Friday, April 29, 2011


So I was over at Elder Signs Press checking out what's new there (they are by far one of my favorite publishing labels for all things weird and Lovecraftian) when I stumbled across this:  Behold, the power of TIE-THULHU!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Skills in 4E

So The Fat Hero listed an interesting site presenting a nice PDF presenting three optional approaches to more detailed skills in 4E right here. It's pretty cool, and if you are like me and enjoy using detailed skills as both a mechanism to help define your character better as well as interesting story devices and plot implements, this is a pretty handy little book, and worth taking a look at if you want to add some depth back in the the 4E skill mechanics (without upsetting the apple cart of balance).

Shameless Plug! I of course worked up a detailed skill system for OSRIC not long ago which I have recently been adapting to Swords & Wizardry (it's a pretty straight-foward conversion).

So yeah, I likes me some skillz...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Zombie Survivor Quiz

Find out what sort of Zombie Apocalypse Survivor you are over here!

I came up "Urban Father".....a prediction for the....FUTURE???????

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Skynet Day

Well, it looks like Skynet gets to take over at approximately 8:01 PM tonight. I for one welcome our new terminator overlords....!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Heroes of Shadow

So Heroes of Shadow is out and in my possession now. There's been some controversy about this book over at, as well as reviews that basically say (and I am paraphrasing here) "great book, but horrible because it favors the Essentials approach over the classic 4E approach." Now having read the book, I shall do a short summary by bullet points:

  • Great art. I love the vampire depictions within, and like how three otherwise similar shadowy beings (vrylokas, shade and revenant) are given distinctly different looks and each feel different. I am mildly surprised the dhampir didn't make it in....well, maybe not, since it did get printed in the Dragon Magazine Annual, but that race would have fit in nicely. My wife felt the blackguard illustrations looked too much like the Lich King, however. Probably the HUUUUGE shoulder pads and sword.
  • The vampire class is very stark and works extremely well for creating an evocative character that looks, feels and acts like the classic D&D vampire. I weigh powers in 4E by how effective they are at evoking good visuals and RP opportunities, and how appropriate the mechanics are at mirroring what is happening....a bad power presents mechanics that don't mesh well with or support the visuals and intent of the power. This book, and the vampire class especially, are full of very well-thought-out visuals and mechanics.
  • The Blackguard is neat looking but haven't messed with it much yet. The executioner assassin is proudly on display in print at last, and I love it; it feels more like an assassin to me than the original one on DDI.
  • I love the Binder Warlocks. The Binder Star Pact is a really cool concept, and I really like how the new builds for warlock have added these great summoning options in; summoners are quite well supported now (unlike June of 2008 when their absence was noticeable!)
  • Lots and lots of spell powers in this book, most of which are perfectly suited for use with other classes of the same type. Contrary to popular opinion the book frequently mentions "other classes from other sources," as being perfectly suited to the suite of powers in HoS, not just the Essentials Hero books. A lot of sky-falling panic has been going on in various forums and reviews regarding the Essentials seems rather silly to me, reading this book now. The WotC marketing guys must think gamers are a bunch of fruitcakes.
  • The new races are interesting. Revenants get into print for the first time, resurrected souls in servitude to the death gods (Raven Queen or whatever).
  • Vrylokas are living vampires who sought to steal the power of vampirism and became cursed with blood thirst (think the Blood Countess; they don't really bear any resemblance to the Vrykolakas of Greek lore.)
  • Shades are one I was very happy to see return, I had a great shade character (and many NPCs) back in my 1st and 2nd edition AD&D days....I like how they feel; the use of racial substitute utility powers for both the shade and vrylokas is a great way of enhancing a racial theme. Although the shades get a racial limitation on maximum surges (they lose one) this doesn't bother me; I'm too old school to be bothered by the idea of limits in D&D, unlike some others; I think its primarily there to discourage shades from automatically picking the vampire class and becoming uber-stealthed all-but-invisible monsters killing everything in sight without ever being seen. Just my personal suspicion, though.
  • The new paragon paths and epic destinies look interesting and are tempting me to start up a shadowfell campaign when the boxed set comes out next month.
  • Wizards get a bunch of new school-themed powers, presented as schools for mages from Essentials or as themed power sets for wizards from the PHB. Necromancy and nethermancy are both rather interesting, and I am happy to finally have these options in the game.
  • Cause Light Wounds is back for clerics! Woot!

Now, for the disappointing bits!

