Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Fighter

Let's try something new shall we?

In an effort to post more often, I'm committing to a series of posts that will be primarily my thoughts on the PHB base classes. These will be in no particular order, just what I feel like writing on at the time unless I get some requests for a certain class.

Today, we'll start with the fighter. How boring right? Wrong!

Ok, granted. The fighter is really only good for one thing... fighting. But, it does offer an incredible amount of variety within that role. Let's look at what we're dealing with here: max BAB, good fort save, d10 hit dice, few skill points, and 11 bonus feats.

Now, when one hears the word "fighter," you probably think high strength and constitution, grab a greatsword and power attack and get hackin'. That's definitely one way to go, but there are many other ways to build a fighter. Instead of strength and constitution, go with high dexterity and pick up weapon finesse and a rapier or even a whip. Sure, you won't do as much damage, but there's much more to fighting than beating your opponent to a pulp and it's much more stylish.

This brings me to my next point. You're a fighter. Fighting is all you know. So, know all about fighting. This means memorizing Chapter 8 in the PHB. Make use of all the tricks- tripping, disarming, sundering, bull-rushing, charging, mounted combat, overrunning, grappling, feinting, whatever. And don't worry that many of those provoke AoOs, you're a fighter! You're almost guaranteed a high AC either from armor or dex and enough HP to take some punishment. Besides, you've got enough feats to burn on things like improved (grapple, trip, disarm, whatever).

So next time you play a fighter, pick up improved grapple right off the bat and start tackling all your opponents or grab a couple whips (with all the two-weapon fighting feats) and trip 7 people a round. And then flail them all because you took Improved Trip and get an extra attack for all the successful trips. Sure that won't work against some creatures, but you did remember to pick up some back-up weapons right? RIGHT?!

Well, I think that's it for now. Next time we'll discuss... something else....

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Backstabs and Backpacks

We've got a special two-for-one deal today only!

My question is on a rogue special abilitiy: crippling stirke states that an opponent damaged by ONE of her sneak attacks takes two points of strength damage. Now let's assume my rogue is flanking a cleric, and I use a full-attack, and all three of my attacks hit. Does that mean the opponent gets -6 to his strength?

According to the RAW (and as far as I can tell there is nothing else that says otherwise), that's exactly what it means. The rogue's crippling strike ability applies to each sneak attack she deals and since it's strength damage and not a strength penalty it's cumulative. I happened to be going for this very strategy with a rogue I'm currently playing who dual-wields. Six successful sneak attacks per round = 12 points of strength damage. So, if your opponent is loaded with hp, you can just whittle his strength down to 0 and paralyze him (assuming it's also vulnerable to sneak attacks). Have fun with that. :)

Hey, do you know by chance how much does a standard backpack hold?
Good question. I actually spent a large amount of time a while back asking other people that. The bottom line is, there are no rules in 3.5 about it. Back in 3.0, backpacks were given a capacity of 1 cubic foot.... Good luck trying to figure that out given all the awkward shapes items take in the game. And, is that backpack really strong enough to hold 1 cubic foot of lead or some other ridiculously dense material? I think that's why it was left out of the current rules. That, and it doesn't really matter so long as it's within reason. And what's within reason is up to the DM. I figure, as long as the character's encumberance is ok, he'll find some place to put it. That way, saying certain items are in the backpack or sack really has more to do with how long it takes to retrieve the items or what goes missing when your backpack gets stolen (which I figure is more important anyway). An easy way to get around this is to make sure the characters get some bags of holding or a handy haversack. They have stated capacities.

I think I need a shower, but I really want a beer.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gestalt Characters Revisited

New question! Initiate!

If you take fighter/warlock to 6th Then take a prestige class that grants +1 arcane spell caster bonus/warlock for another 6 levels. Now does this character have 12th caster level or 18th arcane caster level?

Excellent question. Let me make sure I have it straight.

1. Attain fighter/warlock 6
2. Attain warlock/PrC 6 where PrC is a prestige class that grants "+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class"

The first thing that catches my eye is that the warlock is not an arcane spellcaster. They use spell-like abilities which function very similarly to spells and indeed have their own caster level, but the fact remains that they do not cast spells and usually do not qualify for PrCs that grant bonuses to existing spellcasting classes.

