Tag Archives: DnD 4e

How To Be: Some Jojo (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

And now, it’s time to engage with something that is a challenge on two axes: First, the challenge presented by unpicking what it even means to make it, and second, the challenge of dealing with the standard memetic conversation that unrolls when you bring it up.

We’ve been a Touhou. We’ve been an Ukyou. And it’s time, now finally, it’s time, to be a Jojo.

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4e — Dwarfeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is a game system built around giving players a useful, handleable group of tools to build a character. You have the simplest two lego pieces to snap together; what you do (your class), and how you were born (your heritage/race). A elf fighter is not the same as a half-elf fighter is not the same thing as an orc fighter, for example. These cultural groups then let you inform the world; after all, if there are elves and orcs in the world, there are probably places that those elves and orcs grow up. And thus the player options build the world, and the world building feeds into how the player options feel.

If you have crystal cities of a floating city state full of elves, the players will get ideas for that, and how they interact with the world, based on that. If the elves live in great green forest villages that hang from the branches, that’s going to give them different ideas. And if the elves, I don’t know, come from an elf mine, that’s going to give you a different perspective.

It’s a great system. I love it. I honestly think it’s one of the best things about the game, and the fact that it gives you a pair of dials to spin serves as an onramp that almost any player can get engaged with quickly, and that serves to anchor your decisions going forwards. Great system, I think it does a great job.

Anyway, I don’t like the the Dwarf and the Dragonborn in 4th edition D&D.

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The best of 2021, Part 1 – D&D

I wrote some bangers last year.

I sat down at first to give a sort of top ten articles of my own last year, that weren’t covered by specifically the header of How To Be, Game Pile or Story Pile. I tried it, and found that I had run out of slots for ‘absolute banger of an article’ in two months of summarising posts. Then I realised there were whole trends of things to write about and then I realised, hell, this is my blog, you’re here for my content, and unless you’re Vincent or Tab or Kate (hi, you three), odds are good you miss an article or three I write.

We’re going to do three of these this week. A whole bunch of bangers, divided up by the type of writing it is, and why I might want you to go reread it. First we’re going to talk about general content – stuff that I think you should link to other people outside the blog, posts that explain some complex concept in a way I’m proud, but also which doesn’t necessarily fit the other stuff.

And so here, I’m just going to bring your attention to a big pile of things I’d already written that are really good and which I know have escaped your attention, yes you, and today, it’s going to be about the Dungeons & Dragons, DMing and Worldbuilding articles.

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How To Be: Kipo (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is a Netflix TV series created by Radford Sechrist that started its life as a webcomic. The series is something I’ve praised in the past as being uncomplicatedly excellent. Set in a post-apocalyptic far future populated with anthropomorphic animals, it’s a story of a journey of adventure, beset on all sides by a dangerous villain with superpowers who, if he catches our heroes, may destroy their ability to ever defy him. It’s a great adventure structure, and one you should feel free to steal, and central to it all is the character of Kipo, a girl with pink skin whose position in the story is at the intersection of multiple sequences of events, set in motion before she was even born.

And like, I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to put a spoiler warning here. If you read these articles idly, and think you’d like to watch Kipo at some point, you should go do that before reading this article, because I’m going to talk about some stuff Kipo can do that isn’t obvious from the start of the story. I mean, oh okay, shock and horror, Kipo is special, obviously, you know that and I know that just looking at the fact the series is named after her, but nonetheless, I just want you to know, going on, that there be spoilers.

Good?

Good.

Okay, onwards.

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4E: The Hadalan

… And there, in the deepest and darkest of spaces, far from the prying eyes of those who would judge their work, or steal their designs, a god whose name is lost, did render the form of what it had seen, and sought to make its own.

It made what it thought it saw, when it saw humans.

And when it saw what it had done, it was revolted, and fled.

The Hadalan are a rare culture from the deep oceans of Cobrin’Seil. There are people of the seas – not like the cultures of merfolk and triton, that live up near the continents, building cities at the edges of the shelf where the land falls away into dark ocean. The Hadalan are from deep in the ocean; from places where vents in the earth belch bubbles and plumes of smoke into an uncaring darkness, where great bugs sift the sands, and where the dead bones of ship and whale alike lay in the muck, too cold and dark and barren to rot.

