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Posts Tagged ‘Character Optimization’

Tuning the 4E Wizard – Level 3

July 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I played Bayne again in our 4E D&D session on Friday. It was a marathon session this week that went well past midnight. Good news! He made level 3 (by a long shot).

This week the DM had wised up to how painful it can be to cluster enemies together so I had to adjust tactics a bit. More often than not I had to start an encounter with Thunderwave to cluster the enemies. Recall that Thunderwave has a push effect that can be used to slide a foe or two beside a couple of their evil cohorts. Unfortunately it is a hit affect, so if you miss a baddie then he gets left out of the future fun. It takes some pretty creative positioning to get off these area effect spells without tagging a PC, especially given the close blast nature of Thunderwave – it kind of feels like positioning a knight in chess.

Once clustered, I would blow an Action Point and follow with the standard Scorching Burst (if there was a follow-up chance of capitalizing on Bayne’s specialty of imposing cold vulnerability – see earlier posts on this topic) or jump the gun and lay down Icy Terrain to knock prone the previously pushed targets (if Bayne’s allies needed a bit of breathing room). And they did.

So what to do at this next level? At level 3 some great powers come into play. I had to make a difficult choice between Fire Shroud (an AoE DoT), Icy Rays (Chill Strike on steroids, as it targets two foes), and Color Spray (a crowd control spell attacking Will, and one of the few Will targeting spells). Recall that with the Tome of Readiness, I can grab two of the three but I’ll need to drop the level one encounter already loaded in there – which is exactly what I did. Goodbye Chill Strike, hello Icy Rays and Fire Shroud. I went with Fire Shroud purely for thematic reasons – I’ll retrain if it doesn’t work out. I kept the level one power, Icy Terrain for it’s great crowd control.

I regret leaving behind Color Spray, but what’s a caster to do? I’m still liking the variety and spell flexibility of this guy – Tome of Readiness rocks!

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.

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!

4E Wizard Play Test

May 15, 2010 Leave a comment

As you’ve seen on a previous post, I tried my hand at optimizing my 4E Wizard, Bayne. Bayne went into “play test” last night with four good friends.

Background: The party consists of a diverse group of largely ranged specialists – definitely not your iconic tank-healer-dps group. We have a crystalline psionic, a warlock/swordmage, a ranger, my wizard and a dwarf cleric NPC. The game environment is a typical dungeon crawl through a mine infested with goblins, vermin and wererats (so far). Our first session was more the “gang of low-level baddies” rather than the “single elite” type of combat. After a bit of debate about who would lead the crew into the hostile unknown, the swordmage drew short straw and actually served the defender role well.

Utility: As for utility, I’m very pleased with the wizard. A sunrod (or Light spell, if pressed) combined with the Mage Hand spell made for a terrific torchbearer that remained positioned 20′ ahead of the party. Mage Hand also allowed us to open doors and chests from a relatively safe distance since we didn’t have the services of a rogue. Finally, Mage Hand came in particularly handy in digging through some suspicious old rags that turned out to hold a swarm of rats. With all our ranged talent, this often let us get in an early shot or two.

Combat: As expected, the wizard’s damage output is modest at best – especially when conditions restrict targeting to a single foe. Fortunately, there were often enough targets to catch at least two and often three foes in each blast. My highest damage output was with a Chilling Cloud cast on three foes for 25 damage total. That was only possible due to a prior casting of Scorching Burst that did modest damage, but inflicted two of the three with vulnerability 5 to cold.

Control: Perhaps also as expected, the wizard did adequately control the foes, but perhaps less than I had hoped. Sleep came in handy for a group of about seven foes and effectively slowed all but a single target. This helped keep them grouped together for subsequent multi-target attacks from the rest of the party. By the time they were making their sleep saves there was only a target or two left. Too bad it’s a daily and therefore only saw use once. Icy Terrain saw routine use in each encounter – it’s ability to knock foes prone was excellent for restricting movement. As for Thunderwave, and this may be heresy, but it was underwhelming. The short push effect (two squares for my wizard) provided no tactical advantage for the environment in which we were playing and did nothing to slow the advance of the bad guys. I’ve no plans to swap it out yet, but I need to figure out a way to make it tactically useful.

All in all, I felt that I was able to improve on the damage numbers that I’ve seen many wizards impart, but I’ve got more to learn in the tactics department. As I figure it out, I’ll let you know!

Pimp my Wizzie

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Hey all. I’ve just tried my hand at creating an optimized 4E wizard, at level one. Now let me start off by saying that I’m a weapons kind of guy. Paladin, Rogue/Fighter, Ranger, Fighter, Fighter/Barbarian – that’s what I have experience with. So after hours of scouring forums and learning a ton about the class, I decided to crank out a wizard that was (hopefully) not helplessly crippled.

First and foremost I wanted an expanded list of spells to draw from, ideally during an encounter. That meant selecting a human for the additional “At Will” power. Since the guys I game with are pretty loose as to stat limits and roll method, I used a very generous set of starting scores to pump INT, CON and DEX in that order. The generous stats also offset the sting of losing the +2 on a secondary stat. Of course the +2 on the primary stat went to INT.

As for implements, the Arcane Power source book introduces a new class of implements – Tomes. Keeping with the theme of spell flexibility, I selected the Tome of Readiness implement that allows an extra encounter power and eventually utility power to be stored. During an encounter, you can drop an existing memorized encounter power to cast the readied spell from the Tome. Very nice!

Next I wanted to be true to the controller class without sacrificing all ability to deal damage. This drove me to a spell list that favored control spells (cold spells are good choice here), area of effect spells (to control as many targets as possible) and to pump up my hit chance. So using the extra human feat I jumped on Implement Expertise (Tome) for the bonus to hit and Arcane Fire (also from the Arcane Power source book). Now Arcane Fire is an unusual choice at this point, so let me explain. I wanted to use cold spells for their control power – after all wizards are controllers. But the lower relative damage of these icy wonders needed a boost. That’s were Arcane Fire and a few choice area of effect fire spells pay off. You see Arcane Fire, when cast with a fire keyword spell, imparts vulnerability 5 to your next cold-based attack on each target! By rotating fire and cold area of effect spells, you can score 5 extra damage per target every other round! Too good to pass up and we’ll see if it actually works out in play.

Bonus At-Will Power: Chilling Cloud
Tome of Readiness: Icy Terrain
Wizard at-will 1: Thunderwave
Wizard at-will 1: Scorching Burst
Wizard encounter 1: Chill Strike
Wizard daily 1: Flaming Sphere
Wizard daily 1 Spellbook: Sleep

Well, that’s my first 4E wizard, Bayne. He’s an old, white-bearded, blue-robed wizard specializing in elemental (fire/frost) spells. And hopefully not getting killed outright in his first encounter. Tell me what you think, or leave me a comment to help pimp him out!

(image courtesy of the Icewind Dale PC Game)