Monday, May 25, 2009

The Hybrid Experience, part 2

Finally got our group together for some D&D on the weekend so my hybrid Fighter/Wizard got to see some action. One fight with some hobgoblins but... so far so good.

Can't really comment on any balance issues yet. Nothing that seemed overpowered or felt wrong popped up during that one combat. He certainly didn't feel like an unstoppable killing machine but he did finish off one hobbie, finishing tied for second place in kills. (The ranger notched two, but only because he cowers in the back and picks off the ones everyone else has already softened up. That's right Hune. You're a kill thief. We all know it.)

Anyways, as far as playability goes, he was certainly more fun than my vanilla wizard ever was. It could be just the novelty but the fighter powers are quite fun. In fact it was thanks to the Reaping Strike that gives STR damage even on a miss that finished off the last hobgoblin. Pretty cool doing damage even when I roll a 2.

At the same time, the wizard powers still came in handy. I used a pair of Thunderwaves, one of which successfully moved a pair of enemies out of the way. I also used Shield to negate a hit.

So I can safely say that the Hybrid rules are definitely a step in the right direction. They've given me some of the versatility and freedom that I love but sorely miss in 4E.

This might be a little premature, but I've yet to notice anything in terms of a trade off for being a Hybrid. In 3.5 multiclassing was all about weighing the gains against the losses. One had to plan far ahead and decide whether losing access to those upper level spell slots was worth a few levels of fighter and all those "free" feats. It was a dangerous balancing act of compromise but oh so satisfying when it worked. Of course the whole min/max issue is highly subjective. While I loved it, I'm sure others are glad to see it gone from 4E.

I will say that the sheer simplicity of the Hybrid is nice. Not having to total up levels from each class, apply a possible ECL penalty, and whatnot is a welcome relief for the math challenged. Even with a multiclass feat my character is level 4. Couldn't be simpler.

Now for the downside.

I was really struck by how the "combat classes" are much more fun to play than the "caster classes".

My Wizard would just stand a safe distance and blast away ad nauseum. The closest I came to having to think was counting "squares" to make sure he was within range. Otherwise it was a simple matter of "one target = Shock Sphere", "two or more up close = Thunderwave", "two or more far away = Scorching blast". Fairly blase and a far cry from the 3.5 spellcasting experience.

While the Fighter powers made combat a lot more satisfying I think that's more of a testament to just how badly WotC brutalized the spellcasting system.

Granted, I only played a pure Wizard through 3 levels. If I had stayed with it, it might have turned out to have a very interesting mix of powers at it's disposal. It's not like 3.5 edition Wizards and Sorcerers were a ton of fun before 4th level.

Still, it's somewhat damning that adding two fighter powers is enough to make the game (or, more accurately, the combat aspect) fun again.

As long as I don't end up using "Reaping Strike" round after round.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Monk who finally found true love

For a variety of reasons we haven't played our beloved game for several weeks now, so I've yet to try out my hybrid character.

However, I did get a look at the playtest for the Monk class (thanks to Crwth, as usual). Here are my usual half-assed opinions.

First off, the Monk is now Psionic. My initial reaction to that was... well, I was disgusted. I've always hated psionics going all the way back to AD&D. No good reason for that. I think that my problem with psionics started with it not feeling "in place" with the whole swords and magic theme. Anyways, I was young and it's a bias that has irrationally stayed with me ever since.

However, I quickly reminded myself of that and of the fact that it's just a word. With that in mind I was able to get past my hang up and approached it with an open mind (as open as my mind ever gets anyways).

Then, a funny thing happened. I realized that the Psionic power source is a perfect fit for the Monk. In fact, it totally changed a class that never seemed to find the right niche.

With Psionics however, the monk is suddenly associated with it's famous mental fortitude and discipline in a concrete way. What was once just a bit of flavor for RP purposes is now a central theme of the class. It simply works.

Emboldened by that shattered paradigm I continued reading. Much like every class in 4E the monk has some interesting powers, some that are only so-so and formulaic. The new twist of a "Full Discipline" is interesting. Sorta reminiscent of the old "full round action". I like it in that it really makes it easy to visualize the fluidity of the Monk in battle.

My only real complaint is in the weapon proficiencies. I'd like to see more for the monk, just because the real world inspiration (or the one that I visualize when I think "monk") could pick up anything nearby and turn it into a weapon. While I don't think farm implements need to be listed in a PHB, I'm hopeful that the traditional kama, sai, and whatnot find their way into the game as Monk implements. Frankly I'd be surprised if they didn't but for now it is an issue.

All in all, they've done a great job with the 4E monk. Should my current character die, or choose to "retire", I'm thinking my next character will be a monk. Perhaps if the playtesting is done and the PHB3 is out, I might get to try the hybrid monk/sorcerer I've been dreaming of since FR loosened the monk multi-classing restrictions. Now that's something to look forward to.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Hybrid Experience, pt 1

This week I finally got around to re-creating my Dragonborn wizard as a Hybrid wizard/fighter.

Cliche, I know. I was tempted to go wizard/swordmage or even sorcerer/swordmage but I went the way I did for a couple of reasons.

First off, the wizard is still the only class that has powers that fit my storm theme. The sorcerer will have to wait for another day.

Secondly, as interesting as the swordmage is, I want to see if the Hybrid rules are capable of handling a less than optimal combination. I could have gone wizard/swordmage which is one of the combos suggested in the article, but power-gaming it won't prove anything.

Finally, the fighter and wizard are as vanilla as DnD classes get. They've been around since the beginning (more or less) and are icons for a reason. If they don't mix well, then there's something seriously wrong with the Hybrid rules.

Anyways, the character generation was pretty straight forward. The rules for creation are well written and clear. There was one spot where I was a little confused (sorry, can't recall the exact details) but after some flipping back and forth I eventually figured it out. Minor quibble there so overall the structure of the article/ruleset is good.

One thing that bugs me is in the proficiencies. The Hybrid character gets all the weapon proficiencies of each class. Fair enough. Simple, straight forward, makes sense. But, armor proficiency is the opposite. The Hybrid gets only those armor proficiencies that are common to both classes.

I've tried to think of the rationale for that, but so far I've drawn a blank. The best guess I have is that they wanted to give one or the other (armor or weapons) but not both, to avoid the Hybrid from being "overpowered". Considering characters are almost totally defined by their powers, the limit on armor proficiency is puzzling.

I ended up spending feats to get my character into his chainmail, so it wasn't a big deal. Like I said, it was just a little puzzling.

The selection of powers was a little more interesting with the Hybrid than my pure Wizard was. Having those few extra options was a noticable improvement. That said, there was only one instance where I waffled back and forth between a pair of fighter powers. Still, I'm all about options options options, so this facet of the Hybrid was nice.

In summary, I'm actually excited to see how he plays.