Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why, that's a Wraithpunzel!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is the wraithpunzel, a deceptive creature that grabs victims with its prehensile hair.

I'd like to thank greywulf, Ripper and Scott (with special thanks to greywulf for the name) for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Wraithpunzel
Wraithpunzels are long-haired undead that lie in wait for unsuspecting passersby, then drag the victims to their doom.

Level 5 Lurker
Wraithpunzel
XP 200
Medium shadow humanoid (undead)
Initiative +10 Senses Perception +2; darkvision
HP 51; Bloodied 25
Immune disease, poison; Resist 10 necrotic; Vulnerable 5 radiant
AC 19; Fortitude 19, Reflex 19, Will 16
Speed 6
mHair Grab (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +10 vs. AC; 1d8 + 4 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). A target trying to escape the grab takes a –4 penalty to the check.
MDrag and Claw (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; +9 vs. Fortitude; 1d10 + 4 damage and the target is pulled 1 square.
Change Shape (minor; at-will) * Polymorph
A wraithpunzel can alter its physical form to appear as a beautiful young female human (see Change Shape, MM page 280).
Alignment Evil Languages Common
Skills Stealth +11
Str 18 (+6) Dex 18 (+6) Wis 10 (+2)
Con 15 (+4) Int 8 (+1) Cha 13 (+3)

Wraithpunzel Tactics
This wraithpunzel strikes with surprise and uses its reach to full advantage. The wraithpunzel holds on to its victim as long as possible, clawing its grabbed prey.

Level 10 Lurker
Aquatic Wraithpunzel
XP 500
Medium shadow humanoid (aquatic, undead)
Initiative +14 Senses Perception +6; darkvision
HP 84; Bloodied 42
Immune disease, poison; Resist 10 necrotic; Vulnerable 5 radiant
AC 31; Fortitude 25, Reflex 29, Will 27
Speed 6, swim 6
mHair Grab (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +15 vs. AC; 1d8 + 5 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). A target trying to escape the grab takes a –4 penalty to the check.
MDrag and Claw (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; +14 vs. Fortitude; 1d10 + 5 damage and the target is pulled 2 squares.
Change Shape (minor; at-will) * Polymorph
An aquatic wraithpunzel can alter its physical form to appear as a beautiful young mermaid (see Change Shape, MM page 280).
Alignment Evil Languages Common
Skills Stealth +15
Str 21 (+10) Dex 21 (+10) Wis 12 (+6)
Con 18 (+9) Int 8 (+4) Cha 16 (+8)

Aquatic Wraithpunzel Tactics
An aquatic wraithpunzel employs the same tactics as a wraithpunzel except that once it has one or two enemies grabbed it tries to swim down, dragging them with it.

Wraithpunzel Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Religion check.
DC 15: Wraithpunzels are undead creatures that attack and entwine their victims in their prehensile hair.
DC 20: Aquatic wraithpunzels live in haunted underwater ruins or strange undersea ice towers.

Encounter Groups
Wraithpunzels are often found in the company of other undead, especially wraiths and skeletons. Aquatic wraithpunzels sometimes lurk opportunistically near vicious undersea creatures.
Level 5 Encounter (XP 950)
* 1 wraithpunzel (level 5 lurker)
* 1 mad wraith (level 6 controller)
* 1 boneshard skeleton (level 5 brute)
* 2 skeletons (level 3 soldier)
Level 10 Encounter (XP 2,500)
* 1 aquatic wraithpunzel (level 10 lurker)
* 1 bog hag (level 10 skirmisher)
* 3 chuuls (level 10 soldier)
I recall reading in the old Marvel Super Heroes Ultimate Powers Book, which had prehensile hair listed as a power (page 91), that "in the entire history of comic books, only three people had this Power—all women". That of course prompted me to create Dreadlock, a Jamaican superhuman with prehensile dreads. Sadly, I never got to play that character.

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the seventeenth installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With continuing apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So... What the heck is that? What should it do? Does it have to drag itself along with those skinny little arms?

Today's post at the Core Mechanic got me worried about rights to the WWTH comments should I ever want to collect them in a book, so I'm swiping a chunk of his TOS to apply here as well:
Charles G. Wilbur (the "Proprietor") does not claim ownership of information, data, text, comments, graphics, messages or other materials ("Content") you submit or make available for inclusion on The Art of the Near TPK (the "Service"). However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Service, including without limitation comments you post to the Service, you grant the Proprietor world-wide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty free, non-exclusive, fully sub-licensable license(s) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Stony Black Heart of the Fetid Swamp, Part 2

After defeating the gnolls at the crossroads, the girls camped and got a good night's rest. The next day passed uneventfully and around nightfall they came to a farmhouse by the side of the road. They decided to stop and ask for a place to stay the night and were greeted warmly by a halfling farmer and his wife. I think I named her Maude right off the top of my head and was horrified when I heard myself call him Harold. I think that movie scarred me and I haven't even seen it in years.

Anyway, the paladin sensed unease in the couple and over dinner the party found out that their crops had been ravaged by some unknown creature that came in the night. The girls offered to stand sentry duty over the last remaining plants overnight. The elves kept watch from up in some trees while the others slept on the ground beneath. Sure enough, two large bugs with three mouths appeared in the middle of the night and tried to eat more of the farmer's crops. The eladrin woke everyone, the wizard threw a scorching burst at them, and the fight was on.

2 trimandibular praying mantelopes (level 3 brute, 300 xp)
2 saeggan dreamcasters (level 3 controller, 300 xp)
3 saeggan genesi (level 1 soldier, 300 xp)
Map: Farmhouse, road and some fields built using D&D Dungeon Tiles IV: Ruins of the Wild
You might notice that this is simply the sample encounter group from my trimandibular praying mantelope writeup.

As the fight started, the saeggans were using their vanish abilities to stay invisible. That didn't stop the wizard's area spells from charring them a bit anyway. The monsters' high fly speed let them close quickly and the mantelopes started biting the wizard while the dreamcasters tried to daze everyone with whispers of dreams and bite at the wizard to give the mantelopes extra attacks with their combined attack. The eladrin resisted the effects of the whispers and managed to make out the phrase "the stony black heart of the fetid swamp" in the babbling. The three genesi all flew at the ranger, who was still up in a tree.

