Dragonmarks 11/14: Warforged and More

It’s been a very busy month, from wonderful events such as Extra Life and ChariD20 to unexpected tragedies like the loss of my friend Mr. Pants. I’m also hard at work on Phoenix: Dawn Command and I hope to talk more about that soon. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Dragonmark, and I don’t want to get rusty.

At the moment, I have no news about 5E Eberron support, though I am still optimistic that there will be news soon. As always, everything I write here is entirely unofficial and may contradict material in canon sources.

How would you emulate a warforged character using the 5E PHB?

I came up with one possible 5E interpretation of the Warforged with Rodney Thompson of WotC for Extra Life; you can find the stats I used here. There are other things I might try – one being the ongoing question of whether warforged should have inherent armor similar to the 3E feat-based armor or follow the 4E hermit crab approach where armor is a shell they attach. The version on my site takes the hermit crab approach; all I’ll say is that I had a fine time with Smith when I played him in Extra Life. Personally, I will continue to experiment with different approaches to the warforged as I continue to evaluate 5E – but I think the current model is a reasonable approach and definitely not overpowered.

What sort of culture is there among warforged? Also, now that the war’s over, how might one warforged from one nation behave around a warforged of a different nation?

Both good questions, but I think the answer is that there’s no clear answer. The warforged have only been free citizens for two years, and they are still creating their culture. The followers of the Becoming God and the Lord of Blades represent two hubs for warforged culture to build around, but any center for warforged population – such as the Cogs in Sharn – could be the genesis of a warforged culture. As for how warforged of different nations behave around each other, it’s the same issue: it’s going to depend on the cultural path they are following. Followers of the Lord of Blades have no loyalty to any human nation, and consider all warforged to be part of one family… while other warforged cling rigidly to national loyalty and military discipline as the only things that have given their lives any sense of meaning. Such a warforged could be very hostile to a ‘forged from an enemy nation. The interesting question is if the ‘forged would act the same way towards a human soldier of that nation, or if he holds greater emnity for rival ‘forged because he still sees them as essentially weapons.

But the ultimate answer is “there is no absolute answer.”

Have you ever used the Lord of Blades in a game? What backstory did you use, if so?

I originally planned for the Lord of Blades to play a significant role in The Dreaming Dark trilogy. WotC decided they didn’t want him to appear in fiction so early in the cycle of the setting, so Harmattan took his place. I developed the Lord of Blades during the original cycle, and he originally had stats in the 3.5 ECS in the same section as Demise and Halas Martain – and like both of them, he had multiple sets of statistics to allow him to evolve as PCs rose in level. He ended up being cut for space, and I think it was just as well as it let DMs take him in different directions. The only time I’ve personally used him in a session it actually ended with the idea that he wasn’t an individual warforged – rather, he was a shared identity created by a cabal of warforged at the end of the war. So in that storyline, it would have been possible for people to fight and defeat a Lord of Blades in one scenario and discover that he was simultaneously doing something elsewhere. It’s a little like saying that Doctor Doom always was a bunch of Doombots working together, who made up the story of “Doctor Doom.”

I suggest a number of other ideas in this Dragonshard - among others, the idea that he could just be Aaren d’Cannith wearing a suit of warforged armor – but I haven’t personally used any of those ideas in games I’ve run.

What pacts do you think work best for warforged warlocks? With pacts made before or after rolling off the creation forge.

That depends how you define a “warforged warlock” and “pact.” For example, in a number of games I have used warforged warlocks who draw their powers from the Mourning. But the idea of this wasn’t that these warforged had made a concrete bargain with a sentient aspect of the Mourning, like a traditional Infernal or Fey warlock; rather it was that they had been touched and twisted by the Mourning. If you are actually playing with the idea of a warforged bargaining with a supernatural entity in exchange for power, I think you could make a case for any pact. I think you could have a very interesting Infernal Warlock based on the idea that a human warlock died and made a bargain that resulted in his soul being inserted into a warforged body… with the underlying threat that the body could be taken away if he fails to live up to the terms of his pact.

Are there mindflayers who support Riedra or the inspired -or that are even inspired themselves? Given their psionic abilities?

As I first discussed in this Dragonshard article, Dal Quor and Xoriat are both common sources of psionic power. However, they reflect very different approaches to reality and the mind, and I don’t see the fact that they both channel psionics as being any sort of bridge between them; if anything, I’d argue that psions inspired by these two different sources are fundamentally as different from each other as clerics and wizards are when it comes to manipulating “magic.” This can be reflected by having Wilders be more commonly tied to Xoriat, but I think that you can have people from both paths use the same class and still have a very different flavor for it. I feel that the denizens of Dal Quor and Xoriat are equally far apart and would generally find very little common ground.

While the Quori are undeniably alien creatures, there is a very close bond between them and mortal dreams. Mortal dreams have an impact on Dal Quor, and the Quori themselves inspire and draw strength from mortal emotions. Tsucora draw on fear, Duurlora are spirits of aggression, and so on. Among other things, this means that emotions as we understand them are relevant to the Quori. It means that we can generally understand their motivations and outlook on the world. You then have the secondary aspect that the modern Quori are very strongly aligned behind a common cause – the perceived survival of their reality. The Quori are an innately Lawful force. They have a strict hierarchy amongst themselves, and in many ways they are fundamentally defined by the fact that they are enforcing order upon chaos. They SHAPE dreams and use them as tools. They create specific emotions and use them to accomplish their goals.

By contrast, the denizens of Xoriat are utterly alien… as alien to the Quori as they are to humanity. I’ll point you to this Dragonmark article on the subject for further exploration of this fact. But the short form is that Quori understand humans, which is what allows them to manipulate humanity; they don’t understand the Daelkyr or their servants. There is no order that can easily be imposed upon them, and they don’t even necessarily experience the same emotions that we do.

