Monday, July 30, 2012

Hidden monster in a house quest


A cleric of Erathis named Melissa meets up with the PCs and asks
them to come along to her temple.
In the small temple lies a body, prepared for burial.

When she lifts the veil covering it, there are bite and claw marks
on the body of the human male.
She tells the PCs:
"This body was found 4 days ago in a dark alleyway.
His name is Kris, a baker nearby. We don't know who would want him
dead, so I prayed to the gods for an answer.
They show me visions of a house nearby, I know where it is.
I know the inhabitants, a nice couple:
a female Tiefling named Hope is in there with a human male named Brandis.
I didn't go to them yet because the monster might still be there and
attack on being provoked.
And I don't want to worry them by telling this, for now they seem safe.
I tried to get them out of the house but they wouldn't leave.

So could you go to the house and look if my visions about the monster are correct?

As a reward I'll give you a free Holy Water (level 11; see Divine Power rituals)"
The Holy Water is also for sale at 350 gp.

Examining the body

A Nature DC 15 reveals that the bite marks are quite small, so the monster may be a small creature or a creature with a small mouth.
A Heal DC 16 reveals some necrotic residue in the claw and bite marks.
A Religion DC 16 with the necrotic residue points to the monster being undead.

Going to the House

The neighborhood in which the house is located is filled with
Tieflings and halflings and they notice the PCs entering and leaving.
Hope answers the door, she doesn't want anyone entering the house but will
eventually let the PCs in.

A female Tiefling named Hope is in here with a human male named Brandis.
They have an adopted human child named junior.
The windows are barricaded shut, Brandis is busy in the kitchen chopping up meat and junior is crawling through the residence.
There is one large bed for the couple and a small bed for junior.
There are 2 closets containing used clothes.
There is only one light source in the building, the brander.

Hope is sitting at a table and invites the PCs to sit down.

There are some forks, knives and plates on the table with
the forks and knives becoming a bit rusted.
She has a high Bluff (Insight DC 21) and will say she knows
nothing about the murder or the monster.

When her Bluff fails her or Brandis comes back from the kitchen,
the following events happen:
Junior takes out a filthy razor from inside his clothes
and (surprise) attacks one of the PCs.
Brandis takes out a large kitchen knife and Hope kicks down the
brander, making the room pitch dark.
Hope grabs one of the rusted knives and attacks the PCs.

Combat Encounter

The parents are unrisen Adults, the child is a Corrupted Offspring.
They can be found in Open Grave under Unrisen.
Unrisen are people who came back wrong after a Raise Dead ritual.
They are undead but look normal, they try to fit in.
As undead they possess darkvision and have the advantage with the lights out.
There is only one light source in the building, the brander.
Their tactics is to let the child surprise attack one of the PCs and then put out the light, then use their darkvision to kill them.
Unrisen look normal in all ways. They can be detected with
Holy water (a few drops are enough) or the Corpse Light ritual.
When they are near defeat, they try to run outside and make the neighborhood side with them.
Should that happen Melissa will help the PCs when asked and use drops of Holy Water to prove the nature of the unrisen.

Level 10 encounter:
  • Corrupted Offspring (vulnerability to radiant reduced to 5)
  • 2 Unrisen Adults (same stats as Corrupted Offspring, except they have only this attack:
    Rusted Knife (At-Will), +16 vs. AC,    3d6 + 6 necrotic damage

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Valna, Elven Druid

Valna, Elven Druid

Valna was born in the forests west of Fallcrest and raised in a
large community of elves dedicated to the primal forces of nature.

She trained herself as a druid, protecting nature from threats
of undead, civilization and other destruction.
Her community and the forest weren't really under a lot threat.

As Valna discovered her beast form, that of a bear, she compared
herself to other druids as to who had faster or agile beast forms.
She also looked at various animals in the woods and wondered
if there were ways to have the best of both worlds.
For example the strength of a bear with the agility and speed of a tiger.

So she began crossbreeding related species and became
frustrated by the time it took to achieve anything.
Valna choose to look at insects and saw ants carrying a
wounded butterfly to their nests.
She took them all and managed to transplant the butterfly wings
to a large ant.
Happy with this success, she started experimenting on larger
animals. This went on until the other druids found out and banished her.
With most of per druid powers stripped from her and the loss
of her community, she obsessively started focusing on grafting,
transplanting body parts from one creature to another.