The warlord managed to extricate the wizard with a steel monsoon attack, then she and the paladin concentrated on keeping the mantelopes and dreamcasters busy while the wizard blasted away. Up in the tree, the ranger and the three genesi were having no luck hitting each other. Both the warlord and the paladin were rolling way better on their attacks than usual and the wizard managed to set both mantelopes and a dreamcaster on fire with a fire shroud, so the fight on the ground was wrapped up in short order. Once that was finished, the wizard quickly eliminated the genesi with a couple of scorching bursts (one of which also hit the ranger, but she's getting used to that).

Analysis:
The saeggan dreamcaster's ability to daze everybody isn't all that useful because none of their allies can really take advantage of it. I should probably add a level 2 skirmisher build to the saeggan writeup that gets extra damage when it has combat advantage against the target.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Race/Class Synergy in 4e: Tertiary and Racial Abilities

At less than two weeks old, Race/Class Synergy in 4e: An Analysis is now the most-viewed post in my blog's history, so I will again take a break from my riveting campaign logs and write some more about the subject. A lot of the comments on my first two posts have to do with the parts I left out: tertiary abilities and racial abilities, so I'll take a look at those.

First, we need to consider the value of these factors next to the value of the primary and secondary ability bonuses. The value of a bonus to the primary ability is clear - +2 to that stat will typically translate directly to a +1 to hit with every attack power geared toward the build. For example, since the very definition of a battle cleric attack power is that it is a melee attack power that uses Strength to hit, a +2 Strength bonus (the primary ability of the battle cleric) translates to a +1 to hit with any of those powers (and, as an added bonus, with the basic melee attack as well).

The value of the secondary ability is, based on my limited research, much smaller. For example, for the battle cleric, the secondary Wisdom ability is used solely for turning undead or for picking up a few devoted cleric powers. In fact, the tertiary Charisma is used for the secondary effects of more attack powers that a battle cleric might take (strengthen the faithful, inspiring strike, and sacrificial healing). It looks like more in depth research is needed to determine the true value of the secondary and tertiary abilities. The PHB guidelines for the builds might be off for more than just the ranger and paladin (as we saw last time).

The racial abilities will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and will probably be the source of some debate. Rather than map them to builds or classes, it might make the most sense to map the racial abilities to roles. For instance, taking the first racial special ability for the first race in the PHB:
Dragonborn Fury: When you’re bloodied, you gain a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls.
This is like getting most of the benefits of a primary ability boost while bloodied, so at first glance it seems about half as good as a primary ability boost for any class. However, some roles (melee striker, defender) tend to get beat up more than others (ranged striker, controller). This ability is probably worth about 3/4 as much as a primary ability boost to defenders and melee strikers, 1/4 as much to controllers and ranged strikers, and 1/2 as much to everyone else.

The other dragonborn racial abilities seem to me to reinforce their suitability as defenders. Draconic heritage is simply more hit points from surges. Good for anyone, but great for defenders. Dragon breath at first glance is a controller power, but controllers do the same thing better and more often. It's really another good defender ability, because defenders want to be surrounded by real foes, not minions, and dragon breath with its puny damage is a great minion eliminator.

I'll have to give some thought to how I want to factor these abilities into my table, and whether I want to revise it yet again in the light of the battle cleric ability order apparently being off. The first order of business regardless will be a general overview of how all the other races' abilities synergize with the roles. I'll plan to cover dwarves through at least elves next week, then half-elf to tiefling the week after, then finally come back to reevaluating the weight of the secondary and tertiary abilities in the various builds. This is shaping up to be a far more complicated project than I originally planned...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Stony Black Heart of the Fetid Swamp, Part 1

When we last saw our intrepid band, they had just awakened by the side of the road in town, near the library. Their friend the head librarian was shaking them and asking if they were all right. Mungo Sandybanks was looking on with concern. The girls quickly determined that neither they, the librarian, nor Mungo knew how they had gotten there. Once the girls filled the librarian in on what had happened, he guessed that the tiny glowing pixies had taken them from the forest back to town.

After a couple days of rest, the librarian informed them that another shard had been located. He and Mungo directed them toward a swamp three days' hike from town. Near the end of the first day's travel they came to a small abandoned-looking structure next to a crossroads. They heard a cackling laugh which the ranger identified as a hyena. She then proceeded to rattle off the complete lore entries from the Monster Manual on both hyenas and gnolls thanks to some ridiculous Nature checks. After she noted that "gnolls often decorate their armor and encampments with the bones of their victims", the paladin noted some crude decorations made of bones near the structure.

2 gnoll claw fighters (level 6 skirmisher, 500 xp)
2 gnoll marauders (level 6 brute, 500 xp)
2 hyenas (level 2 skirmisher, 250 xp)
Map: The Crossroads from the D&D Miniatures Starter Set

Having spotted the signs that the gnolls were about, the girls tried to go around one of the big boulder piles to get the drop on the structure. However, the gnolls had already had the same idea and the paladin wound up startling one of the claw fighters who was lying in wait behind the rocks. The gnolls won initiative - as the claw fighter swung at the paladin and moved away, one of the marauders came out from behind the other rocks and the rest of the monsters came out of the structure. Somehow they managed to cluster themselves perfectly to all eat a fireball from the wizard.

For a couple of rounds the paladin and the warlord formed the front line, holding off about half the enemies each while the ranger took opportunistic stabs and the wizard blasted away with fire shroud and scorching bursts from the rear. Then as the warlord got too damaged some slick shifting allowed her to swap places with the ranger. The ranger bit off a bit more than she could chew, even going down at one point, but a stand the fallen followed by an inspiring word from the warlord got her up and she took out two gnolls and a hyena with a massively well-rolled dire wolverine strike. After that, the rest was just cleanup.

Analysis:
I kept trying to single someone out for the gnolls' pack tactics, but the girls stayed tightly clustered near the rocks and kept shifting around whenever anyone (except the paladin) got too many enemies on them. The paladin I just couldn't hit reliably due to her AC. Still, since this was a level+2 fight for four 5th-level characters it was pretty tough.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why, that's a Trimandibular Praying Mantelope!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is the trimandibular praying mantelope, a ravenous beast with three beautiful singing voices.

