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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A hopefully constructive critic on the announced #dndnext multiclassing

The readers that know me know this already, but those of you who read about my characters here could easily understand it too: I'm a GREAT fan of multiclassing.

We didn't have any multiclassing rules (and we still have to wait till the next package), but all my characters always try to be at the very least two archetypes at once. It's my way of seeing an interesting character, much before a gamist approach: to me, a realistic character has tried different paths in his/her life, some with more success than others, and the final result is something unique, with limitations but also strengths, and for sure with a lot of variety. Being like this myself, I can't help representing this (very general and adaptable) trait into the vast majority of my (many) characters.

Monday, August 12, 2013

#Ravnica Guildmages as new #dndnext Cleric Domains!

So the Cleric has gone through some major changes in the last packet, and my Ravnican guildmages got pretty much obsolete and needed a complete rework, the first part of which is here!

The biggest change was to Channel Divinity, now an encounter resource. I like the change quite a lot, but the balancing of the abilities you can activate through it must change. It's not anymore something more or less equivalent to a 1st to 2nd level spell, that scales with level. It must be a bit lower than that, and it must be something that every battle will see the use of without getting too easy because of it. At the same time, it is a one-shot per encounter, so it would be tricky to balance it out if I hadn't got any examples. Luckily, we all have the guidelines in front of our eyes, via the existing features!

Another change is a "fixed" feature you get even before the Channel Divinity (in one case I ignore this and tie it to the rapidly following Channel Divinity feature), and some bonus proficiencies, namely cantrips OR armor/weapons.

So without further ado, here they are, in the same order as before, which is just the order in which I made them and represents my familiarity and ease with the guild and its corresponding mechanics!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A #Ravnica #Simic #dndnext Monk - Plus my take on the latest rules!

Hello folks!
I guess this blog is becoming a lot like a "let me tell you about my cats", with cats being my characters... But anyway, I always try to push the system a bit and pull off some archetypes that at a first glance are not doable.

As always, the inspiration comes from a picture, which comes from a Ravnica card that is not properly Simic, but depicts a Simic character.

How cool is that, first of all?? In my mind, it is clearly a monk (also notice the resemblance with the iconic D&D 4e Githzerai Monk), and it is clearly repelling some spell.

Couldn't help noticing that the current Monk's "Way of The Four Elements" tradition has the water themed ability focused on saving throws. But honestly, it's also the most boring ability. So what about giving the magic-resistant theme through race instead? The new Gnome has exactly that.

So making a medium-sized Gnome represent this Elf or Human mutant (perhaps even Merfolk, who knows) is a very doable choice. Return to normal speed, but leave the weapon restrictions in place to represent his frailty. Take the Forest Gnome subrace and we also have animal-speaking (quite fitting for a Simic) and the Minor Illusion cantrip, which could be easily replaced by Prestidigitation to stay more in-theme.

So the Monk's elemental choice can now become the flashy Fire Riposte one, which could also be a second take on the picture. Alternatively, if I could start at a higher level, I'd still take the "signature" Shelter of the Flowing River first (which combined with Gnome's feature covers all saving throws, basically), and then opt for Flames of The Phoenix at 6th level.

The feat choice is a bit hard, but to stick to Simic flavor, I would add some magic for sure. And in particular, I'd take the Divine Initiate feat and take Resistance (to capitalize even more on Saves), and Sacred Flame, which I'd reflavor as a "biomancy" power dealing with spontaneous combustion..! The first level spell would be Bless, which I would reflavor as the incarnation of Simic's "Evolve" ability.

As for the Background, I'd go Sage, and take Natural and Magical Lore. The Expertise Die would be of course assigned to Wisdom checks, to better represent the mystical nature of the character.

Now, would I like to play this character? The Monk class has become pretty mature and interesting compared to previous incarnations, but honestly something is missing, and it's basically the first level feat for me. I really miss that, especially considering characters such as this get an even slower feat progression than most. With a first level feat, I would have certainly taken either Alert or Loremaster, adding a lot of flavor to the character.
Repeating a well-known error of previous editions, D&D Next still forces the player to choose between combat and non-combat features (feats), which are very difficult to balance, and even when balanced, one simply feels too bad about choosing.
I think D&D Next sorely needs to expand on the Background concept to make it more like the 4e's Themes, and have it advance with levels, granting a choice of non-combat features, while leaving the Feats to represent truly combat/power related things that are truly measurable in terms of Ability Score Improvement that you give away.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Solanyt, my #Simic and #Dimir #dndnext Assassin - A day in the life

My dear DM Gonzalo asked a cool thing before starting the campaign. A write up of a typical day in the life of our characters. This is an update of my previous post, taking in consideration the changes to the D&D Next playtest rules, which made me reconsider the class to be used (abandoning homebrew stuff, MOSTLY), and also the weapon, since the katana is now just a common longsword. And since I'm changing the weapon, even the ability scores of Solanyt needed tweaking.
So here we go!

