your eyes for just one second

Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath

Very good song. There are better versions, but I wanted a live one to share. They’re being a bit silly, but they still do a decent job with the song. I’m pretty sure most people at one point have thought that they’d like to see the world through God’s eyes.

I’d have to agree that the above song doesn’t really do the song justice, especially since “Charbeck” are not lines from the actual song:D I’ve now added a different video. This one wasn’t chosen because the visuals resemble something like a school girl’s locker door, BUT I believe it has the recorded version of Brandon Heath’s “Give Me Your Eyes”. Enjoy!

08.2008 at 9:05 pm 2 comments

excellent question, marty

While perusing the Q&A section of the Wizards webpage, I came across a question that really cracks me up. It may originate from an inside joke, but at least those insiders will find it funny:D

Q: Does the AC Bonus ability from the monk, swordsage and ninja stack?
A: No…

08.2008 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

where did all my options go?

I found a post on a site that was directed to another site that was redirected from another site called Enworld. I’d second the comments from this post. “Well said” is what I’d have to say. Very good post. It’s a long read, but it’s well worth it.

4E – Where did my options go? – The New Paradigm
Got a long one here for you all.

So I’m a long time lurker here on ENWorld. I decided it’s finally time to start a thread. I’ve been playing 4th for a few months now, as an NDA’d friend of a couple WotC employees. While I can’t discuss specifics, I can talk about impressions I’ve gotten, and I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of the feel of the game and how it works.

Anyway… I’ll get around to my point now.

I keep seeing a lot of discussion on many, many threads regarding options. I see a lot of people, both pro and anti 4e, saying that the game is more constrained, you can’t do as much with characters, so on and so forth.

I’ve seen a lot of people try to argue the opposite. They’ve discussed “party optimization” instead of “character optimization”, or compared a 1st level 3e fighter to a 1st level 4e fighter.

Furthermore, in a not obviously apparent, related topic I’ve seen many, many arguments about how 4e is better in play than it looks from just reading the book. My own experiences agree with that one.

Despite that, I and many others are having an absolute blast playing the game. So, why is that? If the game really is constricting, if there really are less options, then why is it that it’s still so much fun? And how does that relate to the recurring theme that it’s more fun in play than in read-through?

Where did my options go? – The New Paradigm!

3e – What we’re familiar with:

In the previous edition (3.x) which, to put it bluntly, the vast majority of us here are familiar with, the majority of character options were built into the character creation process. It started with the very strong modularity of the system. At any point, at any level, I can take my next level of whatever class I might want (assuming prereq’s met). When I want to build a level 20 character, I’ve got 20 “units” of build, purely based off of class levels. I can take a bit here, a bit there, and go for it. Or I can take all 20 of one class.

Even further, you’ve got feats and skills. Spellcasters have spells. Tons and tons and tons of options. Given enough time, with just the PHB, I can create hundreds of level 20 characters, all noticeably different. Admittedly, a lot of them would be poor to unplayable (10 Ftr / 10 Wiz for example). Still, that’s a *ton* of options.

However, once you’ve gotten your character built and you’re actually playing the game, your options drop dramatically. With the exception of the open-ended spellcasters (and what I mean by that are the Wizard and Cleric types, who aren’t constrained by a “spells known” maximum), the rest of the character types were still very limited in what sorts of actions they could take. This is definitely true in combat, but even expands into the non-combat arena.

While your melee fighter type character can choose from many different options to begin with, once he’s in combat he’s got his one or two things he does over and over again. The heavy armor fighter runs up and stands next to the monster, hitting with his greatsword. The spiked chain fighter does his tripping, or his moving with Opportunity attacks. The rogue gets into flanking position and proceeds to sneak attack. This does not generally vary from combat to combat either, except in situations where the monster is somehow “immune” to whatever your schtick is (undead for the rogue, for example), and then you generally spend the time trying to come up with creative solutions that vary from brilliant to extremely frustrating for the DM.

This isn’t just in combat though. Given the lengthy skills list and the ability to have such variance in skill point allocation, you’ve got a couple different ways a character can be. You can specialize in a few select skills, maximizing their points for your level, or you can try to spread the points out into multiple skills. The first works throughout, but the second generally only works at lower levels. By the time you hit the double-digits your “ok at lots of things” concept starts to turn into “poor at lots of things”, and then “barely able to do lots of things” at the top end.

