Review: Mistborn

Right before finals, I finished up Brandon Sanderson‘s book Mistborn (Amazon). I have to say, I was genuinely impressed. I started reading it after getting a recommendation for The Way of Kings via @feliciaday, though I wasn’t prepared to buy a new hardcover. Not when I could get an earlier trilogy for even cheaper. And I was curious to see what kind of author puts the “Epic” back into “Epic Fantasy.” And I’m going to say, while I don’t know that he did it in Mistborn, I can definitely see that he’s capable.

Continue reading


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Blogosphere. I hope you’re out there right now celebrating with friends and loved ones! If you’re checking your RSS Feed right now, you’re either in a very different time zone, or you’re exactly the target demographic for this blog.

A few resolutions for 2011!

  1. I will buy more indie games! And by “indie,” I don’t mean third party. I mean independent. I will spend at least $10 a month on PDFs made by some person on their computer. $0.99 PDFs. I’m opening up my wallet  for indiegames.com!
  2. I will introduce someone to the hobby. That’s what it’s going to take to keep this hobby alive – fresh blood. We can all buy all the products we want, but if we don’t wean some of our friends off videogames and CCGs, well, then it’s going to go the way of the philatelists and hobby entomologists.
  3. I will launch this blog. Right after I start exercising and eating right.

What’re you resolving to accomplish?

Images courtesy of http://englishrussia.com/images/nerd_party/8.jpg

Friday Forays – The Sunken Mineshaft

My last inaugural category post for the week. (Phew! Though, the day after tomorrow (which is next week), I’ll be debuting Society Sundays, so maybe this is my penultimate inaugural category post for now.) Welcome to Friday Forays. Friday Forays will be my chance to wrap it all up, everything I’ve covered in the week, into something more cohesive. (Though I make no promises that it will be cohesive – it could be off-the-wall.)

Friday Forays are going to go one of a few ways.

  • Sometimes, like today, I’ll offer you something akin to the Five Room Dungeon. Written descriptions of rooms and the threats you’ll find within, meant to be dropped into or in between your other adventures.
  • Other times, it’ll be a single encounter, but with the maps that come with it. I just bought myself Dundjinni for Christmas, so, give me a week or two to get familiar with it. I’m not used to having to share my encounter maps with the world, so I’ve got to figure that out.
  • Some combination of the above, plus more, as part of an over-arching adventure. That’s right – something resembling a complete module, over the course of a few weeks, here on The Consummate DM.

Hopefully, this’ll be the most fun, with the possible exception of Monster Mondays. I like bookending the week with awesomeness. Now all I have to do is make it awesome.

The Setup

Verbort Cairnsmasher, a dwarven prospector, has heard rumors that there’s an untapped node of mirror crystal down a certain fork in the Mirror Mines of Belness. He offers to PCs 100gp for verification of these rumors. He wants a shard of the crystal and a drawing of the room and the node.

The rumors are true, a tiny (but valuable to a solitary prospector like Verbort) node of mirror crystal. Unfortunately, it’s currently in use. The War Chieftain of the Bloodspear Goblins has sent a group of magic-users to tap into the mirror crystal in the hopes of opening a portal to Magdib (a ritual far beyond the pale of the goblins’ power, unbeknownst to them).

The PCs are given a map by Verbort, which only leads them as far into the mines as Encounter E1. The PCs must explore beyond that on their own.

(E1) Natural Guardians

The room here is home to XXX. The goblins get into the chamber by either sneaking by when the XXX are out hunting, or run past and dive into the water below (described in E2). Getting out is a matter of patience, waiting until the XXX are gone.

(E2) The Double Ambush

The mine goes from a tunnel in section E1, to a downward shaft, going about thirty feet down to a flooded tunnel, with a ladder along the wall. The water is about three feet deep and functions as difficult terrain. The lower chamber is about fifteen feet tall, and about twenty feet wide, and from the ladder to the other end is about sixty feet.

At the far end, there’s about ten feet of dry land. On that wall, there’s a door. The door appears to have been added later, along with the wall. The goblins have turned a retaining support into a full wall, with ten foot wide double doors. The doors are barred, but not well, and only require a DC 15 Strength Check to push open.
Hidden along one of the two long walls is a small alcove, within are X goblin archers (where X = party size – 2), who start shooting the PCs when they are about ten to fifteen feet away from the ladder. There’s no ladder or easy way up to the alcove. Getting up there requires a DC 15 Athletics or Acrobatics roll and a full round action. Using Athletics provokes attacks of opportunity from all the goblin archers, using Acrobatics only provokes an opportunity from one goblin.
Hidden in the wall behind the ladder (to the side of the ladder) is a small alcove, with a false wall made of woven grass and mud. Behind that are two GOBLIN LURKERS. They wait for the PCs to respond to the archers, then strike.