Retouched and modified artwork, a better write-up of the D&D Next definitions of Bonds, Flaws, Ideal, and Personality Traits, and a few modifications to the day in the life that could be hints of a better in-game representation of Solanyt..!


"Dawns are always extra foggy around Zonots, and I always wake up at dawn, always in my Zonot. Screening for my krasis wings is mandatory each day, and within my "beloved" Crypsis clade, screenings and briefings are always scheduled for early morning. A stupid contraddiction since we work mostly at night, but then again the Simic are drowning in contraddictions, much more than they drown under water.

The Crypsis clade's job is to "develop strategies for obscuring other guilds' views of the Simic. This includes literal camouflage as well as magic designed to hide knowledge or operations." - Actually no: it's mostly assassination, and since most of our krasis are easily spotted, tracked or even tamed, agents like me do most of the dirty work, followed by the camouflager mages.

I wake up even earlier than needed for my daily exercise routine with my spear and the aerial maneuvers. My spear is a slightly improved version of the standard issue one for most of us Crypsis clade agents. It's quite simple since it's serially produced (I should say "grown" actually), but it's quite sleek: it's made from a krasis-synthesized quasi-metal which makes it extremely light, perfect for usage in watery environments and to perform quick strikes, but also makes it almost supernaturally slippery. A Boros elite could make a show by trying to pick it up: it would drop it at each and every attempt while it slides from his grunt hands, and the whole thing would look like a clown's act. By the way it also doesn't rust. Something of paramount importance, since half of the distance I cover everyday is underwater.

Solanyt's krasis-synthesized spear (slippery waterborne guardian spear +1), named after an aggressive species of Simic water-bird: "Cygnebron". The grafted wings are equivalent to Winged Boots, but with few rounds instead of hours of autonomy.
My krasis wings are another "tool" that is difficult to use, and having them attached to my body and actually a part of my metabolism doesn't make them any less problematic.
The biomagical muscles they implanted me (and I had to train) to operate them are completely foreign to my body and use a lot of energy, both physical and psychic, making it impossible for me to use other powers that the guild gifted me since birth. 
I still cannot use the wings for powered flight, but they glide just fine, which is extremely useful, especially to reach hideouts from where I can surprise targets from above. 
I also use the wings to navigate the Undercity, so I need to be as fit as possible to use them, especially psychically.

So after my needed daily training and the trip to head-quarters to receive my screening and orders, I just eat and then quickly get some hours of trance again, if my second guild doesn't wake me up too early. 

Knowing that the zonots are fauna-heavy, they usually send me messages through beasts that don't look out of place here, such as small cloudfins or some anonymous krasis. When I answer back, I get to deal with much more noble beasts, such as stryxes and nighthawks, or other birds of prey who can navigate the undercity, and the undercity near Simic zonots in particular, that which only me, some fellow Crypsis agents, and a few swimming and flying beasts can get through.

                       The Undercity under Solany't Simic Zonot is a toxic watery jungle of intricate biomagical structures.

I then read, both to prepare myself for the mission and to amuse myself with a daily doses of truth, something that my life sorely misses. I read random passages from only one book, my favorite: "Notes From The Undercity", wrote by an unknown Golgari hermit as a collection of brief thoughts on life and death.  I have grown quite fond of Golgari philosophy, and when I surprise myself to be so attuned to the book's thoughts, I wonder if I shouldn't have chosen to deal with the Golgari instead of the Dimir, regarding my "betrayal" of the Simic...
So my true life begins at dusk, when I realize how usually my Dimir and Simic missions are one and the same, and how much some of my bosses from both guilds are aware of this. 

