Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the monk

it's quite unfortunate that no one edition of D&D has ever really been able to get the monk right. sure, we've all seen bruce lee or jackie chan totally school a bunch of goofs in black hoods without breaking a sweat and potentially using only an oven-mitt, but this always fails to translate directly into actual play. mostly, they suffer from MAD (multiple attribute dependency), because really, they need solid bonuses from almost every category if they're going to ever make it - or be enjoyable, for that matter - past the first few levels. at any rate, i've found one of the best ways to fix the issues with the monk is to slightly tweak their flurry of blows ability, because nothing's sadder than imagining a crowd-destroying jackie-chan whirlwind of fists and feet not only fail to explode anyone, but also largely fails to actually connect with anyone.

but then wait. to really repair the monk, you'd need to take into account many, many other such failings that this class has, such as wonky mechanics and no real definitions of what his "role" within a party is. honestly, instead of my sniping and choosing which aspects of the monk i like and dislike, i think it's honestly just in everyone's best interest to use the monk listed here. it's from the pathfinder roleplaying game, which is something i'll talk about at a later date. but i feel it's vastly superior to the previous monk, but also definitely puts him more into a "special forces striker" type character. i tend to envision this monk as one that can use his superior speed and resistances to close with enemy mages and psions, and bring them down before they know what's hit them.

however, in my campaign, i organized monks into the following monastic traditions. you don't need to do the same, and yes, they're forgotten realms (trademark and copyright NOT mine), but i sifted through the appropriate materials to uncover the following:

Broken Ones

This monastic order is dedicated to the spartan and simple god of suffering Illmater, and is easily the most popular and well-recognised within the North. The Broken Ones can freely multiclass as Clerics of Illmater to no ill-effect.

Children of the Passive Voice

These monks serve as guardians to libraries and abbeys, and are sometimes are sent to find lost stores of knowledge. They may freely multi-class as Truenamers, or Clerics of Oghma.

Disciples of the Phoenix

This order is very insular and has a rigid tradition of study and fighting style, as well as behavioral taboos. They are the most likely to espouse the purifying and redeeming aspects of Kossuth's seemingly uncaring element. Disciples of the Phoenix are able to freely multi-class as clerics, without violating their multi-classing restrictions.

Hin Fist

Halflings from far-off Lurien have trained in the monastic way of life in order to turn their unbridled confidence into a mastery of their own small forms and the world around them; although a rarity, they have been known to accept the occasional gnome or dwarf. They venerate the fair halfling goddess Yondalla. Those of the Hin Fist are able to freely multi-class as clerics, paladins or rogues without violating their multi-classing restrictions.

Old Order

Monks of the Old Order do not worship any particular deity, and instead come to view themselves as a group of like-minded practitioners of a truly ancient and formidable art. Likewise, while many of the Old Order do espouse a religious belief, this order does not specifically hold one deity over another. Its members may freely multi-class as Sorcerers or Rogues, but their monk levels must be more than all other levels combined.

Best I can tell, the Old Order are the default monks in 3e.

Shining Hand

A truly ancient monastic tradition from the more southerly lands, beyond the North, it’s influence and respect has slowly improved in colder regions as of late. These monks are in the employ of the god of mages, Azuth, and may freely multi-class as Wizards, as long as their monk levels as higher than their wizard levels.

Sun Soul

An allegiance of widespread but fairly disorganised monks in the duty of Lathander have a fairly low agenda, but can become vicious opponents to any who threaten the lands that good and fair folk live upon. Sun Soul monks may freely progress in a single other class without violating their multi-class restrictions, as long as monk is their highest class.

