Another round of errata has gone by, bringing some very needed changes. The biggest news are the fixing of the Battlemind class, the updated DMG tables for monster statistics, and an unexpected power-up for many previously marginal options, including an spell as classic (and worthless) as Magic Missile! Nevertheless, almost as important as what was included is the one missing thing: the psionic system, along with its flawed power point progression that turns heroic augments into spammable monstruosities at higher levels, is left untouched. I hope that one will be fixed by the time Psionic Power is around. Anyway, let’s take a look at today’s changes!
The first change, the new monster design paradigm with increased attack damage and more balanced roles, has already been discussed to death in previous posts. The Dungeon Master’s Guide tables describing monster statistics have been updated accordingly, so you should be prepared for deadlier encounters, particularly after paragon tier (where, to be fair, difficulty tended to be lacking).
Apart from that, the most exciting update is the one applied to Battleminds. The psionic defender, introduced in Player’s Handbook 3, suffered from a poor implementation in a class feature that was key for successfully carrying out their role. Originally, Blurred Step was intended as a way for battleminds to chase after shifting enemies, a crucial function given that their mark punishment only worked in melee. However, as written it cost an opportunity action, which had the unfortunate side-effect of having your follow-up move actually happen before the triggering shift resolved. Among other things, this meant that enemies in a diagonal from the battlemind could always escape freely, with disastrous results.
All that is gone, since Blurred Step is now a free action that can only be used once per turn. This turns battleminds into extremely mobile and sticky defenders, and a force to be reckoned. Not only that, but the increase in monster damage also helps them indirectly, since their punishment mechanic, Mind Spike, deals damage equal to the monster’s.
Also interesting is the revision of several powers that were neither overpowered nor utterly useless. Improving game elements is something that only happens on rare occasions, so it is surprising to see this treatment applied to several mediocre cleric utilities, such as Shield of Faith or Bless (which now work as minor actions rather than standards), but also to definitely playable staples like the rogue’s Tumble (whose movement has been doubled). More understandable, though no less surprising, is the complete redesign of Magic Missile.
Magic Missile! No spell screams “D&D Wizard” like the humble missile (though I can’t deny a soft spot for the good old Fireball, of course). Although 4E Wizards have always stood out because of their selection of awesome powers, Magic Missile wasn’t among them. As bland an attack as it gets, its only virtues were counting as a basic attack and having a range of 20, so a wizard who invested an at-will slot for it only got what any bow wielder already had for free. Well, that has come to an end. Starting this month, Magic Missile gets some brand new mechanics with a classic flavor: now it no longer requires an attack roll, but it automatically deals a fixed amount of damage instead. The final result is not quite a powerhouse (in fact, it performs worse in hyper-optimized scenarios), but is pretty decent, and has a well defined function. So, if you really need to damage something reliably, the Missile is your new go-to power. Either that, or Cloud of Daggers.
Finally, the errata has hit an impressive number of munchkin favourites. Forgotten Realms regional background Windrise Ports, for example, used to allow additional multiclass options, populating its associated region with a number of characters only comparable to the amount of followers of Tempus. This enabled many weird builds, and has been removed from the game. The paragon paths Long Night Scion and Feytouched used to be part of the most damaging build in the game, and have been appropiately toned down. The avenger feat, Improved Armor of Faith, granted an AC bonus that scaled across tiers for no apparent reason, boosting epic avengers’ defenses to the astral plane - so it has been reduced to a flat modifier. The epic wizard daily, Legion’s Hold, was arguably the strongest controller power in the game, and has become slightly less brutal. Also, the wizard utility Wizard’s Escape no longer negates automatically a melee hit per encounter (being reduced to a daily), whereas ranger daily Snarling Wolf Stance has completely lost it’s attack cancelling capabilities. On a more general note, free action attacks now have a hard limit of one per turn, in order to prevent some almost infinite chains, usually triggered off crits in combination with multiattacks.
There are many more fixes - mostly overpowered elements and clarifications, but the ones above are probably the most significant. Overall, this has been a very positive round of errata, and very likely one of the last with such sweeping changes, as the developers intend to have a more stable game by the time the Essentials line is released.