Category Archives: Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition

Stuff relating to the fourth edition of D&D, released in 2008

Stinging Orca

Well, I’m leaving for GenCon in a bit, which means either I won’t be posting anything or I’ll be posting a lot — how’s that for boolean? I’ll be using my laptop, which has become frustratingly sluggish, and I’m not sure my passwords are up to date on it, and, anyway, if I’m lucky, I won’t have time, since if we’re away from home my wife doesn’t need to worry about how much noise she’s making I’ll be too busy gaming.

So, in yet another desperate attempt to pretend this is an ongoing concern and not another “cobweb site”, here’s more stuff from the yes-I’m-still-working-on-it Earth Delta, namely, killer whales. With legs. And tentacles. You know, the normal stuff.

Landwhale, Stinging Orca

Landwhale, Stinging Orca

Level 16 Brute

Huge natural mutant beast (mutant, mammal)

XP 1,400

HP 191; Bloodied 96

AC 28; Fortitude 29; Reflex 27; Will 26

Speed 7, swim 8

Resist 5 weapon; Resist 10 against blunt weapons; Resist 10 cold; Vulnerability 10 fire

Initiative +13

Perception +17

Low-Light Vision

It is hard to knock a stinging orca prone. Whenever an effect would knock it prone (including a successful save to avoid being moved into dangerous terrain), it may roll a save to remain standing. If any power or effect allows it to “save or fall prone”, it may roll twice and take the higher result.
Squat Legs
The Stinging Orca cannot jump.
Standard Actions
m Bite • At-Will
Attack: Reach 1; +21 vs. AC; +2 bonus to attack rolls against prone or immobilized targets.
Hit: 3d10 + 10 damage.
M Paralytic Tentacles • Recharge 3 4 5 6
Attack: Reach 3 (One or two creatures in reach); +20 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d8 + 9 damage, and target is immobilized (save ends). .
Move Actions
Trample • Encounter
Attack: +18 vs. Fortitude; The stinging orca moves its speed; it may move through squares occupied by medium or smaller creatures, doing damage as detailed below. It may use this power in place of a charge, as a standard action, if desired. (It will then bite at the end of the charge, as expected.)
Hit: 2d12 + 10 and target is knocked prone.
Miss: Half damage and push target one square.
Triggered Actions
C Tail Swipe • Encounter
Trigger: The stinging orca is bloodied.
Attack (Immediate Reaction): Close Burst 1 (All enemies in burst.); +19 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8 + 7 damage, and push target 1d4 squares. .
Skills Athletics +18
Str 21 (+13) Dex 21 (+13) Wis 19 (+12)
Con 21 (+13) Int 6 (+6) Cha 18 (+12)
Alignment unaligned     Languages Common, Growl

Stinging orcas are found mostly in sub-arctic climates, where winters are long and there are many herd animals to hunt. Extreme hunger might drive some pods to attack communities, which can be extremely dangerous; an angry pod of full-grown “black stingers”, as they’re sometimes called, can quite literally flatten a poorly-walled stronghold in minutes.

Stinging orcas have the basic body design of their aquatic ancestors, but they run on six strong, stubby, legs, and two long, ever-whipping tendrils emerge from their backs, just behind the shoulders. These tendrils exude a paralytic venom which leaves their prey helpless and easily devoured.

While less intelligent than humans, stinging orcas are still sapient and they will fight with cunning. A common tactic is for one to bowl over enemies and let his fellows move in on the downed targets while he goes after the object of his charge. They are cooperative hunters and will use their tendrils on each other’s chosen prey, and they will show no mercy when it comes to protecting the young of the pod.

Despite their ferocity and relatively low intellects, it is often possible to deal peaceably with the orcas, especially if there are offers of freshly killed meat. They are a gregarious and communicative lot, though, so news of untrustworthy dealings will spread across thousands of miles with remarkable speed.

Stinging orca blubber can be rendered down into oil by use of the Skin and Gut technique; this yields oil worth 9000 gp per whale, in 10 medium units. (See the treasure section in the Core Rules). Obviously, barrels or other containers are needed to haul it back. Rendering a stinging whale in this way makes it impossible to gather ingredients for consumables using the same technique; it’s one or the other.

Design Notes

A fairly standard baseline creature, with a minor twist, namely, the displacer beast style tentacles. I’m playing around with Traits more; a lot of the detail for creatures that 3.5 handled by subtypes or feat choices can be lost in 4e, if you don’t make the effort to put it back, and I’m starting to make that effort (I may go back and spruce up older creatures when I’m done with paragon tier, as that will be a good way to also fix typos, correct inconsistencies, and so on.)

Rereading the critter now, it occurs me this would make a great mount; I will need to write up a version of that. Perhaps it will be ridden by squid-people or shark-men or something.


Prairie Lobsters

Prairie Lobsters

Since semi-regular updates of this site are generally considered a sign of the apocalypse, it is only fitting that I continue with more snippets from my apocalyptic RPG, Earth Delta, which is intended for use with Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, and damn straight that awkward phrasing is there mostly to get google to be aware this site sort of exists.

