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D&D 4E Running player commentary on PCat's 4E Campaign - Heroic tier (finished)

Orichalcum

First Post
This actually models the standard current scholarly view of history fairly well - that there's the lowest, generational or centuries-long level of change - things like Ice Ages, or the Roman Empire. Then there's the middle-level of change, over decades or a single generation - something like the Industrial Revolution, or the change in computer processing since 1975. And then there's the top-level, where individuals actually make a difference in history - where folks like Caesar and Napoleon and Einstein matter. Or, in this case, your PCs. :)
 

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Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
This actually models the standard current scholarly view of history fairly well - that there's the lowest, generational or centuries-long level of change... the middle-level of change, over decades or a single generation... and then there's the top-level, where individuals actually make a difference in history.
That's something I was shooting for, although I'm not sure I could have phrased it as well as you did.

We played last night. My players are getting thoroughly sick of swamps and bad guys who restrict movement. Details forthcoming.
 

Sagiro

Rodent of Uncertain Parentage
Run #14 was this past Thursday. First, the plot summary:

Having escaped from the Tide of Sklar, and anxious to return to Floodford, we started the boat journey back. There was some discussion about what to do with our prisoner Xiras, rescued from Aline’s weird spirit-siphoning ritual. He was banished from Floodford on pain of death should he return, so we were disinclined to march him in. Toiva raised the prospect of his joining the Grey Guard, but he scoffed at the idea. (And a good thing too – at best he’s insane, and at worse he’s an insane murderer.) We decided to keep him in the boat until we were at the outskirts of town, and then send someone to ask Commander Pikeline what she’d like us to do with him.

About an hour out from Floodford, our boat ground to a sudden and unwelcome halt. In a large area (about 100’ across) a dense mat of weeds had risen up to the swamp’s surface, effectively making the area into solid ground. At the same time, Logan spotted a winged creature descending at us from a great height. It was the summoned gargoyle from the hut in the Bubbling Fens – the monster we thought had returned to its native Lower Plane when we destroyed the scrolls in Aline’s ritual room.

Not so much, it turns out. It spoke to us telepathically as it flew, that it didn’t want any witnesses to our imminent demises. Things started out promising as we delivered some highly effective ranged attacks before it landed, but our optimism was short-lived. It landed in front of the boat and breathed out a lingering cloud of poisonous and dazing gas. Then the swamp zombies started to rise up from the mat – 10 of them in immediate proximity. By their rotting raiment, Strontium identified them as old soldiers of the Empire. They were minions, but still dangerous in numbers. And the worst was yet to come – three bubbling sections of the swamp around the boat presaged the arrival of a trio of tougher zombies. These newcomers (one was even a Warforged, albeit corrupted and clogged with weeds) radiated auras of poison, and their strikes had a chance to immobilize us. Things were touch and go for a round or two, but Logan dealt a massive blow to the gargoyle, and the zombies were eventually destroyed.

Xiras helped in the combat, but as we entered the mopping up phase he made a break for it, diving under the mat of weeds. We managed to track him down and knock him out before he could give us the slip, and returned him to the boat.

When we reached the outskirts of Floodford, Logan went on ahead to report to Commander Pikeline. He discovered some interesting things:

- With the assistance of soldiers from nearby towns, the lizardman army had been defeated.
- Three Grey Guardsman were killed in the assault, including Caducity Skirr and Sergeant Tenblood, Pikeline’s second-in-command. The Dragonborn sage Brogh had been promoted to take his place.
- The person who killed the fake-Xiras (who was leading the lizard army) turned out to be the obnoxious Runcible Parsons, who was now full of himself. Oy.

At Pikeline’s request we brought Xiras to the Grey Guard tower for questioning, and are now once again awaiting further orders.


Tactical Notes:

- 14 runs in, and not the slightest whiff of combat grind.

- The enemies in the battle were:

o 3 Chillborn Zombies (Level 4 soldiers) repurposed with a swampy poison theme as “Poisonweed Zombies.”
o 10 Zombie Rotters (bumped up to Level 5 minions)
o 1 Venomous Abishai (from the Draconomicon – a Level 6 Controller)

- Overlapping auras that stack? Yikes! We collectively took a ton of damage from those.

