Friday, July 3, 2009

One errata to fix them all!

The rule updates for july have just come out, and I'm really, really impressed. Although the number of changes isn't huge, the accuracy and quality of the fixes is unprecedented. Seven changes affecting five of the most problematic rules elements in the game. You will no longer have to worry about banning/houseruling any of the following:
  • Rain of Blows (broken Fighter encounter power)
  • Righteous Rage of Tempus (obscene Channel Divinity feat)
  • Battlerager Vigor (broken Fighter class feature)
  • Dual Strike (broken Fighter at-will... do I see a pattern, here?)
  • Guileful Switch (time warping Warlord utility)

So, what did they change?

Rain of Blows

Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC, two attacks
Hit: 1[W] damage.
Weapon: If you’re wielding a flail, a light blade, or a spear and have Dexterity 15 or higher, make the attack a third time against either the target or a different creature.

This power suffered from terrible, ambiguous templating, but under the most popular (and optimistic) interpretation of its text, it allowed for up to 4 attacks. That is, a 3rd level encounter power outdamaged most dailies, even at epic tier. The update tones it down significantly, clearly limiting the number of attacks to 3 and removing the strength bonus to damage.

I like this change, as the new text is elegant and clean, but don't be fooled into thinking that the power is no longer worth taking. Even for those without the required dexterity, the double attack without strength should overtake single attack encounter powers at mid-heroic levels, and improve from then on. As for making full use of it, it probably isn't worth it anymore to build characters specifically to use this power, but any fighter interested in polearms or with a racial bonus to dexterity will find enough reward if he invests to fill the requirements. It also makes a great multiclass power for Brutal Scoundrel rogues.

Channel Divinity: Righteous Rage of Tempus

Effect: If you hit with the next weapon attack that you make before the end of your next turn and it isn’t a critical hit, you roll the extra damage dice that you would roll if you scored a critical hit and deal the result as extra damage. If the attack is a critical hit, its extra damage is maximized.

No longer gives you an automatic critical hit, but the extra damage is nothing to sneeze at. It's clear that Tempus' favoured weapons are Vicious Executioner's axes or Fullblades, so you can expect to add 2d12 damage even at lower levels, and a rather impressive +9d12 at epic!

After losing half of its damage contribution and the combos with critical hit triggers (like Rending Weapons or Two-Weapon Opening) RRoT is still a fantastic feat, and flat out better than most Channel Divinity ones, at least until the coming of Divine Power. Tempus' legion of followers probably won't be diminished by this change, but their power has been brought down to almost reasonable levels.

Battlerager Vigor

Whenever you hit an enemy with a melee or a close attack, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier, plus any temporary hit points normally granted by the power.
If you use an invigorating fighter attack power and miss every target with it, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier.
(the extra damage using light armor and certain weapons is unchanged)

This is a bit stronger than what I would have liked, but I can live with that. They made the extra THP to trigger on your attacks instead of your enemies', taking away the immunity to melee minions and making Battleragers vulnerable to multiple enemies ganging up on them. THP gained against single enemies have been roughly halved, but they make up for it with a very cool bonus to invigorating powers: making them work on a miss. This is a nice twist, and introduces a synergy between Battlerager and Invigorating powers that the original rules failed to get.

Related to this fix are the changes to two feats:

Dwarf Stoneblood

Benefit: You gain a +2 feat bonus to the number of temporary hit points you gain from using an invigorating power. (+4/+6 at higher levels)

Improved Vigor

Benefit: You gain a +1 feat bonus to the number of temporary hit points you gain from using an invigorating power. (+2/+3 at higher levels)

Improved Vigor no longer provides additional benefits to Battleragers, and Dwarf Stoneblood has been overhauled - previously it gave a bonus to Battlerager Vigor equal to half your Constitution, and now it's just a better version of Improved Vigor. Also, the bonuses of both feats are now typed so that they no longer stack.

Overall, I like this new version of Battlerager Vigor, and the idea of respeccing my Fighter to be a Battlerager no longer ashames me. As for the feats, Improved Vigor will remain a good option for (non-dwarf) battleragers and a poor one for other fighter, whereas Dwarf Stoneblood is now open to dwarf fighters of any build (EDIT: it isn't - oddly, Battlerager Vigor is still a requirement), being a very strong incentive to pick Crushing Surge as an at-will.

Dual Strike

Primary Attack: Strength vs. AC (main weapon)
Hit: 1[W] damage.
Effect: Make a secondary attack.
Secondary Target: One creature other than the primary target
Secondary Attack: Strength vs. AC (off-hand weapon)
Hit: 1[W] damage.

Format aside, this is a functional equivalent of the fix I asked for, so I'm completely satisfied - fighters will no longer outdamage all but the best of strikers, and Tempest gameplay will be the group marking, minion slaying experience it should have been from the beginning. I can imagine some dual wielders actually not taking this power now, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Guileful Switch

Requirement: You must use this power during your turn before you take any other actions.
Effect: (switch initiative with an ally) You then act when your ally would have acted.

This gave you extra turns every encounter, which was obviously broken, as well as unintended. Another very well chosen fix.

To sum up, I love this update! I'd say about half of the things fixed here are still slightly overpowered, but in a tolerable way. Some players will be forced to retrain their characters, though: Battleragers, in particular, should no longer be able to ignore Crushing Surge, and dual wielding fighters built to be single-target damage machines will no longer work. Can't say I'll miss them.

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