Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fixing the math: A case against Expertise feats

Unlike other overpowered feats, Implement Expertise (and its cousins Weapon and Focused) was never intended to be balanced. Although feats as absurdly strong as these are usually the consequence of hasty development or lack of playtesting, this time the reason was different: It's an attempt to fix a problem with the game's core mechanics. In today's article, I'll discuss what problem they were meant to solve, why I'm not completely satisfied with the result, and some alternate solutions that might work better.

The problem lies in the game's math. 4e has a remarkably straightforward model behind character progression, since both attack rolls and defenses increase at a constant rate of +1 per level. The idea is brilliant, and among other things it allows DMs to upgrade or downgrade monsters on the fly, as well as ensuring that the success rate of attacks remains the same (typically between 50% and 60%) across levels, both for monsters and PCs. At least, that's the theory, because there's a tiny problem with how it got implemented: they got it wrong.

To be fair, the error is small, though not insignificant. The attack bonus for a level 30 player character is actually 3 points (i.e. 15%) below what it should be. This gap has grown over the course of many levels, becoming noticeable at Paragon tier, and painful at Epic. Monster attacks and player defenses do increase as expected. This difference doesn't make the game unplayable by any means, but it does result in harder, longer encounters at higher levels. Also, the reduced chance to hit makes player actions slightly more frustrating. It is rumored that the game designers were perfectly aware of this from the beginning, and intended for paragon and epic tier encounters to be increasingly challenging. Also, this would be somewhat compensated by the increased access to attack boosting effects, particularly from Leader characters.

By the time Player's Handbook 2 was released, it's obvious that the official stance had changed, as the book featured Expertise feats for weapons and implements that provided an unprecedented, overpowered, and gradually increasing bonus to attack rolls that topped out at a very convenient +3. The attack progression issue would be corrected, as long as every player took the appropiate feat. And they inevitably would, since they would be the most powerful feats anyways. Case solved.

There is something I really dislike about this approach, though - the game now has a mandatory feat. Most other feats, no matter how good, can at least be sometimes ignored, even if only by specific character builds. There is the rare Dwarf out there not interested in Weapon Training (being an implement user, of course). Not everybody can afford the hideously broken avenger multiclass feats. The closest I can think of, in terms of being universally taken, are the Superior Weapon Proficiency feats, though those are also ignored by implement wielders, and they are somewhat interesting because you do have a choice of different weapons to take. The only choice related to Expertise feats is 'when'. You might as well grant everybody a +1/+2/+3 to hit and remove one feat slot, and the effect would almost be the same.

The increased chance to hit is good for the game, and I welcome it, but by removing choice from one precious feat slot, building characters becomes less fun and varied. The problem becomes even worse for classes that usually benefit from multiple weapons, implements, or combinations thereof, such as Paladins, Bards, or Wizards taking the Second Implement feat, since they need multiple expertise feats in order to remain competitive. At least, as a partial patch, the Focused Expertise feat allows PCs using a single item as weapon and implement (Swordmages and Monks) to benefit from Expertise goodness with a single feat. To me, even that is too much - in order to get this needed adjustment, players shouldn't have to sacrifice anything.

My suggestion, then, is to give the bonus for free, without any cost to the players. I will show two ways of achieving this - one is what I would have liked to see in PHB2, and the other is a more practical way to implement it for your campaign.

The ideal solution

The game already had a proven method for dealing with the kind of adjustments that were needed for attack modifiers: Masterwork Armors had successfully solved this same problem, for Armor Class, in the first Player's Handbook. Why didn't the designers choose the same path for attack bonuses? It wouldn't have been difficult to create a series of masterwork weapons and implements that granted an extra bonus to hit, something like:

Magic Weapon/Implement
Level - Masterwork type - Hit bonus - Enhancenment bonus
1-5 - * - +0 - +1
6-15 - Masterwork 1 - +1 - +2
16-25 - Masterwork 2 - +2 - + 4
26-30 - Masterwork 3 - +3 - +6

I think this would have been a good patch to include in PHB2, but it isn't very practical if you intend to use it as a house rule. What kills it, for me, is the fact that it's currently impossible to add this kind of bonuses to a weapon or to individual powers in the Character Builder. Since I'm a Character Builder junkie, and I've become almost physically unable to write character sheets by hand (which led to great suffering with the Assassin release last month), I had to discard this solution in favor of a simpler, if less elegant, one.