She wants the to create more powerful grafts and hybrid creatures to
finally impress her former community, even by force.

Role in a campaign

Valna is doesn't back out from a fight, so she won't be a big bad.
Her actions may impact the PCs long before they meet her:
hybrid creatures, grafts, mutilated creatures due to experiments, etc.
She is suited as support for an organization.


Valna level 14 Elite Controller
Medium Fey
Initiative +13            Senses Perception +18

HP 150; Bloodied 75
AC 29, Fortitude 24, Reflex 27, Will 30
Speed 7
Action Points 1
Saving Throws +2

Standard Actions


Scythe (At-Will),    +15 vs. AC,    2d4 + 9 damage
Savage Rend (At-Will; Beast Form),   
                         +18 vs. Reflex,   
                         1d8 + 14 damage, target slides 1 square
Fire Hawk (At-will; Range 10),    +18 vs. Reflex,    2d8 + 14 fire damage
Thorn Spray (Encounter; Close Blast 5),   
                         +18 vs. Reflex,   
                         1d6 + 14 damage, target takes -4 to defenses until end of next turn
Clinging Drones (Encounter; Close Blast 5; Beast Form),   
                         +18 vs. Fortitude,   
                         2d8 + 14 damage, target is slowed and can't shift (save ends both)
Sun Beam (Encounter; Area burst 2 within 10),   
                         +18 vs. Will,   
                         1d10 + 18 damage, target is blinded (save ends)
Floating Death (Encounter; Burst 1; Beast Form),   
                         +18 vs. Reflex,    

                         4d6 + 24 damage, druid shifts 4 squares
Wall Of Stone (Encounter; Range 10),
                         solid stone wall with 100 hit points is formed around target creature

Minor Actions

Central Eye (At-will; minor; Range 10), +18 vs. Will, target is dazed until druid's next turn

Drink Potion (Encounter; minor), Valna gains 40 hit points and saves against condition
Telekinesis Ray (twice per encounter; minor; Range 10),
                          +18 vs. Fortitude,
                          target is pushed 4 squares
Hold Ray (twice per encounter; minor; Range 10),

                     +18 vs. Reflex, 
                     target is restrained (save ends)
Confusion Ray (twice per encounter; minor; Range 10),

                     +18 vs. Will,
                     target charges nearest ally and makes melee basic attack
Death Ray (twice per encounter; minor; Range 10),

                     +18 vs. Fortitude,   
                     2d8 + 9 necrotic damage, if target is bloodied it becomes dazed (save ends);
                     first failed save: dazed and weakened; second failed save: death

Change shape (At-will; minor): change between human and Beast form and shift 1 square,
                          has central beholder eye grafted in chest in both forms.


Autonomous Eye (free; when enemy starts turn within 5 squares),   
                     +18 vs. Will,
                          target is dazed until end of next turn

Alignment Lawful Evil Languages Common, Elven
Nature +20, Heal +20, Insight +18


Valna isn't that powerful in a fight. She has a central Beholder Eye grafted in her chest and smaller beholder eyes on her arms.
She keeps these eyes hidden except when she has to fight.

In a combat encounter, she'll hold back at first and let her creatures attack while she attacks in human form at a range.
Defenders will be targeted by her Stone wall.
Once one of her creatures gets bloodied, she'll change shape and get up close
to be able to use her beast form powers and autonomous eye.

Example Encounter

Valna is working in her private room.
Several dead creatures like cockatrices and magic hounds are lying dead on the table.

There are 5 cages:
  • upper large cage holds kobolds and goblins, mostly with arms and legs removed
  • upper left cage holds 2 medium-sides beholders with eyes removed, scared of any sound or gesture
  • upper right cage holds 3 blinded Medusa
  • lower left cage holds several dire rats
  • lower right cage is empty
Most creatures are famined or near-dying.
When Valna gets hit they cheer.

Level 16 Encounter:
  • Valna
  • Chimera (found in Monster Manual)
  • 2 Owl Bears (found in Monster Manual; level them up 6 levels)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nim, Gnome Illusionist

Nim, Gnome Illusionist

Nim never knew his real parents.
His first memory was feeling hungry in an alleyway in a city.
When he begged for food, some people gave him food, most didn't.

