Archive for August, 2010

The Dragoon

I’ve been working on a Dragoon class for quite a while and the heroic tier powers and abilities are finally complete and available for download. Ever since I started playing D&D, I wanted to play this class, so I’ve spent the past year or so tossing around ideas and finally got around to creating it, play-testing it, and writing everything out.

Download: PDF

The class is based on the old Final Fantasy-style dragoons of spears, jumps, and lesser dragon pets. I know there have been previous dragoon classes released by fans before, and I just want to make it clear that I didn’t copy or build on any of their work. That being said, the class and many of its powers draw heavily from the Final Fantasy dragoon, enough that you should recognize several classic attacks and abilities. ;)

The dragoon is a striker with high mobility and a drake companion to assist in battle. With the right powers and feats it could be lean toward controller as a secondary role. Most of the attacks require spears or polearms for maximum efficacy. Jumping is, of course, the standard movement, and as such there are three class features to make jumping part of your attack and battle routine.

Movement

Leap (Move Action): You perform a successful long jump without making an Athletics check, provoking opportunity attacks as normal. The distance can exceed your speed, and is based on your current level. If you use this ability when taking a double move action, you are considered jumping for the entire distance.

Boost (Move Action): You perform a successful high jump without making an Athletics check, and shift one square. The height you can jump is based on your current level.

Dive (Immediate Interrupt): You land successfully without making an Acrobatics check for the fall, ignoring fall damage based on your current level. You are not knocked prone unless the fall damage exceeds half of your total hit points.

Using any of these abilities allows you to make small jumps and simple landings without needing to roll checks for success. As the dragoon is a class famous for jumping, it seemed in the spirit of the class to forgo checks for what should be an almost effortless movement. Having the possibility to fail jumps all of the time would discourage people from using the abilities around which the class is based, and, ultimately, is not fun at all to deal with.

This mobility might seem overpowered at first, but I assure you the dragoon’s damage has been adjusted accordingly. In addition, these jumps still provoke opportunity attacks as normal, so placement and position is just as important as ever.

Combat

Momentum

This class introduces a mechanic called Momentum. Momentum is gained when using Leap, Boost, or Dive, and represents the massive force of energy gained by your jumps. This momentum lasts until the end of the turn or until you make an attack. Many of the dragoon’s attacks will be improved by momentum, gaining additional damage and effects. Most of the daily powers require that the dragoon have momentum to use them. Each power affected by momentum will list the bonus at the end of the ability. A power requiring momentum before it can be used will have “momentum” under the Requirement heading.

In addition, once per round you can apply additional damage from momentum to an enemy damaged by an attack made while you had momentum. This damage is based on your level (1d6 damage per tier).

Spear Mastery

You gain the Polearm Flanker feat automatically (flank from 1 square away) and gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls made with attacks including the weapon keyword. You are free to leave out this bonus if you think it’s overpowered, but missing with attacks is lame and not fun, especially when you’re a striker, and it’s not game-changing.

Drake Companion

Like the beast master hunter, you gain a companion. Because of your draconic essence and training, you are able to train and domesticate lesser species of draconic beings (yes I know drakes are not dragons, but a dragon pet would be too much considering how powerful they are and they have their own strong personalities). You can pick from one of four types of drakes (spiretop, guard, pseudodragon, and spitting drake), each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Also like the beast master hunter, you must spend actions to order your drake to attack, move, or perform minor actions. You can’t both attack in the same turn unless a power specifically allows it (or if you spend an action point), although the drake can take a free move action when you move. Most of the mechanics are based off the beast master hunter’s beast companion abilities, so check out the PDF for all of the crunch and details).

You can bring your drake back to life, but you incur a penalty when it it dies: your stats and healing surges are temporarily reduced for a few days or until you revive it. This is to keep you from throwing your drake out in combat to take care of business just because you know you can revive it later and don’t want to worry about dying.

Some of your attacks will have the drake keyword, most of which mean the drake makes the attack. Others will require the drake be within a specific range of you. All of these details are included within each power.