(E3) Goblin Warren

Unless the PCs somehow sneak past the goblins in (E2), the goblins behind the barred door are prepared. Three GOBLIN BRUTES, four GOBLIN RANGED MINIONS, and a GOBLIN SKIRMISHER wait within. They’re armed, and ready. The RANGED MINIONS have a called action against the first PC to cross through the door.
The room is a large circular room, about fifty feet in diameter. The room is smoky, though not enough to grant concealment – there is a deep fire pit in the center of the room (hazardous terrain), and the goblins haven’t thought much about ventilation. The floor is littered with sleeping bundles. From the warren are doors to two rooms, each with cheap goblin walls constructed.

(E4) The Blue Room

There is a second room here, where the blue goblins sent by the War Chieftain hide to get away from the gibbering mental voices of the other goblins. They are likely to hide (unless the PCs completely rout the goblins in encounter (E3), in which case the DM can have them come out and attack the PCs. The room is just another small warren, with some psionically oriented magic item that the DM wants the PCs to have. Inside are a three Blue Goblin Battleminds, a Blue Goblin Psion and a Blue Goblin Ardent (see Monday’s post).

(E5) Node to a Goblin Urn

Within this room are two Goblin Hexers, and Gibbergrin the Mad, the leader of this band of goblins. The room is quite large (sixty feet in diameter), and painted with runes in chalk and blood, with candles and bones arranged throughout. In the center of the room is the large node of which Verbort spoke. Ten feet tall and as big around, a giant shimmering piece of mirror crystal shooting out of the ground. There are other (much smaller) chunks of mirror crystal around the room – about five; these all function just like the mirror crystal described in the second DMG.

Conclusion

On Gibbergrin’s person is another magical item that the DM wants to give the PCs. I recommend FANCY MAGIC ITEM, but go with your gut. Verbort makes good on his promise if the PCs bring him a sketch of the node, though the PCs can probably leverage knowledge of that node to another miner for something else that they want more than 100 gp.

Art via: http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=&section=&q=underground+crystal#/d24g7a3http://browse.deviantart.com/?q=goblin%20archer&order=9&offset=24#/d6w5cw


Theory Thursday – The SuperMinion Revisited

I’m a huge fan of Robot Viking. I get pumped every time Ed Grabianowski shows up in my reader. And in light of yesterday’s post on my in-game alterations to 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, I thought I’d discuss my thoughts on one of my favorite meta-game, rules adjudication alterations, the SuperMinion House Rule.

It’s not wholly accurate to say that I’m re-visiting the SuperMinion, since it’s Ryk Perry’s invention. If you’re at all interested in 4E D&D or in being a good Game Master (seriously – what GM doesn’t agonize over how to deal with absent players?), take a look at the article. It’s really that good.

What’s Already Been Said

The tl;dr version of the article goes something like this: an absent player’s character becomes a SuperMinion, who can move as a move action, and as a standard action, make an attack that automatically hits and deals damage equal to their level. Defenses are simply the character’s level plus 10. SuperMinions are immediately bloodied on a hit, and are unconscious when hit while blooded – they go down and the Dungeon Master leaves ‘em alone (with the exception of a TPK). That’s a generic SuperMinion, which is then altered by role (not class):

  • Defender: The target of any attack is immobilized until the beginning of the SM’s next turn.
  • Striker: Attacks cause +2 damage.
  • Controller: The target of the controller SuperMinion’s attack is marked until the beginning of the SuperMinion’s next turn. If the target moves from its square before then, the target takes damage equal to the SuperMinion’s level.
  • Leader: As a minor encounter action, allow one ally to use a healing surge.

And that’s about it. The promise is a way to keep a role or character present in a group (if the leader doesn’t show up, the DM doesn’t need to hand out potions of healing or alter the encounters – everybody still gets healed), without any bookkeeping or die rolling. The only negative referenced is the susceptibility to bursts and blasts, which admittedly is severe.

The Revisiting

As a one-shot solution to an absent player, I think the SuperMinion is a fantastic idea, both in concept and execution. Yet, I think it fails to address the problem of a recurrently absent player. I’m sure some of you wonder why a player is recurrently absent and still a part of the group, but most of you probably know. Sometimes players have life complications, or can only come in every other Saturday, or work on-call. Whatever the reason, sometimes players repeatedly are absent.

The problem with repeated absences is it makes the character less memorable. Virtually every solution to player absence, with the exception of the bookkeeping intensive “player double-fisting the die and rolling for two characters” option, never allows for a character to make a splash. When you have a group that games for a while, with one character taking a back seat, you end up with a party consisting of

Quicella, the hunted barbarian princess, Cossio, wooer of women and slitter of throats, Iania, the aged mistress of arcane secrets, Boanold, the dwarven dunce with the dulcimer, and uh, whatisname, Frankie’s sorcerer, the, uh, the tiefling. I think.