- We pulled out all the stops in this one. I think just about everyone used their Daily and their Action Point.

- I thought our group tactics were kind of mediocre, in that we spread out and attacked the three Poisonweed Zombies individually, rather than focusing fire. This was somewhat forced upon us by the facts that:

o The minions came out of the swamp in a perimeter around the boat, that would have meant many OA’s against anyone who didn’t just fight whomever was close at hand.
o Our two NPC’s, Yiddin and Xiras, both fled from the boat in opposite directions at the very start of the battle.

Even so, Logan made great use of Blade Vault to get a devastating flanking attack on the gargoyle.

- Doc Caldwell is having trouble finding good openings to use his melee weapons, and in this combat he again resorted to firing his bow for most attacks. Through a combination of “character built for melee” and “crap die rolling,” he missed on a vast majority of his attacks.

- The combination of the gargoyle’s Zone of Daze ‘n Damage, and the Zombies’ immobilization power, was not a good one from the PC’s point of view.

- Piratecat has encouraged us to “do random cool things” in battle, to free us from our Stock Powers™. He’s even asked us to add a “Do something cool” card to our stacks of power cards. Toiva did this during the battle; having shapeshifted into a crocodile while fighting underwater, he wanted to grab a zombie in his jaws and flip it back above the weeds. PCat ruled it a Dex vs. Reflex roll, with a low limited damage expression. Toiva made the roll and hurled the zombie, to great effect.

- Piratecat did us a kindness by letting us fight on relatively solid ground, which didn’t count as Difficult Terrain. Yay! (Instead, our mobility was limited by immobilization and slow effects. Booo!) The ground wasn't entirely solid, though – anyone who didn’t move at least a square during their turn had a chance to sink into the swamp. There were holes left in the weed mat where the zombies had emerged, further hindering our movement. Between those factors, the zone of awfulness from the gargoyle’s breath, and the $#@! auras of the zombies, it was a dynamic and hazardous encounter.

- Piratecat also bent the rules a little for Doc Caldwell – an example of giving a frustrated player a bit of a break. After missing with almost every attack he’d made so far, Doc was struck and immobilized by one of the zombies. Even though the Ranger Utility “Yield Ground” is an Immediate Reaction (not an Interrupt), PCat ruled that the Doc could still use the power to Shift, and end up immobilized in his new location.

- Speaking of bad luck: after last game’s amazing “1 in 8000” string of missed attack rolls, I managed a not-quite-as-awful string of missed saving throws, after getting slowed by a zombie’s death blast. I failed 5 saves in a row, one of which was assisted by Toiva’s Divine Mettle (+5). Odds of missing those five saves in a row: about 1 in 120.

- Skills used this game: Athletics, Heal, History, Nature, Perception, Religion, Streetwise
 
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theskyfullofdust

First Post
Question: how does PCat judge the 'do something cool' action. Just as an action, or using up a power too?

Good write-up, as usual. Inspires & motivates me for my upcoming game :)
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Sagiro, good writeup! I changed "poisonwood zombies" to "poisonweed zombies." I might have written it down wrong when I mentioned it to you. I'll also note that the demon (or devil, whatever that gargoyle thing was) didn't say "that it didn’t want any witnesses to our imminent demises." It said that with what it had planned, it didn't want anyone to know that it existed. Which makes you wonder what it had planned, although that's probably academic at this point. Poor 'lil fella.

I thought it was a fun fight, although frustrating for several players who are tired of wading through immobilizing weeds. The group should have taken slightly more damage from the zombie auras; I goofed two or three times and didn't apply damage from just passing through their auras. As it was, the group ended up bloodied several times but didn't use any healing potions. It turned out to be just about as challenging as I hoped it would be. That'll teach the demon to underestimate the Grey Guard.

I agree with Sagiro's observation that slightly disorganized player tactics made the fight more challenging, but that I planned an encounter setup (with a surrounding ring of zombies) that was largely responsible for this. The foes weren't ideally clustered for area attacks. If I had wanted to make the fight easier, I could have started the zombies farther away from the boat, giving the group effectively an extra round to organize and regroup.