So suppose you stick with the familiar specialist concept. Given how lengthy the skill list is (40ish, right?) you really can only be *really really* specialized in a couple things. You take hide/move silent and great, you’re fantastic it it. What do you do in game? You try to solve problems by sneaking around. You take Jump and Swim? What do you do? You try to find ways to jump or swim your way past challenges. From level 1 to level 20 you’re trying to sneak past things or jump past things.

So, to conclude and reiterate this point: 3e’s paradigm is to provide you with maximal options at character creation. However, this comes at the cost of most characters losing options during actual play. The only exclusion to this is with the open-ended spellcasters, for whom options are maximized nearly throughout. I’ll discuss this a bit later.

4e – The New Game:

Contrasting the 3e paradigm is the 4e one. And a contrast it definitely is, as the methods of the system seem designed to flip the situation around to its opposite.

As much as we want to argue that 4e has lots and lots of options, and it does, comparing the sheer number of characters I can create with a 3e PHB and a 4e PHB the 4e one comes out far behind. The system is not modular in the same way. Once I pick my starting class, that’s my class throughout. Now, as I level I do have the retraining option, so I can switch things out that I don’t like with things that I do. That’s nice, but it doesn’t mean much when I’m simply creating a new character from scratch.

There are a lot of feats, but they’re largely restricted to a race or class. Multiclass options are there, but they mostly allow small uses of another class’s power, not a full gaining of that class’s skills. The skill list is significantly smaller and the mechanics of skill training and skill usage makes specialization difficult if not impossible in some cases.

The arguments that I’ve seen for the value of these changes from both posters and designers focus on a couple things: Game balance and Fun. Game balance is easy to see. The “economy of actions” concept keeps the length of a combat round down, and keeps each players turn length fairly similar. The redesign of the wizard, in particular, means that all characters have a “chance to shine”, rather than the wizard being able to do basically anything, with the right spell. Hit points are standardized, BAB’s are standardized, skill values are standardized, all these things prevent a lot of the swingyness and mean that most characters, of any level, are going to be at least useable if not excellent.

How about the Fun part though? Well, that comes in, in play. 4e’s focus is not on Creation Options, but on Play Options. It’s a hard concept to explain, but I’ll do my best.

Take something simple. Say there’s a rogue power that damages an enemy and slides them three spaces (I’m sure there is, but not having played a rogue I don’t know the names off the top of my head). It sounds like a simple thing, in read through. In play, it has amazing versatility. I can slide the enemy into flanking position, so next turn I can get to do Sneak attack. I can slide the enemy around the fighter, so if it wants to attack me next turn it has to deal with the fighter’s “stickiness”. I can slide it away, trying to protect a squishier wizard or warlock in the back. I can slide it off a cliff, into a trap, into a damage zone cast by a warlock or wizard, into rough terrain, and so on, and so on.

It’s one power with a simple read through, but once you’re actually in combat it gives you a ton of options that are all dependant upon the specific combat situation you find yourself in.

And that’s just one of your powers. You’ve got others. Some deal more damage. Some might blind or immobilize a foe. Others might hit more than one foe at a time. And you can use them in whatever order you want. I can put myself in a position where sliding my foe might be useful, or if it’s not, I can merely go for maximum damage. Maybe *now* is a good time to immobilize rather than slide, so I can.

In 4e combat is constantly shifting. Monsters move around, traps and terrain change your ability to move or your reasons for it. The standard/move/minor action concept means you get just as much attack whether you stay in once place or you move around the field, so often it benefits you to reposition during a fight.

Skill use is also adjusted in a similar manner. A reduced number of broader skills means that you can do more with any individual skill. Thievery now covers pick pocketing, sleight of hand, trap disarming, forgery, and maybe even disguise in some cases. One skill, lots of usability. Stealth now covers both moving quietly and hiding. Nature now covers handling animals, knowledge local (in the woods), knowledge nature, and even some alchemy in potion brewing (with the right ritual). Arcana covers both knowledge and spellcraft and even detect magic, as well as lots of rituals. When I choose a skill to train in 4e, I’m now choosing to be better at a long list of different, related things. I’m getting blocks of skills for one training, rather than excelling at individual parts of that block at the expense of other parts.

And even further, rebalancing the way skills work to include the 1/2 level on a roll means that a character doesn’t have to be highly trained and specialized to get use out of a skill. A wizard with decent dex can actually succeed at a sneak check now, just not as often as trained rogue. A non-charismatic dwarf might still be able to bluff his way through something. Sure, it’d be a difficult roll, but we’re opening up more options during game play here. I wouldn’t even try something like that in 3e because the way the system is designed, at mid-high levels your chance of success would be zero.

