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:

Common Items and Milestones

So Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium was released not long ago, and with it came many a new rare item and not so many a new common item. If you have any interest how WotC is reacting to that subject, I would point you to their community board. Now that they have thrown all this material out to the masses, it would appear that they want us to figure out how it should work. Perhaps professional sports teams will soon be calling me to play for free, but still make me pay for a seat in the stands. I digress.

I have mixed feelings about the new item rarity system that was put into place with the creation of Essentials. As a DM, I love it! As a player, I hate it! I am assuming that is a general gut reaction for most people in one of the two roles. As both a player and DM, I was really hoping that WotC might print (or again redefine) some more common items. Currently it is pretty depressing if you start a game beyond level 1 and try to find anything to suit your character. Currently available (according to the Compendium) there are 3,449 magic items in D&D 4e. Of those, 161 are common items. Ouch right? It gets more upsetting when you consider that of those 161 items, 41 of them are consumables or alchemical items.

Common In Value Not In Presence

So common that they make up less than 3% of all of the items in the game? Other than this very annoying fact, I can actually get on board with item rarity. I believe it affords a DM and players the chance to make items quest worthy and certainly a little more likely to put your life on the line for an uncommon item, let alone a rare item. Indeed, I think you can even make the goal of item creation into a potential story building effort between DM and players.

That said, one thing did take an undeniable hit from the item rarity system: milestones. Don’t get me wrong. I love action points. I would gladly do some disturbing tasks for extra action points, but with unlimited daily item usage now the only way to fly, milestones look like Pan Am (the defunct airline or soon to be cancelled tv series, take your pick).

Two Birds With One Stone

My main complaint would be bad cliches, but my second biggest complaint would be that milestones are not really that milestoney any more. There are still rings to look forward to, but you will not see one of those until paragon. That is a real shame I think. If there is something I have to give kudos to, it is the designer of rings for 4e. Great design choice. And while I understand they wanted to do something unique for rings, I do not believe this particular milestone tie-in property should be exclusive to rings.

Rings are unique enough without milestones, in that they are (or should be) a little more powerful than other items of their level and their abilities should extend beyond typical “slot roles.” In slot roles I mean how waist slots often apply to fortitude and strength while head slots focus on will and mental attributes.

I do believe that common magic items could have a milestone tie-in property to make them more appealing, yet simple enough to be even handed compared to other items. Plus since the item’s true power would not yield dividends until later milestones are achieved, I think you can balance the powers relatively well and keep it a common item. Here are some that I came up with (excuse the cheesy names, also all of these were generated with power2ool.com, great program check it out):

Character Creations: You Must Be My Lucky Star

There is a stargazing bard in my weekly group. The player originally conceived this character as a bard that had been thrust into a dire situation by powers beyond his control. However, he was able to survive the calamity by reaching out blindly to anyone or anything that might help him live to see another day. Unfortunately and perhaps even unbeknown to him, he made a desperate deal with a cosmic power from the Far Realm. The bard now has an ongoing pact with the Guide Star, Caiphon.

It is a great story in my opinion. I think lush back stories really help a build come to life. Most especially when you can find a synergy between the fluff and the mechanics. It is easy to get caught up in the mechanics of a build and lose sight of what inspired the character concept in the first place. On the other hand, it is also easy for a well crafted background to be stifled by a lack of support in terms of mechanics. Fortunately for this “bardlock” the world of hybrid exists.

This character creation is actually my first encounter with someone running a hybrid at my table. I have never been a fan of the multiclass system in 4e, so I was very hopeful for hybrid when I first heard about it. And while I find hybrid to be much more like what I wanted from multiclassing, hybrid classes still suffer from some serious hurdles when it comes to class abilities and feat selection. Certainly there are potent combinations that already exist, but I wonder why WotC did not expand upon unique options based on different class pairings.

Managing Roles

I think one of the greatest issues with hybrid is that it flies in the face of the role system that was incorporated in 4e. Since each class has a relatively well defined role, when you hybrid that class with another class that does not share the same role, then the results can be less than stellar (star pact pun intended). There is a huge untapped amount of content for hybrid specific feats. I believe they could get really creative with all sorts of iconic characters in mythology and modern fiction.