I firmly believe that wisdom can be achieved by meditating a lot upon just one thing, rather than a little upon many things. 
Another example of this is another ritual amusing I have before starting to work. I always listen to one and only (beautiful) symphony. And I always find something new within it, very singl time. 
I am under the impression that even this piece of artwork could be coming from Golgari minds, although it clearly uses Izzet instruments played by a semi-anthropomorphic Selesnyan orchestra. The alternations of deathly and blooming themes could be seen as a musical transposition of the concepts behind "Notes From The Undercity", my insight tells me. I'd have to investigate the matter some day, although I have to be careful not to show the Izzet music-trinket too much around: judging from the quality, it's probably a lost or smuggled guild-exclusive item that the Azorius inquisitors are probably already searching around for.

My actual jobs consist in usually one of two things: kill someone or something, or acquire information stealthily. Most of the time it is both things, since I have to complete two missions for two guilds; and when the kill is for the Dimir, the information is for the Simic, and vice versa.
They always seem to be aware of each other's plans for me, and I find that amusing. 
In the mean time I slowly meditate on each case and just as I discover so many things from just one book and one symphony, I'm discovering very much from my monotonous job too. Both contractors find me invaluable right because of that, but they will never know what my soul discovers in addition to my mind, how I evolve

Simic Crypsis clade-stem: Laykan Vigeamack, pondering the possibilities opened by Solanyt's jobs.
They want to know a lot of each other, but they fail to realize how much I learn from them in the process, and what this will mean to me, to my essence. There are some among the Simic who clearly are eager to see what my evolutionary path will be like. I silently answer them to be careful: they might find exactly what they're digging for.

During the more exclusively Dimir parts of my missions, most of my effort is about making a pesky clade-mate lose my tracks. 
Calunyrg, an impressively psychic (and psychotic) mutant half-elf hybrid, who has decided to dedicate all his precious free time to make my life difficult. The biomagical Simic conditioning has worked strangely effectively on his hybrid mind, making him extremely loyal and methodical in his clade duties, to the point that he never, ever, reports me when lacking extremely compromising evidences. I can clearly understand the bastard would not even hesitate in killing me, but he follows the Crypsis guidelines so literally, that he probably finds the desire of framing me even more irresistible than his personal urge to end my life.
He is not as capable as I am in the typical Crypsis spear combat style, but his telepathic and magical abilities definitely surpass mine, and he knows how to use this advantage.
Even like this, and with the wonderful jobs he has done some times in exposing my dirty laundry, somebody in the higher sphere of command evidently decided to willingly ignore his reports on me. I suspect it might be nothing short of the clade-stem, Laykan Vigeamack himself, since he always treated me with an unjustified respect and interest.

Calunyrg, the mutant half-elf clade-mate of Solanyt that decided to become his nemesis, out of a strange symbiotic devotion to the Crypsis. His zeal in persecuting Solanyt is matched only by his deceptiveness and magical prowess.
When I return home, lost in thoughts and still as aware of the hopelessly urbanized surroundings as a shambleshark senser, the sky is getting light already, and a fish-based breakfast is easy to catch. The next few hours of dreamy trance become more real than the nightmarish so-called reality that will follow."

BONDS: Simic & Dimir guilds. 
Being a member of both guilds, but covertly so for both guilds, in different manners, means that on one hand Solanyt has double responsibilities, on the other hand half the risks. Risks from other guilds are lesser, but responsibilities are double since he must work for both and in a delicate position.
The Simic Crypsis Clade is highly organized, and Solanyt can in theory call some favors there, but as with everything Simic, things tend to be a bit complicated, so at the end of the day it's all about material resources that are "statically" made available to him, such as his equipment, the wings, his residential quarters, secret hideouts, some services, and his wage.
Being a Covert Dimir is pretty much the opposite. Formally there's little to no organization, and hierarchy is so fluid that Solanyt has hardly had the same bosses for two distinct missions. So in theory, Solanyt has few if any specific people to call for favors among the Dimir, but since it's such a fluid and vast network, he has received much more help from the Dimir than from the Simic when it came down to difficult situations that had to be dealt with quickly. Bane Alley has even provided some useful material resources on the fly sometimes, again through the different networks connected to each of Solany't particular jobs.
So the Simic mostly provide economical and material support, whereas the Dimir mostly provide situational direct help, mostly social in nature. 
Personalities within the guilds.
Laykan Vigeamack is the Simic Crypsis clade-stem, a powerful and enigmatic four-armed vedalken, and is personally and professionally interested in Solanyt to the point of protecting him against the sometimes outstanding inquisitions of Calunyrg, a self-proclaimed law-enforcer of the Crypsis clade that has made it his personal quest to frame Solanyt.

