total hit points worth of damage. Not bad for starters, but the key for this attack was that each one was now vulnerable to cold damage. On the next round, Bayne was able to catch four of the vulnerable goblins in his encounter power, Icy Terrain. Rolling another underwhelming ‘2’ on a d6, he did 12 damage to each (2 + 5 int bonus + 5 cold vulnerable) and even managed to crit one for 16. That dropped another 52 damage on our hapless foes.

So, all told, under some ideal clustering circumstances and even with mediocre damage rolls, Bayne did exactly what I designed him to do – he laid down 92 points of damage in back to back attacks.

Overall, I’m pleased with the character concept.

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Thunderspire Labyrinth – Part Deux

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

For our second session in the great underground labyrinth of the minotaurs, Gorn and his companions defeat the vile Blood Reaver lord Kran in the Chamber of Eyes. The team also began to gel and employ some cooperative tactics – and learned the value of first-strike with a surprise round. Hoo-ah!

As always, all downloads are posted in box.net widget in the sidebar to the right. Pop on over there and download “Thunderspire Campaign Newsletter Vol 2!” Or see all files available for download and grab them from here.

How We Roll: Maps & Tiles

June 13, 2010 1 comment

I love map tiles. In a previous post you saw that my group primarily uses Chessex Battlemats and drawn maps – but once in a very great while, the DM will throw down a 2D tile with all of it’s interesting little features, difficult terrain, and line of sight implications. When he does, it suddenly sparks my imagination to try out new tactics or tricks that I wouldn’t have considered with a crude line art map.

My favorite tiles are the Wizards of the Coast tiles sets. They are of terrific quality and are affordable tile sets. They use very heavy cardboard 1/10″ thick, have great graphics printed on both sides (reversible!), and the printed surfaces are well-bonded to the stock material and even have a durable textured feel. The early sets (which in my opinion are the most useful compared to the later and more expensive niche sets) run as low as $10.

The following are my favorite sets since they are versatile enough for most dungeon crawls and also provide just enough specialty tiles to toss out a feature or trap when the party least expects it…

  • Arcane Corridors
  • Arcane Towers
  • Caves of Carnage

There are three things that turn these unassuming printed tiles into the best dungeon layout you’ll get short of a Dwarven Forge set…

  1. Choose a good backdrop. When delving through a dark dungeon, placing the tiles on a black backdrop (perhaps a section of black bedsheet or towel) enhances the feel that the party is deep underground burrowing throw earth and stone. Likewise, green works for wilderness areas, etc.
  2. Grab some door standies. 3D doors can enhance the sense of mystery that is foundational to D&D. I suspect your players will take doors more seriously when you plop one down at the end of a long dark corridor.
  3. Accessorize. Look for useful mini accessories that can be used to complement your play. Barrels, chests, tables can be bought, made from cardstock, or simulated with everything from matchboxes to bottlecaps. Since you’ll be using these common items a lot, you won’t regret spending a bit of money or time to make items as immersive looking as possible. I’ll follow up on accessories in a later post.

A note on Wizards new 3D tile sets: As much as I like the 2D sets, the 3D objects that Wizards offers just don’t do it for me. The slip fit build doesn’t work well for doors, which fall over at the least provocation. The stairs look awkward and the tab in slot approach for the tops of the objects means they don’t stay attached in normal use. Unless you’re intersted in kitbashing these with a good bit of glue, I’d recommend looking into Mage Knight or Dwarven Forge for good 3D doors, tables, etc.

Thunderspire Labyrinth

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

As our group transitioned from 3E to 4E, I also decided to change the way I keep session notes. In my surfing one day I stumbled upon an old idea – a newsletter. Finding at least one excellent campaign newsletter (thanks to Colmarr over at Giant in the Playground) I shamefully copied every good idea in it and came up with my own version.

After completing Shadowfell Keep we embarked on the second module in the 4E introductory series, Thunderspire Labyrinth. The newsletter from our first session is included in the download section (see that neat box.net widget in the sidebar at the right of the page). Pop on over there and download “Thunderspire Campaign Newsletter Vol 1!” Or see all files available for download and grab them from here.