There are stories of the Hadalan. It’s said they are people who do not have souls. When seen from a distance, their shapes are hazy and indistinct, sailors say; they change shape and morph into strange and inhuman forms. Some say they eat souls, feasting on life to life to extend their own.

And there are the stories they tell of themselves.

The Hadalan, when asked, tell stories about how they were created without souls. About how they were abandoned by a god, who was horrifed at having made them. About the way they refused to die, and made their home in the deep oceans, with the deeper secrets. About glowing libraries and columns of fire that burn in the darkness of nowhere. About how they built a civilisation; how they learned to create their own souls; how they learned the ways to call upon gods.

How they called for their god, grown, whole, and a culture to be proud of.

How their god came to them.

And they tore them apart.

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How To Be: Kuchiki Rukia (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

In Bleach, one of the most central characters to the early narrative is one Rukia Kuchiki. Introduced in the first episode, she is the bridge of our previous point-of-view character into the spirit world as an outsider. She is a character from another world, deprived of powers in our world, who has to guide Ichigo, a seemingly ordinary dude who can see ghosts, into seeing the immensely complicated reality that spiderwebs about him about societies full of special rules and seemingly arbitary boundaries. Rukia is this sort of mix of gremlin energy, doing things like building a micro room in Ichigo’s closet, ostentatious self-importance due to her noble heritage, and very legitimate expertise in spiritual matters. It’s the sudden loss of Rukia that marks the transition between the first two major arcs of Bleach, where all the fun we’ve had up until now is suddenly framed as something you have to pay for. The society, the life, the world that is waiting outside of the fun of highschool appears and demands that all that fun is over and now there is a duty.

I assume at some point after that she gets super powers and reunites with Ichigo and they have cool adventures and the story doesn’t run in place for nine years.

Anyway!

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How To Be: May (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You may remember that we’ve looked, earlier in the year, at the character Rock Howard, from Garou: Mark Of The Wolves. Fight games are rich fodder for this kind of exercise because they so often about what a character is and less about what the character does. Simply put, fight games don’t make much sense.

There’s a scale at work, of course. Some games make more sense, with a deliberate intention to ground the storytelling in something serious. Some games, on other hand, are pretty silly, and don’t really care about how silly they get.

Anyway, Guilty Gear.

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Game Brief: The Many Complications of Fogge’s Barrow

I’m running a D&D game right now. Uh, unless something’s gone very wrong, I’ve been running it for some time by the time this guide goes up. But when I make a game I start out by giving people a document, called a Game Brief, that gives them guidance on building characters, and what’s expected of them.

For this game, I knew I had a small party (only three players), because we’d be playing this when our fourth friend was absent from the game. I also knew I didn’t want a huge stake, and wanted it to be much more about something local without big potential impact, so I put it in the mid levels of Heroic. Enough room that players could play experienced characters, but not that they had a veritable tale to them yet.

I’m going to present the brief, as I started on it… and then talk about the complication that followed.

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How To Be: Disney’s Robin Hood (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, I felt it was time to approach the challenge from a different angle, of taking something with an obvious, easy, simple solution and then exploring around that. And for that, we’re going to look at a classic character, a character who’s so well known we don’t even remember we’re referencing him when we reference him. A folk hero, a hero who defined a generation and set thousands of people on their path that would determine the kind of person they’d be.

We’re going to look at Robin Hood.

Specifically, the 1973 Disney’s Robin Hood.

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4e: Sneaky Feys

It’s said, that humans learned magic from the gods; some say that humans learned it from studying the universe around them. Some, in the oldest and darkest stories, say that humans learned magic from the fey, because they couldn’t wait to see how badly we fucked it up.

One thing I love about D&D 4e is the way that making a character is pretty simple and robust. Rather than gate things like werewolves and werebears behind layers of power back in third edition, the game finds ways to let you play that straight up, out of the gates. Same with Vampires, and, if you want, you can play all sorts of weird character types out of nowhere.

If you want to play a weirdo, fae-realms inspired fey creature, you have options too! And, of them, the Satyr and Hamadryad, are bad. Fortunately, though, Fox made some better ones, and I’m going to give you some feat support for them!

Now, this is a bit of a different direction in the kind of 4e content I make. This isn’t about something from established books, this is something based on the character heritages for 4th edition that Fox made. It’s going to be about feat support for the Gruuwar, Pooka, and Firbolg heritages she wrote, and put up on The Square Fireball.

