Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Like Powerflaming

I do most (well, all) of my gaming online. Unfortunately, that means most people reading this (five people and counting) are my players. So when I mention shit they’ve done, they’ll probably read it, let me know they’ve read it, ask if I’m referring to them, lodge complaints, etc. This is fine as long as they don't drag it into the comments section (or give a running commentary without any context on what they’re reading, let alone what parts they’re referring to, yes I’m looking at you). Nor am I surprised – even before they were posting “Hi Ettin!” in all my goddamn threads on /tg/ they were “stumbling across” them on the WotC forums.

But this time, I’m taking a breather from poking fun at the usual suspects and saying something about powergaming, because it only applies to two people who don’t read this shit.

My views are more complicated than I can be bothered explaining right now, but basically, I don’t mind it as long as you don’t cross the line,

It’s a very vaguely-defined line, and it varies from person to person, but I can tell you the usual triggers that set little alarm bells ringing in my head:

  • Trying to pass off rollplaying advice as roleplaying advice. If someone is trying to make an archivist with a certain theme (that isn't "I want to be powerful" and probably even if it is, too) in mind, cleric builds copy-pasted from CharOp are only going to take you so far.
  • Any character sheet which is obviously 100% crunch and 0% fluff. I don’t care if you’ve gone crazy with splatbooks and made a character which does hundreds of damage to certain creature types a round or whatever, as long as your backstory is better than “my Saint once saved an orphanage from a paragon undead balor, or something”.
  • An “it’s just a name, nothing more, hurr bi durr” attitude towards "prestige classes". I don’t care what you take, but if you want one with fluff that doesn’t fit at least bother to do something about it. Hell, I’ll write it.
    • Similarly, don’t cry if you have to roleplay taking it. Thralls of Demogorgon don’t just wake up one morning and pull their devotion and powers out of their arse, you know.
  • Sometimes, certain words or phrases. Partial list: Referring happily to your character as “so powerful”, “borderline overpowered” etc., the words “build”, “min/maxed” and “Gatorade”, wanting to use the game to “playtest” homebrew material, complaining about losing spell progression, complaining about having to roleplay... it depends on the person and their intent.
Things that are not necessarily powergaming in and of themselves but can be very irritating:
  • Treating the Monster Manual like a Big Bumper Book of Races. Playing cool-looking races is okay. Playing races because they work well with your class is okay if you don’t overdo it. Trying to play a giant on a pirate ship, what the hell.
  • Splatbooks. I actually allow pretty much anything that’s WotC material if it’s run by me first (and will at least consider 3rd–party stuff), but for some reason people keep either forgetting or misreading the “run by me first” part. I’m not even sure exactly how you can take that to mean “it’s okay to show up with an Archivist/Shadow Sun Ninja/Champion of Gwynharwyf elf paragon, and yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense.”
  • Asking for flaws. No, fuck you.

Seriously though, like I said, I’m not that picky. I’ve let most of these slide a few times, and I am much more lenient (read: hypocritical) towards those I know and trust, such as myself. Just treat roleplay as something other than a formality and we're good. (And I recognise my playstyle isn't the only way to play, but in my games you better get used to it.)

Oh, and the bard? Yeah, fuck that guy.

Let's end this post with something new: A competition Someone suggest some ways to beef up the bard a little and I’ll draw (and/or post) requests for the best ones. Comments page is fine, but I accept other forms of communication. Try for balance, but I’m not picky as long as it’s cool. I’m talking defeating enemies with The Power of Rock and such, here. (It doesn’t have to be rock music. I would also accept a bitchin’ poetry jam.)

Oh, and if you’re a player you have to say “Hi Ettin!”.


Anonymous said...

Flaws can work as long as the DM gets to pick the flaws. That takes away the min-maxing aspect and allows you to fuck your players over in creative ways.

Ettin said...

Yeah. It might be because I'm a terrible judge of game balance sometimes, but even taking into account the whole "we know people will min-max this and took STEPS!" thing, flaws seem... well, bad.

Really though, when I disallow flaws it's actually because it slightly complicates things and I'm lazy.

Dungeonscapegoat said...

