Tag Archives: players

New Cleric Options

This article is related to the new Strength Cleric options posted on the D&D website last month.  We discussed these options in a recent podcast episode.

Related article: Battle Cleric Options

Related podcast: Episode 14

There was a great article that came out while I was on vacation detailing some new options for Strength-based clerics.  This is a build type that has been in need of some love for a while, so it’s nice to see they finally got it.

Class Features

Battle Cleric’s Lore (replaces Healer’s Lore, which lets you add Wis to your surge-heals): Gives you a +2 shield bonus to AC (leaving you free to use 2-handers), proficiency with scale (clerics normally only get chain), and when you surge-heal someone, they get a +2 unnamed bonus to attack rolls until the end of your next turn.

On a scale of 1 to amazing, this gets an amazing.

Channel Divinity Powers

Normally, clerics get two channel divinity powers: divine fortune (which gives you a +1 to the next attack roll or saving throw you make before the end of your turn; pretty worthless) and turn undead (only useful versus undead, obviously).

In Divine Power, clerics got healer’s mercy, which is a standard action AOE heal that weakens you for a turn.  Not optimal for Strength clerics since you’re trying to do damage, but still better than turn undead in most situations.

In this new article, Strength clerics get a Strength-based anti-undead power as an alternative to turn undead.  Most clerics will stick with healer’s mercy, but if you’re in an undead-heavy campaign, you might consider this alternative.

The real star here is an alternative to divine fortune: favor of the gods.  This is a minor action that lets you choose an ally within 3 squares and let that ally reroll the attack roll the next time they miss before the end of your next turn.  This is good to pop off on someone you know is going to be using a big daily or AOE effect, so even though it’s not a reactive reroll, it’s still way better than divine fortune.

Attack Powers

There are two styles of attack powers in the article: powers that require you to use simple weapons, and powers that give you a bonus if you use a simple weapon.

So which weapons are simple?  Normally a Strength cleric would be using a big two-hander like fullblade (+3, d12, high crit), mordenkrad (+2, 2d6 brutal 1), or execution axe (+2, d12 brutal 2, high crit).  Let’s compare these to your options for a 2-handed simple weapon, keeping in mind that using a simple weapon also saves you a feat:

  • Morningstar (+2, d10)
  • Greatclub (+2, 2d4)
  • Quarterstaff (+2, d8)
  • Scythe (+2, 2d4)

Of these, the highest damage option (though not by much) would be the morningstar.  You might consider the quarterstaff if only because the Staff Expertise feat gives you +1 reach with melee attacks.

To give you an idea of why using simple weapons with the new powers might not be so bad, let’s take a look at the at-wills.  We’ll assume we’re using a quarterstaff, just to see how the damage stacks up.

Battle Cleric’s Weapon Mastery
At-Will * Divine, Weapon
Standard Action, Melee weapon
Requirement: You must use this power with a simple weapon.
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength + 1 vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + 2 + Strength modifier damage.
Level 21: 2[W] + 4 + Strength modifier damage.
Weapon: If you’re wielding your weapon with both hands, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll.

Compare this to a basic attack with a fullblade: same attack bonus, and d12+Str versus d8+4+Str.  In this case, this power is strictly better in terms of damage.  Compared to, say, execution axe, the difference is d12+Str (brutal 2) versus d8+4+Str, and this power is still slightly ahead (and more accurate!).

The downside is that this power doesn’t do anything else.  Let’s look at the other new at-will:

Weapon of Divine Protection
At-Will * Divine, Weapon
Standard Action, Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage.
Level 21: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage.
Weapon: If you’re wielding a simple weapon, the attack deals 1d6 extra damage.
Effect: Until the end of your next turn, your allies gain a +2 power bonus to all defenses while adjacent to you.

With this power, we lose the extra accuracy, and trade 4 bonus damage for a d6 of bonus damage (which is approximately the same), and gain an effect that is sort of mediocre in my book.  I don’t really see a reason to use this power over Battle Cleric’s Weapon Mastery.

The article also has several encounter powers that are very similar to these at-wills: either you must use a simple weapon, but you get more accuracy and higher damage, or you can use whatever weapon you want (which is nice for people who are attached to their mordenkrads), but you get a damage bonus if you happen to be using a simple weapon.