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How To Be: Goliath from Gargoyles (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, we’re going to look at a challenging build; we’re going to be looking at a powerhouse of muscle and stone, in the form of Goliath from the Disney series Gargoyles.

4e: The Swallowers

There are tales told, in the deep and dark places of the world, about vast, floating multi-eyed magical monsters, their minds full of hate, seeing a world of imperfection and foulness that they refuse to abide, wanting to reshape and destroy it all at once. There are tales told about their variations and mutations, things that they see as vulgar but necessary – smaller versions of themselves, foul mutations and permutations.

But there are other variations, ones they don’t mean to make.

Swallowers are chaotic, anarchic creatures, who look like the famously powerful tyrants of the underdark, but sharing none of their ambition and hate. Instead, what they have is curiosity, bubbling up from within as they bounce and float around the world, exploring the world.

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How To Be: Daryun (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

We have a bit of a special one this month: Not a character I know, or am familiar with, but who has been in my life and around me for some time. We’re going to look at the character Daryun from The Heroic Legend of Arslan, a novel series some thirty-five years old, which was reimagined and reinvigorated through the heroic work of Hiromu Arakawa. So, imagine a deep, long-running heroic fantasy war epic, which then had one of the greatest living manga-ka come through and give it a bit of a brush up.

We’re going to talk about a hot prince’s best friend, who he loves so much he was buried with him (but, in a not gay way, if you believe the fandom wiki): Daryun.

5 Dual Wielding 4e Characters

You know what’s cool?

Dual Wielding!

No doubt your favourite professional full-time know it alls have told you that dual wielding is unrealistic and bad and sucks and deprives you of a shield, but my counterpoint is shut up nerd. And when I’m thinking about extremely cool things where the realism doesn’t matter, I think about Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition

Which is the best edition.

Here then are five different ways you can wield it both ways:

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How To Be: Illidan Stormrage (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Now, are you prepared?

No.

No, you are not prepared.

We’re going to talk about how you can become Illidan Stormrage.

 

4e: Mind Control

Content Warning: I’m going to discuss some mind control stuff in ways that violates consent. Not any specific outcomes from that, but if you find the whole vibe icky, that’s what this is about.

Also, other, I guess, content warning: This isn’t about the horny topic of mind control, so if that’s the vibe you’re hoping for, sorry?

Rather what I want to talk about here is the way Dungeons & Dragons uses Mind Control across its multiple iterations and how, as tends to happen when I talk about it, 4th Edition did it in the best way.

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4e: The Ardent

I write a fair bit about 4th edition D&D. There’s at least one article a month, with the How To Be series, and I think they’re lots of fun. They’re exercises in character construction, working from a character aesthetic and trying to find a way to make that fit in the power boundaries and existing options of 4th edition D&D. Part of why I like to do this is to attack the idea that character creation in 4e was boring.

Stil, there are some things that are just… very much from D&D. They’re just things that fit within the universe of D&D as it is, and don’t really translate well to other sources. One such class is the Ardent. The Ardent is a psionic leader; it does team support, healing and buffing and positioning, but powered by the power of the mind.

Psionics in D&D has a weird place, because for some people (like me) it feels like a clear intrusion of science fiction into the fantasy landscape of D&D and therefore makes all the arcane and divine importance of magic as a discipline less important, and for some people (like me, now) that’s 100% correct and rules. Complaints about psionics from back in the day tend to be about how the system was broken not about how the system broke the fiction of the universe after all. Psionics has come to be a favourite system because it tends to be contained in a way that magic isn’t. Magic gets expanded constantly, while there’s an understanding that the psionic system is going to get a limited amount of space, and the psionic classes tend to get a small number of tools they need to make hte most out of. That creates a depth of mastery, where you want to make choices that give you a toolkit you then have to maximise, rather than the disappointing feeling of a wizard’s infinitely wide toolkit, or a sorcerer’s maximally efficient one. It strikes a middle space – and it stands apart from the wizard.

The Ardent takes this idea space and looks at psionics as a way to express the self. It is literally a romantic class (though no Ardent I’ve played has ever had a successful romance) – a class who can use their feelings, their love, their rage, their will to succeed, their excitement at avoiding an attack, and turn that into a tangible force where they can use it to punch an enemy in the face. I love this stuff – I love the idea of a literal avatar of your own feelings. It’s like the thrill of a cleric, where your ideology drives your actions, but you don’t have to have a Dad who is also a Cop on hand.

