Friday, August 28, 2009

Is Ruthless Ruffian a pointless feature?

New class builds introduced in Martial Power have had different degrees of success. The fighter ones (Battlerager Vigor and Tempest Technique) have been tremendously popular, but also rather overpowered, eventually requiring significant errata. I have talked a lot about Beastmaster Rangers (finding them cool, yet mechanically cumbersome). Today, I'll discuss Ruthless Ruffian, the rogue class feature, which I find guilty of the often overlooked sins of being weak and slightly unexciting.

Generally speaking, mediocre stuff doesn't hurt the game much, as long as there are viable alternatives. There are dozens of hideous feats and powers out there that will never see any kind of errata - they just get ignored. However, as you go to higher level (and scarcer) game elements, the impact of bad options increases. An all around bad character class (and, to a lesser degree, a race) can't be ignored that easily, and is a significant problem. Class builds are just a step below - they should all be at least playable.
To be fair, Ruthless Ruffian is not a terrible feature, but it doesn't provide anything that you can't get elsewhere more effectively, and with less restrictions. In short, it plays like a worse version of Brutal Scoundrel. Its benefits are an expanded selection of weapons, and a situational damage bonus. I'll discuss each one separately.

Weapon selection

Ruthless Ruffians have the ability to use maces and clubs as rogue weapons, which is a nice option flavorwise, but not so much from a mechanical point of view. Clubs are downright terrible weapons, and although maces are comparable to short swords, they are outclassed by daggers, and offer no superior weapon equivalent of the rapier. Without some additional incentive, there is little reason for a rogue to choose a mace as a weapon, other than looking cool (which it admittedly does).
To sum up, the advantages of wielding maces are mostly aesthetical, as they are usually weaker than more traditional rogue weapons.

Damage bonus

Ruthless Ruffians get the same extra damage as Brutal Scoundrels, but they have to jump through many hoops for it. The limited weapon selection results in less accuracy and prevents using ranged attacks, which would be bad enough. But it is the restriction of using just powers with rattling what kills the feature, in my opinion. Simply put, there are not enough such powers to make building and playing a Ruffian a varied an fun experience.
Even if there are powers with rattling at almost every level, there is usually just one option for any given level, and very rarely more than two. Thus, rogues of this build will usually be undistinguishable from one another. Also, since Disheartening Strike is the only rattling at-will, you will tend to use it over and over, ignoring the other one. Not what I'd call a compelling strategy.

An alternate version

Though I don't like how the feature as implemented plays out, I think that just a few tweaks would be enough to make it worthwhile, and maybe even fun. Maces as rogue weapons are an interesting addition, but their use should be optional (and rewarded with some small bonus) rather than forced. Likewise, the focus on the Rattling mechanic could benefit of a bit of flexibility - a way to use the occasional non-rattling power without feeling penalized for it would be very welcome.

Ruthless Ruffian:You are proficient with the club and the mace, and you can use those weapons with Sneak Attack or any rogue power or rogue paragon path power that normally requires a light blade.
When you make an attack, if the attack has the rattling keyword or if the target is taking the attack penalty from one of your rattling attacks,add your Strength modifier to the damage roll.
When you hit with a club or a mace, if the target is taking the attack penalty from one of your rattling attacks, that penalty lasts until the end of your next turn (even if the attack doesn't have the rattling keyword).

Related feats

Ruthless Injury is a feat from Martial Power which grants Ruffians a highly situational benefit. I'd add the following line to the feat: "In addition, when you attack a target suffering any of those conditions with a club or a mace, add a +2 bonus to the damage roll".

The strength-charisma mixup

One of the weirdest things about Ruthless Ruffian is the disconnect between the ability requirements of the class feature itself, and of the powers depending on that feature. On the one hand, you get a bonus to damage based on your Strength, on the other, Charisma is the only secondary ability used in Ruthless Ruffian powers, or powers with rattling, for that matter. The (rarely reliable) build advice recommends "Charisma follows as a close second, essential for getting your way by using Intimidate. Strength comes in third; it’s useful in delivering brutal attacks". Nevertheless, you will almost always prefer to have as much strength as possible, and only look to Cha when assigning excedent points.

I think this should be changed, either by having the feature use Cha, or by changing the powers to trigger off Str. Even though it's easier to go for the feature, I feel the right choice is to go for Strength, and revise the powers. If you prefer to use Charisma, my proposed version of the feature might not be the best choice, as it would lead to really high damage numbers in scenarios with high charisma, Sly Flourish, and the damage bonus from rattling.

