Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Just finished reading over the preview of the next "new" race to be a part of the PHB3. The Githzerai.

Due to my hatred of the sci-fi peg of psionics in the round hole of fantasy dnd, I never was much of a fan of the Gith. They were like Drow. Fun to fight as antagonists but I had zero interest in every making one into a hero.

They do have an interesting backstory though. Enslaved until they fought their way to freedom. It's a story that's pretty cliche but it still holds power and speaks to me in a way. Probably because I, like most everyone, love a good underdog. On the downside the whole githzerai/githyanki split is too close the whole elves/drow split. You can use the cliche WotC, but please, give it a new twist.

As for their powers, well, I like them. In general they reflect the new slant on psionics quite nicely and are definitely very useful (unlike the Dragonborn's lame breath "weapon"). If anything they might be a little too good. Getting a free shift of up to 3 squares is a super boon when using a second wind. Not only do you get HP back, but you also get to put some space between yourself and who or whatever was whaling on you. Iron Mind is also a tad strong, giving a short lived +2 bonus to all defenses. Compare that to the wizard's Shield utility spell. Both are Encounter powers and Shield gives a +4 bonus to defenses but the Iron Mind doesn't take up a power slot. Also, Iron Mind can be boosted to +4 and give damage resist with a couple of Epic Tier feats.

The Paragon path isn't bad but not especially gripping either. Much like any Paragon path I suppose. A couple of bonuses and a fancy title. Meh.

Their racial feats are nice. Again much like any feat they give some bonuses but their nothing to get excited about. My favorite is probably Iron Resolve of Zerthadlun because it gives the player a potentially difficult choice. Do you hold on to that last psionic power point for a +2 to saving throws, or spend it and hope you don't roll an 8 or 9 on your next save? I love that kind of decision and find that it's sorely missing in 4E.

A comment by Robert J. Schwalb, in regards to the racial feats got me to thinking. He said that, "Githzerai feats reinforce and expand the race's existing themes and mechanics." I can't argue with that, although I might quibble over the "expand" portion. The thing that occurred to me is that this is the big difference in feats in 4E as compared to 3.5.

In 3.5 feats were arguably the thing that defined one's character. Four fighters could be wildly different from one another based solely on the feats selected. In 4E feats have been relegated to small boosts to existing powers. One method was wildly liberating while the other almost forces feat selection to min/max. A number of 4E feats might sound good, or make for interesting character development, but if they don't synergize with your powers they're kinda wasted.

Anyways, back on track, I liked the Githzerai overll. I probably won't ever play a Gith character, but they're at least somewhat interesting now. Some nice powers. A few interesting feats. Good backstory. Really, what more could I ask for from any race?


Alexandra Erin said...

It's fascinating to read this because I agree with some of your objective observations (for instance, the nature of feats in 3E vs. 4E) but I consistently end up in a very different place as a result of them.

I found 3E's feat system to be better for min/maxers, as there were more "maxes" to be had. With feat selections less critical in 4E, you can use it to fill in fine details to distinguish your character.

For instance, my paragon Bard took Arcane Admixture to attach fire damage to an at-will.

It's not a terrible choice mechanically... Bard attacks are heavy on psychic with a little thunder and not much in the way of elements, and there are things in the world that are vulnerable to fire and few that resist both fire and psychic. Since our party does not have a Wizard and the only fire attacks we have otherwise are from the Dragonborn's breath and racial paragon attacks, it's proven to be handy.

It's probably not what a optimizer would recommend, but it's not terrible... and whatever the optimizer would pick isn't going to be that much better.

And taking Arcane Admixture means I have a Bard who can light people on fire by cussin' hard... that's why I took it, because it fits the character. If Arcane Admixture did something more like adding 1d of [x type] damage per tier to an attack or added ongoing damage of [x type] to the attack, that would be a huge advantage and I'd probably take Arcane Admixture all the time on every arcane character I played. But with no feats that jump out like that, I take what I want.

That's just one concrete example, but it's the sort of thing I find every time I build or level a character... there's always something I can take to shore up the concept, and it's never yet resulted in a crippled character.

I love that kind of decision and find that it's sorely missing in 4E.

I'm kind of curious about how that is... the resource management component of the game always looms huge in our sessions. I play a Half-Elf Rogue with Twin Strike in her Dilettante slot... does she try to take out two minions quickly at the start of combat, or go for extra damage against the big guy? Or does she hold on to it until she's in trouble, or save it for when an almost-guaranteed hit will almost certainly take someone out of the fight?

Do you use an Action Point at the start of the big battle to grab an immediate tactical advantage, or do you hold onto it?

At what point do you throw a healing word to someone who's reaping benefits from being bloodied? (Yeah, there's an obvious answer to that: when they fall below 25%. But how close do you cut it, if the damage is coming in hard and fast?)

You're slugging it out with someone and you're both almost dead... do you Second Wind, or do you bring the hammer down?

Griff said...

The whole "Edition Wars" thing has always struck me as stupid, simply because it is all so subjective. The feats issue is a perfect example of that. I can see where you're coming from, I respect it, but in the end your "fine details" are my "trivial add-ons".

As for resource management, I didn't mean to imply that there isn't any in 4E. I just don't see it pop up in our gaming sessions on a regular basis. This could certainly be due to the fact that we've only played through the first 4 levels, but up to now the only thing we've needed to manage has been our Daily Powers. Generally we hold on to them until it becomes clear that we're in a tough fight. With a second Daily at our disposal I'm guessing that we'll be a little more willing to fire them off whenever, so the only decision will be which to use and which to save for later.

Otherwise I can't think of any situation in which we (as a group) were failing to utilize our resources. Early on we often forgot to use our Encounter powers but we're now at the point where we look to position ourselves to use every Encounter power we have.

Action points are spent liberally when we're at a Milestone, but otherwise we tend to save them for when an extra move is needed to get to safety, or when we think one last hit will drop the bad guy.

Obviously all of that requires decision making and sound tactics, so 4E is not a completely bereft of risk-v-reward. It just strikes me that the risks and rewards are both minimal.

** on another note: I did minimal edit, changing "Mind Flayer" to "Drow" in the second paragraph. I must have had Mind Flayer on the mind (haha!) when I typed it. **