I think the solution lies within the SuperMinion concept, but must allow for variations beyond just defender and controller. If you don’t incentivize the table to roleplay the absent character, the dragging nature of 4th Edition combat and the constant crush of table dynamics means that Frankie’s sorcerer is not being roleplayed.

Solutions

There’s no easy solution to this problem. Simplicity and memorability are opposite ends of the spectrum (this is a contextual claim, mind you), and the SuperMinion principle is meant to maximize simplicity. By increasing the complexity (and memorability) of the character, we’re also robbing the SuperMinion of its entire purpose. Can we make the character more memorable and still leave it as a super minion? I say yes. It all comes down to doing some paperwork beforehand.

Option One – SuperMinion At-Wills: Give the player controlling the SuperMinion some options! This can be done by creating SuperMinion versions of the missing character’s at-wills. Choose an at-will power that, on average, will do more damage* than SuperMinion damage (1 per level). Instead of using the SuperMinion modifier (for example, +2 damage for a Striker), add whatever the power does. If it slides someone, slide them. If it slows them, it slows them. This allows the SuperMinion to still have that feel that they have when they’re actually played. (*Note: For powers like the Invoker’s Grasping Shards, which do middling damage, either have it do 1 point of damage (for minion destruction), or none. The SuperMinion damage shouldn’t be more than the damage the power regularly does.)

Option Two – Regular Defenses: This one is easy. Give the character the defenses it actually has. Forget the SuperMinion defense – just use their actual Fortitude, etc.

Option Three – Static Options: Let the present players utilize any and all non-consumable powers and options that don’t involve die rolling possessed by the absent character. Also, allow for any die rolling out of combat. Rituals? Cast ‘em! Skills (that either none of the PCs have, or none have in spades)? Use ‘em! Mind Spike and Fey Step? Absolutely! Spice your character up. No dice are involved, so just have someone familiarize themselves with the character sheet before you sit down to play.

Option Four – Pinch Hitter: This is a fun one. If a present player’s character goes down (unconscious or dead), the absent player’s character takes their place. Hand them the character sheet. If the SuperMinion hasn’t been hit, they’re halfway between healthy and bloodied. If they’ve been bloodied, start them at bloodied. It’s up the Dungeon Master to what extent they still have their dailies and encounters. This way, the unconscious character doesn’t have to spend three turns rolling to save against death.

What am I missing?


Wondrous Wednesday – My Staple 4th Edition Potions!

I genuinely like the balance created in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, and specifically, in terms of the use of encounter and daily powers. And while the Essentials line has introduced new classes that forgo the use of some of these powers, I still think there are numerous classes that either won’t or have yet not been converted into the Essentials line.

One of the problems with the perfect balancing, however, is that it makes for difficult balancing for long adventuring days. I’m not even discussing the five-minute adventuring day, either – even with the action points granted by milestones, once your party has used up their dailies, they’re much weaker than they were before, and the climactic battle at the end is often tougher than it needs to be.

Additionally, even with the addition of minions (which I think are a brilliant addition to the system), sometimes you just want a group of enemies to be larger. More numerous. The numbers are perfectly balanced in terms of defenses versus attack rolls, but five level ten characters are balanced against five level ten monsters with the assumption that these characters all have a number of encounter powers to use. Often, in a group with, say, two leaders and some healing potions, what’s stopping the players from taking on eight or nine equal level monsters isn’t the lack of hit points, but rather, there’s only so many ways to dish out that good encounter damage before falling back to the at-wills.

And a DM can only set up encounters on top of energy nodes so often before it begins to feel contrived.

Thus, in the vein of potions of healing, I offer you one of my first “house rules” (though it’s more of an in-campaign accommodation) to 4E.

Potion of Daily Strength – Level 6
This simple potion restores to you the vigor of body and clarity of mind you had when you awoke this morning.
Potion 100 gp
Power (Consumable ♦ Healing): Minor action. Drink this potion and spend a healing surge. You recover the use of one daily power. That power must be in internal, and not part of a magic item.
Potion of Morning Strength – Level 5
Upon the quaffing of this potion, the exhaustion you feel creeping up on you as you strike at your foes slowly fades away.
Potion 80 gp
Power (Consumable ♦ Healing): Minor action. Drink this potion. You recover the use of one encounter power. That power must be in internal, and not part of a magic item.
Potion of Divine Strength – Level 4
You drink this potion, infused with the power of your deity, and you feel renewed confidence in your divine sanction to smite your enemies.
Potion 50 gp
Power (Consumable ♦ Healing): Minor action. Drink this potion. You recover the use of one Channel Divinity power – you may now use one more divinity power this encounter. That power must be in internal, and not part of a magic item. You may only drink this potion after using a Channel Divinity power in an encounter.

