Monday, July 30, 2012

Rippin' on...Call of Cthulhu

Zack and Steve apparently took some time off from bashing on tabletop rpgs and based on their rather weak take on AD&D 2e Tome of Magic, they probably returned to it a bit prematurely. However, they're back with the funny in what looks like a series of shots at Call of Cthulhu. It's about time.

Mansions of Madness, pt.1


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Duelist Revisted

Most people would agree that the Prestige Classes (PrC) no longer shine so brightly compared to the base classes in Pathfinder. In 3.5 the most optimized builds usually had several different dips of various Prestige Classes. I think the main reason for this was that the base classes tended to be on the weak side, PrCs were front loaded with cool class abilities, and there was no incentive to stick with a class. At the end of the 3.5 era I think most people were sick of the vast number of Prestige Classes out there and so with the coming of Pathfinder, Prestige Classes were few and largely sucky compared to the beefed up base classes.

In the Pathfinder Beta, the Duelist prestige class was very strong defensively but weak offensively. The release version nerfed some of its defensive strength but did little to boost it on the offensive side. The poor Duelist has been left out in the cold sitting in a dark corner next to the Assassin PrC - things no PC in their right mind would take.

Over time more splat books come out offering more options and often things that suck alone synergize nicely with new options. Sometimes this is intentional and sometimes not. The Dervish Dance feat is specifically worded so it blends nicely with the Duelist PrC. This feat allows you to use dex for damage. It comes with lots of restrictions but the Duelist faces the same restrictions for most of his class skills so it doesn't matter.

Lastly there is the question of what classes to use for entry to Duelist? The Rogue seems good thematically but sucks in practice. Rogues have trouble hitting in combat and sneak attack looks much better than it actually is. My current preferred set up is fighter 5/monk2. We'll use the Lore Warden Archetype for the fighter classes. We trade away Medium, Heavy, and shield proficiency which we would not use anyway and get 2 extra skill points per level, Combat Expertise and a small boost to CMB/CMD. The fighter levels also gets us enough bonus feats to qualify for Duelist, Weapon Specialization and Weapon Training, which when combined with Gloves of Dueling give us a total of +3 to hit and +5 to damage. The 2 monk (Master of Many Styles archetype) levels are for style feats and Evasion since we'll have a really good Reflex save. If you started with Fighter 1/Monk2 you could have Crane Wing allowing you to deflect one attack per turn which is pretty strong when most things only have one attack at this level. The Crane Style feats work when fighting defensively which combines nicely with the Duelist's Elaborate Defence ability.

Here is my 10th level Duelist build. Fighting defensively, To Hit drops by one but AC goes up by 3. Combat Expertise can also be used to punch AC up into the stratosphere (AC 37).

Male Halfling Duelist 3 Fighter (Lore Warden) 5 Monk (Master of Many Styles) 2
LG Small Humanoid (Halfling)
Init +8; Senses Perception +18
AC 31, touch 27, flat-footed 20   (+3 armor, +9 Dex, +1 size, +1 natural, +2 deflection, +2 dodge)
hp 87 (8d10+2d8+20)
Fort +13, Ref +16, Will +12
Defensive Abilities Canny Defense +3, Evasion, Parry
Spd 30 ft.
Melee +2 Scimitar +20/+15 (1d4+14/18-20/x2) and
   Unarmed Strike +16/+11 (1d4/20/x2)
Special Attacks Precise Strike, Weapon Training: Blades, Heavy
Str 10,  Dex 20/22,  Con 10/12,  Int 14/16,  Wis 14/16,  Cha 10
Base Atk +9; CMB +10; CMD 36
Feats Combat Expertise +/-3, Crane Riposte, Crane Style, Crane Wing, Dervish Dance, Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike, Mobility, Monk Weapon Proficiencies, Stunning Fist (4/day) (DC 18), Toughness +10, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus: Scimitar, Weapon Specialization: Scimitar
Skills Acrobatics +19, Disable Device +16, Fly +8, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +16, Knowledge (Engineering) +16, Knowledge (Local) +14, Perception +18, Perform (Dance) +5, Stealth +23
Languages Common, Halfling
SQ AC Bonus +3, Enhanced Mobility (Ex), Fearless, Fuse Style (2 styles) (Ex), Stunning Fist (Stun) (Ex), Unarmed Strike (1d6)
Combat Gear +2 Scimitar; Other Gear Amulet of Natural Armor +1, Belt of Physical Might, DEX & CON +2, Bracers of Armor, +3, Cloak of Resistance, +3, Handy Haversack (empty), Headband of Mental Prowess, INT & WIS +2: Disable Device, Ring of Protection, +2
AC Bonus +3 The Monk adds his Wisdom bonus to AC and CMD, more at higher levels.
Canny Defense +3 (Ex) +INT bonus to AC (max Duelist level).
Combat Expertise +/-3 Bonus to AC in exchange for an equal penalty to attack.
Crane Riposte When you deflect an attack, you may make an attack of opportunity
Crane Style Take -2 penalty when fighting defensively
Crane Wing May deflect one attack per round while fighting defensively or using total defense
Dervish Dance Use Dex modifier instead of Str modifier with scimitar
Enhanced Mobility (Ex) +4 AC vs attacks of opportunity while moving out of a square.
Evasion (Ex) If you succeed at a Reflex save for half damage, you take none instead.
Fearless +2 morale bonus vs Fear saves.
Fuse Style (2 styles) (Ex) At 1st level, a master of many styles can fuse two of the styles he knows into a more perfect style. The master of many styles can have two style feat stances active at once. Starting a stance provided by a style feat is still a swift action, but whe
Improved Unarmed Strike Unarmed strikes don't cause attacks of opportunity, and can be lethal.
Mobility +4 to AC against some attacks of opportunity.
Parry (Ex) Forego an attack to defend against enemy attacks.
Precise Strike (Ex) Extra damage when using light / 1-handed Piercing weapons.
Stunning Fist (4/day) (DC 18) You can stun an opponent with an unarmed attack.
Stunning Fist (Stun) (Ex) At 1st level, the monk gains Stunning Fist as a bonus feat, even if he does not meet the prerequisites. At 4th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, the monk gains the ability to apply a new condition to the target of his Stunning Fist. This conditio
Unarmed Strike (1d6) The Monk does lethal damage with his unarmed strikes.
Weapon Training: Blades, Heavy +1 (Ex) +1 Attack, Damage, CMB, CMD with Heavy Blades