Since a major chunk of “completing paragon tier” is “finishing the monster list”, that’s where I’ve been putting a lot of my attention. I’d been contemplating some sort of mutant lobster for a while, and then, suddenly, the phrase “prairie lobster” popped into my head, and I rolled with it.

Some design notes: Mostly, these are intended as “baseline” critters — the kind of bog-standard things you need at various levels to fill niches. Exotically powered and specialized monsters are way cool, but if everything is an insane pile of custom one-off mechanics, the game becomes unplayable. At the same time, I want to try to make them feel right for their nature and not be trivial reskins of any other creature. So the prairie lobster doesn’t mark, per se; it grabs you, and if you stop struggling against it for an instant (to attack something else), it gives you a little extra pinch. Its ability to grab and hold two targets, coupled with its size and reach, lets it do a lot to make enemies choose to take it down first.

The riding lobster was actually where my mind first started; I just had this image of a cowboy type, rolling a cigarette as the sun set in the west, while his armored and clawed mount plodded along. The yunguns are there because you can always use some more minions, and I like “ecologies”, where different creatures in the same category can have roles that make a kind of sense, even if what we’re discussing is horse-sized lobsters that have decided to live like buffalo. It’s not how ridiculous your premise is that matters; it’s how you play out the consequences. I also like the image of swarms of lobsters, about the size of large dogs, bounding playfully around the prairies, tearing random passers-by to pieces with their claws.

You will note I resisted the urge to give them Vulnerability 10 butter.

(As with a lot of this “Preview” stuff, this is hot off the presses, literally created only a few minutes before posting, and may be even more typo-riddled and unbalanced than my usual stuff, to the extent that’s even possible.)

It’s my hope that I’ll post a PDF addendum to this article, that will have the critters more properly formatted; for now, you’ll need to make do with what WordPress does to Word.



Lobsters are tough and ill-tempered critters, while also being notably delicious. Their giant fighting claws make them naturally threatening, especially when increased dramatically in size and given the ability to confront man more directly, whether in the ruined cities that line the coastal regions, or wandering the great plains… hey, man, this game has flying grizzly bears with laser eyes. You can deal with prairie lobsters.

Prairie Lobsters

Much like the hoppertank, prairie lobsters are oversized arthropods who have undergone dramatic transformations in lifestyle. They are found in many of the fertile grassy plains of the world, especially the Purple Plains and the Ghostgrass Expanses. They are primarily omnivorous grazers, devouring many types of grass and the insects and other creatures that live on them, but they can and will eat larger prey if they catch it. They are especially good at rooting out smaller burrowing animals, and if a herd moves into cultivated land, it can be devastating if they are not driven off. They compete with hoppertanks for many of the same feeding grounds, and if the hoppertanks’ greater mobility fails them, they will be torn apart and devoured with gusto.

Some prairie lobsters have been captured young and trained as mounts; see “Mounts”.

Prairie Lobster Adult

Prairie Lobster Adult

Level 15 Soldier

Large natural beast (mutant, arthropod)

XP 1,200

HP 148; Bloodied 74AC 32; Fortitude 28; Reflex 27; Will 24Speed 5Resist 10 cold

Initiative +12

Perception +10

Low-Light Vision

Standard Actions
m Pincers • At-Will
Requirements: Must have less than two targets grabbed.
Attack: Reach 2; +20 vs. AC
Hit: 3d8 + 7 damage.
Grabbing Pincers • At-Will
Requirements: Must have less than 2 targets grabbed.
Attack: Reach 2; +20 vs. AC
Hit: 3d8 + 7 damage, and target is grabbed until escape or until the lobster lets them go. The prairie lobster can grab up to two targets. While grabbed, if the target makes an attack that does not include the prairie lobster, it takes 10 points of damage as an immediate interrupt.
M Squeeze • At-Will
Attack: (Make a separate attack against each grabbed target.); +19 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d8 + 7 damage, and ongoing 5 damage (save ends). If the target is already taking ongoing damage from this attack, it increases to ongoing 10 damage (save ends).
Triggered Actions
M Fury of Clacks • Encounter
Trigger: When first bloodied.
Effect (Immediate Reaction): The prairie lobster adult makes a pincer attack against all non-prairie lobsters in range (Reach 2). It will drop anyone it has grabbed prior to doing so as part of this action.
Skills Endurance +17
Str 26 (+15) Dex 17 (+10) Wis 17 (+10)
Con 20 (+12) Int 1 (+2) Cha 14 (+9)
Alignment unaligned     Languages

Adult prairie lobsters (it is nigh-impossible for anyone who isn’t an expert to tell male from female, and no one cares too much) travel the plains in herds of ten to twenty, usually surrounded by a small cloud of leaping, clattering “yunguns” whom they will try to protect from predators. Prairie lobsters are quite aggressive towards all other species, and will snap and make threatening displays at any creature that gets too close; if this does not work, a few of them will dash forward from the herd to dispatch the enemy. When badly injured, they tend to go mad, lashing out at everything in sight that isn’t a prairie lobster.

