Category Archives: D&D 4E

What if each setting had its own alignments?

'Good or Evil?' by furryscalyman on Flickr

'Good or Evil?' by furryscalyman on Flickr

Alignment in Dungeons & Dragons often provokes arguments. Can PCs play evil characters? What is “evil?” Aren’t the PCs murderous thieves anyway?

Doesn’t the real problem lie with the alignments’ assumptions?

D&D started with three alignments: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. This was soon expanded to the classic nine alignments, but they’re all based on assumptions about the kinds of characters native to the setting.

In a standard D&D Points of Light world, “good” and “evil” usually mean “selfless” and “selfish.” A “good” character protects others, throwing herself into fights with monsters to prevent them from threatening innocent villagers. An “evil” character pursues his own gains, possibly adventuring alongside “good” characters, but primarily to accumulate wealth and powerful items.

Now imagine a mixed party of “good” and “evil” characters in the intensely moralistic worlds of The Lord of the Rings or Avatar: The Last Airbender. Imagine a resource-scarce world like Dune, Dark Sun, or Fallout. How do the alignmens map there?

Of course, these alignments can map to various worlds, but are often mapped differently by different people. Ay, there’s the rub.

This can be remedied: make alignments part of each setting. A setting should explain all available player alignments (which may be along several axes).

Here’s one suggested alignment set to demonstrate how this might work:

Alignments in Dark Sun: Independence vs. Social, and Savage vs. Calculating

An independent character prides himself on extreme self-reliance, avoiding others’ help and undergoing rigorous training to be as self-sufficient as possible.

A social character has learned that Athas devours those alone. One must use others to survive; otherwise, why would cities exist? Even the Sorcerer-Kings need their subjects.

A savage character does not concern himself with questions of morality or humanity. To a savage character, life is about satisfying basic needs and impulses. Higher values are luxuries one can ill-afford on Athas.

The calculating character knows that blind pursuit of base impulses eventually leads to death. The animals live quick and die young, because they lack one thing: intellect. A shrewd mind will keep one not just alive, but long-lived.

What alignments might exist in your favorite setting?

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Fated Theme – Modern Assembly

. . .to be fated by Khanh Hmoong

Some people are born great, some achieve greatness and some are just surrounded by the abyssal horrors! Fiction is filled examples of heroes who aren’t smarter, faster or stronger than everyone else, they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet somehow these hapless regulars wind up on top! One way or another, they not only survive the fight but they manage to contribute significantly to the final victory, while fighting alongside super cops and powerful wizards.

These heroes rarely begin adventuring careers by choice. More often than not, adventure springs right up around them. They could be the only person who seems to notice the demons in their hometown. It could be that a group of established heroes are venturing into the local woods, and the fated is persuaded at knife point to come along as their guide.

No matter your reason for adventuring, you soon pick up other useful skills, and may even eventually gain a bit of courage and self confidence. Even when your battling against epic foes, there’s always that bit of luck or fate tat shines through.

Examples include Xander, Kagome, Katniss or Stephanie Plum.

Fated Starting Feature

You always seems to be have a little bit of extra skill just when it seems that failure is inevitable. Whether it’s fate or just a surge of willpower when all hope is bleak, the you get the job done when it’s the most critical.
Benefit: You gain the Burst of Hope power.

Burst of Hope Fated Utility 1
At the last moment you fumble with your tools as you try to disable the doomsday device. By some stroke of luck, they fall in just the right spot.
Encounter * Martial
No Action       Personal
Trigger: You make an attack roll, a saving throw, a skill check, or an ability check and dislike the result.
Effect: You add 1d4 + 1 to the triggering roll. At 11th level you add 1d4 + 2. At 21st level you add 1d4 + 4.

Fated Level 5 Feature
With all the crazy stuff happening in your life, you find yourself constantly running just out of reach of the next villainous threat.

Benefit: You gain a +1 power bonus to all defenses vs. opportunity attacks. This bonus increases to +3 vs. opportunity attacks made by aberrations or undead.

Fated Level 10 Feature
Sometimes when things seem there worst, that’s when the greatest opportunities arise. You spin a great failure into a moment of keen insight.