The encounter powers have some nice effects to them, but rather than listing them all out, here are my favorites:

  • Effect: Until the end of your next turn, you and each ally within 3 squares of you can make attacks against the target’s lowest defense, instead of the defense normally targeted by that attack.  [Comment: This is a really nice bonus to the team, and could translate into a pretty high attack bonus depending on the target.]
  • Target: One or two creatures within melee range, Hit: 1[W]+Strength and dazed until the end of your next turn.  [Comment: This is huge.  On my level 21 cleric, I was still using a level 3 encounter power that dazed one target!  Also, this is one of the ones usable with any kind of weapon, and does +1d6 with a simple.]
  • Effect: Until the end of your next turn, you and your allies gain a +1 power bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls against the target. In addition, whenever you or one of your allies within 3 squares of you is hit or missed by an enemy’s attack, this bonus increases by 1, to a maximum bonus of +5.  [Comment: Depending on the fight, this could add up to be a pretty big bonus.  Also, you probably want to delay in the initiative order until right before the monsters so as to crank this up as much as possible.]

So in conclusion, Strength cleric got a lot more cool options and flexibility.  Hooray!

Grab Fighters

After our last podcast, we decided that articles would be the best way to give detail on the character builds we discuss.  This frees us up from having to read off every single power and feat choice during the podcast, and talk more about concepts and general choices.  We hope you enjoy these new supplements to our podcast!

Related Podcast: Episode 13

Martial Power 2 introduced an interesting new build for fighters: the Brawler.  Instead of the normal weapon talent (+1 to hit with one- or two-handed weapons), you get the following benefits:

  • While wielding a one-handed weapon in your main hand, and your off-hand is free or grabbing a creature, you get +1 AC and +2 Fortitude
  • In addition, you get a +2 enhancement bonus to unarmed attack rolls, and a +2 bonus to grab attacks and attacks to move a creature you are grabbing (increases to +4 and +6 at paragon/epic)

These combo well with a new at-will, Grappling Strike, where you make a standard Strength vs. AC attack against your target, and on a hit, you grab the target until the end of your next turn.  This is a great way to grab monsters without making the standard “grab” attack, which doesn’t include modifiers from your weapon and doesn’t do damage.  Fighters also got several good encounter and daily powers that work when your off-hand is free or grabbing a target.

To maximize the effectiveness of your grabs, here are some more tools you can use:

  • Inescapable Hold is a feat that makes enemies trying to escape your grab have to roll against your Fortitude instead of Reflex, even if they use Acrobatics
  • Forceful Drag is an encounter U2 power move action where, if you have a creature grabbed, you can move up to your speed, dragging the creature with you, and then knock it prone.  Which combos nicely with…
  • Pin Down, a feat that says that any prone creature that you have grabbed can’t stand until you end the grab or it escapes
  • World Serpent’s Grasp is a feat that says whenever you hit a slowed or immobilized target with an attack, you can knock it prone

With these abilities, you grab an enemy, use Forceful Drag to knock it prone, and then keep regrabbing it every turn, keeping it prone (hopefully) for a long time.  Alternatively, once you have an enemy grabbed, it is immobilized, so hitting it again will knock it prone.  Making the enemy roll against your Fortitude is especially good since you already have a high Fort from being a fighter, and you get an extra +2 from being a Brawler.  You might even toss on the Superior Fortitude feat for an extra +2 to your Fort defense (+3/+4 at paragon/epic) to make it that much harder for the enemy to escape.

“Lazy” Shaman Hybrids

After our last podcast, we decided that articles would be the best way to give detail on the character builds we discuss.  This frees us up from having to read off every single power and feat choice during the podcast, and talk more about concepts and general choices.  We hope you enjoy these new supplements to our podcast!

Related Podcast: Episode 13

Shamans In General

A non-hybrid shaman gets some fundamental class features, the most important of which is your spirit companion.  You summon your companion as a minor action, and many of your attacks and other class features work off of your shaman.  Many of your powers will have a range of “melee spirit”, which means the attack is usable if the target is adjacent to your spirit.  Depending on which style of spirit you choose (bear, eagle, world serpent, etc.), you get powers and features that are unique to that style.

“Lazy” Shamans

As a hybrid shaman, you don’t get all of the features associated with your spirit style, but you do get an at-will attack power.  To be a “lazy” shaman, you’ll want to choose the Elemental Spirit, which gives you the power called Spirit Infusion.  This is a standard action that targets an ally adjacent to your spirit.  The spirit is dismissed (though it can be resummoned with another minor action), and the ally can make a basic attack with a +2 power bonus to the attack roll and a power bonus to the damage roll equal to your Intelligence modifier.

In addition to this at-will, shaman has other powers that also grant other players attacks.

For example, in Primal Power there is an E3 called Sly Fox Spirit which grants a basic attack to an ally adjacent to your spirit, and if that attack hits, grants a second basic attack to a second ally adjacent to your spirit.  As another example, there is a D5 called Vengeful Blood Spirits in Primal Power that lets two allies make charge attacks, doing an extra d10 on a hit, and also gives those allies +2 to hit and damage with charge attacks for the rest of the encounter.

