Saturday, June 26, 2010

Broken Bits: Hospitaler

Broken Paragon Paths, Part Three
Previous - Index - Next

Hospitalers are paladins who specialize in the arts of healing, and they do so thoroughly. They can heal with action points and with Divine Challenge, gain a bonus with Lay on Hands, can activate a utility so that all their hits heal allies for an encounter, and have a daily that heals. Also, just for the sake of variety, there’s an encounter power that hands out saving throws to anyone nearby. All of this makes for a very efficient, focused package, which would be perfect except for a tiny, horribly unbalanced detail.

The problem

A year ago, I talked about the Swordmage’s Aegis of Shielding, and how it was far too good a mark punishment, negating a huge percentage of an enemy’s damage - making an attack against an ally hardly better than not attacking at all. I concluded that the appropiate values for a mitigating mark mechanic shouldn’t be above 50% of the enemy’s damage (rather than the 80+% that Aegis of Shielding routinely pulled off). I’m bringing this up because the Hospitaler paragon path features a mark punishment mechanic that not only compares well with Aegis of Shielding, but actually puts it to shame.

Consider the following:

Hospitaler's Blessing (11th level): When an enemy that you currently challenge makes an attack against one of your allies that does not include you, whether the attack hits or misses, that ally regains hit points equal to one-half your level + your Wisdom modifier.

Although I love what this feature does, the numbers are way off. If an enemy hits, a lot of damage gets mitigated: barely a few points below what Aegis of Shielding prevents, though it actually catches up at level 30. That alone would be enough to get worried, but there’s more. The figure below illustrates the math of an attack where Hospitaler’s Blessing triggers:

The blue and red curves above show a monster’s average damage on a hit, as calculated here (though the formulas haven’t been updated to post-MM3 standards yet) and the amount healed by a Hospitaler with a starting Wisdom score of 16, respectively. As you can see, they are pretty close - the orange curve shows the difference, which is the net damage dealt on a hit, and it approaches zero. That is bad enough, but only tells half of the story. Look at the green curve at the bottom. It plots the net damage contribution of the monster’s attack, assuming a hit chance of 50% (which is reasonable, if not generous, after accounting for the mark penalty). Since Hospitaler’s Blessing works on missed attacks as well as hits, the formula to use is:

Final average damage= Hit chance * Net Hit Damage - Miss Chance * Hosp. Blessing Heal

As the net hit damage was almost null, and the amount healed is close to the damage that would be dealt on a hit, we find that, the attack will, on average, heal more damage than it deals, with the net healed amount being slightly below the monster's damage per round. Not only is the current monster’s turn negated, but it will need almost a whole turn’s worth of attacks to compensate for the damage healed.

This figure shows the same scenario, but with the values presented as a percentage of monster damage. The blue and red lines represent the healed amount, and the net damage on a hit as a percentage of monster hit damage. The orange line is the average contribution of the attack, after accounting for the misses, as a percentage of the monsters’ original damage per round.

Keep in mind that this will need to be adjusted, for the better, once you apply the Monster Manual 3 damage increase for monsters. Nevertheless, from my current estimations of the change, this should alleviate the problem, but fail to remove it.

As additional considerations, I should mention that Hospitaler’s Blessing outperforms traditional mark punishment in other ways, such as requiring no action to work, theoretically working on an unlimited number of attacks from the challenged enemy, and still allowing you to deal Divine Challenge damage as normal. Yes, if you thought the mark violation scenario was bad enough for the offender, you should still add a bunch of radiant damage to the mix!

A solution

The amount healed by Hospitaler’s Blessing needs to go down, there’s no way around it. New heal values should, under no circumstance, reduce a (non-minion) monster’s expected damage to negatives. In fact, an ideal solution would cut the average damage of the offending monster about in half, after considering the damage healed on a miss attack. Assuming 50% hit rates after mark penalties, this means that the heal should be worth 1/4 of the monster’s hit damage, more or less.

The simplest approach is to remove the half-level bonus to heal, and just keep the Wisdom modifier:

Hospitaler's Blessing, mk.2 (11th level): When an enemy that you currently challenge makes an attack against one of your allies that does not include you, whether the attack hits or misses, that ally regains hit points equal to your Wisdom modifier.