All of this is my personal preference, and you’re certainly welcome to take a less extreme position. But for me, what makes the Daelkyr, the Cults of the Dragon Below, and aberrations in general INTERESTING in a world that also includes Quori, Rakshasa, evil dragons, and more is the fact that the creatures of Xoriat are the most completely alien of any of these. A mind flayer such as Xorchyllic might appear to have motivations we understand, but when you delve deeper you may find that there’s things going on there that don’t make sense at all. The logic, emotions and schemes of Xoriat should be hard for us to understand, because their logic is our madness. It is inherently at odds with our vision of order, reason and reality.

So I might have an ALLIANCE between a mind flayer and the Inspired, but I would certainly expect it to be temporary… and I would emphasize that even the Quori don’t understand what the mind flayer is up to.

 How would you make Thrane sympathetic in a game set in Thaliost?

Interesting question. They are the occupying force, which is always a hard position to justify. One of the first things I’d do is to emphasize that the brutal governor of the city, Archbishop Dariznu, is actually Aundairian; he represents the extremist Pure Flame movement rooted in Aundair. The Thrane templars and priests in the city are under his authority, but I’d emphasize their disgust at Dariznu’s actions and have some of them doing what they can to mitigate them or to help people in need. Compassion is a core virtue of the Silver Flame, and I’d incorporate a number of Thranes – whether part of the occupying force or independent agents – who are providing compassionate assistance to the needy. I could even see a group of Thrane templars considering if they should defy the hierarchy and remove Dariznu from power. The essential point to make is that this isn’t a simple black and white Thrane vs Aundair conflict; you are also dealing with an ideological schism within the Church of the Silver Flame. There are Aundairians and Thranes on both sides of that schism, and definitely Thranes who believe in the validity of Thrane’s claim to the region while still despising the actions of the Governor. This is something I touch on in this Dragonmark.

How do you handle airships being damaged without making it feel like you’re punishing the players or taking away their stuff?

To me, the key issue here is the difference between punishing players and taking away their stuff. In my campaign, everything outside of the players themselves is fair game to suffer consequences player action. I want players to develop attachments to people, places and things precisely so I CAN threaten their airship, spouse, or home village – because all of these are ways to add a sense of tension and consequence to player action. But that also requires a level of trust on the part of my players that the actions I take aren’t simply malicious or capricious. One of the points on things is that they can always get replaced. If I destroy their airship as part of a Lost-like scenario that drives a campaign arc, they can always get a NEW airship when they get back to civilization… and if it’s not exactly the same as the old one, like I said, that’s part of what actually drives the story: things change, events have consequences, and heroes CAN suffer loss.

But I think the key point here – as with many things about good GMing – is about clear communication between player and GM, and about an understanding of the type of story that will play out. If the PLAYERS have a clear vision of the campaign as them flying around saving the universe in the Millennium Falcon and you randomly have it destroyed by an asteroid in the first session, just saying “But you get another ship later!” isn’t going to make that all better. Basically, I would never, say, make a PC lose a limb without having some form of consent that the PC is OK with that sort of story. If the airship truly is as integral to the concept of the PC as a limb, then I’m not going to casually remove it. But overall, my GOAL is for people to be able to develop attachments to people, places and things with the understanding that these things CAN be lost, and can even potentially be lost in seemingly senseless ways; it’s this understanding that helps people feel that their actions matter and that loss is a possibility.

The game I’m currently developing – Phoenix: Dawn Command – approaches loss in a very different manner, as death and loss are fundamental parts of character growth. But that’s a subject for a future post.

OK: That’s all I have time to discuss in detail. Which means it’s time for another lightning round for the remaining questions…

Did elements from Final Fantasy VI (opera, airships…) inspire some features of Eberron even slightly?

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have never actually played a Final Fantasy game or seen any of the movies. So any similarities are simply parallel evolution.

How common are wands among non-magical inhabitants of Eberron?

Not at all. Using a wand requires magical talent; even eternal wands require you to be SOME sort of spellcaster, even if you don’t have to be a caster with access to the spell in the wand.

Eberron suddenly becomes “mundane” -no divine/arcane power, no connection to planes. What happens instantly, a year, 10 years?

I explored this concept in the Children of Winter article in Dragon 418. One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of Eberron’s major cities take advantages of manifest zones or magic; remove those things and Sharn will immediately collapse, for example.

Can criminals avoid being convicted in spite of items as the eye of Aureon and pendants of mystic warning (from SharnCoT)?

Sure. FIrst of all, an Eye of Aureon won’t help you CATCH a criminal; it only helps you prove his guilt or innocence once he’s been captured. Eyes of Aureon are rare and “only found in the greatest cities of Khorvaire.” Beyond that, an Eye of Aureon is simply a zone of truth, and there’s lots of ways to get around those… from effects that shield you from divination to simply finding ways to mislead while speaking the literal truth. Meanwhile, a Pendant of Mystical Warning is an expensive item that can only be used by someone with arcane talent, and has all the same limitations as detect magic. So yes, I think there are definitely ways for criminals to avoid conviction. This sort of thing is a subject I delve into in considerable depth in the 3E sourcebook Crime and Punishment from Atlas Games.

If the worlds-traveling crone Baba Yaga were to visit Eberron, where would her hut reside?

Personally, if I were to use Baba Yaga in Eberron I would say that when she passes through Eberron she tends to use another name, and either make her Sora Katra or Sora Kell herself.

How evil are the daughters of Sora Kell? Do they have legitimate plans for Droam? Would you ever write a story focused there?

I have written stories focused there; I think Sheshka is actually the most popular character in The Queen of Stone. Beyond that, it’s a topic I’ve discussed in some detail in this Dragonmark, so I suggest you take a look at that and see if it answers your questions.

