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Archive for October, 2011

A Ravenloft – Empire Strikes Back – Tomb of Horrors mash-up

The astral giant lowered hist massive sword and bowed his head low to the ground, yielding. “You have vanquished the guardians of the stair and may pass into the cathedral. What is more, you have defeated me, and I offer you this…” so saying he pulled a ring off his finger and laid it palm out-thrust. Poppy the elf leapt forward to grab the ring, which was a silvern loop with a star shaped diamond. “The fabled ring of x-ray vision.”

The heroes were led into the enclave of the astral giants, which was a stone city floating above clouds of pink and orange. They were given rest and refreshment before arriving in a meeting hall. 8 giants stood around an enourmous table showing all the cosmos as globes connected by wavering lines. Another giant stood against the far wall, cloaked and hooded. They also met a human ranger named John Smith who explained he took the back entrance – twice as many steps but you didn’t have to defeat giants.

When asked where the three remaining divine engines were located, the heroes quest, the giants pointed to their world of D Erte, and spoke thus:

“We giants, first among the elder beings to join the side of Law, are also the builders of the divine engines. Very well we know their whereabouts, and of the three you still seek, the first is held by our cold cousins the frost giants, in their own king Jarls Glacial Rift. The next is further north in the Mountains of Dawning, in the Hall of the Fire Giant King. Finally, the third and last engine you seek is yet further north, in the mountain of Neverwinter, over-topping the furthest northern free city of your world. Beneath this sleeping volcano, a primordial is chained about the neck. The lock is failing and soon he will be free.”

So saying, the heroes questioned them a bit more, stayed a day, ad were led by the silent giant to a chamber inscribed with a glowing teleportation ring. A man in a red shirt stood on a podium preparing to beam them home. The heroes were shuffling around on the magic circle, trying to find a good place and pose to stand, when suddenly Hex perceived something was amiss. Time stopped for all of them, except for the hooded giant, who threw off his cloak and revealed himself. Being lord of time and space, he was able to warp time in a location based manner, and so allowed time to continue flowing for the brain, ears and eyes of the heroes, while their physical bodies were trapped in stasis, like an insect in amber.

“It is I, Zagnasdiak, came to usher you to your doom!” He was their arch enemy, the one who cursed them into the world of Dark Sun. Zagnasdiak the Insane Lord of Time and Space destroyed the world of D Erte in a future these heroes witness first hand. They slew his restless spirit in a crypt heaped with the skulls of the dead world. But that was then, and he was still alive in the present, and now they see he is the one behind the war of the giants. This could be the beginning of the downfall that will turn the fair young world into the broken world of Dark Sun and eventual annihilation. Bad news. He continues:

“I could slay you here and now with a flick of my wrist, but instead I will leave you to my favorite captain, who has planned a slow and painful death for you all. Muah ha ha..” Then he looks to the vampire princess Rook and adds “Especially you!”

*****

The heroes of D Argent are suddenly in a very dark place, silent and smelling like a charnel house, or worse. Each of the heroes notices something: Hex notes that a teleportation ring cannot be broken, but it can be interrupted, in which case another portal should be nearby, to continue the journey home. Poppy is wearing her new ring of x-ray vision, and she is the only one among them that can see through the magical greater darkness spell that causes even the brightest flame to appear no more than candle-dim. She sees that they are standing in an aisle between rows of pews, as in a church or cathedral. Shapeless sagging lumps fill the pews within her limited x-ray vision. With one sniff of the foetid air, Felipe knows that the air is deadly, and that they cannot breathe it for long without suffering permanent damage.

Rook and Thokk had darkvision, and even they could see no further than five feet around them. Rook stood near one end of the chamber, and she could see an alter with a small box atop it. All of it was coated in congealing blood. Thokk stood by a wall, and recognized a certain slot in one end, a narrow hall near the other end, and knew where they were. John Smith and Hex were completely blind and had to light a lantern to see even within a few feet of themselves in the constricting darkness.

Felipe took charge, and said they must seek the entrance as quickly as possible to get away from the diseased air, and turned towards the narrow hallway which led out of the Tomb of Horrors. Ignoring the corpses, the alter and aught else in the cathedral of evil, Poppy noted that the whole chamber seemed new-built, with pews of fresh cut pine, and polished stone floor tiles. After Felipe came Rook, then Hex, John, Thokk, and finally Poppy came last.

