Tuesday, March 9, 2010

So You Want To Make an Ardent, eh?

Earlier I did some class guides before I got too busy to write this blog, but I am going to do some more similar guides again now. They will be different in tone and instead of spending time explaining every single possible option and its validity, I will instead walk you through building a specific class or build as I would build them. I picked up a copy of the Player's Handbook 3 this week so I figured a good place to start would be with Ardents, the new leader class that comes first in the book.

First things first: The Build

Most classes in this game don't have an obvious answer to the build question. Usually there is merit to all the choices in a given class. Your choice of build for the Ardent is Mantle of Clarity, or Mantle of Elation. Each gives a bonus to all your allies within 5 squares. Mantle of Clarity gives a bonus to all defenses against opportunity attacks equal to your Wisdom modifier, and +2 Insight and Perception. Mantle of Elation gives a bonus to damage rolls for opportunity attacks equal to your Constitution modifier and +2 Diplomacy and Intimidate. Each also gives an encounter power that is triggered when you are bloodied, one giving your allies the ability to shift or move half their speed, and the other makes all enemies within the burst grant combat advantage. Both bonuses are good in and of themselves and the riders on powers are relatively equal as well.

However, if you are going to go with Charisma as your primary ability score, and Wisdom as your secondary ability score it is going to be hard to get the defenses you need, especially AC. Ardents are a melee class so unless you have a Defender you can count on 100% of the time you probably want to try and get a decent Armor Class if you can help it. Because Constitution is used for some of the Armor feats, I'm going to go with Mantle of Elation. It'll also get me a couple more hit points at first level and an extra healing surge.

Step Two: Race

So with the build I've selected this means that my primary score should be Charisma and my secondary should be Constitution. Obviously I should be a half-elf, correct? Well, yes, that is a possibility, but it is definitely not the only possibility. The other ability score I am going to want is Strength so that I can grab some better armor feats and possibly even shield feats as I level.

This opens up any of the Strength/Constitution races to me as well. I could take Goliath, Warforged, or Minotaurs and end up with pretty much the same ability scores. In the end though, it is the Strength/Charisma combination of the Dragonborn I am going to choose because it lets me start in the best position as far as ability scores are concerned because I need to get to a 15 Strength and Constitution as fast as I can, and if possible I don't want to give up starting with an 18 in Charisma.

While my breath weapon isn't exactly the best option as far as racial powers go, the bonus to my surge value and the +1 to attacks while bloodied are both good racial bonuses.

Ability Scores

So, 99% of the time you are going to want to put an 18 in your primary ability score. The extra accuracy with all attacks in addition to the defense bonus and skill bonuses will almost always outweigh whatever riders you are getting from raising your secondary ability score. This character will be no different and thus Charisma is where we will be placing an 18, which after our racial bonus will be a 20. This will also make it very easy for us to take a lot of the social skills and be the "face" of our adventuring group.

We will then put a 13 in our Constitution and a 13 in our Strength. Obviously this means we're only getting a +1 bonus from our ability riders, but that will be raised to +2 at level 4 and will continue to climb from there. Meanwhile the 15 Strength we end up with gives us the amount necessary to grab both shield proficiencies and both armor proficiencies once our Constitution catches up. You can put your 8 in whatever score influences your character the lease. I chose Wisdom for my Ardent, as it didn't affect any of the skills I wanted to choose.


I want to get my defenses up as far as I possibly can, and I also obviously want the Expertise feat for my chosen weapon. This means that 5 of my Heroic Tier Feats are chosen for me: Weapon Expertise, Scale Armor Proficiency, Light Shield Proficiency, Heavy Armor Proficiency and Plate Armor Proficiency (once I get to 15 Constitution). This leaves me with only one Proficiency left in Heroic Tier, and thought its generic I would probably take Toughness. It gives me some extra padding and I would prefer it to either my race or class options.


The most obvious choice for me was Energizing Strike as my first at-will power. It gives temporary hit points and scales relatively well. If I augment it, then it can bring a dying character out of unconsciousness, or even give a healing surge. Its usefulness is undeniable.

My second choice would be determined by who is in my party. If there is a character such as a Barbarian who is going to be hitting very hard with melee attacks, I will take Ire Strike so I can basically trade my weak damage attacks for his heavy hitters. It has the bonus of making the enemy more vulnerable and its Augment 2 ability is also very useful.

If I do not have somebody like that in my party then I would take Focusing Strike even though its Augment 1 is meant for the Wisdom based build. The ability to give Saving Throws out at-will is one of the best abilities a leader class can have.

The Level 1 Daily Powers for Ardents are not a very good selection. With a weak Constitution modifier, and no Wisdom modifier, the very obvious choice is Implanted Suggestion. The fact that it can add two separate (save ends) effects to the target is very nice, and one of them grants basic attacks to your allies every time the target attacks. Hopefully you have somebody to take advantage of those attacks, otherwise you can take Adrenaline Strike to get good positioning for the rest of the encounter.

My general rule on Utility Powers is to try to take Encounter Powers over Daily Powers because 9 times out of 10 you will feel like you got more use out of those powers. The clear standout for level 2 batch is Dimension Swap. Being able to teleport swap places with an ally as your move action every encounter can be very useful, whether you use it to bail from bad positioning or to step in for an endangered ally.

Level 3 At-Wills for the Ardent are kind of underwhelming. There would be a choice of options for a Mantle of Clarity built Ardent, but for me I would have to go with Unnerving Shove. Forced movement can almost always be handy, either in helping positioning or attempting to push enemies off of the edge of a platform. While it's only going to push 1 square at first, that will go up to 2 at level 4 though and with an augment you can push it even farther or have it grant combat advantage to your allies.

Level 5 Daily options are pretty good when compared to your earlier choices. With a low Constitution modifier Empowered Arsenal's damage bonus is probably not worth it, and Enlightening Pulse is meant for the opposite build, but either Fate Exchange or Persistent Veil are good options. Persistent Veil can blind an enemy, and when they save against the blind it still hinders them by giving all creatures concealment against them. My choice is going to be Fate Exchange though, which lets you swap places with an ally, each make a basic attack, and for each hit give a healing surge and a save. If you both miss then you don't use the attack. The power lets you do so many things, it is really one of the better Level 5 Daily powers in the game let alone the best for the Ardent.

Level 6 Utility powers give you several good choices but again there is a standout. Evade Attack is an immediate interrupt that allows you to teleport an attacked ally a number of squares equal to your Charisma Modifier. It can help to save a squishy ally from a critical strike or to help someone evade a really undesirable status effect every single encounter. Also, it will make your DM grimace every time you use it.

It could just be my love of making monsters attack each other, or the fact that certain monsters have absolutely brutal basic attacks but I chose Unhinging Strike as my level 7 At-Will to replace Energizing Strike. It's Augment 1 is really situational but making a monster take opportunity attacks against its allies could be very useful, and its Augment 2 is a pretty good use of 2 power points. The other good options are Rewarding Strike who's Augment 2 gives everyone who hits your target a healing surge, or Mindlink Strike which could be absolutely deadly in an all-melee party with its Augment 2 that attacks a close burst 1 and gives all allies a free melee basic as an opportunity attack against any of the targets.

