Saturday, May 8, 2010

May Rules Updates: Infernal Wrath, surgeless healing, flight...

It's errata time again! Following the trend of recent awesome updates, this month's revision affects a large series of items for books up to (but not including) Player's Handbook 3. Although the usual class and power adjustments are in place, this time there's an infrequent emphasis on general rulings, of which some had been expected, and one caught me totally flat-footed! Also, there is a very surprising movement in the complete rewrite of a racial power (which, honestly, was in dire need of fixing) and the sweeping changes brought to all feats and features that depended on it. Let's take a look!


Infernal Wrath has been reborn, and an era of greatness for tiefling adventurers is starting, that will surpass even the glory days of Bael Turath. It's not that the new version of the power is so much better than the old one (when it worked), though it is quite a bit better. Rather, it's the reliability and flexibility which makes it shine. Old Wrath depended too much on the charisma score, becoming an almost worthless ability for those tieflings who weren't interested in making friends. This meant that many class combinations didn't exploit the full potential of the tiefling race, and even though the remaining racial features are quite sweet (I'm totally in love with Bloodhunt), some players felt rightfully discriminated - and others ignored the tiefling in favor of a different, more open race.

So, aspiring wizards, swordmages, psions and even fighters - know that, if you are of Tiefling ascendancy, your enemies will learn to fear your Wrath. Also, you'd better check out on the various racial feats, since the changes bring a number of new interactions to base a character on. There are also some losses, such as Lingering Wrath, but overall I think this is a very positive change.

General rules

There are a LOT of revisions and clarifications in the general rules, many of which had come up at my table. I'll start with the one I secretly wanted, but hadn't expected in a million years: Aid another! This was a vestige of old 3E rules that hadn't really worked as they should, requiring a roll against a flat DC that very soon became obsolete, as the level bonuses grew. The developers have chosen to streamline it in a very roundabout way, by splitting it into three different abilities, depending on whether you want to help in a skill check, an attack roll, or an ally's defenses.

The assistance for skill or ability checks has kept the Aid Another name, and is the one that has seen the most significant revision. After all, screwing up skill challenges was virtually the only use that this action had seen in the game. This now relies on a roll against a DC of scaling difficulty, using your bonus in the same skill or ability check that you want to assist. On top of that, failure is no longer inconsequential, as it brings a -1 penalty to the assisted character, so you won't automatically want to use this in an area in which you are not proficient - and if you are proficient, you may be better off rolling the skill check yourself, to begin with!

As for the assists on attack or defense, now called Aid Attack and -wait for it- Aid Defense, they keep pretty much the same funtionality, although they schew the useless roll and work automatically. This should be a welcome change for DMs intending to use it with a bunch of minions and a boss-type monster, since that is about the only scenario I can think of where it would come up.

Another area of the rules that has been greatly improved is the one concerning flying. The original implementation of flight in the DMG was full of strange exceptions and quirks that made it rather unintuitive. Flying creatures couldn't shift or make opportunity attacks, and had to move a certain distance to prevent falling. As for the falling itself, the rules governing it were confusing, to say the least. All of this has been cleaned up, clarified, and implemented in a more straightforward way.

The mobility of all flyers has been improved so that they are now more or less equivalent to what the hover ability previously granted. This means that flying now essentially works the same as other forms of movement, except in 3D: you can shift, charge, run or stay still without penalties. Falling now happens when the creature is knocked prone or stunned (unless it has hover - the only utility of hover now is prevent stunned creatures from falling).

The new flying rules are complemented with clarifications on how forced movement works in a 3D context. Most importantly, this means that pulling or sliding can now bring a flying creature to the ground - but also that you can move enemies up or down flights of stairs or ramps.

There are many more changes that affect general rules, so I'll make a quick overview:
- Damage from overlapping zones or auras now stacks.
- Move-related skills, such as athletics, acrobatics or stealth now work with any action that allows you to move (rather than only move actions, as before).
- The marked condition ends when the marker is knocked unconscious.
- The charge action now clearly states how you must move (closer to the target, as though being pulled), and explicitly states that you can take free actions afterwards. Also, creatures with reach can now charge adjacent to their target.