After moving along the narrow passage or a few minutes, a booming laughter assailed their ears, which mutated into the howling of a wolf. Felipe in the lead heard the scrape and scrabble of paws on stone, before a wolf leapt out of the darkness to land before her. He transformed into a tall man with white hair. “I am Lord Strahd, twice raised, and it is my duty to kill you slowly and painfully.”

“Father!” came a shout from somewhere back of the line.

“What? Yes, Rook! I am your father!”

Lord Strahd was betrothed to Cady the Fearless, a hero of the who ended the Undead War of 100 years previous by a marriage proposal. But on their wedding night, as Rook was being conceived, Cady slew Strahd, and became the new Lady Queen of Shalazar. She gave birth to a girl and named her Rook. They have been arguing ever since. Apparently Zagnasdiak, lord of time and space, raised Strahd again somehow, to become a trusted captain. Felipe had some choice words about that and voiced them.

***combat ensues***

“Enough of your insolence!” Strahd shouts as a free action. He then slaps Felipe with his main attack. As part of the attack he shifts back a square and looks deep into Rook’s eyes. “Oh lovely daughter, you look just as beautiful as your mother. I should have slew the treacherous wench when I had the chance, but then I would have ended your life too. I died to save you Rook.” Mascara flooded her pallid cheeks with dark streams.

‘Oh father, command,” she wept in thrall to the vampire lord. “Help me deal with your friends my love. We have so much catching up to do.” He winked at her just as Felipe shouted “oh no you don’t!” and dissolved into piles of squirming maggots that slithered between the stones of the narrow hallway as they shifted behind the vampire lord. They damaged Strahd but not as much as she hoped. Rook was next in line in that narrow hall and she was ready to do her father’s bidding. SHe turned to Hex and gave him a little vampire slammin’ love. Hex marked and charged the vampire.

The next to go was the new ranger, John Smith, who watched the shadows ahead in that darkened hall. He waited until the until it seemed there was a gap and loosed two arrows in quick succession. One arrow struck true and the other went wild. Then Thokk rushed into the gap ahead and threw his sky render axe which missed its target but clanged off the walls and returned to his hand. Sharia’s final gift to the barbarian.

Finally, last in line was Poppy, who moved up close enough to see the vampire with her ring of x-ray vision. She first swore an oath to track him down and slay him, then loosed her big undead power which did forty points or so of damage, shaking Strahd in his boots a little. As a free action he looked up and said “Such a feisty elf, you remind me of another with a like fiery spirit. ” He leered at her. So ended round one.

On round one, the initiative order went in order of the single file line the characters stood in. Since many characters shifted position, round two returned to the traditional of around-the-table initiative order, which meant that it was Strahd’s turn. Hex was closest to him, so he slapped the space pirate with his special Slap-attack move, while saying that he didnt know why it felt so good, but he just couldnt help himself. Between his reunited daughter and the vampire, Hex was taking some damage. To round out his turn, Strahd transformed into a cloud of vampire bats, who fluttered and flew about in a curtain of bloody fangs.

Hex fended off the fangs at the start of his turn then retaliated by attacking more. Then Poppy fired her longbow and missed. Hex had shifted forward, so Rook had to turn and attack Poppy, then failed her domination save again. Felipe pounced among the bats, John fired ineffectual arrows, and THokk sent his sky-render axe sailing one more time, and its magic brought the normally unflappable swarm to a prone position, but did minimal damage.

On Strahds turn, he stands as his move action, then uses his slap attack back on the druid, who stands behind him, which allows him to shift up onto the wall and one square further back. Hex double cursed the vampire lord and stayed back, allowing Poppy to use a special fortune card shift to switch places with him and get a huge attack against Strahd, using Aspect of might (Like Wil Wheaton!) doing 40+ points of damage. Rook charged Poppy from behind and slashed her. Felipe on her tun became a fling raptor and swooped past him to the rear of the party, being bloodied.

