Posted on Leave a comment

Rogue Wizard & Icecrag Monastery

 

Hej everybody,

 

today I’m going to take a look at one of the best modules Adventureaweek.com has released so far and at also one of the worst! Let’s first check out how great a module they can deliver with

 

Rogue Wizard

This adventure is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial (featuring a  beautiful side-view overview map of the dungeon), 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 48 pages of content, so let’s check this one out!

 

This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

 

Still here? All right! Setzer Salthazar, rogue Klavekian wizard and murderer has been off the radar for years – hiding in Vikmordere territory. he’s not been idle. Hired by sage Yuri Stael to track down and bring the madman to justice the PCs travel from Rybalka to the jagged cliffs, where, once they’ve braced deadly Razorvine and undead guardian ogres, they’ll enter Setzer’s weird wizard tower, topped by a rather strange organic thing. The tower comes with a BEAUTIFUL full color map where they’ll be attacked by a bear rug taxidermy swarm. Floating, organic eyeballs start watching the PCs and by now they should now that they’re in for a disturbing experience indeed. The restless spirit of the tower’s cook, the torture room and its sentinels and vrocks should further enhance the PC’s sense of brute force horror and estrangement.

 

In the next room, we get a rather cool graphic puzzle – a vast room with pillars standing from the water. A selection of planks is provided and the PCs are supposed to create the path across the room in order to avoid the electric eels in the water below. A reason why they can’t just fly over the planks would have been nice, though. In the mad wizard’s cellar, the PCs can get treasures if they brave 8 riddles. In the dungeon, though, true horror awaits – a bone-grinding machine and a room covered in the new bone-dust hazard, which is essentially testament to Setzer’s genocidal aspirations.

 

Now, if you think the upper floors are any less deadly and disturbing, you’d be dead wrong – from a gibbering mouther to a flooding room trap, Setzer has some deadly surprises in store. Especially the latter is interesting, in that it can only be disarmed by the PCs correctly deciphering the sequence of 4 Maya-style glyphs. Oh, and being wet is rather problematic in the Rybalkan climate! Worse, while they can save an Aasimar who, when provided with some levels, might be used to replace a PC who might have died, and die they might: There’s e.g. a room with zero-gravity (and a battle as well as concise rules for this environment) and a deadly room in which the PCs will have to scuttle to prevent fuses from blowing up barrels of gunpowder.

 

And the deadly part has not yet begun: Well hidden, the highest levels are guarded by a flesh golem amalgam of tortured souls, a black pudding knight and then, the PCs enter NITNAM. The strange, heart-like, demonic flying colossus at the top of the tower, which is now fused with Setzer’s lifeforce. The final battle against Setzer and NINTAM’s hearts is a fittingly climactic boss battle after the weird and strange tower, though fighting while NINTAM is  airborne and granting it some additional means to hinder/attack the PCs would have made it even better.

The pdf closes with 3.5 and PFRPG-stats for the adversaries herein (the fleshgolem missing its unique ability in the statblocks, though) and 2 new spells developed by Setzer, his “Storms of sculpted Flesh”, and comes with a one-page handout, where you can print out the planks from aforementioned puzzle.

 

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed a very minor glitch that has no central bearing on anyone’s enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to Adventureaweek.com’s 2-column parchment-style standard and the cartography, as I’ve come to expect, is awesome. The artwork is ok for the price and manages to convey some of the disturbing tones of the book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with herolab support and also a printer-friendly version without backgrounds, but still in color.

This adventure is a straight wizard’s tower crawl and PCs should expect to walk a gauntlet indeed – even Alchemist’s Errand pales in comparison to what the mad mage Setzer has in store – disjointed, disturbing and deadly and the three “d”s that characterize best what to expect from this very dark module. And I LOVE it. The quicksand-style trap and the grinders. The bombs. The floating eyes and the final battle – all very cool. Though I maintain that making the final battle 0-gravity will make the module even better. With the rules provided, any DM can do so! This module provides an old-school, deadly romp including clever puzzles and traps and is spiced up with disturbing madness and biomancy and a memorable showdown indeed.  All in all: A great module, the most original and coolest of the line so far, nothing to complain. Final verdict: 5 stars and Endzeitgeist seal of approval. fans of e.g. Tim Hitchcock or Nicolas Logue or e.g. “War of the Burning Sky’s” biomancy might want to check this out – the module should be right up your alley. And if you want to make Setzer even more memorable, check out Rite Publishing’s #30 Fleshgrafts and add them to Setzer’s arsenal.