Note that monk-themed prestige classes do not count towards a monks multi-classing limitations. If an Order lists Cleric as a choice for multi-classing, the faith of the Cleric has to be the same as that of the Order. Also, for the purposes of multi-classing, ‘Cleric’ is interchangeable with ‘Favored Soul’ in all cases.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the soulborn

anyone notice a recurring theme of underdogs with these updates? it seems like, when wizards was developing its masterful magic of incarnum - one of my favourite supplements by the way - each designer was assigned to a different core class, and each had absolutely no contact with the others. this must be it, because i have absolutely no idea how someone could go out and make a totemist and also make a soulborn and think "Yeah, this is totally balanced and people will see them as two sides of the same coin!"

anyhow, i tend to think of the soulborn as an incarnum-flavoured duskblade, or psychic warrior, and note: neither of those incredibly cool classes got screwed over with half-powered spell-casting, or an incredibly delayed access mechanism. so, here's my fixes. again, someone let me know how these worked out in your campaign?

  • In order to increase their viability in play, soulborns' soulmelds, essentia and binds all come three levels earlier, than on table 2-3 in the magic of incarnum. this means they get soulmelds at level 1, access to their own essentia pool at level 3, and can bind at level 5. this also means that at levels 18 and up, soulborns get one extra soulmeld, 1 more essentia between the 18th and 20th levels, and a 5th bind at 19th level.
  • soulborns may take either incarnum feats or fighter feats, for any of their bonus feats.
  • soulborns now gain a bonus incarnum feat at level 1, and 4.
  • The soulborn’s incarnum defense ability has been modified. At level 2, you chose an incarnum defense based upon one aspect of your alignment. At level 6, you may select an additional incarnum defense, as long as it is not directly opposed to your alignment. This means that a chaotic good soulborn who chose good as his first alignment component can choose chaos as his second, but nothing that opposes either of these alignments.
  • The following incarnum powers and abilities have been added into our game, as they were developed by one of the authors of Magic of Incarnum. These new powers and uses can be found in here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the truenamer

sigh. the thematics of this guy seemed to make for a really flavourful class, but sadly, in play, he's hot garbage on a fork! i feel bad too, because the fantasy trope of truenaming has a rich and varied tradition. first introduced in the tome of magic these guys kinda fell flat. anyhow, the following are some minor changes i've dug up, but sadly never actually got to run first hand. so please, i invite you, test them and get back to me:

  • To speak an area’s truename (using the Lexicon of the Perfected Map), you must succeed on a Truespeak check with a DC equal to 25 + 5 per level of the utterance. If the the area is a magical location, increase the DC by an additional 5.
  • To speak defensively, you only need make a concentration check.
  • The formula to calculate the truespeaking DC is as follows: 15 + CR; this should allow for a more relaxed and realistic ability to hit increasingly difficult truespeaking dice checks.
  • For example, a 5th level truenamer is attempting to attack a nearby ogre. Normally his truespeaking DC would be 15 + (3×2) or 21. Assuming a slightly above-average character, this means he will only have a (8 skills + 2 Int. + 2 masterwork) +12 to his truespeech checks, giving him a fairly wide margin of failure that could endanger him or his allies. Using the proposed fix, the truespeaking DC is now 18 all but guaranteeing success. While seemingly easy to hit, this offsets the natural DC increase of the truenamer, and ensures that he’s contributing more often than not.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

the hexblade

personally, i love this class, but felt that they got the extreme short end of the stick (at least they aren't fighters, right?). i mean, in their original incarnations, they were basically a fighter with good will saves, light armour, and a once-a-day curse that basically made a single foe easier. worst of all, if you killed said foe (which was fairly common, even for a hexblade), they'd die and your single "class" ability (hexblade's curse) was used up for the day. yeah, that was about as much fun as a doo-doo pickle, so i decided to overhaul the class. we saw some really nice results from the reworking, and had several players actually say they *gasp* enjoyed the class!