This caused John Connor to run forward and literally try to bea Strahd with his bare fists,since he had no weapon but his bow. Thokk then threw the Skyrender one last time before handing i to the ranger John to use.

From his perch above them on the wall, Strahd made a groaning sound and immense clouds of poisonous gas suddenly were released from his undead bowels. The fumes filled the passageway so that almost everyone was thouroughly grossed out. He then scuttled down the hallway and back into a standing position at the end of the noxious clouds. Hex followed him and attacked him. Then Poppy hit the vampire with one of her few divine ranged powers, causing more massive damage due to the divine radiance. This also caused Strahd’s regeneration to stop working for the round. Rook had shaken off the domination, and used the chance to attack with her swarm of bat attack, and ended her turn next to him. Felipe moved out of the back edge of the cloud of fumes and used her second wind. Thokk and the ranger did various deeds.

Back to the vampire, who now slapped the girl who dared disobey him, then he noticed she was bloodied, and he expended an action point to bend over her romantically ad whisper how he could taste her mother on her, and how he longed to taste her blood too. Then his fangs bit deep into Rook. He ended the turn by dominating Poppy, whom he had seen from afar and wished they could spend more time together. poppy soon wished that as well, though she used a card or power or feat or something to roll her save at the beginning of her turn, so Strahd’s wishes with her all came to naught.

Another round of Hex, Poppy, Rook, Felipe, John and Thokk all jockeying for position in the narrow dark hallway followed, with Hex finally bloodying him. The vampire accepted opportunity attacks while it bolted down the hall on his turn, but Hex followed, bloodying him then Poppy followed in a charge, doing another 40+ points thanks to her radiance. Felipe returned to a turn in the hall, and threw her dagger, which missed. John and THokk missed as well.

Strahd was bloodied and didnt care, he didnt even bother using his own second wind, since he planned on being reduced to zero and returning to his cunningly placed crypt within the newly built Tomb of Horrors. He wanted todraw the party in so their deaths could provide the raw energy needed to turn the Tomb to a learning center for necromancy. He slashed at Poppy with his claws, drank more of Rook’s blood, and finally ended his turn by dominating young John Smith.

Hex attacked, Poppy attacked, Felipe attacked, Rook attacked, then John attacked Thokk, then Thokk broke away from the pack charged the vampire lord Strahd and took him down to zero with a thundering blow of his great axe. The vampire turned into an invulnerable mustard fog which wafted back the way they came.

After a quick discussion, the party continued on towards the exit and eventually found the glowing portal right at the tunnel mouth, and were able to leave the Tomb of Horrors, and Strahd, and return to their home base of D Argent, city of Heroes.

They gain a level to 15 and their newly made sky-metal toys are waiting for them, fresh from the Torrian smiths.

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Chapter 1

Ocham and his raiders staggered through the wind-swept streets of Nazerak, facing the blowing sands that threatened to blind them or worse if they stopped. “It is not much further, lads” the wily old trader called back over his shoulder before turning his face back into the scouring wind. He planted the butt of his spear in the sand at his feet and pulled himself forward another step. The ruined avenue continued on to the limits of his vision, and just at the edge of sight he could see the towering dark shadows that marked the fortifications of the people of Mithrendoom.

Ocham was the tribal leader of his people, who called themselves the Wanderers. Distantly related to the noble clan of Mithrendoom, his family had long ago left Nazerak to wander the Red Wastes, and their bodies had adapted to the nomadic lifestyle of desert wanderers. He was tall and lithe, brown as a nut, and his skin was criss-crossed by an infinity of tiny wrinkles brought on by a hard and long life. His head was nearly hairless except for a long silvery top-knot blowing behind him. He was Ocham the Raider, and he had come to treat with his cousins for the first time in many years.

His second, a nephew sister-son called Quinz, came up beside him. “I see you are determined to parley with our foes, though the desert itself would hold us back.” He growled through the undyed scarf wound about his head.

“Learn wisdom before you question me, lad,” the grizzled old raider snapped. “The eldar of Mithrendoom are closer kin than you know, and not our foes. This is still their city, even ruined.” He waved his arm toward the crumbling shells of buildings along the sandy avenue. “I will not risk bloodshed with them, great as our prize may be.”