Both Xiras and the paladin Toiva ended up dragging one of the poisonweed zombies underwater to reduce the effect of their auras. We observed that it's really hard to drown in D&D. Toiva is a doppelganger, but she was able to shapeshift into a crocodile because she multiclassed into druid this level. Talk about flexibility! (Mind you, she had to shapeshift out of sight so that the NPC Yiddin didn't see her.) We're playing this as a divine power granted to her from her Goddess, and the word druid will never even get mentioned; before our next game, I'll use email with Toiva's player to handle the roleplaying aspects of this game-mechanical choice.

Other notes: the dead zombie dragon fell onto the church of Demis, goddess of agriculture (and the deity whom Sklar is a corrupted cult of.) Caducity Skirr may not be dead, and may have fled the Guard instead -- Unclear. The Grey Guard's deceased sergeant, Obrin Tenblood, was replaced by the dragonborn sage (and former gladiator) Brogh of the Heavy Hammer, resulting in some internal strife. And the group found two magic items on the zombies: a beer mug that detects the distance to alcohol, and a warforged gizmo (shaped like a clockwork beetle) that can be used to relay messages.

Kodiak played Mara the paladin in my last campaign. I set up the introduction of her new character, a wilden shaman, by having Commander Pikeline warn the PCs that a soldier from the fabled Thirteenth Legion was apparently being assigned to them. The Thirteenth has a reputations as terrifying and cruel badasses, a legion made up entirely of fey who are usually used to pacify insurgent or rebellious countries. No one is sure what to expect when Kodiak brings in her new character next game.

Question: how does PCat judge the 'do something cool' action. Just as an action, or using up a power too?
It's a standard action that does not use up a power. Toiva (shaped like a crocodile) wanted to bite the zombie and fling it back up onto the weeds. DMG p42 to the rescue! I figured the push meant it should do less damage, and I want to encourage this sort of thing, so I made it a limited (instead of normal) damage expression for low damage: 3d6+4 dmg and the zombie was flung back up onto the weeds. In-game, the characters saw the water roil and the zombie fly upwards as if flung by something large. If they're not a little creeped out by Toiva, there's something wrong.

Page 42 of the DMG is probably the most important page in that book. This is where you adjudicate every cool stunt the players want to try. Heck, you could eliminate powers entirely and handle every single attack through what's on this page; most importantly, by using this you help ensure that your players don't feel straitjacketed by only what's on their character sheet.
 
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Mathew_Freeman

First Post
Other notes: the group found two magic items on the zombies: a beer mug that detects the distance to alcohol, and a warforged gizmo (shaped like a clockwork beetle) that can be used to relay messages.

Hah, I'm just about to hand out that particular mug-o-beer in my own game, this coming Monday!
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
It's a standard action that does not use up a power. Toiva (shaped like a crocodile) wanted to bite the zombie and fling it back up onto the weeds. DMG p42 to the rescue! I figured the push meant it should do less damage, and I want to encourage this sort of thing, so I made it a limited (instead of normal) damage expression for low damage: 3d6+4 dmg and the zombie was flung back up onto the weeds. In-game, the characters saw the water roil and the zombie fly upwards as if flung by something large. If they're not a little creeped out by Toiva, there's something wrong.

Page 42 of the DMG is probably the most important page in that book. This is where you adjudicate every cool stunt the players want to try. Heck, you could eliminate powers entirely and handle every single attack through what's on this page; most importantly, by using this you help ensure that your players don't feel straitjacketed by only what's on their character sheet.

Just to give my take on the "power stunts" used in game, mine require the expenditure of an Action Point (which we represent by these plastic gold coins). So, rather than them have a "do something cool" card, they regard every Actoin Point as a potential power stunt.

My baseline for what these power stunts can do is "something roughly equivalent to an Encounter Power". That's not a hard and fast rule but it gives them a general idea of what is possible without them having to examine page 42 in detail all the time. I try to encourage them to just tell me what they want to do and I will translate it into game rules and, so far, this adjudication has been fairly easy and quick.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Just to give my take on the "power stunts" used in game, mine require the expenditure of an Action Point (which we represent by these plastic gold coins). So, rather than them have a "do something cool" card, they regard every Actoin Point as a potential power stunt.
Interesting. You dropped your former house rule (daily + action point = super-stunt), right?