This yields numbers closer to our expectations. The new damage figures would be as follows:

Note that because the heal applies to both hits and misses, its total contribution is much greater than what the numbers initially suggests. In this case, a monster attacking through the mark will see its damage reduced to about 40% of the original amount - a very strong decrease. In fact, this is a bit more potent than we had intended, but within acceptable margins. Also, once we apply the MM3 increase, it should be just about on target.

This fix leaves Hospitaler’s Blessing strong enough to be an effective deterrent (monster attacks became much less effective than without it), without preventing enemies from being able to inflict damage to allies altogether. This, in conjunction with the remaining path features, makes Hospitaler a very competitive, but no longer unfair path.

Read More......

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.

Read More......

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Broken Bits: Divine Oracle

Broken Paragon Paths, Part One
Index - Next

The cleric paragon path Divine Oracle, from Player’s Handbook, is one of the most remarkable designs in the game. Following a theme of prophecy and foresight, its mechanics sometimes leave us with an impression of temporal travel (which is very much what the character would perceive, after all), and overall have a special, evoking feel. Not only that, but they are terribly effective. Which brings us to...

The problem

The path is well rounded, with a set of very solid powers and features. Its level 11 encounter, suitably named Prophecy of Doom, pushes the boundaries of what you’d normally be able to do with a power in that slot, encouraging experiments with crit specialists - but, ultimately, I think it can be considered fair. There is a feature that really worries me, though, and it is a Terrifying Insight. It reads as follows:

Terrifying Insight (16th level): Whenever you make an attack against Will, you can roll twice and use the higher result. If the attack misses, you are dazed until the end of your next turn.

There is a lot to be said about this feature. To begin with, it is remarkably difficult to take advantage of within the cleric class, where attacks against will are typically scarce. The drawback, getting dazed on a miss, is harsh, but manageable, specially when considering that dazing is not as painful for ranged characters, and that the very feature prevents you from missing too often. And then, of course, there’s the fact that the benefit is insanely strong.

Rolling twice to hit in D&D 4E is very, very good. Besides the obvious accuracy boost (which is often equivalent to a +4 or a +5 to hit), which improves both your damage and your many effects that trigger on a hit, it almost duplicates your chance of scoring a critical hit, with all the benefits that it brings. Because of this, the Avenger class’ Oath of Enmity is generally considered the most potent feature in the game. So the prospect of a Paragon Path that lets you attack like an avenger (or even like a dazed avenger) is really tempting.

In the hands of a cleric, Terrifying Insight is quite overpowered, and may become downright broken, the day they release a strong at-will targeting will defense for the class. Meanwhile, there are other classes that can multiclass into cleric and become Divine Oracles to break it in half. Wizards, Warlocks and Bards, among others, can easily specialize in attacks against will, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a paragon path that is better suited, for that kind of builds.

A solution

We could cut most of the abuse with Terrifying Insight by applying the Pit Fighter treatment, and changing it to work only with cleric powers. But I don’t find that fix too satisfying, and there’s always the potential for some future cleric at-will to synergize with the feature, requiring further changes. Because of this, I always prefer to go for a reduction in power level, while conserving as much of the original mechanics as possible.

So these are the requirements: it must be useful for clerics, yet not too good for other classes, and it should allow for rerolling of some kind. We also have a drawback (daze on a miss), which we could tweak in order to weaken the feature. Using these elements, here’s what I came up with:

Terrifying Insight mk.2 (16th level): If you miss with an attack roll for an attack that targets Will and are not dazed, you can reroll the attack roll. If the rerolled attack misses, you are dazed until the end of your next turn.

I borrowed the new wording from the Life Singer path (which, incidentally, is also in the line for fixes). It is functionally very similar, but has the advantage of not providing as much of a boost to your chance to crit, since you are only rolling the second die if you miss. But this is just a detail - the great change is preventing it from working while dazed. This means that the feature will be turned off for a turn after missing, so you may want to think twice about using it with lesser attacks, if there’s a strong encounter or daily you want to use the following turn. It also discourages multiclassers from going trigger happy with area attacks, and ensures that the daze will hurt you, even if you didn’t intend to use move or minor actions. As a side effect, being dazed by your enemies will be particularly painful, so you’ll have to be very careful about certain monsters.

That said, the new version remains an amazing feature, definitely worth multiclassing for - and the rest of the path is full of awesome. This won’t stop Oracles from being a top tier choice, but hopefully, more mundane paths will now have a fighting chance.

Read More......