Since none of these powers use Wisdom, and as a hybrid shaman you only ever need to have three shaman attack powers (one at-will, one encounter, and one daily), then you don’t need to have any Wisdom at all if you choose these powers.

You’re then free to choose your other hybrid class to be almost anything.  Ideally you might choose something based on Intelligence to make your Spirit Infusion as effective as possible.

If you’re feeling especially lazy, you could even hybrid warlord/shaman, and take all the warlord powers that also grant attacks to other players (Commander’s Strike, Powerful Warning, etc.).

If you build your character correctly, you won’t even need to bring any dice to the table!  Though you might have to borrow a d20 from someone for the occasional saving throw or skill check…

Some Advice for a Group of New D&D Players

I received a tweet this week from a reader asking advice for an entire group of new D&D gamers. The question gave me pause because I started out as “the new guy” in a group of experienced gamers, and I think that’s how most new D&D players start out. While I suspect it’s not common for an entire group of players to be new D&D players, what follows is advice that I came up with. I’m sure I didn’t hit everything, so feel free to chime in with your own advice.

Start with the Red Box

The Red Box is a product specifically developed by Wizards of the Coast to introduce new players to the game. It comes with everything you need to play, right out of the box. This is probably the easiest way to get into playing D&D when there’s no one around to teach you. You can get the Red Box from the D&D Adventures section of our store.

Try and find a local group to play with

As I mentioned earlier, many, if not most, D&D players were introduced to the game by veteran gamers. Finding a local group to play with, even if it’s only for a few sessions, will give you a better understanding of the game, and how it’s played. Unfortunately, there persists a sense among many Dungeons & Dragons groups that they’re the only ones playing in their local area. However, with the ubiquitous internet, it’s difficult to say that with any conviction anymore. There are just too many avenues to find other players.

  • Warhorn: Many local groups use this site for their gameday and convention registration. Search through the events listed to see if anything is local to you.
  • Yahoo! groups: Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) is probably the largest D&D shared campaign in the world. The Yahoo! group LivingFR is the largest Yahoo! group serving this D&D community. Even if you don’t want to play LFR, there’s a good chance someone on that forum can at least point you in the direction of a local group.
  • Wizards forums: Check out the Wizards of the Coast forums for local groups. Unfortunately, there’s no “find a local group” page, but I’m willing to bet, if you ask around, someone can help out.  You can also try the ENWorld forums.
  • Encounters at your local game store: Is there a Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS) near you? See if they’re running D&D Encounters, or if they have a bulletin board where people have their D&D game advertised. (There’s a box to type in your zip code on the linked page to do a search for local Encounters games)
  • Others may chime in with ways to contact other local D&D gamers.

You don’t necessarily have to join another local group; you could attend a convention, gameday, or ask a local veteran to run a few sessions for you until you feel comfortable with the game. This has several advantages – not only will you be learning the game faster and from someone experienced, but you’ll be benefiting the gaming community as a whole because you, even as a newbie, will bring something unique to the gaming table.

Have the right books

Every player should have the Player’s Handbook (PHB). Technically, that’s the only book a player needs. The Dungeon Master (DM) should also have a copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Rules Compendium, and The Monster Vault. You could also buy these books as a group.

Understand the Rules – but not all of them

You don’t need to understand every nuance of the game, and you don’t need to create an optimal character right away. I’d say there are only a few things you need to know to get started:

  • How to read powers
  • Where to find things on your character sheet
  • How actions are resolved in combat (Roll a d20 versus one of an enemy’s defense scores, and if you meet or exceed that number, roll damage)
  • The difference between minor, move, and standard actions, and which you can do on your turn
  • The difference between at-will, encounter, and daily powers
  • Status effects, aka “Conditions” (just bookmark this one in your PHB, you don’t need to memorize them)

Use published adventures to start

Instead of trying to design locations and adventures as you’re trying to figure out how the game works, get your hands on a pre-made adventure. With an adventure already made for you, you won’t have to worry about mapping a town, balancing encounters, or making skill challenges. Instead, you will be able to focus on other aspects of the game, such as learning how combat works, and how the game works outside of combat. You can either purchase a published adventure from Wizards of the coast, or find a free one online. The D&D Adventures section of our store has a selection of adventures published by Wizards of the Coast; I’d recommend either Keep on the Shadowfell or Dungeon Delve. Keep on the Shadowfell is a place to start a campaign. Dungeon Delve is a series of self-contained dungeons that won’t become a campaign, but are a good way to practice the game before you start a full-fledged campaign.