Ardents use weapons; Ardents wear armour. I like that. These are both things that will cost your character somewhat, but they get you to have a big physical expression of what kind of person they are in their aesthetic. Robes tend to be robes – but armour can look like a lot of different things. Using an axe or a hammer or a polearm or a sword – they also express different ideas. Plus, weapons have a big space of fun synergies that you can pick up if you want to find something interesting to do with your feats, but also don’t demand it.

Ardents are a Charisma-first class. That is, you make attack and damage rolls with your charisma. I wrote about them a while back, about how you can be hot and hit people with your hotness, which I still find fun. Charisma as a way to express a driven character who, whether or not they have social anxiety or stress out over public interactions, can use the force of how they feel to change the world. That’s cool!

Also, it’s a leader. I like playing defenders, because they get to be tough and I can make a big, tangible showing of what good I am contributing. I like protecting my friends. I get some of the same with the leader’s job – making people better at what they do, contributing to their wellbeing, and, with the right build, absolutely wielding the strikers in the group like a bloody blunt instrument.

They get this power? Forward thinking cut. You can fire it off in three versions:

  • Hit someone. Your ally next to you gets a bonus to hit rolls. You can do this when you charge.
  • Shift 1, charge, then you can hit someone, and an ally next to you gets a bonus to hit rolls.
  • One or two Allies you can see can each charge creatures other than the target as a free action, with a bonus to damage equal to your con mod.

Now that, that escalated quickly.

Being able to charge in quick for free, as an at will power? that’s grand. The boost being until your next turn means you can charge next to a tank, stand in their defensive space, and watch as the bonus applies to all their attacks of opportunity or mark punishment. That power, on its own, is fine. The second version lets you shift away from someone holding you in place, and then charge off away from them, to join another ally. That’s also great, a tool you want in the toybox.

The third version is fucking nova gas.

It can be hard to concentrate these attacks – you may notice this means you, the Ardent, charge at a minion or buddy next to the villain, and you throw two of your allies at the villain as a free action so they start their turns mixing it up with them. You can use this to deploy a defender into the middle of a bunch of enemies.

Oh and did I mention that you give pepole a bonus to damage rolls based on how many attacks of opportunity they provoke?

And that this is one power?

And that you have other stuff you can do, including a conga line power where you pinball an enemy around between all your allies and let them all get an attack in?

I think about this a lot when I think about this class. It’s very D&D, but it’s also this very beautifully Tactics Game at the same time. It’s a game that lets you play out the fantasy of being a battlefield commander, inspiring and invigorating your allies. It’s so perfect for a lot of things I want out of characters I play.

Oh, I have no doubt that I’ll be able to find some builds in the future that use the Ardent. I like it a lot, and there are some characters who can probably be represented by a physically violent but emotionaly driven, armoured weapon wielder. I mean if she didn’t have such a loud ‘hit it harder’ theme, Chandra Nalaar could have done it.

How To Be: Rock Howard (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

It’s April, it’s Talen Month, and that means we’re going to talk about a character I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time, and a character who I have a deep appreciation for. There’s not a lot of characters that fit in that mould and work well with 4th Edition’s heightened adventure reality, but when I had the idea to tackle this character, I did so with full and wholehearted knowledge that damnit, I wanted to take care of this character in my month.

We’re going to talk about how you can become Rock Howard.

Examining Rock

Fight game characters are kinda easy to work with for this project. First, you have a nice, clear demonstration of how the characters fight, and second, the rest of the character’s needs are usually filled in with FUCKING NOTHING. I like Rock Howard a lot, but you know what I can’t reasonably tell you? Any of his tastes. His preferences. I can tell you pretty much everything about him from the story, but that’s a sequence of events and everything else is extrapolating.

In the context of the Garou universe Rock is from, we do see that nobody seems to be wearing armour or protective clothing. I think in the case of Rock, I’m going to need to push the definition of armour to its absolute limit to give him any armour setup that isn’t ‘cloth or nothing.’ At no point do we see Rock wielding something you can call a weapon, and we see him flinging around energy blasts. These blasts can be direct, targeted, timed in the middle of other things, and he even suggests he kind of uses them to throw himself forward.