 

And here’s one that for a rather long series of releases remained the last I didn’t enjoy in some way:

 

 Icecrag Monastery

This module is 38 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 34 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

 

This being an adventure review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

 

Still here? All right!

The Icecrag monastery has coexisted with a tribe of goat-herding orcs since its inception and the population of the latter has been on the rise – unfortunately to an extent, where the tribe is dependent on wild-life to supplement its dietary needs. More unfortunately, the wild goats and other potential food sources have been diminished. Now the orcs have attacked the monastery. A hawk escapes with a blood-smeared note (included as a hand-out) to Rybalka to warn and ask for assistance. Enter the PCs. Now, as any self-respecting remote monastery, the Icecrag one is located far off from civilization and the trip there is the first thing to do. Some suggestions for hazards and wandering monsters are provided with hyperlinks, but are not reprinted in the pdf – which is a pity if you’re like me and print out modules to run them and somewhat feels a bit lazy. Once the PCs reach the monastery gates (which come as a sketch drawing and a one-page map of the locale), they are instructed by the abbot about the recent sudden onset of orc-raids, only to have one happen at their door. Thankfully, this time the PCs can rebuke the raid and perhaps even learn the new herbalism-feat, which comes with complete rules to create 6 mundane salves/poultices.

 

After rebuking the attack, the chief of the orc tribe comes to the monastery’s door – in peace. The orcs have been starving due to a  white bird demon and provide a crude map to said creature’s home – if the PCs take care of the threat to the local eco-system, the orcs may stop their raids. At the cave, the PCs will have to brave an ice basilisk and then defeat the white dragon that has been the underlying source of the conflict. Once vanquished, there’s again peace between the two groups and PCs may actually get a neat staff from the monks, an orb of illusion and a fully detailed hoard. Rules for rare berries are also provided alongside a stunning artwork of the dragon.

 

Unfortunately, I have also some criticism regarding the adventure’s straight-forward plot: While convincing the monks to abandon their home or killing all orcs are also options suggested in the beginning of the module, these paths are not explored in the slightest. No sample DCs for a conversation to convince the monks to leave, no information on the orc tribe/its camp. essentially, this module pretends to offer a freedom it does not deliver.

Additionally, the attack on the dragon is rather anticlimactic – one paltry minion and that’s it? The overall defenses of the dragon are pathetic and while whites are not the sharpest tools in the shed, more defensive measures would have been appropriate. In fact, I think dragons always deserve special care and an array of tactics. This critter, though, is a static foe at the end of a lair that, in spite of numerous height levels, makes nothing of this terrain – where a cool, modular battle could have taken place (the dragon taking several levels at once etc., nothing really happens and the DM gets no unique tactics that help make the encounter memorable and in the end, reading this finale left me with a distinct feeling of disappointment.

DriveThruRPG.com

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed some minor glitches, though nothing serious. The pdf adheres to Adventureaweek.com’s 2-column standard and comes with nice drawings/maps. Unfortunately, though, in a step back, we don’t get any player-friendly maps this time around – disappointing! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with an extra, printer-friendly version and hero-lab files as well as stats for all involved creatures in both 3.5 and PFRPG.

 

This adventure is not exactly bad. It just has one massive problem: The last two modules by adventureaweek.com were vastly superior to this one. Where the “Secrets of the Tristone” provided neat puzzles and iconic locations and “Rogue Wizard’s” weirdness was a joy to behold, the trip to the Icecrag monastery remains formulaic at best and its presentation  does nothing to help: From a handwaved trip to the place sans anything unique or any sense of narrative foreboding, to the rather bland monastery, I was not captivated even once by what I read here. The short herbalism-feat and idea could have been great, were it expanded upon and supplemented by herb-write-ups – as presented, it feels like a half-baked homebrew-rule (including rather static Knowledge (nature)-checks)  that has imho no place in a professionally done module.