He noticed quickly that he could change his appearance at-will,
looking like another small creature.
Like this, he started pretending other people and tricking others
into giving him food, clothes, gold, whatever he wanted.

After a few months of hide and seek with the city guards, he was
caught. Instead of jail, a wizard living in the city agreed to take
him as an apprentice.
He learned there that he is part doppelganger.

After many years he became a powerful wizard, but was still
a trickster at heart.
He desires more wealth and finds misleading those he thinks dumber than him immensely satisfying.

Role in a campaign

Nim can be used as the main villain, but is more suited to being the spy/infiltrator of the big bad.
He interacts with the PCs before his final battle with them,
and many players will want to bring him down.


Nim level 14 Elite Controller
Small Fey
Initiative +14                Senses Perception +16, low-light vision

HP 140; Bloodied 70
AC 30, Fortitude 24, Reflex 28, Will 28
Resist 10 Psychic
Speed 5

Action Points 1
Saving Throws +2

Standard Actions

Quarterstaff (At-Will),    +18 vs. AC,    1d8 + 10 damage
Phantom Bolt (At-Will),    +18 vs. Will,    1d8 + 14 psychic damage, target slides 1 square
Grasping Shadows (Encounter; Area burst 2 within 10), 

                                   +18 vs. Will,    
                                   2d8 + 14 damage, target is slowed until end of next turn
Visions of Treasure (Encounter; Area 2 square within 10;
Sustain minor: Close Burst 5), 
                                   +18 vs. Will,  
                                   target is pulled 3 squares; target that ends its turn in zone 
                                   becomes  immobilized (save ends)
Enemies Abound (Encounter; Area burst 2 within 20), 

                                   +18 vs. Will,    
                                   2d8 + 14 psychic damage, target is treated as ally for flanking
Taunting Phantoms (Encounter; Area burst 2 within 10), 

                                   +18 vs. Will, 
                                   target makes a melee basic attack against a creature (even itself) 
                                   and takes 5 damage each time it misses with a melee attack (save ends)
Vanishing Act  (Encounter; Range 10), 

                                   +18 vs. Will,    
                                    3d6 + 14 damage, Nim becomes invisible until the start of his next turn
Mesmeric Hold  (Encounter; Range 10; up to 3 creatures), 

                                   +18 vs. Will,    
                                   2d6 + 14 psychic damage, target is immobilized until end of next turn

Illusory Wall  (Encounter; Wall 8 within 20; Sustain minor), 

                                   +18 vs. Will, 
                                   wall blocks line of sight for enemies; enemy can pass through
                                   if it resists attack
Greater Invisibility (Encounter; Sustain minor),  

                                   Nim is invisible until end of next turn or until he attacks

Minor actions

Deceptive Veil (At-will; minor),
                                   Nim gains the appearance of any humanoid race of the same size category
                                   as himself. His clothing and equipment alter appearance
                                   to reflect this change.
Drink Potion (Encounter; minor), Nim gains 25 hit points and saves against a condition
Ghost Sound
(Encounter; minor)


Fade Away (Recharge 5 6; immediate reaction when damage is taken),
Nim is invisible until end of next turn or until he attacks
Shield (Encounter; immediate reaction): if hit by an attack raise AC and Reflex by 4 until end of next turn

Alignment Lawful Evil Languages Common
Bluff +20, Stealth +17, Endurance +17


Nim can use his Deceptive Veil to infiltrate an organization, posing as another small creature (gnome, halfling) or a child. His high Bluff skill helps him with this.

His Ghost sound combined with Taunting Shadows  can make it look like a betrayal, for example city guards turning against civilians.

As a wizard, he can use several interesting rituals:
  • Hallucinatory Creature
  • Hallucinatory Item
  • Secret Chest
The illusions set up enemies of him against each other, or create distractions so he can escape.
Secret Chest is used for escaping when given enough time to cast it.

When Nim is attacked, he escapes easily:
Illusory wall with Greater Invisibility: illusory wall stops attackers from following him and Greater Invisibility combined with his high Stealth makes him unfindable.

When Nim cannot escape combat he tries to avoid damage by turning invisible and immobilizing enemies.
Nim can use Shield and drink potion to protect himself.