The solution that works

This houserule lacks the beauty of the previous idea, but it has the advantage of actually working. It can be explained in two short steps:

- Step 1: Ban all expertise feats.
- Step 2: At level 5, grant all PCs as many Weapon Expertise and Implement Expertise feats as they need. Feel free to add more whenever they need it.

Adding extra feats on Character Builder is pretty easy to do. On the feats tab, above the list of chosen feats, there is a 'houserule' icon you can click to give the character additional feat slots. You can see it on the images below (click to enlarge).

Adding extra feat slots in Character Builder

Choosing feats for your additional slots
Read More......

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fighter Essentials: The Great Weapon

UPDATE: The article has finally been errataed in the Dragon magazine compilation. There are details below, but the most important error - the Warding Steel power - is fixed now.

The new Class Acts article devoted to Fighters (how many are there, already?) provides much needed reasons to make a Greatweapon Talent Fighter, by far the most overlooked of this class' builds. There's a lot to comment - to summarize, the article makes a great read, and is mostly safe to use in your campaign, with two notable exceptions I'll explain below.

New Feats
The new feats presented in the article are something the class has been missing greatly, ever since Martial Power was released: Fighter options that can't also be taken by Battleragers or Tempests. Most of them are decent and moderately interesting, but there's one that really sucks, a very strong one that will be very influential in future fighter builds, and one that is quite broken.

The crappiest new feat is, sadly, called Fighter Weapon Specialization. One would expect such a name to be used for something really cool, but this amounts to a mere +1 to damage with your chosen weapon type, which never increases. What a letdown.

The feat you will have to take into account whenever you make a Fighter PC from now on is Hewing Charge. It's the ultimate reward for going the 2H-weapon talent route, and grants a Con bonus to charge damage. This has the potential to embarrass Howling Strike Barbarians, and asks you to build the character around it. Nevertheless, I think it isn't really unbalanced, considering what you can get from other Fighter builds. I really, really like it.

The broken one is Pinning Challenge which, despite its name, doesn't have nothing to do with Combat Challenges or Opportunity attacks. It allows you to immobilize with basic attacks, and it's wrong at so many levels! Against melee enemies, this allows you to effectively stun them at-will, for the whole encounter. What's worse, nonbasic attack powers become really unappealing once you have this. A real blunder.

A version of Pinning Challenge that is both cool and balanced just requires you to add 'When making a Combat Challenge attack or an opportunity attack'. I strongly recommend you to use it, or something similar, at home.

By the way, the Mastered Technique feat, which is conceptually sound, won't work in practice because it grants a +1 feat bonus to AC, but every Fighter worth his salt won't be able to stack it with the +1 feat bonus granted by Armor Specialization. Since it absolutely needs to be a typed bonus, why not change it to +2?

New Powers

There is a neat selection of new powers, typicaly centered on 2-handed weapon wielders, but without actually requiring the Weapon Talent class feature. The core mechanic for attack powers seems to be granting -2 to hit for a bonus to damage (usually) Con. At first sight, this is terrible unless the bonus is huge (which it isn't), but some of the powers manage to be decent.

Brutal Advance (Daily 5)
A multiattack power, exclusive to 2-handed weapon wielders. Hit, push, then charge. This should amount to a great deal of damage.

Line in the Sand (Utility 6) (Update: changed to daily power in errata)
An amazing example of justifying Zone powers for martial characters.

Hurricane Strike (Daily 15)
This targets "any enemy in burst". This deviates from the usual "each enemy in burst", but judging from the powers, they mean the same. Weird. Maybe it's supposed to work like previous powers, but allowing you to skip enemies?

