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    Default The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Iíve homebrewed a fair number of base classes, and the final step I like to take before I declare them completely and totally done is to take 5 of them, create a character for each one, and run them through a full published adventure from level 1 through 20 to see how the classes perform at each level. Iím going to be starting one of these running through the Age of Worms adventure path, and for the hell of it Iíve decided to post the entire process on the forums, discussing the results of the various encounters and seeing if anyone has any additional feedback. Any notes I have on how the actual encounters go will be placed in spoilers.
    The five classes that I will be testing here will be the Cosmic Knight (Mars School), the Elemental Adept, the Nightblade, the Lexitheurge and the Animancer. Each is built with a 32 point buy, with average hp after level 1 and maximum starting gold.
    Linked here is a page with specifics for the characters being used for the playtest.
    Last edited by flat_footed; 2019-07-27 at 12:42 AM.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: The Whispering Cairn, part 1
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    The first encounter in the Whispering Cairn, the three wolves, was resolved fairly quickly thanks in large part to excellent roles on the part of the characters.
    The second encounter, the mad slasher and the beetle swarm, was much more interesting. This encounter likely would have resulted in at least one character death head it not been for the fact that the elemental adapt effectively one-shot the swarm courtesy of scalding gust. Even if the nonlethal damage of the initial attack hadnít been enough to disperse the swarm, it was pushed back far enough that he could have kept it locked down for the duration of the battle. If that hadnít been the case, the animancer would almost certainly had been killed by the second round (they were still left with only 3 hp after the attack, and that was after making the Fortitude save against the acid). The mad slasher lasted a bit longer, but was worn down fairly quickly by the nightblade.

    The lurking strangler was probably the most effective opponent up until that point. By the time it was put down almost the entire party was either asleep or frightened.

    Before the group tackled the Lair of the Laborers I had them retreat to pick up some necessary supplies, in large part due to the fact that two of them (the elemental adept and the animancer) would need assistance to get down). While this meant that the party had the opportunity to buy some additional gear and regain spells, they also got to fight the acid beetle swarm again since they only dispersed it with nonlethal damage the first time. During the second encounter the swarm made its save against the scalding gust, but this time the entire group was packing alchemists fire and rolled quite well on their attacks against it, though not before the swarm chewed half of the cosmic knights hp.


    Of particular note from the first battle was the fact that the animancer rolled maximum damage on two lifeforce siphons in a row. This leaves the animancer with 6 spell levels to use right off the bat, with 3 siphons left for the day. This is gives the class significantly more endurance than pretty much any other class at that level. Iíll need to pay attention in case I need to rein the ability back for the lower levels. Thus far, however, the animancer has had to use the majority of its spells for healing, so it hasnít really been an issue. Iíve also noticed that, at least at the very low levels, the animancerís lifeforce siphon is often itís best offensive tool. If I do scale it back, I may want to consider adding a few spells to the classí spell list to compensate.

    Aside from that, though, I haven't noticed anything out of line from what I would expect from 1st party classes.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: Whispering Cairn, part 2
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    The rest of the encounters in the first delve into the Whispering Cairn went by without anything of note occurring during the encounters aside from the fact that the group reached 2nd level.


    Here's a link to the party as they are now.

    With regards to the classes themselves, I'm starting to think that I should add some clarification in the Cosmic Knight's cosmic strike ability to specify how it interacts with opponent's that have DR.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Heh, interesting that I'm not the only person to use the Age of Worms adventure path for playtesting purposes (though mine is still ongoing and for a completely new D&Dish game).

    I've run the path about a half-dozen times, and that acid beetle swarm is always crazy: typically I let players smack it with torches and have them deal normal damage, because in basically every instance no one had any area-of-effect attacks.

    Are other players controlling each character, or is it just you going through the combat stuff?

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Quote Originally Posted by antiochcow View Post
    Heh, interesting that I'm not the only person to use the Age of Worms adventure path for playtesting purposes (though mine is still ongoing and for a completely new D&Dish game).

