Today’s post is written by guest blogger Ian from the Going Last gaming podcast. Check out their podcast for tons of tabletop gaming news, miniatures news, and D&D discussion. I know I do. This article is a followup on character concepts discussed in episode 20 of our podcast.
Character optimization is a fun and useful exercise, but for some players having an expertly crafted PC just isn’t enough. These players need something more, and party optimization can fulfill that role. Party optimization can be even trickier and more complicated than character optimization, but it can be more useful and more rewarding. Arguably the most common and most rewarding party optimization theme is something called the “Radiant Mafia.”
For those who are unaware, the Radiant Mafia is the name given to a group of PCs who exploit radiant vulnerability. It is not enough to merely deal lots of radiant damage, or have multiple Divine characters. If the Radiant Mafia’s claim to fame was having the radiant keyword on lots of powers, then when fighting monsters who are not naturally vulnerable to radiant damage they would not be special. No, the cornerstone of the Radiant Mafia is to have one or more characters apply radiant vulnerability to monsters who are not naturally vulnerable, thus increasing the damage dealt by every member of the party (because everyone is dealing radiant damage, and is hopefully exploiting radiant vulnerability). The end result is a party of thematically linked characters who all deal striker level damage. Fortunately for the cheese-monkeys, there are numerous ways to build a Radiant Mafia.
The first step to building the Radiant Mafia is to apply radiant vulnerability to a monster. This is actually pretty easy, and a good number of characters have access to these tools. To begin with, any character can purchase the reagent called Brightleaf. This is a nifty little consumable that places 5 radiant vulnerability per tier on a creature you hit. At the lowest level this only costs 125gp, which is trivially cheap for Paragon tier and above. If you don’t have the cash to spare, you could always play a Drow and take the Brilliant Darkfire feat, which causes Darkfire to apply radiant vulnerability in addition to its other effects. When selecting the class for your radiant shenanigans, the Avenger, Invoker, Paladin, and Cleric (and by extension, a human PC from the essentials versions of those classes, or a Paragon tier half-elf) can apply radiant vulnerability by hitting with a specific at-will power, from 1st level, with the feat Power of the Sun. If you want to play a Warpriest, worship of Selune grants you the first level utility Life and Light, which applies 5 radiant vulnerability per tier to most of the battlefield. As a psionic character you can always take the Incandescent Champion paragon path, which applies substantial radiant vulnerability as its action point feature.
While in Paragon tier, maybe you’ll want to pick up the Champion’s Ring, which can apply encounter long radiant vulnerability. Warlocks even have the opportunity to apply radiant vulnerability by taking the Rod of Starlight, which applies radiant vulnerability when you curse a creature (making this a fantastic off-hand rod). For divine characters, they have the option of taking the Morninglord paragon path, which applies radiant vulnerability every time you hit with a radiant power. And of course several classes have attack powers that apply radiant vulnerability. Once you’ve applied the radiant vulnerability, you do have the opportunity to increase it.
Once you get into epic tier, any divine character can take the Punishing Radiance feat, giving them a crit based effect that applies 10 radiant vulnerability, or increase radiant vulnerability by 10. And Punishing Radiance works across a large area. Remember also that since this vulnerability is neither a bonus nor a penalty it stacks with itself, potentially allowing a Ranger to apply huge piles of radiant vulnerability to a single creature during the nova round. The channel divinity power Solar Enemy (which requires worship of a sun domain god) also applies radiant vulnerability or increases a radiant vulnerability that already exists. Going hand in hand with the Punishing Radiance feat is Font of Radiance, which causes creatures you crit to gain an aura that deals radiant damage to your enemies. This feat doesn’t mess with radiant vulnerability, but it does make great use of it. Note that this effect is a save ends effect, which means hammer/mace users and certain types of Wizards can make glorious use of Font of Radiance. So you’ve applied radiant vulnerability, and then your ally has increased that vulnerability, now you need to do a sanity check and make sure everyone is dealing radiant damage, and lots of it.
First of all, the divine classes can choose only radiant powers right out of the box. Warlocks and Sorcerers have a good number of radiant powers, but there will be missing levels. But the best choice is probably to get a weapon, implement, or other magic item that turns your powers into radiant powers.
Weapon users have many options that just make your powers radiant; Sunblade, Crusader’s Weapon, Scabbard of Sacred Might, Brilliant Energy Weapon, Crown of the Brilliant Sun, and the Dazzling Weapon; the latter also ignores some radiant resistance, in case you go up against any angels – and while we’re at it, the Adamantine Rod ignores some radiant resistance as well. Implement users don’t have as many options, having only the Sun Disk of Pelor, but they can use the previously mentioned weapons in many cases. When choosing a weapon, most players will go with the Radiant Weapon as soon as it becomes available. This delicious item simply deals more damage than other weapons, and turns your powers into radiant powers. Primal characters can duplicate that damage with the Sun Fury Totem, and the Symbol of Divine Light adds a big chunk of damage against creatures who are vulnerable to radiant. For Avengers, melee Clerics, and Paladins, the Holy Avenger is a good idea, as it adds 1d10 damage to your radiant powers. The Holy Gauntlets have some utility for weapon users. Implement users should probably look at taking the feat to wield the Astral Symbol or Defiant Rod, which deals extra radiant damage. Everyone should take the Silvery Glow feat, which is one of the best scaling damage feats, and every PC has no reason not to be wearing the Ring of the Radiant Storm. Characters with either WIS or CHA should definitely take a long look at Pelor’s Sun Blessing, which lets you double dip your stats when dealing damage to radiant vulnerable creatures. And as a penultimate choice, the Epic Destiny Radiant One is a fantastic choice for characters with INT, for the easy access extra damage. And lastly, everyone who wields a weapon, or casts through one, should have the Siberys Shard of Radiance. Now that you know how big the tool box is, you must ask yourself if you should.
From a Meta Game Perspective…
The Radiant Mafia is cool, fun, and effective. Possibly even too effective. At just vulnerability 15 (very easy to get during Epic) an Invoker can get a damage modifier that breaks 60 during Epic, using just the tools covered here. +60 damage is phenomenal on a single target striker, and that Invoker gets to deal that across the entire battlefield. That’s just one, easy to build example. A Radiant Mafia is going to deal an obscene amount of damage. So much so that the DM will be forced to increase the threat level in order to keep the players entertained. This means that while you deal extra damage, the monsters possibly have a ton more hit points, netting no real benefit over not playing the Radiant Mafia. Two or three characters forming the Radiant Mafia is probably fine, but an entire Radiant Mafia party will cake walk through just about any normal encounter. This does not apply to organized play however. If you and some buddies want to go trash an organized play module, roll up with a Radiant Mafia, because the DM is pretty much stuck with not being able to properly challenge you.