Saturday, February 28, 2009

New powers

It looks like February has been a slow month, and I wonder where I've been slacking, but then realize that, except for a handful of PDF Dragon articles that I have yet to read, there's not much else to talk about this month.

One of those PDF articles is on playing the Shadar-Kai, a shadowy race of creatures. The race is spelled out as a player race in the back of the Monster Manual, but the Dragon article goes further about the background of the shadar-kai as a race, and also provides a few extra powers, based on the shadar-kai's expertise with the spiked chain.

This is actually a pseudo-multiclass feat that you take (the training), which then lets you take other feats (at 4th-, 8th- and 10th-level) to swap out some of your powers for spiked chain specialty powers.

This got me thinking about the human fighter I was making in the Character Builder a few weeks ago, based on my 3.5 spiked chain/repeating crossbow fighter. As I made Placide as a 4e character in the Character Builder, I took advantage of the Compendium's search capabilities to search for any powers that gave mention or a bonus to "flail" weapons, which is where the spiked chain falls, to try and create the same focus on a specific weapon.

And this got me thinking about how it was fortuitous that spiked chain-specific powers appeared, which then got me thinking, "why couldn't I have come up with this?"

And that's what got me writing this post. I've bored you to tears about my comments on the math behind making monsters, or lack thereof, but what about powers? What is it that makes this given power a 9th-level Daily? How do you know if the amount of damage makes a power 5th, 15th or 25th level? Is it simply the 1[W], which magically goes up to 2[W] at level X, 3[W] at level Y, etc.? Sort of (see below). What if the power adds prone? What if it dazes until end of my next turn (or save ends?)

These are the same questions I asked about monster design, about taking an existing one and swapping out an attack for another similar (whatever that means) attack. And again, I wonder if there's some magic formula of "1[W] + Dexterity modifier damage, slide the target 2 squares and the target is knocked prone" is equal to "6th-level utility power". There are a bunch of powers throughout the Player's Handbook which have 1[W] at some level, then 2[W] ten levels higher, then 3[W] ten levels after that.

But does that mean that 1[W] is worth ten levels? Probably not - I think that this is just a way to make lower-level powers appealing, to give the player the option to keep the ability (prone, daze, slide, etc.) and not feel forced to give it up for a higher-level power when it comes available. But it's a start -- if I want to take a power with 1[W] damage (and some other features) and make it start as a 2[W] power, I'd probably add 5 or 7 levels to make it comparable.

But could I really go through the powers in the Player's Handbook and reverse-engineer what a "slide 2" adds to the level of a power? The fact that you don't get a daily power or encounter power at every level means that if you're modding a daily power to a higher-level one, you can't just add X levels and say that it's a new daily power -- you'd have to find the nearest level at which dailies appear, and decide if, by lowering or raising your new power to that level, you now have an over- or under-powered power.

The fact is that this is an easier thing to test -- the build of a power is nowhere near as complex as that of a monster, and it would be easy enough to find similar powers across different classes (or perhaps the same one) and either prove that there is a formula (even if not strictly adhered to, for level-restriction reasons), or prove that it's all just made up, that Wizards just "feels" that THIS power is an nth-level Daily, THIS power is a nth-level Encounter...

If I find something out, I'll let you know. Until then, I'm not sure of the best strategy for devising your own new powers, for the character you have that needs some specialty powers with some other specific weapon.

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