Level 9 Daily's offer some intriguing options but also some duds. Dulled Reflexes can stun and restrain a target but that's assuming it fails several saving throws against its reduced speed effect, and without a party set up to take advantage of that with saving throw penalties, its best to look elsewhere. Feast of Despair could be excellent in a Psionic-heavy party, and Agony Field can help take down a large group of enemies in melee with you, but Passage of Swords is my choice because it combines a daze (save ends), forced movement, and granted attacks into a great power that could have many clutch uses.


With Strength and Constitution you could take a hammer as your weapon and grab some feats to help you do damage, but my build is more about granted attacks and damage bonuses so I went with a simple longsword just because it allows me to use a shield and has a +3 proficiency bonus. Obviously I would start wearing chainmail and as I get the proficiencies improve my armor and shield to whatever the best options are.

Paragon Path

When you get to level 11 there are currently only 4 options for your Paragon Path. Using the Mantle of Elation limits this even more as the Psionic Binder is meant for a Wisdom based build, though you could squeeze use out of it if you wanted to. The Argent Soul would give me some additional healing power and let me crit on 19-20 for all of my powers, which could be a solid option. The Stygian Adept is all about fear powers, which also isn't my character's focus so that leaves me with the Talaric Strategist.

Its action point feature allows it to spend action points to gain standard actions as immediate interrupts. This is one of the best action point features of any paragon path. You also grant an initiative bonus, and can slide your allies around whenever you use Ardent Surge. It's encounter power is about granting your strongr allies attacks, it gives a good clutch daily utility power that lets allies shift or get a bonus to all defenses for a turn, and its daily attack power gets bonuses for each ally near the target and dazes.

Overall Thoughts

Ardents have some very interesting powers. Unfortunately their necessary ability scores combined with the necessity of melee and their subpar gear proficiencies really hurts this class and makes one build nearly unplayable for me. If you have a Defender that is very very good at keeping the other melee characters from being attacked then the Ardent could be a good leader for the party, especially if he can grant some attacks to melee heavy hitters like rangers and barbarians. However, in most situations there is another leader class that can do the same thing as Ardents but better. Go ahead and share how you would build and Ardent and what you would do differently, and maybe you can change my mind about the class.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Update On Things!

I lost track of this blog for awhile because of some real life things, and I have decided to augment the updates by getting some other people to post articles. As you can see Tendrilsfor20 is my first addition, but if anyone else wants to write as well, let me know and we'll see if we can't get some more regularity on this blog.

What's In Store For Minor Actions?

I plan to venture out from simply doing commentary on Wizards of The Coast's publications to putting out some free goodies for players and Dungeon Masters alike. Chief amongst these will be a free Campaign Setting which I will put up previews on as I work on it. Right now I am running a campaign in it and playtesting some of the new material that is in the setting along with tendrilsfor20.

Aside from the campaign setting I will be posting some of the houserules we play with, and why we use them so that you readers can use them too.

Also, anything you guys want, let us know. Anybody who's still reading leave us a comment, let us know what you want to read here. We aim to please.

Level 5 Terrors

Now that the monsters are leaving the "suitable for a level 1 party" range, their powers start to grow more unique and varied. These are some of the guys that, with a little reskin, can be dropped into any SOP marauding orc tribe or undead shambling horde. I'll offer reskinning suggestions at the end of each entry.

Devourer Initiate

This monster is all kinds of fun, mostly because if you can sit him behind cover and roll a stealth check to hide again, you can simply announce to the players that they now (seemingly inexplicably) grant Combat Advantage or are now more susceptible to the undead brute's attacks. Be sure to play up cover and concealment in this encounter and have lots of shadowy corners, some with movement that turn out to be harmless rats, and some with Devourer Initiates in them. These guys work great as ringleaders or minor necromancers to harass a party, and are Artillery that also act like leader-controllers. Comboing them with skirmishers makes for a lethal encounter due to their CA-granting at-will.
Devourer Initiates are in Dragon Magazine 371, the article about Acererak.

Angry Mob

Angry Mobs are a good way to spice up the average city encounter. Say the party's just got in to town, with a bunch of low-level items to pawn off. But they've gained the eye of the king's vizier, who secretly summons a big nasty monster or two in the middle of the market district to take out the party. Now while they're fighting the monster, they have to simultaneously use Acrobatics/Athletics/cover to stay out of the way of a rampaging Angry Mob. This monster is best represented by a clear plastic cel moved around on the battle mat, since it doesn't have the same way of moving as a normal gargantuan creature. This also encourages the party to describe their "subdual damage" hits, since it's likely they don't want to actually kill the Angry Mob, simply disperse it. You could easily have the Mob break up when it hits bloodied, or allow skill checks of Intimidate/Diplomacy to deal damage as if they were attacks. But if you reskin this as Orc cannon fodder being forced into marching as a line of spearmen, this is a great, brutal monster that actually acts more like terrain, since the orc leaders (full monsters) are free to move about in it, while the party has to either step out and use ranged attacks or find some other way to break up the Mob. Again, as "spearman cannon fodder" the idea of the mob breaking in two or shrinking when bloodied offers a tangible reward for players dealing with the threat. Angry Mobs are in Dragon Magazine Annual 1.


Good ol' Wraiths! Wraiths are a great add-on to any fight, assuming you set it up right. Keep in mind their movement speed of "Fly 6 (hover), Phasing" and abuse both of those. Wraiths are completely insane negative-energy beings, but they aren't mindless. If you set up an encounter in, say, an old library, now you have rows of musty bookshelves that create blocking terrain the wraiths can pass through without difficulty (and pass back through to end line-of-effect), and wraiths are more than happy to fly up out of combat (and stealth into some shadows in the ceiling) to regenerate for a turn or two before entering combat, and because of their "insubstantial" attribute, they basically have paragon-tier regeneration. Be sure to give the players ample opportunity to get around these wraith tactics, such as Athletics to domino-topple the bookshelves, making it all difficult terrain instead of rows of blocking. Between their weakening attack, Insubstantial, Regeneration and their ability to leave combat, Wraiths can be a bit of a slog, so you do want to offer the party some in-arena ways to counteract them. It could be something like an Arcana/Religion check to notice a particularly holy book that the wizard could then spend minor actions wrapping pages of around the Ranger's arrows to make them deal Radiant damage, or a cistern of Holy Water nearby, but if the party has a battle/pacifist cleric with no Turn Undead for some reason, know that Wraiths can be incredibly annoying. They're also in the Monster Manual.