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Broken Bits: My list of broken paths

Broken Paragon Paths, Index
Introduction - Part One

The other day I commented how paragon paths had dropped in power level since the first Player's Handbook, with many negative consequences such as reduced class balance, unfulfilled player expectations, and a tendency to ignore the majority of 'normal' paths. From that, I concluded that a complicated, but viable solution might be to errata (or, in my case, houserule) the most potent paths so that the power gap with the rest wasn't as large. The downside was the list of paths to change was sizable: around two dozen. On the other hand, since the next best thing would be to upgrade the remaining 400 paths, I guess we are stuck with that.
You can see my list of broken items below. I think all of them are prone to abuse or otherwise broken, even if some aren't too popular in the optimization community. Also, I've left behind some very strong options that nevertheless felt fair (most notably, Kensai). The table is missing an explanation for the cause of brokenness, but don't worry - I'll provide in-depth discussion, as well as fixes, in upcoming posts. Note that no material from Dragon magazines has been included; I'll add that in a future update.

Read More......

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Fall of Paragon Paths

Broken Paragon Paths, Introduction
Go to broken path index

Since the first Player’s Handbook, most aspects of a player character in D&D 4E have experienced a slow, but steady increase in power. From power selection to feats and magic items, the constant release of new options in rulebooks and magazines means that characters are noticeably stronger today than two years ago. With one remarkable exception: Paragon Paths.

The original PHB is the book with the most powerful paragon paths in the game, by a good margin. Not that there aren’t some bad options (the rogue class in particular has a couple of very mediocre ones), but the overall level is impressive. Lots of bonuses to damage, hit, and defenses, ways to deal automatic damage, even against groups, increased critical ranges, encounter-long negative conditions, power recovery... more often than not, these paths have a feature that drastically affects the efficiency of your character. The first book in the edition set a very high bar for paragon paths.

Then the bar dropped. The books that followed PHB included a noticeable amount of filler paths, which was worrying but not all that surprising. More important, though, was the fact that even the strongest options seemed to be deliberately toned down, compared to their PHB counterparts. Bonuses that would have been continuous only worked under certain circumstances, effects that were automatic now required some effort from the character’s part - it looked as if paragon awesomeness had been put temporarily on hold.

Except that it wasn’t temporary. Two years have passed, and about a dozen player rule books, and it is clear now that these modest, post-PHB paths have become the norm. It is hard to make accurate comparisons of power level on game elements as complex and varied as paragon paths, but I’ve tried to come up with an easy to quantify example. One of the areas where PHB paths excel is that of damage bonuses and, among these, a common, and extremely effective mechanic consists in adding an ability bonus to attack damage. So I focused on that.

I compiled a list of all the paths from rulebooks that could consistently provide extra damage equal to an ability modifier, and ordered them by source book. There are a good deal of these paths from PHB and Martial Power (which was the first Power book to come out, and shows a bit of a transition between PHB levels and the current standard), but then they become really scarce, with subsequent books including at most a couple of them.

That only tells half of the story, though, because not all these bonuses are created equal. Some can easily apply to all of a character’s attacks, but others require such specific circumstances that you’ll be missing on them for several turns over an encounter. I called the former unconditional bonuses, and examined their presence across sourcebooks. You can see the number of paths with ability damage bonuses per book, and the ones with unconditional ability bonuses, in the figure below:

For reference, I classified as unconditional those bonuses that could reliably be applied for all of a character’s turns in an encounter (provided they hit, of course), even if they required some specific equipment . The paths that meet this requirement are: Pit Fighter, Stormwarden, Feytouched, Blade Banshee, Sylvan Archer, Lyrandar Wind-Rider and Master of Poisons. There are a couple other paths, such as Iron Vanguard, that could arguably be included here, but these are the ones I found more clearly cut.

As we can see, most paths with unconditional bonuses are in PHB. It is interesting to see that even though Martial Power has more paths with bonuses overall, they tend to be of lower quality than the PHB ones.

It is not a huge factor, but the figure above doesn’t take into account the total number of paths included in a book. Martial Power in particular has a lot more paths than the rest, so this slightly distorts the comparison. The figure below shows ability bonus PPs and unconditional bonus PPs as a percentage of the paths in each book:

Looking at the percentages, Martial Power’s still the leader in raw numbers, but not for such a wide margin.