The young raider looked at him skeptically, one eyebrow arched above his wide almond eyes. Quinz shook his head and fell back with the half dozen raiders plodding along. One looked to him, but Quinz only shrugged, turned his head into the wind and walked on. Soon the tall walls of sandstone loomed above them out of the swirling dust and sand. Ocham turned back and gave his lads a feral glare. “I do the talking. Follow my orders, touch nothing and no one without a word from me. “

Just then a shout echoed down from a tall battlement where the road passed between stout walls and into the fortified village of Mithrendoom. No gate barred the way, but the road had to pass between the towers to either side, and they were pock-marked with narrow windows. From one of those windows a face appeared. “Ho there, what foul wind has blown slavers into our midst?” the voice called in the high speech of their common tongue.

Ocham raised his hand to call his men to a halt. “No slavers, we. I am Ocham the trader, and these are my people. We come for parley, and bring a warning to our cousins of cursed Nazerak.”

“Warning? What warning dost thou offer? Seven spears against the might of Mithrendoom?” His laughter was barbed with cruelty. “ Lo, the Eldar of Nazerak fear no sand-scrubbing worms of the waste. Begone and seek water elsewhere. Thou are not welcome!” So saying, his head disappeared from the window as 3 eldar stepped around the wall to block the road forward into the protected enclave.

They were clad in flowing white robes trimmed in vivid orange. Each had an orange scarf wound about the head, with only their shining oval eyes visible. Their clothing whipped and cracked in the savage wind. Each of them also wielded a great curving blade, held two-handed before them. Soon the captain from the window joined the three.

Ocham stepped forward and pulled his scarf down to show his aged face to the guard captain. “We saw three strangers in your city and thought to warn you.”

“Only three?” the captain replied. “I spy seven.” He crossed his arms about his chest, though a cloth-wrapped hand lingered near his sword-hilt. Also near to hand was a shell trumpet, never far from the captain’s thoughts. “The safety of Mithrendoom is barred to you Wanderers. Seek shelter in the ruins if you must, but take care when night falls lest you mean to barter with death.”

“We mean to survive this storm and make our way back to our familiar haunts.” Ocham replied with a toothy grin. “No danger will befall us that we cannot best, with your leave. I thank you for that at least.” He unwrapped the scarves wound about an old wrinkled hand, and held it out for the guard captain to clasp, but the haughty Eldar remained unmoving. With a shrug the old trader dropped his hand, turned on his heel and began marching back the way he had come.

As Ocham and his raiders disappeared into the blowing dust, the thumping beat of hooves echoed through the packed sand, and the captain turned away from the ruins of Nazerak. Coming out of the dust was a princess on a great galloping dromedary. The creature’s padded feet kicked up sand as it slid to a halt, and the princess leapt effortlessly from the painted saddle upon its humped back to land in the sand near the captain.

She was Sharia the Flame Princess and she smiled with the breathlessness of youth. She was scantily clad in her armor of polished ynix shell, and over it, a billowing white and orange striped cloak was belted at her waist. Her supple calves were crisscrossed by the lacings of her sandals, and her head went uncovered but for the riot of whipping crimson hair. Two long tapering ears poked through her hair, pale alabaster on the soft insides, but kissed by the sun and pink-edged, like the rest of her. In one pale palm, a spirit of living flame flickered and danced.

Sharia could sense adventure like a sand-worm could sense water, and such had brought her to the gates of Mithrendoom during the sand storm, when most of her kin chose to stay safe behind their walls. Her glittering eyes turned to the captain, and she smiled wider to see his discomfort as he sought to keep her from the dangers he knew she would seek out. But it was hopeless, and when he dropped his gaze before her, her smile became tender. She was Sharia, warrior princess and Paladin of the Flame Spirit, and all Eldar looked to her as their champion, their hope, their fondest treasure.

*****

For three days they rested at the broken tower, healing from wounds and exposure brought on by a burning journey across the sands. Each day Laered would climb the broken wall to its highest jagged point and survey the leagues of rolling dunes, looking for some sign of life. His shining plate flashed and blazed in the sun until Sir Laered’s face was beet red and he was forced to retreat into the cool shadows of the tower cellar. At first the tower seemed their salvation, but now it only prolonged their doom.