Prairie Lobster Yungun

Prairie Lobster Yunguns

Level 14 Minion Skirmisher

Small natural beast (mutant, arthropod)

XP 250

HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minionAC 31; Fortitude 26; Reflex 31; Will 22Speed 8

Initiative +17

Perception +9

Low-Light Vision

Group Attack
If a yungun has damaged the target this round, the pincer attack does +2 damage.
Standard Actions
m Pincers • At-Will
Attack: +19 vs. AC
Hit: 9 damage and see “Group Attack”.
Free Actions
Skittersnap • Encounter
Effect: The prairie lobster yungun may shift 2 squares after making a pincer attack.
Skills Acrobatics +20
Str 17 (+10) Dex 26 (+15) Wis 14 (+9)
Con 20 (+12) Int 1 (+2) Cha 14 (+9)
Alignment unaligned     Languages

Yunguns (no one is quite sure of the derivation of the word; some scholars feel it comes from the language of the Eastern Dragons, who, it is said, had great influence on the Merkan lands) are immature prairie lobsters, and usually travel with the herds, protected by their elders. Active, curious, and playful, they often explore in small groups, bounding and leaping across the amethyst waves of grain that cover much of the Central Merkan Plains. Their shells are remarkably hard, and an unwary traveler who finds himself surrounded may be torn to bloody gobbets by their claws. They are also extremely tasty when grilled over a fire, so everyone from wastelanders to armies of the Beast Legions on the march eagerly hunt them if they have wandered too far from their protective pack.

Riding Lobster

Riding Lobster

Level 14 Soldier

Large natural beast (mutant, arthropod, mount)

XP 1,000

HP 140; Bloodied 70AC 30; Fortitude 26; Reflex 26; Will 23Speed 7Resist  cold

Initiative +12

Perception +10

Low-Light Vision

Scary Mount
When mounted by a trained rider of 14th level or higher, the riding lobster grants a +2 to Intimidate checks made by that rider.
Standard Actions
m Pincers • At-Will
Attack: Reach 2; +19 vs. AC
Hit: 3d8 + 6 damage.
Hold ’em, Boy! (mount) • At-Will
Requirements: Must not be grabbing a creature.
Attack: Reach 2; +19 vs. AC
Hit: 3d8 + 7 damage, and target is grabbed until escape or until the lobster lets them go. The grabbed target grants combat advantage to a rider of 14th level or higher mounted on the Riding Lobster.
M Squeeze • At-Will
Attack: (One grabbed target.); +17 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 2d8 + 6 damage, and ongoing 5 damage (save ends). If the target is already taking ongoing damage from this attack, it increases to ongoing 10 damage (save ends).
Skills Endurance +17
Str 26 (+15) Dex 17 (+10) Wis 17 (+10)
Con 20 (+12) Int 2 (+3) Cha 14 (+9)
Alignment unaligned     Languages

Riding lobsters are prairie lobsters trained from hatching to serve as mounts. They are fed a special diet that makes them slightly smaller and much faster than their kin, at the cost of shrinking one of their claws to virtual uselessness. While most range in color from dark green to olive green, a few scholars have found that feeding selected plants to them while young can change this coloration, producing brightly colored individuals who can be very distinctive. Some bloodger knights are known to have them bred in colors matching their personal heraldry, as have some Beast Legion commanders.

Riding lobsters almost never have additional mutations.

Common Mutations

Hypnotic Shell: Some prairie lobster adults have shells which ripple in coruscating colors. This unusual effect increases in speed and intensity when the prairie lobster is in combat, and it can be hard to look away. So… pretty…. It gains the following attack.

Minor Actions
C Hypnotic Shell (charm) • Recharge 6
Attack: (All non-prairie lobsters in burst.); +4 vs. Will
Hit: Target grants combat advantage to all enemies (save ends). While this condition persists, the prairie lobster can slide one affected target one square as a free action on the start of its turn. .

Venomclaw: A few prairie lobsters have evolved poison sacks in their claws. When they squeeze a target, they also inject a poison that causes partial paralysis, making it especially difficult to escape the beast’s claws or to flee far if they do.

When a target is hit by the prairie lobster’s squeeze attack, it is slowed and suffers a -4 to Athletics and Acrobatics checks (save ends both). This is a poison effect. This is a different saving throw than the ongoing damage.



Yet Another Earth Delta Update

Once more, a smallish update to Earth Delta (Lizard’s take on post-apocalyptic mutant gaming for Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition), very possibly the start of longer and more regular updates. This comes, oddly, just as I’m starting to really get into my design for Stellar Warriors, having come up with a really cool (I think) mechanic for the Medic class and a nice start on “Force” (name changed in the actual text for obvious reasons) powers.  I am simply tired of leaving things unfinished, and I am going to try to really complete ED, at least up to 20th level in terms of monsters, paragon paths, mutations, items, etc. This segment is more of a “filling in the gaps” bit, adding a new mutant animal type — Boars –and a few more Heritage Mutations. In the actual PDF, they’ll be nicely formatted, etc, but here, I’m just pasting them from Word and losing all the styles. (Eventually, I will learn enough CSS to get things to look good on this damn blog. It astounds me how few (that is to day, no) blog editors there are that will generate CSS in a WYSIWYG format while you type. A few have partial functionality, but I want things like spacing between paragraphs, borders, and so on.)