 

Especially when e.g. SGG’s Ranger’s Options book has demonstrated how e.g. herbs could be used to create extracts. And then there are the essentially two encounters: Rebuke tribal foe, slay true culprit of tensions between people. It does not get more formulaic than that. Worse, the true foe is blatantly obvious (white call it by some other name?) and falls terribly FLAT. As one, if not the most iconic beast, its lack of tactics and pitiful defenses make victory for the PCs almost laughably easy if played by the book. Don’t get me wrong, the prose is generally good, but the overall plot is so terribly trite, its execution so unimaginative that I could scarcely believe that it came from the same feather as the last two adventures.  Let’s sum it up: No player-friendly maps. Dropped alternative resolutions of the scenario that are mentioned and then not followed up on. An extremely formulaic plot. A hand-waved wilderness journey. Locales that lack the iconicity of other modules by AaW. A rather lame herbalism-feat that feels like a cut-down chapter in a gazetteer. An unfortunately utterly disappointing finale. “Splinters of Faith 6” does the icy monastery in a much more iconic way and is the overall superior module. Try as I might, even when taking the neat maps and the nice piece of artwork into account, I can’t go higher than 2 stars on this one.

 

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings!

Endzeitgeist out.

nbsp;

Posted on 1 Comment

Between the Shoulder Blades: Sneak Attack!

Between the Shoulder Blades: Sneak Attack!

Rogues are masters of stealth and deception, but one mechanic makes them stand out from other classes: sneak attack.  Under the right circumstances, a 3rd level Rogue will deal more damage than a 3rd level Barbarian who is in Rage.

In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to discuss the mechanics of sneak attack and give some tips and on how to improve your chances of getting a sneak attack and ideas on how to improve your sneak attack damage.

Getting Into Position

If you cannot see the ninjas, it's too late...

The Core Rulebook states that if you can catch your opponent when they are unable to defend themselves effectively from your attack, defined as your opponent being denied their Dexterity bonus to their armor class, you can strike a vital spot for extra damage.    So, what counts as an opponent being denied their Dexterity bonus?

The best-case scenario is having surprise.  If the enemy doesn’t know you’re there, then they can’t defend themselves.  Sneak attacks can be used within 30 ft., so a Rogue, with their combination of sneakiness and accuracy with ranged weapons typically due to high Dexterity, can make at least one sneak attack with a crossbow or other ranged weapon before the target is able to use their Dexterity modifier again.  By using the Stealth skill, a Rogue should be able to get himself into a position to make one and possibly two sneak attacks before entering melee combat.

You can also gain sneak attack damage by flanking a target with another party member.  Flanking is defined as your opponent being threatened by two characters on its opposite border or opposite corner.  Essentially, you have to have two characters on opposite sides of the enemy in order to flank the enemy.  My group plays this a little different.  If two characters are attacking the same enemy and the two characters are in any two non-adjacent squares, we consider the enemy flanked.  That’s how my group does it.  How your group handles flanking is up to your DM.

Once you are in melee combat, until you can flank an opponent, you won’t be able to get your sneak attack damage, unless an opponent is held.  In melee combat, using a ranged weapon incurs an attack of opportunity, so your best bet is to ditch the crossbow and draw your sword.  In melee, use your Acrobatics skill to tumble past defenders to get into flanking position.  You can also use the Ready action to tumble past an attacker. Assuming success, then you have now tumbled out of harm’s way and you can prepare yourself for getting into position.

Improving Your Chances

A high Stealth score is a must for increasing your chances of getting a sneak attack.  Increasing your Dexterity is a must.  This has the added benefit of increasing your ranged attack bonus.  Along with a high Dexterity score, there are several items from the Core Rulebook that you can get to increase your Stealth score.

The first is Shadow armor special ability.  The Shadow, Improved, and Greater Shadow special abilities increase your Stealth score by +5, + 10, and +15 respectively.

Next, there are potions.  Potions can be used to replicate any spell of up to 3rd level, so you have a lot of options on that front.  Aside from spells like darkness and invisibility, there are several options that you can use to get into sneak attack position.  Haste is a good choice, as well as expeditious retreat.  Both of those spells allow you to move faster than normal, which can help you get the positioning you want.  Ventriloquism and silent image can both distract an opponent, giving you the chance to put that arrow between their shoulders.  Cat’s grace increases your Dexterity by +4, which can’t be bad.  Pretty much any spell from the Illusion school can be really useful.  Scrolls are similar to potions, except that they can replicate any spell of up to 9th level, opening up your options ever further.