Paragon Paths

Although I have much of the higher tiers laid out, nothing is finished enough to be presentable (and I haven’t play-tested many of the abilities yet), so for now you’re stuck with the heroic levels. However, here are the planned paragon path specialties:

Lancer

Your skill with a spear is unparalleled. Those who engage you in close combat are shown what your years of training can do. Here are some examples of your powers and abilities:

Pikeman’s Stance: Gain a bonus to defense and automatic counter-attack abilities while in this stance, though your movement is limited.

Extended Reach: Some of your attacks can be made as Reach 2 attacks.

Cloudwalker

Your jumps are legendary. The resulting attacks carry so much force that the ground below each tremendous strike falls apart. Here are some examples of your powers and abilities:

Super Jump: Spend both a move and standard action to leap high into the sky and disappear for an entire round, dealing catastrophic damage to your target at the start of your next turn (using up your turn).

Skyrunning: Some of your jumps are so high and long that you are considered to be flying for the duration, often lasting more than one turn.

Rage Knight

You have tamed the formidable and powerful rage drake as your companion, which now doubles as a mount. Your drake’s attacks and abilities deal more damage and its stats are changed to the rage drake’s template (not in the PDF). Here are some examples of your powers and abilities:

Raging Whirlwind: Atop your mount, both you and the rage drake spin in circles across the battlefield, slashing, attacking, and knocking down any enemies unfortunate enough to be in your way.

Into the Maw: Your rage drake bites an enemy, holding them in place and dealing ongoing damage based on its level. If the enemy is tiny, small, or medium, the rage drake throws it a number of squares after the attack.

Dragon’s Fury

You have embraced your draconic essence, letting it take over your actions and unleashing its unbridled wrath upon enemies with supernatural abilities. Here are some examples of your powers and abilities:

Nova: Your essence erupts in an enormous fiery burst, knocking back nearby enemies and setting them ablaze. Until the end of the encounter, an enemy attacking you takes fire damage.

Enfuse Spirit: Your draconic essence takes shape as the enormous, insubstantial spirit of your dragon, which you control and use to attack. You are considered in a trance during this effect and cannot move or use other attacks while in this trance.

Play-Testing

My group has been play-testing this class for a while now and the damage and mobility levels have been balanced within a group of 5 players of various classes. You won’t deal quite as much damage as other striker classes, but it’s close, and you have superior mobility. The instant-success jumps almost never came up (how often do you have to jump in an adventure, really), but when it did it was just enough to feel cool that your class is good at one thing.

So far it’s been something that my group has been interested in trying out for the mechanic and flavor, but it’s not a clear choice for crunch or damage. It seems to be a good balance of utility, movement, and combat, and that’s what I was going for. I was very worried that the Final Fantasy dragoon fanboy inside of me would take over and overpower many of the abilities, but thankfully I had some other people willing to shoot down the more outrageous ideas.

Ultimately, I wanted to make a class that played very differently from other classes in combat and never had that feeling of “um well I suppose I’ll just use this same At-Will attack again…” You should be concerned about moving to get momentum, or you’ll never do comparable damage to the other strikers, and while moving you need to consider where and what your drake is doing, while staying close enough to allies to assist them with your many ally-friendly utility powers.

All in all, so far I’m happy with how it turned out. I hope everyone can understand the mechanics of how it works (and should work), and finds it as enjoyable to play as I do. I’ll have the Paragon level powers up within the next month or so, so stay tuned!

Contact

If you find anything about the class you think is overpowered, underpowered, a typo, or just doesn’t make sense, please send me an email at corwin@readyanaction.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

A Life, Deconstructed

This is another one of those encounters with a strange combat hook – I won’t spoil anything here but I’ve been wanting to make this one for a while, and it’s one of my favorites already. :) I’ll be running this as part of a larger adventure this next week for some friends, it’s pretty easy to fit into any campaign as a one-night side trek.

A Life, Deconstructed is a standalone encounter designed for five 9th to 11th-level adventurers. The rural farming village of Casai was not prepared for Movasi and his Magnificent Mechanicals of Mind and Iron, automated mechanisms that have begun replacing the villagers, one by one. The players must confront Movasi and his automatons and rescue the missing farmers before they’re assimilated into Movasi’s stock.