Warding Steel (Util 16) - Completely broken as an at-will. A permanent bonus to AC equal to Con, and you can activate more than once per turn (it stacks!). It really should be an encounter power. (Update: Finally changed to Encounter. The world is saved)

Toppling Finish (Daily 19)
This is a promising 2-hit power: the first attack knocks prone, and the second hurts a lot. The problem is, it has the reliable keyword, so you can 'spend' the reliability with a hit that deals no damage, then miss the important attack. Maybe they could add a line like "Hitting this attack doesn't count towards the Reliable keyword"?

Battle Furor (Utility 22)
Permanent Stance! It's an encounter power, so you can have it always up. It's effect is to turn excess healing into temp. HP, and then grant some extra damage. Very cool.

Paragon Paths

Two, exclusive to Great Weapon fighters. The Great Weapon Master specializes, oddly, in defensive maneuvers and counter attacks - the 16th level feature grants a Con bonus to damage against enemies that have missed you. It looks more fun to play than the average path, and isn't too bad at the power level department.

The Siegebreaker' Shtick is to weaken enemy defenses. It's damage enhancing feature is what the Pit Fighter's should have been all along: ability modifier damage (Con instead of Wis, here), limited to once per round, and only when you have combat advantage. This one also features a permanent (that is, once per encounter) Stance, called Brutal Momentum, which grants bonus to attack after hitting with at-wills.
Read More......

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weapon feats for everybody (III): Weapon Specialization feats

(Edit: Wow, just 5 days after my post, Wizards goes and publishes something called Weapon Specialization. In this month's Fighter Essentials article, there's a Fighter Weapon Specialization feat. And it's garbage. Therefore, I'll keep the name on my feats, since I see little chance that they will be confused with anything remotely playable)

For the conclusion of this series, I have saved a really strong batch of feats, most of which will suppose a large increase in damage output. Talk about power creep! The basic concept is quite straightforward: we take the two strongest weapon feats this side of the epic tier (Hammer Rhythm and Scimitar Dance) and we make them into a cycle.

Ok, there is a catch. This kind of feats is tolerably overpowered as long as you are doing conventional stuff (say, attack once per turn). However, like many things in the game, they get ugly when combined with multiattack powers. We are addressing this. Also, a full cycle of strong, damage increasing feats would lead to broken combinations involving weapons with multiple types, so we have to make sure they don't stack.

In short, we have changed the Hammer Rhythm template so that it only triggers once per turn, and we have grouped the feats and added rules preventing the use of more than one per attack. Since there is currently nothing in the game called "weapon specialization", and I rather like the term, I have chosen it for this group.

Weapon Specialization feats

Weapon specialization feats provide benefits when you miss with melee weapon attacks using a specific kind of weapon. If you have more than one weapon specialization feat that can apply to an attack, that attack can benefit from only one of them at a time. You choose which feat applies before making each attack.

Axe Sunder [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Str 17, Con 13
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee or close weapon attack with an axe or a pick on your main hand, the target gains vulnerability equal to your Strength modifier against the next attack you make before the end of your next turn.

Flail Whirlwind [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Str 17, Dex 13
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee or close weapon attack with a flail on your main hand, you can deal damage equal to your Strength modifier to a different target within melee reach. This damage receives no modifiers or other benefits you normally gain to weapon damage.

Hammer Rhythm [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Str15, Con 17
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee weapon attack with a hammer or a mace on your main hand, you deal damage to your original target equal to your Constitution modifier. This damage receives no modifiers or other benefits you normally gain to weapon damage.

Blade Feint [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Str 15, Dex 15
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee or close weapon attack with a heavy blade on your main hand, you gain a +2 bonus to the next attack roll you make against the same target before the end of your next turn.

Blade Dance [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Dex 19
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee or close weapon attack with a light blade, a scimitar or a falchion on your main hand, you deal damage to your original target equal to your Dexterity modifier. This damage receives no modifiers or other benefits you normally gain to weapon damage.

