D&D 4E Unearthed Wrecana - Expanding Cantrips with Stunts

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
More Homage to Wrecan
ORIGINALLY - December 17, 2009


EXPANDING CANTRIPS IN 4E WITH STUNTS
While I am overall satisfied with the ability of 4e to handle improvisational actions in the form of Stunts, I think there is room for improvement. I have been toying with several ideas, until someone in the forums posed the question as to why cantrips were limited to Arcane classes. That’s when it struck me: Stunts are a Martial form of cantrips. From there, the following proposal took shape.
Associated Skills

Each power source has one or more associated Skills that represents an intimate knowledge of that source’s capabilities. Arcane classes, of course, utilize Arcane. Divine classes utilize Religion. Primal classes utilize Nature. Psionic classes utilize Insight. Shadow classes utilize Stealth. Martial classes have the study of their abilities divided into three Skills: Athletics, which represents the use of raw physical force; Acrobatics, which represents a sort of kinesthetic intelligence, and Thievery, which represents fine motor skills. I will call these skills “Associated Skills”.
I propose that a member of a class (including through the use of multi-classing and Hybrid Classes) that is trained in the Associated Skill for that class’ power source can produce a number of minor cantrip-level effects (called “Tricks”) at-will.
Tricks

The specific effects of a Trick are generally open-ended and should utilize generally the same capabilities as cantrips as determined by the DM. However, here are some guidelines.
Scope. A Trick should be able to replicate the effects of wizard cantrips or that can be caused by any mundane non-alchemical item that is not armor, a shield, or a weapon, and is under 50 gp in price. For example, a druid might generate a vine that he can climb like a rope. A priest might cause chalk-like runes to appear on a wall to mark the way they’ve come. The vine would be as durable (or fragile) as regular rope. The runes could be erased as easily as chalk.
Non-Duplicative. A Trick should not be able to replicate the effects of a power (other than cantrips) or a ritual. So a paladin could not, for example, summon fishes and loaves because it would replicate Heroes’ Feast. Nor can a Trick be used as an attack.
Duration. Tricks generally would last about five minutes (but could easily be extended during that time with a standard action). A Trick should require a standard action, or perhaps a full minute of concentration or longer depending on the effect.
Difficulty. Tricks generally do not require DCs because there’s no price for failure and they are not being used against other people.
Range. Tricks must manifest within 5 squares of the PC and no Trick can occupy more than 1 square, provide cover or concealment for any object too big to fit in the palm of the Trickster’s hand.
Martial Tricks

This is all well and good for Arcane, Divine, Primal and Psionic characters. What about martial characters? Well, there’s no completely satisfying answer to this question. First, any character, trained or untrained, can engage in Acrobatic Stunts. Second, martial stunts are rooted in the mundane and physically possible, while the other power sources are rooted in the fantastical. There is nothing that might not be possible under the Arcane, Divine, Primal, Psionic, or Shadow power sources. My solution may not be satisfying for some.
Impossible but Plausible. Martial characters may propose Tricks that are physically impossible, but are plausible within the fantastical reality of the game world. These include minor effects For instance, while it is in fact impossible to rub to stones together so quickly as to cause the air around them to glow, I might allow that as a Trick equivalent to the Light Cantrip. This can also be expanded to other skills. I might allow Martial characters to use a Trick to mimic sounds and throw voices similar to the Ghost Sound Cantrip (though I would be careful not to let it infringe too much on the gnoll’s Butcher’s Lore racial feat). Again, characters are encouraged to improvise Tricks and DMs are encouraged to say “Yes” to players within reason. (“Reason” itself being very subjective in a world of fantasy.)
What About Wizards?