Another sweeping change is the one affecting healing powers that don't spend healing surges. In theory, this would affect all leaders, but it's clear that clerics, the undisputed kings of surgeless healing, are the most hurt. In fact, their main class feature, Healer's Lore, along with a number of feats and magic items, have been changed so that they only benefit healing gained from spent surges.

This reduces the efficiency of an astounding number of cleric powers (at least 20, or 10% of all of the class' total) and, most importantly, is a serious hit to two of their at-wills, Astral Seal and Recovery Strike. An optimized healer could exploit these powers after an encounter had been reduced to 1-2 enemies, so that each turn the party gained a substantial amount of 'free' hit points, even after accounting for the enemies' damage. This tactic is no longer valid, but many cleric players will be forced to rethink their builds, since the at-wills are no longer effective for a character without a substantial charisma.

Wizards, Swordmages, Sorcerers

I place these classes together because they are all seriously impacted by a change to a wizard feat, Enlarge Spell . Enlarge Spell was a very welcome addition from Arcane Power that hugely boosted the efficiency of wizard area attacks, in an attempt to make up for the class' lack of combat-relevant features. However, such an attractive effect turned out too tempting for other arcane classes, and specifically Swordmages and Sorcerers, and was used as the foundation of builds that turned their at-will areas into optimized monstruosities.

So Enlarge Spell is rewritten to work only with wizard spells, and the other arcane classes take a huge blow. Personally, I think that this is how it should have been from the beginning - when I read Arcane Power, I couldn't help thinking of that feat as a long lost Wizard class feature... that unfortunately could easily be stolen by multiclassing.

There is another aspect of the feat that has changed, though, that somewhat reduces its usefulness to actual wizards: it no longer works with daily powers. Seeing as how it could expand sustainable areas such as Stinking Cloud at no significant cost, this is probably a well deserved revision.

Martial Power 2

Several new powers and features from the recently released Martial Power 2 have been subject to revision. The most significant are probably two new at-wills. The ranger's Throw and Stab loses it's ability to target a single enemy with both attacks and replaces the secondary charge attack with a free movement followed by a basic attack. This is, in general, a reduction in power, though it comes with great increase in mobility that makes it a very interesting power, in my opinion. The second at-will fixed is the Warlord's Intuitive Strike, which should come as no surprise to anybody - the insane scaling of the attack bonus translated into auto-hits for several members of the party around paragon tier. These bonuses have been reduced to a fixed +2, which leaves warlords with a definitely playable attack that is, in fact, stronger than before at lower levels.

Also of note are the clarifications to the fighter's Brawler Style, which state that the defense bonuses of the feature work while grabbing another character, and prevent the stacking of unarmed attacks with Ki Focuses for absurd bonuses to hit.

Paragon Paths

To conclude, I should mention the changes to the ubiquitous paragon paths Daggermaster and Pit Fighter, whose strongest features (expanded crit range and bonus damage equal to Wis) have been restricted to work only with rogue and fighter powers, respectively. This affects a wide range of classes, including Avengers, Sorcerers, Rangers or Battleminds, which often turned to these paths in order to gain considerable boosts to their damage, often gaining more than single-classed Fighters or Rogues would.

The revision continues the line started two months ago (when the Bloodmage and Student of Caiphon were brought down for similar reasons), and it's reasonable to expect other frequently multiclassed-into paths to follow a similar route - If I had to bet, I'd say Divine Oracle and Kensei are likely to see a similar fate soon.


  1. Hey! Infernal Wrath, you actually look...USEFUL! Thanks!

    Anyhow, I've seen lots of Aiding Attack & Defense-- the Defender blockades a hallway, or the PCs are having a hard time getting the dragon's AC & they focus on the Striker so his Daily can land...

  2. Do you have any advice on how to best implement errata? It seems impractical for a group to double check all their power choices with the errata, and it's a burden on the DM to know which rules have changed.

  3. I always liked Kensei, but I suppose that after Pit Fighter, it's definitely next on the chopping block.

  4. Re: Implementing errata. The truth is, nowadays I let the Character Builder take care of that stuff. If you're not into DDI, I guess the good old method of adding post-its to the relevant pages of your books isn't too bad. You'd need to be disciplined and update the books every couple of months, though, or you'll soon get overwhelmed. On the other hand, once you have the books annotated, there should be no need for double-checking.