Fanning the Embers

It's been a year and two months since I posted in this account-- I'm astounded some bot hasn't automatically deleted my account for inactivity. I keep the account, though, because a number of friends have chosen livejournal as their internet presence of choice, and I want to kibitz on their posts without being anonymous.

I will take this opportunity to plug for my own actual site. While clashingblack has never actually gone down, it is prone to lying fallow for months at a time.  But the seasons change, and my primary web enabler, Gopher, has me back on the update wagon, drawing strips and thinking about characters. Since that outlet has been restored, maybe there's another type of creative output I can direct towards this spot.

Master of Masks

The Master of Masks originally appeared in The Complete Scoundrel sourcebook as a prestige class for bards or wizard/rogues. Lots of people on the WotC boards argued (convincingly) that it was underpowered, but I found it to be a neat polymath PrC (I liked Dungeonscape's factotum class for the same reason). Since paragon paths in 4th edition aren't really geared towards granting things like darkvision and weapon proficiencies, I decided to reinterpret the Master of Mask's hallmark as a device that "palette swaps" a striker's attacks. I've listed the powers as Martial, but it's really a hybrid with some very Arcane effects. We could interpret this as phenomenally inspired sleight-of-hand, or special effects that cross the line into reality. You'll also notice that I've deviated from the old list of masks in favor of something a little 4th-ier. Also, I'm not totally confident about the desirability of the 16th level feature or the damage dice of the powers. But hey, it's a draft.

Master of Masks
“I’m not questioning your powers of observation; I’m merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.”

Pre-Requisite: Training in the Bluff and Thievery skills

Your talent for stagecraft doesn’t border on the supernatural—it invokes it. When you wear the visage of an iconic being you act as it would act, and strike as it would strike. Your performance is so convincing that some people mistake your mask for the source of your strength, but it is really just the focus.


Masked Action (11th Level): When you spend an action point to take an extra action, you also do not grant Combat Advantage until the start of your next turn.

Craft Mask (11th Level): As a short rest action, you may craft a mask that will last until the end of your next extended rest. This mask is an artifice, with defenses equal to your level +4 and hit points equal to your healing surge value. If the mask is dropped to 0 hp, it is destroyed. You may only possess one crafted mask at a time. The mask is worn on your face, but does not occupy any item slots.

When you craft the mask, select one of the iconic visages from the list below. Each mask is associated with a pair of damage types. While wearing a mask, you may change any damage you inflict to one of those types.

  • Aberrant (acid and poison): This hideous, misshapen mask may have tentacles, chelicerae, too many eyes, or seem to pulsate unnaturally.
  • Immortal (force and radiant): Whether this mask presents the face of an angel, devil, or deity, it will be handsome and imposing (and possibly abstract).
  • Elemental (cold and fire): This bold mask may represent an archon, giant, or genie, and is often of an unusual texture.
  • Fey (lightning and psychic): This mask may resemble the delicate face of a nymph or the leer of a fomorian. Either way, the caricature guarantees an emotional response.
  • Natural (poison and thunder): The wood, leaves, and mud of this mask may appear crude compared to the others, but its animal features have a primal strength.
  • Shadow (necrotic and psychic): This mask may be a brief domino or an all-encompassing cowl, and it will still convey the menace of a shadar-kai or wraith.
Hidden Face (16th Level): While wearing your mask, you gain a +2 to your defenses against gaze attacks. Once per encounter, you may make an immediate saving throw against a condition imposed by a gaze attack. This saving throw cannot worsen your status.


Mask Flourish (Master of Masks Attack 11)
You strike as if you really were the being your mask proclaims you to be.
Encounter * Martial, Weapon, Special
Standard Action * Melee or Ranged weapon
Requirement: You must be wearing your crafted mask.
Target: One creature.
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 2[W] + Charisma modifier damage of one type associated with your mask.
Effect: You gain resistance 10 to one of the damage types associated with your mask until the end of your next turn.

Master of Many Masks (Master of Masks Utility 12)
With a clever twist, you reverse your mask to reveal a new guise.
Daily * Martial
Minor Action * Personal
Special: You must be wearing your crafted mask.
Effect: You may immediately reshape your current mask into any other on the list. If your mask was damaged, it is now restored to full hit points.