I'd like to thank Anonymous, greywulf and Ripper (with special thanks to Anonymous for the name) for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Trimandibular Praying Mantelope
Trimandibular praying mantelopes are giant insects with three mouths. These fearsome creatures are created by saeggan dreamcasters through a foul ritual involving dark magic, opera and corn.

Level 3 Brute
Trimandibular Praying Mantelope
XP 150
Medium natural beast (mount)
Initiative +3 Senses Perception +2
HP 55; Bloodied 27
AC 16; Fortitude 16, Reflex 15, Will 14
Speed 6, fly 10, overland flight 15
mBite (standard; at-will)
+6 vs. AC; 1d6 + 3 damage.
MTriple Bite (standard; at-will)
+6 vs. AC; 2d6 + 3 damage.
CDazing Chorus (standard; sustain minor; encounter) * Charm
Close burst 3; Targets enemies; deafened creatures are immune; +2 vs. Will; the target is dazed until the end of the trimandibular praying mantelope’s next turn. The trimandibular praying mantelope must make a new attack roll when it sustains this effect.
Combined Attack (while mounted by a friendly rider of 3rd level or higher; at-will) * Mount
When the trimandibular praying mantelope’s rider makes a melee attack, the trimandibular praying mantelope makes a bite attack as a free action against the same target.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 17 (+4) Dex 14 (+3) Wis 12 (+2)
Con 15 (+3) Int 1 (-4) Cha 10 (+1)

Trimandibular Praying Mantelope Tactics
The trimandibular praying mantelope tries to get into melee and use its dazing chorus as soon as possible, then sustain it as long as it can.

Trimandibular Praying Mantelope Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Nature check.
DC 15: The trimandibular praying mantelope uses an enchanting song to lull its enemies, but if the song can be interrupted its charm is broken.

Encounter Groups
Trimandibular praying mantelopes are almost always encountered serving as mounts to saeggan dreamcasters.
Level 4 Encounter (XP 900)
* 2 trimandibular praying mantelopes (level 3 brute)
* 2 saeggan dreamcasters (level 3 controller)
* 3 saeggan genesi (level 1 soldier)
Not bad. I might have done a higher-level dire version or something except:
1) I dunno what would ride it unless I whipped up a higher-level saeggan
2) I don't have a ton of time this weekend.

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the sixteenth installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With continuing apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So... What the heck is that? What should it do? Does it have feet?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Into the Demonweb Forest, Part 8

As mentioned last time, the girls had arrived at the great tree - the adventure hook I gave them almost four real-time months ago, and I was using the Caves of Chaos battle map to represent it. They defeated my home grown narleth conversion and headed into the tree itself. As they approached they saw a soft glow coming from inside and heard the growling of large felines.

2 displacer beasts (level 9 skirmisher, 800 xp)
2 fey panthers (level 4 skirmisher, 350 xp)
Map: The outdoor 1/2 of Caves of Chaos from Fantastic Locations: The Frostfell Rift

This was the big character-level+3 climactic encounter for the Demonweb Forest (I built the encounters in the forest straight off the table on page 104 of the DMG). Unfortunately for the girls, they had already blown through most of their daily powers on the narleth or the ettercaps. Fortunately for them, my choice of map didn't give my group of skirmishers any room to move at all. The party stood in the entrance of the "cave" and slugged it out toe to toe with the four big cats for what I think felt like an eternity to everyone. They focused on the panthers first while the wizard's repeated scorching bursts damaged the displacer beasts, then ganged up on one beast at a time until they fell.

Analysis:
For a fight with four skirmishers, this was way too static. I really should have considered the map more carefully. It's probably best I hadn't, though, because everyone was pretty tapped when the fight started and all four party members were bloodied by the time it was over anyway.

After defeating the big fey cats, the girls noticed a small glowing face watching them from deeper inside the tree, in the area from which the soft glow was emanating. When the warlord called out to it, it flew up, revealing that it was attached to a small glowing pixie. After a few more encouraging words from the eladrin, the pixie and a couple dozen of its friends emerged to flit and dance around the group.

The ranger asked the first one where she should take the shards they came to destroy and got a quizzical look. Then she pulled out a shard to show them and all the dancing stopped. The two dozen pixies lined up in two rows and pointed in unison toward the glowing area they had come from. As the ranger carried the shards toward that cave, more pixies flew out and fled out of the tree, followed closely by the two dozen dancers.

When the shards were dropped in the middle of the glowing cave, all hell broke loose. The ground shook, the tree shuddered, and black dust rose from everywhere. The girls fled as fast as they could, escaping just in time to see the tree sink twenty feet straight down with a thunderous crash. The great gout of black dust stirred up by the cataclysm swirled around them, choking them until they lost consciousness.

They awoke back in town, lying on the side of the road they had followed out of town days before. Their friend the head librarian was shaking them awake as Mungo Sandybanks looked on with a concerned look on his face...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Race/Class Synergy in 4e: Revised Analysis

At less than a week old, Race/Class Synergy in 4e: An Analysis is already the second-most-viewed post in my blog's history. That probably means I should take a break from my riveting campaign logs and write a followup. Also, Incredible Vehicle has posted a followup to the article that inspired my first article. Interestingly, his definitions of top, second and bottom tiers exactly match the definitions used in my first post.

What I call a top tier combination is where a race’s bonus attributes map directly to a class’ primary and secondary. ... A second tier combo is one where a race has one attribute that maps to a primary or secondary. ... When a race has no attributes, or only a tertiary attribute, it’s third tier.

Matthew at I.V. also analyzes "the preview/playtest classes (bard, barbarian, druid, invoker, and warden), Martial Power, and the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide". I find analysis of the preview classes premature and I don't own Martial Power or the FRPG, so I won't be adding these classes. When I get PHB2 (which I plan on picking up as soon as it's out) I plan to post similar analysis of its classes and races.

Matthew has also done what xero commented on my first post to say I should do, which is to consider Wisdom the secondary ability for rangers instead of the tertiary as stated in the PHB. Matthew also made Wisdom the secondary ability for both paladin builds, which robs the dragonborn of their 3-top-tier-build status. I'm going to redo my table with these changes, since they make sense to me. Again, I'll color every top tier match green and bottom tier red, leaving second tier white. I'm also removing the human column because it's boring.