When near death he tries feigning his own death.
When an attack damages so that he's near death, he'll bluff falling to death.
With his Endurance he can stop breathing for a while and temper his blood flow to fool enemies.

Example Encounter

The map below is used for this example encounter.

The brown colored doors are made from wood.
The PCs enter by the south west door.
The black squares indicate solid stone.
The grey twirly squares contain hallucinatory items,
meaning they look like solid stone to others (Insight DC 30).

The Hallucinatory Creatures ritual creates decoys, preferably transparent
undead like wraith in the central hallway near the northern door.
Fake walls are Hallucinatory Items that have been made permanent and
take an Insight DC 30 to see through.
Nim uses Ghost Sound to make the wraith illusions more believable.

He has 2 fake illusionary creatures of himself with fake shield guardian.
It takes Insight DC 30 to see through. One copy is in the north western part of the room, the other in the eastern part of the room.
Nim is hiding behind in the northeastern part of the room with his shield guardian. The Air Elementals are spread throughout the room and will only attack after Nim does.

They are to shoot anyone entering the central hallway and he will shoot
at the same person so that there are 3 attacks on one person (2 fake, 1 real).

Level 14 encounter:
  • Nim
  • Shield Guardian (found under guardian entry in Monster Manual)
  • 3 AirElementals (found under elemental entry in Monster Manual 3;
       need to be upped 4 levels)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grafts in D&D 4E


In the Open Grave supplement for 4E are undead grafts.
For example zombie arm, wight's claw, mummy's eye, etc.
They usually give additional power at the expense of undead vulnerabilities.
Meaning the creatures that have undead grafts gain a vulnerability to radiant damage.

Why stop there?

If it is possible to graft undead body parts, living body parts should
be possible as well.
Here is list of possibilities:
  • Beholder's eye - gain eye beam power
  • Basilisk eye - gain petrifying gaze
  • Scorpion tail - gain poison sting attack
  • Dryad Claw - gain claw attack and treestride (teleport next to plant)
  • Medusa eyes - gain petrifying gaze
  • Rust Monster stomach - gain ability to eat magic items
  • Angel wings - gain Fly ability
  • Shambling mound tendrils - gain regeneration and lightning affinity

Depending on the compatibility between the graft and the creature receiving the
graft there may be disadvantages.
Grafting isn't widespread, it takes a high Heal and Nature skill
to pull it off.

D&D 3.5 has more graft possibilities than 4E:
see Stitching Things Together: The Graft Handbook

Where the grafts are placed

Eyes can be placed anywhere:
  • large eyes on the chest
  • small eyes on arms or topside of hand
Tails and wings can be attached to the back
Why limit a creature to only two arms or one tail?
For example: the  Skeletal Tomb Guardian found in the monster manual.

Used for PCs or NPCs

Grafts should only be used on NPCs.
Using grafts creates unique NPCs with surprising powers
and weaknesses. An example of a grafter is Valna, Elven Druid.

I think it's a bad idea to give to PCs as a reward.
As a punishment grafts could work, like the ones in Open Grave.
The idea of someone putting grafts on the PCs to make them do
what the grafter wants is interesting, but it's best that
the players are on board with that idea first.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Storytelling in Keep on the Shadowfell

Storytelling in D&D: Keep on the Shadowfell

I find telling a story in D&D quite hard.
My first experience as a DM was Keep on the Shadowfell.

Keep on the Shadowfell

When I first read the adventure I had no opinion whatsoever
about it. My experience in 4E was limited to being a player in Kobold Hall.

As we progressed into the adventure, the NPCs seemed boring
and one-dimensional.
You have the friendly innkeeper, the old sage, the mayor,
the spy, the healer and the big bad.
The adventure recommended giving the NPCs mannerisms, details and background.

I changed the sage into and old man looking to extend his
life with necromancy.
I made the mayor stupid and incompetent.
I made the spy the mother of the big bad which gave him
a background. That way the PCs had some idea about him
before the final battle.

The big bad had many creatures working for him, like kobolds.
I changed it so the kobolds worship dragons and Tiamat.
They are offended by humans expanding into their lands with
farms and digging up stuff in a nearby dragon burial site.