So wizards (and bards with the Resourceful Magician paragon path – who should be deemed wizards for purposes of this section) have, essentially, lost one of their unique class features. (Or, more precisely, they now share that class feature with every other class.) What should they get in return?
Cantrips Beat Tricks. As an initial matter, wizards already gain some benefits over other Arcane classes. They may use Arcane Tricks as a minor action (they are standard actions for everyone else). Their Arcane Tricks can be sustained as a free action (they remain standard actions for everyone else). They may have three Arcane tricks active at a time. Everyone else may have only one Trick active at a time. But that still seems a bit insufficient.
Contingent Cantrips. A wizard may designate one of the three Arcane Tricks that can be maintained as a “contingent cantrip”. A contingent cantrip will operate as an immediate reaction power, rather than a minor action, but the wizard can only maintain two other cantrips until the contingent cantrip has been invoked.
Familiar Tricks. A wizard with a familiar may manifest Arcane Tricks within 5 squares of the familiar as if the wizard occupied the familiar’s square.
Increased Range. Wizards may manifest their Arcane Tricks within 10 squares, rather than the 5 squares that other characters get.
In Conclusion

I think Tricks can be a valuable addition to a campaign. Some DMs may not want it as it makes magic too commonplace (though not all NPCs need to have access to this). For others it makes wizards less special. And for others it might render the Divine and Primal Power Sources too pedestrian in a campaign where the connection to the divine or the primal is meant to be precious and cherished. However, I think for many campaigns, Tricks can open up a wealth of creativity and encourage improvisational actions that I think are the heart of what it means to role play.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
SAMPLE TRICKS

Subsequently

EXPANDING CANTRIPS EXPANDED: SAMPLE TRICKS
Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 09:42 PM EST
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons

In my prior blog, I introduced the concept of “Tricks”, which would allow a class of any Power Source to create minor supernatural effects like a wizard’s Prestidigitation if the character were trained in an Associated Skill assigned to the class’ power source. (Arcana for Arcane, Religion for Divine, Acrobatics for Martial, Nature for Primal, Insight for Psionic, and Stealth for Shadow.) In comments to the blog, Peter Schaefer, one of WotC’s developers, asked for some sample power blocks for these tricks. This follow-up blog is intended to oblige him.

I’m not going to produce one for the Arcane Power Source. It already exists – Prestidigitation, Light and Mage Hand, which should be given to all members of Arcane classes who are trained in Arcana. (My original blog explains how wizards should be compensated in return for sharing their cantrips.)

What follows are some equivalent Tricks for Divine, Primal, Psionic, Shadow, and even Martial classes.


Orison
Divine Trick
You manifest a small amount of your divine favor to bring about a small blessing.
At-Will ♦ Divine
Standard Action ♦ Close Burst 5
Prerequisite: Member of a class of the Divine power source and trained in Religion.

Effect: Use this trick to accomplish one of the effects given below, or another effect of similar power approved by your Dungeon Master. The power must manifest on your person or in a square within the power’s range.

Confirmation. Confirm that a willing individual has or has not been consecrated to a god to which you have also been consecrated.

Create Water. Create up to 1 gallon of fresh water, which must appear in an empty vessel that can safely hold that water without spilling.

Embalm. Preserve a corpse such that it will not decompose for 24 hours.

Halo. Glow with a divine light equivalent to a torch for up to 1 hour.

Pageantry. Create a harmless sensory effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint music, or a strong odor.

Purify. Purify one meal or 16 ounces of liquid of impurities, disease, and mold (though not or poison or other alchemical material).

Nothing you create with this power can deal damage, serve as a weapon or a tool, or hinder another creature’s actions. This power cannot duplicate the effect of any other power or ritual.



Obsecration
Primal Trick
Minor spirits are more than happy to perform little favors for you.
At-Will ♦ Primal
Standard Action ♦ Close Burst 5
Prerequisite: Member of a class of the Primal power source and trained in Nature.

Effect: Use this trick to accomplish one of the effects given below, or another effect of similar power approved by your Dungeon Master. The power must manifest on your person or in a square within the power’s range.

Affect Temperature. Increase or decrease the ambient temperature in the burst by 20 degrees for one hour. The temperature in the burst cannot be further changed until the effect ends. You may end this effect with a free action.

Coax. Coax a natural beast that is already friendly to you (and not another character’s animal companion) to perform a standard, move, or minor action that it is capable of performing, even if it has not been formally trained to do this on command.

Display. Create a harmless sensory effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint music, or a strong odor.