Zombie of Iuz

Located in the obsure RPGA: Return to the Moathouse module, the Zombie of Iuz is just a well-put together minion. They tend to bunch up around whatever's closest, grabbing and imposing attack/defense penalties, thus making future grabs easier, and if the wizard lights up the gang around the defender, they have a final "kiss off" explosion for a little necrotic damage. They're far more compelling foes that normal shamblers, because they have three powers that all work well together and give a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' effect. They also can make skirmishing PCs like Rogues very, very unhappy, but they give the defender something to do (go over and defend the rogue), so they're interactive. Comboing them with some sort of lurker that attacks the party's controller can make for an absolutely brutal fight, with no ranged crowd control options to shake off Zombies of Iuz.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Level 4 Terrors

Continuing the trip through Heroic tier, it’s the enemies of Level 4 that can harass your party. These are the monsters that are the highest that should reasonably threaten a level 1 party, so I’ve included a pair of “boss” type monsters in this article

Cavern Choker

These lurkers are oldies but goodies. They’ve been around a while, and are as robust as ever. They’re basically the monster version of defenders, able to suck up a party member who will have a tough go of things if he isn’t trained in Athletics or Acrobatics, since the Choker applies an inherent penalty to escape, and his Body Shield ability can keep the other characters from knocking him away once he’s latched on.
His actual attacks aren’t that scary, damage-wise, but Ongoing 1d8+3 and restrained isn’t anything to sneeze at. At the beginning of the encounter, these guys should probably roll Stealth against the party’s passive perception and only scramble out to snatch a delicious-looking adventurer in the second or third round. You can safely add a Choker as the “sixth member” of basically any other encounter; they don’t really work or socialize with non-Chokers, but they’re opportunistic enough to follow around goblins and pick off an enemy for themselves. Cavern Chokers appear on page 42 of Monster Manual 1, and in most low-level Wizards’ nightmares.

Visejaw Crocodile

With a big ol’ smile like he sports, you’d think he’d be nicer. Crocs are a great verisimilitude creature that aren’t fantastical or magical, but can be plenty terrifying just the same. If there’s a river or lake that needs crossing (or a wizened sage’s hut in the swamp), Visejaws can make an interesting encounter. They’re soldiers, and will stay in their square doing a death roll on a grabbed foe (Clamping Jaws in the book, but you should definitely play up the raw power of a giant crocodile with their real-world habits), but can easily shift into the role of Lurker, with their outstanding Stealth score. Similar to the Choker above, they make a great “latecomer to the fun,” but they have no problem starting in plain sight, as long as there’s a few feet of muck they can make a move action and Stealth check at the end of it.
They can’t really be paired with other tasty (to a croc) creatures like Bullywugs, but a group of undead or Myconids would certainly be appropriate. Take advantage of their swim speed and aquatic combat rules to give the croc an edge, and also let a tactical opponent get the crocodile on land where a striker can tear it apart. Visejaw Crocodiles appear on page 45 of Monster Manual 1.

Barghest Savager

These guys are neat. They’re smart (for goblinoids) and have several tricks up their sleeves, or paws depending. They stand in for werewolves if you need some level-appropriate shapeshifters for your campaign’s theme, they’re likely to banter with the party as they attack, with condescending trash-talk while they swing around an axe,and then switch into their wolf form to try and strike fear into the party. Their recharging Super-Nimble-Strike attack is powerful, but their “Power Feed” is what takes the cake.
The Barghest, if he sees a cool At-Will or Encounter power from the party (or a unique ally), can replicate it once (and the power’s reliable), and the idea of a worg throwing a Magic Missile or dropping a Drow’s Faerie Fire should entertain you. Mixed in with your normal goblin hordes, Barghests become the ringleaders or mob bosses of pretty much any bandit group. A Barghest, by nature of his cunning and supremacy over his goblinoid kin, could easily be a miniboss-type antagonist, running away and leaving his men to the party’s mercy to raise another strike force – or team with a higher-powered group of Duergar or Ettercaps or what have you and lead them back to the party and their riches. Barghest Savagers are on page 20 of Monster Manual 2.

Brain in a Broken Jar

Despite first appearing in d20 Modern’s Menace Manual, the trusty undead brain in a jar escaped to a good game, and shows up in 4th Edition on page 140 of Open Grave. The great thing is a Brain in a Jar can either be a really sinister, unsettling enemy, or a hilarious joke machine, depending on the style of campaign you’re running. The jar is described as faulty or failing, and its occupant has gone quite insane, though whether that’s Futurama-style goofy flying brains or sadistic, Lovecraftian-cultist crazy is up to you. They’re controllers with flight, invisibility and mind control, and are one of the lowest-level monsters that feature the dominated condition. Take advantage of their hover modifier and float a Brain in a Broken Jar 2-4 squares above the party (use an adjacent d6 on the battlemat to keep track of elevation), and let the rogue make an Acrobatics check to wall-jump (or get an assist from the fighter) to stab at it for a memorable, cinematic fight. The Brain in a Broken Jar usually has a servant with hands to manipulate its admixtures, experiments and tomes, so think about throwing in an elite brute along with some cannon fodder skeletons when designing the climactic battle with “the wizard too poor or unskilled to perform a lich ritual.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Bought Player's Handbook 2 and All I Got Was This Lousy Spirit Companion

I have mentioned it already, but I will preface this guide by saying that Shamans are hands down the most complicated class to utilize in the entire game. However, they are also extremely useful, very versatile, and a hell of a lot of fun to play.

But What Do They Do?

Shamans are the Primal Power Source's Leader. They can heal like most leaders, but in a different way. They're main feature though is their Spirit Companion. While your Spirit Companion's appearance is up to you, it is essentially a pet in game terms, however it works totally different from the Beastmaster Ranger's pet, or the Invoker's summoned angels. You make the majority of your attacks through the spirit, determining line of sight and line of effect from it. Many of the Shaman's powers have ranges like "Melee Spirit 1" meaning that you can use it to attack any creature adjacent to your Spirit Companion.

You summon your companion with a minor action and you can place it anywhere within 20 squares of you. It occupies a square and enemies can't move through its space, though your allies can. When you take a move action, you can also move the spirit a number of squares equal to your speed. This means that the spirit companion doesn't shift, it only moves. The spirit can be attacked though it doesn't have hit points. If a single attack deals 10 plus one half your level or more, it dies and you take damage equal to 5 plus one half your level, otherwise the spirit is unaffected. You can summon the spirit again as soon as you have another minor action though, so its not too much a penalty, and the spirit is usually pretty good at sustaining enemy attacks. The Spirit Companion has additional powers but I'll get to those in the following sections. Learning how to position your spirit companion, is key to utilizing this class to its utmost.

Shamans have a twice per encounter heal, much like the other leaders though theirs works differnetly. Its called Healing Spirit and the range is Close Burst 5 and it heals one target in the burst by letting them spend a healing surge. It also gives 1d6 extra hit points to a separate ally adjacent to your spirit companion though, and these extra hit points go up as you level. While this makes them less competent as single target healers, it merely means you have to change how you think of healing. Try to keep your allies topped off as much as possible, and utilize the d6's because they don't use up healing surges, which is always a bonus. Shamans work especially well in groups where there are multiple defenders or melee characters, so you can heal two at a time, and there isn't only one tank character taking all the damage.

Shaman's also get a power called Speak with Spirits. Its a minor action that gives you a bonus to your next skill check equal to your wisdom modifier. This is excellent for Skill Challenges or encounters where you really need to make an athletics or acrobatics check to clear a pit or escape a grab.

Prorector or Stalker?

As usual you have a choice on first level as to which kind of Shaman you want to be. Protector Shamans have a slight edge in healing, and have some defender-like abilities to better make use of your Spirit Companion as an off-tank, while Stalker Shamans have more damage and debuffs, and can help make up for a missing striker in your group. Each choice gives you an innate class feature, a special at-will opportunity action power, and chooses one of your two at-will powers for you. Both have their merits and challenges, so I'll go over each.