    I've run the path about a half-dozen times, and that acid beetle swarm is always crazy: typically I let players smack it with torches and have them deal normal damage, because in basically every instance no one had any area-of-effect attacks.

    Are other players controlling each character, or is it just you going through the combat stuff?
    For this test I'm just running through the combat encounters, though I'm also rolling skill checks for NPC encounters. I'm really trying to get a better feel with how the classes function in different encounters so I can either make adjustments if a classes abilities are unbalanced in one direction or another or provide clarification for how certain class features work in different situations.

    Spoiler: Whispering Cairn, part 3
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    The party ran into some actual challenge again during the encounters in the Old Observatory, though this was as much a consequence of extremely poor rolls as it was due to the challenge of the adventure path. The skeleton guardians in the beginning took much longer to take down than they probably should have courtesy of the group's rolling a distressing number of poor rolls (the elemental adapt rolled natural 1s on his attack 2 rounds in a row).
    Filge himself was even worse, with his encounter providing the first death of the play-through as the Cosmic Knight was hit by all 4 zombies, each rolling at or near maximum damage. Filge himself died almost immediately, however, and a combination of chill touch by the Animancer and ice patch by the Elemental Adapt kept the zombies disoriented long enough for the group minus the Cosmic Knight to wear them down.
    The last encounter of the Whispering Cairn, the wind warriors, had their threat lessened greatly by the entire group beating their initiative roll, meaning that one was taken out before they even had a chance to act. Beyond that, the encounter played out without much all that interesting occurring.


    The key point I've taken away from the party's performance was that the Lexitheurge seems to have a lot of issues with contributing in combat at very low levels, especially when they're facing off against creatures that are immune to mind-affecting effects. To rectify this, I'm thinking of swapping the effects of the Divine Lexicon abilities the Lexitheurge gains at level 2 and 6. That will give the Lexitheurge an additional combat option at level 2, pushing back the investigative utility power to level 6.
    As for the Cosmic Knight, his death was the result of how the dice fell and not anything to do with the class itself, so no changes there. In the meanwhile, I've rolled up a new Cosmic Knight to take the place of the old (with a slightly different build).

    Meanwhile, the entire group reached level 3 by the time Filge was dealt with, and I have a link to the current team.
    Last edited by Alabenson; 2019-06-16 at 06:51 PM.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: Three Faces of Evil, part 1
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    Starting off Three Faces of Evil, the group gained access to the temple complex by forging a letter from the mine owner and bluffing their way in (I basically ruled this like I would have if I were DMing a regular group who came up with the idea).
    Getting into the meat of the section, the group immediately ran into an issue that Iíve heard of previously, where the entire temple of Hextor was pulled one encounter after another. This issue wasnít helped by the fact that several enemy groups rolled natural 20ís on their initiative rolls. The group prevailed thanks to liberal use of ice patch for crowd control (in particular this rendered the dire boar a complete joke), but there were a number of near misses and the process greatly drained the groupís resources.


    On the plus side, the group has managed to reach level 4 (link to the updated sheets here).
    Regarding the classes themselves, the main thing that Iíve noticed is the listed durations on a number of the Elemental Adeptís invocations, which will be something I may need to review.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: Three Faces of Evil, part 2
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    Continuing with the Three Faces of Evil, the party went through the grimlock section of the dungeon. The only section that was really notable was the climbing section immediately after the kenshar trainer. Between the archers and exceedingly poor rolls (the latter was something of a running theme in this section) every single member of the part fell off the cliff, directly into a fight with the chokers. And immediately after the chokers they were attacked by the feral barbarian. While there werenít any character deaths here, every character was dropped to at least single digit hp if not into the negatives.
    Beyond that series of encounters, however, there wasnít really anything all that notable in this section, aside from the fact that the casterís were struggling a bit to conserve their remaining spells.