DragonbornDwarfEladrinElfHalf-ElfHalflingTiefling


Str, ChaCon, WisDex, IntDex, WisCon, ChaDex, ChaInt, Cha
ClericStr, Wis1101000

Wis, Cha1101111
FighterStr, Con1100100

Str, Dex or Wis*1111010
PaladinStr, Wis1101000

Cha, Wis1101111
RangerDex, Wis0112010

Str, Wis1101000
RogueDex, Str1011010

Dex, Cha1011121
WarlockCha, Int1010112

Con, Int0110101
WarlordStr, Cha2000111

Str, Int1010001
WizardInt, Wis0111001

Int, Dex0021011

Synergy "score"131010127
1010

That simple change made a drastic difference. Dwarves, eladrin, halflings and tieflings are suddenly dead even in their synergy, with the dwarves leaping over the poor half-elves (who were second-lowest in the first analysis anyway and had their score drop as Cha became Wis for the avenging paladin). The elven wisdom bonus and the new emphasis on wisdom make them now second only to the dragonborn instead of third from the bottom in the first analysis.

Another thing I find interesting here is that even though no race is first tier for the laser cleric or pretty paladin build (Wis/Cha), every race except eladrin is second tier for them. Also, every race but dwarf is at least second tier for artful dodger rogue.

* I should have noted before: The PHB is clear about which abilities are primary/secondary/tertiary for every build except the guardian fighter. After strength as primary it just says "prioritize your Dexterity to take advantage of weapons that can be improved by Dexterity-based feats, or your Wisdom to make the most of the combat superiority class feature." For this reason I've awarded any race with a bonus in either Dex or Wis with a point for mapping to a secondary. However, the elf only gets one point** because Dex and Wis can't both be the secondary.

** I've also abandoned the fractional points I used in the first post as useless*** and nitpicky.

*** About as useless as all these endnotes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Into the Demonweb Forest, Part 7

At long last, the girls arrived at the great tree - the adventure hook I gave them almost four real-time months ago. I used the Caves of Chaos battle map to represent it - the walls of the caves stood in nicely for the overgrown roots of a monstrous tree. I had one more encounter planned as they approached, using another of my own converted spider monsters.

1 narleth webspitter (level 6 elite brute, 500 xp)
1 deathjump spider (level 4 skirmisher, 175 xp)
3 crab spiders (level 4 minion, 130 xp)
Map: The outdoor 1/2 of Caves of Chaos from Fantastic Locations: The Frostfell Rift

The ranger spotted the crab spiders, but not the narleth or the deathjump spider. She shot one in the surprise round, won initiative, and shot the other two. So much for the minions. The deathjump spider leaped out at the paladin and the warlord moved to engage it as well.

I've been looking forward to trying out the narleth for a long time, so it was unfortunate that I opened with a tactical blunder when it jumped out of the trees. It came up from behind and attacked the ranger, but neglected to use its minor action to spit webs on her. I just noticed in my writeup that I have the powers in the wrong order with spit web at the bottom (it should be above the burst effects). That might have contributed to me missing it. The narleth did a pretty good job of beating on the ranger, but she did an even better job of beating on it with lots of fire support (literally) from the wizard's flaming sphere. Since only the ranger was within its reach it never used blade frenzy before getting bloodied, and then when it got bloodied she was the only one affected by its bloodied frenzy.

Analysis:
The fight was pretty challenging, but I think it would have been better if the narleth could have webbed the ranger and then either brutalized her or bypassed her and attacked the wizard. At some point I should go back and rearrange the powers on the narleth stat block.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Into the Demonweb Forest, Part 6

Wow, has it really been a month and a half since I last met with the girls and their characters who continue to press through the spider-filled forest? I guess so.

Yesterday we managed to get started with the game at around 2 PM instead of our usual 4 or 5, so I was hopeful we could complete the trek I planned out months ago and finally do something else. I knew there were four encounters I wanted to get through. I was tempted to jettison the first two to make sure we finished, but going from their extended rest directly to "and now you stand nearly at the base of the great tree" seemed really weak. So we opened with an ambush by ettercaps. It wasn't much of an ambush thanks to the ranger's ridiculous perception modifier, so it quickly devolved into a pretty straight fight.

2 ettercap fang guards (level 4 soldier, 350 xp)
2 deathjump spiders (level 4 skirmisher, 350 xp)
Map: Custom forest map described here.

The girls won initiative, and the paladin charged the nearest ettercap while the rest of the party concentrated on the spiders. This turned out to be the best tactic they could have chosen, since the ettercaps' plan was to web up one isolated party member and carry her off. Both ettercaps focused on the dwarf, but discovered that tying down and then carrying off a dwarf paladin is no easy task (especially when she makes her saves against their webbing every single round). Meanwhile the rest of the party took out the spiders while taking minimal damage. Once that was taken care of they made short work of the fang guards.

I went ahead and sprung the second encounter on them immediately. The rest of the ettercaps from the nearby lair (I had a map picked out and everything for the rescue mission that would be mounted when they succeeded in absconding with a party member) showed up to investigate the sounds of battle.

1 ettercap webspinner (level 5 controller, 200 xp)
2 ettercap fang guards (level 4 soldier, 350 xp)
1 deathjump spider (level 4 skirmisher, 175 xp)
Map: Same.

This time the webspinner managed to web up the ranger, and he and one of the fang guards started to drag her away. The rest of the party panicked and charged after them. The ranger managed to get free of the webs, but was badly hurt. Just as things looked grimmest the webspinner decided to risk the opportunity attacks from the ranger and paladin (who NEVER hits with her basic attack) to try and re-web the ranger so the fang guard could run off with her. Two opportunity attacks, two hits, and near-max-damage later the webspinner was dead as a doornail. After that the fight was pretty well over.

Analysis:
I thought this was a really tense, exciting fight. When it became clear that the ettercaps were trying to drag one party member away, leaving the rest floundering in web-covered terrain, it got pretty intense. Having the whole thing turn around on two lucky opportunity attacks was actually a nice heroic moment. It's not like I intended to throw the fight or anything with that move - I really thought the webspinner was perfectly safe.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why, that's an Orcish Knucklewalker!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is the orcish knucklewalker, a 10 inch tall, swarming, brachiating... demonic bunny?