I'll consider treating action points as stunt points if I feel stunts are being overused. Until that point -- and they're really underused so far -- I'm happy with them being ad hoc.

On a separate note, anyone interested in a brief discussion about how we adapted racial fluff? Kodiak and I have been working together to figure out how the recently-published wilden race fit into my campaign, and I think the results are sort of interesting. Of course, I also think Gilligan's Island is interesting, so best to ask.
 

shilsen

First Post
On a separate note, anyone interested in a brief discussion about how we adapted racial fluff? Kodiak and I have been working together to figure out how the recently-published wilden race fit into my campaign, and I think the results are sort of interesting. Of course, I also think Gilligan's Island is interesting, so best to ask.

I'm certainly interested. This thread has been very interesting for me, not just because I might be inspired by (or steal from) it but because I enjoy seeing how you're tweaking things as far as both flavor and mechanics are concerned.
 

I would also be interested in hearing about your fluff development conversations. If you're concerned that it will not interest some people who read this thread, you could always fork it into a new thread and drop a link. But my guess is that most people would be interested in it.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
Interesting. You dropped your former house rule (daily + action point = super-stunt), right?

I'll consider treating action points as stunt points if I feel stunts are being overused. Until that point -- and they're really underused so far -- I'm happy with them being ad hoc.

The cost to Power Stunt in my game is Action Point + Healing Surge.

I do want the players to feel like they can "think outside the box" of what their powers let them do. However I don't want the game to be a constant series of me doing p42 style adjudications. So far this seems like just the right mix with each encounter featuring usually a couple power stunts that are memorable and cool.
 

Blackjack

First Post
- Doc Caldwell is having trouble finding good openings to use his melee weapons, and in this combat he again resorted to firing his bow for most attacks. Through a combination of “character built for melee” and “crap die rolling,” he missed on a vast majority of his attacks.
Yeah, I started the combat in the middle of the pack, so I wasn't on either front line (as it were), and to get to melee range would have involved running past something like 3-4 zombies, provoking opportunity attacks -- which I wasn't willing to risk because I was also in the effect zone of all four clouds/auras. Meaning that unless I ran orthogonal to the front lines, I'd be dead of these auras in two rounds! Thus, I ended up still at a distance, so still using the bow... and then I got immobilized.

It didn't help that I seemed to be unable to roll above an 8.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Ever since I started the Grey Guard campaign, Kodiak wanted to play a mischievous halfling rogue. Mara wasn't what you'd necessarily call amoral or freewheeling, so she was looking forward to robbing and tricking with great curious glee.

Sooo, turns out we already have two rogues in the group.

That's okay from my perspective, of course, but everyone should have a chance to shine. Since we have no leader in the group, she started getting interested in the shaman. The original plan was for a halfling shaman; problem is, the halfling isn't even close to optimal for the class. That still wasn't a deal-breaker, but we considered options. Fajitas had great success when he completely decoupled stats from race, allowing anyone to appear human while using stats and powers from other races. I didn't want to go quite that far.

Then WotC published the wilden, discussed here. I didn't like the name or the fluff as written -- a brand new race of plant fey who arise to fight aberrations from the Far Realm -- but Kodiak liked the concept and the favored ability scores are just right for shaman.

Sagiro did some analysis and concluded that the voyage of the ancients aspect of the wilden isn't ideal for a shaman, since they don't have many attacks it applies to, but that was okay. And character sheets would have to be done by hand for another few months until the PHB3 came out. No big deal. Bramble, a wilden shaman, was a go!

Kodiak's goals (which she can elaborate on if she likes) were to have a character that was fun for her to play: knowledgeable in the world, curious and adventurous, not intensely naive, and good at things that no one else was. My goals were to expose the players to other important aspects of my campaign world, make what should by all rights be a "freakish and unknown" race fit seamlessly into my fiction, and use this opportunity to make the campaign more interesting than it was. I didn't want the wilden to be aberration-related if I hadn't planned a huge aberration plot arc, and I wanted a PC who had been to the heart of the empire and who knew what that level of wealth and elegance was like. I also wanted someone who had a reason to join the Grey Guard, which could potentially be tricky as Kodiak wanted to play a heroic character.

So, how to do it?