Ignoring that, this character would have a warlock caster level of 12 and an arcane caster level of 6. This works the same way with other classes. For example, a fighter/cleric 6//cleric/wizard 6 would have a divine caster level of 12 and an arcane caster level of 6. Likewise, a fighter/sorcerer 6//sorcerer/wizard 6 would have a caster level of 12 when casting spontaneous spells as a sorcerer and a caster level of 6 when casting memorized spells from his spellbook as a wizard.

He responds:
Let's simplify it more. Wizard/fighter for 5 levels. Then wiz/prc (that grants a +1 arcane level) for another 3 levels. Does he have a effective caster level 8 or 11?
Ah, now that changes things. In my opinion, the wizard's spell progression and caster level progression and the PrC's "+1 to previous arcane spellcasting class" features would be "aspects that overlap" according to the gestalt RAW. Therefore, you would only get them from one class or the other and this character's caster level would be 8. I feel this provides some balance as you could easily have a character who is fighter/wizard 10//wizard/PrC 10 who casts spells as a level 30 wizard. That seems like a little much to me, but your DM may disagree and that's up to him or her.

Thanks again for the question, I'm always open!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Deities and more!

Hello again. Over the holidays I received an email with not one, but three whole questions!

Let's get started,

Question 1: In your first post, you mention having played AD&D before changing to 3.5 ed. I played AD&D for about 10 years now with the same "core" group members. I had some reservations regarding a change, thinking it might get to complicated with all that feats etc. I gave up on that and bought the rulebooks a few day ago, but have another problem now. First I only have one rulebook for five others to read ("logistic problem") and second they _would_ have to read it (amongst other things a "motivational problem"). Now I'm trying to set up a kind of comparison table for all changes, but that is quite a lot of work. I can't get rid of the feeling that such an overview of the fundamental changes AD&D <-> D&D 3.5 must exist, but I'm just unable to find it. Maybe you know a resource?

Answer 1: Indeed I do young reader! There is a conversion booklet on the official Wizards of the Coast site, you can find it at:

It's hidden at the bottom of the page. I believe that will get everything into 3rd edition, but if you want to go to 3.5 (which I highly suggest) there is yet another conversion booklet to go from 3.0 to 3.5. You can find this booklet here:

Question 2: While studying the classes I always stumble across the religion parts. Elhonna, Kord and Pelor? What happened to Lathander, Tymora, Bane (Cyric) or all the billion other good ol' gods? In many TSR books they play a major role and for me they are a very essential part of the Forgotten Realms. If I'm not totally mistaken, than those gods are still "in use" in the 3rd ed rule book "Faiths & Pantheons" - so what are the gods in the players handbook good for?

Answer 2: The deities in the PHB are just a standard set that aren't associated with any particular campaign setting and are often used as defaults now when making adventures or stories that aren't in the traditional settings. The deities you mention are part of the "Forgotten Realms" campaign setting. Just like Paladine and Takhasis (sp?) are part of the "Dragonlace" campaign setting. Therefore, information about the deities you're familiar with can be found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting sourcebook or indeed in Faiths and Pantheons which is under the Forgotten Realms title.

Question 3: How dogmatic would a follower of a god (common as well as priests) be in a
polytheistic society, where gods (powers) are not just believed to exist, but their existence and their dominion over certain aspects of the world is a fact (so you can't really compare it with historic polytheistic societies like the greek) ? I often have trouble with my fellow player, because I think that even a priest of Mystra (magic) might pray to Tymora (luck) under given circumstances. The role of priests is really interesting, because in such a setting the can hardly
claim their god to be the one and only since the other powers (it's just the better description) are known to exist as well.

Answer 3: This is a very interesting question and I apologize now for how lengthy my response will likely be. In short, the answer to this question is entirely up to the DM and how s/he wants the campaign world to be. In some worlds, priests may freely offer prayers or even sacrifices to other gods. In others, gods may take offense if they are not prayed to for an event that they have a hand in ( e.g. Umberlee may get angry if sailors do not give her a sacrifice for a safe voyage). I am currently involved in a campaign where the entire pantheon is often worshipped as a whole, and while people may devote themselves to a single god, it does not preclude them from worshipping the others. In other worlds, worship of other gods may be more restricted. A person's chosen god may be seen as the only true god while the others are seen as powerful entities but lacking true divine power. This also leaves room for atheists in any setting, those who believe that there are no true gods and those that call themselves gods are just powerful outsiders who got a little too cocky. In the Eberron campaign setting, the gods are not active as was traditionally the case in D&D. In this case, clerical magic is sometimes seen by others as just another form of arcane magic with nothing divine about it. So, as long as you, as the DM, don't have a problem with clerics or other worshippers praying to other gods, it shouldn't be a problem unless their particular god is exceptionally jealous (e. g. Lloth).