  • There is one page on  new equipment with four items. It seems a bit sparse to me. I suspect that magic items will now be in the appropriate DM's books (in this case, the forthcoming Shadowfell box set next month) so I don't expect this to be a big deal. That said, 4E (including Essentials) has been sticking magic items in to class books, so I am sure that not having magic items in a class book now seems odd. They did stick rules on what ki focus items are (vampires get them as implements) but it would have been very, very handy to stick a few in as examples, I feel.
  • The classes are built using the Essentials format and style. This will drive your friends and enemies bonkers if they are really, really hung up on the pre- and post- Essentials style of 4th edition. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on how much you want to hear them rant about it.
  • Because this book is written to serve as a sort of bridge between both formats for 4th edition (and be advised that I see Essentials as only adding options to 4E, and do not regard it as a new edition, revision, or even much more than a few handy expansions that happen to work coherently as game on their own) it's missing some key features that pre-Essentials books usually had, namely rituals and multiclassing feats. I would not really expect them to present hybrid rules for the new classes here, however; those rules, cool as they are in the PHB3 are pretty experimental and go against the grain of "optimized for ease of concept" class styles 4E offers, anyway. That said, there's really nothing stopping you from using the multiclass feats in the prior PHBs in conjunction with these you can make a vampire character who is multiclassed with one of the PHB just can't make, say, an avenger who can take a vampire multiclass feat. Which is fine with me; I think it would allow such an option, as it would fall in to that hazy "concept supported by mechanics" rule of thumb I use. Better to tell someone who wants that to take a vrylokas or shade as a race and be done with it, I say.
  • No rituals is disappointing, though. I suspect that the WotC guys are busy working on a new approach to them, somewhere down the road....we shall see.

Overall, I'm going to give Heroes of Shadow a big thumbs up. Fun to read (well edited too) and filled with great concepts for a thematic campaign in the shadowfell, Ravenloft, or other dark and dreary setting where all the heroes weep tears of angst even as they drain the blood from their enemies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Combat Maneuvers in Swords & Wizardry

So I was over at RPG.Net as usual when someone was looking for ways to spruce up S&W fighters. I suggested the following maneuvers, based on later edition feats (and then thought, hey, this is what a blog is for). Anyway, the idea would be a fighter can start trained in two of these maneuvers at level 1, gaining a third menauever for which he qualifies at level 8, and a fourth at level 16. Generous GMs could allow paladins, rangers and monks training in one maneuver at level 1 and another at level 12; rogues and assassins could gain training to one maneuver at level 4 and another at level 18. Clerics who follow war gods might be allowed one maneuver at level 1 and another at level 16, at the GM's discretion.

Maneuver Training Summary:
Fighters: two at level 1, then one at level 8 and 16
Paladins, Rangers, Monks: one at level 1 and one at level 12
Assasins, Rogues and Bards: one at level 4 and one at level 18
Clerics of a War God: one at level 1 and one at level 16

Summary of Maneuvers

Dual Weapon Strikes: a fighter (and only a fighter) can get a primary and off-hand light weapon. He can gain a +2 parry bonus to AC with one attack using a parrying dagger, or he can dual-strike, gaining a -2 penalty to both attack rolls but at the possible benefit of getting two strikes in. Note that normal characters default to the standard S&W rules for this kind of attack. Optionally rangers may also be allowed access to this maneuver.

Cleaving Strike: you down an opponent and can immediately make an attack against a second adjacent opponent. Like the combat dominance feature (hitting 1 HD or less creatures) but only applies to two creatures with no HD limit.

Advanced Cleaving: you must have cleaving strike and be level 8 or better; you can cleave until you run out of adjacent enemies.

Weapon Specialization: you can pick one weapon to gain +1 attack and +2 damage with.

Weapon Mastery: requires Weapon Specialization and level 8 or better: you are now +3 attack and +3 damage with that weapon.

Disarm: you can target a foe armed with a weapon at a -4 on your attack roll; if you make it, your opponent makes a saving throw or drops the weapon. If you specialize in whip or net and use this disarm you can snare the weapon instead.

Feinting Maneuver: you can trick your opponent in to mistaking your intentions; you make an attack roll as normal, but instead of damage your target rolls a saving throw. If it fails, you can either deal maximum damage or deal half damage and gain a +2 AC bonus until your next turn.

Knockdown: You wield a large (two handed) weapon and can potentially knock down opponents. If you make an attack roll with a -2 penalty to your attack you can prompt your foe to make a saving throw or he takes damage and is knocked prone. Otherwise he takes half damage if he saved and is still standing.

Sundering Armor: you can target the foe's armor. You take a -4 penanlty to attack, but if you make the hit, roll damage and divide by four (round up), penalizing your foe's armor by that amount. This damage may be permanent; the armor is reduced to scrap if the damage exceeds its armor bonus to AC, and will otherwise require a proficient armorsmith with appropriate percentage of cost to repair. Magical armor may be immune to armor sundering at the GM's discretion.

   GMs could use these maneuvers as special tactics by certain well-trained foes (imagine an ogre with knockdown or Sundering Armor, for example!) and if you allow fighters (or other characters) access, then monsters should definitely use these maneuvers as well.