Does Flamewind have an androsphinx counterpart/sibling/mate?

Not in Sharn, and we’ve never detailed her private life before Sharn. Of course, if you’re referring to Flamewind as depicted in The Dreaming Dark, you have to ask yourself if she’s really a sphinx at all – or if she is some sort of manifestation of the Queen of Dusk. And speaking of which…

Will the new edition be advancing the timeline at all? Anything in the works for Daine, Lei, and Pierce?

I still have no concrete details on the plans for future Eberron support and whether it will include novels. Personally I would rather focus on the past or on regions of the world (or planes) that have been underdeveloped as opposed to pushing the timeline forward.

If a “Super Hero” team appeared in Sharn, how would Breland react to it? Would the local Dragonmark houses do anything?

Sharn’s a big place. The first draft of the setting actually included a pulp vigilante in Sharn – a kalashtar known as “The Beholder.” I’d only expect Breland to get involved if the group was somehow seen as a serious threat to royal authority; after all, it’s not as though Breland has stepped in to interfere with House Tarkanan or the Boromar Clan. Likewise, I’d only expect this houses to act if their personal interests were threatened. If anything, I could see the Twelve CREATING a superhero team as a PR exercise. Get your Cannith Iron Man, Vadalis super-soldier, Orien speedster, etc…

Are any of the moons inhabited?

They COULD be. We’ve intentionally left details on the moons scarce so that YOU can decide if you want to have a Moon Race game, an invasion from the moons, or even to just say that the moons are in fact simply portals to other planes.

Why did the Eldeen Reaches declare independence from Aundair? I can see why places like Mror or Zilargo got independent, but Eldeen?

For a brief exploration of this topic, look at this previous post. The short form is that the schism between Aundair and the Eldeen reflected significant cultural and economic troubles between the regions, and that the leadership of Aundair was focusing on the war with the other nations to the detriment of the Eldeen.

What were your plans for the undersea kingdoms of Eberron?

Someday I hope to explore this in more depth (get it?) but it won’t be today. One detail I will throw out is that Sharn originally had an undersea district with a section with a permanent Airy Water enchantment so people could make deals with merfolk emissaries.

 

Mister Pants

PantsBalloonsYesterday my wife Jennifer Ellis and I said farewell to our best friend and companion for more than a decade. I’ve never felt as close to a dog as I did to Mister Pants; he is a member of our family, and his loss is deeply felt.

We’ve posted a few of our favorite memories of Mister Pants here. If you ever met him, please take a moment to remember this wonderful pug – and feel free to share your thoughts below.

Back From ChariD20!

CCDD2014-3

Elisa Teague, Kirk Thatcher, David Nett, Keith Baker, Jason Charles Miller, and Cig Neutron!

This weekend I was in Los Angeles for ChariD20, a charity roleplaying event raising money for Reach Out And Read. This is the fourth time I’ve developed and run an adventure for ChariD20, and it was the best year yet. The participants were fantastic, the games went well, and we raised twice as much for the charity as we did last year.

Each session was only two hours long, and it was an interesting challenge for me to develop a two-hour adventure that still felt like a complete story – especially knowing that many of the players wouldn’t be familiar with the rules. I’m happy with the outcome. Donors: I need to make a few edits to the adventure based on play and then it needs to be approved by Wizards of the Coast before I can pass it on to you. So it’s going to be a little while before you get it, but I hope that it will be in your hands by the end of the month.

John Rogers invokes the power of the Silver Flame!

John Rogers invokes the power of the Silver Flame!

If you’d like to see how it went down, the recording is online at the CCDD website. If you missed out, you can still donate until November 12th; if you donate at least $10 you can watch the sessions and get a copy of the adventure as soon as it’s approved!

Thanks as always to Satine Phoenix and Matt Mangini for organizing the event, to fellow DM Matthew Mercer for taking on my story, and to our awesome players: John Rogers, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Jessie Pridemore, Kyle Vogt, Grant Imahara, Dodger, Mandy Morbid, Zak Smith, Joseph Scrimshaw, Ivan Norman, Cig Neutron, Kirk Thatcher, Elisa Teague, David Nett, Jason Charles Miller, Orion Acaba, Marisha Ray, Jenna Busch and Neal Fischer. And most of all, thanks to everyone who donated to Reach Out And Read!

 

ChariD20 is TODAY!

CCDD TestLast night was the trial run of the 5E Eberron adventure I’ve put together for ChariD20 – a event raising money for child literacy charity Reach Out And Read. The event is TODAY! The first game starts at 10 AM Pacific Time, where I will be running the game for John Rogers (Leverage), Grant Imahara (Mythbusters), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Helix, The Middleman), Kyle Vogt (The Room), and Jessie Pridemore (RuffleButt Cosplay). You can see the full schedule throughout the day at the main website, along with links for donating and watching the games.

Thanks to everyone who’s donated so far – It’s going to be fun!

Extra Life: Epilogue

Smith CostumeLast Saturday I ventured to the distant lands of Seattle and Faerun to play in the first eight hours of the D&D Team’s Extra Life campaign. Thanks to the amazing donations from all of you, I was able to play Smith, a warforged artificer. Of course, 5E doesn’t have warforged or artificers, so the first step was putting something together as a placeholder. You can find my temporary stats for the Warforged and the Artificer at these links. Other donations established details about my character, and going into the adventure I had a whole backstory planned out. So let me take a moment to tell you about my character.