If you choose a Protector Spirit, you gain a Spirit Boon, which means that any ally adjacent to your spirit companion regains additional hit points equal to your Constitution modifier when they use second wind or when you use a healing power on him or her. This can be extremely useful for really upping the ante with your healing, especially if there's some dwarves in the party, since they are more apt to use their second wind every encounter. This, like many of your powers does rely on positioning quite a bit though. You also gain the Spirit's Shield power which triggers when an enemy leaves a square adjacent to your spirit companion without shifting. The attack is against Reflex, and only deals your Wisdom modifier in damage, but one ally within 4 squares of your Spirit Companion also regains hit points equal to your Wisdom modifier. This again gives you more small heals that don't use up healing surges, so make use of them as often as you can. Force enemies to either provoke this attack and heal your allies or attack the spirit companion, likely doing nothing. The power is an opportunity action, not an immediate, so you can make use of it against multiple enemies in the same round. This obviously requires your teammates to cooperate with their positioning as well, but 5 squares from the spirit companion is a pretty easy position to maintain. You also get one of your at-wills chosen automatically, which is Protecting Strike. This power is a Melee Spirit 1 attack that target's Will. It deals 1d8+Wisdom modifier and gives each ally adjacent to your spirit companion temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier. When used correctly this can give your whole team a nice hit point buffer at all times, allowing you to stretch your heals farther and rely on them less.

Stalker Shamans get a different Spirit Boon, which gives allies adjacent to your Spirit Companion a bonus to damage rolls against bloodied enemies equal to your Intelligence modifier. This can be nice, but since it only works against enemies already boodied, and with how you position your spirit is likely only going to affect the melee characters, it definitely seems less useful than the Protector Spirit Boon. However, you also get other abilities, like Spirit's Fangs rather than Spirit's Shield. Spirit's Fangs is essentially an opportunity attack for your pet. It attacks Reflex and deals 1d10 plus your Wisdom modifier damage. You set this up similar to how you would Spirit's Shield and deal a decent sized chunk of damage if the enemy doesn't attack your pet or sacrifice its standard for a second move action. Stalker's Strike is the at-will you automatically get and it is a Melee Spirit 1 power that targets Fortitude. If the target is bloodied you get a bonus equal to half your intelligence modifier which is nice, but it also allows your spirit companion to flank with you and your allies until the end of your next turn, helping rogues get combat advantage and boosting accuracy for anyone who can position themselves. For a melee striker-heavy party, this power can be your bread and butter.

Ability Scores

Just like an Invoker all of your attacks use Wisdom, and your secondary score will be either Intelligence or Constitution, depending on the build. Stalker Spirit Shamans will use Intelligence, while Protector Spirit Shamans will use Constitution. Your next ability score should probably be Dexterity for Protectors and Constitution for Stalkers to help boost your weakest defense and also to give you either a few extra hit points and surges, or some better armor class, since a lot of your ranged abilities only go 5 squares. You could buy an 18 in your main ability score with this class, much like Invokers or Druids, but its not as much of a no-brainer in my opinion, as the tertiary score can be very useful, and you might want to multiclass for some powers or feats later.

Race Choices

Just like with Invokers the ideal ability score races are Dwarves and Devas, but also like Invokers, Humans are my favorite and for the same reason. After you take your at-will associated with your Spirit Companion choice, there are still 4 left, and normally you only get to pick one of them. With a human you don't have to, plus there's all the great human feats to choose from. Also, neither Dwarves or Devas seem inherently like Shaman races to me flavor-wise, as where a wild barbaric Human seems to fit better.

Other than those options the Player's Handbook also has Elves as an option, since they get a Wisdom bonus, and Eladrin since they get an Intelligence bonus can make good Stalkers. Tieflings, Halflings, and Dragonborn all don't have the right ability scores to be really good shamans, but Half-Elves have a Constitution Bonus and can help control the battlefield by taking a Druid power with their Dilettante feature, while still qualifying for the good Human feats.

Genasi are the only race from the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide that are well suited for Shamans, and then only for Stalkers, and though the added mobility or panic button you get with several of your Elemental Manifestation powers is nice, its not a huge bonus.

Goliaths and both varieties of Shifters work well as Shamans if you're looking in the Player's Handbook 2, and a Goliath Protector Shaman seems like a cool character to play, defending his tribe from the evils of the mortal world and the world of spirits.


You have a good array of skills as a Shaman, and gain Nature automatically, which you will be fairly good at with your high Wisdom. Also keyed off your primary ability are Heal, Insight, and Perception, which would work well to round out your character. With the Speak with Spirits power you don't have to worry about having a really high bonus with a trained skill though, so any of the powers will work.

You get three to choose from, and Athletics might be a good choice since Acrobatics isn't an option, but Endurance could also be a useful skill. If you want to be more knowledge-skill based, History and Religion are both options, and you'll have a good bonus in them if you went Stalker Spirit build too.


As always, Implement Expertise. All of your powers use an Implement, so there is really no excuse not to take this feat at some point. After that though, there really aren't any must-have offensive feats, at least until Primal Power comes out, but we'll be waiting awhile for that.

For Defensive feats Toughness and Defensive Mobility can be really helpful, as they can on most characters. Defensive Mobility will be nice since your Spirit Companion uses your defenses and it can't shift, allowing you to make it less likely to take opportunity attacks that could kill it and throw a wrench into your plans for the turn. However, at low levels its hard for enemies to deal enough damage to kill your pet, so I'd consider waiting on it for a few levels.

Improved Initiative can be a good feat as well, allowing you to summon your pet into an inconvenient position for the enemies before they can even act, and drawing some fire away from members in your group who didn't roll good initiative. Skill Training can combine with your Speak With Spirits power to make you really useful in skill challenges, and Skill Focus can be added to make this even more ridiculous. Jack Of All Trades works along the same lines, and might be even more beneficial, especially at lower levels and DCs.

Shaman feats are pretty good overall, with two general feats and then one for each build. Shared Healing Spirit is good if you have a hard time positioning your Spirit Companion to maximize your heals. It allows you to give the extra d6's to an ally within two squares of the first target, rather than someone adjacent to your pet. Even if you don't think you need it, the added versatility it gives Healing Spirit is nice. Spirit Speaker allows you to use Speak With Spirits to give an ally the bonus instead of yourself which can be helpful when letting them escape a grab or jump a pit, but you can probably skip the feat unless you find yourself fighting a lot of enemies that grab you or you end up jumping a lot of hazards, or if your DM really loves skill challenges.

Stalker Shamans have a feat called Stalker Spirit Adept which allows allies to shift 1 square as a free action at the start of their turns if they are next to the Stalker Shaman. This can be nice, but it does make it so they are no longer adjacent to the Shaman for many of his powers that effect allies adjacent to it. Protector Shamans get Protector Spirit Adept which gives all allies adjacent to the spirit a +1 bonus to Fortitude, Reflex, and Will, which is really very useful and I would recommend every Protector Shaman take this feat, preferably as soon as you can manage.