    There wasn't all that much to say of note regarding the classes themselves, with the minor exception of the fact that apparently neither the lexitheurge nor the animancer have light on their spell lists. I will likely change that for at leave the animancer during the next time I make adjustments to the classes.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: Three Faces of Evil, part 3
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    The temple of Vecna was more annoying than difficult at first, the battles with the kenku depleting plenty of resources (including most of the remaining charges on the wands of cure light wounds the party had found earlier). I tried to simulate hit-and-run tactics, giving the kenku a surprise round unless any of the party members beat their Hide / Move Silently checks and having them disappear on their next action, and though this made things a little more dangerous is wasnít a significant change.
    The encounter with the mages is where things veered into hilarious. The animancer seized control of the allip (though not before it dealt some Wis drain to the cosmic knight) and sent it off to assault the Faceless One while the rest of the party recovered from the effects of its babbling and fought the other two mages. A series of disastrously bad rolls on the part of the parties enemies followed, resulting in 1) one of the mages killing himself with a scroll mishap after a pair of natural ones and more importantly 2) the Faceless One managing to become completely locked down and Wisdom drained into oblivion by the allip.
    The final battle against the ebon aspect was nothing particularly interesting, just a standard lump of hp with a few mildly interesting gimmicks.


    By the time the temple of Vecna had been dealt with the group had managed to reach level 5 (link to the updated information here)

    I didn't find any new issues with the classes that I hadn't already noted, but I've made the actual updates to the classes that needed them.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: Encounter at Blackwall Keep
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    Encounter at Blackwall Keep went by without anything remotely interesting happening until the very last battle. None of the encounters were at all threatening at any point, even when the lizardfolk chieftain scored a critical hit followed by a complete full attack on the elemental adept.
    The final fight with the three spawns of kyuss at the end, on the other hand, nearly resulted in the death of the cosmic knight. He was the only member of the party to succeed on all three Will saves against their fear auras, and as a result was left to fight all three by himself. While the cosmic knight was able to deal with the spawn by himself, by the end of it he was in negative hit points with a worm eating his brain. The party casters did save him, but at that point he was at -5 hp and had taken 7 points of Int damage.


    The main thing that I noticed throughout this section class-wise was that the lexitheurge appeared to be missing a few spells that I felt it probably should have had, in particular a few of the various remove spells. In the meantime, by the end of the section the group has reached level 7 (updated sheets here)
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: The Hall of Harsh Reflections
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    This freaking module. Before the group even reached the Free City they ran into a few wandering monster encounters, one of which was a group of six displacer beasts. This encounter very nearly resulted in a TPK due to the group continually failing their miss chance rolls, and the sole reason the lexitheurge wasnít killed was that he had used power word sicken on the displacer that attacked him. So, after that near disaster the group reached the Free City and had the chimera encounter. While the cosmic knight and the lexitheurge went after the pickpockets the rest of the group fought the chimera, which would have killed the nightblade had I not had it lead with its breath weapon.
    By contrast, the encounters that actually had something to do with the plot of the module were resolved painfully easily. I had Ixiaxian target the nightblade, largely because they were the only character he could reasonably pass as, and resolved it as a one on one encounter between the two. This resulted in Ixiaxian being slaughtered, so D15 will default to the alternate aranea encounter. Meanwhile, the attempted framing for murder resulted in the lexitheurge 1) turning the crowd against the doppelganger and 2) suggesting the doppelganger continue fighting until it had succeeded in killing one of the party. This ended poorly for the doppelganger.


    With regards to the party itself, I havenít noticed anything that really needs correcting. That being said, I have noticed that the animancerís overly-high endurance issues seem to have worked themselves out and it now seems much more reasonable. Also of note is the fact that the group has reached level 8, so updated sheets.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: The Hall of Harsh Reflections, part 2
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    As it turned out, the Sodden Hold turned out to be even more lethal than the previous entries, at least for the nightblade. During the encounter with the doppelganger guards in the cells the entire group was caught off guard, and after what happened with Ixiaxian I determined that both guards would focus their attacks on the nightblade unless one of the other characters started to appear to be a more immediate threat. This ultimately resulted in the nightblade becoming the 2nd casualty of the campaign.
    Since the party was in the cells anyway, I simply put the nightbladeís replacement in one of the empty prison cells. The rest of the encounters in the hold went by without any notable issues, including the greater doppelganger at the end who demonstrated why single boss monsters can have issues when they roll a 3 on initiative.


