Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Freelancer aspirations: Sentinel Druids of Autumn

Another re-post of work I've done that appeared elsewhere, although this time it's undergone some revision since then. Some of that revision is mechanical, some of it is word choice, and some is simply story.

The work in question this time around is the Sentinel Druid of Autumn. I suppose a bit of explanation might be in order for non-gamers wandering in here (yes, there are a few of you sometimes). Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, which had the original rules for the Sentinel, presented Sentinels associated with spring and summer, with strong implications that rules for autumn and winter Sentinels had either been edited out from the book or would be forthcoming shortly. The same was true for the Cavalier in that rules for valor and sacrifice virtues were detailed, and two others (compassion and justice) mentioned but not present in the book. Having finished writing the Dark Pact Hexblade, and waiting for a verdict on its fate, I wanted something to keep my brain on design in case I was asked for edits.

I like the leader role in 4E Dungeons & Dragons most of the time, as it stretches the part of my brain that likes military history, tactics, and logistics. The Hexblade has a format where the powers must come in certain action types at certain levels, and the same was true for the Sentinel. The number of mechanical pieces for a Sentinel was also smaller than the number of mechanical pieces for either a Hexblade or a Cavalier, so I decided to start here.

I linked the original publication above. I got some comments from the original readers, but also directed it to the attention of a few civilized members of the Character Optimization forum at Wizards of the Coast, looking for critique and advice. I got some, and took most of it to heart. A summary of the most important changes:

  • The animal companion changed from a fox to a cougar.
  • The cougar's aura became something different entirely.
  • The damage boost for using chosen weapons was increased, and now scales by tier.
  • The animal companion's attack gained at level 17 was completely rewritten.
I've since edited my original manuscript, and formatted it to make the stat blocks look pretty. Download it here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Freelancer Aspirations: the Dark Pact Hexblade

I've detailed a few pieces I've written for D&D's 4th edition rule set in previous posts, and had originally intended to keep going until I'd worked my way through all of my repertoire. However, a fall semester in which I ended up with a lecture to teach for the first time while at Heartland Community College roughly tripled my grading load, and made it a lot harder to keep up with the project. At least for the moment, I'm back on it.

I'll start by noting here that, if you haven't seen it, it's been teased that the one article for which I've received a paycheck will be in February 2013's DDI issues. Although we pitched the article for Dungeon, the tease showed in Dragon, so I won't swear which one is getting it.

I picked up Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms because the warlock has been one of my favorite character classes for 4E D&D, in part because of how wide-open the options are for using the same basic mechanics to drive many, many different stories (through the different pacts and letting a warlock's patron drive parts of your game's story). I ended up waking up really, really early the next morning with parts of the initial pitch just stewing in my brain, and had an original pitch for this sent off to Wizards of the Coast before noon on a Sunday.

It was about a month later that I got a response back, which was along the lines of  "We've just given the hexblade a lot of word count, so we're not doing any new hexblade material for a while." I did write back asking whether it would be received better in a few months, but never got an answer. So, I turned around & pitched it to Kobold Quarterly. (The magazine is no longer in production, although they're still doing daily updates to their website and creating & publishing other print products.) I got a response along the lines of "We'll take this for the web site, but not for the magazine. Are you OK with sending it this way?"  So, I finished writing the whole thing and sending it in.

For length reasons, they split the article into 3 parts. I'll link to the last part, since it contains its own links backward through the series, although I've got a re-formatted compilation of the whole thing here.

I was trying very hard to capture the feel of spiders and lizards in the flavor text of the powers. Working from the "standard" Dark Pact Warlock, poison damage became one hallmark of the build. The decision to use acid as the other came from the caves like Villa de Luz and Lechuguilla, where the water in places is really fairly concentrated sulfuric acid. I know that, from the standpoint of folks into character optimization, this probably isn't up to snuff, but I think that I made the mechanics reflect the story I was trying to have them tell. I'd call this solid, but not innovative, work.