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Farcaster's Musings

The Year of Blue Fire: Gearing Up

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So, our first game for the Year of Blue Fire campaign is coming up this Friday. Iíve got the basic concept together for the first adventure, but I still need to sit down and stat out potential encounters and spend some time jotting down key locations and information. I usually work well under pressure and it is a first level game, so Iím not too worried about it.

Iíve decided to try out logging the campaign on Obsidian Portal. I created a campaign there last night. So far, Iíve only put in the campaign background which I blogged here a couple of weeks ago and I started a house rules section, but Iíll be adding more as we move forward with the campaign. Actually though, Iím curious what you all think about this experimental house rule Iím going to try out.
Scaling Magic Items (Experimental)
ďCommonĒ Magic Weapons/Defensive Items: These magic items use the standard rules. For example, a +1 magical longsword grants a +1 enhancement bonus regardless of whether your character is level 1 or level 20. These, therefore, have a limited lifetime in which they are useful.

ďUncommonĒ and ďRareĒ Weapons/Defensive Items: Uncommon and rare magic items scale with your character, continuing to become more powerful as your character gains levels. Instead of having a static plus, these will be described as heroic, paragon or epic tier magic items and will have an effective enhancement bonus based on the tables below.

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The problem that I am trying to solve with this rule is twofold. One, I really donít like the grind of constantly acquiring and discarding magic items. I would rather give out fewer but more interesting magic items. I was using the optional inherent bonus rule in my planar game, but I decided I really wasnít satisfied with that. For one, it led to the players (wisely) acquiring/creating a barrage of lowly +1 magic items and taking advantage of the fact that the +1 item would still operate like a +3 in their paragon-level hands. This was completely the opposite effect that I was looking for. The last thing I wanted to happen was for the PCs to turn into walking bags of magical equipment. By mixing the inherent bonus system with the concept of items that level with you, I am hoping I will end up with a happy medium.

The second issue is really a math problem. I tend to want the players to have a better than average chance of hitting with their attacks. Waiting for 10 minutes for your turn to come up and then utterly missing with your attack isnít all that fun. The base goal of the 4e engine is something like a 60% hit rate. By adding another +1 at paragon and +2 at epic tier, Iím ticking that hit chance up just a bit -- 5 to 10%. I may even take it a step further and make it a +1 at each tier, but Iím going to try it out at a little more conservative level to start out with.


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  1. Otakar's Avatar
    I'm pleasantly surprised that you're using 4E. I'll definitely be following this one. As for scaling weapons it seems like the "legacy" weapon idea. I think there was an article in Dragon recently about that. I did that in my "Society of the Upper Room" blog. It was really a lot of fun.

    I personally like a "magic poor" campaign. As a player I get bored with the "monty haul." As a DM I enjoy the magic items being part of the story.

    Keep up the Blog!
  2. erikscottdebie's Avatar
    As one of the players in said Planar Campaign (with the new item rules you've designed), I can say I'm looking forward to seeing how this new math bears out. It makes a lot of sense to me, at least in our campaign.
    One thing that's relevant to be said is that in our game, we consistently face threats that are significantly higher level than us. (Ok, the appearance of Dagon was an aberration, but not by a lot!) Most of our enemies are at least 2 levels higher than us, and many are 3-5 levels higher, including a number of level 16-19 solos you throw at our 14-15th level party, which you seem to feel is necessary to present us with a challenge. Granted, we are extremely strong and rise to meet said challenges, but I wanted to warn that this system might skew the game toward a more powerful baseline.

    That caveat aside, I highly applaud the concepts, particularly the defensive items table. One thing that staggers me is that some DMs (particularly new ones) are occasionally shocked at how easily their monsters hit the party--this is just the facts of the math. Low-level monsters have a relatively low chance as compared to higher level monsters, because attack modifiers increase on a 1-for-1-level progression but heroes' defenses can't keep up (increase 1-for-2-levels) without significant modification by feats and items--and even then, they have trouble at the higher tiers, particularly if they want to tap into some of the cool feats that aren't strictly all about increasing your attack bonus or defenses. I don't think any character should *have to* take a weapon expertise in order to function in the party.

    This system provides a much needed tool for pushing things toward the "golden balance" of PCs vs. monster hit rates--I would label this figure in my games as PCs having a 55-60% hit rate, while monsters have a 45-50% hit rate. You don't want it to seem like the monsters have to roll below a 5 to miss the PCs, and that the PCs have to roll a 14 or higher to hit the monsters.

    I do think you're going to end up going with +1 per tier, rather than +0/+1/+2 respectively, but starting conservative is a good idea.

  3. Greyson's Avatar
    I think Obsidian Portal is okay. But, we've found that Epic Words is much better. It's better geared to managing a campaign than OP is. Epic Words offers easier to use tools for XP, loot, journals, NPCs, etc... Check out one of my seven campaigns there.
  4. Grimwell's Avatar
    Could you combine the progression of the inherent bonus with a little work on their part? Instead of finding a new magic weapon to get the extra bonus, they perform some kind of ritual on the one they have to get it.

    That way it's a modicum of effort that you can control and make part of the story, and they don't have to endeavor to find more weapons with more bonuses, AND they can't just sit on the first +1 they find and laugh at the numbers.
  5. templeorder's Avatar
    A system thats really about an endless pursuit of pluses is difficult to scale because eventually it runs out. It seems like a hard core contrivance - what you are trying to do is really shoe-horning your ideas into a system thats geared against it (but not impossible). I would say try a totally different approach or try another system. Approach wise it means going back to start and resetting expectations. Focus on special abilities instead of pluses - make opponents needs those abilities gained at levels rather than the pluses. This sort of takes the rules into the more "story telling" realm, but it can be done, and i'd say your experience more than qualifies you to be able to handle this. Then you can keep opponents more on par or less with the party in terms of chance to hit, but not have to give out continually higher pluses. All that said, and what little experience i have had with 4e, your scale seems to work to offset what you need... its just a little more to lookup and calculate, but once people get used to it, it will become second nature.
  6. ThunderJoe's Avatar
    I always liked the idea of Special weapons and items that grew with the player. Whether a sword, staff, cloak, or what-have-you that gained in powers or pluses as a character grew in level. Some Items would gain pluses in defence, offence or new abilities. In any case, whether the item is found on a quest or handed down through generations of the character's family, it will become a dear and important item. Rather than just another +1 sword or item that the character disregards or hands off to a henchman when he/she finds something bigger and badder, the PC would cherish the special named sword or legendary staff, etc.