Power Selection

Since I have already discussed Protecting Strike and Stalker's Strike we will skip those, but there are four other At-Will powers for you to choose from. The first is Defending Strike, which is a Melee Spirit 1 power that deals 1d8 plus Wisdom modifier on a hit and also gives you and all allies a +1 bonus to AC as long as they are next to the Spirit Companion. The bonus lasts until the end of your next turn. This is a useful power, but I think you have better options, and if you're a Protector build you already have a good defensive ability with Protecting Strike.

Haunting Spirits is one of two non Spirit-based powers and it targets Will defense at a range of 5. It deals 1d6+Wisdom modifier damage and the target grants combat advantage to an ally of your choice. This can really help if you have a Rogue in the party, or it can help a Warlock, Wizard, or Invoker land a much needed debuff on a certain enemy.

Watcher's Strike is another melee Spirit 1 power and it targets Reflex. If it hits, in addition to a small amount of damage, it gives you allies +1 to attacks and +5 to Perception while they are adjacent to your Spirit Companion. The bonus lasts until the end of your next turn, and can really help if your Spirit Companion and your allies are ganging up on an elite or solo monster.

The last At-Will power is called Wrath of Winter, and it is a ranged 5 implement attack that deals 1d10 plus your Wisdom modifier cold damage, and in addition it allows you to teleport your Spirit Companion to a space adjacent to the target. This can be very useful if you are afraid of provoking opportunity attacks with your pet, or if you can't spend a move action this turn and need to move your pet, plus it is one of your more damaging power.

Your first option for a level one encounter power is Call to the Ancestral Warrior. Its range is Melee spirit 1, and if it hits it gives you and your allies a +2 bonus to all defenses while next to the spirit until the end of your next turn. A really great defensive ability as long as your allies are positioned well, take it if you see a lot of opportunity for it in your encounters, otherwise you can choose a different power.

Call to the Ancient Defender has the same range, though it deals 2d8 damage instead of 1d10. However, its bonus is +5 to defenses against opportunity attacks while adjacent to the spirit, and it's hard to think that will be as useful as a flat +2 to all defenses flat out since your characters aren't going to provoke many opportunity attacks while standing next to the spirit itself.

Thunder Bear's Warding is a ranged 5 implement attack that gives you and your allies resistance to all damage equal to your constitution modifier until the end of your next turn as long as they are adjacent to the spirit companion. If you chose Protector Spirit it also lets you grant yourself or an ally within 5 squares of you temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier. I like this ability a lot, and it can really mitigate damage from monsters like Dragons that have powerful area attacks. Those are the type of attacks that defenders can't often do anything about, so this is one of my favorite options of the bunch, and the bonus for Protector Shamans is just icing on the cake.

Twin Panthers is another range 5 implement attack, and if you chose Stalker Spirit you gain a bonus on the attack roll against a bloodied enemy equal to your Intelligence modifier. This is a recurring theme for Stalker Shamans and it makes them very good at finishing off enemies so that your Strikers can move on to the next targets. If you hit with this power you and your allies have combat advantage when making melee attacks against any enemy adjacent to your spirit companion, and as an effect you get to repeat the attack against the same target or a different one, really amplifying your allies offensive capabilities for a round. A solid pick, especially for Stalker Shamans.

Blessing of the Seven Winds is the first of the level 1 daily powers, and it is a range 5 implement attack. Most daily powers don't use the spirit for their range, though they are often figured into the effect. This ability though is an exception, it deals 2d10 plus your Widom modifier damage and allows you to slide the target two squares. If you miss it still deals half damage and as an effect it creates a zone in burst 1 centered on the target. The zone lasts until the end of the encounter and as a move action you can move it five squares. As a minor action you can slide each creature in the zone one square. This can really help positioning and change the way the battle is going since its effect sticks around annoying your enemy and wrecking his plans while simultaneously aiding your own.

Cleansing Wind of the North may involve less winds, but its still a great power. Its a close blast 5 that only hits enemies and deals 1d10 plus your Wisdom modifier cold damage, half on a miss. The best part though is that all allies in the area can make a saving throw with a +5 power bonus, which will definitely help shake off unwanted status effects. With powers this good its hard to pick a favorite, but this might be it as far as level 1 Shaman daily powers go.

Spirit of the Healing Flood is a close burst 5 attack that deals 1d8 plus Wisdom modifier, and again, half on a miss. Its effect gives every ally in the burst regeneration 2 while bloodied, and as a minor action a character can end the effect to regain 10 hit points. It is an excellent group heal, and gives characters who don't have a lot of minor action powers something to do with it.

The last of the bunch is Wrath of the Spirit World and its a close burst 2 that targets enemies, though it also hits all enemies adjacent to your Spirit Companion, allowing you to hit a large number of targets with a little forethought. It attacks Will, as an extra bonus, and deals 3d6 plus Wisdom modifier damage and knocks the targets Prone, and still deals half damage if you miss a target. If you want to play an offensive Shaman this might be your best choice, dealing decent damage, hindering your foes, and hitting a lot of targets, just don't be surprised if it attracts a fair bit of monster attention to your character.

Once you hit level 2 you can choose a utility power, the first of these options is Bonds of the Clan. Its an immediate interrupt triggered when an ally within 10 squares of you takes damage, and it allows you to take half of the damage for them. Its usable every encounter which is nice, but Shamans don't really have a huge pool of hit points, and aren't exactly out of harm's way with their short ranged powers, so I wouldn't recommend using it unless you need to save someone's life and keep them conscious or alive for another round.

Spirit Call is a minor action that allows you to move all your shaman conjurations and zones in a close burst 10 five squares. While it is an encounter power, I can't see it being used that often since you don't have that many bursts or conjurations, and many of them have their own ways to move them.

Spirit of Life is a daily power that targets a single ally, and lets them regain hit points as if they had gained a healing surge. It's close burst 10 making it nicely ranged, and can even heal someone who's out of surges so I'd say its a great power. If your group is low on healing, I think this is probably your best bet.

The last option is Spirits of Battle, which creates a burst 5 area zone within 10 squares. The zone lasts until the end of the encounter and gives allies within it a +1 bonus to attack rolls. The zone is nice and big, and gives your allies room to move around within, which is nice, its only too bad its a daily power. Break it out against big scary solo monsters or powerful elites and you'll be giving all your allies a welcome buff.


I wouldn't. I don't see a lot of mechanical reasons to do so. Shamans are so versatile that there's not a lot to gain from another class unless you want one of their Paragon Paths. The obvious choices in this instance would be Cleric, Invoker, and Druid since they all use Wisdom to attack with, and use implements as opposed to weapons. Regardless Shaman powers have such a variety of effects that I can't imagine getting bored with them and needing another classes powers.

Combat Strategies

Positioning and Teamwork are required to make use of a Shaman. If your team does not work together, you may as well roll a different type of leader because playing this class will quickly become an exercise in frustration in a party like that. However, if your team can work together, all of the little bonuses your pet can give will add up and your teammates will quickly realize your worth and start to work with you.

Don't be afraid to take hits with your Spirit Companion, he's resilient, and even if he dies, the damage is likely less than you would have taken if the attack hit you directly. Besides, you can summon him again next round and perhaps even put him in a more advantageous position than he was in. So if you can, block off passages with him and force enemies to waste their attacks. This brings me to another strategy.

