Monday, July 20, 2009

A close look at Arcane Power (III) - Bard Paragon and Epic encounter powers

We continue our analysis of new bard options in Arcane Power. I'm still experimenting a bit with the format, and today we will have the rest of bard encounter powers, both Paragon and Epic. These seem to be a lot more polished than their Heroic counterparts, and I only see a few of them as needing fixes, so rather than having a dedicated houserule section at the end, I'll just add the suggested changes at the end of each power that needs it.

Couplet of Deceptive Weakness Encounter 13
Power: *** - Fun: ***

You're granting an ally a move and an attack - almost a whole turn - in addition to your own attack, which didn't even cost a standard action! I would have called it uterly broken without blinking a few levels ago, even on a daily, but we're at paragon tier and playing a different game now. Of course it's on the powerful side of the curve but, as we will soon see, there is fierce competition for this power slot.

I also need to mention that this attack opens up lots of cool plays, and shows my favourite aspect of the leader role. Heals and buffs are fine, but nothing screams 'leader' like making your guys move here and do this at the right time.

Enduring Struggle Encounter 13
Power: *** - Fun: ***

Deal a lot of damage, then heal your whole party for a small amount without charging any healing surges - looks like a great deal to me. You do have to be a little careful with positioning to maximize this healing, and I'm completely fine with that - you just need to think a bit before using it, and the area is large enough to easily fit the whole team.

Insult of Passivity Encounter 13
Power: *** - Fun: *** (outstanding!)

Wow! You rarely see encounter power effects lasting for more than a turn, and for good reasons. Though I am against arbitrary exceptions to this rule by principle, this power is a small piece of art. The upkeep has the hefty restriction of not attacking the target, and the resulting daze condition is crippling without completely removing a character from battle. Getting this to last becomes its own minigame - profitable, yet not that easy to achieve.

Sharp Retort Encounter 13
Power: *** - Fun: ***

We are on a roll here, as this is yet another superb power. Unlike the rest, this one is heavily conditional attack that you can't just expect to work in a party that doesn't specifically support it. You'll need a lot of strong 'save ends' effects, but the reward is well worth it: a 'free' attack and a failed save.

I recognize they aren't so easy to make, and they have the risk of backfiring in the hands of non-optimizing players, but I'd really like to see more 'combination' powers like this one. They make character building even more interesting, with the possibility of great synergy between party members.

Slippery Feet Encounter 13
Power: ** - Fun: ***

After some truly devastating attacks, we get to one that is merely good, power-wise. It more than makes up for it by perfectly matching flavor, game mechanics and fun: your target behaves exactly like you would expect from someone with slippery feet, and you are encouraged to play with him for a turn, hitting him again and again to see him move out of control. A power that should see play out of sheer coolness, despite the lack in raw power.

Balance of Fortune Encounter 17
Power: ** - Fun: ***

Now, this is exactly what I expect from a luck-flavored prescient power: A way to temporarily screw both the target's offense and defense. Also, rolling to modify the result feels a lot more appropiate than applying static modifiers, even if on average it will end up the same.

If only lower level prescient powers had been designed like this...

Inescapable Fate Encounter 17
Power: ** - Fun: **

This is Cruel Fate, take two. Unlike its predecessor, it doesn't suck. The rider is acceptable when applied to all atacks for a turn, and the damage on this one is actually decent. Nothing amazing, but definitely playable.

Resounding War Cry Encounter 17
Power: *** - Fun: *** (great!)

Let's play whack-a-mole! I love how this plays out: you have a large area that can hit several targets. Then, there's a strong motivation for your allies to attack as many of the enemies you hit as possible, before the end of your next turn. The daze condition is usually worth this kind of effort, and you should get a pretty entertaining turn.

Strings of Fate Encounter 17
Power: ** - Fun: ***

A relatively straightforward power, this attack is accurate, can target up to three enemies without effort, and lowers their defenses. You will want more weapon users than implement wielders in your party to make the most of it.

This may not be as potent as it seems, in that a defense reduction is usually only needed in one enemy at a time - the one you focus on and kill, before switching to the next. Still, it makes a good opener: its very likely that one of the targets gets the debuff, and your allies can start attacking that one.