The desert was vast and empty. Only to the south was there any break in the monotony of the endless red sands, but it was a shimmering mirage near the horizon, only visible when the shifting dunes allowed.

While the knight stood guard with a purpose born of hopelessness, slowly boiling in his pot, the one called Poppy tended to the dying priestess. Poppy was a little thing, a child in rags. Her clothes were dark and shapeless, and she was draped in a big black cloak. She was sly, growing up small in a large world, and her strengths concealed but deadly. Together Sir Laered and Poppy had not been able to save the priestess, who lay dying.

Lady Dartna lay on a pallet made up of dusty rags, old frayed ropes, and Sir Laered’s once white cloak. She wore a white gown, pleated with many layers and trimmed in heavy gold embroidery along its tattered edges. Her steel breastplate leaned against the stones, dented by hard use and with a black scorch mark over the heart. She was a warrior priestess, and spread her faith in the blood of foes with a steel spike cudgel. In the battle that sent them to this land of the red sun, the arch wizard Zagnazdiak struck her with a bolt of red lightning. Her armor sparked and bent, knocking her off her feet. Lady Dartna had not risen, since.

When the red lightning struck, they were all three hurled through space, torn from the cobblestones of the town square and when Laered and Poppy regained consciousness, they were lost in a desert with a strange red sun glaring down at them. A few cobblestones were strewn across the sand. Lady Dartna lay in the sand, moaning softly. She was pale then. Now her flesh was hot, red and dry. They had no water to cool the burns, barely enough to drink, and the tower held no relief.

The girl searched every stone and granule in the abandoned tower but found no sustenance, neither fluid nor flesh. It was scoured by sand and time. Her waterskin was almost empty, and she knew the same was true of the knight. Just then she heard him clanking down the old worn steps of the tower, sandstone the same color as the desert, a blood red reflection of the scarlet sun. A red tower in a red land, but better then the endless waves of dunes like an ocean of blood that they had crossed to reach this haven.

“Figures moving in the sand, daughter. We are saved.” He pulled off his helm and set it on the floor. Steam rose from the steel ringing his neck.

“Where?” she asked, looking up from the priestess. “Coming here?”

“Nay.” He pulled his heavy mailed gloves from his hands at let them clank to the floor, where they coiled like steel centipedes at his feet. “Shadows moving with the setting sun. The dunes parted and I counted a half-dozen men crossing to the south, towards the mirage.”

“Hail them, grandfather,” she said.

“No Poppy.” He shook the sweat from his matted hair and long greying mustachios. “We will follow them when that cursed sun sets. We do not know who they are, or where we are. But we are weak and the risk is grave.” He pointed to the lady at their feet. “Best get her ready for another journey.” The knight drew his sword and sat heavily on the sandstone steps, honing his steel in the reflected rays of the red sun.

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This week was marked by a table of uproarious adolescents around the gaming table. We had our two stalwart youths, and another 3 more they have recruited. All in all, the play was made up of Quinaro the ranger, Suldin the illusionist, Lord Frost the Dragonbon Vampie, Alvin the Paladin, and finally my son, the Jabber to my jibber, who played Edith the axe-wench. We left them last week floundering in the sewers after a battle with some rats and crocs. Searching amongst the sewer, they found 4 piles of slimy filth. Two of them held healing potions, while the third held an old moldering pouch with 7 gold. The dragonborn meanwhile was able to skin a croc and make a wonderful cloak to help protect his hids from the sun.

So doing, they continued down the sewer pipes, following foot prints and the squeaking of rats. Eventually they came to a long hall with a dim light at the end of it. Quinaro snuck forward to find that around a corner the passage opened into a wide chamber lit by a flickering candle, but the way was blocked by an iron portcullis. He reported his findings, then they charged forward.

Edith was first to go, and her muscles rippled as she pulled on the barbican. With a shriek of iron hinges, it began to rise, halfway up just to the level of the sewer flowing down the center of the hall. Edith paid for her success with 2 daggers thrown from hidden figures peering around a corner of wall.