Rock is also strong, and fast, and pretty. The last one doesn’t have a mechanical ramification, it doesn’t matter, but I’m going to mention it. We know that he can punish people who attack him, we know he can throw people around easily, and we know he can even launch himself skyward. Oh, and, even though he can throw ranged attacks that knock people down, he primarily attacks people in melee and hits them with his fists and feet.

Okay, that’s a pretty good set of parameters:

  • Rock is primarily a melee combatant.
  • Rock may wear some armour, if you want to be generous about his bike jacket
  • Rock can blast people from range, and attack everyone around him in melee with energy
  • Rock doesn’t visibly wield a weapon

The Essential Rock

Well now this is a tricky pickle, isn’t it? D&D 4e is a game with certain basic assumptions about combat. For example, it assumes, if you’re going to attack someone, you’re doing it with a weapon. That weapon is therefore probably a perfectly good vessel for magical nonsense, which means you get to have all sorts of violent outcomes from axes and swords and halberds and guisarmes, busting out that real French stuff, but there’s very little options for if you want to hit someone with your hands.

Now, you can trawl the garbage dump for options, but I think it’s best to admit we’re going to have a problem here. Small melee weapons like daggers may fit in other builds, and we’ll talk about those in the junk drawer, but for now, our best option for unarmed but armed as a weapon is the ridiculous tool the GAUNTLET AXE.

A Gauntlet Axe is a weapon from the Dark Sun Campaign Setting. By description, it’s axe blades out of your forearm, but crucially leaves your hands exposed – which means, mechanically speaking, if you’re wearing something that covers your arms, and you squint, it’s an upgrade to your unarmed attacks. Now, it does turn them into axes, so you don’t get to make grapples with them.

It is a weapon; it’s an axe, and it leaves your hand empty. It’s also a shield, and it can be enchanted as a weapon and a shield, and… that’s… nice? And that means your unarmed attacks are basically a +2 proficiency, 1d8 weapon that leave your hands free for the aesthetic of fighting unarmed and a shield that can be enchanted as (for example) a Tusk shield. Really, you pack a lot of stuff in the utility space of the gauntlet axe, except.

Except.

See, you need to be proficient in the Gauntlet Axe (which is a Superior weapon). That’s going to eat a feat, which is a bummer. Some of these builds need a fair bit of feat investment, which means spending another feat, up front, just for a weapon that isn’t actually better than a Longsword and which puts you, categorically speaking in the space of axes.

Still, there are some things that Rock does that we can definitely connect to items. One example is his counter. That’s an item ability, the Strikeback. If your build doesn’t need your Immediate Interrupt a lot, the Strikeback is a hand-slot item that lets you counterattack when someone hits you. That fits that. Later in the game, mind you, but bear it in mind for later on.

Also, it’s a minor thing, because it’s going to be a minor thing to every one of these options, but Rock kinda throws people around, so items that improve your push, pulls, and slides, and anything from the teleport collection we discussed in Corvo’s article is worth considering.

Alright, that’s our basics. On to the specifics.

Option 1 – Monk

With all that malarkey aside, good news: The Monk does not care or need any help at all to do unarmed combat just fine. Monks get splashy magical powers, they get mystical energies, they can throw enemies around, they can move around fast and clean. Honestly, the Monk gets to sit outside of this conversation on its own, in a little bubble. The monk can go without heavy armour, it can benefit from non-weapon implements so they don’t need to be held in hand, and they get to pick and choose the synergies they like.

Basically if that previous discussion made you go ‘uhhh…’ then just take a Monk. Just take a Monk. Want to make Rock Howard, Terry Bogard, Joe Higashi, Andy Bogard, Kain Heinlen, Abel Grant – you know, by default, the monk can become almost any fight game character who just punches stuff and moves around freely.

That’s pretty boring, to be honest? It’s not bad, or anything I dislike, it’s just that the Monk is a bit too easy and there’s nothing fun or creative about it. There’s no specific synergies that differentiate any given version of one of these characters from another monk. I don’t like it, because it feels overly simple, and it limits you to the striker role. If you want the simplest, what-it-says-on-the-tin version of a Rock Howard: Play a Monk.

