Monday, April 14, 2008

No More Toolkit (Monster Manual 4.0)

I'm really excited about D&D 4 and the abandonment of the modular toolkit that made monsters so cookie cutter in 3.x. If the designers want a monster to do something cool in 4E, they just allow them to do it as a special ability. In the past, monsters had to fit the modular design specs, so even the most supernaturally cool powers often felt mechanical and dull. They had to initiate a common physical attack, use common feats or standard spell effects.

There's a new excerpt from the 4E Monster Manual that goes over a couple new devils. My favorite new ability comes from the Succubus. In previous editions she was a demon and not a devil. Demons are about ruthless destruction and carnage and devils are about corruption and seduction. She was always about subtlety and deception, so it made sense to move her to the devil camp. One of her special attacks is called charming kiss.

(m) Charming Kiss (standard; at-will) * Charm
+14 vs. AC; on a hit, the succubus makes a secondary attack against the same target.
Secondary Attack: +12 vs. Will; the target cannot attack the succubus, and if the target is adjacent to the succubus when the succubus is targeted by a melee or a ranged attack, the target interposes itself and becomes the target of the attack instead. The effects last until the succubus or one of its allies attacks the target or until the succubus dies.

What's cool is that the effect forces the target to interpose itself in front of an attack, automatically becoming the target. There's no special feat, no game mechanic like grapple, just a slick special ability that works because the designers said so. We have an interesting mechanic associated with failing a save. The old succubus needed a grapple attack (a pain in the butt by itself) to perform a boring kiss that caused energy drain that could be easily removed by common spells. The opponent had to save versus a common Suggestion spell, if kissed. The Suggestion was inevitably avoided by the clever party, who could just ignore the charmed character for the duration. Boring, overly complex and rarely satisfying. This new model is back to basics, back to making monsters frightening and unpredictable. You can just imagine the charmed character struck down by the party as they protect their new love. I can't wait to read more monsters.


  1. I think you are splitting hairs here. Not to protect 3.5, because it is very modular, but your example is approaching the situation with the same eyes as all the 4e fans (who all of a sudden hate the game they loved last year).

    The 3x Succubus has the Suggestion ability at will which allows her to suggest that a victim protect her. Same effect, different mechanics (the victim just readies to block incoming attacks).

    One of the major issues in 3x was characters hated having mind controlling abilities used against them. I don't see anything changing here.

  2. The change might seem subtle, but I think it's substantial. Maybe it's just me, but as you say, players hate mind control spells, so they usually subvert them in some way.

    The 4E example gives a unique mechanic to her mind effect. The player *will* protect her (sometimes the Suggestion was something like "kill the wizard") and attacks *automatically* hitting the character who interposes themselves. There's no way to interpose oneself in 3.5 or protect her with the existing mechanics. You could never have that interesting situation.

    It's also faster in play. I don't have to look up Grapple (groan) or Suggestion and I don't have to decide what the player will be "suggested" when they fail. On the down side, it could get repetitive, but how often in a campaign do you encounter a succubus?

  3. There is a way to interpose. I already said it: ready an action to, ta da, interpose.

    Sorry, man, just got home and I am tired.

    Maybe I am just used to people who know the rules backwards and forwards (it was a brutal learning curve for me).

  4. Allen, where are you coming up with "interpose"?

  5. I am going to reply to what I think you are asking. Interpose: place oneself in the way of the attack. As referenced from your initial post.

    Ready action (after suggested to, of course) to jump in front of the first person approaching in a threatening manner in a way so as to block that attacker's attack by using oneself as a meat shield.

    A readied action can interrupt another person's action. Thus, the attacker's action is interrupted and now said attacker must go around, overrun, or attack the meat shield.

    Or maybe I am not understanding what you are writing(?).

  6. Ok, "interpose" as a description of what you just said, as opposed to a technical term. You can always just step around them, which would probably provoke an AoO, but that's about it. I like the new mechanic because they are simply "interposed," and all attacks hit them instead, rather than trying to wrangle all the details and complicated chess maneuvering.

    "Interpose" would make an excellent technical maneuver though.