History: Smith knows nothing about his history. The first thing he remembers is a vision of the Silver Flame urging him to protect the innocent. He awoke in the Mournland, with the symbol of the Silver Flame burning on his forehead.. In the ruins of Making he found the docent Smee (Subject Matter Expert), who helped Smith harness his latent talent for artificing. Many questions remain unanswered. Did the Silver Flame shield him from the Mourning, or was it the Mourning that allowed it to touch him? Was he designed to be an artificer, or was it another side effect of the Mourning? 

The Mourning definitely had an impact on Smith’s consciousness; he is an eccentric individual and not very good at social interactions. He spent the last two years living in the streets of Sharn, doing his best to help people with his makeshift creations. He and Smee were investigating a dimensional breach that seemed to be tied to an Overlord, specifically Tiamat; it seemed like she might be trying to escape her bonds by slipping sideways through reality. Smith was pulled through the rift into Faerun, and is determined to stop Tiamat. The transfer has further damaged his memory, so his level has dropped; he’s trying to remember his full capabilities. In the meantime, he tries to acclimatize himself to the world by mimicking the behaviors of others around him.

PERSONALITY TRAITS: I am tolerant of other faiths and respect the worship of other gods. The Silver Flame is not a god as others think of gods. It is a force created by sacrifice that empowers mortals to defend the innocent. It doesn’t preclude the existence of other deities, and I appreciate anything that gives people hope.

IDEALS: I will be a vessel of the Silver Flame. I believe that the Flame restored me so that I can protect the innocent from supernatural threats. Beyond that, I believe that I serve as (one set of) the eyes of the Flame: I am helping it reach new lands.

BOND: I created a great work for someone, and then found them unworthy to receive it. I’m still looking for someone worthy. This is his mystery widget, which when used will have the effect of a wish.

FLAW: When in Faerun, do as the Faerunans do. Every scene or encounter, I will roll a die to randomly determine which PC I have imprinted upon. I will emulate that PC and very obviously seek their approval, to a degree that would embarrass others.  

BATTLE CRIES:

  • “Impractical Words to Give the Impression of True Couraaaaagggggeeeeee!”
  • “I Am Speaking in a Clear and Commanding Voice!”
  • “This Yelling Shall Frighten My Enemies!”

So, that’s what I had on paper when I arrived in Seattle. I pulled out the goggles because hey, every artificer should have goggles, and I liked the effect of the blank stare. The aviator hat was a last minute addition as I was going out the door; given that warforged don’t have hair, I felt that it worked.

I like Smith’s backstory and attributes, and I was prepared to tackle all these elements. But it’s one thing to come up with a story, and another to put it into practice first thing in the morning with an extremely unusual party. Jeremy Petter was a Dragonborn sorcerer whose spells were randomly determined by drawing a card from a magic deck; whenever he cast a spell, he had no idea whether it would hurt the enemy or us. Tally Heilke was a were-goat monk from the High Elk clan. Liz Smith had a dragonborn paladin who insisted she was a human with a skin condition. And Forest Gibson was a straightforward kleptomaniacal halfling rogue… except for the fact that he was carrying around the head of his father, which mysteriously could still talk. In the second round, we traded out our halfling rogue and dragonborn paladin for a few more exotic characters… Mike Selinker as a gnoblin (gnome/goblin) dessert chef/cleric and Gavin Verhey as a romantic sentient ooze sorcerer who also used Magic cards to determine unpredictable side effects of his spells.

Amidst such a colorful cast, it turned out to be a little hard to focus on all of the aspects of my character. I certainly managed to play to my ideals and I had fun with the battlecries, but I didn’t do as much with the mimicry as I could have, and I only managed to work my masterpiece artifact into things towards the end. It would take too long to go through the entire story, but I’ll call out a few of the highlights…

  • When we faced with a blue dragon, I managed to use a trebuchet to hurl Forest’s rogue into the dragon’s head, where he gouged out an eye and managed to hang on until being rescued by Tally’s pseudodragon. So I scored a critical hit on a dragon with a rogue.
  • In the process of trying to rescue the rogue, the sorcerer took to the air on a broom of flying (“Forget the dragon! Find the Snitch!”) only to be immediately blasted by the dragon and almost instantly killed. Our paladin drank a potion of flying and flew up to catch the falling sorcerer… only to be knocked out herself by the impact of his body. Professional adventurers at work!
  • When we were interrogating a kobold, I used my artificing talents to generate a zone of truth. But Mike Selinker had an even more effective tool. What would we offer the kobold for his information? “Your life… and this macaroon!”
  • In the second session, we were sent to rescue a prisoner from a cultist camp. We didn’t actually manage to do that, but we DID managed to blow up a mushroom garden and escape with a black pudding that Gavin’s ooze had fallen in love with. The pudding proceeded to eat Gavin and was then flambeed by Mike’s chef, but hey, love hurts.
  • As Forest’s rogue had to leave at the end of the first shift, he entrusted Smith with his father’s animated head. Given that this was a clear source of magical energy, it was clearly the logical tool to use for my Spell Storing Item infusion. Initially I used him as a flamethrower by imbuing him with burning hands; later I figured out that it was far more effective to amplify his senile muttering to use him as the basis for a shatter spell.
  • Mike’s gnoblin chef had to perform a limerick every time he wanted to cast a spell. Picking up on my mimicry flaw, I came up with the following spell-limerick: “To blast my opponent with flame/I must somehow learn his true name/Something something something/Something something something/Actually, limericks are lame.”

In the end, we didn’t do much to stop Tiamat, but it was a fantastic time and thanks to all of you we raised over $75,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network. Personally, I think that the whole thing was just a daydream in Smith’s mind as he considered going through the rift, only to stop and tell his companions: “On second thought, let’s not go to Faerun… it is a silly place.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’m not ready to put down my dice. On Sunday, November 2nd I will be taking over the DM’s seat for ChariD20 in LA, with such awesome players as David Nett, John Rogers, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Zak S, Joseph Scrimshaw, and many many more. Anyone who donates at least $10 will get a copy of the adventure. More on that later in the week!