Boars are powerful, vicious, creatures renowned for ferocity and stubbornness, as well as great big tusks and questionable hygiene. Very often, they are portrayed as crude, belching, beer (or whatever fermented beverage exists in the post-apocalyptic ruins) swilling lechers, or, if you will, male chauvinist pigs. While this portrayal has appeal, and no one who chooses to play a boaroid should be faulted for wanting to indulge in it, these are not the only traits boaroids possess. For example, many also have a fondness for motorcycles. Whether indulging in their stereotypical crudity or not, they are larger-than-life creatures whose presence can be very commanding.

Boaroid Racial Traits

Average Height: 5′ 6″ to 7′

Average Weight: 160-300 lbs

Ability Scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Strength or Charisma

Size: Medium

Speed: 6 squares

Vision: Normal

Languages: Common, Growl (Languages are listed on page 350.)

Skills: +2 racial bonus Intimidate (from Terrifying Demeanor), +2 racial bonus to Endurance (from Efficient Lungs)

Defenses: -1 Will (from Weak Minded)

Heritage Mutations: Efficient Lungs, Terrifying Visage, Large Fangs, Weak Minded, Double Heart

Other Mutations: You have 2 points to spend on beneficial heritage mutations. You may acquire a negative heritage mutation for additional points.

Boar’s Tenacity: When you are reduced to fewer than 0 hit points, you do not just go quietly into that good night. First, you do not fall prone as part of being reduced to 0 hit points, though you are dazed. Second, on your next turn, you may take one standard action before falling prone. From this point on, you follow the normal rules for dying. Lastly, you add your Constitution modifier to your death saves.

New Heritage Mutations

Alluring Scent (Utility)

Benefit: You emit a scent, subsonic noise, or psychic call that calms and attracts animals. You gain a +2 bonus to all Charisma based skills against creatures with an intelligence of 2 or less, and a +4 bonus on Nature checks when foraging for food.

Cost: 1

Cyberpath (Utility)

Benefit: You have a special affinity for self-aware machines (perhaps you are one, perhaps not). This may be an electromagnetic aura, an odd form of telepathy, or unusual senses. You gain a +2 to all Charisma based skills when used on creatures with the Android, Cyborg, and/or Robot keywords, and a +2 bonus to Technology checks when dealing with robots, cybernetic, etc, devices.

Cost: 1

Flexible Features (Utility)

Benefit: You can alter your appearance. While you can’t change your basic size or type (usually humanoid), you can significantly change the details. You can look like any humanoid of your size, and gain a +5 racial bonus to Bluff checks to resist attempts to penetrate this disguise. Looking like a specific individual is more difficult; you gain only a +2 racial bonus. Changing features is a minor action. You gain no additional powers or abilities by changing shape.

(Some may note this is pretty much identical to the morph power that’s part of the Polymorphic Bloodline; if you have this mutation and choose that bloodline, you get some useful enhancements to your shapechanging. )

Cost: 1

Bestial Helms

Just a bunch of magic helmets for Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons along the basic theme of “Dude, they look like animal heads”. Because my campaign is set in a world where the only mammalian life forms are the major races who came fleeing a world-ending catastrophe a few hundred thousand years ago, and a few demon-created species like gnolls and minotaurs (blame the Eladrin for summoning said demons and their minions), these have a strong reptilian bent to them.

All of the bestial helms are shaped like the heads of various animal species, with a focus more on style and appearance than on actual functionality. Only the enchantments worked into them allow these helms to be truly useful in combat, as opposed to purely ceremonial, situations. The magic of these helms draws upon primal powers, so they can be made only by those with a primal class (including a multiclass feat, etc). If the crafter has recently (within 24 hours) slain a member of the species which is captured in the helm, and done so in single combat in a fair fight (not against a chained, drugged, or weakened animal), then the cost in residuum to perform the ritual is reduced by 10%. The body of the beast must be used during the ritual to gain this effect; it is consumed in the process.

Helm Of The Greenstripe Scytheclaw

Scytheclaws are the most common predators on the planet, with dozens of species. Greenstripes are found primarily in the fertile flatlands of central Karathakos, and are known, as one might guess, for their pattern of rippling green stripes that serve as effective camouflage when stalking through the reeds and grasses of the plains. They are legendary for two things… their silent, careful, stalking and their deadly pounce. This helm reflects both aspects of their nature. It is usually made of dark iron, pitted and worn, and decorated with stripes of jade, tourmaline, or malachite. Emeralds or rare green pearls form the eyes.

Greenstripe Helm

Level 6 Uncommon 1,800 gp

Item Slot: Head

Property: Gain a +2 item bonus to Stealth checks, or a +4 item bonus when moving through jungles, swamps, or similar environments.

