Monday, March 15, 2010

Runeforged Weapons

Inevitably, the PCs are going to want to craft runeforged weapons for themselves in order to take on Karzoug. I want to talk a little about how I see these being implemented in a 4th edition game. There are a number of considerations to take into account here - Should the runeforged enchantment replace the weapon's enchantment, or simply augment it? How should the traits manifest (the actual mechanics of the enchantment)? Should PCs be allowed to enchant implements in addition to weapons? Should an associated increase in value be added (in case, for instance, the party wanted to sell or disenchant the item)? Should the Transfer Enchantment ritual affect the runeforged enchantment, and if so, how? Let's break it down.

In the original adventure, as part of the 3.5 mechanics, the runeforged weapons were simply additional enchantments that a weapon could gain (they had a +2 bonus attached, and increased the value of the weapon accordingly). The goal here should be to provide the PCs with a weapon they will actually want to wield. To that end, having the new enchantment replace the old would be counter-productive; it would not be unlikely for a PC to decide that the current enchantment on his weapon is a better fit for him than whatever enchantment a runeforged weapon might provide. On the other hand, simply providing an additional effect will make the PCs slightly more powerful than is expected of them at this level. This is a balance consideration, then. One thought I had was to remove a couple treasure parcels from the allotment in order to offset this new source of magic item power.

In order to avoid penalizing implement-wielding characters for no particular reason, runeforged enchantments should apply just as easily to implements as they do to weapons.

Regarding the actual properties of the runeforged weapon enchantments, each should definitely be unique. While some mechanics are easy to translate over to 4th edition, others are less straightforward. Covetous weapons, for instance, are easy to adjudicate - fire resistance and the fire subtype both exist in 4th edition. The Tyrannical enchantment, on the other hand, runs into issues; PCs do not usually fight monsters that are "summoned" in the same sense that PCs can use powers with the summoning keyword, and an effect equivalent to dismissal is clearly too strong an effect to attach to the weapon. Additionally, the spellcaster-damaging property on each weapon is a problem, as school distinctions no longer exist. Here are my thoughts on each enchantment, for right now:

Miserly Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you make an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain an item bonus to the attack's damage rolls against shadow creatures equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus.
Power (Daily): As a minor action, you touch your weapon or implement to any adjacent illusion you have seen through with a successful Insight check. Effect: All allies within 10 squares can also see through the illusion as though they had made a successful Insight check.

Covetous Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you make an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain an item bonus to the attack's damage rolls against creatures with the fire keyword equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus.
Property: You gain resist 5 fire.

Jealous Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you make an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain an item bonus to the attack's damage rolls against undead creatures equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus.
Power (Daily): Free Action. Trigger: You would take necrotic damage from an attack. Effect: You ignore all damage from the triggering attack.

Domineering Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you make an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain an item bonus to the attack's damage rolls against creatures with the shapechanger keyword equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus.
Power (Daily): Free Action. Select a penalty from a single source that you are currently suffering from. Until the end of the encounter or until that penalty would expire (whichever comes first), you are no longer suffering from that penalty.

Tyrannical Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you hit a minion with an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain temporary hit points equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus.
Power (Daily): Free Action. Trigger: You hit an immortal creature with an attack using this weapon or implement. Effect: The immortal creature is dismissed (save ends). While dismissed, the target cannot take actions and cannot be targeted. On a save, it returns to the space it was last in. If that space is occupied, the target returns to the nearest unoccupied space of its choice.

Sadistic Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you make an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain an item bonus to the attack's damage rolls against creatures marking you equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus. 
Power (Daily): Immediate Interrupt. Trigger: An enemy within 10 squares succeeds on a saving throw against an effect caused by you. Effect: The triggering enemy fails the saving throw instead.

Parasitic Weapon/Implement
Property: Whenever you make an attack using this weapon or implement, you gain an item bonus to the attack's damage rolls against any creature suffering from a charm effect equal to the weapon's (or implement's) enhancement bonus.
Power (Daily • Healing): Free Action. Trigger: You hit an enemy suffering from a charm effect with an attack using this weapon or implement. Effect: You gain hit points as though you had spent a healing surge, and one charm effect of your choice on the target ends immediately.

The question of value is one that must be addressed. If a runeforged enchantment adds potent abilities, shouldn't that be reflected in the item's value? This is especially true if we then reduce the number of magic items the party will receive in order to balance the enchantments out. My current thoughts are to simply increase the effective level of any runeforged weapon or implement by 1 for the purposes of determining its value.

Transfer Enchantment should work to the players' benefit here, allowing them the choice of transferring either all of a given weapon's (or implement's) enchantments (both magical and runeforged) to a new weapon or implement, or just the runeforged enchantment. A runeforged enchantment cannot be transferred to a non-magical weapon or implement, however.