I'd like to thank Gomez, Jeff, Will, Jerm and Ripper (with special thanks to Jeff for the name) for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Orcish Knucklewalker
Orcish knucklewalkers are tiny creatures that look like miniature apes with hugely oversized arms. Some sages maintain that the "head" is completely vestigial and that the real head is actually from a demonic bunny, and is the whole body. With the nipple looking things being its eyes, the abdomen area being the nose, and the loincloth hiding a sinister, lamprey like mouth, as seen at right. These sages are possibly insane.

Level 6 Skirmisher
Orcish Knucklewalker Swarm
XP 250
Medium natural beast (swarm)
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +4
Swarm Attack aura 1; the orcish knucklewalker swarm makes a basic attack as a free action against each enemy that begins its turn in the aura.
HP 70; Bloodied 35
AC 19; Fortitude 17, Reflex 18, Will 15
Resist half damage from melee and ranged attacks; Vulnerable 10 against close and area attacks
Speed 6
mSwarm of Kicks (standard; at-will)
+11 vs. AC; 1d12 + 3 damage.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 16 (+6) Dex 19 (+7) Wis 12 (+4)
Con 14 (+5) Int 2 (-1) Cha 9 (+2)

Orcish Knucklewalker Swarm Tactics
Orcish knucklewalker swarms leap down from the jungle canopy to catch prey by surprise.

Level 6 Brute
Dire Orcish Knucklewalker
XP 250
Medium natural beast
Initiative +6 Senses Perception +4
HP 89; Bloodied 44
AC 18; Fortitude 19, Reflex 18, Will 16
Speed 6
mKick (standard; at-will)
+9 vs. AC; 2d8 + 4 damage.
MWhirling Roundhouse Face Punch (standard; at-will)
+9 vs. AC; 2d8 + 4 damage, and the dire orcish knucklewalker makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +7 vs. Reflex; the target is pushed 2 squares and knocked prone.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Skills Stealth +11
Str 19 (+7) Dex 16 (+6) Wis 12 (+4)
Con 19 (+7) Int 3 (-1) Cha 9 (+2)

Dire Orcish Knucklewalker Tactics
Dire orcish knucklewalkers leap wildly at their prey, using whirling roundhouse face punch to keep enemies off balance.

Orcish knucklewalker Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Nature check.
DC 15: Orcish knucklewalkers do not use their massive arms to attack, but only to move. Their prehensile feet are used to grasp food. When attacking, their powerful arms are used to propel their body into a whirling, roundhouse kick, using their feet as a blugeoning weapon. They are fiercely territorial.

Encounter Groups
Orcish knucklewalkers are often kept as pets by orcs, who find them adorable. In addition to the group below, the dire orcish knucklewalker can be used instead of the dire boar in two of the orc encounter groups in the Monster Manual.
Level 6 Encounter (XP 1,257)
* 2 dire orcish knucklewalkers (level 6 brute)
* 1 orcish knucklewalker swarm (level 6 skirmisher)
* 1 orc eye of Gruumsh (level 5 controller)
* 2 orc berserkers (level 4 brute)
* 3 orc drudges (level 4 minion)
I have to admit, I wasn't really feeling this one, which is a shame since the original picture is one Jen's been looking forward to me posting for months. Still, I guess it came out okay (if kind of simple). Any opinions?

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the fifteenth installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With continuing apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So... What the heck is that? What should it do? What is the sound of three mouths eating your PC?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random M&M character - The Mysterion

While visiting Dave (of Digital Dave fame) a couple weeks ago, I asked him what he was reading. He looked up from his copy of Marvel's Annihilation, Book 2 and commented that it made him want to run a Mutants & Masterminds game set in space. On the drive home, after listening to my new Satriani album, Jen and I came up with characters to populate this theoretical game. Jen's Mysterion (since she felt Musterion was dumb) came out looking like a viable Silver Surfer type character.

From whence comes this mysterious being? What does she want?

The Mysterion

Power Level: 10; Power Points Spent: 150/150

STR: +0 (10), DEX: +4 (18), CON: +7 (24),
INT: +0 (10), WIS: +0 (10), CHA: +0 (10)

Tough: +12, Fort: +10, Ref: +7, Will: +3

Feats: Evasion 2

Powers:
Immunity 21 (Aging, Life Support, Starvation & Thirst, Mental Effects)
Cosmic Energy Control 18 (DC 33, Alternate Powers: Teleport 18 [Alt], Dazzle 9 [Alt], Disintegration 7 [Alt], Healing 18 [Alt], Healing 7 [Alt])
Teleport 18 [Alt] (1800 ft. as move action, Anywhere in the same galaxy as full action; DC 28)
Dazzle 9 [Alt] (DC 19, Affects: All Sense Types (4/r))
Disintegration 7 [Alt] (DC 22, Power Feats: Reversible)
Healing 18 [Alt] (DC 28)
Healing 7 [Alt] (DC 17, Power Feats: Stabilize, Extras: Action 3 (free))
Protection 5 (+5 Toughness)
Super-Senses 6 (Awareness: Cosmic, Darkvision, Direction Sense, Distance Sense, Time Sense)
Insubstantial 3 (Energy; Extras: Duration 1 (continuous))
Invisibility 4 (Total concealment from all visual senses; Extras: Duration 1 (continuous))

Attack Bonus: +2 (Ranged: +2, Melee: +2, Grapple: +2)

Attacks: Unarmed Attack, +2 (DC 15), Cosmic Energy Control 18, +2 (DC 33), Dazzle 9 [Alt], +2 (DC Fort/Ref 19), Disintegration 7 [Alt], +2 (DC Fort/Tough 22)

Defense: +5 (Flat-footed: +3), Knockback: -6

Initiative: +4

Languages: Native Language

Totals: Abilities 22 + Skills 0 (0 ranks) + Feats 2 + Powers 103 + Combat 14 + Saves 9 + Drawbacks 0 = 150

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Race/Class Synergy in 4e: An Analysis

I came across an interesting article on 4e at Incredible Vehicle Tuesday. The part about the three tiers of race/class combinations in particular I found thought provoking:
Some races are particularly well-suited for some classes. I think of it almost as a tiered system, where the top tier race/class combinations get you 20/16 or 18/18, second tier can get you 18/16 or 20/14. The bottom tier? I suppose you can always have an 18/14.
What this really comes down to is that since each race (except humans) gets +2 to exactly two scores, those scores can overlap with 2 (top tier), 1 (second tier) or 0 (bottom tier) of the primary abilities of each class. Matthew goes on to say in the comments:
But basically it seems reasonable that every race should be a top-tier contender (e.g. 20/16) in one or two builds, and a second tier (e.g. 18/16) contender in a bigger number of others. I’m not sure whether that’s the case, but I suspect that some races fare better than others.
I have the same suspicion, and I want to see it spelled out, so here's what I'm going to do: I cross each race with each class. For each class build in the PHB I take the abilities suggested as best/second-best score and compare to the abilities boosted by the race. For each match the race/class combo scores a point. Humans score 1 point for every class, presuming the ability boost chosen matches a primary ability of the human's class. I'll color every top tier match green and bottom tier red, leaving second tier white.