Next up are rings.  From the list presented in the Core Rulebook, there are five rings that can really useful to a Rogue looking to get in that extra shot: Ring of Blinking, Ring of Chameleon Power, Ring of Freedom of Movement and Ring of Invisibility.  The fifth is the Ring of Feather Falling.  You could use this ring to jump from a great height and float down to get the drop, literally, on your opponent.

The Staff of Illusion, the Staff of Passage, and the Staff of Size Alteration can all make it easier to sneak up on your prey.

Now we get into the good stuff: wondrous items.  Robe of blending.  Bag of tricks.  Boots of speed.  There are 300 items in the Core Rulebook and it’s easy enough to make more, with the help of your DM.

Turning it Up to 11

Yep...it goes that far

Once you’re in position to sneak attack someone, you need to make the shot count.  How do you do that?  Again, having a high Dexterity will help with your ranged attack roll and if you’ve taken the Weapon Finesse feat, it can also help you with your melee attack roll.  But wait, there’s more.

When it comes to weapon choices, it really depends on your class.  Obviously, you have to be a Rogue or some sort of Rogue variant to get the sneak attack ability, but multiclassing is not a bad way to go to amp up your sneak attack.  Barbarians, Fighters, and Rangers are all excellent classes for a Rogue to multiclass into.  All three classes give you access to martial weapons as a class feature at 1st level.  As funny as it sounds, that means you can now sneak attack with a greataxe or a halberd.  These three classes also have the fastest base attack progression, meaning that when you switch from one of them to Rogue, your base attack bonus won’t suffer much.

Barbarians also give you Rage and Fast Movement at 1st level, meaning that you move 10 feet faster per round than normal, giving you a greater movement range to work with, and Rage gives you a +4 bonus to Strength, meaning another +2 to damage with your sneak attack.  If you start out as a Barbarian, there aren’t many Rage Powers that will be useful at early levels for bolstering sneak attack.  The best rage power at 2nd level is Powerful Blow, which gives you a +1 to a single damage roll.  A 2nd level Barbarian/1st level Rogue with a Strength of 14 wielding a greataxe (1d12 damage) and using rage and Powerful Blow, would get a +6 to attack and their damage is 1d12+3 plus 1d6.  That gives you an average of 13 points of damage.

Fighter not only gives you access to martial weapons, but also a lot of bonus feats, if you stick with it for a few levels.  If you start with Fighter, I suggest going with five levels of Fighter before switching to Rogue.  That way, you will have gotten five feats (two regular, three Fighter bonus feats) as well as Weapon Training.  Weapon Training has you pick a weapon you have proficiency in, and gives you a +1 bonus to both attack and damage rolls with that weapon.  Because Fighters are so versatile thanks to their feats, you can create either a formidable melee Fighter or a ranged Fighter with deadly accuracy.  I would run the numbers on a Fighter/Rogue combo, but there are so many variables in terms of feats and whether the Fighter is focused on melee or ranged combat that I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Ranger is interesting to multiclass with a Rogue.  Both classes get a lot of skill points to use each level, but more importantly, Rangers get a combat style choice at 2nd level.  Starting at 2nd level, a Ranger must pick either archery or two-weapon fighting as their combat style.  Depending on which style you pick will determine what combat style bonus feats you’ll get.  You get a combat style feat at 2nd level and then every four levels after that.  Rangers also get a favored enemy at 1st level, which gives them a +2 bonus on Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against those enemies, but also a +2 to attack and damage rolls against those enemies.  So, a 2nd level Ranger/1st level Rogue with a Dexterity of 14, who is wielding a longbow (1d8 damage) against their favored enemy, having taken the archery combat style and gotten the Point Blank Shot feat, gets a +7 to attack and their damage is 1d8+3 plus 1d6.  That gives you an average of 11 points of damage for a sneak attack.

Spellcasting classes like Bard, Sorcerer or Wizard would give you access to spells like the ones I discussed above, but they have poor base attack progressions, which limits your effectiveness in sneak attacking.  They also have the lowest hit dice of the PC classes, which means you might be stuck with ranged fighting, even if you have a high Strength score.  Normally, you’d be playing party that would probably contain a spellcaster that would be willing to use those spells for you or if you don’t have a spellcaster, you can use potions, which don’t have a verbal component that might tip off your target to your location, thus denying you the sneak attack attempt.

