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First Look at 4e: D&D Miniatures Game

posted Friday, April 25th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

Fellow blogger and Dungeon Master Chatty DM has gotten his hands on the first wave of D&D Fourth Edition: the new Miniatures Game. Chatty gives us his review.

Highlights of the Miniatures Game include no more iterative attacks, a split between player mechanics and monster mechanics, and of course, a greatly simplified grapple. We’ll see D&D proper in June. Until then, ENWorld has a comprehensive collection of available information on Fourth; I’ll give a summary later on.

A quick reminder to D&D bloggers using WordPress, an update is available.

Junstarien’s Leg (Relic)

posted Thursday, April 24th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWeapons

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

Religious archives tell of an ardent warrior named Sir Junstarien, a knight of the Church of Life’s Fire who joined the priesthood after his family was killed by a necromancer with a repertoire of massive skeletons. He channeled his anger into zeal and sought to avenge his family, but his skill with the sword and shield let him down in the battle with the necromancer. Wounded and disarmed, he quickly prayed for divine help and miraculously managed to wrest the thighbone right out of the nearest skeleton. He destroyed the skeletons and their master wielding the thighbone with supernatural efficacy, and kept it as his weapon of choice thereafter.

Junstarien’s Leg is effectively a +2 ghost touch undead-bane greatclub, a weapon forged not by magic but by Junstarien’s sheer faith and determination. The weapon is still imbued with the echoes of his stoic relentlessness, granting the wielder a +2 morale bonus on all saves versus any supernatural, spell-like, extraordinary or natural abilities, or spells, used by an undead. The weapon resonates with positive energy, dealing 2d6 damage per round to any undead who attempt to wield it.

Once per day as a standard action, the wielder may call upon Junstarien’s faith to extend the relic’s power to all allies within thirty feet, granting them the bonus on saves versus undead and temporarily giving all weapons they carry the ghost touch property. This lasts for one round per point of the wielder’s Charisma modifier.

Moderate evocation; CL 14th; Price 50,000gp; Weight 8lbs.

Improve Your Game with The Art of War (Part 4)

posted Sunday, April 20th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Player Advice

Today we’re back on our examination of ancient combat treatise The Art of War and how we can apply its lessons to our D&D game. Previous chapters cover laying plans, waging war and attack by strategem.

Part 4: Tactical Dispositions

Sun Tzu says:

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

The roman legions had this idea down pat. The iconic Roman soldiers fought in tight formation behind tower shields, leaving just enough room to stab with a spear or sword. It didn’t make them invulnerable, but this high-defence method often proved effective. Many modern martial arts follow a similar “defend first, let your opponent leave an opening” mantra.

The Dungeons & Dragons rules often encourage us to make direct, offensive attacks. Kill your opponent in two rounds and he won’t get a third chance to attack. Sun Tzu’s school of thought considers this reckless, especially when we ignore the famous rule: “Know your enemy and know yourself.” Having seen injured characters charge foolishly into combat, I think caution is too often overlooked.

How can you boost defence over offence? Depending on class and resources you can opt to invest in greater defensive capability rather than offensive. This is only really effective if you can acquire defensive ability easily enough to become especially well-defended.

Since D&D characters can often take quite a few knocks, the practical situation has to be taken into account too. Is it worth surviving two more rounds against your opponent if you could have killed him in two rounds earlier instead? As long as you don’t underestimate your enemy, offensive action is fine.

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage. He wins his battles by making no mistakes.

Attacking a superior force may be brave, even exciting, but to do so unnecessarily is reckless. If you succeed you’re hailed as a hero, but as a D&D adventure often requires many battles, and taking injury now is only wasting resources that may be needed later.

Consider an adventuring party that stumbles onto a gang of trolls. The brave hero will launch himself into the enemy, hoping to take them by surprise. The clever hero will rest the night and return with more fire spells – the troll’s weakness.

That said, D&D is about excitement and risk. If you are confident that you can complete the adventure even with a suicidal attack on a bundle of trolls, why play it safe? Besides, I’ve previously complained about too much sleeping in dungeons – this isn’t ancient warfare, and when you take out most of the risk you take out most of the fun.

Part 5 Next Week

Stay tuned for the next part of this article in a week’s time. You can subscribe to this blog via the RSS feed, the Livejournal feed, or if like me you prefer the old-fashioned method, simply bookmark the front page.

Heart of Fire (Relic)

posted Thursday, April 17th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWondrous Items

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

The mysterious elven fire sorcerer Gil-Lachel was said to be so perfectly in tune with the Elemental Plane of Fire that it was as if he was a creature of pure flame – a fire conjurer like no other. On the night of his death he tore open a rift to a distant outer plane and stepped through, and personally slew over three hundred powerful outsiders before he was consumed by his own fire – nobody knows why, or what the creatures were. The only part of Gil-Lachel that survived was a fragment of his fiery spirit that hid itself inside one of his many Ioun Stones.