Thanks again to everyone who supported Extra Life. If you watched any of the stream, I hope you had as much fun as I did!

 

 

Extra Life: Hacking the Artificer!

I’m in Seattle to chew gum and play D&D, and I’m all out of gum.

On Saturday the 25th I’ll be playing D&D with the Wizards of the Coast team in a marathon session to defeat Tiamat and help children, which are basically the same thing. I’m going to be in the game from 8 AM to 4 PM Pacific Time, and you can watch the game HERE.

Click here to watch the game tomorrow!

In case you’ve somehow avoided all my other posts on the subject, this is part of an charity program called Extra Life. I’m personally raising money for Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital in Portland. Thanks to everyone who’s supported me so far: it’s been amazing and touching. If you haven’t donated yet, it’s not too late!

 Donate to Extra Life!

The first character I ever played in an Eberron campaign was a warforged artificer named Smith. My favorite thing about playing an artificer was the ability to come up with the perfect tool on the spur of the moment. Between Weapon Augmentation and Armor Enhancement I could tailor my equipment to have the ideal enhancement to deal with my current enemy. My favorite infusion was spell-storing item; this allowed an artificer to create a one-shot wand loaded with any spell of up to fourth level. I could come up with a healing spell to help a wounded ally, a fireball to take down a mob of enemies, or suddenly build a mystical translator (using the tongues spell) out of eggshells and coconuts. However, there were restrictions to balance out this powerful effect. The maximum level of the spell was tied to my level, so I couldn’t spell-store a cleric spell that a cleric of my level couldn’t cast. The infusion took a minute to perform, unless I burnt an action point to reduce this to one round. And most important of all: I had to make a skill check to make the infusion work, and if I made a particularly bad check the whole thing could backfire. So it was an extremely powerful and versatile effect, but it was unpredictable and risky. More than anything else, THIS made me feel like a magical inventor. I could reverse-engineer the magic performed by any other class… but I could never be sure this dangerous experiment would work!

Thanks to generous donations, I will be playing a warforged artificer in the Extra Life marathon. But there’s no artificer in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. In 3.5 the artificer had an entirely unique system for infusions, along with deeply ingrained abilities tied to creating permanent magic items, and the final 5E artificer may require equally unique systems. That’s not what I’m developing today. There simply isn’t enough time to properly playtest an entirely new set of mechanics; I don’t yet feel that I myself know 5E well enough to be confident in my sense of game balance; and DM Greg Bilsland didn’t agree to have me show up with some sort of completely untested wild card class. So instead I’m using an existing class as the foundation for my artificer – altering spell lists, proficiencies, and such, but still working from a playtested framework that the DM is familiar. I want to come up with something that feels like an artificer to ME, and it will help me think about how I might create a full artificer in the future. But this is a hack for Extra Life, NOT a fully developed class! Further, as I’m only in the first 8 hours of the game, I’m only worrying about the first five levels.

SO: I’ve decided to base my artificer on an existing class. But which class should I use? Let’s consider the defining elements of the 3.5 Artificer class.

  • Simple weapon proficiency
  • Light and Medium armor proficiency, proficient with shields
  • The ability to disable traps like a rogue.
  • An exceptional talent for creating permanent magic items.
  • The ability to create temporary magic items using infusions. This system had some similarities to spellcasting. The basic list of infusion effects was very limited, focusing on effects to enhance the abilities and equipment of the artificer and allies and the ability to disable or repair constructs and objects… and the unique abilities I mentioned before.
  • Many of the artificer’s most useful and versatile infusions had a base casting time of 1 minute; this could be reduced to 1 round by burning an action point.

To begin with: For this session, I’m setting aside the creation of permanent magic items. Magic Items fill a different role in 5E than in 3.5, and the issue of how to approach this with the final artificer will take some thought. Given that, I’m looking for medium armor proficiency and shields; proficiency with Thieves’ Tools; and a character that generally fights with (magically enhanced) weapons as opposed to slinging spells.

In my original Hacking 5E Eberron post I suggested using a reskinned warlock as a base for a placeholder artificer. This was based on the idea of an artificer using infusions to enhance a crossbow – so eldritch blast was his default magic crossbow, while effects such as burning hands or fireball would be special-purpose bolts jury-rigged on the spot. After discussing the idea with WotC R&D Designer Rodney Thompson, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t such a good match. The warlock has a very limited selection of spells, uses light armor and no shield, and has little ability to enhance allies. Rodney suggested a variant wizard. The wizard is a more versatile spellcaster, and I could explain his spells as his infused items. But this just didn’t feel right to me. When I played Smith I went toe-to-toe with my enemies and laid them low with an enchanted hammer; I didn’t stand back and use offensive spells.

Finally I settled on a cleric. Before you apply domain the cleric has the right armor and weapon proficiencies, and is largely focused on enhancing allies as opposed to blasting enemies. So with that said, here’s how I’m hacking the Cleric to create an artificer for Extra Life.

BASE CLASS ABILITIES

Armor and Weapon Proficiencies: As cleric.

Tools: Special (see Domain)

Saving Throws: Wisdom, Intelligence

Skills: Choose two from History, Insight, Investigation, and Perception (see Domain)

Cantrips. As cleric (modified spell list).

Spellcasting. As cleric (modified spell list). Intelligence is used as the Spellcasting ability instead of Wisdom. All curing magic is replaced by “Repair” infusions that have the same effect, but only work on constructs.

Ritual Casting. As cleric. From a cosmetic perspective, the artificer isn’t actually performing a ritual – he’s reverse-engineering it and hacking it to produce the same magical effect. But the EFFECT is the same as if he’s performing a ritual, and he still needs to have the spell prepared.