11th level, Scimitar Dance [Weapon specialization]
This feat has been replaced by the Blade Dance feat.

Spear Coordination [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Dex 15 or Wis 15
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee or close weapon attack with a spear on your main hand, one ally you can see gains a +2 bonus to his or her next attack roll against the target before the end of your next turn.

Staff Parry [Weapon specialization]
Requirement:11th level, Con 15 or Wis 15
Benefit:Once per round, when you miss with a melee or close weapon attack with a staff on your main hand, you gain a +1 bonus to all defenses until the end of your next turn.
Read More......

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weapon feats for everybody (II): Paragon Tier

We continue our article series on weapon feats with the first cycle of feats for paragon tier. The feats presented today are more oriented towards utility, and many bring something unique to the playstyle of a weapon. For the damage-dealing lovers, the following installment will have the more offensive paragon feats.

On the table below, the feats marked with a '*' are unchanged from the core books, whereas those with a '+' are revisions of existing feats. The rest of them are brand new.

Axe Charge
Requirement: 11th level, Str 17, Con 13
Benefit: When you charge with an axe, you can choose to use an at-will melee weapon attack instead of a basic attack. If you do, you don't gain the +1 bonus to hit for charging.

Sweeping Flail
Requirement: 11th level, Str 15, Dex 15
Benefit: When you make a weapon attack with a flail, if the attack has 2 or more targets, you gain a +1 bonus to the attack roll.
(Feat updated from PHB version, changed effect)

Flying Hammer
Requirement: 11th level, Con 17
Benefit: While you wield a hammer, if it does not have the heavy thrown property, you treat it as having heavy thrown, and a range of 0/3. Otherwise, you gain a +3 bonus to damage rolls of ranged weapon attacks with the hammer.

Vicious Slash
Requirement: 11th level, Dex 17
Benefit: When you make an encounter or daily weapon attack power with a light blade, you add a +2 bonus to the damage roll for each [W] after the first.

Dazing Mace
Requirement: Con 17
Benefit: When you score a critical hit on a weapon attack with a mace, you daze your target.

Shattering Pick
Requirement: 11th level, Str 17
Benefit: When you score a critical hit on a weapon attack with a pick, you can choose one square occupied by the target or adjacent to it. That square becomes difficult terrain until the end of the encoutner.

Polearm Gamble
Requirement: 11th level, Str 15, Wis 15
Benefit: When a nonadjacent enemy enters a square adjacent to you, you can make an opportunity attack with a polearm against that enemy, but you become dazed until the beginning of your next turn.
(Feat updated from PHB version, increased penalty)

Harrying Spear
Requirement: 11th level, Dex 17
Benefit: While you are wielding a spear with reach, as long as you aren't adjacent to any enemy you treat squares adjacent to you as your own, for the purposes of flanking.

Opportunist Sweep
Requirement: 11th level, Wis 15
Benefit: When you hit with an opportunity attack with a staff, you can knock the target prone instead of dealing damage with the attack.
Read More......

Weapon feats for everybody (I): Heroic Tier feats

When you take a look at the weapon-related feats available to any character (using, for example, the handy guide I posted a few days ago), you can notice a great disparity from one weapon group to another. Without taking into account racial or class-specific feats, there are never more than one or two feats per tier for a given kind of weapon. The problem is, many weapon types lack feats in some tier (usually Heroic), or waste these precious feat slots with terrible options.

This is the first on a series of articles that attempts to address the shortage of weapon feats, among other issues. Each article will feature a cycle of feats for every melee weapon type: one cycle for the heroic tier, and two for paragon. These will include existing feats from PHB and PHB2, sometimes with fixes to make them playable or to prevent them from being overpowered. Most of these feats will have no class or race restrictions, with the exception of some game-breaking ones from Martial Power, for which I provide patches.

So, without further introduction, here is the heroic tier cycle, ordered by weapon type. On the table, the feats marked with a '*' are unchanged from the core books, whereas those with a '+' are revisions of existing feats. The rest of them are brand new.