So to conclude this part: 4e reduces the number of character creation options in the name of game balance, but vastly makes up for it in the amount of “in play” options available.

Still reading? Thanks. Last part!

Finally, to tie up the beginning with the end, here we go. So we keep seeing people saying “it doesn’t read well, but when you play it, it’s great!” Why? Well, look at what I just said. They took the options we’re familiar with, and replaced them with options we’re less familiar with. I look at the book and see only a few races, a few classes (both less or equal to what the 3e PHB had), with the removal of a lot of the complexity that character creation used to have. It’s more simple to make, easier to “throw something together” and completely lacking in the beloved modularity of the previous game.

You see powers that say “Do 2(w) and slide the target 3 spaces”. Does that give you an excited tingle up your spine? No. It sounds pretty bland on paper.

How about “Switch places with an ally as a move action”, “Close burst 1, do some damage and teleport 5 + Int mod squares”, “Gain concealment when you move more than 3 spaces”, and “Gain +5 to sealth checks until the end of your next turn”. Individually they all sound pretty simple, not very exciting…

Then I see my buddy’s fae-lock use a minor to activate his +5 to stealth checks, do a move to switch places with the fighter who’s surrounded and getting beat on, use otherworldy stride to damage everyone around him and uses the teleport it gives to get himself out of being surrounded as a standard action, and then rolls a stealth check at the end because he trained in that skill and has concealment from his other warlock power. He makes a high stealth roll and the enemies can’t see him.

The fighter is saved, the monsters are hurt, confused, and can’t retaliate on the guy who just screwed them, the DM is boggled and the warlock can sit back and bask in it. Those were “just encounter powers”, he’s still got his “powerful” dailies left.

Bring on the 4e, bring on the in game options. I loved sitting around tinkering with character builds for hours, but I don’t think I’ll miss it much. I’m having too damn much fun actually playing the game!

Game on!

06.2008 at 3:47 pm 1 comment

release the rage

With the near-release of Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition, they made changes to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting – something about a living campaign world. Knocking off deities, destroying lands, and ravaging the world and its magic, has caused some rage directed at Wizards.

Similar feelings have surfaced with the announcement and development of 4e D&D. There has been a leak of the 4e books on the internet – surprise, surprise – so the three core books are available for review. I’d like to give my first impressions of the new edition Wizards has given us, and I’d like to know what the impressions of others are too. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the new edition, either no with the internet version or when the you have a chance to view the hardcopy version.

Please, no rebuttals of the comments of others. I believe only constructive things should be said, as this is now what D&D is. 3e will no longer be produced, so I’d like to look to the future in a positive light.

06.2008 at 1:43 am 2 comments

prestige to paragon

From what I can tell from the Wizards updates on 4th Edition, they have done away with prestige classes. In their place, they have created, what they call, “Paragon Paths”. From my understanding, you continue on your chosen path of fighter, cleric, wizard, etc, but you have the option of specializing in one or two paragon paths. Here are some examples:

Cleric: Warpriest

“Let loose the gift of battle!”

Prerequisite: Cleric class

Your god demands battle to accomplish the tenets of your faith, and you are the chosen priest at the forefront of the war. When you call upon your divine powers, your weapons glow with holy light.

Warpriest Path Features

Extra Damage Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you also add one-half your level to the damage dealt by any of your standard action attacks this turn.

Warpriest’s Strategy (11th level): Once per encounter, if you or an adjacent ally rolls a 1 when making a melee attack or a close attack, you can call for a reroll.

Warpriest’s Training (11th level): You receive a +1 bonus to AC when wearing heavy armor.

Warpriest’s Challenge (16th level): When you hit an enemy with an at-will melee attack, you can choose to mark that enemy for the rest of the encounter. The next time that enemy shifts or attacks a creature other than you, you can make an opportunity attack against that enemy. If you mark a new enemy with this feature, any previous marks you have made with this feature end.

Fighter: Kensei

“My weapon and I are as one.”

Prerequisite: Fighter class

You study an ancient form of martial training that makes you one with your chosen weapon, creating a combination of destruction that few foes can long stand against.

Kensei Path Features

Kensei Control Action (11th level): You can spend an action point to reroll one attack roll, damage roll, skill check, or ability check, instead of taking an extra action.

Kensei Focus (11th level): You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls with a melee weapon of your choice.

Kensei Mastery (16th level): You gain a +4 bonus to damage rolls with the same weapon you selected for Kensei Focus. If you ever use a different type of weapon, you lose this benefit, and the benefit for Kensei Focus, until you take a short rest, during which time you reattune yourself to your chosen weapon with a short meditation.

