Thursday, July 8, 2010

July Errata: Battleminds, Magic Missile, Monster stats

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.


  1. I'm surprised the Free Action Attacks change merits only a brief single sentence response from you. This is a pretty significant change to gameplay, and renders some builds (Barbarians and Bravura Warlords in particular) significantly more complicated and less effective to play.

  2. Yeah, I should probably have talked about the free action thing in more detail - though the post was running pretty long already. It's a controversial change, in that there is a lot of collateral damage that may, or may not, have been intended. Generally speaking, I agree with the idea behind it, but they'll probably have to tweak and clarify a few things for the next errata.

    The most glaring omission, in my mind, is that some of the triggered attacks that should be affected by the change, like Rending Weapons, aren't actually defined as free actions - these need to be updated.

    Then there's the collateral damage I mentioned above. Barbarians will suffer it the most, since you can no longer use Rampage freely with attack granting options, and notably Swift Charge. The way I see it, it's more of an annoyance than a real drop in effectiveness, since you will usually be able to use Swift Charge later in an encounter. On the other hand, it's true that a barbarian getting 3+ attacks on a lucky round might have been a bit too swingy, so this could be somewhat deserved - but I'm sure barbarian players wouldn't agree.

    At any rate, there are a few confusing things that would need to be clarified, in this ruling, such as what counts as an attack. I'm pretty certain that action points are not restricted by this (since they grant standard actions, not direct attacks), but other stuff is not so clear cut. For example, Swift Charge is probably an attack, but what about Roar of Triumpth, or War Cry?

    By the way, what would be the problem for Bravura Warlords, under this ruling? I have heard about Commander's Strike and similar powers not working twice in the same turn with the same ally if, for example, you spend an action point, but apart from that, I don't see the conflict. The extra attack from bravura presence should still work. Preventing leader-granted attacks from triggering extra attacks is mildly annoying, but I don't see it as such a big deal, either.

  3. If you're familiar with the Downfall meme on YouTube, I had wanted to create one, using the latest batch of erratas.

    "Hitler finds out his Wizard's Fury build is no longer playable."

    First? Legion's Hold nerf. "No that's okay, we still have Wizard's Fury." "My Fuhrer, Magic Missile no longer deals damage roll." "I request that everyone that plays a ranger leave now." Que crazy ranting.

    The latest batch of errata obliterated a lot of my most insane builds though. I guess I'll just have to use !@#$ing ranger builds.

  4. The extra attack from Bravura Presence only works if they ally themselves hasn't used any free action attacks this round, and there's actually plenty of those in the game (including some out-of-turn options for Warlords that could trigger on that ally's turn). It's not like using Bravura Presence didn't come with its own risk/benefit analysis for the party every time they chose to use it, now they have to do action-use bookkeeping, too? This errata has the potential to invalidate the key feature of the Bravura build, makes it more complicated and less fun for everybody at the table, and that should never happen.

  5. I don't know, those warlord issues look like cornercases to me. More often than not, the guy spending an action point during his turn will not have used any free action attack, and the AP feature will work just fine. I don't see all that much bookkeeping, either - If the warlord has granted an extra attack in that PC's turn, the PC can't use an action point, and vice versa.

    Unless you had a build that specifically focused on granting extra attacks the same turn a character uses an action point, for some reason. Which I guess would be useful to pile on modifiers, but doesn't seem all that critical to me.