Look at a character like Itachi (yes I know I mentioned him before, I want to be Itachi, ok?) from Naruto, I see a wizard hybrid with a dark pact warlock (or perhaps hybrid goth with emo?). When Data from Goonies is discussing “boobie-traps,” I see rogue hybrid with artificer. And lets get real, Edward from Twilight is a total bard hybrid vampire… what a dark sad path we have just traveled down.

The point is that many of the mythological and fictional characters that inspire us to craft our heroes rarely fall into a single class. Taking little pieces here and there to help build that sexy aloof sparkling vampire is the only way its going to happen. But we are playing a game that rewards specialization. It is difficult to make a hybrid character that does one of his two roles very well. This is what I want to change, at least in the context of making the bardlock more like a leader that aids his allies with striker extra damage.

Leaders Make Allies Into Strikers

Yes, the point of hybrid is not to make the same class that you already had in one class. But I would argue that the key to hybrid is to recreate a class that has one role. In my approach to this I want to use the leader aspects of the bard and incorporate them in a manner that would highlight the fact that this hero is actually a striker. As a hybrid striker you miss out on a lot of damage, because virtually half of your powers are not keyed to work in conjunction with your striker mechanic, example in that the Warlock’s Curse only triggers with warlock powers. Conveniently the mechanic can be turned on its head to allow it to work like a leader mechanic. The key to being a leader is letting your allies shine and rewarding them for targeting who you want to take out. Knowing this we obviously have a way to key your target with the fact that every enemy of your goals can be cursed. Now we have a target of sorts for your allies to go after. We just need a reward. As I mentioned, I am trying to move towards a striker. Frequently leaders either give bonuses to damage or to hit or extra attacks as a way of harnessing the power of the group towards a common goal, which is usually to kill something. Knowing this and the fact that the hybrid warlock is missing a big chunk of DPR, I can easily rationalize a method of rewarding allies for targeting cursed enemies. Below are feats dedicated to the hybrid bard warlock. Let me know what you think. Special thanks to Versteeg the Bright for the inspiration.

Allied Pact

Ode of the Fey
Haunting Melody of the Guiding Star
Chant to the Dark Lords

Ritual Book: Ritualist Theme

This is the Ritual Book. In this series we will look to explore and expand the role of rituals in Dungeons & Dragons 4e. We will focus on options for players and dungeon masters who want their ritual casters to cast more frequently and more effectively in-game. The goal is to encourage ritual use in general.

Yes I am still obsessed with themes. I hope that they are taking root in your own games at home. I have found them to be quite fun and useful at fleshing out those details of characters that might not be so highlighted by traditional powers and paragon paths and such. I also still believe that they are blatant power creep, but a power creep that I can wholeheartedly embrace as better for the game. This is especially true if you can hand craft a few themes for your own homebrew campaigns and handcrafted settings that will expand the richness and flavor of the world.

Shimmertook recently latched on to the Alchemist theme that was printed in Dragon #399. I admit a bit of theme envy when I saw how effective the Alchemist theme was at making alchemy a regular and effective part of the game for my friend’s character. Certainly I do believe that rituals are quite effective in their own way. However as I have stated before, I think rituals need some help in order for ritual casters to be encouraged to make their rituals a regular part of the game.

The two biggest constraints for a ritual caster are time and money. The time aspect is a very sticky mechanic to tamper with. By reducing the casting time of a ritual you open some doors that may leave you with some precipitous (sometimes literally) problems, especially if the ritual becomes accessible in combat. I tried to imagine the theme as something that would open the door for more frequent casting, not necessarily quicker casting. I see the cost of rituals as a regular drain on the resources of the character that wants to incorporate them. As a regular player of a ritual caster, it often feels like the cost of rituals simply discourages ritual casting rather than balances the casting of a ritual (especially in heroic). While I have seen some fun and helpful house rules out there for changing the ritual casting system, I do my best to craft answers within the context of the current ritual system so as to not overwhelm the players that are not regularly using rituals. I feel like working within the rules on this makes it a little easier to digest and is more equitable.