Power (Encounter): Free action. Use this power when you charge an opponent who did not have line of sight to you when you began the charge. You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls, and, if the attack hits, the target also takes 5 ongoing damage and grants combat advantage to you (save ends both).

Helm Of The Skyshadow

Skyshadows are among the largest non-magical creatures which regularly take to the air. Featherless, they are adept gliders and can coast for longer periods of time between the occasional flap. They feed by swooping down on prey and snatching it up. The terrifying shriek they make as they grab their prey sends nearby creatures scurrying away.

This helm is usually constructed of high-quality leather from its namesake beast, ornamented with semi-precious gems. The hinged ‘beak’ of the helmet, still considerably shorter than the skyshadow’s own, is usually made of ivory bound with silver.

Skyshadow Helm

Level 9 Uncommon 4,200 gp

Item Slot: Head

Property: You do not need to make an Athletics check to jump any gap of 1 square or less.

Power (Daily): Free action. Use this power when you charge an opponent, at the start of the charge. Attack +12 vs. Will, Close Burst 2, centered on opponent. Target: All allies of the target of the charge. Hit: 1d6 thunder damage and push 1 square, using the target of the charge as the origin of the push effect.

Helm Of The Dawn Trumpeter

Hadrosaurs of many types are used as beasts of burden and food. Strong, herd oriented, and slow minded, many species have been domesticated, any wildness bred out of them over generations. There are plenty of wild kin left, though, and folk who live far from the wilderness and know only the domestic strains may be surprised at how fierce the untamed can be, forgetting that hadrosaurs must regularly fight off some of the most vicious predators of the land.

Dawn trumpeters are so-named because of the bellowing sounds made by males when the sun rises, calls to the herd to gather up and calls to their mates and children to come close. The helm of the dawn trumpeter features an ornate crest, decorated in patterns of silver and lapis lazuli, with heavy hide panels sewn over an iron framework.

Trumpeter Helm

Level 12 Uncommon 13,000 gp

Item Slot: Head

Property: You and all adjacent allies gain a +2 bonus to saving throws against fear effects.

Power (Encounter): Minor action. Close burst 5; all allies in burst. You may pull all allies 1 square.

Power (Daily): Move Action. Close Burst 5; targets allies. You may teleport any allies in the burst closer to you. They may be placed anywhere, so long as the total distance from you to them has been reduced (i.e, you can teleport an ally who was 4 squares to your left to a position 3 squares to your right.)

Helm Of The Megalodon

You may note that megalodons do not have some fake made up “native” name like skyshadow or scytheclaw. There is a very good reason for this. There is nothing I could come up with that’s cooler than megalodon! I mean, really. What else should I call it? “Giant Swimming Cuisinart That Noms You To Death”? (OK, actually, I think I did call it Teeth-That-Swim when I did GURPS Lands Out Of Time, but that doesn’t work well for a helmet name.)

Some people may also note that megalodons were Pliocene creatures, and that if I have no other Pliocene-era life on my world, I should not have megalodons, either. Some people can bite my shiny metal ass. All that matters when I do worldbuilding is if something is totally frakkin’ awesome, dude, and 100 foot long (To hell with all you dream-killing so-called “scientists” with your “math” and your “biology” and your “facts” and your “evidence” that says megalodons were only 60 feet or so. What’s more likely to be true? What we learn from rigorous study, careful analysis, application of proven techniques, and repeated experimentation and testing of theories, or what we really, really, wish the world would be?  The 96% of the human race that’s not atheist says the latter, and who’s going to say they’re wrong? Reality? Hah! Where was I? Oh yeah, megalodons) sharks are totally frakkin’ awesome. And in my world, some have crossbred with dragons, but that’s another post.

The megalodon helm is actually formed from teeth taken from the great shark, and to be used in the crafting of this helmet, they must be taken from a living specimen that has fed on sentient flesh within the past 24 hours. The lining of the helm is made from a megalodon’s skin (all the parts do not need to come from the same creature, though it’s fairly rare for it not to be the case) and additional structural support is provided by iron mined from nodes of ore floating in the elemental seas.

Megalodon Helm

Level 30 Rare 3,125,000 gp

Item Slot: Head

Property: You gain the aquatic keyword. Your swim speed is equal to your base speed +2.

Property: If underwater, any melee attacks you make against creatures without the aquatic keyword gain a +4 bonus, instead of the usual +2 bonus.

Property: You gain a +2 untyped bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls for melee attacks against bloodied targets.

Power (At-Will): Standard Action. Attack +35 vs. AC. Hit: 3d12+10 damage, and target takes ongoing 15 damage (save at -2 ends). A critical hit does an additional 6d12 damage.

Power (Encounter): Minor action. Until the end of your next turn, all of your melee attacks against bloodied targets ignore damage resistance.

Power (Daily): Free action. Use this power when you reduce a non-minion foe to 0 hit points with the helm’s at-will power. You may regain the use of an expended martial encounter attack power. If you use that power before the end of your next turn, you gain a +4 item bonus on attack and damage rolls with it.



(Now (6/23/2011) updated with Inferno Candle!)