DragonbornDwarfEladrinElfHalf-ElfHalflingHumanTiefling


Str, ChaCon, WisDex, IntDex, WisCon, ChaDex, ChaPick oneInt, Cha
ClericStr, Wis11010010

Wis, Cha11011111
FighterStr, Con11001010

Str, Dex or Wis1.5.5.750.510
PaladinStr, Cha20001111

Cha, Str20001111
RangerDex, Str10110110

Str, Dex10110110
RogueDex, Str10110110

Dex, Cha10111211
WarlockCha, Int10101112

Con, Int01101011
WarlordStr, Cha20001111

Str, Int10100011
WizardInt, Wis01110011

Int, Dex00210111

Synergy "score"165.510.58.75811.51612

So only four of the eight races are "top-tier contenders" in anything, and only one (the dragonborn, with a whopping 3 top-tier builds) is a contender in more than one. The eladrin war wizard and halfling trickster rogue are unsurprising, though it's interesting that the stereotypical tiefling infernal pact scourge warlock is actually a suboptimal choice compared to the deceptive warlock (based solely on ability bonuses).

The rest of the races run pretty even, except for the poor dwarf, who (ability-wise) is only suited to cleric, fighter, scourge warlock (even moreso than the tiefling, really, which is weird) and control wizard. Now, having seen a dwarf paladin in actual play I can state with some certainty that this table doesn't tell the whole story. Most of the dwarven racial powers are very handy for paladins, and the wisdom bonus synergizes with the tertiary ability of both paladin builds as well. Maybe in a future post I'll redo the table and tinker with the scoring system to give a higher score for synergy with the primary ability and a non-zero score score for synergy with the tertiary ability.

I also find it interesting/annoying that there are no top-tier PHB races for my two favorite 4e class builds: the tactical warlord and the control wizard.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why, that's a Squiglet!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is the squiglet, a creature created from squid/pig stock to tend aboleth eggs.

I'd like to thank greywulf, Viriatha and Ripper(with special thanks to greywulf for the name) for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Squiglet
Squiglets are created by aboleths from squid/pig stock to tend their eggs. The tentacles help them turn the goo-soaked eggs around, and the cute piggy noises help soothe offspring of the Evil Watery Master Race.

Level 16 Soldier
Squiglet Caretaker
XP 1,400
Medium aberrant magical beast (aquatic)
Initiative +14 Senses Perception +13; darkvision
HP 160; Bloodied 80
AC 32 (34 while the squiglet has an enemy grabbed); Fortitude 30, Reflex 27, Will 28
Speed 4, swim 4
mTentacle Rake (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +23 vs. AC; 3d8 + 7 damage.
MTentacle Grab (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +23 vs. AC; 2d8 + 7 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). A target trying to escape the grab takes a –2 penalty to the check. The squiglet can grab only one creature at a time.
MSqueeze (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; +21 vs. Fortitude; 2d8 + 7 damage.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Deep Speech
Skills Insight +18
Str 24 (+15) Dex 19 (+12) Wis 21 (+13)
Con 24 (+15) Int 8 (+7) Cha 10 (+8)

Squiglet Caretaker Tactics
Squiglet caretakers defend the eggs and young they care for with fanatical devotion. They grab and squeeze whatever creature appears to be the greatest threat to their charges.

Level 18 Elite Brute
Kruthiguid
XP 4,000
Medium aberrant beast (aquatic)
Initiative +15 Senses Perception +10; darkvision
HP 430; Bloodied 215
AC 32 (34 while the kruthiguid has an enemy grabbed);
Fortitude 33, Reflex 32, Will 25
Saving Throws +2
Speed 4, swim 4
Action Points 1
mTentacle Rake (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +21 vs. AC; 3d8 + 7 damage, and the target is pushed 1 square.
MTentacle Grab (standard; at-will)
Reach 2; +21 vs. AC; 2d8 + 7 damage, and the target is grabbed (until escape). A target trying to escape the grab takes a –2 penalty to the check. The kruthiguid can grab only one creature at a time.
MGrate (standard; at-will)
Grabbed target only; +19 vs. Fortitude; 2d8 + 7 damage.
MTail Slash (immediate reaction, when a melee attack misses the kruthiguid; at-will)
The kruthiguid uses its tail to attack the enemy that missed it: reach 2; +21 vs. AC; 3d8 + 7 damage, and the target is pushed 1 square.
CRake Frenzy (immediate reaction, when first bloodied; encounter)
Close burst 2; targets enemies; +21 vs. AC; 3d8 + 7 damage, and the target is pushed 1 square. Before attacking, the kruthiguid releases any creature it has grabbed.
Alignment Unaligned Languages -
Str 25 (+16) Dex 22 (+15) Wis 12 (+10)
Con 25 (+16) Int 2 (+5) Cha 8 (+8)

Kruthiguid Tactics
An kruthiguid attacks mindlessly, driven insane by the horrible stench of aboleth eggs.

Squiglet Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Dungeoneering check.
DC 20: Squiglets are creatures that guard aboleth eggs and young. They attack any threats to their charges by grabbing the intruders with tentacles and squeezing them to death.
DC 25: Older squiglets get fed up with the constant stench of the aboleths and their mucus covered offspring. Enough of this stench transforms the squiglets into the extremely horny kruthiguid. No, not that kind of horny, you people with filthy minds, but spiky, hence kruthiguid (Kruthik + pig + squid). Their naturaly pointy ears harden to form horns/tusks. Their muscular abdomen froms into a chitinuous scaled back, with sharp ridges. Their tentacles sprout spikes, and the tail tentacle grows out.