Okay, let's start with "fey." Why is there a fey in the Grey Guard? Why is there even one of these plant fey anywhere in the empire? I have an established war going on in the Feywild, but I didn't want to necessarily make her a refugee.

I hadn't defined Capria's armies other than "there's a Foreign Legion made up of psychotic misfits" and "the Empire has conquered the continent because their armies are second to none." What if fey served in one of the legions? What if an entire legion - 5000 soldiers or so - were entirely made out of fey? I'd need a reason.. aha! Legends in our own world tell of humans tithing babies or youths to faerie. I'd do it the other way, have faerie tithe fey troops to the Emperor of Capria every ten years. They'd all serve in one terrifying legion that was used predominantly to quell rebellions and pacify insurgents.

Cool, Bramble was a member of this mixed-faerie legion. That lets the number of wilden (renamed "Quith" by Sagiro and Kodiak, after the al'quith, a holy tree in my last campaign) be quite small, maybe 5-10% of the total fey soldiers. I wanted her to have been on the mortal world for nine years (the last tithing), but she was only 4th level. She probably spent a lot of time on non-combat display in the various provinces as the empire used its terrifying fey legion as a intimidation tool.

By now I had a good feel for how the Quith fit into my world. But what are they actually like? Kodiak wrote that for me, describing their purpose in the Feywild and their nature, and giving me several plot hooks in the process. I tweaked it a little, made sure we agreed that Bramble didn't have to be heartless and cruel just because other members of her Legion were, and we had a new race.

Enjoy the following drafts, and feel free to comment on the thought process or the result. Bramble's personal details aren't in here, nor is her reason for joining the Guard, even though it's cool; I don't want to inappropriately give away private PC history.

[sblock=The nature of the Quith]
The Quith are an ancient race that live in symbiotic relationship with the Heartwood trees of the Feywild and in harmony with all life there. The trees are descended from the ancient trees of Faerie and are central to the life and magic of the Feywild. The Quith protect them. When a Quith dies, their life energy leaves their body and joins with the eternal flow of consciousness that permeates the air of the Feywild. The Heartwood trees absorb this energy and become repositories of ancestral wisdom. They also bring some of this energy into the earth (kind of like some plants fix nitrogen into the soil that they get from the air), and so imbue everything that grows in the Feywild with spirit, and by extension (though to a lesser degree) the animals that live there, too. Occasionally (say every 25 years?), the Heartwood trees bloom, and the gentle breezes fill the air with their pollen. This is a time of very potent spirit consciousness, and is the time when the Quith gather to sing and dance and mate under the crown of trees. It is in this way that a Quith spirit is reincarnated.

The Quith know that they are part of this eternal cycle (though have no specific memories of past lives), and so hold on to their present life fairly lightly, knowing this is just a temporary embodiment of life energy and that death is just transformation and not an end. They feel a strong connection to each other (seeing each other as current manifestations of the greater consciousness), and to the life of the trees, to the life of the Feywild, and (to a lesser extent) to all life everywhere. Because they hold themselves lightly, their personalities can be changeable from day to day as they choose to call forth different aspects of their spirit. They also tend to not take the troubles of life too heavily, and like to enjoy themselves in the moment.

There are two things of great importance in the life of a Quith. One is to keep the Heartwood trees safe and thriving and free of corruption. Their very survival depends on it, and anything that taints the life enery of the trees, particularly around the time of blooming, will have very dire consequences for the Quith (as well as for the rest of the Feywild). The other is to use their lifetime to grow in understanding and wisdom, since that is all that carries forth when their current life ends, and so when they return to the larger spirit consciousness they will increase its potency and ambient wisdom (in turn helping the trees and future generations of Quith, as well as the Feywild in general). And of course they all look forward to being in the Feywild for the blooming of the Heartwood trees and ensuing activities.