So the key was to develop a simple theme that embraced the character’s desire to make ritual casting, no matter the class, an important feature in their character’s development. I could easily envision a rogue or assassin taking this theme and focusing on deception rituals or an avenger using divination rituals to draw himself closer to his deity. Any ranger would be happy to add travel and exploration rituals to her repertoire. Even classes like the cleric, wizard and druid may want to focus more on using the rituals that they are already allowed. I also think this could be a great option for feat starved hybrid classes that miss out on the ritual casting features of their parent classes.

To briefly explain the free knowledge skill training benefits, I felt they would be required for any class that does not traditionally gain them automatically or even contain them on their skill list. As with the example of the rogue above that wants to learn deception rituals. She will need to learn Arcana somehow. Other than that learning free rituals and the ability to cast one (and eventually two) rituals a day for free seemed the most apt way to encourage making ritual casting a regular and fulfilling option for the character.

Let me know what you think.

The ritualist is someone who is practiced and studied in the art of ritual casting. There could be many reasons for this. You may have been a business owner and found that the magic of rituals facilitated your daily practices. Perhaps you were an avid explorer, using rituals to lighten your loads or increase your survivability on long expeditions. Maybe you were a village shaman, caring for the sick and needy.

How will you continue to use rituals in your adventures? Will you eventually become a master? Will you someday change how rituals are cast?

Starting Feature:
You are an innate ritual caster. The process just feels natural to you, so much so that you can regularly tap into the energy within yourself as opposed to using costly materials from the world around you to cast your rituals.
Benefit: You gain the Ritual Caster feat as a bonus feat. You possess a ritual book that contains two 1st-level rituals that you have mastered. In addition, you gain training in one of the following skills: Arcana, Heal, Nature or Religion. Once per day you may cast one ritual of your level or lower without paying the casting cost. You must still pay for and acquire any focuses needed for the ritual as well as sacrifice any healing surges that are normally required for the ritual. You may not reduce the cost of item creation rituals or the Raise Dead ritual.

Additional Features:

Level 5 Feature-
As you study and learn more powerful rituals, your breadth of knowledge increases. You realize that the more your know about the world around you, the more versatile ritual caster you can become.
Benefit: You master another ritual of 5th-level or lower and add it to your ritual book. In addition, you gain training in one of the following skills: Arcana, Heal, Nature or Religion. If you are already trained in all of these skills you instead gain a +2 bonus to one of these skills.

Level 10 Feature-
Your knowledge and experience have grown. Producing a ritual is just as easy as swinging your sword or waving your wand. All you need is time and to focus your power.
Benefit:  You master another ritual of 10th-level or lower and add it to your ritual book. In addition, you may now perform up to two mastered rituals per day of your level or lower without paying the casting cost. You must still pay for and acquire any focuses needed for the ritual as well as sacrifice any healing surges that are normally required for the ritual. You may not reduce the cost of item creation rituals or the Raise Dead ritual.

Optional Powers

Ritual Knowledge        Ritualist Utility 2
Free Action        Personal
Trigger: You roll an Arcana check, Heal check, Nature check or Religion check.
Effect: Roll twice and take the higher of the two results.

Masterful Continuance    Ritualist Utility 6
Free Action        Personal
Trigger: A ritual that you have performed is about to expire in duration.
Effect: Instead it does not expire and continues on in duration as if you had just cast it. You do not need line of sight or effect to use this power, but must be on the same plane as the ritual in question.

Quickened Ritual        Ritualist Utility 10
No Action    Personal
Effect: You perform a ritual that you have mastered in half the time that it normally requires to cast.

