Friday, June 25, 2010

Broken Bits: Champion of Order

Broken Paragon Paths, Part Two
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Champion of Order is a very irregular paragon path for paladins, providing some great benefits, some very questionable ones, and the ultimate encounter attack. As slayers of all that is chaotic (which apparently means demons and elementals), Champions of Order complement their general purpose abilities with enemy-specific bonuses that are not always as effective as one would expect.

Because, yes, the path gets a lot of things right, but its 16th level feature? It’s a cruel, sadistic joke. Champions’ Hammer lets the paladin ignore the resistances (all of them!) of elementals and demons he attacks (but not those of other enemies). The catch is in the paladin’s power list, and those creatures’ typical resistances - they don’t match at all! With rare exceptions, paladins only tend to deal two types of damage: radiant, and untyped steel. On the other hand, most demons have the ‘variable resistance’ ability, which protects them from their choice of acid, cold, fire, lightning or thunder. Meanwhile, elementals usually have a bunch of resistances for damage related with their origin - which, as far as I know, never includes Radiance. So the feature is utterly useless, because there is never any relevant resistance to ignore!

Leaving that aside, we have a lot of good stuff. In Defense of Order (level 11 feature) is a very nice complement to your Divine Challenge which lets you make opportunity attacks against challenged enemies ignoring your mark, and doubles up as a demon and elemental slaying feature. And slay it does - this time the bonus isn’t any nonsense about resistances, but a brutal amount of extra damage! The action point feature, Champion’s Action, is nothing to call home about, but can be handy, as it reduces enemy defenses for a whole turn.

The utility and daily powers are decent enough, letting you double up on your Challenge, and deal a bunch of damage while weakening a target, respectively. With what’s been mentioned so far, we’d have a solid, if unimpressive path. And then there is the battle-ending encounter, Certain Justice. Don’t let the name deceive you, as it’s anything but fair.

The problem

You don’t get encounter powers better than this one. Nor probably dailies, for that matter:

Certain Justice
Attack: Strength + 4 vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] damage. If the target is marked by you, it is also weakened and dazed until it is not marked by you.

This is a highly accurate attack, that severely cripples the target... for the rest of the encounter. Well, technically there are ways to prevent a paladin from maintaining a challenge, so it might not last as long... but, on the other hand, there are also plenty of alternate methods to mark a target, that do last the whole battle. So we’ll assume, for now, that the monster is screwed. Badly.

There is a reason why powers don’t usually have negative conditions lasting forever, and certainly not for encounter attacks - it’s way too effective. A monster hit by Certain Justice is not completely helpless, but it might as well be: with the damage output cut in half, and daze reducing its turns to maybe charging and often doing nothing but move, even the most fearsome foe becomes a lot more manageable. This is great when it catches a standard enemy, abusive when it wrecks an Elite, and wins the encounter right there if it nails a Solo.

Really, Solos just go to a corner and cry. It is true that these monsters often have severe design problems, but I don’t think it is possible to make a solo capable of overcoming a direct hit from Certain Justice, short of granting immunity to weakening and dazing. Unless the solo is resistant to marks, I guess. Now THAT would be mean.

The solo encounter is the best case scenario, but neutralizing any non-minion monster in one hit will be enough to heavily disrupt any game. This needs to go.

A solution

Certain Justice’s duration needs to be cut, this much is, well, certain. Nevertheless, I think we should make sure it remains strong, since it is the defining element for a path that otherwise doesn’t offer too much in the way of features. Also, the Champion’s Hammer feature is a good candidate for improvement, once the path’s power level isn’t warped by an unfair encounter attack. I would make the following revisions:

Champion’s Hammer, mk.2 (16th level): The target of your Divine Challenge takes a -2 penalty to saving throws against conditions that you create. Your attacks ignore the resistances of demons and elemental creatures.

Certain Justice, mk.2
Attack: Strength + 4 vs. ACHit: 1[W] damage. If the target is marked by you, it is also weakened and dazed (save ends).

This makes Certain Justice an encounter power with a strong ongoing effect, which is rare enough, and provides the path a strong mechanical theme: Inflict nasty conditions that a save can end. The revision of Champion’s Hammer now synergizes well with the rest of the path, and encourages building a character around it. Also, the no-resistance clause makes a bit of sense now, since many of the rare paladin attacks dealing typed, non-radiant damage actually deal ongoing damage, so you’d be likely to pick them.

What do you think? The path goes from being a one-trick pony (with a hell of a trick!) to something more consistent and, in my opinion, interesting. Also, I think it ends up at a very playable, yet reasonable level.

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