So, once we know this trend exists, how does it affect the game? I’m afraid that the answer is that it hurts class balance. Starting at paragon tier, the classes from Player’s Handbook have an unfair advantage over the rest - and this is more pronounced for the martial ones, due to the fact that Martial Power’s path design was halfway between the PHB system and the current one. This becomes evident when we organize the previous PP lists by class:

The results are worrying: every martial class has more options for a damage-boosting path than any non-martial one. Most other classes are lucky if they get a single path that good - and that will rarely cover all of the class’ builds. The solution, then, for a character who wants competitive damage at higher tiers of play, is usually to either play a martial class, or multiclass into one to gain access to one of the stronger paths.

How much does an extra ability modifier to damage affect a character’s performance? Depending on level and starting scores, the modifier itself can range between +5 and +10 if it corresponds to a primary ability, or between +3 and +9 for a secondary. That’s easily comparable to the contribution of a Striker’s extra damage feature, which is typically worth around 7 damage at paragon, and 11 at epic.

Nevertheless, there can be a lot of variance depending on the specific implementation - some of these bonuses work on any number of attacks, whereas striker features are often limited to one use per round; also, there are path features that deal automatic damage, rather than working on a hit. Finally, damage bonuses that are conditional can see a decrease in effectiveness of up to 50%, compared to unconditional ones. At any rate, one thing is for sure - having any of these paths can make quite a difference.

Balance issues aside, the shift in power level also brings another problem: player perception of new material. It’s common for players to compare newly released options to the best previously available, and that is only aggravated by these best references coming from the first and most popular book. Inevitably, reading the paragon path section of any new book leads to disappointment, as player expectations don’t correspond with the design philosophy applied.

It’s not clear how these problems could be addressed. I don’t think lowering the power level of paths was a good call, to begin with - even if the ones in PHB ones were too strong, the damage was already done. You can’t just ignore the existence of 30+ great options that can easily be multiclassed into. But I don’t think switching back is a viable option, either. Perhaps a year ago, but not anymore - now that 90% of the existing paths have been released under the new design principles, declaring them obsolete would be a terrible decision. And there are just too many of them to errata into playability.

At least, it looks like the developers have partially acknowledged these problems, as recent erratas have modified some very popular paths, like Pit Fighter, Daggermaster, or Blood Mage. But the focus seems to be in preventing excessive multiclassing and ‘path stealing’, which to me is attacking the symptoms without touching the underlying problem. On the other hand, even if the original intention was to just limit the access to these paths, the errata has resulted in a small decrease in power level, as basic attacks became incompatible with the path features. And whether it was intended or not, I think it was for good.

My personal stance on this issue, as with many others, is that the answer lies in toning down a bunch of the best paths. It wouldn’t be exactly a surgical solution, since the list would be more than a dozen long. And it’s a bit hard to justify, because there is some kind of balance among all the top tier paths, where you often have multiple options to choose from, as long as you don’t mind most of them being martial, and two years old. But, at the end of the day, this tier represents less than 10% of the existing paths, and is powerful enough that choosing to play options from the remaining 90% can feel like handicapping your character.

In the following posts, I will show the list of what I consider the paragon paths most in need of fixing, and then examine each one in detail, discussing why I see them as overpowered or broken, and how they could be changed for the better.

Read More......

Friday, June 18, 2010

A guide to Paragon Paths with ability bonuses to damage

As our campaign is approaching the end of Heroic Tier, I've started to investigate an area of the game I tended to overlook: Paragon Paths. Among other things, I've been studiying the paragon path sections of all the books I own, as well as the path lists in D&D Compendium, for those I don't. In addition to helping me decide how to level up my character and a couple others in my gaming group (since some of our players prefer using pre-made characters), this has provided me with food for a couple of articles - including, as you might have guessed by now, this one.

One of the topics I've been investigating has been that of paragon paths that grant an ability bonus to damage, like Pit Fighter, or Stormwarden. I want to talk about this in depth in a future article, but basically these tend to be very strong options, and were very frequent in the first books, but have become increasingly scarce. Many recent classes (including several strikers) lack a path of this type, making multiclassing for an appropiate path a common trend among damage optimizers - one that is sometimes considered problematic. At any rate, I have compiled a list of these paths, and I though it would be handy to have it posted here.

The list is divided in two sections, with the first one ordering paragon paths by class, and the second one by the ability that is added to damage. It is only a partial list, in that paths from Dragon magazine have not been taken into consideration (yet), but I think you'll find most of the relevant options anyway. The following books are covered: Player's Handbook, Forgotten Realms Player's guide, Martial Power, Player's Handbook 2, Arcane Power, Eberron Player's Guide, Divine Power, Primal Power, Martial Power 2, Player's Handbook 3.

Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of damage-boosting paths, and in fact some of the best ones (like Morninglord or Kensai) use different mechanics and have been left out.

List by Class



Building Thunder
Ability added:Constitution
Damage mechanic: When you hit with thunder power, deal extra damage to next creature hit before end of next turn.
Requirement: Thunderborn Wrath class feature.
Source: Primal Power



Zephyr Blade
Ability added:Charisma
Damage mechanic: Extra damage on melee attack vs dazed, slowed or stunned.
Source: Player's Handbook 3


Angelic Avenger
Ability added:Charisma
Damage mechanic: All bloodied enemies within 5 take damage at the start of their turn.
Source: Player's Handbook


Iron Vanguard
Ability added: Constitution
Damage mechanic: Extra damage to enemy you push or knock prone.
Source: Player's Handbook

Pit Fighter
Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: Extra damage with Fighter or Pit Fighter weapon attack.
Source: Player's Handbook

Avenging Slayer
Ability added: Charisma
Damage mechanic: Extra damage with weapon attack and Combat Advantage vs bloodied. enemies
Source: Martial Power

Dread Reaper
Ability added: Strength
Damage mechanic: Damage all adjacent enemies when using Cleave
Source: Martial Power

Shock Trooper
Ability added:Dexterity
Damage mechanic: Extra damage on melee attack with Combat Advantage, once per round.
Source: Martial Power






Ability added: Dexterity
Damage mechanic: At the end of your turn, deal damage to two adjacent enemies, then to one adjacent enemy, if you can make opportunity attacks.
Requirement: Two-blade fighting style
Source: Player's Handbook

Blade Banshee
Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: Extra damage on melee attacks while dual wielding.
Requirement: Eladrin
Source: Martial Power

Ruthless Punisher
Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: Extra damage against quarry if humanoid.
Source: Martial Power

Sylvan Archer
Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: Extra quarry damage with ranged attacks.
Requirement: Elf
Source: Martial Power

Bloodfury Hunter
Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: Encounter stance, power bonus to damage while bloodied.
Requirement: Shifter
Source: Martial Power 2

Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: Extra damage equal to 3+Wisdom if enemy has not acted or you are hidden.
Source: Martial Power 2


Guildmaster Thief
Ability added: Charisma
Damage mechanic: Ally flanking with you gains damage bonus.
Source: Martial Power

Strong-Arm Enforcer
Ability added: Charisma
Damage mechanic: Hit on rattling attack with Combat Advantage to gain damage bonus until the end of your next turn.
Source: Martial Power

Master of Poisons
Ability added: Intelligence
Damage mechanic: Extra damage with poison weapon attack.
Source: Martial Power 2



Swift Strider
Ability added: Strength
Damage mechanic: Extra damage with thrown weapon attacks if you move 3 squares from starting position.
Requirement: Spiritbond class feature
Source: Player's Handbook 3



Celestial Scholar
Ability added: Strength
Damage mechanic: At the start of your turn, if you are in Phase of the Sun, each enemy within 2 takes damage.
Requirement: Cosmic Magic class feature
Source: Arcane Power

Lightning Fury
Ability added: Dexterity
Damage mechanic: Enemy hit takes 2d6+Dexterity damage if moves adjacent or attacks you in melee.
Requirement: Storm Magic class feature
Source: Arcane Power



First Hunter
Ability added: Constitution
Damage mechanic: When you hit, an ally gains damage bonus for the next ranged attack against the target. Also, ranged basic attacks with thrown weapons deal extra damage.
Source: Primal Power


Ability added: Intelligence
Damage mechanic: When you leave a square by teleporting, deal damage to adjacent enemies.
Requirement: Fey pact
Source: Player's Handbook


Earthfast Brigadier
Ability added: Constitution
Damage mechanic: When an enemy misses you, an ally you can see gains damage bonus against that enemy.
Source: Martial Power

Infernal Strategist
Ability added: Intelligence or Charisma
Damage mechanic: When flanking, you and your ally gain damage bonus to melee attacks agaisnt flanked enemy.
Requirement: Resourceful Presence
Source: Martial Power

Longarm Marshal
Ability added: Intelligence
Damage mechanic: As an opportunity action, deal damage to enemy within reach that moves or makes ranged attack.
Source: Martial Power



