Powers in the World: Fey Step

Posted on : 17-12-2010 | By : Brian | In : Advice, D&D, House Rules

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It’s no secret that 4th Edition D&D has a lot of powers available for PCs. Many of these powers do extraordinary things, such as creating fire, transforming people from one thing to another, or teleporting a person instantaneously. In any game, it pays to think about how the existence of certain powers or types of powers might affect the world at large; how might laws change, for example, if people are capable of hurling fireballs and summoning lightning bolts?

This particular post is going to focus on teleportation. In D&D, most teleportation powers are the purview of either PCs (who do not represent the norm in a D&D world), or powerful monsters (again, not the norm). This makes teleportation, at large, relatively rare. However, there is one form of teleportation that is much more common: namely, every eladrin in the world is capable of fey stepping multiple times per day.

What happens, then, when an eladrin must be incarcerated? Since he could just teleport out of the cell and escape (or even out of his manacles before he’s put in the cell), some sort of safeguard must be in place. In the world of Eberron, there is a working class of minor mages known as magewrights. These magewrights light magical lanterns, create minor magical goods, and so forth. Perhaps this concept makes sense in any D&D world that includes a sizeable number of eladrin, if only so that jails, banks, jewelry stores, and so forth can be warded against teleportation on a regular basis. Another possiblity is that, perhaps, there are magically treated manacles that prevent the wearer from teleporting.

Terrain Effect: Teleportation Ward
A teleportation ward is usually used to protect a room filled with valuable or dangerous goods, the room of an important individual, or a jail cell. At heroic tier, it is a 5×5 area; at paragon, it is a 10×10 area; and at epic, it is a 15×15 area. Any power with the teleportation keyword used within the area still creates any non-teleportation effects, but any teleportation effects fail to work. A teleportation ward can be suppressed with an Arcana check (hard DC, standard action); if this is done, it is suppressed until the end of the character’s next turn.

Magic Item: Anchor Manacles
Level 1 Wondrous Item (360 gp)
Anchor manacles are used to prevent prisoners from teleporting, and are frequently used when incarcerating eladrin and other fey creatures. Any creature wearing a set of anchor manacles cannot teleport. A creature can escape from a pair of anchor manacles with an Athletics or Thievery check (hard DC, standard action).

Guest Post: A DM’s Perspective on D&D Encounters Season 3 “Keep on the Borderlands”

Posted on : 15-12-2010 | By : Brian | In : Advice, D&D, Guest Posts, The Great Seamus

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By The Great Seamus

SPOILERS AHOY

Though this review on the current season on Encounters may seem a little late to the party, I can assure you this was intentional. The previous two seasons of the program suffered from a detached sense of story – seemingly, a heaping of random encounters very loosely tied together at the end for the sake of satisfying a story. Season 2’s Dark Sun outing suffered especially hard when each week was taken individually, rather than viewed as a whole. With this season, I wanted to get a few weeks under my belt before I judged.

At this point, I have read 4/5 of the season, and I have run players through 3/5 of the story.

I can honestly say at this point that the lack of direction and continuity from Dark Sun has improved a great deal. The encounters each feel more linked. Each chapter has a noticeable and clearly defined endgame scenario, and each final fight segues into the next chapter flawlessly, moving the story as a whole to what I assume is going to be a very climatic final fight. I have noticed my players responding more to the story as whole, investing themselves in their characters and also in some of the support characters – Friar Benwick especially. His betrayal at the climax of chapter three genuinely shocked and surprised even my most hardened and jaded players.

That’s not to say this season of Encounters is flawless.