Benefit: Whenever you roll a natural 1, your action still fails as normal. Your next attack roll, a saving throw, a skill check, or an ability check gains a +2 power bonus.

Optional Powers

Level 2 Utility Power
Sometimes you just have to get across the room, in an impossible amount of time. You find something greater, deep inside, when the need is high.

Burst of Speed Fated Utility 2
With a great push you launch yourself desperately across the room.
Encounter
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You gain a +2 power bonus to speed until the end of your next turn.

Level 6 Utility Power
When your surrounded by soldiers in full battle gear and brutes with bulging muscles, it’s easy for enemies to forget just how tough you can be.

Tougher Than I Look Fated Hero Utility 6
When things get tough you rise to the task, shrugging off your enemies assault so that you can be the hero your destined to be.
Daily
Minor Action Personal
Effect: You gain resist 3 to all damage until the end of your next turn. At 21th level this increased to resist 6.

Level 10 Utility Power
It’s easy for others to dismiss your character in battle, but they have no idea how many times you’ve risen to the challenge. You know how to shrug off a debilitating effect and come back strong.

Sudden Revival Fated Hero Utility 10
Just when it looked like you were out of the fight for good, you stand and do what’s needed.
Daily
Free Action Personal
Trigger: You start your turn dazed, dominated or stunned (save ends).
Effect:  You make a save vs. that effect with a +2 power bonus.

*If this seems familiar it’s based on a theme written for A Night in Lonesome October. Modern characters were heavily considered for that project and it seemed folly not to include it in this project.

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Faceman Theme – Modern Assembly

Me? I’m a nightclub singer. . . and a security guard. . . and a local politician. Don’t believe me? Just give me a few seconds to convince you.

Lust - CLose up by Anita Claven

A diplomatic leader who strives towards bi-partisan laws, or regularly entreats with foreign dignitaries. A charismatic rogue who smiles at you just so to keep you off balance, before he shoots you. The faceman represents the type of hero that can talk their way through anything.

Whether you’re a well trained agent or you just have natural charm, you’re party depends on you to speak for the group, negotiate in tense situations, and sometimes even infiltrate the enemies ranks.

Examples include James Bond, Templeton “Face” Peck, and Elizabeth Lochley.

Starting Feature

Most people feint with their weapons. A false thrust can cause an enemy to dodge one way and open themselves to your real attack. You know how to feint using your body as weapon. A seductive wink, a change in posture, or a sly word can make your target let down their guard and make your blow land all the easier.

Benefit: When making a Bluff check to gain combat advantage, the target may be within a close burst 5, as long as you have line of sight.


Additional Features

Level 5 Feature
All the world’s a lie and you’re its top player. You know the sweetest words, the meaning of body language and all the master tricks.

Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus to Bluff and Insight.


Level 10 Feature
Facemen are often called into situations where they need to know an answer, whether it’s their specialty or not. Those with the skill and experience develop an ability to produce an answer so convincing it actually works. This ability to wing it is often the difference between a crucial success or failure.
Benefit: Once per day, you may make a Bluff check with a +2 bonus in place of an Arcana, Dungeoneering, Mechanics, Nature, Science, Streetwise, or Religion check.

Optional Powers

Level 2 Utility Power
Just as you can use your charisma to open up an opponents defenses, you’ve learned how to throw your opponent off balance when they attack. When it seems like you’re about to be taken down a notch, you slow them down with the power of your being.

Innocence Maneuver Faceman Utility 2
As they blade arcs toward you, a sudden flash of surprise or concern crosses your face, forcing your attackers aim purposefully away.
Encounter * Martial
Immediate Interrupt Personal
Trigger: Your AC is targeted by an attack
Effect: The attack instead targets your Will defence.

Level 6 Utility Power
When things are getting hot and all guns are blazing ,you need to get where you’re skills are best, even if that’s the heck out of here. You make yourself seem small and less imposing so that no one gives you a second thought as you pass by.