Fighting Feats

In this section, I’m going to look at feats that will help boost your damage output with sneak attack.  You can’t really increase the damage of sneak attack other than gaining more Rogue levels, but you can increase the damage of the weapon itself, which adds to the total damage done during a sneak attack.  Having a high Strength bonus will help when sneak attacking with a melee weapon or when using a composite bow.

  • Arcane Strike:  This feat gives you a +1 to damage and your weapon is considered magical for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.  This feat only works if you have the ability to cast arcane spells.
  • Deadly Aim:  This feat allows you to take a -1 penalty to ranged attack rolls to gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls.  When your base attack bonus reaches +4 and every +4 after, you can increase the penalty by -1 and increase the damage to +2.
  • Double Slice: This feat allows you to add your full Strength bonus to your off-hand attack.  Normally, you only get to add half of your Strength bonus to your off-hand attack.  Usually, this is only a couple points difference, but adding those couple extra points along with your sneak attack might be enough to take out an opponent.
  • Improved Critical:  This doubles the critical threat range of your selected weapon.  This gives you a greater chance to multiply your damage output.
  • Critical Focus:  This feat gives you a +4 bonus to confirm a critical hit.

Note:  There are other critical feats that you can take.  These do not increase the damage output of sneak attack or the critical itself, but you can possibly (among other conditions) stun, stagger, sicken, or tire a foe, making it harder for them to fight back

  • Manyshot: This feat allows you to fire two arrows as part of one attack during a full-round attack action.  You only get to apply sneak attack damage to one arrow, but that’s still twice the base damage that gets added in.
  • Point Blank Shot: This feat gives you a +1 to both attack and damage rolls with a ranged weapon to a target within 30 ft.
  • Power Attack: This works just like Deadly Aim, except for melee attack and damage rolls.  If you are making the attack with a two-handed weapon, a one-handed weapon used in two hands, or a primary natural weapon, the damage increased by 50%.
  • Rapid Shot:  You get to make an additional attack during a full attack, but that shot and every shot after it takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls.
  • Vital Strike:  You get to double your weapon damage when making a single attack.  You don’t get to double sneak attack damage, but doubling the base damage adds in to the total.
  • Improved Vital Strike:  You get to triple your weapon damage when making a single attack.
  • Greater Vital Strike:  You get to quadruple your weapon damage when making a single attack.

Note:  Read as written, you can still get a critical hit when using a feat in the Vital Strike tree.  You don’t get to multiply all of your damage dice by your weapon multiplier, but you do get to multiply your base weapon damage by that multiplier and add in the appropriate Vital Strike damage and your sneak attack damage.

  • Weapon Specialization and Improved Weapon Specialization:  These feats will give you +1 and +2 respectively to your damage rolls with the appropriate weapon.  The downside to these feats is that they are available to Fighters only, at 4th and 12th levels respectively.

Aside from feats, there are also magical weapons with special abilities, most of which will increase your damage output.  Please note that some special abilities do not stack with feats or spells that have similar properties.  For example, a sword with the speed special property gets to make one additional attack roll at your highest attack bonus, but do not stack with the haste spell.  The keen special ability doubles the critical threat range of the weapon, but do not stack with the Improved Critical feat or the spell keen edge.

At lower levels, you might be able to buy or find a weapon that does extra damage, such as fire or cold.  Personally,  I prefer frost or shock because a fair number of monsters have resistance to fire or are immune to it.  If you can afford one of the burst weapons, I strongly suggest getting that.  Not only do you get the extra 1d6 of the energy type in question, but on a confirmed critical hit, in addition to that 1d6, you also get 1d10 of that same type of energy damage.

Remember: any additional damage you can do during sneak attack is a good thing.

So, there you have it.  Sneak attack explained and damage improved.  Hopefully this will give you some good ideas for your next Rogue character.

Remember to find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SkredlitheOgre

Follow me on Twitter:  @SkredlitheOgre

Go back and read all of my other blogs, either underneath this one or on my personal blog: skredlitheogre.blogspot.com

Until next time, be awesome to each other and good gaming.

Will.