Let me know what you think of these ideas. Given the very limited nature of these enchantments' use (only a handful can be made, and they are only intended to be used for the final adventure of a single campaign), issues of balance aren't of critical importance, but should still be kept in mind.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Improved Clone

As you're probably aware, this conversion is aimed at ending mid-epic tier. I'm know, however, that many groups will want to continue on past that point, to greater things. In Sins of the Saviors, the party can recover information on the Improved Clone spell, allowing a spellcaster so inclined to spend a great deal of time researching and perfecting it until it was able to provide him with virtual immortality. This is a prime target for implementation as a ritual in 4e. Here's what I'm thinking:

First, Improved Clone would represent the upper end of what a ritual could do - in fact, immortality of some sort is an inherent part of each character's epic destiny. Improved Clone will therefore likely end up as a 30th level ritual.

Next, it will have a substantial cost, in components, time, and personal investiture. Obviously, this will be a monetarily expensive ritual. It needs to account for the game utility of essentially having a backup character in the event of an untimely demise - in many ways, it is far superior to the raise dead ritual. Time-wise, the ritual should take either a year and a day, or ten years and a day to successfully perform, with each passing day requiring a payment of healing surges to sustain its casting. All of these costs would need to be paid each time the ritual is performed; once the original body dies, it would be assumed as part of the ritual that the cloned character would forget the particulars of the ritual, and would need to spend the time and money associated with the ritual to become reacquainted with it.

Give me your thoughts on this ritual. What should be required to perform it? Should it have any side effects on the character? Because of the attractiveness of this ritual, it can have some significant hurdles or downsides, without dissuading players from pursuing it. How long should it take to sustain it to completion? Let's hear it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fortress of the Stone Giants Conversion v0.1

Here it is: the compiled PDF of my Fortress of the Stone Giants conversion. As always, please leave comments and suggestions here, and please point out any errors you find (I already discovered that I forgot to give Mokmurian languages). Enjoy!

Fortress of the Stone Giants Conversion v0.1

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reflected Enmity

My players have decided to explore the Shimmering Veils of Pride first, which means we're coming up on the mirrors of opposition at the entrance. How should I make these function in the 4e conversion? Simply copying their entire character twice seems like overkill - that's a lot of extra abilities and powers that probably won't be used (and, if they were used, would probably represent a much greater challenge for the party than they can handle). I could also create new monster stat blocks for each PC, in anticipation of their activation of the mirrors, or I could turn each character into an NPC stat block (using the class templates presented in the DMGs). The last option is to simply make each PC-reflection monster the same: a generic mirror entity monster that simply wears the face of whichever PC brought it forth.

What do you think? Some options are clearly more work than others, but would be more flavorful. I'm currently leaning towards the NPC-stat-block solution, but this poses some difficulties for a published conversion: there's no way I can know what your own party is comprised of. If I decided to use customized stat blocks for each individual party member, you as the DM would have to create them yourself to match your own party once you reached this point in the adventure.

Monday, February 22, 2010


At the end of the last session of my playtest game, the PCs woke the elder white dragon Arkrhyst from his slumber, and he barreled down at them from Rimeskull.

At this point in the campaign, the PCs are 17th level. It is ideal, then, that an Elder White Dragon is a level 17 solo brute. I don't think a single white dragon makes for a particularly interesting fight, so I'm planning on spicing it up with a couple of the new living spells released in this month's Dragon - it seems reasonable to rule that the presence of a portal to one of the most magically potent locations in existence might give rise to some stray magical anomalies. In fact, I like the idea that Arkrhyst's substantial time spent here has given him a few extra abilities - specifically the power to create and control a couple of these living spells.

I also want to drop Arkrhyst's hit points down to Monster Manual 2 standards, and give him a couple more abilities to even things out. First, to help with his damage output, I'll give him something to break through some of the PCs' cold resistance, especially when bloodied. PCs should be rewarded for having powers that supply them with the appropriate resistances, but in a fight like this featuring so much cold damage it can easily become an "I win" button.

So here are a couple questions that I'd love to hear interesting answers to:

  • How should the Stone Runelord Heads feature in this fight? Should they be little more than terrain, or should they have a fantastical power that can be taken advantage of in the fight? Should they explode if caught in the crossfire of the battle with Arkrhyst?
  • What other power or ability should I grant Arkrhyst, in addition to being able to reduce resistances? Should he have something that lets him command living spells actively? Something else that highlights his arcane strengths?
Comment quickly!

The Best Use of This Space

I've been giving this blog's purpose a lot of thought recently. Don't worry, this project is still going full-steam ahead, even if the publishing side of it is way, way behind. The process of essentially publishing everything twice - once to the blog in the form of posts, and then once to a file-sharing site in a compiled format - is fairly inefficient. It lets you take a look at my design process, to a certain extent, and that's good. It generates feedback, and I can always incorporate that feedback into the next iteration of the conversion material. But I don't need the blog to do that, really. I always end up making changes to the conversions even after they're published in compiled form.

I'd rather do something else with this space.

From now on, I'll be posting regular updates on the material I'm currently working on, occasionally even before my players get around to it. These will be in-depth looks at my design choices, and I'll be looking for a lot of feedback to help me make these conversions the best they can be. This might take the form of a poll on what direction I should take an encounter, or a critique of a stat block, or simply advice on how to break down a section of the adventure into manageable chunks.

The conversions themselves will be published as finished adventure compilations, just as they have been.