even when they first came out in complete warrior i liked them. perhaps because it was i had an inkling that they needed slightly more work than a standard class. say what you like of hexblades, but i really adore this class for its quirks...or because i've been playing beside one in an exceptionally slow campaign that's stretched nearly four years now. still, i felt our old friend needed something besides a craptastic ability and cardboard armour. one last thing - forced omens is pretty thematic and fluffy, but i really enjoyed tinkering with it in game, or having it activate on my PCs hexblades without their knowledge - anything to really spice up the atmosphere and depth of a session will greatly benefit the entire game. failing that, having a smoke-cloud hanging around a PC when they're angry, or a constant and ominous ghostly-mooing noise while they're hitting on girls at a tavern is actually fairly funny too:
  • Good Fortitude and Will saves.
  • Curse ability usable (1 + Cha. modifier) per day
  • Curse ability usable as a swift action
  • Curse ability does not count as used if the target makes his saving throw
  • Ability to cast in light armor and while carrying a light shield or buckler; At 8th level, gain the ability to cast in medium armour as well.
  • Hexblades may take the various luck feats from Complete Scoundrel as their bonus feats instead, in addition to their normal bonus feats.
  • At 6th level, the hexblade can cast one hexblade spell per day as a swift action, as long as its original casting time is a standard action or faster. He gains an additional use of this power at levels 8, 11, 14, and 18.
  • Forced Omens (Ex): At 6th level, a foreboding sense of doom travels with the hexblade, as candle lights flicker, fresh food turns green, or the air becomes stale. A hexblade may cast prestidigitation as a spell-like ability, lacking both somatic and verbal components, but is still limited to their spell slots per day. At 9th level, a hexblade may cast prestidigitation a number of additional times per day equal to 3 + their Charisma modifier. At 12th level and higher, a hexblade can cast prestidigitation at will. The prestidigitation spell disappears from their list of spells known at this level.
I also heartily suggest the use of the new (they were when i originally wrote this!) hexblade curses featured in Dragon #339, as they tend to really expand the boundaries of what a curse can do. Also, check out the PHB2, because you do WANT the Dark Companion class feature, instead of the all-too-killable familiar.

The key to the hexblade is his curse ability, but it’s a little un-fun to have it so limited in use. The hexblade also has trouble casting spells and using his melee attacks, so shifting spells to swift actions fits in with the idea of an armored mage. also, when you realize that the whole "fights and uses spells" wasn't as overpowered as 1st, 2nd and most of 3rd edition had told us, the changes are much more palatable. that it nearly took 25 years for the community as a whole to learn this lesson is pretty crazy if you ask me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

the favoured soul

man, these guys got the short end of the stick! they first appeared in complete divine and, sure, they have some nice saves, but they lose out on the entire spell list, domains, not to mention channeling! i was even debating giving them access to a single domain of their deity's choice, but i'm not sure. maybe some feedback is required? i've rolled some things that worked and some that didn't, but were suggested into a potential "fix", but it's far from perfect. take a look and let me know how you feel about this one.

  • Faith Healing (Su): When making a first-aid check on anybody who is within one step of their deity's alignment, the favored soul may take 10 even if stress and distractions would normally prevent the character from doing so. A successful attempt also heals 1 hit point.  At 5th level and every five levels thereafter, the healing from this ability heals an additional 1 hit point, to a maximum of 5 at 20th level.
  • Knowledge Specialty (Ex): A favored soul can choose whether to make Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (religion) a class skill. Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed.
  • Exalted Presence (Su): A 2nd level favored soul is more influential when interacting with people of the same outlook. A favored soul gains a +2 bonus on Charisma when using any skill that treats Charisma as the key ability, but only when interacting with people who worship the same deity, or are within one step of his or her alignment. This bonus increases by +1 at 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th, 18th, and 19th level.
  • When making Use Magic Device checks, the bonus from Exalted Presence also applies to magic objects that are divinely created, or of a divine nature.
  • This last point is really more of a tip than a class revision: considering that their DCs are based entirely off of their Wisdom scores, and they don't get that many spells anyhow, it's always been my theory that you should just take spells that don't have DCs, and use Wisdom as your dump stat. Focus on self-buffs and heals and you should be alright, because your available spell slots are far too scarce to be wasting on a spell you're likely not going to be using two levels from now!