Option 2 – Battlemind

The Battlemind is one of the most anime classes available if you want to be a defender. The class doesn’t need a lot of refinement out of the box to do ‘Rock Howard things’ – check out the level 1 power Concussive Spike, which lets you throw a blast that knocks everyone in it over. You can make some of your melee single-target hits into explosive bursts around you too, with the augment system.

Now, there is a little bit of time before the Battlemind can truly blossom. It’s a class that lacks for what we call ‘mark punishment,’ or good mark punishment, before level 7, when you get access to Lightning Rush.

And Lightning Rush is the most anime tank power ever.

When you Lightning Rush, someone attacks one of your friends. You respond by teleporting adjacent to them, suddenly face to face with them, and punch them in the face. Then you take on the attack for yourself. How cool is that?

The Battlemind can also get a power called Forceful Reversal. Someone attacks you while you have this power? You interrupt it and punch them in the face and knock them down. That creates a true fight game conundrum: if you have both of these powers, when someone attacks you, you can punish them. When they attack your ally, you can punish them.

That seems like a nice case of outthink me, you fools, you can’t.

Option 3 – Bard

I am already a big fan of the melee bard. If you want to go with our gauntlet-axe melee support bard, you may have to adjust your vision of Rock a little. This will involve looking at Rock as one of many, like, say, a wolf in a pack, where he fights alongside his friends, as opposed to how in the games he mostly spends his time fighting his friends. It’s a fight game, it’s in the genre name.

The base template of the bard, however, can work out really well for a brawly fight game character in light armour. Take the valorous bard, and charge in. It adds in some social benefits too, like how Rock is attractive and capable of fighting with his burning blood, something that I understand is something of a turn on for the right kind of audience.

There’s a little wiggle here too; you could go with a standard valorous bard, which are great. But maybe you want the bulk of your time to be spent actually hitting people, in which case you might opt for the Skald. Skalds are easy to make tick, out of the box – just take the class, and the class gives you everything you need. Your first level feat can be spent on proficiency with the gauntlet axe, and away you go. You have abilities that let you teleport and daze on attacks, and the rest is just power choices.

There’s also the option of starting as a ‘default’ bard, and spending feats to take the Skald’s virtues. This can be really desireable for again, the Valorous bard who wants to stock up on temporary hit points while punching your enemies in the face, and lets you turn on an aura so that your allies can heal themselves by just being near you. Makes you kinda into the ‘team pet’ rather than necessarily into the team’s ‘leader.’

What you need for that is Skald Training, and some way to get a melee basic attack that works for the bard. How can we get a charisma-based basic melee attack, reasonably early? The half-elf can just get it by waking up in paragon and taking one feat – ho hum, nothing special there. But if you’re interested in doing this early, before you need to get to Paragon, an option I like is to make a Tiefling, and take a multiclass paladin feat. Whichever gives you a utility you like better – Walker of the Dark Path is the one with the least requirements, and gives you a once-a-day burst of temporary hit points, but I like Squire of Righteousness – it gives you a debuff aura (if you want it) and even lets you punish people who ignore you. Then, you take the feat Wrath of the Crimson Legion.

God, look at that name.

Wrath of the Crimson Legion lets you make basic attacks with full Charisma, which is what a bard would be building towards. Now, this has been both of your early feats, so you might have to use spiked gauntlets for a little bit – lesser version of the gauntlet axe – but your next feat can be weapon proficiency and away you go. Also, the Tiefling opens you up for some silly powerful feats like Secrets of Belial in the late game.

Junk Drawer Options

As far as the class that feels the most like Rock, I actually don’t think the Monk is your best place. I think the best place to look is the Avenger. The problem with the Avenger is that it’s something that needs to either focus on big chunky crits with a big weapon (which is kind of the opposite of what Rock’s been outlined as doing), or you get to try and multiattack with other class tools and aim to make lots of crits with small weapons to aim for critical effects. That kind of build is known as a ‘critfisher’ and while it is very cool and can give you the same kind of jousting, positioning ‘is this the breakthrough moment or not?’ attack that works for a fight game, it’s very complicated to get rewards.

There’s also a build of the cleric that gets melee implement attacks – but not many, and the result is kind of a patchy mix of powers, and it has the added problem that the cleric is a heavy armour class. It doesn’t have a lot of mobility to it. There’s a bladesinger, which is a melee wizard, but it does heavily rely on using a sword. I could even see a use for the druid, because Rock has an aesthetic that ties him to both birds (hey look, angel wings) and wolves (the game he’s from is called GAROU: MARK OF THE WOLVES) and use silhouettes and spell effects to evoke that, with his ‘beast’ mode being his ‘melee’ mode, not necessarily a full blown animal.