There are two obvious caveats, here. First, I made the Potion of Divine Strength because 4th Edition has special encounter powers for classes with the Divine Power Source, but ostensibly, you could make potions that only renew your daily power if you’re a Primal Power Source or Psionic Power Source character.
The second caveat, which should be obvious, is that these potions should be somewhat rare. Giving out too many removes the distinction between at-will and encounter and daily powers. But occasionally, as a player, getting to drop your daily power twice in one encounter, is an incredible feeling.

Art courtesy of thinkgeek.com

Travel Tuesday! – The Mirror Mines of Belness

Welcome to my inaugural Travel Tuesday post. These posts will provide vague and general descriptions of places, usable as sources of inspiration, or, with a little extra crunch (which will often be found in other posts of the week), a full location for adventuring. While in the future I intend to post a bit of the Countless Worlds campaign setting, for the first week (at least), I’m trying to offer things that are relatively suitable for the Nentir Vale, or whatever setting you want. Today, welcome to the Mirror Mines of Belness.

History

The village of Belness was once a tiny village of foresters. The River An’Bell flew down from the mountains towards the plainsfolk to the south, and the Belness people placed their lumber in the river and lived off the trade. Then, twelve years ago, came the great Storm of Wolfwinter, a torrential thunderstorm that lasted for three days and three nights. Some say that the storm was the repercussions of a druid’s duel, others say that a great storm titan had been slain, still others say that it was punishment for some wickedness of the mountain dwarves. Whatever caused the storm, the storm caused the slide.

Half a mile to the south of Belness, an entire cliff face disappeared in a night, washed away by the rain. Villagers soon discovered that under that hill lay deep, rich veins of mirror crystal*, powerful stones capable of warping space and time. Highly prized by wizards (and the kings who dealt with them), within months Belness was transformed into a mining town gripped by a powerful rush.

What was once a small village of hundreds was a camp-town of thousands by the end of the year. Thousands of miners, dwarven and human, descended on the town to eke out a fortune. The mirror crystal went deep into the mountain, and many, many people made their fortune their in the Mines. Hundreds of feet of tunnel were excavated every day, creating new hills to the south of Belness. The An’Bell River was diverted into the mines to wash away yet more earth (over the protests of some of the town elders). An entire industry of support for the miners cropped up in new tent cities around the mine. Wizards and whores, blacksmiths and outfitters, the Mirror Mines of Belness brought them all.

But like all mines, the ones beneath Belness dried up. It’s been three years since the last major lode of mirror crystal was found. The camp towns have dispersed, and Belness is slowly adjusting to life without the miners. The nearby forest were cleared for the shanties, and river was diverted. There’s talk of rerouting the river back to its old banks, but that would require a lot of resources the town doesn’t have – surprisingly, little of the wealth generated by the mines stayed in the town.

The miners haven’t completely left – there’s still plenty of mirror crystal down there. Just not enough to support the widespread mining operations that were there five years ago. And without the king’s soldiers, where there’s wealth there’s trouble. Not too mention that wild creatures have started to take up residence in the miles and miles of mineshaft beneath the village.

Belness is bigger than it was a decade ago. There are fewer loggers, but dozens of miners still make their way into the mines every day, and they need the infrastructure of Belness. Beginning adventurers can find all kinds of employ in Belness, from escorts to rescue. Just wandering around in the mines, the adventurers are likely to find both trouble and treasure.

NPCs

Belness and the mines are home to a number of interesting characters.

Brarani, Elder of Belness

Brarani is the last original town elder in Belness. Though Belness has no official governing body (all laws are made by the King’s Magistrate, who passes through town once a season), the town elects elders who act as de facto leaders of the town. Brarani, an elderly man whose family has owned the town chandlery for generations. Brarani is almost blind, wearing enormous glass spectacles. He hobbles around town, passing judgment. He was once overlooked as a town elder, elected to the position almost exclusively out of respect for his family and his age. But Brarani was one of the few elders who objected to the diversion of the River An’Bell, feeling that the town was being robbed by the new immigrants. He was right, and now he is as close the a mayor as Belness has. Newcomers would be wise to treat him with deference.

Oulina, the Neophye Priestess

(Note: I’ll use Pelor as  a stand-in for whatever god of good you use in your campaign.)

Belness used to have a wise and distinguished priest. Then, when the mines opened, the need for shepherd’s grew, and tent-temples were opened around the village. Over a dozen priests of Pelor came to attend the faithful, and plans were even drawn up to erect a temple of stone. (For a while, there was even talk of a grand cathedral.) Then, the mines dried up, and the priests of Pelor were called elsewhere.