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Resource management in D&D

One of the most radical design changes in 4e was the abandonment of Vancian magic. Some design features had been incorporated into D&D 3.x/Pathfinder in order to mitigate the problem of the "5 minute workday" such as bonus spells for high ability scores, school slots and powers and, of course, the introduction of the Sorcerer class which traded versatility for extra spellcasting. Still, the temptation to rest after every major encounter was still present, especially if more combat was expected. So, D&D 4e did away with the problem by allowing spellcasters to cast spells all day long (although, I must confess, from my brief flirtation with 4e, I found the constant reliance on that "go-to" at-will power got pretty monotonous in long fights...and let's face it, in 4e, they're all long fights).

I mention this in response to the most recent article from Mike Mearls entitled the The Five-Minute Workday. In it, he tries to explain how the next edition of D&D will include Vancian magic, while still allowing the spellcasters to be effective for a full day of adventuring. Based on what I've seen in the playtest, it still plays like 4e. For example, magic missile, one of the at-will powers for wizards in 4e, but a 1st-level spell in previous editions, is now a cantrip and useable at will. The new version of the venerable spell is slightly weaker in that it tops out at 4D4+4 instead of 5D4+5, but it is still way more powerful that any cantrip in D&D 3.x/Pathfinder. So, the issue of resource management is still being ignored in D&DNext. Wizards will still be able to go all day, only rationing some of their precious spells and still never having to come up with creative ways of being useful when their big booms are depleted.

Perhaps it is characteristic of our advanced years and accumulated aeons of gaming experience, but our group doesn't seem to have a problem with the 5-minute workday. Our spellcasters rarely seem to have a problem letting the fighters mop up after the first few rounds of heavy fighting. Sure, our wizard could blow his last fireball on the three remaining orcs that are running away instead of allowing the ranger to pick them off with his bow, then promptly demand the party rest for the day. But, it just doesn't play out that way. We consider resource management the mark of a skilled gamer. Besides, fighters do so much damage in Pathfinder, the spellcasters are usually better off keeping them in the fight than lobbing fireballs anyway.


Monday, July 09, 2012

RuneQuest 6 - Do Not...tempt me further!

I must say up front, I do not understand the sudden resurgence of interest in the game known as RuneQuest. It is a great game. In fact, it may be the greatest tabletop frpg, but who plays it? I own several incarnations of the basic game system, including Mongoose RQII, Legend (i.e. son of MRQII) and Elric! (RQ rules, Moorcockian setting), but I must confess, I've never played it (except in my own mind). The closest I've come are brief flirtations with Call of Cthulhu and Basic Role-Playing, both of which use the same basic game mechanics. Now, a new edition of the venerable game is making its debut, RuneQuest 6 from The Design Mechanism. The primary designers of MRQII, Lawrence Whitaker and Peter Nash, are the guys responsible for this, which makes ignoring RQ6 pretty much impossible. But do I need yet another version of RuneQuest? If it's the best one yet, then absolutely yes. However, the pdf has a hefty $25 price point, double what I am usually willing to pay for something sight unseen. Weighing in at over 450 pgs, I would expect to hardcopy version to show up on store shelves with a price tag north of $60. In other words, it's a pretty steep buy-in for something which may be only superficially different from the last version of RQ that Loz and Pete produced. Initial reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but I suppose I will have to wait to find out if RQ6 is significantly improved over MRQII.