Ok, that's three strikes. You're out.

Batter up!

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Monday, November 13, 2006

The Horror....

Allright, so it's a little late for a Halloween horror fest, but I just got this in.

The latest question comes from Cody, and he writes:
I'm doing an undead campaign and I'm trying to scare the crap out of them with some of the things I will throw at them. They're trapped on an island filled with undead monsters. The problem is they take it all as a joke or don't act properly given the situation. So, how do you put fear into their characters? Make them second guess themselves with every turn. Have them and their characters be fearful of what might happen? So, you got any good suggestions?
Ah fear... truly a difficult thing to master, particularly in a game that so often involves so much jocularity. First thing's first. We must understand that which we would subject our players to. What is fear? Where does it come from? How do we inspire it?

One of the largest sources of fear in the human mind is the unknown. Think about it. People fear death. Why? No one knows what happens afterward. People fear the dark. Why? You don't know what's in it. People fear clowns. Why? Their makeup hides their facial expressions. You don't know what they could be thinking. People fear loud noises. Why? Because they're freakin' loud that's why!

Anyway, so we have a basic understanding of fear, but how to put that into the D&D setting? Cody mentioned that the players are taking his attempts as a joke. This could have multiple causes.
  1. The players may be used to a more carefree and joke-type game. Solution: Kill one or more of them. Or, even just take one of their limbs. Let them know you're serious, this will be dangerous, and you had better think of something quick because they're coming for you next.
  2. The players know all your tricks. Solution: New tricks. This is a big problem among veteran gamers. They've all run into enough zombies, nightwalkers, and wraiths to know exactly what to do when they come across one. So change them up a bit. Have a band of highly intelligent zombies, stalking shadows, or if they know you're throwing hordes of undead at them, put a doppelganger in there. Just because it's an "undead" campaign doesn't mean that's all you can use. Just the vast majority.
  3. You may just sound really silly when trying to do those dark menacing disembodied voices. You know the kind. Solution: Either hire James Earl Jones to play your bad guys, or stick to creatures that don't talk. Use vague sounds and heavy breathing or just describe these sounds to add some suspense. (Also, you could get one of those neat voice changer devices. Though that may wind up in the silly section again.)
With that in mind, throw a lot of unknown into the campaign and feel free to borrow elements from your favorite horror movies or games (I said "elements." This does not necessarily imply creatures, settings, people, traps, or anything else that your players could easily identify if they've seen the movie too. Unless you think they'd just enjoy that.). A couple elements jump to my mind that I would use.

The first comes from the movie Predator. In the movie (in case you haven't seen it), a group is stalked by a single creature. It taunts them, wears them down, and picks them off one at a time. They rarely ever catch a glimpse of the thing. It's classic. There's "something" out there hunting them, it could be anywhere or anything (even one of the party members, see the above doppelganger comment).

The second comes from the little time I spent playing Resident Evil. Zombies freakin' everywhere, and little to no resources. Have the party constantly on the edge of effectiveness, just barely able to find the resources they might need. Barely let them rest. Having something chasing or hunting them is a good way to pull that off. If they stop for too long, that awful sound they keep hearing may just catch up to them.

From a purely mechanical standpoint, you can generate a modest amount of fear just from asking for certain rolls for absolutely no reason every once in a while. Will saves are good for this. That howling that keeps following them may just drive one of them mad after all. Reflex saves are also ok, "Roll a reflex save... phew you just missed stepping in dung." BUT, you have to make at least one of them count and count big to really get them to fear it. Third time they make a save, it's to dodge "something" jumping out of the woods at them and scampering off on the other side of the trail. If they fail the save, it may just kill them or gouge their eyes out or something. If your players care anything about their characters, it'll get their attention. If not, there's really no way to make them afraid.

Finally, one small but important consideration. It's hard to be afraid of a game in bright light. To help get them caught up in the game, dim the lights (not to the point where you can't see your sheets) and make sure there isn't a vacuum cleaner on in the background. Set the mood so to speak.

Ok, well I hope that helps. Thanks a lot for your question and have fun terrorizing your players!

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