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Nerd Watching: Night of a Thousand Excerpts

Written by Nicholas - Published on September 7, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

This week’s news has been dominated by by excerpts and preview materials. WotC has been dropping sections from the soon to release Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 and the more distant Player’s Handbook 3. Lets take a look at what’s been revealed.

Skill Powers

Previously on the Insider exclusive preview material, we have seen the monk, psion and githzerai. Breaking out of the race/class tradition, this week we discover a new game mechanic, the skill power. Skill powers are special utility powers that a character can take in place of a class utility powers, provided they are trained in the associated skill. Each skill has three different utility powers associated with them, at least one of which is a level 2 power.

Some of the skill powers are of obvious use, like a level 2 at-will power that enables you to stand a minor action instead of a move. Some of the skills with the best powers are the least used in the game. For example, endurance has daily powers that give general damage resistance, healing and temporary HP and let the character keep fighting in negative HP. I can imagine quite a few defenders who will be pleased at the new potential benefits for their rarely used skill. Other skill powers are less useful, like the level 6 dungeoneering power that grants blindsight, but only for 1 turn. Overall the powers are interesting and present many tempting options.

Beyond their mechanical uses, the skill powers are rich in flavor. For instance “Arcane Mutterings” allows you to use arcane in place of a bluff, diplomacy or intimidate. The flavor text explains “You launch into a recitation of obscure lore on a subject to impress, cow, or trick your audience.” Or the streetwise power that lets you simultaneously run and create difficult terrain in an urban setting. The flavor text reads “You knock over obstacles, take difficult paths, drop rubbish, and do anything else you can think of to slow your enemies’ pursuit.” 4e has been accused of having no fluff, but these skill powers manage to pack a lot into just a line of flavor and a mechanical description.

DMG2 Monsters

An excerpt from the DMG2 describes how the book is expanding on one of my favorite things in 4e, templates. The DMG2 includes more of the same kind of template that we have seen before, which is nice, but there is also some innovation. The book includes some thematic templates, the example given is the beast of Demogorgon. The template provides a normal beasts with a second head and extra bite attacks. What I understand from the article and hearing from James Wyatt is that it allows you more unity in creating encounters. If you have a group that is supposed to be a cult of Demogoron, there are a suite of Demogorgon worshiper templates which you can apply to standard creatures to increase their flavor and give them a unified power set.

DMG2 Companions

I’m very hesitant about allowing companion characters in my campaigns, and the author of this article seems to agree. It provides rules for making a companion character, but is laden with warnings of why you might not want to. The portion revealed says how to adapt a monster into a companion, but mentions that you can also build one from scratch or get one from other sources.  The rules for using a monster are rather useless at the moment, because it references pages not included in the preview. It sets my mind at ease if companions only have a few powers like the monsters they are taken from, but this preview failed to wow me.

Do you like preview content or would you rather just wait for the book? What sort of content would you like to see in advance?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



3 Responses to “Nerd Watching: Night of a Thousand Excerpts”
  1. WhitDnD says:

    I’m a big fan of templates so looking forward to DMG2.

    Also good to see some concise fluff coming back, i’m a back fluff fan.

    All in all though i think by the time the PHB3 comes out it will be a non event as most people will know most of it’s content.

    Thanks for the write up Nick.

  2. symatt says:

    Ilike to hold a book. I dont realy read much early content as it spoils the book for me later, i like to open the book and get that fresh print smell and sit and read it in my own time. Th e thing i dont like or even hate is that im paying for the book twice and that is so unfair.

  3. operations says:

    I’ve been running ‘companions’ (I call them Supporting NPCs) for over a year. My method is both simple and elegant, yet allows for a NPC that feels like, well, supporting cast.

    It’s easy.

    1) Open Character Builder (or for those without, books).
    2) Make character of class and level that fits party.
    3) Leave out Daily and Utility powers not granted by Paragon Path or Epic Destiny.

    I also tend to follow my other guidelines for supporting characters (avoid overlapping skills/abilities/roles, when possible have supporting cast with average INT, etc), but that works pretty well. They can contribute to the fights and skill challenges, but can not overshadow the PCs.

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