Character Creations: Imposing Mentalist

I have been working on a new paragon path for my deva wizard. It started out as an option to the Planeshifter from Manual of the Planes. However over time its slowly developed into something else. I saw it more as a racial paragon path for all devas. I have to admit it can be difficult when you are creating something for this game when you are playing the game itself. It seems almost impossible to not want to craft something uniquely specific for the character you are playing, and it shows in this path. Most definitely it is designed for a deva who is also a controller, but I think that is what is needed. Otherwise you end up with watered down drivel, paths that do not really do much of anything (much like the danger of hybrid classes). The paragon path is below in full and preceding that is some insight to my design.

As I mentioned this started out as an attempt to spruce up the Planeshifter. My complaints about the Planeshifter are rooted in its awful utility power and relatively lame 11th level class ability somehow based on the idea that you will be using the Plane Shift ritual everyday for free. Albeit awesome in a game that is fundamentally based around plane hopping, for more conventional campaigns where much of your adventures are rooted in one plane with occasional visits to other planes I found this feature near useless. As for the utility, its just absolutely arbitrary that it is an encounter. I find it hard to believe that I would need to create and instant portal more than once a day, let alone an encounter. They should of just made it an at-will for laughs.

I originally started with the idea of making an encounter save ends effect like the Planeshifter. I realized this was too cheap of a rip off, so I kept the banishing concept but moved it to daily power status with some nasty damage. It reads a lot more like something Itachi from Naruto Shippuden could do, which is totally awesome. I did try to work with the utility for a long while, looking to make something more like an encounter Arcane Gate (which by the way they totally printed in the form of a warlock utility in Heroes of Shadow, called Bridge of Shades… I just know I am missing my calling). But I started working with other aspects of what the paragon path would be and teleportation started falling to the wayside.

I realized quickly that this path was starting to more reflect who my deva wizard already was. I wanted some mental manipulation. I did not want psionics, which may seem like a cheat, but I was hoping to keep the class firmly rooted in the arcane world. In time I found a happy medium by making it a deva racial paragon path that focused on the immense mental prowess of a being who has lived a thousand lifetimes. How can so many memories of so many lifetimes effect an individual? What becomes of their mental state? With such an experienced soul certainly there most be an incredible amount of power that could be tapped into, I wanted my deva to explore that.

Once I realized this I started focusing more on the deva race itself as well as mentalist flavored control powers. Things like daze and domination and psychic damage and the memory of a thousand life times racial feature became important features to highlight. For the utility I went for a supped up Orb of Imposition ability that could cause an automatic failed save, however I felt that might be over powered. Conceptually I liked the Orb of Imposition wizard feature, so I chose to focus on its other function which is the extension of effects. Still very powerful but also useful to a wide range of other classes, not just controllers.

Ultimately the paragon path more reflects the deva than a controller. It is racial, so it is more accessible to non-controller devas who will not have to worry about implements and want to have a controller bend to their class. The features are all pretty useful to any player character rather than just controllers, which I think is a personal triumph. I like to imagine that I am creating something that could conceivably be used by others and not just tailored for my character (even if that is how it starts out).

~Imposing Mentalist~

“My mind is a steel trap”

For many deva the cycle of constant reincarnation can take its toll. So many loved ones lost again and again, wars won and lost, entire civilizations rising and falling, the pain of life experienced not once but a thousand times over. Even the most stalwart being can become cynical or apathetic or worse, mad. But some wield their memories and immortal minds like a expertly tempered blade. Their souls filled with the energy of so many lives, that it can be tapped into with deadly potential. These rare devas exhibit a willful control over the world around them and an unusual expertise at bringing mortals to their knees by mere thought alone.

PreReq: Deva

Thousand Year Resolve (11th Level): You gain resistance to psychic damage equal to 5 + one-half your level. In addition, if you are dominated you can make a saving throw at the start of your turn to end that effect, even if the effect doesn’t normally end on a save.

Flood of Memories (11th Level): When you spend an action point, you recharge your Memory of A Thousand Lifetimes racial power and your attacks deal extra psychic damage equal to your Intelligence or Wisdom modifier until the end of your turn.

Forced Empathy (16th level): Whenever you daze a creature, instead you may stun that creature for the same duration by expending your Memory of A Thousand Lifetimes.