    Regarding the replacement nightblade, I decided to make her a tiefling (with the level adjustment bought off), enabling her to wield a greataxe courtesy of outsider proficiencies. I'm curious to see how this will work out given that the greataxe benefits from the Clever Strikes ability since it's one of the Tiger Claw affiliated weapons.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    "When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway."
    Always do.

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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: The Hall of Harsh Reflections, part 3
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    Zyrxogís Domain was cleared without too much issue, the most notable threats were the octopins, who were a combination of disrupting with their gaze and dealt out respectable damage when they got off a rend. On the other hand, the drow were all eliminated without much difficulty (Myrianaas in particular was partially neutralized by deafened-induced spell failure). Zyrxog himself didnít a chance to do much during his encounter, but did manage to stun most of the group. Ironically, the cosmic knight had taken a feat to counter being stunned, and he was one of the only two of the group to make his save.


    As for the classes themselves, now that the module is over I feel itís a good time to discuss the individual classes;

    The Cosmic Knight: Thus far Iíve been rather happy with how the cosmic knight is turning out. Its been dealing reasonably high, consistent damage and its invocations give it enough options to keep it from being rendered unable to contribute. Iím keeping an eye on it since Iíve had concerns raised about its ability to contribute at higher levels, but so far I think its going to be fine.

    The Elemental Adept: The intended focus of the elemental adept is to deal consistent (though not necessarily high) damage while disrupting the opposition by forcing constant saving throws against their blasts rider effects. Thus far the elemental adept has been doing a decent job of this, although Iím going to be particularly interested in how it performs next level as level 10 is when the elemental blastsí rider effects gain their second improvement.

    The Nightblade: This class has been another case of ďworking as intendedĒ. The classí maneuvers make up for the reduced sneak attack and have given the class the ability to contribute when fighting creatures with immunity to precision damage (which should come increasingly in handy later on).

    The Lexitheurge: While the lexitheurge is proving able to contribute, Iíve been finding that it seems to have a limited number of good options in combat. For the time being Iím going to be increasing the die size of the lexitheurgeís restore/damage divine lexicon ability from a d6 to a d8, and Iíll see if I want to make additional changes from there.

    The Animancer: Iíve honestly been finding the animancer to be a rather fun class to play, despite the fact that it has been running into some of the same issues as the lexitheurge. The difference is that the animancer feels like it does have more reasonably viable options in most circumstances. While some concerns had been raised previously regarding the animancerís reliance on their siphon lifeforce ability to fuel their spellcasting, Iíve found that it actually isnít much of an issues as the ability has the benefit of bypassing AC, saves and spell resistance, making it a viable option in its own right.

    Link to the update character sheets here
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: The Champion's Belt
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    The lead-up social encounters to the gladiator games were a shining example of the power of having a member of a group able to fill in as a face. First, the lexitheurge managed to talk down the group during the dinner, thus shifting the odds on their first fight, and then proceeded to ferret out a high-roller to take 500 gp bets for each character. Then, immediately prior to the fight he succeeded at convincing two of their three opponent groups to target the others first.
    As a result of all this, the fight itself was almost hilariously one-sided and not merely because the various enemy groups all focused on each other instead of the PCs. Surprisingly, the lexitheurge proved exceedingly potent here, with song of discord nearly completely taking the eleven group out of the fight, and turning suggestion into effectively a SoD thanks to the rules of the competition.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Default Re: The Age of Worms; A homebrew playtesting journal

    Spoiler: The Champion's Belt, part 2
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    With the first fight of the gladiator games complete, the group went on to deal with the Shrine of Kyuss. Several of the early encounters with group of undead were heavily neutered by the animancerís repulse undead ability and the encounters with individual creatures (Bozal Zahol, the alkilith and the Apostle of Kyuss) were relatively easily overwhelmed by the party focus firing them and bringing them down before they could take an action. In particular, the Apostle of Kyuss was destroyed when it rolled a 3 on its saving throw against the animancerís greater repulse undead.