Take turns as DM

The game is very different on the “Other side of the screen” (i.e., as the DM). Learning how to run a game will benefit you when you’re a player as well. Even if you have one person who is the “regular” DM, taking a turn once in a while is a great way to up your game.

Finally, Rule Zero: Have fun!

D&D is a game. It’s supposed to be fun! If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. Figure out what that is, and fix it!

I will leave you with one last piece of advice:

At its core, D&D is a cooperative team game. Unfortunately, even veteran gamers forget this sometimes. One of the easiest ways to reinforce this concept on yourself is to follow this simple rule: In every situation, find a way to make someone else’s character shine before you worry about how to make your character shine. Do that, and you’ll be 90% of the way to being a great player!

Streamlining Combats: Tips for DMs and Players

A common complaint about 4th Edition D&D is that combats (especially high-level combats) can take a very long time. Depending on the DM and players, this can be painfully true. However, there are some simple things that both players and DM can do to streamline combats, both at low level and high level. This makes combats less of a drag and gives more time for creativity and roleplaying.

 Players: Know your character!

 Nothing is more frustrating as a DM or as a player than having another player at the table waste everyone’s time by not being familiar with their character. When you sit down at a table with a character you haven’t played for a while, familiarize yourself with the basic mechanics your character uses. For example, if you’re playing an avenger, remind yourself how oath of enmity works.

 You can also help yourself out by having a well-organized character sheet and power list prepared ahead of time. The Character Builder does a pretty good job of this, but it’s also a good idea to write down a list of conditional modifiers or damage bonuses that don’t always apply. For example, if your character is a rogue, write down your sneak attack bonus dice in a convenient place. You might even write these dice underneath each power that they apply to. This is especially important if your bonuses only apply to some of your powers. If you are a warlock, for example, you might write “+1 to hit with Prime Shot” underneath your eldritch blast power, but not write it underneath your howl of doom power, since Prime Shot does not apply to that close blast power.

 Players: Be ready to go

 As much as possible, plan your turn ahead of time. Pay attention, even when it is not your turn, and plan out what you want to do. Sometimes things will change dramatically and you’ll have to re-evaluate when your turn comes around, but typically you should be able to figure out what you want to do before it is your turn. This way when the DM calls your name, you have dice in hand and can take a quick turn. You can also take some of the time between turns to look over your power list and remind yourself about conditional bonuses and make sure that you know exactly what your hit and damage bonuses are when you roll your dice.

DMs: Don’t go backwards

This may seem harsh, but once a player’s turn (or a monster’s turn!) is over, that’s it. If a player says “hey, remember two turns ago? Yeah, that guy was actually dazed, so he couldn’t have done that thing he did,” just say “sorry, too late.” This keeps the flow of the game going forward, and helps encourage players to keep track of their own effects.

 DMs: Make players responsible

One of the toughest things about being a DM in 4E is keeping track of the various effects that players toss around. Dazed, vulnerable, slowed, etc. can all stack up in confusing ways. Most players use magnets or other indicators for effects on monsters as reminders. Many of these effects are important to keep track of; for example, if a monster is dazed, then that’s something you should have marked on its initiative card. However, if a monster is vulnerable to cold damage, then that is usually something only the player needs to keep track of. If you make it the player’s responsibility to add the vulnerability damage, then that’s one less thing for you to keep track of. The other thing to keep in mind is: if you forget to account for something, it’s not a big deal. Your main job is to keep things moving forward and to help players have a good time. If you realize a couple turns later that you forgot to apply a penalty to a monster’s attack, and that penalty would have made the monster miss, then instead of going backwards (see above), either just don’t worry about it, or go ahead and (secretly) apply the penalty to a future attack. This, incidentally, is why I like rolling dice behind a screen. It allows me to adjust for things I may have forgotten without letting the players realize that anything happened.

DMs: Call combats when they are effectively over

The best thing a DM can do to keep high-level modules moving forward is to be willing to “call the combat.” When it is clear that the monsters have lost, and will be unable to inflict any more serious damage on the PC’s, just award the PC’s the win and move on. Some PC’s may complain that you did not give them the opportunity to show off some awesome power, but most will appreciate that you are simply trying to not waste their time. You should also consider calling a combat even when it is not truly “in the bag,” especially if you are running short on time. You might say something like, “well, this guy has 300 hp left, and he’s got some good stuff left, but you’re going to win, so I’ll call it, but everyone spend an extra healing surge.”

If you follow these principles, I think you will find that combats at high level will run much more smoothly, and you won’t find yourself running combats that last 2 hours or longer.