Deadly Axe
Requirement:Str 15
Benefit:While you wield an axe, if it does not have the high crit property, you treat it as having high crit. Otherwise, critical hits from weapons attacks you make with the axe deal ongoing damage equal to your Str modifier.
(Feat updated from PHB version, moved from paragon to heroic tier, reduced requirements and added effect for high crit axes.)

Tripping Flail
Requirement: Dex 15
Benefit: When you score a critical hit on a melee weapon attack with a flail, you knock the target prone.

Steady Hammer
Requirement: Con 15
Benefit:When you make a weapon attack with a hammer, if the target didn't move during its last turn, you gain a +1 bonus to the attack roll.

Head Cracker
Requirement: Con 13
Benefit: When you hit with a weapon attack with a mace, the target gains a -2 penalty to damage rolls until the end of your next turn. Increase the penalty to -3 at level 11th level, and -4 at 21st level.

Piercing Pick
Requirement: Str 13
Benefit: Your weapon attacks with a pick ignore the first 3 points of any resistance possessed by the target. This increases to 6 points at 11th level, and to 9 points at 21st level.

Spear Push
Requirement: Str 13, Dex 13
Benefit: Whenever you push a foe with a polearm or spear weapon attack, you may add 1 square to the distance pushed.
(Feat updated from PHB version, moved from paragon to heroic tier, reduced requirements and limited effect to weapon attacks.)

Polearm Momentum
Requirement: Dex 15, Wis 15, Fighter
Benefit: When you make an encounter or daily weapon attack with a polearm or a spear, if the attack pushes or slides a target, you can also knock that target prone at the end of the forced movement.
(Feap updated from MP version, changed trigger condition to prevent exploits with at-wills and opportunity attacks)
Read More......

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Assassin: A DDI-Exclusive class.

As a complete, brand new class from an unexplored power source, the assassin is the most ambitious content delivered so far by D&D Insider. We have already been shown the Heroic and Paragon Tiers, and Epic will follow soon. The verdict? Totally worth it. What we have here is a very compelling character concept, with a set of game mechanics that perfectly fits this flavor while looking both fun and different from previous classes.

An iconic assassin

Assassins are strikers who use the Shadow power source (more on this later!), excelling at melee and short range attacks. Clad in leather armor, and wielding either heavy or light blades (though nothing prevents them from taking any weapon they want, once they take the proficiency feat), their supernatural techniques can also manifest through implements. Their feature a new approach to implements - rather than requiring specific items, they are capable of using any weapon as implement. There is also the option to use a Ki Focus (also explained below). Finally, they have proficiency with light shields, which I assume will be rarely used, as two-handed weapons are just too tempting an option for striker characters.

As for ability scores, they depend mostly (and unsurprisingly) on Dexterity, with Charisma and Constitution as secondary abilities. Two class builds are presented. The Cha-based one, called Night Stalker, focuses on offense, with a bonus to damage against lone enemies, whereas the Con one (Bleak Disciple) provides a nice defensive boost, in the form of temporary hit points granted when hitting nonbloodied enemies. Conveniently, this ability distribution fits perfectly with the Revenant race (which is also DDI-exclusive), as well as other very appropiate races, such as Drow or Changeling.

The set of class features is generous, dripping in flavor and cool stuff, yet remaining at an appropiate power level. It reminds me to the warlock class (but, thankfully, without the design flaws that plagued it) in that each feature is evocative and fun on its own, but they really shine (darkly) as a whole. The most impressive feature, and the one that has me excited about trying the class, is the Shadow Step, which allows short-range at-will teleportation between other creatures' shadows. The striker damage feature is called Assassin's Shroud, and amounts for the usual d6 of damage per turn. The twist, here, is that you have the option of delaying the damage, accumulating shrouds on an enemy over the course of several turns, in order to get a bonus when you finally unload this extra damage. This way, you will face the strategic choice of dealing damage immediately or waiting for a greater reward. The last feature is called Shade Form, and turns you into an insubstantial shade until you attack, once per encounter.