Overwhelming Projection Attack 11
You send out an overpowering wave of thoughts and visions from your past lives, causing your enemies to stumble and eventually fall to their knees by crushing their minds with a lifetime of memories all at once.
Encounter * Aura, Enchantment, Psychic
Standard Action             Close burst 2
Target: Each enemy in burst
Attack: Intelligence or Wisdom +6 (8 at 21st) vs. Will
Hit: 2d6 plus Intelligence or Wisdom modifier psychic damage and the target is pushed 2 squares and dazed until the end of your next turn.
Effect: You gain an aura 2 that lasts until the end of your next turn. Enemies that end their turn in the aura take your Intelligence or Wisdom modifier psychic damage and are knocked prone

Mnemonic Imposition Utility 12
Through sheer will, a will that has been hardened by a thousand lifetimes, you maintain an immortal grip over reality.
Free Action
Effect: Extend the duration of an effect created by one of your powers that would otherwise end at the end of your current turn. The effect instead ends at the end of your next turn.

Pain of A Thousand Lifetimes Attack 20
You trap your enemy in an extra dimensional prison within your own mind, where they are tortured with a lifetime of pain and suffering in the blink of an eye.
Daily * Psychic, Teleportation
Standard Action                 Range 10
Target: One Creature
Attack: Intelligence or Wisdom +8 vs. Will
Hit: 4d10 plus Intelligence or Wisdom modifier psychic damage
Effect: You banish the target to a dark pocket realm of painful memories within the confines of your mind (save ends). The target disappears, cannot take actions, and cannot be targeted. Each time the target fails a save against this effect it takes 15 psychic damage. On a successful save, the target reappears in the space it last occupied. If that space is occupied, the target returns to the nearest unoccupied space of its choice. You can expel the target from your mind as a free action, in which case it appears as described above.

Your Life Before Your Life

I am loving these new themes printed in last months Dragon Magazine #399. I have to admit that I am still a little apprehensive about them, considering heroic tier just got a big boost. The first themes came with the expansion and development of the Dark Sun campaign. They were interesting but not nearly as powerful and beneficial as the new Dragon Magazine themes.

I will say one thing that I appreciate much more about the Dark Sun themes, they are tied much more closely to the campaign world. These Dark Sun themes also have the benefit of special and flavorful paragon paths tied directly too them. Sadly the Dragon Magazine themes do not have associated paragon paths, however each theme provides a paragon path-like development for the heroic levels.

Personally, I see the themes as a great way to flesh out what your character was before becoming an adventurer. The possibilities could be endless honestly. The Dragon Magazine themes are applicable to almost any campaign world, but you could craft specific themes in the way of the backgrounds that are already in the books. They could be great hooks for character development and paths for DMs to send PCs down.

I have crafted a couple as we will be adding themes to our characters in my own group soon. I thought of these themes based on some PCs that already exist in our game:

An amnesiac is a little off. Things just don’t quite seem as clear as they should. There are these memories that are swimming about an amnesiacs head, pieces of a puzzle. But some of the pieces are missing, of frankly most of the pieces just don’t fit. Things do not make sense. Maybe you cannot remember your childhood. Or maybe you do and you just cannot recall anything between then and now. Entire experiences are missing from your memory. Why do you have a wedding band but no spouse, who is this picture of that you carry in your back pocket and why do you have these tattooed instructions that you need to “find John G.” on your back.

There could be many reasons for why you cannot remember your past. Maybe you had a near lethal encounter with a mindflayer or perhaps your family was literally erased from the time continuum by an evil wizard. What you should be concerned with is what those memories mean. Do you want to put the puzzle together? Can your memory be fully reinstated? Are you afraid of what you will discover when it is? All these are questions that an amnesiac character should ask herself.

Starting Feature-
There are things that you know but you are not sure how you know them. Its as if you were someone else before now. You have skills and memories from a life that you cannot remember or recall clearly, but these mysterious talents are at your disposal. If you dig deeper you may remember even more. Only time will tell.
Benefit: Select one class specific multiclass feat that you qualify for. You gain that feat as a bonus feat.