Predict Weather. Know what the weather will be, barring any supernatural intervention, in the square in which you stand, for the next 24 hours.

Transpose Items. Summon a small trickster spirit to transpose two unattended objects of less then 5 pounds within the burst.

Nothing you create with this power can deal damage, serve as a weapon or a tool, or hinder another creature’s actions. This power cannot duplicate the effect of any other power or ritual.



Charm
Psionic Trick
You use your mental powers to manifest a minor effect.
At-Will ♦ Psionic
Standard Action ♦ Close Burst 5
Prerequisite: Member of a class of the Psionic power source and trained in Insight.

Effect: Use this trick to accomplish one of the effects given below, or another effect of similar power approved by your Dungeon Master. The power must manifest on your person or in a square within the power’s range.

Eavesdrop. Eavesdrop on any whispered conversation within the burst.

Flourish. Create a harmless sensory effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint music, or a strong odor.

Levitate. Move an unattended object of less than five pounds within the burst to another square within the burst.

Lighten. Decrease the weight of you and any nonliving objects you carry by half until the end of your next turn. (Your carrying capacity also decreases by half.) Your weight cannot otherwise be decreased during while this power is active.

Peer. If you are in the World, Shadowfell or Feywild, you may peer into the corresponding location in any of the other two coterminal planes until the end of your next turn. Until this effect ends, you are blinded with respect to any creatures on the plane on which you are on.

View Dreams. Watch the dreams of any unconscious creature that is dreaming within the burst. You cannot alter these dreams with this power.

Nothing you create with this power can deal damage, serve as a weapon or a tool, or hinder another creature’s actions. This power cannot duplicate the effect of any other power or ritual.



Imprecation
Shadow Trick
The dark powers at your disposal can also you’re your life more pleasant.
At-Will ♦ Shadow
Standard Action ♦ Close Burst 5
Prerequisite: Member of a class of the Shadow power source and trained in Stealth.

Effect: Use this trick to accomplish one of the effects given below, or another effect of similar power approved by your Dungeon Master. The power must manifest on your person or in a square within the power’s range.

Blur. Appear blurry to any who view you for the next hour such that it is difficult for them to recognize you when this power is not active.

Chills. Cause a chill to run down the spines of any creatures within the burst. This does not actually change the ambient temperature.

Darkle. Create a harmless sensory effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint music, or a strong odor.

Disguise Aura. Obfuscate your aura for 24 hours so as to deceive other Tricks’ attempts to scry you. This power does not foil other scrying powers or rituals.

Quench. Snuff one unattended non-magical flame in the burst that is smaller than a standard campfire.

Spoliate. Spoil unattended food and liquids within the burst. The spoliation is obvious to sight and smell. If consumed, it provides no nourishment, and tastes horrible, but imposes no other ill effects.

Wilt. Wilt living plants in the burst that are not monsters.

Nothing you create with this power can deal damage, serve as a weapon or a tool, or hinder another creature’s actions. This power cannot duplicate the effect of any other power or ritual.



Theatrics
Martial Trick
You use your prodigious physical prowess to entertain the crowds.
At-Will ♦ Martial
Standard Action ♦ Close Burst 5
Prerequisite: Member of a class of the Martial power source, trained in Acrobatics.

Effect: Use this trick to accomplish one of the effects given below, or another effect of similar power approved by your Dungeon Master. The power must manifest on your person or in a square within the power’s range.

Contort. Contort your body so that you can squeeze into a space meant for a creature two size categories smaller than you (although you are considered restrained while squeezed).

Glow. Rub two stones together in such a way that the friction causes one to glow with the brightness of a torch for one hour.

Mimicry. Mimic the voice of one natural creature you have studied for several days. Someone familiar with the mimicked voice can detect the subterfuge if their passive Insight exceeds your Bluff check. (If you are not trained in Bluff, you gain a +5 to this check, as if you were.)

Palm. Cause an object in your hand to appear to disappear, secreted somewhere on your person.

Smokepuff. Using a handful of dirt or sand, create a puff of smoke.