One of the things that I found most intriguing about the class before it was released was its use of the Shadow power source. What would it be like? Would it do anything that wasn't already possible with the known power sources? From a flavor standpoint, Shadow power comes from the Shadowfell plane itself (who would have guessed? Though, at least, there's no mention of the Shadowdark), is acquired through creepy means involving binding one's soul to said plane, and is often viewed viewed with suspicion, or even banned.

In game, Shadow doesn't actually look too different from arcane magic, except that every single power (they are called Hexes) seems to be obsessively related with some kind of darkness. There's plenty of invisibility, concealment, blinding, dark zones and stealth checks, but you also get some really imaginative (shadowy) mechanics, such as using shadows for teleportation, getting extra damage through shadows of adjacent creatures, shadow dopplegangers and even merging with an opponent's shadow. The most used damage types are Physical, Psychic and Cold,with some occasional Poison or Force attacks. Necrotic damage is notably absent, though. Interestingly, Shadow is the first power source to come with a specific disadvantage to their users, as assasins' HP are lower than normal, for their role.

With a name that suggests an origin in the disappeared Ki power source, the assassin's Ki Focus is a mechanic unique to the class, although I'd expect monks, among other classes from PHB3, to end up with access to it, as well. The idea of a Ki Focus is that it's an inner, intangible part of a character that can nevertheless be enchanted the same way a regular weapon or implement could. Magical bonuses from a focus could then be applied on any weapon or implement attack that the character made. Sadly, no actual examples of Ki Focus enchantments are provided. As a temporary patch, the article's author suggests, in an unofficial post, that generic weapon enchants could be applied to a Focus.

The selection of feats provided with the class is excellent, with decent quality and unprecedented quantity. There's a couple dozen feats, mostly for the heroic tier, supporting all races from PHB and PHB2, though not from Eberron or Forgotten Realms. Races previously featured in DDI, other than revenants, are also absent. As for the paragon paths, there's just four of them, but they are pretty good. I particularly like the Shadowblade, which allows you to collect 'gloom shards' from slain enemies, that can be spent for small effects, and the Soul Thief, which has a very similar mechanic (using 'soul shards' instead). There's also the Venomed Soul PP, with venom-related features that also present interesting choices.

This is yet another great reason to take a look at D&D Insider, if you are not a subscriber. Nevertheless, for those who might be tempted to get a 1-month subscription just to take the class, I'd recommend to wait until next month, as the class hasn't been uploaded to the Character Builder yet. Until that time, I'll have to remember the art of manually filling a character sheet.
Read More......

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A guide to weapon feats

After my recent post on domain feats, I have decided to make a similar compilation, this time about weapon-related feats. They are classified by weapon category and ordered by tier, with different sections for generic feats and for those that require specific races or classes. I also list the source books, for those who lack DDI subscriptions, though this will be a lot more useful if you can see the Compendium tootips.

These are the abbreviations of rule book titles:
- PHB: Player's Handbook
- PHB2: Player's Handbook 2
- MP: Martial Power
- EPG: Eberron Player's Guide
- DRAXXX: Dragon Magazine, issue XXX.

(Edited: fixed some errors)


Generic feats
Deadly Axe - Paragon (PHB)
Axe Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Deep Gash - Heroic, Fighter (MP)
Dwarven Weapon Training - Heroic, Dwarf (PHB)
Mror Stalwart - Heroic, Dwarf (EPG)
Tunnel Stalker - Heroic, Dwarf, Rogue (MP)
Enduring Wallop - Paragon, Dwarf, Fighter (MP)
Knock-Back Swing - Epic, Fighter (MP)


Generic feats
Sly Hunter - Paragon (PHB)
Bow Mastery - Epic (PHB2)

Class/Race specific feats
Leading Fire - Heroic - Elf, Warlord (MP)
Opportunistic Archer - Paragon - Elf, Fighter (MP)


Generic feats
Speed Loader - Heroic (PHB2)
Steady Shooter - Paragon (PHB)
Bow Mastery - Epic (PHB2)