Every so often, I just get some random idea and need to work on it. By “every so often”, I mean, “Ten or twelve times a day”, and by “work on it”, I mean “focus on it obsessively and pay attention to nothing else until… oooh, shiny!”.

Today (and by ‘today’, I mean ‘a week ago two weeks ago when I started this article’), that idea is candles. A quick check of the DDI Compendium shows the number of candle-related magic items for 4e is very low. This is somewhat odd, as they’re a sort of obvious concept (You light the candle, it does something magical), and because candles have a significant place in legend and lore as symbols of learning, knowledge, faith, hope, and so on. The wizard studying spells by the light of a lone candle which has encrusted  skull with wax, the pentacle with candles set at every point, the idiot venturing down the dark secret tunnel found behind the rotating bookcase in the hidden library, carrying a single candle ahead of her, etc. (OK, that last is more a symbol of “clueless person getting in totally over their head”, but these are also called “adventurers”, so, it’s all good.)

The other brilliant stupid idea I had was to take similar concepts, and stat them up for both 4e (which I’m running) and Pathfinder (which I’m playing in). The actual mechanics should be fairly different in detail, but the concepts should translate. I enjoy doing things this like this, because a big part of how I see the world is endless variants on the same idea repeated with different costumes. That, and I’m a masochist.

(And another note/apology… this is something which has been sitting open for a while, with my intending to add more, but I’ve been very busy with things that are creative and gaming related, just not intended, yet, for posting. I’ve decided it’s better to post a single candle two candles than to let the site linger in darkness. I have a lot of cool ideas for more, it’s just a matter of sitting down and statting them up!)

(The fact the DDI Compendium is currently (6/22/2011) borked didn’t help. Dear WOTC: If your business plan is to use DDI subscriptions as your main revenue stream, and your pathetically anemic lineup of dead tree books for the next year indicates that you are, it better be working all the time, and known bugs should not be met with “Meh, it will be fixed in the next monthly patch cycle.”)

4e Basic Rules

Candles — well, these candles, which are considered to be alchemical items — follow the following rules.

  • Lighting a candle is a minor action that does not provoke an OA. You must have some means of generating flame (a prestidigitation cantrip, tinder and flint, a lit torch, a pet fire elemental) readily available and in your hands. You must have both hands free to light a candle, unless the candle is placed on the ground or otherwise secured, in which case, you need one hand free.
  • Extinguishing an unattended candle is a minor action does not provoke an OA. Extinguishing a candle someone else is holding requires a standard action (Dexterity vs. Reflex)
  • Once a candle is extinguished, all of its effects end immediately.
  • All candles weight 0.1 lbs.
  • Unless otherwise noted, a candle burns for five minutes or until the end of the encounter.

Pathfinder Basic Rules

I’m pretty sure there’s a gazillion-odd magic candle supplements for Pathfinder. I’m not going to bother looking them up, because I’d end up spending a hundred bucks at Drive-Thru RPG, and I don’t have a hundred bucks to spend. (Sheesh, click some Amazon links, people!) Also, it would make the OGL cumbersome. So, here’s some rules just for these candles.

  • Lighting a candle is a move action which provokes an AOO. You must have some means of generating flame (a prestidigitation cantrip, tinder and flint, a lit torch, a pet fire elemental) readily available and in your hands. You must have both hands free to light a candle, unless the candle is placed on the ground or otherwise secured, in which case, you need one hand free.
  • Extinguishing an unattended candle is a swift action which does not provoke an AOO.
  • Extinguishing a candle someone else is holding can be tried as either a Disarm or Sunder Combat Maneuver, but these do not provoke AOO as usual.
  • Any force of wind strong enough to cause combat effects (including natural winds and spells such as gust of wind) will automatically extinguish a candle.
  • Candle duration is given for each candle.

Specific Candles

Candle of Clear Shadows

This candle is made of fat rendered from a master thief executed for his crimes, mixed with ectoplasmic residue. The wick comes from a noose used to hang a blind man. It has an oddly translucent appearance.

4e Game Mechanics

Alchemical Item, Level 5+

  • Level 5: 50 gp
  • Level 15: 1000 gp
  • Level 25: 25000 gp

Property (Zone): So long as the candle is lit, all invisible creatures within a Close Burst 5 zone of the candle will cast thin, wavering, shadows, giving them merely partial concealment. The candle can only affect beings of its level or lower. There must still be enough light to see the shadows (the candle fills the area with dim light, but follows normal rules for obstruction, magical darkness, etc, so some areas may still be dark even if they’re otherwise affected by the candle’s magic). The candle lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is extinguished. The candle can be moved, and the zone will move with it.

Pathfinder Game Mechanics

Aura: Faint Divination; CL: 5; Slot: None; Price: 750 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

This candle creates a magical zone in a 15 foot radius burst, centered on itself. Any invisible creatures within the zone, including those naturally invisible, are instead treated as having partial concealment. There must still be enough light to see the shadows (the candle fills the area with dim light, but follows normal rules for obstruction, magical darkness, etc, so some areas may still be dark even if they’re otherwise affected by the candle’s magic). The candle lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is extinguished. The candle can be moved, and the zone will move with it. Creatures with Spell Resistance may check against it each round they are within the candle’s effect; this is done at the start of their turn or as soon as they enter the zone.