To help the Bard be better, I'd recommend Seeker of the Song or Sublime Chord as prestiges, perhaps both. Seeker of the song adds some really powerful effects for bardic music, not to mention be able to mix two song effects together, and a song effect that grants bonuses to armor class and damage reduction 2/-. Meeting the special prerequisite is really up to the DM though, since it requires you to hear another seeker of the song play first.

As for the Sublime Chord, you get beefier in that you get a spell progression to level 9 spells and can pick wizard, sorcerer, AND bard spells for those levels. It's also not too shabby being able to boost caster level with an appropriate perform check.

Both are in Complete Arcane.

As for just plain cheezy, the bard can use stronghold builder's guide to build a 5'x5'x10' booth out of an invisible material and have it fly, get a lyre of building, and float around while playing the lyre (makes the building invincible) and since he can make music and the like, he can just fire off mind affecting spells like crazy.

A plan to GET to powerful is to buy a ring of Hold Person, use his charisma to go around proposing to anyone who looks wealthy. Even BBEGs. Slipping the ring on paralyzes the wearer as soon as the person tries on the ring, the bard then loots the crap out of the person's belongings.

Данила said...

Hey, sure, bards are not wizards, but they can be quite decent characters, and the class is very flexible, allowing you to make any build, from melee to roleplaying to spellcasting.

Now I'm going to WALL OF TEXT you some examples, but you can easily find those on the optimization forums.

First, there's a mad combination. Taking Jack of all trades feat from Complete Adventurer you get 1/2 rank on each skill; now alternative class feature that replaces Bard Knowledge, named Bardic Knack, from PHB II, allows you to make checks as if you had your bard level/2 ranks in any skill you have at least 1/2 rank.

Second, bard can be a meaty buffer: with Words of Creation from CAdv, Targeting ray and Inspirational Boost spells from SC the boosts get awesome, and Sonorous Hum spell allows you some freedom with that.

Third, there's an Exalted feat, Nymph's Kiss, +1 on all Cha-based checks and +1 skill point per level.

Fourth, bard can be a spellcaster. Not as good as a wizard or a sorcerer, but still potent. Melodic Casting feat allows substitution of Concentration checks with Perform checks, and you can use magic devices any way you like; there are some really nice ones for the bard in Magic Item Compendium, like Mac-Fuirmidh Cithern.

Oh, and finally, bard is able to protect himself with Weapon Finesse in melee, and can use shields.

Oh, and Suggestion is cool.

flufferson said...

Hi Ettin!

You can beef up bards in tons of different directions.
1)Going the spellcasting route, even without a prestige class you can use various feats to improve your caster level and spells per day with bardic music.

2)If you want to augment your music, there are tons of feats that give you new abilities or improve the old ones. Most major supplements have at least one.

3)Notice the 6+int skills per level? Yep, bards can have a lot of skills outside of perform. You can be an acrobat, a thief, a scholar, a diplomat, or any combination of the above.

4)Bards have access to decent buff spells and various feats, prestiges, and items that use their magical and musical talents to improve their combat skill.

5)Also, if you're -really- concerned with how beefy your bard is, remember: Minotaurs can be bards too!

Anonymous said...

What about taking flaws just for fluff's sake? No bonuses in return, just fleshing out your character.

Ettin said...

That is fine. I've done that myself, actually. Mostly phobias and such, but I once played a blind druid who (this being a low-level game) would cast Shillelagh on his staff and charge the square he thought the enemy was in.

Of course, the problem with that is it is very hard to know where to stop.

Anonymous said...

I know that this is a REALLY old post (I just found your blog and am reading through the archives)

But what the hell is your problem with bards?

Some people have already pointed out that Bards can be 'fixed' more or less, but bards are more overpowered than wizards.

With Lyric Spell than use a perform check (instead of concentration) to cast a spell.

So you can sing while fighting someone, allowing you to cast spells and fight. Or cast spells and give bardic music with a lute or something. Or bardic music by singing in a melee.

Depending on how lenient your DM is you can dance, sing, and play a lute, giving each perform check a bonus (there's a feat that gives a +2 bonus on each perform check for each other perform check) allowing you to either cast three spells at the same time, lay down three different bardic inspirations, or any combination thereof.

That's not even considering all the potential in prestige classes, splatbooks, class variants, etc.

That's a very basic bard, using only the players handbook.