Nothing to See Here Faceman Utility 6
In the chaos of battle you quickly pass through the ranks of friend and foe.
Daily * Martial
Move Action Personal
Effect: You move up to your speed. You do not provoke Opportunity Attacks when moving out a threatened square for this movement.

Level 10 Utility Power
When people are at their weakest you are at your best. Whether working with a partner or solo, you know how take a confused opponent and knock the world out from under them.

Staggering Finish Faceman Utility 10
With a shove or a demoralizing look you send your confused foe staggering backwards and onto his ass.
Encounter * Martial
Free Action Melee 1
Trigger: An adjacent enemy becomes Dazed or Stunned
Target: The triggering enemy
Effect: You push the enemy back 3 and knock it prone.

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Modern Assembly: Mundane Items

Your Modern Assembly heroes likely have access to some modern equipment, even if they’re not in in a fully modern setting. The table below includes the most common modern items likely to be carried as personal equipment. Remember, if the hero has these things in their home, but they’re not likely to carry them to encounters that’s an Asset and should not be purchased from Cash.

Some common modern items have been intentionally left off the list. In the interest of only adding what is needed to the existing core material, items that are very similar to existing items should be treated the same. For example a briefcase can be treated as a backpack, a set of handcuffs can be treated as manacles and a flashlight is roughly equivalent to a hooded lantern (just swap batteries in place of oil).

Any item needing batteries or a filter to operate have one use included in its purchase price.

Item Price Weight Description
Audio Recorder 10 1 lb. Picks up sound within ten feet. Can record up to 8 hours. Batteries last 24 hours.
Batteries, Common 2 gp .5 lb. Batteries for small portable devices.
Batteries, Specialized 75 gp .5 lb. Batteries for larger devices like laptops or Cellular Interceptor.
Binoculars, Standard 15 gp 2 lb. You negate the penalty to Perception checks made to spot something over 10 squares away.
Binoculars, Advanced 520 gp 3 lb. As standard binoculars but also displays the distance of an object digitally and act as night vision goggles.
Bolt Cutter 4 gp 5 lb. Provides a +5 item bonus Strength checks made to break chains or locks.
Camera, Digital 50 gp .5 lb. Standard common amateur camera. Battery or outlet charged for 30 minutes every 8 hours.
Camera, Professional 360 gp 2 lb. Multiple Lenses for high quality photos. Can double as telescope. Battery or outlet charged for 30 minutes every 8 hours.
Cellular Interceptor 840 gp 1 lb. Can intercept cell phone calls within 5 miles with a successful Science check. Battery lasts for 10 hours, and is charged in 1 hour.
Demolitions Kit 25 gp 5 lb. Provides a +2 item bonus to Thievery Checks made to set or disarm explosives.
Duct Tape (120 ft) 5 gp 1 lb. Duct tape can support up to 200 pounds indefinitely, or up to 300 pounds for 1d6 rounds. Easily teared and applied. Character bound by Duct Tape must succeed on a DC 22 Strength or Acrobatics check to escape.
Electricians Kit 30 gp 12 lb. Provides a +2 item bonus to Mechanics Checks made to repair a computer or small electronic device.
Gas Mask 360 gp 5 lb. Protects the eyes and lungs from toxic gas. Can be used up to 12 hours before a filter is replaced.
Gas Mask Filter 40 gp 1 lb. Canister used to filter air in a gas mask.
Laptop 680 gp 3 lb. Portable Computer. Needs local wireless or Ethernet for Internet access. Battery lasts 4 hours and is outlet charged in 1 hour.
Lighter 1 gp - Instant fire, up to 3,000 times.
Mechanics Tools 50 gp 20 lb. Provides a +2 item bonus to Mechanics Checks made to repair a car or large mechanical device.
Metal Detector 150 gp 2 lb. Device that grants a +10 item bonus to Perception checks used to locate metal creatures or items.
Night Vision Goggles 360 gp 3 lb. Grants darkvision 20, but imposes a -4 to Perception checks due to poor clarity.
Phone, Basic Cell 15 gp - Common digital phone, that works in any area with cellular service. Needs to be outlet charged for 1 hour every 2 days.
Phone, Smart 360 gp .5 lb. Phone with digital camera, GPS, and Internet. Can be used to connect Internet to laptop without local wireless. Needs to be outlet charged for 1 hour every 6 hours.
Science Kit 40 gp 6 lb. Provides a +2 item bonus to Science Checks made to analyse objects.
Telephone Tap 50 gp .5 lb. Taps either into the line (usually in an adjacent room or outside the building) or is placed into the receiver and broadcast to a Walkie-Talkie frequency. Requires a Mechanics check to place.
Video Camera 100 gp 1 lb Can record up to 5 hours of video and audio. Batteries last up to 12 hours.
Walkie-Talkie 360 gp 1 lb. Allows direct communication on thousands of unique frequencies, up to a range of 15 miles. Needs to be outlet charged for 1 hour every 6 hours.