The candle burns for 25 rounds, total. If it is snuffed out but not destroyed, it can be relit for whatever rounds were not used.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, invisibility purge; Cost: 375 gp.

Notes: Compare to a scroll of invisibility purge or a lantern of revealing. Unlike a scroll, it can be used by anyone. Also, because it can be extinguished and relit, it is more useful than a scroll, because it can be used in several encounters, if it isn’t destroyed. The spell effect is less powerful than a true invisibility purge spell, which is why there’s no Will save to resist it, but it’s also much easier to extinguish the candle than it is to dispel an Invisibility Purge. These balanced out, in my mind, to giving it the same cost as a scroll. A lantern of revealing is much more powerful, but also much more expensive.

Candle of Companion’s Light (Thief’s Candle)

This candle is made from the same components as any other in the local culture, with a mundane wick. However, when it is made, a drop of blood is required from all those whom it will affect.

4e Game Mechanics

Alchemical Item, Level 2+

  • Level 2: 25 gp
  • Level 12: 500 gp
  • Level 22: 13000 gp

Property (Zone): When ignited, the candle creates light which can only be seen by those whose blood was used in the making of the candle. (Creatures without blood, such as constructs or undead, might drop in a few skin shavings). For rather obvious reasons, these items are often made by rogue alchemists or wizards strongly linked to guilds of thieves, assassins, and other ne’er-do-wells, but the formula is often trained or sold under the rubric of “For adventuring companions battling the forces of darkness deep in the earth!”, thus sometimes avoiding legal scrutiny.  The light created is a close burst 3 around the candle at second level, increasing to a close burst 5 at 12th level and a close burst 7 at 22nd level. The candle will burn for a number of hours equal to its level, and it can be snuffed and re-ignited at will until the total time is consumed, however, each ignition burns a minimum of one hour of potential time (so a candle that burns for 5 minutes and one that burns for 50 both consume an hour of the total ‘burn time’).

Pathfinder Game Mechanics

Lesser Candle Of Companion’s Light

Aura: Faint Evocation ; CL: 4; Slot: None; Price: 300 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

When ignited, the candle creates light which can only be seen by those whose blood was used in the making of the candle. (Creatures without blood, such as constructs or undead, might drop in a few skin shavings). For rather obvious reasons, these items are often made by rogue alchemists or wizards strongly linked to guilds of thieves, assassins, and other ne’er-do-wells, but the formula is often trained or sold under the rubric of “For adventuring companions battling the forces of darkness deep in the earth!”, thus sometimes avoiding legal scrutiny. When lit, it creates a 15 foot radius zone of light, equivalent to that of a torch. It will burn for up to 4 hours, and can be snuffed and ignited at will, but each ignition consumes a minimum of one hour’s “burn time”.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, continual flame; Cost: 150 gp

Greater Candle Of Companion’s Light

Aura: Strong Evocation ; CL: 10; Slot: None; Price: 1250 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

This candle functions exactly like the Lesser Candle of Companion’s Light, except that it lasts for 12 hours and sheds light in 30 foot radius.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, continual flame; Cost: 625 gp

Notes: I based the cost of the Greater Candle on applying the metamagic ‘widen spell’, to create an effective level for a version twice as powerful. The ‘each use counts for an hour’ rule is there mostly to keep people from tracking seconds or minutes in a tedious fashion. Very few people would bother to do this, anyway, so why not formalize it and prevent a tiny amount of unnecessary bookkeeping?

Inferno Candle

To craft this candle, some small amount of fat from a red dragon (even a hatchling) must be blended in. The wick is from fibers soaked in alchemist’s fire for seven days.

Red dragons can smell these candles at a distance of 60 feet (no Perception check needed). They do not look favorably on those who carry them. During the first expansion of Caranail, one adventuring wizard happened to have one on his person when he explored the region later known as the Gibbering Wastes. He vanished, but some months later, a box containing 50 candles was delivered to his family in Corazain by an unknown benefactor.

4e Game Mechanics

Alchemical Item, Level 6+

  • Level 6: 75 gp
  • Level 11: 350 gp
  • Level 16: 1800 gp
  • Level 21: 9000 gp
  • Level 26: 45000 gp

Property: So long as this candle is lit, the character holding it, or any creature adjacent to it if it is not being held, causes any powers with the fire keyword, of the candle’s level or less, to gain the Brutal 1 property (reroll any damage dice that come up 1). In addition, such powers have their critical range increased by 1.   It will burn until the end of the encounter, or until snuffed. Once extinguished, it cannot be re-ignited. Holding this candle does not interfere with spellcasting, but it otherwise occupies a hand.

Pathfinder Game Mechanics

There are three sorts of inferno candle, the lesser, the normal, and the greater. The lesser requires the fat of any kind of red dragon; the normal requires the fat of a dragon of at least young age, and the greater requires the fat an adult dragon. Sufficiently little fat is required that those in the business of making dragonskin armor can usually scrape enough off of a decent sized piece of hide to make a little extra selling it to an alchemist.