Spellcasting Focus: The artificer can use Artisans’ Tools as a spellcasting focus.

“Expert Infusion” (Channel Divinity). This functions in a manner identical to the Cleric ability, but the Artificer doesn’t have access to Turn Undead. Instead he starts with Weapon Augmentation and gains access to Perfect Tool from his “Domain”.

Domain Infusions

1st – Detect Magic, Identify

3rd – Magic Weapon, Enhance Ability

5th – Counterspell, Dispel Magic

Domain Ability: MASTER OF ARTIFICE

At 1st level, you become proficient with Arcana, Thieves’ Tools, and one type of Artisans’ Tools. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability checks you make using Arcana and these tools.

PERFECT TOOL (Channel Divinity)

You can imbue an object with an enchantment that makes it the perfect tool for whatever situation you are dealing with. As an action, choose one skill or tool. For the next 10 minutes (and as long as you have the object) you have proficiency with the chosen skill or tool.

WEAPON AUGMENTATION (Channel Divinity)

As an action, you may enhance a weapon you are holding. For the next minute or until you let go of the weapon, you gain one of the following benefits:

Disrupting Weapon: +1d6 radiant damage, sheds bright light in 20-ft radius

Flame Tongue: +1d6 fire damage, you have cold resistance

Frost Brand: +1d6 cold damage, you have fire resistance

WHAT AM I THINKING? This is very similar to a cleric with the Knowledge domain; “Perfect Tool” is essentially the Knowledge Channel Divinity with the cosmetic addition that it needs to be a tied to an object. The Master of Artifice power is similar to the Knowledge domain, but exchanges proficiency with two languages for proficiency with Artisans’ Tools. It also ensures that the Artificer is a match for a Rogue when it comes to picking locks. Now, the Weapon Augmentation effect is very powerful, and it may be too powerful; this is what we’ll see. However, the artificer has very few offensive spells (we’ll get to the list next) and by default only has simple weapon proficiency. He’s intended to be a viable melee combatant, and this helps with that. The big thing that would concern me about releasing this power into the wild is multiclassing. I don’t think it’s going to be too unbalancing for my artificer; however, an artificer-paladin could be ridiculous. Short form: This isn’t perfect. But I don’t think it will be too powerful for our session tomorrow, and it should give the flavor I recall – being able to pick the weapon enchantment that best suits the battle. Note that for Extra Life I’m not considering this to be a concentration effect; this means that it could stack with Magic Weapon or Shield of Faith.

SPELL LIST (Infusions)

Wherever possible I’ve kept effects that were available to the 3.5 Artificer, such as Shield of Faith and Enhance Ability. I’m reskinning any curing effect as a Repair effect, so only working on constructs. I dropped in Makeshift Wand as a simple damaging cantrip on par with the cleric’s Sacred Flame, but for the most part the class is restricted to enhancement effects. Of course, they can get other effects out of Spell Storing Item!

As always, bear in mind that what matters here are the EFFECTS of the spells, not the names. My artificer can use Shield of Faith. But I won’t CALL it “shield of faith”; the point is that he can create a defensive ward that operates mechanically like the cleric spell.

CANTRIPS

Guidance

Light

Makeshift Wand (New, see below)

Mending

Prestidigitation

Spare The Dying (Construct only, “Emergency Repairs”)

Resistance

LEVEL ONE INFUSIONS

Cure Wounds (Construct only, “Repair Damage”)

Detect Magic

Identify

Inflict Wounds (Construct only, “Inflict Damage”)

Shield

Shield of Faith

Spell-Storing Item (New, see below)

LEVEL TWO INFUSIONS

Arcane Lock

Enhance Ability

Find Traps

Heat Metal

Knock

Magic Weapon

Shatter

LEVEL THREE INFUSIONS

Counterspell

Crusader’s Mantle

Dispel Magic

Glyph of Warding

Mass Healing Word (Construct only)

Protection From Energy (Construct only)

Remove Curse

NEW ARTIFICER SPELLS

Makeshift Wand (Evocation cantrip)             

Casting Time: 1 action                            Range: 60 ft

Components: S (see text)                            Duration: Instantaneous

You employ any small object as a temporary wand, channelling a blast of energy. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 damage. The spell can inflict acid, fire, cold, lightning or thunder damage; choose two damage types, and you can choose which one to use when you cast the spell. The spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8). At each of these levels, you may also select an additional damage type to add to your repertoire. You can prepare any handheld object to serve as a channel for this spell; this requires one action (inscribing a few runes on it). So it has no SPECIFIC components, but you must have some sort of focus object.

Spell Storing Item (1st-level Transmutation)             

Casting Time: 1 minute (see text)              Range: Touch

Components: S                                          Duration: 1 hour/level or until discharged

You place a spell effect into an item to draw it forth later at your command. The item becomes, in effect, a wand with a single charge which only you can use. You may choose any first level spell. You must provide any expensive material components at the time you imbue the spell into the object. Your artificer level is used as the spell’s caster level.

Creating a spell storing item is a difficult and dangerous process. When you attempt it, you must make an Arcana check; the difficulty is [10+(the Spell Level x2)]. If you fail, your action is wasted and the spell slot is lost. If you fail by 10 or more, you suffer a mishap; this could either inflict 2d6 damage on you or have an unintended effect determined by the DM.

You may reduce the casting time to a single action by expending a Hit Die when you cast the spell.