FLAWS: Aimless
Solanyt is not greedy, so he is not bought by best offers. He's not an idealist so he's not manipulated by his own ideal. But his lack of true drive means that wherever the current brings him, he will let it take him. He's aimless as much as he's fatalist, and as fatalist as he's an evolutionist. He is a true Simic at heart: strongly believing and rationalizing that natural evolution always wins. His rationality and irrationality bring him to the same conclusions, and this becomes a flaw: he basically walks every path in front of him, without thinking too much about consequences, and without any long-term strategy in mind. His short-term decisions are usually very good and that's why he survived, but he has been the agent of so many plots larger than him, and even if he knew it, he did nothing to change this or sometimes gain some advantage from it. He doesn't mind, because he's not aiming at something in particular, he basically just amuses himself with his own choices, or more frequently lack thereof.
Both Simic and Dimir leaders of Solanyt take advantage of this weakness of him, giving him the jobs and risks that others would not take, sometimes even without clear objectives and leaving a lot to his initiative, knowing that left to his own, Solanyt will often acquire a lot of precious information, just because he will follow basically every lead, if only to see where do those leads take him.
Solanyt particular way to approach knowledge and art is mono-thematic. He fixes his mind on a single concept or thing, and explores it in extreme depth, more often than not just wasting time on useless ramblings of thought. This is also a result of his high Wisdom and mediocre Intelligence: he doesn't have enough memory to extend his analytic thinking to a high number of subjects, but he becomes extremely perceptive when focusing onto something, often discovering particulars and slight shades of things that remain obscure to most. This is however a flaw in his job, because he tends to focus too much, losing situational and lateral thinking. Something that has made it possible for the Dimir and Simic to manipulate him without him knowing, when needed. At the same time, though, if he ever decided to focus on the strings of the puppet masters, he would probably discover their identities and motives. The high spheres know this and do a good job in keeping him distracted, or better yet extremely focused, but on different things.

IDEALS: Self-improvement
Solanyt is not an idealist, and his flaw shows that. But also thanks to his worst flaw, and the beliefs and rationales behind it, a pseudo-ideal shapes out strongly in his mind: self-improvement.
Since to Solanyt no long-term plan or ideal can be a drive, and survival of the strongest is the only thing that matters, he simply tries to be or become the strongest. The only thing Solanyt has greed for is personal strength, intended much more as effectiveness and efficiency rather than true brute force or power.

Cynic, meditative, morbid, escapist, always entranced/focused on something, secretly passionate and emotional due to strong awareness of death, aloof, random, self-centered, occasionally raving/frenzied, ruthless in combat.


Solanyt, Simic-Dimir agent, Level 4, Neutral
Wood Elf Rogue (Style: Assassination); Medium, Speed 35 ft; Low-light vision
HP: 22; AC: 15
STR 16 (+3)
DEX 16 (+3)
CON 12 (+1)

INT 8 (-1)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 8 (-1)

+1 Glaive: +5, 1d10+4 OR +0, 2d10+7
(+1d6 on Sneak Attack, +2d6+6(+additional attack) on Assassinate)

Fields of Knowledge:
 Forbidden Lore, Subterranean Lore.
Trait: Contact (Spy)

Expertise Die:
1d6 - Dexterity, Intelligence
Trap Expertise: Use Expertise Dice with Traps-related checks.
Rogue's Cant: Secret language and gestures.
Sneak Attack: 1d6
Proficiencies: Disguise Kit, Poisoner's Kit, Thieves' Tools.
Assassinate: Advantage against enemies who haven't acted yet; Critical and max Sneak Attack on surprised enemies.

Level 4: Great Weapon Master: Additional attack when scoring a critical hit. Can attack at -5 to deal additional weapon die plus Strength modifier damage.

Slippery Waterborne Guardian Glaive +1 (+2 to Initiative, Advantage on Swim, Dex contest to grab/hold)
Krasis Leather (Dragon Leather)
Arrows x30
Caltrops x10
Ball bearings
Grappling hook
Adventurer's Kit
*Grafted Krasis Wings [Winged Boots with 4 rounds instead of 4 hours, and short rests make them regain 1 round, cumulatively. Total rounds equal level.]