Unlock Keywords

When Dungeons & Dragons 4e first arrived I was very interested in keywords. Specifically how would they play out and interact with not only the flavor of the new D&D world but also the design. I could imagine that specifically schools of magic would become much easier to define as all you would need to do is attach the associated keyword to all arcane and divine powers. Design mechanics could function around keywords with bonuses to save or resistances or defenses. On a much grander scale classes could melt away and you could take whatever power you wanted as long as it met the power source keyword requirement.

Suffice to say much of this has not happened. One of the biggest let downs has been the near complete absence of keywords for monster powers. You can tell that some of the designers saw opportunities what with there being all these floating bonus to saves versus fear effects. Can anyone tell me how many monsters actually have fear keyword associated with their powers?

To a lesser extent the designers have started implementing school of magic keywords back into wizard powers. I have missed the schools of magic quite a lot. It is pretty sad that the schools are only tied to wizard powers. You could really open some interesting and synergistic doors if all the appropriate powers had a school of magic keyword included (um bards?).

There has been a slight, albeit feeble, trend to include multiple power source keywords into the builds of different classes. Examples include the bard with martial and arcane powers as well as the more prominent and failure ridden seeker with primal and martial abilities. I could easily imagine a system of class building that revolved around defining your character’s power structure specifically through power source key words. Most likely each character would not start with a class, but instead would choose a power source to define their character going forward. You could then take a feat, similar to a multiclass feat, that would unlock other power sources for you, resulting in you being able to start making power selections from different power sources. Imagine something like this:

This way a character could end her career possibly pulling from as many power sources as she wanted. And you notice that I put in a feat bonus to hit. That is because even in my own fantasy world I am still a slave to expertise. What a travesty.

However in the current incarnation of D&D, I could see power source keywords being a nice tool for the wretched expertise feats. Sure we could just house rule a +1 to hit for everyone, but I would rather take a look at the expertise feats that exist now and consider just how absolutely horrible they are. Recently there was a release of “dual” expertise feats. These were supposed to help your bards and clerics and all other forms of dual item wielding characters that are stuck having to either take multiple feats and/or upkeep multiple items in order for all their powers to have the same to hit.

Does anyone see why I think to-hit should just be inherent? In a cooperative game why would you want any of your characters to be on unequal footing? But I digress. Here would be a sample expertise feat that uses the power source keyword:


Pretty simple and straight forward. This would facilitate all of your powers, no matter what you used as your weapon or implement. I think the expertise feats are so remedial and torturous that they need something else besides a plus to hit. I would go so far as to say that every last one of them needs to give you a bonus to hit and a skill and one other thing. Basically the +1 to hit is something that should already exist. So fundamentally you are taking an empty feat slot. Here are some jazzed up power source expertise feats:

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One Response to Unlock Keywords

  1. Pingback: Weekly Roundup: The Deal With The Podcast | Roving Band of Misfits

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