Oulina came to Belness as her first assignment, only recently ordained and given a position of apprenticeship to a more senior priest. Yet, when the rest of the priests moved on, Oulina was instructed to stay behind and administer the needs of the Belness parishioners.

Oulina is young, barely the age of majority, and many of the villagers view it as an insult that they have a priestess who is so young and inexperienced. But Oulina throws herself into her work, and for the last two years, has done a commendable job.

She is tall and a little round, with long red hair, freckles and dimples.

Iareic Gladhammer, the Horologist

Unusually short, even for a dwarf, Iaeric Gladhammer is the town’s horologist,** and resident alemaster. Iaeric came to town before the mines opened, for reasons unknown. He likes to wander in the forest and over the hills, with little interest in cities or subterranean travels. He has a loud laugh and is generally pleasant. When he plays, he drinks hard, but he takes great care in the production of his clocks and his ale.

Peruel, Belness Sheriff

A recent immigrant to Belness, Peruel has barely been here a year. Even so, she’s made fast friends with many in the community. A thick woman whose grace belies her size, Peruel is a hunter in the woods further away from town, bringing back deer and rabbits over her shoulders. She has a square face and short brown hair, and she’s not much to look at, but her eyes twinkle, and she’s a cunning prankster. Yet what has won over many in Belness is her innate sense of fairness – and it is this fairness that has led to the villagers to defer to her on judgments of the law and enforcement of punishment. Belness is a peaceful village, but occasionally someone gets to deep into their cups or too rough with their spouse, and it’s Peruel that the city calls to put an end to the commotion.

Jadede, the Hulking Wizard

Nobody’s entirely sure when Jadede showed up – some say in the last year or so, other’s say he’s been in Belness for a decade. The only thing people can agree upon is that Jadede only came here after the mines opened. The difference between Jadede and the other wizards that came during the rush is that Jadede stuck around.

That’s not the only difference. Jadede is a dragonborn, a dark grey with a blue mottling. He’s ancient for a dragonborn, and he stoops when he walks (though even with the hunch, he’s still almost seven feet tall). Jadede lives outside of Belness, and nobody’s entirely sure where, but he visits the town often enough that he’s made friends. He wears tiny little spectacles on the edge of his nose, though many believe it to be an affectation.

Denizens

The Mirror Mines of Belness are home to many, many dangers that threaten those adventurers who are still green behind the ears. From miners to bandits, oozes to duergar, the Mirror Mines of Belness require caution in addition to courage.

Roll 1d12 (all monsters are from 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons)

  1. [Combat - Lvl 4] Duergar Mining Party: 3 Duergar Guards (MM2), 1 Duergar Scout (MM2), 4 Duergar Miners (Thunderspire Labyrinth)
  2. [Roleplay] Small group (3-5) of dwarven miners. They know the area, but are distrustful, especially of non-dwarves.
  3. [Combat - Lvl 3] Blue Slime (Keep on the Shadowfell)
  4. [Roleplay] Trapped miner. His lower legs are pinned beneath a cave-in, and the PCs are not strong enough to move him (though other, more drastic methods might work). If the PCs leave to get help, he’s dead by the time they get back.
  5. [Combat - Lvl 7] Bandits! 1 Human Knife Fighter (MM2), 2 Waterdeep Street Thugs (Dungeon Magazine 171), 1 Human Hexer (MM2)
  6. [Terrain] – Earthquake – The PCs are safe and their tunnel is stable, but there’s a cave-in back the way they came. Now, they’ll have to find a new way out.
  7. [Combat - Lvl 6] Pets of the Theurge! 2 Cave Bears (MM), and 1 Duergar Theurge (MM2)
  8. [Roleplay] The PCs stumble across an alchemist and his apparatus. The alchemist has set up shop and is manufacturing all kinds of potions (and will even sell some to the PCs!) The alchemist is non-threatening and generally friendly. An Arcana check, however, reveals that some of those potions are decidedly dastardly, the kind used only by the truly evil.
  9. [Combat - Lvl 9] Troll Bandits! 1 Bulette (MM) and 3 Trolls (MM)
  10. [Roleplay] A little girl is lost down in the mines. She’s looking for her lost dolly, and absolutely refuses to return to the surface without her.
  11. [Combat - Lvl 7] Troglodyte Scouting Party – 2 Troglodyte Impalers (MM), 3 Troglodyte Maulers (MM)
  12. [Terrain] Cave in! The characters are caught in a cave-in. Everybody takes about a healing surge worth of damage (roll the appropriate dice). An Acrobatics check allows for half-damage. Run a skill challenge. Options include Endurance and Athletics (dig their way out), Dungeoneering (notice which rocks are safe to move), History (stories of a group of cave-in survivors present inspiration regarding your current situation), and Healing (you notice one of the player’s injuries is far more serious than it looked – the rockfall was misleading and damaged them more than they thought – you save them from internal bleeding).