Friday, September 10, 2010

the druid

if you ever have a campaign with a druid, please tell me that you're at least going to partially check over this list of suggestions. neither here nor there, i had a 2e druid literally ruin my entire campaign, to the point where i had to start introducing wonky foes and challenges just to keep him on his toes, but this started to mortally threaten the others on a semi-weekly basis. the solution? stopped playing 2e. at any rate, here are the suggestions from my campaign:

  • The feat natural spell is not used in this game. This is arguably one of the absolute most broken feats in core and it will ruin your junk, so just accept this. Trust me, it's for the better.
  • A wildshaping druid must chose an animal the druid is familiar with. For example, a druid who has never been outside a temperate forest could not become a polar bear. Based upon your starting lands, select either: cold, temperate or warm. This represents your druids’ familiarity with animals from said climate. Note that vermin, plant and elemental forms are unaffected. The forms are based upon starting lands and do not change, through movement or experience.
  • In order to incorporate newer sources of spells, such as the Spell Compendium, or Complete Champion, all divine casters, upon gaining a new level of spell, may receive 1 new spell per point of Wisdom bonus, depending on their casting stat. A Druid with a wisdom bonus of 3 gains three ‘new’ spells upon reaching a higher level of spells known, selected from any of the sourcebooks.
This prevents the bookkeeping of druids from having access to 100+ new spells at a given level, and allows for more personalised choices to be made.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

the cleric

i've always enjoyed the role of the cleric, especially in 3.5e. ok, i lied, i never really liked them, except for their healing. otherwise, they tended to be waddling tin-cans that could heal or occasionally do a paltry sum of negligible damage (2e), or rely on amazing amounts of healing and meta-persisted spells to save their skin (3e). however, there were a few changed i'd made to clerics in my (recently) ended 3e forgotten realms campaign. they are as follows:
  • While anyone may worship any deity they wish, only those of the same race of a pantheon may become a cleric of said pantheon. Example: gnomes may only become clerics of gnomish deities, humans with human deities, ect. The only exception for this rule is if the character’s native pantheon does not support his faith; for example, the gnome pantheon does not have a gnomish deity of psionics, so a gnome character may turn to worship the human deity of the Invisible Art, Auppenser, should he so chose.
  • In order to incorporate newer sources of spells, such as the Spell Compendium, or Complete Champion, all divine casters, upon gaining a higher level of spells, receive 1 + 1 new spell per point of unmodified, base Wisdom bonus. For example, a cleric with a wisdom bonus of 3 gains four ‘new’ spells upon reaching a higher level of spells known, selected from any of the non-core sourcebooks.
Note that these new choices must in some way represent your deity, their beliefs or domains.

Channeling Energy

Turn undead has been replaced with the much-simplified channel energy, as used by Piazo’s Pathfinder d20. Good clerics channel holy and evil channel unholy. Neutrals may choose either or, but this remains a permanent choice, made at creation. For more information on this change, please see this explanation
  • Undead creatures now count their turn resistance, if any, as a bonus on their saving throw against a good cleric’s channel holy.

Modified Domain Powers

Channel energy changes the way in which some domains work, as turn undead is no longer used.
  • The sun domain special power now adds your cleric level to your channelling damage to undead, in addition to your charisma.
  • Domains such as plant and the various elemental domains now allow you to choose said creatures as targets as your channel energy as a special power: when you channel energy, you may chose the corresponding type instead of ‘living’ or ‘undead’. Good clerics heal creatures of the corresponding elemental subtype, whereas evil clerics harm creatures of their element’s opposed subtype.
i realize that some people might find it extraneous, but i found it removed that horrible turn undead table that frankly a) never really seemed cool enough to warrant... b) stopping the game horribly for nine minutes. i'm not sure, it just never seemed really cool, when you were in mid-description to your PCs:

"...so, you raise the symbol of light, that begins to glow brightly, and the wraiths nearest you begin to scream hideous wails, clawing at the air, as they...*9 minutes later*...do nothing. weird. you rolled too low. oh, and one tagged you, so make a DC 19 or take a negative level."

it likewise struck me as odd that a deity may, for no real reason beyond rolling a polyhedral die, decide that you're unworthy of their "turn-y-ness" and leave you alone and boned. so, i found that this solution was vastly superior.