True Visage (Master of Masks Attack 20)
Your mask seems to transform you into the genuine article.
Daily * Martial, Weapon, Special
Standard Action * Melee or Ranged weapon
Requirement: You must be wearing your crafted mask.
Target: One creature.
Attack: Charisma vs. Will
Hit: 4[W] + Charisma modifier damage and the target takes ongoing damage 10 (save ends). This damage is of both types associated with the mask.
Miss: 2[W] + Charisma modifier damage, no ongoing damage. The damage is of one type associated with the mask.
Effect: You gain resistance 10 to both of the damage types associated with your mask until the end of the encounter.

Lessons learned at this week's game (D&D version)

This last Saturday we played out penultimate session of our current Eberron campaign (we're getting ready to switch from 3.5 to 4th edition). A few observations:
  • Most of our fight scenes have been lasting 10-12 rounds. That feels like a pretty good length.
  • When I ask for a skill check, someone in the group is going to get a 25+. If it's Diplomacy or Sense Motive, I know it's our diplomancer rogue. If it's a Spot check, I know it's the half-elven ranger. Really, it's been that way since they passed 6th level.
  • The big bad guy is scarier when he can attack multiple PCs at once. This is probably why fire-breathing dragons put the fear in parties. The effect is even better when the big bad guy doesn't look like someone who should be able to make a "Death Blossom" attack-- like an Inspired soulknife.
  • Tower shields in 3.5 editon are super-effective. Enchanted tower shields are flat-out impenetrable.
  • The DM will rarely get more than two slices of pizza. This is simply a factor of always talking.
  • My friends appreciate port. I knew I liked these people for a reason.

Now: to schedule the next game before another month has passed!

Brainstorming the next campaign

The grassroots movement has taken hold, and I've gotten my regular players interested in switching from a 3.5 to a 4th edition campaign. This is admittedly my idea-- I'm a sucker for new systems, and always eager to try the latest thing. But! In my defense, we meet infrequently, and I've only got a little over a year before I head overseas again. I want a chance to play with the new stuff before I'm out of Metro range. And besides, if we don't like it, we can just pick up the old characters a few levels later for the great "reunion" adventure.

Of course, this means it's time to brainstorm for campaign ideas. I'm still planning to run with the Eberron setting since I have all the books and the players are familiar/comfortable with it. But which part of Eberron?

  • A campaign in the Lhazaar Principalities would allow me all sorts of island-hopping adventures-- I just have to promise my players that I won't overuse the "pirate chic." I've run an island based campaign before-- there's something in the geographic constraint and intricate ecology that appeals to my DMing tastes.
  • A Droaam or "monster" campaign could be fun reversal if the players are up for it-- Droaam has been a source of antagonists for their current characters, and I think they'd appreciate the inversion. However, I don't know that they're as into gnolls and ogres as I am, so that's a long shot.
  • The capital city of Thronehold has gone completely unremarked in our campaign, and that's a shame. The palace and vaults of an eight-century-long dynasty just sitting there locked up? Who's got the key? What's going on behind the doors? Who'll feed the Corgis? A campaign there could really explore the political aftermath of the Last War, and put PCs in a central position to determine the future.
  • The party has already visited Sharn a few times-- maybe they want to do a strictly Sharn campaign. That'd demand a better written cast of NPCs from me, but urban adventures lend themselves pretty well to improvisation in terms of plot (it helps when there are genuine monsters in the sewer).

Or maybe the players will tell me something I haven't thought of yet.

Lessons from this week's game

After five months away from the table, I finally made it back to my group's Werewolf game. Fortunately, the internet can provide even RPG characters with an explanation for long-term uninvolvement in daily affairs. But! Back to the action. Oddly enough, the session only covered one evening's in-game action-- practically real-time. That sounds brief compared to the days we usually cover, but our gamemaster still packed in the action. Lessons from this week's game:

  1. Spirits have their price, and don't care who pays it. Like NSO dames at a WWII hall, they'll dance with anybody.
  2. Spirits that hit your Essence are scarier than spirits who just hit your Health.
  3. If you fail your Stealth check, you may as well make a racket and draw attention away from more successful packmates.