Swallow. Swallow an object of less than 5 lbs. The object can be regurgitated during the next short rest, or passed at the next extended rest. The object will be unharmed, but you might not be (at the DM’s discretion).

Nothing you create with this power can deal damage, serve as a weapon or a tool, or hinder another creature’s actions. This power cannot duplicate the effect of any other power or ritual.

DMs should also keep in mind that these are just some examples of Tricks. Players should feel free to improvise more tricks using the guidelines set forth in my prior blog on the subject.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Presumably one could then have a feat that allowed one to perform ones Tricks as a minor action and increase their range by 5.... you might even call the Feat Trickster
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Noticing Wrecan putting mimicry on this list... reminds me of the thought that there is an overlap of practices and cantrips
 

pemerton

Legend
[MENTION=82504]Garthanos[/MENTION] - interesting post!

You're going to start putting me in the "reactionary" basket, but let me explain why I'm not sure about the need for tricks!

It seems to me that issues like creating puffs of smoke, or creating water, or purifying food, are going to come mostly in two sorts of contexts. One is a low-stakes context, where it's just colour. In that case, I don't think I need a mechanic beyond skills + "say 'yes'" to support it. (Eg the cleric speaks a prayer of purification over the dirty plate - now it gleams!)

The other is a skill challenge context, in which case - for the system to work - I need a skill check to be made. (I know rituals and daily powers, per the DMG and DMG2, can create an exception to this, but they are rationed abilities and so, at least in my experience, don't dominate the skill challenge resolution procedure.)

And once a check is being made, the same consideration as in low-stakes context applies: whether or not the character can create the smoke puff necessary for some feat of prestidigitation can be determined via a check (say, a Thievery check).

What do I thik cantrips are for, then? They're fiat moves for wizards. Some, like light, solve resource problems and protect against certain low-grade consequences (like having your lantern fall down a pit). Some, like mage hand, allow ceratin actions (pick up an object, etc) to be performed at range - this sometimes matters in combat (when tactical distances are everything) and sometimes effects fictional positioning.

But I'm not that keen on extending at-will fiat moves to all classes. I think it tends to make the skill and skill challenge mechanics redundant. Whereas my experience with games that require checks rather than allowing fiat moves; and my experiences with a Sage of Ages who makes nearly all his important checks automatically before we get to factors like cantrips and rituals; makes me want more checks in the game, not fewer!
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Not entirely sure about tricks either but I do note that enabling a few martial practices for various class flavors.... can step up their cool factor. The hunters knacks to me and the bards signs of influence are this kind of thing in some ways.

What do I thik cantrips are for, then? They're fiat moves for wizards. Some, like light, solve resource problems and protect against certain low-grade consequences (like having your lantern fall down a pit). Some, like mage hand, allow ceratin actions (pick up an object, etc) to be performed at range - this sometimes matters in combat (when tactical distances are everything) and sometimes effects fictional positioning.

Zorro fashions a make-shift whip from the fabrics of the bedding and with a snap is able to grab the keys to the cell from far away, later he uses the same tool to grab purchase on a subtle protuberance and swings across a precipice to take an unexpected escape route. i have actually heard of whip work as a proposed martial cantrip.

Ooops no his awesome is hid behind a layer of skill checks and he does no such thing (Legalos and the Oliphant Denied) .... Not saying that is the recommended DM'ing style for 4e at all its just flash backs to an age when every DM was saying something much like the following.


But I'm not that keen on extending at-will fiat moves to all classes.

hmmmmm

I think it tends to make the skill and skill challenge mechanics redundant.

Doesn't that take excessive versatility for that issue to arise? rather like the recent cantrips that wizards gained.

Whereas my experience with games that require checks rather than allowing fiat moves; and my experiences with a Sage of Ages who makes nearly all his important checks automatically before we get to factors like cantrips and rituals; makes me want more checks in the game, not fewer!

Rituals seem to be something which few seem willing to use...

Sage of Ages is an Epic tier phenomena ( I am sure even without that it seems possible to have an extreme range of skill advancement being more problematic --- ie only 1 character does this kind of skill check unless the DM configures things to force otherwise .)
 
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