Either way, this is the list of affected powers (i.e. those with rattling or Ruthless Ruffian bonuses that key off Cha)

- Terminating Threat
- Defender's Cohort
- Compel the Craven
- Stinging Squall
- Stupefying Violence

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Divine Power: A guide to domain feats

Although I don't have a copy of Divine Power on my hands yet, I've been able to browse the many goodies in the book through DDI compendium and character builder. Unfortunately, one of the topics I was looking forward to the most has turned out to be rather difficult to use that way. I'm talking about the divine domain feats, which add special properties to a series of at-will powers. With more than 30 feats, each affecting 4 at-wills of different classes, and requiring you to worship specific gods, it becomes really cumbersome to work out how to match gods and at-will powers for a character. In this post, I try to address that.

Below, there are two tables that should make the process of building divine characters a bit easier. The first table shows all divine at-wills and their associated domains, and the second one lists the gods corresponding to each domain. Both make extensive use of my Compendium tooltips, so a subscription to DDI is highly recommended.

1. List of domains per power

1.1 Avenger

Bond of Censure
Domains: Destruction, Luck, Moon, Sea, Tyranny, Undeath, Winter

Bond of Pursuit
Domains: (none)

Bond of Retribution
Domains: Fate, Strife, War

Leading Strike
Domains: Civilization, Freedom, Hope, Knowledge, Protection

Overwhelming Strike
Domains: Change, Darkness, Earth, Madness, Poison, Skill, Strength, Storm, Wilderness, Torment, Torment

Radiant Vengeance
Domains: Arcana, Death, Life, Love, Sun, Vengeance, Creation

1.2 Cleric

Astral Seal
Domains: Fate, Knowledge, Life, Torment, Tyranny, Vengeance

Lance of Faith
Domains: Arcana, Luck, Strife, Sun, Undeath, Winter

Priest's Shield
Domains: Civilization, Darkness, Protection, Strength, War

Righteous Brand
Domains: Creation, Death,Destruction, Freedom, Hope, Justice, Madness, Moon, Poison, Skill, Storm

Recovery Strike
Domains: Change, Earth, Love, Sea, Trickery, Wilderness

Sacred Flame
Domains: (none)

1.3 Invoker

Avenging Light
Domains: Fate, Hope, Life, Strength, Torment, Vengeance

Divine Bolts
Domains: Arcana, Change, Sea, Skill, Tyranny

Grasping Shards
Domains: Creation, Destruction, Knowledge, Poison, Undeath

Hand of Radiance
Domains: Moon, Winter

Sun Strike
Domains: Love, Strife, Sun, Wilderness

Mantle of the Infidel
Domains: Civilization, Justice, Torment

Vanguard's Lightning
Domains: Freedom, Luck, Protection, Storm

Visions of Blood
Domains: Darkness, Death, Earth, Madness, War

1.4 Paladin

Ardent Strike
Domains: Darkness, Destruction, Strife, Torment

Bolstering Strike
Domains: Change, Creation, Earth, Life, War

Enfeebling Strike
Domains: Death, Madness, Moon, Poison, Torment, Tyranny, Undeath, Winter

Holy Strike
Domains: Fate, Freedom, Luck, Strength, Vengeance

Valiant Strike
Domains: Civilization, Hope, Protection, Skill, Storm, Wilderness

Virtuous Strike
Domains: Arcana, Justice, Knowledge, Love, Sea, Sun

2. Table of domains and gods

Arcana - Corellon
Change - Avandra
Civilization - Erathis, Asmodeus
Creation - Erathis, Moradin
Darkness - Lolth, Zehir
Death - The Raven Queen
Destruction - Gruumsh, Tharizdun
Earth - Torog, Moradin
Fate - Ioun, The Raven Queen
Freedom - Avandra
Hope - Bahamut, Pelor
Justice - Bahamut, Erathis
Knowledge - Ioun , Vecna
Life - Melora, Pelor
Love - Sehanine
Luck - Avandra
Madness - Tharizdun
Moon - Sehanine
Poison - Zehir
Protection - Bahamut, Moradin
Sea - Melora
Skill - Corellon, Ioun, Bane
Storm - Kord
Strength - Kord, Gruumsh
Strife - Tiamat
Sun - Pelor
Torment - Torog
Trickery - Sehanine, Lolth
Tyranny - Asmodeus
Undeath - Vecna
Vengeance - Tiamat
War - Kord, Bane
Wilderness - Corellon, Melora
Winter - The Raven Queen
Read More......