If you can position your pet within a group of minions, you have a very powerful strategy. Not only is your pet essentially invincible to the minions, he also gets an opportunity attack than can kill them if the minions realize this and move away. This makes Shamans a great anti-minion class. On the same tip, summon them next to archers so you can force them to shift back until they are up against a wall and provoking opportunity attacks if you can. Your spirit probably won't be helping a lot of your allies this way, but its still effective.

Forget about big heals and waiting for your allies to be seriously injured to heal them. You have lots of little heals and temporary hit point givers, and you should make use of them early and often. Since they don't use healing surges, there's really no reason not to.

The Shaman is a complicated class and it will take some time to learn how to position your pet optimally within the context of your group. Try to anticipate enemies movements when you summon him, so that you don't have to risk moving him, or have to use Wrath of Winter to teleport him when a daily or encounter power would be more effective otherwise.

And that's that, two guides in two nights.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Invokers: They're Like Really Angry Clerics

So, we've worked our way through half of the Player's Handbook 2 classes, and posting on the board has slowed down a bit which I do apologize for but I have a new job and it is taking time away from writing these unfortunately. The pace will pick back up a bit.

However, we press onward. There will be a change in the format for this guide from my previous ones. I have shortened the race section as I feel like a full paragraph is more than what is necessary, and I feel like I'm saying the same things over and over again for each race, so they will be shortened to merely a couple paragraphs. Everything else will be just as in-depth as before.

So what exactly are we invoking?

To be honest, the flavor of Invokers confuses me a little. I assume they are kind of like Favored Souls from 3.5, in that they are less about being really devoted to their god and being granted power in return, and are instead just innately capable of calling down divine badassery. Kind of like the difference between sorcerers and wizards, but on a divine tip instead of an arcane one.

Invokers are a controller, and play very similar to orb wizards, but have just enough differences to give them their own flavor. They are also the first instance of summoning, and they can summon a variety of angels into battle over the course of their levels. They also have a lot of very large area attacks that don't deal damage but give a lot of enemies a status effect which can be very useful. They also have a few good utility buffs to aid allies and can wear chainmail so they can have a decent AC without having to work it into their ability scores.

Regardless of build you get a Channel Divinity power called Rebuke Undead that is much like the cleric's Turn Undead, except its a Close Blast 5 and dazes them. It is very useful in undead-centric campaigns, but you probably want another use of Channel Divinity that you find useful for encounters that don't include such enemies.

Preservation or Wrath

As an invoker you get to choose between two covenants. Each covenant comes with a different channel divinity power, an innate class feature, and affects the way many powers work for you.

The covenant of preservation is the way you probably want to go if you want to really help your allies make the most of positioning and provide them with a some useful buffs. Whenever you use an encounter or daily power you can slide an ally within ten squares of you one square. This allows you to slide enemies into flanking positions for your allies, or remove your allies from the same type of positions, as well as help an Avenger keep his oath of enmity, or move allies out of a Sorcerer's area attacks. You also get a channel divinity power called Preserver's Rebuke which allows you to gain an attack roll bonus equal to your Intelligence modifier against an enemy who attacks an ally of yours, as long as that enemy is within 10 squares as an immediate reaction to the ally being hit. This is a very good power, and can help you land daily powers when you need them the most, and is really great against solo monsters who are often harder to hit, but who need to be dazed/stunned/immobilized the most.

The covenant of wrath is for the more offensive minded Invoker. The abilities are all about punishing your enemies, and they often deal more damage and are more about deterring the bad guys than aiding the good guys. Whenever you use an encounter or daily power you add 1 to the damage roll for each target of the power. This is a neat bonus on low levels when a few extra damage can mean the difference between whether or not an enemy gets to attack for another round, but on higher levels it doesn't scale well since you probably won't be hitting that many more targets with each power. Covenant of wrath also grants you the Channel Divinity power Armor of Wrath which is an immediate reaction you use when an enemy within 5 squares hits you. It deals radiant damage equal to your constitution to them, and pushes them two squares, which can allow you for an easier getaway. Its a pretty good power and can be improved with feats, but I think that Preserver's Rebuke is better overall. Luckily, Wrath gives some really sweet bonuses to your powers, adding pushes, extra damage, and penalizing saving throws.

Ability Scores

All of your attacks use Wisdom, so that is going to be where you want most of your points. If you are a Preserving Invoker you want to prioritize Intelligence next, while if you're a Wrathful Invoker you will want to prioritize Constitution. These key abilities come into play with many of their powers, improving them in various ways.

After that you can up Dexterity or Constitution depending on your build, to raise your weakest defense, but to be honest, there's little reason in my mind not to just buy an 18 in wisdom, a 14 in your secondary ability score and just not care about the rest. This might change when Divine Power comes out and gives us more feats, but as of now, I would probably go all out in those two scores unless I had a multiclass build in mind and I needed another ability score for it.

Race Choices

As far as ability scores go Devas make the ideal Covenant of Preservation Invokers, while Dwarves make the ideal Covenant of Wrath Invokers. Both have universally useful racial capabilities as well, so if you want an easy race choice, you can't go wrong with either of them. However, my favorite race for the class is Human, so that you can grab a third at-will, raise your defenses, and get an extra feat. This class really benefits from having a third at-will since they have quite a few good ones that are useful in different situations.

Elves make good and mobile Invokers of any type, and being able to shift over difficult terrain makes it harder for an enemy to pin them down. Eladrin make decent Preserving Invokers, and can teleport out of dangerous situations to much the same effect. Half-Elves make good Wrathful Invokers, and can use their dilettante power to grab Sacred Flame from the clerics to help give saving throws to their allies, or Lance of Faith to give their allies an attack boost. Tieflings are the last race from Player's Handbook One that really make sense for Invokers, and only as Preserving ones, but their racial abilities work fine for the class, helping them lock down bloodied enemies, and aiding against a foe that manages to hit them.

Genasi have the intelligence to make good preserving Invokers, and can take Earthsoul or Firesoul as their manifestation to punish enemies that get too close, or take Windsoul or Watersoul to become more mobile.

Gnomes make good Preserving Invokers, and have a good defensive power like many of the races cut out for the job, and Goliaths can be okay as Wrathful Invokers though other than the constitution bonus they don't get a lot to help with the job. Both kinds of Shifters get a Wisdom bonus, so both are capable as Invokers of any type, and both have a decent racial power that works for just about any class, so it applies here.


You get Religion automatically and then three others. Only one of these is keyed to Wisdom, and that's Insight so you might as well take it. It could be fun to call out NPCs on their lies with the vengeful tone of a fire and brimstone preacher after all. After that it might depend on your character, if you're a Wrath build you could take Endurance since you'd have a decent bonus in it, while if you're Preserving you could take History and/or Arcana for the same reason. From what's left you're basically choosing between Diplomacy or Intimidate, neither of which will have a particularly great bonus for you, so I'd just think about your character's manner when making the choice. Does he make demands or does he make proposals?


You make area attacks with an implement, so Implement Expertise is a foregone conclusion again. Distant Advantage could be nice if you have a lot of melee allies to help you out, but there's not a lot of general feats that help your offensive capabilities currently. You could take a Channel Divinity feat like Raven Queen's Blessing or Armor of Bahamut if your deity allows, but Preserver's Rebuke is pretty good and Armor of Wrath is great once you have the feats that improve it so it may not be necessary. I expect this to change with Divine Power's release, but until then, I'd focus on the class specific feats and the defense.