Turning the Tide Encounter 17
Power: *** - Fun: ***

This is the same great mechanic as Resounding War Cry, but the end result isn't as brilliant - this rewards hitting with as many party members as possible, having relative freedom on which of the affected enemies they should target. You won't need such a heavy change in tactics with this power.

Nevertheless, it's effective, and more interesting than just handing out healing surges..

Chant of Bad Fortune Encounter 23
Power: *** - Fun: ***
Wow! Area damage, huge synergy with "save ends" effects and free saving throws for everyone. Another incredibly versatile power, but it will take a party with strong ongoing

Mind Game Encounter 23
Power: * - Fun: **

This is worse in almost every conceivable way to Strings of Fate, as it lacks the (vital) extra accuracy and targets. The bonus granted on Reflex and Fortitude attacks is almost negligible, and depends heavily on your knowledge of the target's stats. More often than not, this will be used as a -3 or so to AC, which isn't terrible, but doesn't sound totally epic to me.

No, forget about that - it's absolutely underpowered for an epic power. Let's make a little experiment. Imagine for a moment that the same power was listed as level 1 - it actually fits well! We should do something about that.

My fix: Increase damage to 4d8 + Cha, and add "The target grants combat advantage to your allies, and takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls against them".

Reverberating Shot Encounter 23
Power: *** (Overpowered) - Fun: ***

Now, that IS what 'totally epic' sounds like. This is actually decent without a virtue bonus, but downright brutal when you're a Prescient. It doesn't even restrict the target of your allies' attacks, and serves both for offense and defense. Ironically, such a powerful rider on a hit makes you wish you had a leader granting a high bonus to hit, to make sure it works...

This is definitely one of the strongest bard encounter powers, and other useful epic attacks can look mediocre next to it. I think it can be toned down to more reasonable levels, while remaining a very competitive choice.

My Fix: Change the bonus/penalty with Virtue of Prescience to "1 + half your Wisdom modifier". A modifier of 4 or 5 points is still quite strong, but nowhere as ridiculous as the +-9 you could easily get before.

Sound Strike Encounter 23
Power: ** - Fun: ***

An ingenious way to couple bonus to hit and damage, this isn't as devastating as other powers in the same level, but looks exciting enough to try in play, nonetheless.

Since the difference between non-AC defenses is usually small, the most likely results when using this power are either to hit without a damage bonus, or to get the full extra 3d10 - just something to take into account.

Binding Rhyme Encounter 27
Power: ** - Fun: ***

Although this works fine by itself, you WANT to combine it with other forced movement powers to make it affect the whole opposing team. They will probably choose to move anyway, but 20 damage is a very respectable punishment, even at these levels.

A fun, game changing power. I want more of these!

Crescendo of Victory Encounter 27
Power: * - Fun: **

It does have the merit of being one of the very rare melee bard powers in the book, but the moderately useful rider is completely overshadowed by similar (ranged) powers of lower levels. This wouldn't look out of place if it were 10 levels lower.

My fix: This has an awesome name for a Concerted Effort-like effect, and is weak enough that you can just add that to the hit line: "At the end of each ally's turn, if that ally has hit the target increase thie bonus granted by 1".

Pounding Rhythm Encounter 27
Power: *** - Fun: ***

Another whack-a-mole power, you really, really want the trigger to activate on as many targets as possible. It even has single-target applications beyond what you'd usually find in an encounter power, as cautious initiative placement will allow you to stun the same enemy for two of its turns!

Second Chances Encounter 27
Power: ** - Fun: ***

Not the best option for its level, or even for the previous one. It provides a more than decent group boost, but competition is really amazing.

Strike from Legend Encounter 27
Power: ** - Fun: ***

It's good that the effect you're more likely to want (heal everybody!) is the easiest to get. It's even better to have the option of switching to a more aggressive bonus, though that will take some effort. You don't want to waste so much damage killing a minion to get the attack bonus, but eventually you will find some very bloodied enemy worth killing with this.

It's probably more accurate to think of this as a healing power with a drawback, which you will sometimes be unable to spend on the target you really want for fear of killing him. Of course, it is a drawback you shouldn't be too sad at triggering...

No comments:

Post a Comment