Encounter Groups
Squiglets are encountered with aboleths and their minions.
Level 16 Encounter (XP 6,850)
* 3 squiglet caretakers (level 16 soldier)
* 1 aboleth lasher (level 17 brute)
* 3 aboleth servitors (level 16 minion)
As if a party of adventurers trying to kill an aboleth didn't have enough problems, now they have to deal with pig/squids and giant mutant aboleths that have eaten beholders.

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the fourteenth installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With continuing apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So... What the heck is that? What should it do? With those arms, do its feet ever touch the ground?

Monday, January 5, 2009

WWTH Bonus Material: The Pixies of Styx

The comments from last week's "Weekly What the Heck" included the idea of archnemeses for the fairies of corn, the pixies of Stix. The name quickly bloomed into the idea of a hardcore subculture of the pixies who make it their job to track down and destroy saeggans. Of course, since as far as I know there has been no port of the pixie to 4e, I have to do that first. Then I'm thinking it's just a matter of applying the ranger template to get these pixie badasses (well, as badass as pixies can get, which isn't very.... anyway...).

I'd like to thank Jeff for the idea, which has resulted in:
Pixie
Pixies are merry pranksters who can be roused to surprising ire when dealing with evil creatures. They also love to trick misers out of their wealth.

Level 2 Lurker
Pixie Trickster
XP 125
Small fey humanoid
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +8; low-light vision
HP 32; Bloodied 16
AC 16; Fortitude 14, Reflex 16, Will 14
Speed 4, fly 10
mShort Sword (standard; at-will) * Weapon
+5 vs. AC; 1d6 - 1 damage.
MConfusing Touch (standard; encounter) * Psychic
+6 vs. Will; the target slides 5 squares and is dazed (save ends).
rLongbow (standard; at-will) * Weapon
Ranged 20/40; +8 vs. AC; 1d10 + 4 damage.
RSleep Arrow (standard; encounter) * Poison, Weapon
Ranged 20/40; +8 vs. AC; 1d10 + 4 damage, and the pixie makes a secondary attack against the same target.
Secondary Attack: +5 vs. Fortitude; the target is dazed (save ends). First Failed Save: The target falls unconscious (no save).
Invisibility (minor; recharge 3 4 5 6) * Illusion
The pixie becomes invisible until the end of its next turn.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Elven
Skills Bluff +8, Insight +8, Perception +8, Stealth +9
Str 9 (+0) Dex 18 (+5) Wis 14 (+3)
Con 14 (+3) Int 17 (+4) Cha 15 (+3)

Pixie Trickster Tactics
Pixie tricksters use invisibility as often as possible to stay hidden while firing arrows at enemies. They use their sleep arrow against any foe they determine to be particularly dangerous, and confusing touch on any who get too close.

Level 2 Elite Artillery
Pixie of the Styx
XP 125
Small fey humanoid
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +8; low-light vision
HP 62; Bloodied 31
AC 14; Fortitude 15, Reflex 17, Will 14
Saving Throws +2
Speed 4, fly 10
Action Points 1
mShort Sword (standard; at-will) * Weapon
+9 vs. AC; 1d6 - 1 damage.
MConfusing Touch (standard; encounter) * Psychic
+6 vs. Will; the target slides 5 squares and is dazed (save ends).
rLongbow (standard; at-will) * Weapon
Ranged 20/40; +10 vs. AC; 1d10 + 4 damage.
RNimble Strike (standard; at-will) * Weapon
Ranged 20/40; +10 vs. AC; 1d10 + 4 damage. The pixie can shift one square either before or after it attacks.
RHunter's Bear Trap (standard; encounter) * Weapon
Ranged 20/40; +10 vs. AC; 2d10 + 4 damage, and the target is slowed and takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends both).
RSleep Arrow (standard; encounter) * Poison, Weapon
Ranged 20/40; +10 vs. AC; 1d10 + 4 damage, and the pixie makes a secondary attack against the same target.
Secondary Attack: +5 vs. Fortitude; the target is dazed (save ends). First Failed Save: The target falls unconscious (no save).
Fox's Cunning (immediate reaction, when an enemy makes a melee attack against the pixie; encounter)
The pixie shifts 1 square and makes a ranged basic attack against the enemy.
Invisibility (minor; recharge 3 4 5 6) * Illusion
The pixie becomes invisible until the end of its next turn.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Elven
Skills Acrobatics +10, Bluff +8, Insight +8, Nature +8, Perception +8, Stealth +9
Str 9 (+0) Dex 18 (+5) Wis 14 (+3)
Con 14 (+3) Int 17 (+4) Cha 15 (+3)

Pixie of the Styx Tactics
Pixies of the Styx use the same tactics as pixie tricksters, except they prefer to use their ranger encounter powers before their sleep arrow.

Pixie Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 15: Pixies do not covet treasure themselves but use it to taunt and frustrate greedy folk. If a victim of pixie pranks exhibits no greed or demonstrates a good sense of humor, the tricksters may allow the individual to choose a reward from their hoard.
DC 20: Pixies of the Styx are pixies who have banded together to rid the world of any saeggans they encounter.

Encounter Groups
Pixies, especially pixies of the Styx, sometimes band together with other fey.
Level 2 Encounter (XP 625)
* 1 pixie of the Styx (level 2 artillery)
* 2 pixie tricksters (level 2 lurker)
* 1 elf scout (level 2 skirmisher)
I guess the pixie of the Styx is kinda badass...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Why, that's a Saeggan!

The final comments are in from last week's "Weekly What the Heck". The result is the saeggan, the sprites' answer to the drider. These ravenous fairies possess an insatiable hunger... for coooooorrrnnn!!!

I'd like to thank Jeff and Scott for their ideas, all of which have been mashed together to create:
Saeggan
A saeggan is an accursed cross between a pixie and a locust. A saeggan is created when a pixie deviates from its normal diet of wild berries, honeysuckle and dewdrops by consuming the products of human agriculture, especially if those products include corn. These unfortunates become cursed with horrifying dreams and an unquenchable appetite.