Later on, the PCs encounter an undead fallen knight as a skill
I gave him a quest in which his undead family should be
killed to grant them all peace.
As he was the former leader of the keep I wanted him to have
a bigger role in the story.

Near the end of the adventure, some PCs had left the group
permanently. I made them come back as undead versions of
themselves to attack the PCs.

My conclusions

The NPCs were static and boring. I made them more
memorable with a background and a more active role in the story.
I gave them a chance to be more than a NPC waiting for the PCs
to come by and perform his or her role.
I wanted the PCs to know a bit about the big bad before the final battle.
Otherwise the final battle is a hard battle at the end instead of a climax in a piece of fiction.

The cliches are overwhelming in this adventure:
  • the NPCs exist only to fulfill their role
  • all enemies either work for the big bad or attack anything in sight
  • there are no reasons given why intelligent enemies attack, except that they serve the big bad or get paid a lot
  • the big bad wants to open a portal for no other reason to serve his master and gets interrupted by the PCs

How to tell a story

Unlike other types of fiction like books, movies, television, etc
the story isn't set in stone.
Players should have meaningful choices and a way to impact
the world.
That is why I give the PCs situations and see how they react.
For example, in Keep on the Shadowfell, the PCs could
  •   destroy the kobolds
  •   could talk to them to end the fighting
  •   just leave them alone

To make these kind of choices, I give NPCs more backstory and motivation.

The second difference with other types of fiction is that
there may be quite some time between getting into a situation
and having to make a choice about it.
In real life, there can be weeks or months between the two, depending on how often the group comes together.

The third difference lies in the players don't understanding the situation.
This can be because they choose a different path the DM thought they would take. Or that the DM forgot some details or underestimated the information the players need to understand the situation.

The second and third difference can be fixed with repeating information the players need to understand a situation.
I learned this the hard way and found a helpful site:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Common Magic Items

Common Magic Items in D&D 4E

Choosing magic items

I use the following method for giving out magic items:
1) I look at the theme a character is going for and whether
the magic item enforces that theme.
For example: doing massive damage per turn
                      be good in knowledge skills
                      be a sneaky thief
                      be good against certain type of enemies
                      enhance a favorite attack

2) The magic items used for attacks (weapons, implements) have useful properties and powerful powers.
Armors and the other equipment slots would be filled with
simple items that:
  • increase defenses
  • increase skills
  • gives resistances
  • enhances saving throws
  • enhances healing surges or healing surge value

An explanation for the choices

First of all, I like the strength of a character to come
from a character, not from his or her magic items.
I dislike the character to be a figurative Christmas tree
to be effective.

There are enough powers for a character to choose from,
especially at higher levels.
I don't want to burden players with an overabundance of powers.
This should also speed combat.

These common items are not as exciting as rares with amazing
daily powers, but as I see them, they aren't supposed to be.
They are treasures and rewards, the players never
seem to mind those.

Shortage of common magic items

When Essentials came out, magic items were divided
in common, uncommon and rare items.
Common magic items have simple properties like described above.

Unfortunately, there aren't many common magic items.
An overview can be found here:

I suppose I can create my own common magic items,
unfortunately the character builder doesn't support
Our group uses the offline character builder,
and we manage to work around some of the issues.
I don't have much experience with the character builder,
so a more in-depth discussion can be found here:

Expertise Feats and Buffing Monsters

Expertise Feats and Buffing Monsters

Player's Handbook 2 gives us the Implement Expertise and Weapon Expertise feats.
They give a +1 to attack at level 5
                   +2 to attack at level 15
                   +3 to attack at level 25

Player's Handbook 3 gives us Versatile Expertise which
works for both implements and weapon groups.

I dislike how the expertise feats are done:
  • Characters with different weapon or implement types need to take the feats multiple times.
    For example: Cleric with weapon and implement or rogue with melee weapon and ranged weapon.
  • Characters with racial abilities are also at a disadvantage.
    For example a Dragonborn breath attack will not benefit from the bonus.
  • Casual players who don't like to take too much time building a character  or like more flavourful feats are also at a disadvantage.

My Solution

In my games I just lower the monster defenses
  by 1 at level 5
  by 2 at level 15
  by 3 at level 25

The levels refer to character levels and assume that everyone in the party
has the same level.
Characters can't take any expertise feats.
Players in my group don't use Essentials expertise feats, which if I'm correct give additional bonuses.
If players want to take those feats, a group discussion about this subject is warranted.