Building Encounters

Building encounters in the Mines of Belness is easy. Take your stereotypical mine-shaft, subterranean adventure design, and riddle it with mirror crystal. Have short range weapons suddenly reach far away changes everything, both for the players and the monsters. Rather than use mirror crystal abundantly throughout your campaign, just run five or six encounters here, where the mirror crystal makes sense and doesn’t feel contrived. Your PCs will get a chance to play with the new battlefield dynamic, and then they can move on.

* As seen in the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 68.

** Clock and watchmaker.

Images courtesy of: http://zebz.cghub.com/images/hero-s-journey-concept-art-and-illustrations/view:stream/http://daveallsop.deviantart.com/art/Duergar-Hedge-Mage-174640411


Monster Monday! – Blue Goblins!

Ever since they appeared in the 3.5 Expanded Psionics Handbook (I know they actually appeared in the original Psionics Handbook, but I didn’t see them then), I’ve always been fascinated with Blues, the psionic goblins. They’ve always been one of my favorite monsters. Partly for flavor, partly for mechanical reasons, but mostly because I love the metadesign aspect (psionic PCs? psionic goblins!).

To celebrate my inaugural Monster Monday post, I present a host of “blue” goblins for your 4th Edition D&D enjoyment!

Blues

Lore

Religion DC 18: When goblin warrens are built on top of deposits of energy nodes, the number of blues born to that population begins to increase. There are rumors of warrens out on the edges of civilization built upon massive energy nodes, within which virtually every goblin born is a blue.

Encounters

Goblin chieftains force their blues through rigorous training – the life of a blue is not an easy one. Goblin parties are often accompanied by a blue, often a psion, though ardents and battleminds are far from rare. Occasionally, a party of PCs may encounter an entire band of blues.

Blue Goblin Psion

Of all the blues, the psion is the most common. Their cheap robes set them apart from their brethren, dyed dark blue. They often stand behind their allies, striking down their foes.

Blue Goblin Psion

Level 2 Artillery

Small natural humanoid

XP 125

Initiative +3                          Senses Perception +1; low-light vision
HP 35; Bloodied 17
AC 14; Fortitude 15; Reflex 14; Will 15
Speed 6

m Quarterstaff (standard; at-will) • Weapon

+9 vs AC; 1d8 + 3 damage

r Force Blast (standard; at-will) • Force, Psychic

Ranged 10; targets two enemies; +7 vs Will; 1d10 + 3 force damage, and you push the target 1 square.

A Telekinetic Anchor (standard; recharge 5 6) • Force, Psychic

Area burst 1 within 10; +7 vs Fortitude; 2d10 + 3 force damage. Each target takes 5 damage the first time it moves on its next turn.

Goblin Tactics (immediate reaction, when the blue goblin psion is missed by a melee attack; encounter)

The goblin shifts 1 square.

Alignment Chaotic Evil

Languages Common, Goblin

Skills Insight +6

Str 11 (+1)

Dex 14 (+3)

Wis 11 (+1)

Con 17 (+4)

Int 8 (+0)

Cha 14 (+3)

Equipment Quarterstaff, Robes

Blue Goblin Battlemind

The battlemind is the fiercest of the blues. Larger than most other blues, and even most other goblins, the battlemind wades into battle, a fierce fighter who is as punishing with his longsword as he is with his mind.

Blue Goblin Battlemind

Level 3 Soldier

Small natural humanoid

XP 150

Initiative +3                          Senses Perception +1; low-light vision
HP 52; Bloodied 26
AC 19; Fortitude 16; Reflex 15; Will 15
Speed 6

m Longsword (standard; at-will) • Weapon

+10 vs AC; 1d8 + 3 damage, and you may mark the target.

Mind Spike (immediate reaction, an adjacent enemy marked by you deals damage to your ally with an attack that doesn’t include you as a target; at-will) • Force, Psychic

The target takes force and psychic damage equal to the damage its attack dealt to your ally.

Blurred Step (opportunity, when an adjacent enemy marked by you shifts.; at-will)

The Blue Goblin Battlemind may shift up to 2 squares.

Goblin Tactics (immediate reaction, when missed by a melee attack; at-will)

The Blue Goblin Battlemind shifts 1 square.