Quinaro was next and he took a deep breath and dove in, swimming as far up the vile stream as he could. Alvin went next, and the paladin wrenched the portcullis the rest of the way up. He took three daggers from Halflings peering around the other side of the chamber ahead.

Lord Frost charged forward and sunk his fangs into a halfling, who began to transform into a rat even as he was struck. Then Sulding cast his spell, and the 5 halfling transformed into half rat half halfling and attacked. A wild melee ensued. Nobody was killed but the rats, though it was tough going for awhile.

I introduced a new house rule, (a variation of my home game houserule) that an action point can be used once per encounter but only if a successful save is made. This seemed to work well, since I didn’t want to keep track of everyone’s action points from session to session, especially since I am playing with a table of kids. The less tracking we have, the more fun they seem to have. My intent is to make each encounter its own story, since many of the kids have erratic schedules and are not their every week.

During the battle Quinaro discovered 2 silver short swords with jeweled hilts, and Suldin found a pile of coins and jewels that they divided, worth 100gp apiece. Lord Frost was lucky enough to find a suit of fine cloth armor that boosted his armor class by 1, while Edith uncovered a magic great axe +1. The way I hand out magic items, is that I have each of them roll a d20 and whoever gets the highest roll finds the item. (unless they already have found one.) In this case both players rolled natural 20s, so they each got items. When rolling on the table, they were sad to roll 2 and 3, but it worked out well for them!

I discovered while handing out this treasure that ALL the kids wanted to find something, so I had one find the short swords, one find the gold, and another find the jewels. Gotta be fair after all. Playing for kids is tough, but it does bring out my juvenile sense of humor, so I have a blast.

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Friday night saw the band of Heroes go in search of the lost torrians, that race of lion-headed men, such as Rowthar and his deceased father Obanar, who are the servanrts and companions to the champions of Argent. It is the torrians who keep the city running, and the city has been abandoned for nigh on a century since they left. When the original champions of Argent never returned after the Undead War, eventually the torrrians left to forge their own destiny.

Through research, Rowthar discovered that they were led by a certain Seneschal, and he found a note describing the day they left. So using a potion that allows people to view the past, he sent the heores back in time to that day a century ago when the seneschal of the Torrians took his people to the Forgotten Vale to start a new future.

The heroes found them and learned they were possessed by a demon. They drove the demon out of the torrians, and watched as a dark cloud fled across the hills to the east. Rather than being regaled with cheers of gratitude, the party was surprised to see looks of stark terror on the torrians faces. One of them wailed “He is going to wake the dragon! We are doomed!”

The party chose to follow the cloud to the lair, and eventually made it to a large cave entrance with wisps of green smoke rising from it. They entered and walked past piles of fur and bone that looked like they were once torrins but were now more like road kill. Then they saw the dragon rise, stretch, and yawn. “I am Vestapalk!” it roared. “Come honor me as my breakfast!” with that it attacked with its breath weapon, a cloud of poisonous gas.

Vestapalk loved nothing more than to vault into the air and lash at someone with his fly-by attack, but he was soon surrounded by the party and in the close confines of the cave, his attack was too dangerous to pull off, so he was forced to go toe to toe with the party. When the dragon became bloodied, the demon Physantos was hurled from the dragon and was forced to fight in the battle. He was able to cause the piles of bones and fur to come to un-life and attack the party.

Even with two soloes, the four heroes were able to totally overwhelm Vestapalk and Physantos without too much trouble. I was rolling terribly that night, and rarely got anything above a 6, while the four players did everything right, locking down the enemies, and bringing the pain.

At level 14, the characters have a power, skill, ability, or magic item for almost any circumstance, and the enemies have a hard time standing up to the unified might of an experienced party working together. Two at-level soloes, including Vestapalk, the newest dragon from the newest monster vault, went down with little more than whimpers, and a party of four without even a healer, managed to mop the floor with the enemy. It was a great fun battle, and I felt proud of the players for their accomplishment, however, I have nothing but scorn for Physantos and Vestapalk. They deserved what they got.

The dragonslayers returned to the torrians as heroes and returned to D Argent with a few Torrians, while the rest prepared for the overland journey to Argent, expected to take a fortnight before they arrived.