What about the poor monsters

The solution proposed above also makes characters more powerful.
At higher levels the PCs absolutely trash an equal level encounter.
So I make the monsters more threatening.

Depending on the party composition some monsters are easier to defeat.

Divine characters: because most undead are vulnerable to radiant damage
                   I usually give them additional hit points to compensate.

Controllers: are good against minions,
             so I usually add a greater amount of them.

I give all my monsters
  • Attack bonuses, usually 1 (heroic tier) to 3 (epic tier)
  • Double damage

Some monster abilities may be frightening to PCs:
  • draining healing surges
  • redirecting attacks
  • eating magic items (see Rust monster in Monster Manual 2)
    use this with care
  • underwater fights which can be hard on PCs
  • transmitting diseases
  • create spawn: create a copy of themselves
    whenever they kill a humanoid creature (see wraiths).
  • attacking dying PCs - it's best to discuss this beforehand with the players.
    For example: zombies, ghouls, etc may want to eat a fallen PC.

Faster Combat

All these changes make combat more aggressive and faster.
This changes the pace of combat, which is why I allow players
more freedom to change feats or powers.
This is so they can adjust to the different pace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rat Extermination Quest

Rat Extermination Quest

Expected Level: 1-2

Meeting the quest giver


This quest starts by the PCs being called by the owner of
a meat store called the "Best meat in Town".
She is called Rihanna.

She whispers there is a rat problem and points to a closed passage way
to a cellar. There are other customers so she keeps her voice down.
Insight DC 5: Her attitude indicates she's reluctant to ask it and a bit shy.
Insight DC 15: She appears to be hiding something. If pushed, she'll tell the PCs
                        that the meat in her store is all rat meat, just differently prepared.
Rihanna offers a reward of 50 gp and a free meal.

Down into the cellar


The passage way to the cellar is easily opened and a small stone
staircase leads downwards.
It is below freezing temperature and pitch dark in the cellar.
Perception DC 5: creatures are wandering around
Nature DC 10: the creatures are rats

If the PCs bring a light source or have darkvision,
they see the following:
  • 3 Dire Rats
  • Rat Swarm
  • Skinned meat hanging from the ceiling, unreachable for the rats
  • The walls are slippery from ice, the rats aren't able to climb

The rats won't attack the PCs, as they are a bit domesticated.
They will defend themselves if attacked.
The meat on the ceiling is rat meat.
A Nature DC 12 reveals both if PCs take a close look.

Fighting the Rats

Attacking the rats results in the following combat encounter:
- 3 Dire Rats
- Rat Swarm (Rats can be found in the Monster Manual)
- The area is a 5 x 6 squares

If the PCs fail a Stealth DC 10, the owner hears the fight and comes down.
She asks the PCs to stop the fight.
The reason she didn't say anything before is that:
  • She doesn't want the customers to find out
  • She doesn't want to leave the store unattended
  • She hoped the PCs would figure out the rats are the meat source
    and would be quiet about this.

A Perception DC 10 at the back of the room reveals a small tunnel
through which medium creatures can crawl.

Crawl to the Cave

If the PCs crawl through the tunnel, they'll find a small cavern containing
kobolds. If the PCs match Stealth DC 11 and don't have light source, the kobolds won't notice them.
The kobolds speak common and attack while shouting "You won't take our food away".
This results in a combat encounter:
  • 2 Kobold Skirmishers
  • 2 Kobold Slingers (Kobolds can be found in Monster Manual)
 Note: for additional flavor the kobolds may use a bite attack.

After the encounter ends, the PCs can search through the rest of the cavern.
They'll find a heap of dead rats, with only the skin eaten.
The meat itself is untouched.
History or Streetwise DC 10: the party has heard of kobolds that consider
         the hide of an animal the best part to eat. They find Rat meat disgusting.


The PCs are able to get through this quest without any fighting.
They have a choice about Rihanna's secret and whether to keep it.

These encounters can be modified for higher-level play:
I used it at level 14 and used Jovocs instead of kobolds.
Jovocs can be found in the Demonomicon supplement.