Paladin: Justiciar

“I fight for justice, my faith and my strong arm defending those in need.”

Prerequisite: Paladin class

You become the embodiment of justice, a champion of righteousness and fairness—at least as viewed from the perspective of your particular faith. You are granted the ability to shelter and protect your allies and others in need, while also receiving powers that help you do the right thing according to the faith you have embraced.

Justiciar Path Features

Just Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, each enemy adjacent to you is weakened until the end of its next turn.

Just Spirit (11th level): Each ally adjacent to you can reroll one saving throw at the end of his or her turn.

Just Shelter (16th level): Allies adjacent to you are immune to fear and charm effects and receive a +1 bonus to saving throws.

Ranger: Stormwarden

“I have accepted the burden of the stormwardens of the Feywild, and this region is under my protection.”

Prerequisite: Ranger class, two-blade fighting style

Your role as a warden and defender of the wild takes on new heights as you learn the ancient ways of the stormwardens of the Feywild. These techniques turn your whirling blades into a storm of destruction that rains down punishing blows on your enemies. With each slash of your weapon, the wind howls in anticipation of the coming storm.

Stormwarden Path Features

Blade Storm (11th level): As long as you are armed with a melee weapon and are capable of making an opportunity attack, one adjacent enemy (your choice) takes damage equal to your Dexterity modifier at the end of your turn.

Stormstep Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you can teleport 3 squares either before or after you use the extra action.

Twin-Blade Storm (16th level): As long as you are armed with a melee weapon and are capable of making an opportunity attack, two adjacent enemies (your choice) take lightning damage equal to your Dexterity modifier at the end of your turn.

Stormwarden Exploits

Clearing the Ground Stormwarden Attack 11
You sweep your blades in mighty arcs around you, cutting foes that get too close and thrusting them back.

Standard Action Close burst 1
Requirement: You must be wielding two melee weapons.
Target: Each enemy in burst you can see
Attack: Strength vs. AC

Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you push the target 1 square.

Throw Caution to the Wind Stormwarden Utility 12
Aw, what the hell. You only live once.

EncounterMartial, Stance
Minor Action Personal

Effect: You take a –2 penalty to all defenses and gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls.

Cold Steel Hurricane Stormwarden Attack 20
You rush into the midst of your enemies and, like a freezing wind, flay them alive.

DailyMartial, Weapon
Standard Action Close burst 1
Requirement: You must be wielding two melee weapons.
Special: Before you attack, shift a number of squares equal to your Wisdom modifier.
Target: Each enemy in burst you can see
Attack: Strength vs. AC (main weapon and off-hand weapon), two attacks per target

Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage per attack.

Effect: You regain your second wind if you have already used it during this encounter.

Rogue: Shadow Assassin

“When you need something dead, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone better at the job than me.”

Prerequisite: Rogue class

You become a killing machine, striking from the shadows with deadly and bloody efficiency, and turning attacks against you into pain and suffering for your enemies. You believe in doing unto others before they can do unto you, and you know how to deliver punishment as only a striker can.

Shadow Assassin Path Features

Shadow Assassin’s Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you also gain a +4 bonus to attack rolls until the start of your next turn.

Shadow Assassin’s Riposte (11th level): Any adjacent enemy that misses you with a melee attack takes damage equal to your Dexterity modifier.

Bloody Evisceration (16th level): Gain an extra 1d6 Sneak Attack damage when attacking a bloodied enemy.

Warlock: Doomsayer

“I speak for the cold darkness beyond the stars. I see the myriad ways that doom comes upon you.”

Prerequisite: Warlock class, star pact

You wrap yourself in the fear of the darkness beyond the stars and use it as a shield against your enemies. In addition, you examine the strands of fate to issue proclamations of doom to all who stand against you.

Doomsayer Path Features

Doomsayer’s Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you also deal the extra damage of your Warlock’s Curse to all of your enemies currently affected by it.

Doomsayer’s Proclamation (11th level): Enemies within 10 squares of you must roll two dice when rolling saving throws against fear effects. They must use the lower of the two rolls.

Doomsayer’s Oath (16th level): When you are bloodied, you gain a +2 power bonus to attack rolls when you use a power that has the fear keyword.

Warlord: Sword Marshal

“This weapon is my symbol of office, and it shines over the field of battle as I wield it against our enemies.”

Prerequisite: Warlord class, proficiency with heavy blade

You have extensively studied the use of light blades and heavy blades, and your weapon of choice has become a symbol of your power and leadership. You never enter a battle without your blade in hand, and your allies know to look for the gleaming weapon when they need help or inspiration.