Defensively you could take Toughness because you class has very few hit points, as well as Durable because you don't have a lot of surges either. Defensive Mobility could be useful if you find yourself in a lot of tight small areas where you either have to cast next to an enemy or not at all, but again there's not a lot of real need here. Your allies should be protecting you well enough that you don't need to up your defenses a lot.

For utility you probably want to take Improved Initiative, because as an Invoker being able to go first means you can take enemies out of the fight quickly, and lay down a good Area attack before your allies place themselves in it. You are also going to have plenty of extra feat space (again, this could change with Divine Power) on this character, so you could take Linguist or Skill Focus to make your character very useful outside of combat as well.

The Invoker's class specific feats are all good to differing degrees. Invoker's Defense allows them to gain +2 AC against an enemy within 3 squares of you if you hit him with an invoker power, and the bonus lasts until the start of your next turn, but if you find yourself always having plenty of room between you and your enemies you probably don't need this feat particularly. Resonating Covenant gives you +1 to hit with your at-will attacks on the turn after you attack with an encounter or daily power. This can be nice, but you really want to hit with your dailies and encounters more, so this bonus is a little extraneous. It can keep you in the fight once your party is down to at-wills though, so if you can afford it, definitely take it. Insightful Preservation improves the Preserver's Rebuke Channel Dvinity power, giving the ally hit by the triggering attack a decent amount of temporary hit points. This is an excellent bonus, and makes a good power great, especially since its something you will without a doubt make use of every encounter, and your defender will be thankful for the extra cushioning on his hit points. Scouring Wrath is the last Invoker feat in heroic tier and it improves armor of wrath, making the target of the power gain vulnerable 2 to all damage until the end of your next turn. This can be good because it can add a lot of damage, but it depends largely on initiative order, if the monster you hit goes right before you, you don't get as much time to make use of the bonus as you would if you had just taken your turn, letting all your allies gain +2 damage against the monster.

Power Selection

Invokers have five different at-will powers to choose from, and its going to be a tough choice for your character which two make the cut, unless you're a human then you'll find it easier.

Avenging Light is a single target attack with a range of ten squares. It deals 1d10 plus Wisdom radiant damage, and you get to add your constitution modifier if you have a bloodied ally adjacent to the target. It targets Fortitude and can be used as a ranged basic attack. For Wrathful Invokers this can be a good power to fall back on once the heavier artillery has been used up, and can deal decent damage for a controller power. If you have a character who can grant you a basic attack it can also nice for that, however there is another power that can be used as a basic ranged attack that has greater utility.

Divine Bolts is a cool power because it targets one or two creatures within 10 squares, so you don't have to worry about lining up a blast or burst area to hit two enemies on your turn. It deals lightning damage which isn't as good as radiant since few enemies are vulnerable to it, and it doesn't deal very much damage but it can be great for taking out minions, and it targets reflex, if you want an at-will that targets that defense.

Grasping Shards is one of two Invoker at-wills that attack a burst 1 within 10 squares. It targets fortitude and only deals Wisdom modifier damage until you hit epic tier, but it also slows all the enemies, and it deals radiant damage so you can still deal decent damage to undead with it. Its one of my favorite at-wills for the class, and I recommend taking it if you can.

Sun Strike targets Reflex, and can be used as a ranged basic attack. It deals 1d8 plus Wisdom modifier radiant damage, and you can slide the target 1 square if you hit it, which can help position enemies in a really versatile way that powers that push and pull can't. I think its probably better than Avenging Light, so if you decided you don't want that power, then take this one so that you have a good ranged basic attack.

Vanguard's Lightning is the second burst 1 power that you have and it targets reflex and deals lightning damage. While it deals more damage than Grasping Shards, its effect isn't as universally useful. Vanguard's Lightning makes it so that the targets take extra lightning damage if they make opportunity attacks until the end of your next turn, so you can do this to penalize enemies you or an ally need to run past, but otherwise it's not that useful and isn't as good of a damage type.

The first Encounter Power option you have is Astral Terror. It's a close burst three that targets only enemies, and attacks will which is good since you don't have an at-will that targets it. All enemies hit by the power get pushed 2 squares, which can be useful, but sometimes your melee allies might not appreciate the change of positioning so much. It deals psychic damage which almost no monster (possibly even no monster now that I think about it) is vulnerable to, but it does open up the psychic lock feat as an option in paragon tier which is a great feat.

Blades of Astral Fire is another area attack, though this one targets a burst 1 within 10 and attacks reflex. It deals radiant damage to each enemy within the burst and allies get +2 AC for being within it. If you have Covenant of Preservation this bonus is actually equal to your Intelligence modifier plus one. This power is great since you don't have to worry about friendly fire with it, and it gives your allies a bonus. You can throw it right into the thick of melee and it will not only hurt your enemies but also protect your friends. Its an easy power choice for a Preserving Invoker, and I might even pick it if I chose Wrath.

Spear of the Inquisitor is a straightforward ability, it deals 1d10 plus Wisdom modifier radiant damage, targets reflex and immobilizes the target until the end of your next turn. It's great against elites or solos that don't have ranged attacks, especially if they're undead.

Thunder of Judgement targets one, two, or three creatures within Ranged 10 so it has a great amount of versatility when picking targets. It deals extra damage if you only target one creature so its useful even when you don't have a crowd to thin, and if you're a Wrathful build than you can push the target a number of squares equal to your Constitution modifier. If only it dealt radiant damage and targeted Will it would be perfect.

You get quite a variety in your level 1 Daily Powers, starting with Angelic Echelon. It's another close burst 3 that only targets enemies and again it targets Will. It deals 1d6 plus Wisdom modifier radiant damage, and if the target attacks before the end of your next turn it takes 5 radiant damage. This is another good power, especially if fighting a lot of undead creatures since that 5 damage is more likely going to be 10 or 15, which even mindless undead are going to be loath to take.

Binding Invocation of Chains is a close burst 10 attack. That's right, close burst 10! It only targets enemies so you don't have to worry about the extremely difficult task of keeping your allies 10 squares away from you, but it doesn't deal any damage. However, it does slow every enemy in the area until they make a save, and it slows them until the end of your next turn even if you miss. This makes it a very good power, especially if you have a range-heavy party and delaying the enemies from reaching you allows you a round or two of free shots.

Purging Flame seems kind of underwhelming to be honest. It does deal 1d10 plus Wisdom modifier fire damage and 10 ongoing fire damage, but any monster that you'd really want to hit with that kind of ongoing damage at level 1 is pretty likely to save against it after one round of it. It is nice that it still gives 5 ongoing damage if you miss though, regardless I just can't see this as anything but the worst choice for a daily power.

The last daily power is your first summoning ability, Angel of Fire. It summons a medium sized angel in an unoccupied square within range 5. The angel has speed 6 and can fly at the same speed, though you have to use your actions to move it. Its standard action is a close burst 1 which means you can use it to make an area attack round after round, dealing a decent amount of fire damage each round. The angel also has a good opportunity attack, so positioning it in a way to take advantage of that is key to maximizing your uses of this power.