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A Warlock With a Gun: Re-skinning Basic D&D 4E Classes for Modern Games

As part of “Modern Assembly,” we’re tackling the idea of applying Dungeons & Dragons 4E to modern times. We’re providing you with plenty of material.

'Take a shot' by soldiersmediacenter on Flickr

'Take a shot' by soldiersmediacenter on Flickr

But can it be done more directly? Can you just re-flavor D&D 4E with a modern twist?

Let’s try.

This article will analyze at each character class that’s in the iconic first D&D 4E Player’s Handbook, and see how it can be re-flavored as a modern profession.

The Overall Approach

How do we re-skin bows and magic blasts for the real world? Basically, we replace them with modern weapons. A bow is a hand gun, and a magical blast is a shotgun.

How do we handle healing? We approach Hit Points as abstract representations of exhaustion, counting down towards a disabling blow at 0 HP. Temporary Hit Points represent the character getting amped up, dodging a blow or steeling himself against an enemy’s attacks.

How about typed damage? Much of it can be kept exactly as-is; flamethrowers and Molotov cocktails will deal fire damage and stun guns will deal lightning damage. Some damage types are less frequent–you probably won’t see much cold damage–but you can always add Gamma World damage types like laser, radiation, and sonic damage. Unfortunately, the modern world just doesn’t have much typed damage.

There. Now let’s look at each class.

Cleric

We’re starting off with the toughest concept in the modern world: a divine battle leader who heals his allies with symbols and prayers.

The cleric’s attacks tends towards ranged powers and burst effects. So, we’ll give the cleric a ranged weapon, and focus on the battle leader element. So:

The Commander is an inspiring leader, whose troops always seem a little luckier and stronger than others. A Commander’s troops always come out a little header of others, instinctively dodging attacks and finding just the right cover.

So, what would Lance of Faith look like for a Commander?

Guiding Shot Commander Attack 1
You pop off an amazing shot, at your foe, clearly marking your target for your ally’s attack.
At-Will · Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 5
Target One creature
Attack Wisdom vs. Reflex
Hit 1d8 + Wisdom modifier damage
Effect One ally you can see gains a +2 power bonus to his or her next attack roll against the target.

Fighter

The fighter provides us with an interesting challenge: melee attacks. How do we justify hand-to-hand combat in the modern world of ranged weaponry?

The fighter must specialize, and be particularly adroit at hand-to-hand combat.

Most Brutes sport fists the size of hams and physiques to shame Arnold Schwarzenegger. They know how to use guns, but are just better at hand-to-hand altercations. Brutes prefer garrotes, silent knives, and the simple pleasure of slamming a head into a wall.

As such, Brutes typically carry several “melee” weapons, from garrotes to knives, and always have them ready.

Let’s re-skin Tide of Iron:

Brute Slam Brute Attack 1
After swinging a huge fist at your target, you slam into your foe with the force of a freight train.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Standard Action   Melee weapon
Target One creature
Attack Strength vs. AC
Hit 1[W] + Strength modifier damage
Effect You push the target 1 square if it is your size, smaller than you, or one size category larger. You can shift into the space that the target occupied.

Paladin

Paladins focus their attacks on individual enemies, but favor melee powers. We’ll switch it around a bit. So, we’ll use a name already used for an existing D&D class, but it’s the best that fits.