The heart of fire is a unique Ioun Stone that appears as a yellow, flaming prism that burns only non-spellcasters who touch it. (It is said that Gil-Lachel’s amazing power and knowledge still burns within the stone.) It increases the effective caster level of all spells with the Fire descriptor by 2, and grants a +6 bonus to Knowledge (the planes) and Knowledge (arcana). The stone can absorb fire just as easily as it can raise it, and once per day the owner can either cast quench as a 10th level druid, or automatically Empower, as per the metamagic feat, any one spell with the Fire descriptor without increasing the spell’s level or casting time.

Strong evocation; CL 19th; Price 79,000gp.

How Much Is a Gold Piece Worth?

posted Sunday, April 13th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
None of the Above

Back in 2006 I asked what a gold piece would be worth in modern currency. Enough has changed in two years (and it seems I made a few miscalculations) that I’ve decided to revisit the topic.

Since 2006, the price of a troy ounce of gold has shot up from US$565 to US$930. Since a troy ounce is actually slightly larger than a regular ounce, a standard pound (sixteen ounces) of gold is worth around US$13,570. With fifty gold pieces in a pound, a gold piece today is worth US$271.41, UK£137.72, or €172.52 to European gamers.

Of course, this assumes that D&D uses our modern pound weight, which before 1958 varied significantly between different countries. There’s also no guarantee that a “gold coin” will be pure gold. Coins intended for circulation have traditionally been made from gold alloyed with copper or silver for better durability.

This also assumes a modern economy, when the relative values of precious metals, goods and services have changed significantly since mediaeval times. If we take the more historically consistent measurement of a pint of common ale, a single gold piece today is worth somewhere between $80 and $160 US, £40-80, or €50-100.

What can I get for a dollar?

Suppose you discover a portal in your basement and decide to emigrate to the City of Greyhawk. What can you expect to be charged for goods and services?

  • Manual labour (per day): $27 (gold standard), $12 (beer standard). Modern day ranges from $46.8 (USA federal minimum) to $87 (UK minimum).
  • Mercenary (per day): $81 (gold standard), $36 (beer standard). Plus danger pay. Modern day equivalent is around $219.
  • Tent: $2,700 or $1,200. More than a little off-base at ten to thirty times the cost of the modern counterpart.
  • Riding horse: $20,250 (gold standard), $9,000 (beer standard). Half as much for a pony, and five times as much for a military grade mount. Surprisingly close to a modern-day motor vehicle.

Things get a little crazy when we move into the “strictly adventurers only” price range:

  • Masterwork weapon: $39,600 to $89,100.
  • Belt of Strength +4: Doubles the wearer’s physical strength for between £1.92 million and $4.32 million
  • Warship: $3 million to $6.7 million.
  • Ring of Three Wishes: $11.8 million to $26.4 million

Finally, for further comparison, consider what these real-world items would cost a D&D character to buy:

  • Nonmasterwork handgun: 7sp – 14 sp, ammunition 1-2cp per ten bullets
  • Car: around 75gp to 150gp; fuel costs 1cp/ten miles
  • F-15E fighter jet: 222,000 to 500,000 gp, likely out of the price range of a single non-epic character
  • Aircraft carrier: 16.7 to 37.5 million gp. Without aircraft.

Frozen Hellwater (Relic)

posted Thursday, April 10th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWondrous Items

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

Trapped for centuries inside a glacier, the powerful water genie Zannaber plotted his revenge on the world until vile powers colluded to free him in the form of a chilling creature of dark ice. Rampaging across the world, he was eventually stopped by knights of a god of burning vengeance, whereupon his body was cut into a hundred pieces, melted down, stored in jars and scattered across the world to prevent him from returning.

One jar of this Frozen Hellwater can be used as a powerful grenade-like weapon, similar to alchemist’s fire or holy water. When a full jar of water touches a creature, it takes 5d6 cold damage and must make a successful Fortitude save (DC 20) or be permanently frozen over with rime. A frozen creature is unconscious and thus cannot take any actions (not even mental ones). A break enchantment, heal, miracle or wish is required to restore the creature to normal.

Any amount of water removed from the jar immediately freezes within one round, and the remaining water in the jar loses its ability to freeze victims solid. Frozen Hellwater gives off an evil aura when detect evil is used.

Moderate transmutation; CL 11th; Price 3,300gp; Weight 1 lbs.

Eye of Lauviah (Relic)

posted Thursday, April 3rd 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWands, Rods & Staffs

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

The lightning demon Lauviah once held this icy crystal ball – a sphere that magnified his power enough to wield his deadly lightning bolt attack with greater power and range than any other fiend of his kind. For hundreds of years he held his grip on the sphere, his claw still firmly embedded in it when he was eventually slain by a demon jealous of his power. Unable to remove the ball from Lauviah’s grip, he simply removed and kept the arm it was attached to – the form in which it exists today, though hardened and blackened with time.

Five times per day on command, the wielder of the eye of Lauviah can invoke the remnants of the ruined fiend’s power and fire a bolt of electricity at any target within 30 feet. The bolt requires a ranged touch attack, and deals 5d6 electricity damage (no save). The Eye glows a pale blue when one or more charges remain in it, emitting a very faint crackling noise at all times. It recharges at midnight.

Moderate evocation; CL 10th; Price 16,000gp; Weight: 1lb.

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