 

WHAT AM I THINKING? Makeshift Wand gives the artificer a simple, basic ranged attack. It’s not as strong as Eldritch Blast, and it doesn’t have Sacred Flame’s ability to avoid cover. What it does have is versatility, fitting with the idea of the artificer coming up with the perfect tool for the situation. Meanwhile, Spell Storing Item will definitely need testing! Obvious it’s EXTREMELY versatile, but that’s the point. The catches are that it has a long casting time; even in the best case, you have to spend a hit die and an action to get a spell you’ll then have to wait a turn to cast. You have to burn the spell slot matching the spell. And while it’s a relatively small risk, there is always the chance that you can fail the check or even have it blow up in your face. It’s perfect for pulling out the one spell you really need for a situation – but there’s a risk attached!

IN CONCLUSION…

This literally is a jury-rigged artificer slapped together using duct tape and common household lint. I don’t know if these ideas are balanced; we’ll find out tomorrow. But I want to see how they work – especially Spell Storing Item. It won’t be my old Smith, but I hope it will be a reasonable enough facsimile for one day… and that it will help me think about what I’d like to do with the true artificer in the long run.

POSTGAME ANALYSIS

I’ll give a full report at some point in the future, but I’ll just say that things worked out reasonably well. A few specifics:

Weapon Augmentation worked fine for THIS session. It didn’t feel too powerful, and in fact I didn’t using in many of the fights because I couldn’t afford to lose an action. However, it’s definitely broken when multiclasses are taken into account. Of course, a REAL artificer won’t have Channel Divinity, so this isn’t a major concern. Once the DMG exists, I’d want to consider something that captures the original feeling of Weapon Augmentation – an infusion that lets you mimic the effects of a magic item.

Spell-Storing Item was great. I used it four times, producing the effects of sleep, burning hands and zone of truth. I liked having the ability to come up with the perfect tool for the situation and also had fun explaining just what the things I was creating were; technically they are “one-shot wands”, but that doesn’t mean that each one can’t take the form of some sort of interesting and unique item. So for example, my zone of truth generator was a crazy magic hat that interfered with the wearer’s brain, while I actually enchanted an undead head to serve as a flamethrower for my burning hands. It did fail once, with one of the sleep spells. There are two things I’d change before experimenting with it further. First: Any failure should result in a mishap. Mishaps are fun. Either the spell effect should trigger in a way that is most inconvenient for the artificer, or it can simply do 2d6 damageHowever, failure shouldn’t cause you to lose a spell slot. At low level, spell slots are precious. A mishap makes things interesting; losing the spell slot makes the failure doubly depressing.

In any case, I had a lot of fun with Smith. It wasn’t a perfect conversion by any means, but it was definitely a fun placeholder.

Please share your thoughts about Artificers in 5E!

Extra Life: Double For Doernbecher!

Only one day to go until Extra Life, where I’ll be playing a warforged artificer. You can see what I’m doing for Warforged here, and I’ll write more about my artificer hack after I arrive in Seattle. But I’m still raising money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and as we go into the final hours we have a call to arms. If 10 people donate $20 by noon Pacific time, my wife Jennifer Ellis will match that donation! (To be clear – Jenn will match the donations up to a total of $200 on our end.)

Donate to Extra Life here!

Thanks for your support!

Extra Life: Hacking The Warforged

This Saturday I’m going to Seattle to play on in the D&D Team’s marathon session for Extra Life. The money I’m raising goes to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and if I can raise an additional $110 in the next few days, not only will you help kids in need, you will literally make my wish come true: if I can raise $1500, I get to cast a wish one time during the course of the game. If you can spare anything – even $1 – please donate here!

Donate to Extra Life!

Most of the time when I’m at the gaming table, I’m the GM. The first character I ever PLAYED in an Eberron campaign was a warforged artificer named Smith. I suppose you could say that he was a literal iron man; he was a brilliant inventor who was always developing new tools… and he was sheathed in awesome adamantine plating. We didn’t have a martial character in our party, and despite being an artificer Smith ended up being the primary melee combatant. He didn’t have the attack bonus of a fighter, but with his adamantine plating and shield he was extremely durable. Personally, I love the story of the warforged; beings built to serve as weapons who must now find purpose in a world without war. In Smith’s case, I was exploring the idea of the invented being who is now becoming the inventor. On a less philosophical level, what I enjoyed about playing a warforged was the sense of being a juggernaut. I had my heavy armor plating, I didn’t need to eat, breathe, or sleep, I couldn’t be poisoned… I felt like a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks to generous donations from Charles Huber and Jeremy Esch, I will be playing a warforged artificer in the Extra Life marathon. But there’s no finalized statistics for warforged in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. An early version was presented in the public playtest, but it doesn’t match up to the final versions of other races. I expanded on this basic foundation with help from WotC R&D Designer Rodney Thompson, and here’s the traits I’ll be using for this weekend’s game.  Bear in mind that these traits are IN NO WAY OFFICIAL. If and when there is future Eberron support, a completely different version of warforged could be presented. Consider this an experimental playtest – nothing more.

WARFORGED TRAITS

As a warforged, you have the following racial traits.

Ability Score Adjustments: Your Constitution score increases by 2. 

Living Construct: Even though you were constructed, you are a humanoid. You are immune to disease. You do not need to breathe, eat or drink, but you can ingest food or drink if you wish.

Unsleeping SentinelWarforged don’t need to sleep. Instead, they settle into a resting state, remaining semiconscious for 4 hours each day. While in this rest state, you are fully aware of your surroundings. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Warforged ResilienceYou have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Integrated Armor: When you are not wearing armor, your AC is 12 + your Dexterity modifier. During a short rest, you can bond a suit of armor you are wearing to your body. When you finish that short rest, the armor you are wearing is bonded to you, and it cannot subsequently be removed from your body until you finish another short rest during which time you remove the bonded armor.

Self-Stabilizing:  You have advantage on death saving throws.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common. 