The Quith have an ancient pact with the Caprian empire, tithing troops every ten years in exchange for Capria keeping safe a secret treasure, just in case catastrophe ever visits the Feywild. A small grove of Heartwood trees grow there in Capria. They are small and pale in comparison to the ones growing in the Feywild due to the less potent ambient spirit consciousness, but which none-the-less can become a starting point for a new forest should anything ever happen to the Feywild (so then as Quith died, their life energy/spirit consciousness would still have a place to go and the cycle could be reestablished. Seeds from this grove could be used to begin another forest somewhere safe, though it would take many lifetimes to grow and regain the spirit power that was lost). They also find it useful to have some exposure to the "civilized" world, to understand their ways so they are not completely at a loss when they are forced to interact with them under other circumstances.
[/sblock]
[sblock=The Thirteenth Caprian Legion]
The 13th Caprian Legion is known as the Spear of Unity. They are also known colloquially as “those tricky fey bastards that’ll murder you in your bed, if they don’t play tricks on you first.” That’s because the Thirteenth is comprised almost entirely of Fey of every size and shape. No one is talking about the reason, but every ten years for centuries the Emperor has received a tithe of soldiers from some archfey in the Feywild. Those soldiers might live for nine or ten human generations if they aren’t killed in battle, and the Thirteenth works very hard to make sure that it’s their enemies who die instead of them. The 5,200 soldier legion is organized into smaller groups (650 soldiers in a cohort, 130 soldiers in a unit, thirteen soldiers in a squad) who are often bonded to one another through long association or family ties.

Time can move wonkily in parts of the Feywild, and the land usually carries with it the feeling that you're in a waking dream or in an important story: colors are brighter, smells more vivid, emotions far more intense. Leaving the Feywild to come to the mortal lands feels a little like walking into a world cloaked by drab muslin. Fey get used to it, but the memory of the feywild often sets their hearts to pounding. Eladrin are lucky because they actually get to pass through it every time they teleport. Most Fey who are part of the Caprian tithe never return, although whenever possible their bodies are brought back after their death.

It's worth mentioning that the Feywild is supposedly under attack by an adversary, although no one can agree on who or what it is. Some fey head off to fight it, some flee to the mortal world, and many figure that it will never actually come to bother them so it's not worth getting upset about. Most fey don't have what humans would think of as a conscience; they're more like a cat stalking a particularly tasty mouse. Does the cat ever care about the mouse's feelings? In the same way, not all fey feel a responsibility to their land unless it affects them directly. The Empire, and the commanders of the Thirteenth, have utilized this amoral temperament to great success.

The Thirteenth are amongst the most feared troops in the empire. They are trained to be tricky, unconventional, vicious and thorough. They are used to pacify rebellions, quell uprisings, and bring cruel war into regions where it is feared that human troops would lose morale. Their symbol is a bloody leaf shaped like a dagger, and their loyalty is unquestioned.

One of the duties of the Thirteenth Legion is to be highly visible during celebrations, and certain units unit spend substantial time as the public face of the Thirteenth, either parading in Capria or intimidating provinces who needed a visible sign of the empire's exotic might. As such, Bramble has spent quite a bit of time in the city of Capria and its various provinces, and has learned a fair amount about mortals as a result.

[/sblock]
 
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theskyfullofdust

First Post
Very nice piece of fluff, both race and the legion. That's one of the good things about 4th ed., the fact it is easy to re-flavour everything from races to powers, without touching the mechanics.

Have you re-fluffed any of the other races in the campaign? In the 3.5 game I'm running I'm slightly painting the base races in different colours, and did the same for my 4th ed. game.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Have you re-fluffed any of the other races in the campaign?
Let's stay away from labeling me as an excellent fluffer. I'm not sure I like the connotations of that...

[sblock=Player Character Races in Capria]
Doppelgangers

These were virtually eliminated in a holy purge two generations ago after a high priest was killed permanently by a hired assassin who supposedly was one. It's illegal to be a doppelganger, of course, punishable by death. The more paranoid commoners believe that the Grey Guard attracts doppelgangers for exactly this reason, as it would allow them to live freely without risk of punishment, but no one reasonable actually believes this.


Dragonborn

Civilized dragonborn still retain the stories from their long-lost empire across the ocean, and are the loremasters of the Caprian Empire. Savage dragonborn from Pless are occasionally imported to fight in gladiatorial matches. Dragonborn are largely unknown to commonfolk, who simply won't know what to expect from them. More worldly people usually assume them to be either sages or warriors.

There is a disease – perhaps of the spirit – which is causing civilized dragonborn to retreat to mindless savagery. The dragonborn posit that the tieflings are behind this, but have not yet proven it; resentment and racial hatred runs high.