Meet the 4E Tank

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Upon the release of 4E, my group began monthly sessions playing through the introductory modules. After way too much research, I elected to play a Dragonborn Defender named Gorn (insert Star Trek trivia quest here). Please meet Gorn…

As you wander the wastes, you spot a solitary figure on the horizon. The figure draws closer and you make out a lizard-like form with a massive hammer rested across one shoulder. As the dusty brown form gathers substance, you are struck by the battle scars – on his armor, on his maul, and deeply etched into every exposed patch of scaly hide. Examining his aging face and eyes, it strikes you that the scars go much deeper. Here is one who has seen the horrors of war, the murder of innocents, the betrayal of allies. Here is one who is beyond surprise, beyond celebration, beyond mourning, beyond expectation… and maybe beyond feeling at all. All you find in him is the grim determination to continue a fight for a cause that cannot be won. His purpose is singular – to fulfill an ancient duty to stand opposed to the onslaught of evil. He does so without passion and without hope of overcoming it.

You suspect that any allegiance with this one will be dangerous; for here is one who will stride into apocalypse without remorse. And no care that you walk beside him.

Gorn is battle-scarred and duty-bound – the epitome of the strong silent type. His overall demeanor is matter-of-fact and fatalistic. He is surrendered to his lot in this life and takes no joy in it. He is sworn to take out as much evil as he can before he joins the ranks of the fallen.

Gorn is an outcast from his home city of Fel Arkh, deep within the desert wastes of the Dead Lands. His most trusted companion is Delfin. Since first meeting the elven rogue as a caravan guard, Gorn has fought alongside Delfin long enough and effectively enough that they can often second-guess each others tactics – to deadly effect.

Favorite Quotes:
“Come to me, embrace death.”
“On this day, in this place at least, evil is deterred.”
“Come my friends, we stand a rocky coast before the evil storm. Let it crash around us!”
“Envy the dead. Better yet, those who have never been – never to have seen the evil of this world.”

Gorn, level 6
Dragonborn, Fighter
Build: Great Weapon Fighter
Fighter: Combat Superiority
Fighter Talents: Two-handed Weapon Talent
Dragon Breath Key Ability: Dragon Breath Strength
Dragon Breath Damage Type: Dragon Breath Acid
Background: Dragonborn – Dishonored, Occupation – Military, Geography – Desert (Bluff class skill)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 21, Con 18, Dex 14, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 15.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 18, Con 17, Dex 14, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 13.

AC: 21 Fort: 21 Reflex: 16 Will: 17
HP: 63 Surges: 13 Surge Value: 19

TRAINED SKILLS
Intimidate +12, Endurance +12, Athletics +13, Perception +11

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +5, Arcana +3, Bluff +5, Diplomacy +5, Dungeoneering +6, Heal +6, History +5, Insight +6, Nature +6, Religion +3, Stealth +5, Streetwise +5, Thievery +5

FEATS
Level 1: Weapon Focus (Hammer)
Level 2: Weapon Proficiency (Mordenkrad)
Level 4: Weapon Expertise (Hammer)
Level 6: Berserker’s Fury

POWERS
Fighter at-will 1: Reaping Strike
Fighter at-will 1: Brash Strike
Fighter encounter 1: Passing Attack
Fighter daily 1: Villain’s Menace
Fighter utility 2: Pass Forward
Fighter encounter 3: Sweeping Blow
Fighter daily 5: Cometfall Charge
Fighter utility 6: Battle Awareness

ITEMS
Adventurer’s Kit, Throwing hammer (4), Black Iron Scale Armor +1, Safewing Amulet +1, Inescapable Mordenkrad +2, Dwarven Greaves (heroic tier), Iron Armbands of Power (heroic tier)

Tuning the 4E Wizard

June 5, 2010 2 comments

After a second night of gaming with my 4E Wizard, Bayne, I think I’m better getting the hang of using him effectively. I’ve made a few tweaks to play style and have a better understanding of what feats I should prioritize in the future.