Level 1 Soldier
Saeggan Genesis
XP 100
Small fey humanoid
Initiative +5 Senses Perception +1; low-light vision
HP 29; Bloodied 14
AC 17; Fortitude 13, Reflex 15, Will 13
Speed 4, fly 10
mBite (standard; at-will)
+8 vs. AC; 1d8 + 1 damage, and the saeggan makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +4 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
Vanish (move; at-will) * Illusion
The saeggan becomes invisible until the end of its next turn or until it attacks.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Elven
Skills Stealth +10
Str 11 (+0) Dex 16 (+3) Wis 13 (+1)
Con 13 (+1) Int 6 (-2) Cha 13 (+1)

Saeggan Genesis Tactics
Saeggan genesi are usually recently-created saeggan unused to their new situation. As such they are completely maddened with hunger and attack anything even slightly edible-looking almost mindlessly. Once in melee they will use their move action each round after attacking to vanish.

Level 3 Controller
Saeggan Dreamcaster
XP 150
Small fey humanoid
Initiative +4 Senses Perception +3; low-light vision
HP 46; Bloodied 23
AC 17; Fortitude 15, Reflex 16, Will 15
Speed 4, fly 10
mBite (standard; at-will)
+8 vs. AC; 1d8 + 1 damage, and the saeggan makes a secondary attack against the same target. Secondary Attack: +6 vs. Fortitude; the target takes ongoing 5 damage (save ends).
RBolt of Pain (standard; at-will) * Psychic
Ranged 10; +7 vs. Fortitude; 1d10 + 2 psychic damage, and the target is weakened (save ends).
RWaking Fever Dream (minor; at-will) * Psychic
Ranged 10; +7 vs. Will; the target slides 1 square.
CDisorienting Dream (standard; recharge 4 5 6) * Psychic
Close burst 3; targets enemies; +5 vs. Will; the target is slowed (save ends).
CWhispers of Dreams (free, once on its turn before it takes other actions; at-will) * Psychic
Close burst 5; deafened creatures are immune; +4 vs. Will; the target is dazed until the end of the saeggan dreamcaster’s next turn. Miss: At the DM's option, the target (if it speaks Elven) may make out a sentence in the saeggan's murmuring that provides a clue about some future event.
Vanish (move; at-will) * Illusion
The saeggan becomes invisible until the end of its next turn or until it attacks.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Elven
Skills Bluff +8, Insight +6, Stealth +8
Str 11 (+1) Dex 17 (+4) Wis 14 (+3)
Con 14 (+3) Int 11 (+1) Cha 14 (+3)

Saeggan Dreamcaster Tactics
An saeggan dreamcaster uses bolt of pain and waking fever dream each round, weakening enemies and sliding them into positions where they can be flanked by its allies. When enemies get within 3 squares, it uses disorienting dream to further hinder them.

Saeggan Lore
A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.
DC 15: Saeggans are accursed degenerate fey who hunger endlessly. They normally eat farmers' crops but will eagerly attack and feast on anything that opposes them. They inflict vicious bites that bleed profusely.
DC 20: When dreaming, saeggans sometimes whisper to themselves, and the details of their dreams are sufficiently horrible to drive to madness those who can understand their speech. But some of those who listen and can endure the terrible images that fill their minds find oracular guidance in the crazed murmurings.

Encounter Groups
Saeggans only band together with each other and creatures they would not eat, which is a very short list.
Level 3 Encounter (XP 750)
* 2 saeggan dreamcasters (level 3 controller)
* 1 iron defender (level 3 soldier)
* 3 saeggan genesi (level 1 soldier)
Who will stop these ravening creatures from destroying the village's crops? The PCs, probably, but possibly the pixies of Styx. Who are they? Stay tuned for my first WWTH bonus material, coming soon...

Weekly What the Heck

Welcome to the thirteenth installment of my regular feature here at the Near TPK. With continuing apologies to one of my favorite blogs, the Daily WTF, I present... The Weekly What The Heck.

Each Saturday at 10 AM Central Time I'll post one of Jen's drawings of some kind of whacked-out creature, and ask my readers: "What the heck IS that?"

I hope my readers will approach the challenge in the spirit of "Yes, and ..." - building on previous responses so everyone's ideas can be used in the final writeup. Comments are now closed on last week's entry, and I hope to have the final writeup posted tonight. Comments will be accepted on this week's entry until I post next week's entry.

So... What the heck is that? What should it do? Is it really dumb, or does a brain lurk behind the big nose and tiny eyes?

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Curious (R)Evolution of the Drider

While working on this week's What the Heck*, the "sprites' answer to the drider", I was doing a little research into the drider and I noticed something odd.

3e MM: Driders are bloodthirsty creatures that lurk in the depths of the earth, seeking warm-blooded prey of any kind.
4e MM: Bloodthirsty creatures that lurk in the depths of the world, driders are servants of Lolth gifted with a semblance of their god’s grotesque form.

OK, pretty much the same, but...

3e MM: When a dark elf of above-average ability reaches 6th level, the goddess may put him or her through a special test. Failures become driders. Because they have failed their goddess's test, driders are outcasts from their own communities. Drow and driders hate one another passionately.
4e MM: In drow society, the strongest and bravest can take the Test of Lolth. Those who succeed become driders, members of a privileged caste. Those who fail usually die.

Wow, that's quite a turnaround for the outcast driders of old. In fact, it reverses fluff that dates back to the very first appearance of the creature, which according to Wikipedia is Q1, Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1980), a module I happen to own...

Q1: When Drow of promising ability reach 6th level or slightly higher, Lolth will summon them and put them through a specially-devised test. The Drow that fail become driders. ... Driders are outcasts from Drow communities, and thus bear them no great love.

I must admit, the part about those who fail the test becoming driders never made the slightest bit of sense to me. "Ah, my spider-worshiping child," Lolth says. "You have failed me, and so I must transform half your body into that which you revere, leave all your existing magical powers intact, and give you a few new goodies like a poison bite. Don't you feel like a loser?" Personally, I think the change the 4e designers made was long overdue.

* A little secret - I often do most of the WWTH writeup on Friday evening and schedule it for the usual 7PM Saturday. Since I've never had input to a WWTH later than Friday evening this hasn't been a problem. Even if I get late input I have all day Saturday to tweak it to include any new ideas. I'm not sure why I felt the need to include such a meta-note as this, but there it is. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.