Sword Marshal Path Features

Disciplined Blade (11th level): When you miss with a melee attack when using a heavy blade, you gain a +2 bonus to your next attack roll against the same enemy.

Sword Marshal’s Action (11th level): You can spend an action point to regain one warlord encounter power you have already used, instead of taking an extra action.

Skewer the Weak (16th level): When you score a critical hit using a heavy blade, you and all your allies gain combat advantage against the enemy you struck until the end of your next turn.

Wizard: Battle Mage

“You think I’m just a simple scholar, my head buried amid my scrolls and books? Think again!”

Prerequisite: Wizard class

You didn’t leave behind the thrill of battle when you took up the mantle of wizard, so why should you stand back and let the fighters have all the fun? You have developed skills and techniques that have turned you into a true battle mage, ready to deal damage up close and personal or from afar, depending on the situation and how the mood strikes you. You have even learned of a technique for using arcane energy to temporarily stave off death—and you can’t wait to try it out in battle!

Battle Mage Path Features

Arcane Riposte (11th level): Imbued with magical might, your hands bristle with arcane energy in the heat of battle. When a creature provokes an opportunity attack from you, make an opportunity attack with one of your hands (Dexterity vs. AC). Choose cold, fire, force, or lightning. You deal 1d8 + Intelligence modifier damage of that type with this attack.

Battle Mage Action (11th level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you also gain a +4 bonus to attack rolls until the start of your next turn.

Battle Edge (16th level): When you first become bloodied in an encounter, you can use any at-will power you know as an immediate reaction.

05.2008 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

a warforged, a zombie, and cthulhu walked into a bar

For those of you who are interested, I’ve decided on the campaign world for my next campaign – Eberron. More specifically, the game will be based out of Karrnath – the nation who used undead to fight for them in the Last War. This game will not take place until late summer, depending on how long the Volara campaign continues. Note that this game will be 4th edition dungeons and dragons, so someone or a group buying another PHB or two would be very helpful to everyone. As I’ve mentioned to some, the game will be flavoured with ideas from Lovecraft’s short stories, so be afraid.

At the top of my blog is a link for the new game, where you will find important information for the game. The link is called “Lovecraftian Eberron”. I hope to post there at least once a week.

05.2008 at 1:49 pm 4 comments

free enterprise

“Free Entreprise” is a movie, 121 minutes of science-fiction references, sexy romance, comic moments, and real truths of life – even for those who aren’t sci-fi fans. Admittedly, you would find this movie difficult to follow if you have not watched any of the original Star Trek seasons or motion picture movies or other sci-fi movies like Logan’s Run. That aside, it’s easy to relate to the characters and the problems they face, even with William Shatner’s character, a caricature of himself, Bill. Basically, the movie is about two friends slamming face first into the difficulties of changing lives – no one likes change (wikipedia imdb).

What a good movie, really. I hadn’t seen the original release from 1998, but I’ve seen the “Five Year Mission Extended Edition”, and, either way, the movie is really good. This is no box office smash hit, but as for film quality, I’d give it a bravo. What I like is the down-to-earth characters it portrays. Who hasn’t obsessed over some kind of love in our lives? Who hasn’t had idles or people we look up to, admire and see as heroes? The characters are easy to relate to, their problems easy to understand and learn from, and their dreams and desires totally human.

Maybe I’m blowing the realism out of proportion, but as a director, I know that an actor must push the limits of real life, exaggerate the small moral or immoral voices we hear in our heads, and grab on to those desperate dreams and desires we sometimes in our everyday experiences ignore or push to the back of our minds. At the core, everyone can feel the essence of the purely rich needs of the characters in Free Enterprise. Free drinks for the actors, free drinks for Shatner’s efforts to touch the audience, free drinks for McCormack for his Shatner monologue.

You can’t go wrong with the Star Trek and other sci-fi film lines wittily saturating the script. For the most part, these were not cliche, but brought out the true, gut feelings of the characters and the full meaning of the film. A great actor takes seemingly meaningless and nonsensical chatter in a script, and uses it to express their character’s inner needs.

Sure, some of the movie goes beyond the great barrier of reality, but this is a heartfelt, truly unique, and enjoyable movie, especially since many of us in my circle have begun to approach the big three oh. Good laughs, bad morals, good lessons, and good stuff. Today’s Experiment: Free Enterprise – Success!

05.2008 at 4:49 pm 2 comments

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