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House Rules

A series of house rules for the 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

Action Points!

The 4th edition definition of the action point, which allows for a truly heroic extra action while in the heat of battle, is one of my favorite new additions to the game. In practice, the action point is most often used to get a second chance when an important power fails, or in order to pull of a seriously complex maneuver during a character’ turn, but there are an infinite number of uses for an action point, and all of them add to the heroic nature of the characters who use them – and dread to the evil bosses those characters face. The action point is useful and beloved by all.

However, to my mind,the implementation of the mechanics of the action point seem overly awkward, and rather than adding to the flavor, the rules actually detract from the experience. Av action point is gained every other encounter during a day, which is known as a milestone. Every character starts each new day with an action point, regardless of how many they ended the day with, and no more than one action point can normally be used during a single encounter. In a game where literally everything is divided into at-will, encounter, and daily powers, the action point inhabits a foggy place between encounter and daily. In layman’s parlance, rather than rules lawyer, it means a character can use an action point every other encounter. Its a fine idea, but it is not an elegant rule, or easy to use, or remember, or oversee.

This is not the only awkward break in timing rules from 4th edition. The original magic item daily use rules were so contorted that I doubt even the developers and designers who came up with them even followed them. They were swept aside eventually with the coming of Essentials, but unfortunately the kludgey action point rules stayed unchanged, even though 32 million encounters players proved their unworkability. With players showing up or not, with a constant stream of dead characters and changed characters, even keeping track of daily powers was almost impossible, much less the slippery action point.

So I have to change it myself, which is fine. I am an agent of chaos after all, and change is my food and fuel. To make a house rule the game actually NEEDS is just like chaos icing on top of my cake of rules changes. Or something.

The players in my campaigns never seem to be satisfied with their current level of power. Clamoring for new magic items, experience, levels, and other vainglorious proofs of their prowess, I knew they would never allow action points to change to a daily power. This would work and be simplest, and maintain all the trappings of its heroics, but it would mean it was used less, and might contribute to that horrible syndrome known as the five minute work day. And we wouldn’t want that. One encounter then 23 1/2 hours of rest. Making it a daily would also lead to parties “going nova” which is a syndrome related to the five minute workday, in which a party will blast enemies with everything they have in the first round of combat. Going around the table during the first round of any combat and waiting through 4-6 extra action point actions is also rather lame. And boring.

So the only choice is to go the opposite direction and make it an encounter power. This solves all the problems of tracking. Now a player never has to consider when and where he last used his action point. He just gets one, like most other mechanics of the game. Tho one problem with this is id doesn’t solve the going nova issue, so to combat that annoyance, it can only be used after the 3rd round of combat. However, what if some one needs it before the 4th round, then they can make a saving throw, if successful then they can use the action point. This alleviates the strictness of the round 3 rule, which seems artificial, and also adds to the heroic feeling of the action point.

Now the action point is a power that builds up over the course of a battle, to be unleashed at the climactic moment when it will do the most good, but in extreme cases, it can be called upon earlier. Like the second wind, the action point is another encounter power that adds to the versatility and heroic qualities of the character, without detracting in any other way than to push up the power level of the characters, and that is easily counter-acted by making the encounters more difficult.

Instead of roughly half the characters getting an extra action each encounter, now they all could. In practice, many battles do not even last more than 4 rounds, so my game-science theory is that action points will be used no more often that they currently are, and in fact may go down slightly since they wont be bothered with during short fights. And they will feel more heroic when they are used for two reasons. First, since they won’t be used in the first part of the battle without a special effort (saving throw) it will feel like a power that builds up; and second, since there is absolutely ZERO accounting required, and it is easily known when and if it is time to use the action point, it will thereby increase in awesomeness.

The rule:

Action Points grant the user one extra action, be it standard, move or minor. They can be used once per encounter at any point after the third round. An action point can be used prior to the fourth round of combat under special circumstances. At the end of their turn, a character can make a saving throw, and if they succeed, they can immediately use their action point to grant them an extra action. If they fail the roll, they cannot at that time use their action point, but can still try again next round, or they can use it after the third round, per normal.

Benefits: speeds up play, reduces paperwork, adds to heroics

Downside: increases character power level

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