Additional Features

Level 5 Feature
You seem to have abilities and skills that you never remember acquiring. However you came to learn such things, you seem to be pretty good at it.
Benefit: Choose one new skill that is on the list of class skills from your chosen multiclass. You gain training in that skill. In addition you gain a +2 bonus when using that skill.

Level 10 Feature
You feel more comfortable now than ever with your abilities. They may be alien in nature to you, but at one time you must have been a master of them. You can now use these abilities as easily as any others that you know.
Benefit: You may use your highest ability score for attack rolls made with powers from your chosen multiclass.

Optional Powers

Remembered Trick    Amnesiac Utility 2
You may not be able to learn new tricks but you can still remember old tricks
Minor Action    Personal
Effect: Choose one skill. Until the end of the encounter you gain training in that skill.

Scattered Mind        Amnesiac Utility 6
Sometimes it is good to forget what just happened
No Action    Personal
Effect: If you are dazed, stunned or dominated, end that condition.

Remembered Talent    Amnesiac Utility 10
There was definitely a time in which you used to be talented
Minor Action    Personal
Effect: Choose one hybrid talent from the hybrid talent options associated with the hybrid version of your multiclass. You gain that hybrid talent until the end of the encounter.

A reincarnated creature has been thrust back into this world after dying in another life. The cause of your reincarnation could be greatly varied from religious to cursed or even an intricate plot to spy on a certain race. Perhaps you magically reincarnate when you die like Doctor Who. Reincarnation does not even have to be about death. Maybe your were once a drow warrior and an ancient druid has transformed you into an elf, in hopes that you will recognize the pain and suffering you enact on the elven people. Or maybe your ancestors were tieflings and now your human village believes that their forefathers literally live on the bodies of human descendants.

There are many directions to take this theme. You may want to consider whether your character finds her new state to be a blessing or a curse or just a matter of fact. Do you embrace your new form? Do you embrace the life you came from? Are you at odds with your new and old form? Perhaps you do not even know you were reincarnated and clues from the present are hinting at your past life.

Starting Feature-
Your connection to your past life, no matter how weak or strong, makes you capable of adapting inherent qualities from your previous race to your current race. You seem comfortable transitioning between two cultures and have a knack for overcoming some of the cultural barriers that outsiders may find stifling.
Benefit: Select a race other than your own. You are considered a member of that race for the purposes of meeting prerequisites. In addition you speak all the listed languages for that race.

Additional Features:

Level 5 Feature-
As you grow in power, you start to remember more from your past life, bits and pieces and things you learned from before. You develop a familiar knack for those skills.
Benefit: You receive the skill bonuses for your chosen race associated with this theme.

Level 10 Feature-
Not only do you feel more comfortable around you old race, they seem to be more receptive to you now.
Benefit: You receive a +5 bonus to charisma based skills and checks when interacting with your chosen race associated with this theme

Optional Powers

Second Chance at Life        Reincarnated Utility 2
You just got a new body, this is no time to screw it up
No Action    Personal
Trigger: You make a death saving throw.
Effect: Consider the result as if you rolled a 20.

Will Not Fail a Second Time     Reincarnated Utility 6
Who said there are no second chances
Free Action    Personal
Trigger: You make a d20 roll and dislike the result
Effect: Reroll the d20. Use the second roll, even if it is lower.

Echoes of the Past        Reincarnated Utility 10
You reach deep and for a brief moment clearly recall what you once were
No Action    Personal
Effect: Select a racial power for your chosen race associated with this theme, you may use that power as normal until the end of your next turn.


Character Creations: Heroes of Creation

Recently, I have been playing a bard in Shimmertook’s campaign. The setting is a points of light world that is currently in the throes of a volcanic catastrophe that has left the predominantly human population shattered. There are some other interesting plot lines and backdrops, but for the most part the world has been offered up to the players to develop.

My bard in particular is from a unique village that reveres the old ways, those ways being arcane and divine powers. Much of the campaign setting focuses on the primal powers due to a retreat of the gods a long time ago. In addition, arcane magic is looked upon with skepticism and fear. Magical items are scarce or hidden away and heroes are hard to come by. All great fluff.