Dwarves

The dwarves are said to have supported the Emperor almost fanatically over the years, and are one of the few nations that joined the empire through diplomatic channels instead of military victory. As a result, many humans feel that dwarves put on airs, and rumor has it that they enjoy a high social status near the heart of Capria. In the provinces, many people are wary of dwarves. They keep to themselves, guard their old secrets carefully, create crafted goods far superior to human quality, and are often assumed to be extremely wealthy. Clans of dwarves have become brutal and tightknit mercenary forces, selling their swords to the Empire.

Sages sometimes say that dwarves originally owned other lands and were driven out by an unknown foe. If so, no one knows what might have caused them to flee to their current home.

You can choose to be a more scholarly dwarf connected to the homelands, or from one of the outlying mercenary clans who have become more deadly with arms.


Eladrin

Most eladrin in the Caprian Empire are refugees fleeing the Feywild as it is devoured by an unknown shadow. Other fey may still idle in their glass castles within their estates, believing that they will never be in true danger, but many eladrin within the waking world have left their ancestral paradise to find a new home.

You can choose to be an eladrin that has fought the shadow creatures but lost, that lost their homeland without having directly been in a war, or one whose homeland is still completely safe but who has left the Feywild for a different reason.


Elves

Elves are clannish, but those who have sworn allegiance to the Emperor and integrated with humans are generally given wary respect. The elven territories have turned out to be some of the most loyal of the wild provinces. Caprian elves still live primarily within the deep forests, but a surprising number have chosen to embrace other wild areas within the empire such as vast plains or even cities. Elven spirit-trees supposedly hold the memories of the race's ancestors, and these guide the elves even when away from the forests.

It is said that the Queen of the elves in the great northern forests resents the hold that the emperor has on what used to be her people. She has never brought her armies south of the treeline that marks her kingdom, however. The empire maintains a northern garrison to guard against this possibility of invasion.

Rumors persist of elven tribes who secretly worship the Old Gods from before the time that elves chose the path of sentience and civilization. Most elves consider this unthinkable, but it has fostered some paranoia and distrust within the elven communities.


Halflings

The halfling nation was conquered and assimilated by the Empire generations ago, splitting the race into two cultural branches. The halflings who didn't flee from the empire were initially slaves until (according to legend) one made a secret bargain with an old emperor; now they serve as scouts and sappers in the army, and it is considered extremely prestigious to have a halfling cook, gardener or nursemaid. The halflings who fled became riverfolk and seafolk who took to the water when their lands were destroyed. These halflings now play the role of gypsies and traders, living in their small boats and traveling the waterways. "Never trust a soggy halfling," people say, and with good reason.

The assimilated halflings are more like hobbits. The riverfolk are more like D&D halflings. You can play either.


Half-elves

Imperial decree requires any child born of an elven and human union to serve for at least two years in the Empire's bureaucracy or armies. Many join the ranks of diplomats and clerks who keep the empire running, and choose to stay longer. There is no distinct cultural homeland for half-elves; they are generally welcome in places that welcome both humans and elves, and looked upon with disfavor elsewhere.

It's said that bribing a less honest half-elf can get you information available nowhere else. Of course, that's likely just a rumor; anyone entrusted with the secrets of the empire who is caught betraying that trust typically has their tongue ripped out.

It is not uncommon for half-elves in the bureaucratic and diplomatic corps to be made into eunuchs. Many half-elves join the Grey Guard to escape this fate.


Hobgoblins

Wild hobgoblins are usually slain on sight, as are any goblinoid, but during the empire's expansion a hobgoblin nation was conquered and largely put to the sword. Some hobgoblins were spared and made into slaves, usually finding their way into the gladiatorial pits or into house guards. It is uncommon, but certain houses still use loyal hobgoblins as sergeants-at-arms or house troops.


Tieflings

The dragonborn claim that tieflings used to keep humans under subjugation as slaves for their demonic masters, but that was long ago and few people believe it. The bargains for power that the tieflings made so long ago still have left their mark; tieflings are either albino or red-skinned, sporting small horns and other signs of a fiendish taint.