'Feeling lucky...punk?' by udvranto_pothik on Flickr

'Feeling lucky...punk?' by udvranto_pothik on Flickr

The Assassin focuses all of his or her attention on a single quarry. The assassin must confirm the kill–it’s a matter of pride–and so prefers close-quarter combat with a single enemy. The Assassin’s powers provide ways to make these attacks more effective.

An Assassin is not necessarily evil; she may be a member of an elite fighting force, destroying corrupt governments one politician at a time.

Knowing Your Enemy Assassin Attack 1
As you bring your weapont to bear, you smile. All those enemies have merely increased the pool of your knowledge.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Standard Action   Melee weapon
Target One creature
Attack Strength + 1 per enemy adjacent to you vs. AC
Hit 1[W] + Strength modifier damage

Ranger

The Ranger can stay completely untouched. Just switch out the bows for guns and you’re fine.

Double Tap Ranger Attack 1
You squeeze off two rounds in rapid succession at your enemy.
At-Will · Martial, Weapon
Requirement You must be wielding two melee weapons or a ranged weapon.
Standard Action   Melee or Ranged weapon
Target One or two creatures
Attack Strength vs. AC (melee) or Dexterity vs. AC (ranged); two attacks
Hit 1[W] damage per attack

Rogue

The rogue, too can remain untouched. We barely even need to re-skin it, and I’ll leave the example for the reader.

Warlock

Okay. We’ve hand-waved away the paladin’s magic. Can’t do that with the warlock.

How do we deal with magic? By completely ignoring it.

A warlock is a guy with a gun–but a guy who’s very good at using it.

The Motherf#$&er fights with passion. He doesn’t just calmly stand there and shoot; he screams and unloads his clip at his foe, determined to take him down.

Burning Wound Warlock Attack 1
Your bullets lodge deep and painfully.
At-Will · Fire, Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 10
Target One creature
Attack Constitution vs. Reflex
Hit 1d6 + Constitution modifier fire damage.
Special If you take damage before the end of your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 + Constitution modifier fire damage.

Warlord

We must explain the Warlord’s preference for melee combat. Our Warlord is a tactician, and directs the battle from the front lines. He’s also an effective fighter, but he needs to be in the thick of things to be able to direct his allies. So, he wades into battle and fires a revolver at point-blank range.

Other than that, the warlord is unchanged.

Wizard

For wizards, we take a similar approach to the one we took with warlocks. The one twist, of course, is the wizard’s preference for bursts and blasts.

The Rageaholic wields rapid-fire and scatter-shot guns like shotguns, machine guns, and the occasional rocket-propelled grenade. So, let’s look at a re-skinned Magic Missile:

Unerring Shot Wizard Attack 1
Your attack always aims true.
At-Will · Implement
Standard Action   Ranged 20
Target One creature
Hit 2d4 + Intelligence modifier damage.
Special This power counts as a ranged basic attack.

I hope this gives you a starting point for running modern adventures in D&D 4E. How would you approach it?

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Wealth: Cash and Assets in Modern Assembly

Wealth by alexjtam

Modern Assembly supports many different worlds. In a game where modern characters don’t have access to a typical modern society, such as a post apocalyptic game or one where modern heroes are transported to a fantasy world, most of a character’s treasure goes into purchasing and upgrading their equipment. In these games you can treat wealth the same as you would in a typical fantasy game.

However if the game has a modern setting it becomes important to make a distinction between the wealth used in combat and the wealth used in story telling. You do not want a character to drag down regular encounter because they spent their treasure on a new apartment instead of an upgraded weapon. Modern Assembly separates these two types of treasure into Cash and Assets.

Cash Anything that you might find on a typical treasure table falls under cash. This includes starting equipment, combat gear and consumable items. It also includes any actual cash or liquid assets that could be used to purchase personal gear. We measure cash in gold pieces to keep things comparable to the base system. You should feel free to change this to a modern currency, just keep in mind that this is merely a representative system. Prices are balanced to keep mechanical balance, not to match realistic current day prices.