Ability added: Wisdom
Damage mechanic: When adjacent to prone enemy, you and allies deal extra damage
Requirement: Shifter
Source: Player's Handbook 2

Turathi Highborn
Ability added: Charisma
Damage mechanic: Against bloodied enemies, gain bonus to damage equal to 1+Charisma.
Requirement: Tiefling
Source: Player's Handbook 2


Lyrandar Wind-rider
Ability added: Constitution
Damage mechanic: Damage bonus with lightning or thunder attacks.
Requirement: Mark of Storm feat
Source: Player's Handbook 2

List by Ability

Dread Reaper - Fighter
Swift Strider - Seeker, Spiritbond
Celestial Scholar - Sorcerer, Cosmic

Building Thunder - Barbarian, Thunderborn Wrath
Iron Vanguard - Fighter
First Hunter - Warden
Earthfast Brigadier - Warlord
Lyrandar Wind-rider - Mark of Storms feat

Shock Trooper - Fighter
Stormwarden - Ranter, Two-blade style
Lightning Fury - Sorcerer, Storm

Master of Poisons - Rogue
Feytouched - Warlock, Fey pact
Longarm Marshal - Warlord
Infernal Strategist - Warlord, Resourceful Presence

Pit Fighter - Fighter
Blade Banshee - Ranger, Eladrin
Ruthless Punisher - Ranger
Sylvan Archer - Ranger, Elf, Hunter's Quarry
Bloodfury Hunter - Ranger, Shifter
Darkstrider - Ranger
Moonstalker - Shifter

Zephyr Blade - Battlemind
Angelic Avenger - Cleric
Avenging Slayer - Fighter
Guildmaster Thief - Rogue
Strong-Arm Enforcer - Rogue
Turathi Highborn - Tiefling
Infernal Strategist - Warlord, Resourceful Presence
Read More......

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Even more changes in Monster Manual 3: Clumsy soldiers, miss effects

The other day I commented on some of the exciting new changes in Monster Manual 3, like the overall damage increase and the accuracy adjustment to the Brute role. It seems there were still a few surprises left, though. A new blog post from D&D editor Greg Bilsland provides some background on the new monster design philosophy, as well as a couple of details that we had missed earlier.

To begin with, monsters with the Soldier role will no longer be downright better than the rest. Previously, Soldiers had many unique advantages (good AC, accuracy, ability to defend) without a real downside - so they were great both in offense and defense. In MM3, soldiers are losing their extra +2 bonus to accuracy, so their attacks will only be average now, and brutes will actually be able to outdamage them.

More importantly, the differences between roles have been emphasized, so you can expect soldiers that mark (which were strangely uncommon) to come up more often, and the same with Skirmishers with mobility features, lurkers with hiding abilities, and controllers with control effects. Also, these abilities should not be completely reliant on hitting: monster powers with "Miss" and "Effect" lines will be more common now, so that role-essential functions are more or less guaranteed.
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Changes in Monster Manual 3: Accurate brutes, more damage

UPDATE (12-06-10) - After looking at the monster stats from the official MM3 previews, it looks like the damage increase is even greater than announced. The difference seems to be about 50% more at Paragon Tier, and up to 66% at epic. I've provided a table with the data below.

Monster Manual 3 is coming out soon - and, in fact some stores already have it. Judging from the comments of the lucky owners of early copies, this is going to be an even better book than the previous two in the series. To begin with, there's the revised format for monster stat blocks (presented here and commented here, though both links are sadly for DDI subscribers only), which presents monster information in a much more clear way - this is quite a blessing for the DM, as it greatly reduces the chance of forgetting a crucial ability. But probably the most significant change is one that affects players and DMs alike: an overall increase in monster damage.

I can't give first hand information as I still don't have Monster Manual 3, so the details will have to wait for a future post. What we know, for know, is that damage from all monsters (except maybe those in heroic tier?) is going up by 30-40%, and the balance between monster roles will be shifting, with Brutes (typically seen as the weakest type of monsters) now making attacks at normal accuracy (rather than at a -2, compared to other roles).