Now, of course, the tieflings have left the jungles and spread amongst the free people. They have no homeland or particular ethnic identity (other than those rogue tieflings who covet the old days of power.) It is difficult for a tiefling to advance in a position of trust within the empire, and just sporting tieflings traits can get a person lynched in some corners of the empire.


Warforged

The warforged have largely vanished from the world. For hundreds of years they were a deadly tool in Capria's expansion, living constructs who could be created on demand, but that was centuries ago. Most were destroyed in battles or retired after the empire settled down, and most citizens go through their entire lives without ever seeing a living one. They still turn up now and again in old tombs and ruins, usually still extremely skilled and dangerous.
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shilsen

First Post
Let's stay away from labeling me as an excellent fluffer. I'm not sure I like the connotations of that...

Damn! In that case I'll switch to a question about something you mentioned a little earlier:

I'll consider treating action points as stunt points if I feel stunts are being overused. Until that point -- and they're really underused so far -- I'm happy with them being ad hoc.

You may have mentioned this earlier, in which case I missed it, but how often do you see stunt points being used per encounter? And do you think they're underused because it's just not beneficial enough, or some other reason?

I'm curious to hear the players' takes on that as well.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
You may have mentioned this earlier, in which case I missed it, but how often do you see stunt points being used per encounter? And do you think they're underused because it's just not beneficial enough, or some other reason?

I'm curious to hear the players' takes on that as well.
I haven't been stressing them as a viable option until recently. In addition, I just decided that PCs get a flat +1 bonus per tier (modeled on the character builder by expertise feats in the weapons and implements you're likely to use.) That bonus makes stunts continue to be viable into higher levels.

I expect that the frequency of stunts will vary with how interesting my terrain is. I'll consider them overused if.. huh. I'm honestly not sure. Since the damage scales down for repeatable stunts ("normal" damage expressions), I think it's probably self-regulating.
 

The_Warlock

First Post
Piratecat said:
I'll consider them overused if.. huh. I'm honestly not sure.

I've come to the conclusion in my games that there's almost no way to quantify overuse of a stunt mechanic so long as the the player's are expending something useful to their characters and taking a chance.

I've been enjoying reading this thread because it kind of proved a perception of mine - 4E isn't a bad game and has a lot of really good ways to facilitate fun play. I just don't like the way it gets there.

But using True20 as a base for my current games, I've been extremely lenient in allowing the PCs to stunt, and it's made for some absolutely GREAT visuals, successes, and even opportunities for the PCs to roleplay. And to do that, they've spent their Conviction, analagous to Action Points, and gotten to be "Cool Heroes."

As long as you don't have players whose purpose is to manhandle and break the system mathematically by using stunts - I don't know that there is such a thing as overuse so long as it is tied to an important or expendable resource.

And one thing about 4E that is really nice is that there are already multiple internal mechanics that you can tie impressive stunts to out of the box, whether it the expendable nature of encounter or daily powers, action points, or healing surges. That actually allows a GM to tailor their home campaign to their perception of how often and how special some types of stunts can be.

And please, Sagiro and Piratecat, keep up the great thread - this is so full of mine-able ideas regardless of RPGs other GMs are using it makes me positively GIDDY.
 
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theskyfullofdust

First Post
Let's stay away from labeling me as an excellent fluffer. I'm not sure I like the connotations of that...

I will do my best not to call you a fluffer ;)

I like what you did with the races, nice plot hooks sprinkled in there. I especially like the doppleganger write-up, since one of the PCs is a shapeshifter.

I do like this thread. Interesting, informative, and great ideas & thoughts.

Thanks :)
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Quick comment on stunts:

The heroes in my other campaign (The Merchant Prince) made good use of stunts last game when they fought Chilogg the green dragon and his kobold wyrmpriest Thoon. One PC kicked a fallen tree trunk into the dragon's face after being knocked prone (limited expression, low or medium damage, granted Reach 2 to a prone and immobilized PC); another PC used arrows to temporarily blind the dragon in one eye (normal expression, high damage, penalty to the dragon's attack rolls for one round.)

We were all pleased with the results. The players could imagine and carry out clever combat options of their own, their attacks had palpable combat effects (the dragon missed two or three attacks due to that stupid arrow-in-the-eye!), and even so the heroes had used all their encounter and daily powers by the end of the fight. I call that a win.
 

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