Alignment Chaotic Evil

Languages Common, Goblin

Skills Athletics +11, Intimidate +6

Str 20 (+6)

Dex 11 (+1)

Wis 11 (+1)

Con 14 (+3)

Int 11 (+1)

Cha 11 (+1)

Equipment Hide Armor, Longsword, Large Shield

Blue Goblin Ardent

Ardents are rare amongst the blues. The number of goblins who possess both the psychic fortitude and leadership potential required to be an ardent are rare. Yet when they are encountered, adventurers would be wise to be afraid – the ardent moves around the battlefield, healing its allies and striking down its foes.

Blue Goblin Ardent

Level 3 Skirmisher (Leader)

Small natural humanoid

XP 150

Initiative +6                          Senses Perception +9; low-light vision
HP 43; Bloodied 21
AC 17; Fortitude 14; Reflex 15; Will 18
Speed 6

m Greatsword (standard; at-will) • Weapon

+8 vs AC; 1d10 + 3 damage

M Demoralizing Strike (standard; at-will) • Psychic, Weapon

+6 vs Will; 1d10 + 3 damage, and the target takes -2 penalty to all defenses until the end of the Blue Goblin Ardent’s next turn.

Ardent Surge (standard; recharge 5 6) • Psychic, Healing

Blue Goblin Ardent or target within 5 can regain 10 hit points.

A Ardent Alacrity (immediate reaction, when the blue goblin ardent is bloodied; encounter) • Psychic

Close burst 5; each ally in burst can use a free action to either shift 1 square or move half its speed.

Goblin Tactics (immediate reaction, when missed by a melee attack; at-will)

The Blue Goblin Ardent shifts 1 square.

Alignment Chaotic Evil

Languages Common, Goblin

Skills Athletics +8, Insight +9

Str 14 (+3)

Dex 17 (+4)

Wis 17 (+4)

Con 11 (+1)

Int 14 (+3)

Cha 14 (+3)

Equipment Leather Armor, Greatsword


Review: Arcane Power

Okay, I’m not the internet wizard I thought I was.  I just got back from a vacation (to Disney World!) and none of my posts auto-posted to the future.  So, I’ll be posting them over the next few days.  Sorry about that!

First off, I’ll be reviewing Wizard on the Coast’s Arcane Power, their second power source supplement.  If you’ve read Martial Power, then you know exactly what you’re getting into – builds and powers, paragon paths and epic destinies.  All good stuff in this one, though the power creep is starting to… creep.

My first beef is the presence of the bard in the book.  I mean, I get why and how and so forth, but when a book presents new options to a class that was introduced a mere month before, I kinda feel like I’m being taken for a ride.  That being said, I’ve always felt like playing Wizards’ games was a ticket to a very glossy ride anyway, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise.  Not only that, but the bard’s pictured in the book don’t seem to have any instruments.  I mean, unless a giant flaming sword and a bow and arrow are now musical instruments, in which case there’s a band I need to form.  And many of the bard’s powers have little to nothing to do with… barding.  Firemetal Shot, Wall of Anguish, and Arrow of Destiny all sound like kickass powers… for my ranger. And as for the other powers…  adding the word “cadence” or “euphonic” do not make it bardy, they just make you a tool.  But the Half-Elf Emissary seems pretty sweet – the Gambit power, partnered with 4E’s new minions mean that those bonuses are going to be huge.

The sorcerer gets some new gizmos, and I like ‘em.  Storm Magic is simple yet awesome, much like the thunder and lightning upon which the class build draws its theme.  I like it.  The Cosmic Magic build seems cool, but seems a little… catch-all for my tastes.  But some people who fancy themselves to be cosmic and deep will probably love it.  Moon Cage seems nice.

I can’t really speak to the swordmage, because I haven’t really gone through my copy of 4E Forgotten Realms yet, and haven’t run a Storm Mage, so… YMMV.

The warlock is where the shit hits the fan.  The Vestige Pact seems… begging to be broken.  Basically, your benefits are always changing, but seem to be about as powerful as the other pacts.  So, instead of 1 pact, you get dozens, depending on what you need.  (Well, you start with the choice of two, but you can get more with powers.  The whole Augment seems to be the veritable definition of creep.)

The new builds for the wizard are great.  After a decade of hating the Illusionist (it was meant as an example people, not the only school specialist), I have to admit I’m glad to see them come back.  And a Summoner?  Hell yeah.  Getting “Summon Fire Warrior” as an ability at 1st level just screams at me to be picked.

The arcane options are pretty… creepily fantastic as well.  I’m particularly fond of “Phantom Echoes,” which allows an Illusionist (or any wizard) to maintain combat advantage against an opponent for… well, pretty much ever.  Familiars are back, and in a big way.  I’m worried 4E familiars are going to creep up, but so far, with only four feats (one required to get the familiar), we’re probably safe for a while.  I feel like Wizards is listening to the complaints about the lack of fluff – little bits like the “Familiar Quirks” table seem to be a response to this.