Lesser Inferno Candle

Aura: Faint Transmutation ; CL: 5; Slot: None; Price: 1000 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

When ignited, this candle increases the damage done by all spells of 3rd level or less with the fire descriptor, such that whenever damage dice are rolled, any results of “1” are re-rolled. It affects the spells of the person holding it, or those of any adjacent creature if it is set down. It will burn for 5 rounds, and cannot be re-ignited once it is snuffed.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell,  ability to cast a spell with the fire descriptor of at least 3rd level; Cost: 500 gp

Inferno Candle

Aura: Moderate Transmutation ; CL: 13; Slot: None; Price: 4550 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

As per the lesser inferno candle, but affects spells of 6th level or less.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell,  ability to cast a spell with the fire descriptor of at least 6th level; Cost: 2275 gp

Greater Inferno Candle

Aura: Moderate Transmutation ; CL: 13; Slot: None; Price: 7650 gp; Weight: 0.1 lb

As per the lesser inferno candle, but affects spells of 9th level or less.

Construction: Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell,  ability to cast a spell with the fire descriptor of at least 9th level; Cost: 3825 gp


The tagline of this site is “Old School Attitude, Modern Rules”. (Not, as some would have it, “Updates on a roll of 18+ on 2D10”) A big part of the feel of “Old School” is “Anything that’s cool is included”, and “cool” usually meant whatever was in the movies or at the top of the nerd reading list for that week. Dungeons & Dragons campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s were full of wookies and kzinti, phasers and lightsabers, aliens and predators, ninjas and more ninjas. A lot of that great and glorious wahooness has been lost in recent decades, or is brought back only so that it can be snickered at with a superior attitude and/or played purely for laughs (see the execrable “Castle Greyhawk” module published by TSR for AD&D 2e, as repugnant an attempt to piss on Gary’s legacy as I can imagine).

Me, I prefer unironic, unexamined, embrasure of the 14 year old within. Since Doctor Who hadn’t made it across the pond in most of the early era of D&D, or was sneered at by the kind of Very Serious Fans who might have heard of it (if they watched anything British, it would be Blake’s Seven), there was very little inclusion of Dr. Who material in things like Arduin or All The World’s Monsters. So, we set the gaming TARDIS to take the “That which is cool, rules” attitude of the 1970s and merge it, via a chronal transpacial rift in idea space, with the mechanics of the 2010s, and I present the first of several Daleks, statted for 4e. (There will be at least one solo “Dalek Commander”, and probably a non-elite, maybe two, but I wanted to get one mid-range “model” out first.)


Traps & Trapmaking

It’s A Trap!

(A Work In Progress) 

This is still being developed; there’s some editing I need to do on things like costs, damage values, and scavenging; honestly, it’s still in a semi-rough note stage. However, due to various time constraints, this site has gone too long without a meaningful update, so I felt an in-progress article was preferable to publishing nothing at all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition is notably weak when it comes to doing things outside the formal structure of encounters or skill challenges. Virtually all game mechanics are designed to work in 5 minute blocks, except for some travel powers and a few other things. It also suffers from an attitude that anything which isn’t combat should be handwaved or made mechanic free. Also, Michael Longcor’s “Snare And Deadfall” randomly shuffled to the top on my iPod while I was taking my morning executive order. No, that’s not right. Morning constitutional. Sorry, these days, it’s hard to tell the difference. But I digress.

Anyway, the point of all that is… this article is about players making traps in 4e, as opposed to, say, the Endurance feat, which was a trap for players in 3e. Ba-dum-BUM.

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Ah, disease. One of the hallmarks of the medieval world, and, in a fantasy world, you can have all sorts of nasty plagues and poxes. This article contains an assortment of (I hope) imaginative and interesting infections with which to make your PCs regret ever saying “Ritual Caster? Feh! Why would we waste a feat on that? We want more dakka!”

Some of these diseases are listed with fixed levels, though it ought to be extremely trivial to raise or lower the level as needed. Some suggestions for making them nastier at higher levels are included.

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Reskinning vs. Renaming

Sort of an amplification of my earlier post, here’s an example of how I typically “reskin” a monster. This is an extremely simplistic reskin, and could actually use a bit more tweaking, but I wanted to use a “real world” example, not something I made up explicitly for this purpose. The original monster is on the right; the reskinned monster on the left. Even something as mildly changed as this cannot be done with the online “monster builder” tool. (Hell, I can’t even bring the damage in line with MM3 standards!)

How To Turn A Kuo Toa Into A Hobgoblin

This Is Reskinning

As you can see — I added in a trait to make the “It’s a hobgoblin in a diving suit!” idea mechanically relevant, not just fluff; I added in the hobgoblin racial ability; I changed the damage and attacks to be in-line with the new standards; I changed the language and added a skill; and I edited the name throughout. Changes of this nature are the bare minimum of what I’d expect from a tool which allows you to “reskin” monsters.