Generic feats
Sweeping Flail - Paragon (PHB)
Flail Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Dragging Flail - Heroic - Fighter (MP)
Mobile Warrior - Epic - Fighter (MP)


Generic feats
Hammer Rhythm - Paragon (PHB)
Bludgeon Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Dwarven Weapon Training - Heroic, Dwarf (PHB)
Mror Stalwart - Heroic, Dwarf (EPG)
Thunder Hammer - Heroic - Fighter (MP)
Tunnel Stalker - Heroic, Dwarf, Rogue (MP)
Enduring Wallop - Paragon, Dwarf, Fighter (MP)
Knock-Back Swing - Epic, Fighter (MP)

Heavy Blade

Generic feats
Blade Opportunist - Heroic (PHB)
Heavy Blade Opportunity - Paragon (PHB)
Heavy Blade Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Reaping Blade - Heroic - Fighter(MP)
Fey Blades - Heroic - Fighter, Eladrin(MP)
Mobile Warrior - Epic - Fighter(MP)

Light Blade

Generic feats
Nimble Blade - Heroic (PHB)
Blade Opportunist - Heroic (PHB)
Light Blade Precision - Paragon (PHB)
Light Blade Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Surprising Charge - Heroic - Fighter/Rogue(MP)
Fey Blades - Heroic - Fighter, Eladrin(MP)
Mobile Warrior - Epic - Fighter(MP)


Generic feats
Hammer Rhythm - Paragon (PHB)
Bludgeon Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Ruthless Injury - Heroic Rogue (MP)
Street Thug - Heroic Rogue (MP)
Thunder Hammer - Heroic - Fighter (MP)
Knock-Back Swing - Epic, Fighter (MP)


Generic feats
Pick Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Deep Gash - Heroic, Fighter (MP)
Tunnel Stalker - Heroic, Dwarf, Rogue(MP)
Enduring Wallop - Paragon, Dwarf, Fighter (MP)
Knock-Back Swing - Epic, Fighter (MP)


Generic feats
Spear Push - Paragon (PHB)
Polearm Gamble - Paragon (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Polearm Momentum - Heroic - Fighter(MP)



Generic feats
Spear Push - Paragon (PHB)
Spear Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Class/Race specific feats
Eladrin Soldier - Heroic -Eladrin(PHB)
Polearm Momentum - Heroic - Fighter(MP)
Surprising Charge - Heroic -Fighter/Rogue(MP)
Mobile Warrior - Epic - Fighter(MP)


Generic feats
Staff Fighting - Heroic(DRA368)
Bludgeon Mastery - Epic (PHB)

Read More......

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When 'save ends' isn't long enough

Today I'm going to discuss an issue with the saving throw mechanic in 4e which, I have found particularly annoying. It may not be the most game breaking problem related to saving throws (that dubious honor would belong to save penalty stacking), but it is a pattern that I often find while reading power lists, and I thought I could find a simple, harmless solution. I'm talking about the combination of 'save ends' durations and effects that boost your party's attacks against a target.

In short, the problem is this: the 'save ends' mechanic is designed to apply effects that last for a minimum of one of the target's turns, and have an average duration slightly below two (of the target's) turns, when applied on standard monsters. This allows for effects lasting longer than a single round, but less than the whole encounter, and has the advantage of requiring relatively little bookkeeping. However, while the mechanic works as intended with conditions such as immobilization or stuns, which are relevant mostly during the target's own turn, it often appears on power effects that don't interact so well with it. In particular, any condition whose primary purpose is to lower the target's defenses or otherwise enhance attacks against the target results in a reduced effective length, to the point that the attacker would find the power more desirable if it lasted for a single turn!

There are two main scenarios where this, depending on whether a power boosts attacks from the attacking character, or from the whole party.