The Epic Destinies seem to be getting a little more specific, with the awesome “Archspell” going all the way to letting you focus on one spell.  (Though, getting to use a Daily Power as an Encounter Power is pretty nice.)

Overall, Arcane Power is exactly what you expect – if you’re playing an Arcane-based class, you’re going to need to pick this up to keep up, but nothing too radical.


Coming Back After A Long Time

So, you’ve done it.  You finally killed Tea-A-MATT and Waht-R-DEEP, who were both totally out to kill you, and you were ALMOST about to escape the Alpha Complex when you got taken down by The Computer.  Congratulations.

lisaBut now, after a nice foray into another genre, a different taste of a different campaign, possibly even a different system or a different GM, it’s time to return to the campaign that you’ve been working on for the last two years.  You’ve finally decided on a Paragon Path (or Prestige Class, if you have trouble moving on) for your half-elf ranger, and you’re itching to get your hands on the new PHB2 for a look at some feats.  That wizard that seemed so bland a month ago is starting to look pretty sweet again – as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  As a GM, you were wondering how you were going to make another adventure in another dungeon seem exciting to the players, but you picked up a copy of Open Grave, and now you’ve got some ideas on how to take the campaign in a rather dastardly direction – a dead ally is is now an undead foe.

When you and your group take some time off from your campaign to try and get a little variety, the transition back to the old and familiar campaign can be a little tough.  However, with a little thought and preparation*, you and your peers can return to your endless crusade against evil with a second wind and a dash of excitement.

  • Free Level – Few campaigns will make it from 1st level to 30th (or to whatever top-of-the-tier-ranking-system suits your fancy), so, rather than be a miser, just throw out a free level.  Let the players start off with a new spell or feat or ability.  This will make the character fresh and new.  If you can, have the players pick their advancement before you meet, so you can tailor the adventure to their new feats.  (“I’m so glad I picked up Great Cleave as a feat – we’ve fought so many goblins tonight!”)
  • Time Passed in the Campaign, Too – Not only has it been a month in the real world, but maybe it’s been a month in the campaign.  Or a year.  Or two.  Maybe you reached a good stopping place (this would require some forethought by the GM), and your characters had traded their swords for plowshares, and were masters of their estate, looking forward to a life of vinification and child-rearing.  Then BAM!, Lord Pharaxus not only rises from the dead, but sends his minions to kill your spouse.  Nothing to do but round up your old allies and go show a lich what’s what.  Maybe your characters spent some time in court, getting into the intrigue and what-not.  You gained a level (or two), and some contacts, when your liege asks you to step in and get a little more directly involved.  Like, fireballs and holy smiting involved.  Same characters, same fond memories, but a new direction, a new focus, and a little new flavor.
  • Rebuild – This one won’t work for all campaigns, but perhaps your players have become masters of a system, and when you started they were but novices.  This is especially true when you upgrade a new edition.  Take an evening and let your players rebuild their characters.  This requires a little maturity on their part, and you should ask them to stay as close to their original character as they can, but let them make some corrections.  Maybe the GM doesn’t weigh social interaction skills as much as genuine roleplaying, and your players spent a million skill points on Conversation and Bluff and Streetwise, skills that are relatively useless under your game style.  Or they thought Staggering Smite would be awesome, and yet they’ve only used it once in the last eight levels and wish they had taken Righteous Smite instead.  Let your players rebuild a character.  There might be a little retconning involved (“Remember that time you cast Bigby’s Icy Grasp?  Too bad you can’t do that now.”  “I know… Uh… If only I still had that scroll…”), but any good group can get past that.
  • Trade Players – This can be done any time (and I’ll probably make a full post about this as a tool in a group), but trade players.  Have the fighter play the mage and the cleric play the rogue.  Not forever, just for the first night.  This will allow the group to remain the same, but the players will get to try something new to transition back into the game.  Have your players be as true to their interpretations of the character as possible.  Your players will get to see new uses for old abilities (“I never though to hamstring and set him on fire at the same time… that’s awesome!“), and will get an idea of how the other players view their characters (“Boruthos isn’t anywhere near that arrogant… is she?”)  The second session back, the players will pick up their old character sheets with both excitement about their combat skills, and a deeper understand of how their characters are perceived in the group.

And there you have it – four easy (relatively) ways to make jumping back into an old campaign fun and refreshing.  Now, about what happened to Tea-A-MATT…

*Note: Why is it that every GM tip is easy and fun “with a little thought and preparation”?


And I’m Back!

the-terminator1One year, one day since my last post, and I’m back.  Let’s see if I can keep this going this time.


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