Other dungeon masters and some higher caliber players at our store have hypothesized that, as a direct result of Dark Sun’s amped up difficulty having turned off a large number of players, Wizards of the Coast “dumbed down” this season, using weaker monsters or serving up over-powered “twitter buffs” to make the experience easier for players. Many dungeon masters have resorted to “tweaking” each encounter, modifying enemies, adding reinforcements, or even inserting environmental hazards to balance out the weakly designed combat encounters. Additionally, there is still a distinct lack of roleplaying available from the beginning of the season. This may largely be due to the time limit imposed on the idea of the game – supposedly, it is meant to be a one to two hour game session focused primarily on simple combat to acclimate new players to 4th Edition D&D. It succeeds at that, as I have noticed a significant influx of new players come in and quickly pick up the basics of the game and develop an appreciation for it. These people have spent their hard earned dollars on books, The Red Box, and minis to most likely run their own home games. The rest of us, however, are left wanting something more substantial. DM burnout is high in Encounters to begin with, and very rarely do the DMs come back for the next season. This season will be no exception to that.

To troubleshoot some of these problems, I have been running my own re-tooled version of the materials in a home game. Having a fixed group of people playing their own characters (rather than pre-generated ones,) allows for them to become more invested in the story around each encounter. As a DM, it gives me more creative license to expand on the setting and the characters within it, which keeps the players even more interested in the story. I find that I am less burned out than some of my compatriots are, and actively look forward to running the sessions at home. The Encounters sessions at the store serve as excellent practice for tactics, and also to see the strengths and weaknesses of each encounter ahead of time, rather than simply trying to anticipate them on paper.

As far as troubleshooting in-store games, I have a few suggestions. Following the recommended “add another monster” formula Wizards gives for larger parties is a must, even if you only have five PCs at the table. Even newer players who started with this season of Encounters have figured the game out by now, and they are generally more than ready for what is being thrown at them. Adding one or two more monsters to the mix would even the odds for them. Additionally, modifying the minions in each encounter to make them a little tougher would be a game-changer. Even simply giving a minion some temporary hit points is a huge help in getting players to take them seriously. Finally, environmental hazards or active terrain are a huge plus, especially with minions to exploit them. Simply adding an arbalest or boulder hazard can change the battle plans of an over-powered or over-skilled party and make them focus a lot more on tactics. Also, adding some role-playing spice of your own is easy. Have a villain go into a monologue and taunt the players. Have them attempt to parley, and force the players to use those skills they picked out months ago. Try to encourage players to think outside the box, and use the rules as much as you can to do so. If your rogue wants to somersault over three enemies to try for combat advantage, use whatever rules you can to let him try. And finally, having a reward system in place for excellent roleplaying is tantalizing for players who love the current “achievement” system in video games. Maybe set up a way for players to spend their renown points for in game benefits.

NaMoMaMo Day 30: The Dungeon Master

Posted on : 30-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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This is the final day of NaMoMaMo.

Among the most powerful of adversaries that any adventuring party contends with is the nefarious Dungeon Master. This being is a creature of alternating craft and ineptitude, subtlety and brute force. It is a true mastermind, and virtually every world-shaking plot by evil cultists, diabolical dragons, demons, or fell gods is really concocted by the Dungeon Master. It is only fitting, then, that an epic campaign (and this series of posts) would culminate in this foe of foes.

Thank you for your time. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

NaMoMaMo Day 29: Far Realm Cultist

Posted on : 29-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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The penultimate day of NaMoMaMo has arrived!

The cult known as They Who Hear is led by a mysterious individual known as He Who Hears. His followers are completely subservient to him, and fanatically dedicated to his cause of bringing the Far Realm into the world. He gives his followers power, gifts of madness and warped flesh, with which to strike down the cult’s enemies.

Designer’s Note: This is a modified version of a minion I used in a recent session. He Who Hears and a diminished form of a beholder known only as The Tyrant were the real threats, but there were also a handful of these guys. They have a little more staying power than the average minion, and they can assist their allies by zapping people with madness.

NaMoMaMo Day 28: “Precious”, green dragon

Posted on : 28-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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Here’s day 28 of NaMoMaMo.

The female of the mated pair, “Precious” is the dominant partner. She is highly intelligent and extremely cunning; her skill at manipulation allows her to effectively control her partner, “Dear One”. She is prone to long conversations with her prey before she attacks, and she delights in sowing fear and discord during these parleys. “Precious” is a sadist, and she likes to take her time with her kills.