And there are also more builds that get weird with the monk, but they involve rules like hybrid rules. And hybrid rules are a dark place to look for expert builders, not an approachable, easy-breezy guide.

This is obviously a big one. I love it in part because Rock is such an interesting character that, when you’re presented with primarily an aesthetic space, rather than a hard mechanical one, you’re given a lot of different, interesting ways to express it.

I love Rock as a character, I am fairly sure I had a crush on him growing up, and he was my personal example of the Wife-Or-Life problem. So now you know that about my tastes, I guess, that as a teenager, I thought it’d be rad as hell to be Rock Howard, or to do a kiss on him.

How To Be: Edelgard von Hresvelg (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Now this month, we’re going to return to How To Be’s roots, and once more we’re looking at a character from Fire Emblem: Some Number Of Houses. Yes, it’s the gal who’s Horny For Priest Murder (And For Other Reasons), the Look Up Other Reasons People Like Her, the One, the Only: Edelgard von Not Pronouncing That!

4e: The Hindren

Hindren are a type of cervitaur (‘part deer, part-humanoid, with four legs and two arms’) people you can meet in the indie videogame Caves of Qud. They’re originally a fan creation by indie bespoke curio crafter Caelyn Sandel, before they were implemented in the game proper in part thanks to the efforts of new Caves of Qud writer Caelyn Sandel, which meant they were present in the game to be streamed by Grahu-Rubufo, the Caves of Qud vtuber (voice acted by Caelyn Sandel).

Here, in this article here, is a version of the Hindren that you can bring to the table in your D&D games, as long as you’re playing 4th edition and have a DM that’s understanding about gay deers. Why now? Why am I doing this? Because it’s someone‘s birthday soon, and she’s lovely, and I like what she does.

Art Source: Phineas Klier. Don’t like the watermark? Go check out his work, it’s clean and big there!
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How To Be: Ukyou Kuonji (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Well, we’ve done some odd stuff with this section, some big ideas about maximising specific character quirks and hitting particularly niche interests like a transforming robot dinosaur, but what if your wants are more hey, what can I do with this simple basis? And, it seems that this month is full of references to Ranma 1/2 and twitter voted on it, and so, here we go, a return to Ranma 1/2 as an option: Ukyou Kuonji.

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4e: The Passionguard (And A Kickstarter Promo!)

In 4th Edition D&D, a starting character has three large layered choices for making a character more conveniently.  You have their Ancestry (“race”), you have the toolset for solving problems they have for their basic skills (“class”), and then you have the little third layer, the layer where you get to refine those two things with extra stuff that isn’t worth a lot, but does bring with it some inherent difference: the theme.

For me, themes are a secret sauce component of 4th edition D&D. They’re a place that you can fill out things a character should be able to do, small bonuses that aren’t necessarily as uniformly available. If you have a striker who you think of as needing to be able to shield someone, one person in particular, the Guardian theme is there for you. If you want to add some sneaky stabbiness to a straightforward fighter, there’s a Yakuza. I’ve used the Werewolf and Werebear for a lot of stuff, and there are sometimes whole themes that carry a concept that are more important than the other two choices to make sure you can hit a specific feel.

But also themes aren’t ironclad, either. Some are very specific, like membership in a specific organisation and some are very general. Themes feel to me like seasonings: The biggest problem we have with Themes right now is not enough of them and not varied enough. Themes are there to do the job of helping you cement some element of your character design that needs to grow, but also can’t be done with the slow progress of feats.

And while working on this, I found this.

Art by Floh Pitot

This artwork rules. I have this problem when I see art and because I create in game spaces, I immediately think ‘hey that’s rad, I’d love to make a game that looks like that.’ And you can’t, that’s a thing, you can’t just take art you like and use it, even though people can just take rules they like and use them. Seems a bit rude on me, I guess. But anyway, point is, I saw this and went: Damn, that gives me ideas.

Thing is, this art is for something. It’s art from 2018 for a Zine called Dames. And that zine has an iteration, currently on Kickstarter, right now. With that in mind, here’s a link to this Kickstarter, and I recommend you check it out and see if you like it. It’s a zine full of knightly ladies. That looks cool!