The farming community of Casai is a long way from the modern cities of the world in both distance and mind-set; the lavish comforts of such ivory towers and luxurious markets are of no concern to those living off the land—survival is their only self-indulgence. All alone in the rural wilderness, each day brings a new difficulty that threatens to snatch away the fleeting and precious lives of the vulnerable villagers; packs of wild animals, inclement weather, and disease could deal irreparable damage to a community reliant on every last body to survive. Without enough farmers, ranchers, or guards, the community would starve or fall to predators and be wiped out, making procreation an urgent necessity in Casai; each child works to take over the duties of their family until they have children of their own.

Although life is tough in Casai, the community is at least free from the troubles of the modern world. There are no power struggles or mindless wars; any loss of life would slow down crop and livestock production and cause a famine  that few would survive. But regardless of the dangers, those in Casai serve themselves and no other master—they work their own fields, grow their own food, and spend their nights together in song and dance, free from the greedy and oppressive grasp of kings and their titles. The children are taught this early and often, and even though passing travelers and their stories pique interest in the pleasures found in the outside world, few are willing to leave their families behind, unprotected. After all, there is joy to be found in a simple life.

However, the simple life of Casai has suddenly become a little complicated with the arrival of a mysterious merchant promising the end to all worldly inconvenience. The trader, an eccentric eladrin artificer named Movasi, has come to Casai to set up his unique shop: Movasi’s Magnificent Mechanicals of Mind and Iron, a magical emporium of custom-designed automated machines, capable of everything a human could do—and more. Isolated from guild laws and prying eyes, Movasi has replicated a girl from the village and sent back a magical automaton in her place. Now, his deception in the open, the villagers seek help in finding the girl and bringing justice to Movasi for his crime, and, more importantly, protecting their beloved children—the future of Casai depends on it.

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)

The Unillustrated Man

Was out of town for a while and missed a couple of weeks, but I’ll have another encounter up this week to make up for it. Still friends?

The Unillustrated Man is a standalone encounter designed for five 6th to 8th-level adventurers. A shaman’s magical tattoos have been washed off by a mysterious storm, coming to life as dangerous spirit animals. The players must venture into the storm and weaken the illustrations until their ink can be extracted and the tattoos restored to their original host.

Storm clouds hang over the lush and verdant valley of Teveld, as they always have. A torrential downpour is visible for miles, dark and heavy rain that obscures everything caught beneath­—though a closer look reveals an oddity; the thatch huts scattered below the rain are dry as bone, and those living in the area have never felt a single drop of water. Sating the curiosity of bewildered visitors, Teveld’s shamanistic elders explain that the valley rests on a fragile point between the living world and the spirit realm; the wall between the planes is stretched thin, letting the spirit realm’s eternal storm break through.

Called the long rain by those familiar with the phenomenon, the storm, clouds, and rain exist on a separate plane—visible to this world but intangible to those in it; the lightning flashes, the thunder rolls, and the rain falls, but the storm’s effects are nothing to the residents but a perpetual and calming presence, a soothing reminder of nature and the spirit realm. Some claim to have felt the rain, others swear they can hear the drops bouncing off stones and dripping from leaves; none of the assertions are validated­ or believed, and the valley goes on with its slow and rural life, its residents and travelers taking advantage of the tranquility to connect with ancient spirits.

Once such traveler was a strange and mysterious man known only as Darsk, a tall and lanky elf with a preference for quiet and solitude. Covering his body, head to toe, are countless tattoos of exquisite detail, inked to represent the spirits called upon by primal shamans­—ghostly bears, lions, and tigers. A closer look reveals the tattoos themselves as more than mere art; the images dance and move in impossible ways, alive beneath the skin. Teveld’s elders have heard of such illustrated men, those capable of channeling spirits through their body with magical tattoos, and it is only natural that Darsk would be drawn to the valley by their tattoos.

However, almost immediately after arriving in the valley, the long rain began to affect Darsk and his illustrations, washing the magical ink off his body. As it collected in puddles on the ground, the glowing ink came to live, twisting into ghostly shapes of the animal spirits they used to represent. Separated from their host and agitated by the incessant rain, these tangible illustrations have turned hostile, terrorizing Teveld’s vulnerable population of elders and travelers. Becoming more powerful each day they stay within the storm and having grown far beyond the match of the valley’s residents, Darsk’s tattoos must be erased before the long rain and its effects manage to wash away the people of Teveld for good.

Download: PDF | PDF (no map)