This did open the doors for the players to build more of the history and intertwine it with their character’s personal backgrounds. I have been a long time fan (as I am sure many nerds are) of Tolkien’s creation story in The Silmarillion. For those unfamiliar with it, there is a song at the start of creation; from that song the world is created. It is slightly more complex that that with some conflict and rebellion by future evil gods, but basically the world is created by this perfect and beautiful song that is limitless in its scope. So you know, great artists steal and all that.

What I really wanted was for the song of creation to be a part of my bard’s story, not just the back drop for the campaign’s history. Of course there is much that I can role play into the character, but I personally enjoy coming up with mechanics that enhance that experience. Mechanics that make these flavorful choices tangible in game play.

I got to thinking more about what this Song of Creation is all about. Certainly it encompasses more than just the idea of creation. It would be about all the things in that exist in this fantasy world. I liken it much to the descriptions of the Supernal language in 4e. This song is universal in that it is familiar and inherent to all living (and perhaps dead) creatures on the planet. I liked this idea so much that I asked Shimmertook if I could have Supernal as one of my known languages. Of course the DM’s guide discourages this, and I understand why.

Supernal is the language of the divine beings. The manuals even clarify that just learning the language does not empower a mortal being to speak it as if she were an immortal. That is fair, but at our table we are less concerned about such things. All the players are comfortable with each other and our DM knows that we are in this campaign to try some new (sometimes rule bending) ideas. So my human bard knows Supernal.

But I envision her really knowing Supernal and speaking the language of the gods as an immortal. In this world, bits and pieces of the Song of Creation have been slowly uncovered by luck or fate or divine providence. Slowly mankind has pieced this song together. Certainly no one knows the entire song, until my bard gets to epic that is! Anyway you get where I am going with this. There is a goal and a story here that I want to develop and I want my bard’s abilities to reflect that. So I drafted this feat:

Words of Creation
Prerequisite: 11th level, know Supernal
Benefit: If you wish it, when you speak Supernal listeners who don’t speak Supernal can understand your words as if you used their native language. When making a charisma based skill check or ability check while speaking Supernal you gain a +2 feat bonus to that check.

Pretty straight forward and admittedly cool (for charisma-ie types). After crafting this feat I thought more about “words” that were already in the game. Mainly for my own bard, but potentially for other types who would perhaps sing in combat. I could go down interesting paths for many a class, but I stuck with some of the first leaders as they all were designed with the “word” class healing powers.

My thought was to simply build upon that already incorporated design, these leaders who cry out inspiring and healing and majestic words in combat. I feel most all the feats are true to the roles, and in particular the class they are affiliated with. All of these feats are paragon and higher as I felt like the context of the Words of Creation was something that more powerful and wizened characters would be drawn to (let alone have the resources and intellect to be within reach). Let me know what you think:

Familiar Chorus
Prerequisite: 11th level, Bard, Words of Creation
Benefit: When you use your Majestic Word power, you may slide each ally in the burst 1 square.

War Chanter
Prerequisite: 11th level, Warlord, Words of Creation
Benefit: Any ally that you target with your Inspiring Word gains a +2 power bonus to its next attack roll before the end of your next turn.

Hymn of Succor
Prerequisite: 11th level, Cleric, Words of Creation
Benefit: When you use your Healing Word power, each ally in the burst gains temporary hit points equal to your Wisdom modifier.

Song of Creation
Prerequisite: 21st level, Bard, Words of Creation
Benefit: When you target an ally with your Majestic Word power, that ally may move her speed as a free action.

Song of Suffering
Prerequisite: 21st level, Warlord, Words of Creation
Benefit: When you target an ally with your Inspiring Word power, that ally may take a basic attack as a free action.

Song of Forgiveness
Prerequisite: 21st level, Cleric, Words of Creation
Benefit: When you use your Healing Word power, each ally in the burst may make a saving throw with a bonus equal to your Charisma modifier.