    The encounters here were the first time that Iíve really had a chance to see the animancerís repulse undead ability in action. The ability was intended to be an effective tool at shutting down large groups of weak undead, while potentially still being useful even against stronger undead via the abilityís daze effect. Mechanically, the ability is meant to fit a similar niche to turn undead, but without that abilityís numerous alternate uses. After watching the ability in action, though, Iím a little worried that the ability may be a little too strong, so this is something that Iím going to keep an eye on going forward.

    Meanwhile, the entire group has reached level 10, so here are the newly updated sheets.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Spoiler: The Champion's Belt, part 3
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    The last three gladiator fights came and went fairly quickly. One of the issues with this module is the fact that most of the fights are big set piece battles where the PCs can reasonable expect to not have to deal with any further combat later in the day, meaning that the PCs are free to nova to their heartís content. As a result, the fights werenít nearly as difficult as the CRs would have suggested. This was compounded by the fact that a number of the fights could be neutralized by either fear or suggestion effects as opponents who fled or surrendered were taken out of combat and that many of the opponents had abysmal Will saves.


    Reviewing the classes, I didn't really see any issues that I felt needed to be corrected. The classes were all able to contribute, even the lexitheurge who had earlier been having issues contributing in combat due to its narrow spell list. Also, all of the classes have reached level 11, so I present newly updated character sheets.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

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    Spoiler: A Gathering of Winds, part 1
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    And we have a good, old-fashioned dungeon crawl, starting off with a fight against a dragon. The dragon wasnít anything too special (the additional poison effect on the breath weapon was mitigated by both characters struck making their saves), though it has helped me appreciate the value of enervation as a debuff. Once inside the tomb, the group proceeded to mow down the encounters without any real difficulty until they encountered the elder black pudding. Itís splitting ability rendered the cosmic knight and the nightblade almost completely useless, and it hit hard enough to put the lexitheurge into negative hit points from full health in one hit. The issue of characterís being dropped from full to into the negatives in one round would be repeated with Flycatcher and the nightblade immediately afterwards, and the lexitheurge would only just barely escape dying during the encounter with the dread wraith. The encounters up through the relief golems went much smoother. The lexitheurge had a little trouble contributing during the encounter with the golems, but this was more due to the nature of golems and their magic-immunity than anything else.


    For the most part, the encounters that nearly resulted in PC deaths didnít seem to be the result of structural issues with the classes, but rather general build and play issues. That being said, I think Iím going to give some consideration to increasing the lexitheurgeís HD from a d6 to a d8.
    In the meantime, by the time the group defeated the relief golems they had all reached level 12, so once again Iíve included updated character sheets.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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    Spoiler: A Gathering of Winds, part 2
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    The remainder of the encounters went by without much of note. The greater air elementals were probably the most challenging fight out of the remaining encounters by dint of lasting the longest and dealing the most damage to the group, but that was largely due to the fact that high-level elementals are essentially giant lumps of hp with extremely high attack bonuses relative to their CR. The only other really notable element of the challenges in the last part of the dungeon was the fact that the entrance to the tomb made it clear that weíve reached the point where if a character has focused on a skill theyíll pass any check without any difficulty, while other characters wonít have any hope whatsoever. Granted, this a factor of the system and not the characters, but I felt it was worth noting anyway.


    Reviewing the classes again, Iíd given some consideration to making lexitheurges more durable, either increasing their HID to a d8, giving them proficiency in shields, or both. However, Iíve finally decided to hold off on doing so for the time being, but I will be keeping a close eye on the lexitheurgeís durability going forward.
    If brute force isn't working, that just means you're not using enough of it.

    When in doubt, set something on fire. If not in doubt, set something on fire anyway.

    My Homebrew


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