Position: Given my groups “kick down the door” play style, I found it very valuable to position Bayne just behind the front line fighters. That way, when the door flies open, Bayne is typically in good position to get early line-of-sight and line-of-effect. This pays off in a big way if you also score a surprise round.

Improved Initiative: I don’t have it – yet. But I will. In one encounter last night I had the great fortune of rolling very well on initiative and exploiting a surprise opportunity. Here’s how it went down. Fighter kicks in door. Group of baddies look up in alarm. Bayne, up first, casts a Scorching Burst capturing no less than five (!) of them together. Hitting each one left them tagged with cold vulnerability from the Arcane Fire feat and primed for his next shot. The rest of the good guys go with no one fully closing the gap between parties to spoil the follow-up shot. Top of Round 1, Bayne follows up with Icy Terrain not only doing bonus damage but dropping those he hits prone. All-in-all a beautiful moment sweetened with the luck of three (!) crit rolls. Lesson learned: You need that early shot. Lets face it, once the baddies see a wizard they typically know not to hang around in a tight group.

Flaming Sphere: For this evening’s game, I memorized Flaming Sphere and left Sleep in the Spellbook. Our group tends to push through encounters, so the sphere got one use during the evening – just as Sleep had the first game night. I have to say I enjoyed the flexibility that the Flaming Sphere provided. Flaming Sphere allowed Bayne to alternate control as necessary across two different areas of the battlefield. I say ‘alternate’ because it was a constant trade between moving the sphere or Bayne, attacking with the sphere or Bayne, and, of course Bayne’s every minor action was spent sustaining the sphere. Finally, the fact that Flaming Sphere is a persistent spell that can last the whole encounter made the wizard that much more fun for me to play compared to the one shot and done nature of Sleep.

Level 2: After two extended nights of gaming, Bayne hit level 2. As promised, Improved Initiative was at the top of his feat list. I also took this opportunity to swap out the Implement Expertise feat for Versatile Expertise. Versatile Expertise not only allows me to retain the Tome Implement attack bonus, but supplement it with a dagger attack bonus. Though I don’t resort to the dagger often, it’s good to have that attack bonus when I do. For Utility feats I selected Jump and loaded Strategist’s Epiphany into the spellbook. Recall that the Tome of Readiness path allows me to swap between those two utility feats during an encounter – nice! Both provide tactical flexibility for the entire party – and you knew I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to use a history roll for initiative, even if it is just once a day!

Day 71: The Oracle, the Skeleton, and the Rakshasa

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

As before, I have sketched a map of this area and noted significant events and locales. The unholy alliance between the wardens of death and those dedicated to the pursuit of evil grows stronger. We have overcome orc priests, ghouls, and, of course, more skeletons.

I have also noted on the map where I met and embraced my worst fears – face to bony face. Upon approaching a chest, I failed to discover a pit trap and fell into the waiting clutches of a great bluish skeleton. Having no where to run and no other recourse, I grappled the thing. I must have been quite a sight to my companions – eyes squeezed shut, screaming at the top of my lungs, and hugging the great skeleton for all my life. We were able to defeat the foul thing, and it is likely that my terror-enhanced grappling saved my life.

We encountered a skull oracle with a taste for magical items. After feeding it, it identified the items that we were looking for – the elven king’s money purse, and the queen’s comb. The oracle was also able to locate the items – several levels down in the possession of a group of priests.

Finally, we battled a majestic guardian of evil, a Rakshasa. Unable to damage the demon, Cerin encased the demon within a wall of ice while I foraged through its treasures for some item to help us defeat it. Finding a powerful magic ring, I used it to “steal his life” – and in so doing not only defeated it but became the bearer of its power and its form. I still recall wielding awesome magical energies, holding sway over lesser beings, and the taste for destruction. Fortunately, my companions escaped my wrath with the one magical item capable of restoring me, a soul gem that encased a fairy dragon. Upon releasing the dragon, they were able to impose upon it to restore me to my normal form. I remain forever in their debt.

Thus ends the diary of Falon Shimeron – aside from some unsubstantiated claims of felling an unsuspecting rust monster in a single shot and falling victim to a paladin vampire. But that’s the stuff that other stories are made from.