'Save ends' on personal attack boosts

Effects that enchance your attacks against the target are the worst possible scenario for the 'save ends' duration. These are problematic because they have no relevance during the target's turn. Rather, they only matter in your turns, which come after the target rolls to save. As a consequence, their effective duration is a full turn less than conventional 'save ends' effects (averaging less than a full turn, even for standard monsters!) and if the target makes his first save, you never get to benefit from the effect unless you spent an action point.

'Save ends' on group attack boosts

When the offensive boost applies to your whole party, the 'save ends' duration isn't typically as terrible as in the previous scenario, but its efectiveness can vary wildly, depending on initiative order. It can be as good as a regular 'save ends' effect (when all your allies act between you and the target), and as bad as a personal attack boost (when your allies are between your target and you). Such extreme variability is really annoying, as it forces you to delay actions until the order is acceptable, and makes the usefulness of certain daily powers depend on random factors such as initiative rolls.

A new rule for 'save ends' effects: Persist

To address these problems, we define a new type of effect duration: "save ends, persist".

Save Ends, Persist - The effect works as if it had a duration of "save ends", and gains "Aftereffect: this effect lasts until the end of your next turn". ('Your next turn' refers to the next turn of the character causing the effect. If an effect with persist has additional aftereffects, these aftereffects take place after the one triggered by persist.).

The definition of Aftereffect appears in Player's Handbook 2:

Aftereffect - An aftereffect automatically occurs after another effect ends. In a power description, an “Aftereffect” entry follows the effect it applies to. A target is sometimes subject to an aftereffect after a save. If that save occurs when the target is rolling multiple saving throws, the aftereffect takes effect after the target has rolled all of them.

Proposed patch

If a power has an effect that lowers a target's defenses or otherwise improves attacks against the target, and has a duration of "save ends", change that duration to "save ends, persist".

Apply this to effects that explicitly grant combat advantage, but not to those imposing conditions (like daze, blind and stun) that also grant combat advantage. Other effects that work only outside of the target's turn, like Hideous Laughter (Bard daily 9, PHB2) are good candidates for this patch.

Below, there is a non-exhaustive list of powers that should be patched.

1. Powers boosting personal attacks

- Cascade of Light (Cleric daily 1, PHB)
- Oath of consuming light (Avenger daily 5, PHB)
- Lacerating Maul (Ranger daily 1, MP)
- Easy target (Rogue daily 1, PHB)
- Checking Jab (Rogue daily 1, MP)
- Crimsom Edge (Rogue daily 9, PHB2)

2. Powers boosting party attacks

- Corrosive Sigil (Artificer Daily 5, EPG)
- Slayer's Song (Bard Daily 1, PHB2)
- Malevolent Mischief (Bard Daily 1, AP)
- Rain of Starlight (Bard Daily 9, AP)
- Crack the Shell (Fighter Daily 5, PHB)
- Lamentation of the Wicked (Invoker Daily 5, DP)

- Blazing Brand (Paladin Daily 1, DP)
- Radiant delirium (Paladin Daily 1, PHB)
- Dread Star (Warlock Daily 1, PHB)
- Blood Designation (Warlord Daily 9, MP)
- Phantasmal Assailant (Wizard Daily 5, AP)

3. Other powers

- Hideous Laughter (Bard Daily 9)

Where to draw the line?

I have tried to limit the changes to the strict minimum: defense penalties and effects that explicitly grant combat advantage. This leaves out conditions implicitly granting CA, as well as conditions that are relevant outside of the target's turn: Daze, stun and blind, among others. You could argue that, if a patch is necessary for the former effects, these conditions should also be taken into account. My take on this is that, for stun-like conditions, the main effect is the action-denial during the target's turn, and whatever happens during other character's turns is just a bonus.

Either way, you need to draw the line somewhere, or just forget about 'persist' and have all save ends effects work until the end of the attacker's turn. I think that extreme would be counterproductive, as it wouldn't be as easy to keep track of when each effect ends... unless you changed the saving throws so that they also happened during the attacker's turn. But, if you do this, the whole mechanic is a lot less intuitive. So, limiting the changes to relatively few powers is a good compromise, to me.

Read More......