And now, inspired by this bangin’ artwork, I’d like to present you with The Passionguard.

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How To Be: ME GRIMLOCK (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You know, last year we did a bunch of characters who could be seen as fitting the genre of a combative adventurer reasonably well, and maybe it’s time to try some stuff that’s a bit more weird. With that in mind, let us reach wide, with our tiny, tiny arms, and look at ME GRIMLOCK!

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4e: The Paladin’s Plight

Pacing is important in games. It’s a lesson that can be difficult to learn without trial and error, and when your game is big and playtesting sessions are slow and about lots of varied choices it’s entirely possible that you have a pacing problem that only a small number of people are ever going to notice.

In 4e D&D, the Paladin was one of those characters with a rough pacing problem. If you build one, now, using any of the major building tools available, you’re going to see that when you hit level 2, you have to pick one of the utility powers available at that level and

Woo.

It is a spicy one.

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How To Be: The Covers Of 2020

It has now been a full year of How To Be. These articles are fun to make, they’re interesting to play around with, and I have more of them ready to go, so I fully expect to keep doing them. What I do think, though, from all of those articles I’ve made this year, I was frustrated to find that Twitter and Jetpack, two of the ways I promote this blog, don’t present my hilarious book covers in the thumbnails consistently. That means it’s possible that you might not see these book covers and may not have gone looking for them.

Also, since it’s December, and I am tired and you are tired and everyone is tired, how about I show off this year’s How To Be covers, and let you check them out now, as some long-form throwback reading of the rest of the blog.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Yeah.

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How To Be: Wolf Queen Nailah (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

And this month, before we talk about our subject, though I mean she’s in the subject of the blog post that you just clicked on so I mean what are we going to cover, suddenly a swerve and it’s going to be about trotting out pairs of characters that can be Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. But see, this marks our twelfth How To Be, and it also marks the first year of this feature. It’s fun! I’ve enjoyed doing that!

And because variety is important to me, we’re going back to Fire Emblem. And maybe, being you’re one of my friends, you might be thinking that yes! I’m going to bring up ya girl Edelgard, who is… very, very similar to Hilda.

No, we’re talking about Nailah, from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. And we’re talking about her because she’s cool, and she can do interesting things, and most importantly, because Fox likes her. I started with one of Fox’s favourite franchises, and then with a character she kinda didn’t like one way or the other? Terrible form on my part.

Let’s look at a Wolf Queen.

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How To Be: The Castlevania Gang (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, we’re going to examine overlapping skillsets as we look at not creating a character but creating a group of characters: The trio of monster hunters from the Fang-Em-Up Netflix anime, Castlevania.


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5 Ways To Be Cosmically Horrifying in 4E D&D

It is easy perhaps to forget that TTRPGs are a fundamentally creative space. In some games, especially the more modern indie style of TTRPG, characters are often handed a role that really paints the way they should feel, a characterisation that is in some cases extremely specific, like you’ll see in PBTA games. In D&D, there’s a lot of ways in recent days that flavour has swung towards specificity, which can limit the kinds of creativity you can express.

4e D&D is a game system that deliberately tries to leave a lot of your flavour up to you. Last year I talked about some character options that let you be horrifying heroes. This year, we’re going to do that again, but instead of gothic horror, we’re going to look at ways to do cosmic horror with your character that swings a big axe and saves the day.

Cosmic horror in this case refers to the horror felt at the boundaries between human agency and universal indifference. Cosmic horror can be felt in a very mundane, normal moment of life when you look up at the sky and realise that there is more that exists that you’ll never see, that the universe is old in a scale that you will never understand and will live on longer than you will ever be able to conceive, and that these two details make you a nothing of a blip between nothing blips. When we talk about cosmic horror as she is shown in media, it’s often about trying to show you those points of interface: Of the horror that Lovecraft himself said,

“Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.”

The horror of the Cosmic is not the threat of Gothic horror. It is the immense indifference of an uncaring, infinite emptiness.

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How To Be: Tier Halibel (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

This month, we’re going to dive into the world of the dead and look to the Queen of Hueco Mundo by the most powerful shounen anime right, the right of default, the underboob to Matsumoto’s cleavage well, Tier Harribel.

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