Monday, July 16, 2012

NPC interaction in D&D 4E

NPC interaction in Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition

Non-player characters (NPCs) are used for various purposes
in the classic modules like H1: Keep on the Shadowfell and H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth.

Quest givers

Most NPCs that are encountered give the PCs quests to perform
in exchange for a reward.
There are many reasons why quest givers don't perform the quest themselves:
  • not powerful enough
  • more important things to do
  • PCs are better suited for the quest
  • Tricking or manipulating the PCs

This may result in NPCs which are passive and only stand still
in one place being there as quest givers for the PCs.
This play-style is valid choice, especially for a dungeon crawl
However, I like my quest givers to be more active:
  • I usually give them one or more goals related to their quests
  • I give them activities to do or other places to be
  • I try to give them a background, for example by using the Player's Handbook 2 backgrounds.
This implies there is an active world outside of what the PCs
are doing.

Buyers and Sellers

Buyers buy items from PCs at 1/5 of the price.
This is done so that PCs focus on getting money adventuring,
not from trading.
This choice is valid but I like to do the following:
  • Buyers and sellers both use market price as a guideline
  • Players get less gold as treasure
  • Several magic items are for sale, depending on the merchant
    Not every possible magic item in existence is available,
    only a few the merchant can logically create or purchase.
    I usually choose simple magic items that add to skills, defenses or damage rolls.


Like Quest givers, I like antagonists or villains to be more developed and active.
I don't like them waiting at the end of the dungeon performing some ritual.

An excellent resource for giving them more depth is the Villain Workshop.

Combat Encounters

When PCs fight wealthy or influential NPCs, it is expected that
NPCs would use the best magic items they can use.
If NPCs were created like PCs they would be hopelessly outmatched
in higher levels because they lack attack and defense bonuses from magic items.
The Dungeons Master's Guide gives NPCs bonuses depending on their level (inherent bonuses).

It's my opinion that PCs should also have inherent bonuses.
That way, the participants in the world are more alike which makes the world more believable to me.

When the treasure guidelines are being followed, NPCs cannot have
as much magic items on them as the average PC.
I choose it so that only PCs can use many magic items
and NPCs are limited to only a few.


Fourth Edition follows a more gamist style of play.
NPCs exist to support the PCs or to hand out quests.

Personally, I prefer a more simulationist style of play.
This means more active and believable NPCs who often
have their own goals, backstories and similar powers to PCs.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rituals in D&D 4E

Rituals in Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition


Rituals as written were never used in my gaming group.
They had the following problems:
  • casting time was too long to be used in an encounter.
  • gold cost was either too high at lower levels or too low at higher levels.
  • some rituals are broken or unusable.

Suggested Solution

I house-ruled the following changes:


You need to be trained in the skills listed to be
able to perform the ritual. 
This is to prevent strange combinations: 
Wizards casting Raise Dead or Cure Disease or Clerics casting portal rituals.
They are able to do so but they must be trained
in the skill for that to be possible.
This makes skill training more important, otherwise
everyone would become a ritual caster to spread the
cost of casting rituals.

Casting Time

This is often phrased in standard actions.
That way rituals can be cast during combat.


This is often in the form of healing surges instead of gold.
This is like rituals in Martial Power 2 and done to balance
some powerful rituals.


This is often altered to be dependent on skill check results.

Specific Rituals

Enchant Magic Item

I made it so that this ritual is not usable by player characters (PCs).
Only non-player characters (NPCs) are able to use it.
This is because the gaming group usually consists of different type
of players.
Some like to optimize their character, some don't.
In order to keep everyone on the same power level I don't let PCs
use this ritual.
Another problem I have with it is that magic items become
too common. I'd rather surprise the PCs with usable magic items
instead of them shopping around and making combo's out of them.

Linked Portal, Planar Portal

Portals require 13 symbols in a circle to create.
Each symbol must be crafted by someone that knows portal rituals.
The crafting of symbol costs a minor action, the portal itself
costs a standard action to activate.
This way, it is usable in combat.

Raise Dead

I've kept this ritual almost as written.
This should take long as it is intended to be used out of combat.

Secret Chest

As written, this ritual puts no limit on the chest nor if it can
cross planes.
Unless vetoed by the DM, the PCs could obtain a planar-traversing
chest-fortress which would be cool but probably not intended.