Type: Multiple types of warforged are found among the worlds of D&D, including warforged scouts and warforged soldiers. Choose one of these types.

Warforged Scout

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Size: Small

Speed: 35 feet

Warforged Soldier

Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 1.

Size: Medium

Speed: 30 feet

In the original Eberron Campaign Setting (ECS) warforged had a host of immunities. Warforged were completely  immune to “poison, sleep effects, paralysis, disease, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, effects that cause the sickened condition, and energy drain.” While this helped me feel like an unstoppable juggernaut, in retrospect it was simply too much. There were simply too many situations that were challenging to other characters that ended up being inconsequential to warforged. Rodney and I pared this down to a list that kept the basic flavor of being a construct – immunity to disease, resistance to poison, and no need to eat, sleep, drink, or breathe. This warforged is highly durable; the +2 Con score and bonus to death saving throws help the warforged take a pounding and keep going. As a warforged I can be a tireless sentinel but I can’t shrug off ghouls and vampires quite so easily, and I can’t make out with a succubus.

The original warforged spent a feat at first level to acquire an armored body, the equivalent of wearing either medium or heavy armor. This isn’t an easy thing to model in fifth edition, because characters don’t GET feats at first level… and simply giving the characters armor proficiencies would mess up class balance and step on what is currently the unique feature of the Mountain Dwarf. The current model gives a warforged a default AC of 12 + Dex, much like the basic composite plating of the 3.5 Warforged. Armor can then be attached like the shell of a hermit crab, the same approach used in Fourth Edition. Frankly, this is the one feature I’m not entirely happy with. That Adamantine Body was a defining part of Smith the Artificer, and the character won’t be the same without that heavy armor; at the same time, without the cost of a feat at first level, I don’t see an answer that both feels balanced and doesn’t simply steal a unique aspect of the 5E dwarf. So this Saturday, my 5E iteration of Smith will be a Warforged Soldier following these rules, and we’ll see how it goes.

In my next few posts I’ll talk about what I’m doing to model the Artificer for Extra Life and about the backstory of Smith Mk 2!

 

 

Support Eberron!

Over the last few years I’ve been working to support Eberron, between posting my unofficial Q&As and lobbying WotC for some form of official support. It’s my hope that this will come to pass in 2015, and that we will have new Eberron material. However, there’s no easy way for WotC or myself to know just how many people still want new Eberron material. I don’t know how many people find my Q&As to be useful, and if it’s worthwhile for me to continue writing them. So I’m asking you to help me get a sense of how many people actually want to see new Eberron material.

I’m currently involved in two D&D related charity events. On October 25th I will be playing an artificer in the Extra Life campaign with the WotC D&D team. On November 2nd I will be running an Eberron adventure for ChariD20. Both of these are supporting noble causes – childrens’ hospitals and child literacy – and they are also a chance to show support for Eberron itself. I’m asking you to donate one dollar to one of these causes, and to reach out to anyone you know who would like to see new Eberron material and to ask them to do the same. All I’m asking for is one dollar – just enough to stand up and be counted as someone who would like to see more Eberron in the future (and hey, supporting a good cause in the process).

Donate to Extra Life

Donate to ChariD20

If you’re able to spare more, these are both excellent causes. Furthermore, if you donate at least $10 to ChariD20, you’ll get a copy of the 5E Eberron scenario I’m creating for the event… meanwhile, if you donate to Extra Life, you can help establish details about the character I’ll be playing (currently an Artificer who follows the Silver Flame).

TO BE CLEAR: This is just an informal show of support. There’s no concrete assurance that it will affect WotC’s decisions. But knowing how many people are willing to throw down a dollar in support of Eberron means a great deal to ME, and helps strengthen my resolve when it comes to lobbying for new content and continuing my unofficial support… and at the end of the day, you’re helping a great charity. So if you’ve enjoyed my Q&As or other work and want to see more of it in the future, please give $1 to one of these causes – and share this message with other Eberron fans that you know.

Thanks!

Keith Baker

Gaming For Charity

I’ve been busy working on Phoenix, and I’ll have more to say about that soon. But I’m also making time for a few special projects, and I hope that you’ll support either or both of them.

First up: On Saturday, October 25th I am taking part in Extra Life, a Charity program benefiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. I’m participating as a player with the Dungeons & Dragons team: I’m going to be playing in the first 8 hours of a 24-hour D&D marathon run by gamemaster Greg Bilsland. The entire event will be live-streamed, so you can follow along with our perilous journey. My donation page is here, and I’m personally raising money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. In exchange for your donations, you can help establish details about the character I play – everything from my name and class to my motto or battle-cry… plus, the more money I raise, the more benefits the DM gives to me, just like the Hunger Games! In particular, if you select an Eberron option for my Race or Class, I will develop 5E stats for that element and post them here. For Race, you can choose an Eberron specific race – such as Warforged – or a traditional race with a specific Dragonmark. Note that these will not be official and may not match whatever form official 5E Eberron support takes, and in the case of the Artificer I will only develop the elements of the class as needed for this adventure, NOT a full 20-level class with a full infusion list. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity to help an awesome cause and to get the wheels turning on 5E Eberron development, and I hope you’ll lend a hand! Once again, you can find my donation page here.

A week later – on Sunday, November 2nd – I’ll be on the other side of the screen, gamemastering events for Celebrity ChariD20. This event is raising money for Reach Out And Read, a charity that promotes child literacy. I’m going to be creating a short 5E Eberron adventure with pregenerated characters. If you donate you can watch the livestream of the event, and with a donation of $15 or more you will get a copy of the Eberron adventure. You can donate here!

Both of these are excellent causes, and I hope that you will help to make them both succeed. If you have any questions about either one, please ask. Otherwise, again, please lend a hand and support Extra Life or ChariD20. Thank you!