The source is as official as it gets: Greg Bilsland, D&D game editor and one of the authors of MM3, has commented the issue on an interview at Critical Hits, as well as his own blog. Here are some of the highlights:

"...we increased monster damage output by about 30-40%."
"...most older monsters up until about level 10 are performing just fine. It’s only around paragon tier that the damage really needs some adjustments."
"We reexamined the various roles and ended up adjusting brute accuracy back to baseline"

Without having seen the changes in play, I think they made a good call. Our campaing is still finishing heroic tier, but we're already starting to feel a decrease in monster threat. And I recently posted an analysis showing that the time it takes for a monster to kill a PC more than doubles between level 1 and 30. The greater monster damage will be a change for the good, particularly if they make the increase proportional to level, that is, you add more damage percentage-wise at paragon and epic tier. And anything that makes brutes more balanced with other roles (and not downright unplayable against higher level parties) is very welcome.

Some Tentative Formulas.

A while ago, I worked out a few simple formulas to describe the average monster damage across levels. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how these might look like, for post-MM3 monsters. I have applied a linear increase to them, so that level 1 monsters deal the same damage, whereas level 30 ones get the full 40% boost, and we have the following:

Attack damage, normal attacks
  • Low: 6 + 0.6*Level
  • Medium: 7.5 + 0.85*Level
  • High: 8.5 + 1*Level

A quick patch for old monsters

Following the formulas above, we can patch a current monster to MM3 levels by adding a fixed amount of damage to its attacks. The following values can work:

Monster damage increase
  • Low: 1/5 * Level
  • Medium: 1/3 * Level
  • High: 2/5 * Level

You should modify these accordingly if a monster's damage is split among multiple attacks (i.e. divide the bonus by the number of attacks), unless it's an elite or solo, in which case you should probably add the full bonus.

Update: Sampling actual monsters

Out of curiosity, I checked these numbers against the monsters from the official previews. Sample size is small (just 7), but the results are consistently higher than expected. The damage increase seems to be about 50% for paragon monster, and 65% for epics.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

A visual guide to jumping rules

The rules for jumping in D&D aren't overly complex, but I've always been slightly annoyed at their confusing layout. With an unnecessary mix of squares and feet as distance units, sections that depend on a character's height, and examples that aren't clear enough, jumps could eventually be figured out, but always seemed to take me more time than they should.

I understand that space is at a premium in a rule book like Player's Handbook, but I think a few tables with the DCs for the most common jump scenarios, coupled with graphic examples where you could clearly view distances jumped, moved, and cleared vertically, would go a long way towards solving this problem. So that's what I have done. In this post, you'll find (hopefully intuitive) examples for all kind of long jumps and high jumps with all distances converted to squares.

1- Long Jump

Most of the time, when a character makes a jump, it will be a long one - they are useful for clearing pits and avoiding certain types of difficult terrain, among other useful applications. The DCs are usually very manageable (even without running starts!) unless you're crossing great distances, though it gets significantly trickier when you add vertical obstacles to the mix. Note that, when you clear N squares with a jump, you're actually moving N+1, since you also need to enter the square you land on.

Fig. 1 : Long jump without running start.

Fig. 2: Easy (DC 25 or less) long jump after a running start:

Fig. 3: Hard (DC 30 or more) long jump with running start.

2- High Jump

High jumps are relatively rare, but come up whenever you want to grab a ledge or a rope, among other things. They are slightly less efficient for clearing vertical distances than long jumps, in terms of required DC, though they also require far fewer squares of movement.

PHB provides rules for jumping a distance in feet, which have been translated here to full squares. In case you need more granularity, I'd recommend using fractions of square - since DC is directly proportional to the distance cleared, if you needed to jump across 1/2 square you'd need a check of 50/2=25 without a running start, or 25/2=13, with one. Also, remember that unlike long jumps, vertical distance cleared this way adds to your total distance moved.

Fig. 4: High Jump

When trying to reach something above you by jumping, you can take into account your character's height. According to PHB, your vertical reach this way is equal to your height plus 1/3 - converting this to squares, and playing around with the numbers, we find that a character's reach will increase by 1 full (5 feet) square for each 3.75 feet of height.

In practice, most PCs will have a reach between 1 and 2 squares. Halflings sometimes fall below the 3.75 mark, and gnomes do so most of the time. On the other end of the scale, Goliath are the only playable race that routinely goes beyond 7.5 feet. For simplicity's sake, I'd recommend finding your PC's reach in squares, rounded down (i.e, 1 square 99% of the time) and sticking to that, though if you want a more rigorous approach, it may be a good idea to write down vertical reach translated to squares (height/3.75) in your character sheet. For example, a 6 feet-tall human would have a reach of 1.6 squares.

Fig. 5: Vertical jumping reach.

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