We also recommend using inherent bonuses, instead of bonus enhancements found on weapon, armor and neck items. That way a player using modern equipment will scale with fantasy characters without upgrading to brand new equipment every few levels. They can still get their equipment enchanted if your setting has magic, but it should be with alternate effects, instead of the typical +1 bonus.

Assets Anything that your character can acquire given a little time, that does not come into play in the average combat, is an asset. These can be physical objects, such as a car or a home, or more abstract rewards, like a seat on a board of directors, or being able to bribe your way into an affluent club. Think of these as story rewards more than typical treasure.

If an asset logically comes into play during an encounter then the DM may give out a bonus for having that asset. These are parts of your story and players should be rewarded for using the world creatively. If these assets come into play in more than one encounter a session, they should be reworked as part of the characters equipment, purchased from their cash, and not be considered an asset.

The recommended bonus for these effect is +2. In some circumstances assets are logically more useful, due to their quality, and can receive a bonus based on their distance from common. So for example if an common character uses their jeep as cover, they get a +2 bonus to their defenses, and so would a wealthy character using their corvette as cover. However, if an common character is trying to get a bonus to their knowledge roll by using the local library, and a wealthy character has a private library devoted to the subject at hand, the DM may grant the wealthy character a +4 bonus to the roll (+2 for common, +1 each for the two asset levels above common). This bonus is subject to the DM’s discretion.

There are four asset grades available to level 1 characters. All characters start as common but can gain a different asset grade through feats, backgrounds, or as rewards given out by the DM when the story permits.

Common: This is roughly where most of an average society fits. You likely have a full time job to provide you with income. You have shelter, whether its a small apartment, a room in your parents house or a modest home with a mortgage. You have a means of transportation in your immediate area, but its nothing flashy.

Comfortable: Your job requires a certain amount of skill, experience of education that puts you above average. You earn more money but probably work just as much as someone with common assets. You likely have a spacious apartment or your own home. You almost certainly own a car that’s equal to new in quality, and might include more luxurious options such as a powerful engine, or leather seats. It’s easier for you to find money for plane tickets, hotel rooms and other luxuries than it is for an common person. Players can select this asset grade at level 1 by taking the Comfortable Lifestyle background

Wealthy: Handling money is second nature to you. Your assets are big enough that they practically handle themselves. Whether your living off interest, your parents, or the profits from your company, you only go into work if you want to. You own multiple luxury cars, and may own, or can easily get the use of other modes transportation, such as a boat or small plane. Money comes with privilege, and it’s easier for you to get an audience with other key individuals. It also has its drawbacks. More people are aware of you and may seek you out or target you. It’s much harder for you blend into a crowd. Players can select this asset grade at level 1 by taking the Comfortable Lifestyle background, and the Wealthy feat.

Poor: You live below the poverty line. If you have an apartment it’s likely in a poor neighborhood. If you have your own car it may also be your home. You may be working multiple low income jobs, or out of work and on the street. It’s much easier for you to go unnoticed or go completely off the grid. You’re used to living off of very little and are able to survive in harsh situations. You understand the importance of trade and know where you can sell things quickly and quietly. Players can select this asset grade at level 1 by taking the Poor Lifestyle background.

Fountain of Wealth by yoodz

Asset Grade as Story Once play has moved past the starting level, character’s asset grade may change as part of the story. Characters of higher levels may gain access to even higher levels of wealth in this way. These levels are limited by tier so that only characters of Paragon and higher can become Rich, and those of Epic and higher may be Unreasonably Rich. It’s possible for a character to achieve such wealth before these levels, but they do not have the experience needed to take the advantages of such wealth. Characters should not select asset based mechanics when leveling up.

Rich: You’re beyond wealthy, your rolling in it. You may be a pop superstar or the owner of one or two fortune 500 companies. You have your own plane, a mansion and more material goods than you can keep track of. You are constantly recognized in public and can buy your way into nearly any place or event.

Unreasonably Rich: You’ve achieved an asset grade that seems almost impossible. You fly from locations in a huge jet, that doubles as your luxury home. Maybe you own a whole city, and employ all it’s residents as your employees. Everyone knows who you are and they likely have very strong opinions about everything you do. You sway nations and command your own private army.

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