Once you hit level 2 and gain a utility power you have a good assortment to pick from. Divine Call is an encounter power that pulls one or two allies within 10 squares 3 squares each. This can be nice to bail an ally out of trouble, or since its a minor action, set up positioning for your own abilities or another allies without taking the majority of your turn to do it.

Emissary of the Gods gives you +5 to your next diplomacy or intimidate check. If you use it during a skill challenge it gives you an extra success if you make the check with it. Its cool, but since its not that applicable outside of skill challenges in most D&D games, I'd skip it.

Shroud of Awe lets you speak with a thunderous voice that stretches 500 feet. It can increase your next intimidate check, and you can do it every encounter, but again I'd skip this in favor of a more combat applicable power.

Shroud of Warning gives you and each ally an initiative bonus once per day, but isn't that useful if you're a Wrathful build. It's good but I'd prefer either Divine Call or Wall of Light actually.

Wall of Light is a nifty power simply because there aren't enough Wall powers in the game and this one is one of the few that creates an actually defensive wall instead of an offensive one. The wall it conjures is 5 squares long and grants 5 temporary hit points to any ally that starts their turn inside it. It also grants +1 AC to anyone who is inside it, so in fights where your characters don't have to move a lot it can provide a great defensive boost.


The most obvious choice is Cleric, especially if your team is short on the Leader role, but Shamans also work for the same goal. Druids or Avengers also use Wisdom for attacks, so those can be available multiclass options though neither is really optimal.

For Preserving Builds you can also take Swordmage powers or Wizard powers but again, these aren't very useful mechanically while if you are Wrath you can take some of the good Warlock powers, which can actually be helpful since Dire Radiance helps keep enemies at bay, and there are plenty of good solid damage dealing Warlock powers that use Constitution if you want to make up for your party's lack of strikers.

If you aren't missing some kind of role though, I wouldn't really multiclass an Invoker since they get plenty of cool options for themselves as far as feats and powers are concerned.

Combat Strategies

Invokers are pretty straightforward to play. Hinder foes, and help position enemies and allies in the most advantageous position you can whenever its a possibility. Listen to your allies needs, and you will often find yourself with the tool for the job. Use your angels to help block off hallways and prevent enemies from getting to you and the other casters whenever you can and consider taking some of the large area status effect powers to really help give your party an edge.

There aren't a lot of tricks for this class that I haven't mentioned already unfortunately so I'll have to end the guide here. Hopefully it won't take me quite as long to do the Shaman, even though I consider it to be the most complicated class in the game.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Monster Spotlight: Level 3 Terrors

I have to come up with a new naming convention besides "Level X Terrors", but regardless, let's go over some of the scariest level 3 monsters in the game that don't see as much use as the standard goblins, orcs, and gnolls.

Gnome Arcanist

The Gnome Arcanist is a very devious controller that resides on page 134 of the Monster Manual. The reason this monster is so cool is that he has a lot of abilities to get away from melee attackers, even fighters who are very hard to escape from once they mark you.

The attack you are probably going to use with them most is Scintillating Bolt, which deals 1d6+4 radiant damage and causes the target to become dazed until they make a save. They also get a minor action ranged attack that slides a target one square. Make use of this every turn if possible sliding targets back that may be able to reach you on the following turn. If targets do close into melee the Gnome Arcanist can use Illusory Terrain, a close blast 5 that hits only enemies and slows them (save ends). If that doesn't make it easy enough to get away, they can teleport 5 squares as a move action once per encounter, and if they do get hit they turn invisible until they attack or until the end of its next turn.

If you can draw a melee character into chasing after you then you can have a lot of fun with this monster, running about the room, slowing and dazing your would be killers and teleporting or becoming invisible if need be. If you want to make a really memorable bad guy consider combining this guy with a Warlock or Wizard template, and play up his trickster nature with a bit of roleplaying. This would definitely be the kind of villain that taunts your players while he fights them.

Shadowhunter Bat

Darkness is a really under-utilized element for most DMs and can be a great obstacle for PCs to overcome during certain encounters. On low levels one of the best options is the Shadowhunter Bat. It deals 1d6+4 damage, but that rises to 1d6+10 if they are in dim light or darkness, and they get a +2 to their attack rolls for it as well. They have perception +7 as a skill, so they might actually notice a rogue attempting to sneak up on them, and they can fly at speed 8, darting out of your melee character's reach, causing them to ready actions in order to really hit them in most cases.

They also get flyby attack, which they can do as often as they want. It allows them to move 8 squares and make an attack at any point during the movement. The bat doesn't provoke opportunity attacks when moving away from the target of the attack. Combine this with their stealth +10 and you can have a very deadly surprise round set up for your PCs.

Shadowhunter Bats are on page 27 of the Monster Manual.

Young Brown Dragon

The first solo monster I have used here is indeed a dragon, but probably not the most used variety. The Young Brown Dragon is a very challenging encounter for most groups, but it is definitely more memorable than the other young dragons, and has cooler abilities to make the fight more fun for you as well. You can find the monster's stat block on page 168 of the Draconomicon.

First off is the dragon's mobility. He has an 8 speed, plus he can fly at 6 speed and burrow at 6 speed. Definitely try to make use of all of these if you really want the players to remember the fight. Don't just have him sit in the middle of the room blasting away with his breath weapon. His basic attack is either his bite, or his claw attack, both of which are reach and vs. AC, though the bite does 1d8+4 where as the claw only deals 1d6+4. The Dragon also has double attack though, allowing him to make two claw attacks with a single standard action, and the dragon also deals 1d6 extra damage if he has combat advantage.

My favorite ability the dragon has is Sand Spray. Its an immediate reaction that is triggered by an enemy attacking him with a ranged attack. It deals 1d6+1 damage and blinds them until the end of the dragon's next turn. Being blinded also means that he has combat advantage, so this would be a perfect time for the dragon to burrow or fly over to the target and deal a lot of damage to him.

The Brown Dragon's breath weapon is a little different from most others. It is a close blast 5 that remains in place until the end of the dragon's next turn. Any creature that starts its turn adjacent to the area or that moves through the area takes 5 damage and it blocks line of sight for all creatures except the dragon. As with most dragons he automatically recharges and uses it when bloodied. You can use this line of sight block to stealth and become hidden, gaining combat advantage for surprise attack.

Also like most other dragons, the Young Brown Dragon has Frightful Presence, which stuns enemies in close burst 5. Even after the stun wears off, it leaves an aftereffect that gives its targets -2 to attacks until they save. Using this ability early in an encounter will help keep your dragon alive and dealing damage for as long as possible.

The Brown Dragon also has a move action attack called Sandd Cloud. It turns into a cloud of sand and can move a number of squares up to its speed, including moving through enemy's squares. When it does so it deals 1d6+4 damage and blinds any creature who's space it enters. The blind is also save ends. So as you can see its plenty easy to get combat advantage and deal a lot of extra damage with this beast.

The key to this fight is to make sure to roll your recharges for abilities, and to use Sand Cloud and Sand Spray as often as possible, then taking advantage of the combat advantage once you have it. With a monster this sneaky and resourceful, you might consider not using its action point right away, waiting until it has combat advantage so it can pounce on a target with 4 claw attacks, each with combat advantage.