NaMoMaMo Day 27: “Dear One”

Posted on : 27-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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This is day 27 of NaMoMaMo.

In the Tribelands to the west, a pair of mated dragons patrols the skies, collecting tribute from anyone who trespasses in their territory. This mated pair is unusual for two reasons: first, they are not of the same color. Second, they refer to each other by pet names, rather than their actual, draconic names. “Dear One”, the red, is the male and also the more subservient (though more aggressive and violent) of the two. The green female, “Precious”, is the brains of the operation, and her mate will do anything she asks (though he will grumble about it sometimes).

Designer’s Note: I used “Precious” and “Dear One” in my most recent session; they attacked the PCs’ airship and brought it to the ground, “Precious” dying in the process and “Dear One” swearing vengeance. These are modified, elite versions of the red and green dragon. This one is the red, “Dear One”. Tomorrow I’ll show you “Precious”.

NaMoMaMo Day 26: Splug, Fey Goblin

Posted on : 26-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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This is day 26 of NaMoMaMo. We’re nearing the end!

A long time ago, there was a schism in the ancient goblinoid empire, and five tribes split from the empire. They wandered for some time, but eventually they found their way to the Feywild and settled there. Over numerous generations, they eventually began to take on fey aspects, eventually becoming fey creatures themselves. Fey goblins are less cruel than their mortal cousins, but are fickle tricksters, none the less. They delight in playing tricks, and while these tricks are not necessarily malicious in intent, they can cause inadvertent harm. They are also known for their bargain-making, and it is said that, in the Goblin Market, you can find virtually anything if you look hard enough–and are willing to pay the price. Splug is an example of a fey goblin. While he is not vicious, he is treacherous and slippery, and not to be underestimated.

Designer’s Note: This is actually an updated version of a companion character that my PCs had during Keep on the Shadowfell (which is where his name comes from). Unpredictable trick is really the core mechanic of this version of Splug; it’s a complex set of powers, but it can add an unpredictable and chaotic element to an encounter.

NaMoMaMo Thanksgiving Edition: Bird of Doom

Posted on : 25-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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This is the special holiday Thanksgiving Edition of NaMoMaMo!

Legends exist of a beast so terrible that its hideous gobble strikes fear in the hearts of the most stalwart of knights, the fiercest of barbarians. This creature is gigantic and savage, an engine of destruction capable of laying waste to entire towns and cities with its savage pecks and kicks. It is also said that, if this creature is killed, it can be turned into a meal the likes of which come along only once in a lifetime, a meal capable of bringing peace to waring peoples. That is, if it doesn’t make a meal of you first!

NaMoMaMo Day 24: Thunderfury Tribe (Part 4)

Posted on : 24-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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This is the fourth and final part of the Thunderfury tribe, and also day 24 of NaMoMaMo.

One figure leads the Thunderfury tribe in their pursuit of strength and devastation: Garruk Stormcaller. Stormcaller is slight for an orc, shorter than his bretheren by half a foot at least and considerably less muscular. Despite is small stature, he is feared amongst his people for the power he wields, and they all follow him unquestioningly. Garruk Stormcaller is a powerful sorcerer; he was born with the ability to control storms and call upon their power, and it was under his direction that his tribe was formed, and that every orc in the tribe has ritually bound an elemental into him- or herself. Garruk does not seek conquest or bloodshed; rather, he seeks to revel in the fury of the storm, striking down those who would defy the chaos and power of nature.

NaMoMaMo Day 23: Thunderfury Tribe (Part 3)

Posted on : 23-11-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, NaMoMaMo

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This is the third part of the Thunderfury tribe series, and also day 23 of NaMoMaMo.

Among the Thunderfury tribe are those few shamans known as the lightning callers. These orcs are so in tune with the elemental bound within them that they can call lightning from a clear sky, and even summon the storm inside of their allies, stoking their rage to great heights.

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