I’ve been on record many times for performing experiments into things man was not meant to know, graverobbing, violations of the Federal Anti-Moreau Act Of 1906, and inquiries into forbidden knowledge, and I… oh, wait. That’s for an article on, uhm, another website. Let me check my notes… yes, here we go, I’ve been on record many times as stating my love for the spell mad monkeys, which is the Best. Pathfinder. Spell. EVAR. Because I believe ideas transcend game systems (to all the Forgies… “System matters, but not nearly as much as you think it does”). it occurred to me it would be interesting to translate the essence of it into Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition. (This is sort of a variant on my “A Spell For All Time” articles, such as this one and this one.)
So, here we go!
Mad Monkeys: Wizard Attack 9
With a sudden chorus of high-pitched ‘ook ook ack’ noises, a swarm of frothing-mad simians descends upon your foes!
Daily | Implement, Conjuration, Wall
Standard Action |Wall 6 within 10
Target: All enemies in wall
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d6+Intelligence modifier damage.
Miss: Half damage.
Effect: This spell conjures a swarming horde of monkeys that will clamber all over your foes. This horde lasts until the end of the encounter or until it is killed. Any enemy which ends its turn in the swarm takes 10 damage. A target which begins its turn in the wall muse use its standard action to make an attack action which includes the wall, or it may only make move and minor actions until the start of its next turn. Any creature in the wall who takes an opportunity action also takes 10 damage from the wall. The wall can be moved through; it counts as difficult terrain. Each square moved through deals 5 points of damage.
As a standard action, the caster may move the wall up to 4 squares. All rules for walls, such as connectivity, remain in effect.
As a move action, the caster may make a thievery check against the Reflex or Fortitude defense of one creature within the wall; if this check succeeds, the swarm has grabbed one held item such as a weapon or implement. Retrieving it requires a Thievery or Athletics check against the caster’s Reflex defense +2. (At the DM’s discretion, the swarm may be able to do something else, such as pull down a lever, knock over a statue, etc. Use the caster’s Athletics+2 for strength based actions and Thievery+2 for agility based actions. The swarm may perform only one such action per turn. Refined or controlled actions, such as manipulating a complex puzzle or typing the works of William Shakespeare are not possible for the swarm.)
As a minor action, the caster retains control of the wall. If he fails to do so, the wall goes wild, and will move to engulf the nearest targets. Once this happens, the caster cannot regain control and the wall treats all creatures as its enemies. Once uncontrolled, the wall can move on its own with Speed 4 and can make a thievery check 1/turn as a minor action.
The wall can be attacked; it has AC 22, Reflex 24, Fortitude 21, and Will 20, and 50 hit points. As it is composed of living creatures, it has no resistances to poison, necrotic, etc, damage, but it cannot be subject to any conditions other than ongoing damage and is immune to forced movement. It takes half damage from melee and ranged attacks and has vulnerability 10 to area and close attacks.
Some people may wonder why this isn’t a summoning — mostly, it’s because a summoned creature, even of the swarm type, wouldn’t work properly. 3.x/Pathfinder swarms engulf; 4e swarms have an aura. Making it a wall better models how it attacks, and lets me create a lot of interesting effects. Also, there’s no chance for the Pathfinder swarm to be uncontrolled; that’s something I added in to help balance the fact the swarm doesn’t require a sustain action. (I could have done “until the end of your next turn/sustain minor”, but, hey, this is more fun and interesting, and fits with the established pattern for the more powerful summoning-type spells; things can get hairy if the caster isn’t paying attention.)
4e lacks the “nauseated” (can take only move actions) condition, and while I could have simply done that, I think my solution is more interesting and more fitting with the 4e design and play ethos. Enemies are given choices; if they fail to attack the monkeys, all they can do is run from them (except for the few who have useful minor action powers). I’d originally had an attack vs. Fortitude to impose this condition, to more closely mimic Pathfinder, but it struck me as unnecessary. Again, this interpretation preserves the idea of the spell without a slavish 1-for-1 translation of the mechanics. (Due to 4e’s “Exception based design”, I could, ahem, ape Pathfinder’s mechanics very closely, but that is, in my opinion, an extremely poor tactic, akin to adapting a book to a movie and just filming it verbatim. A good adaption from one medium to another preserves themes, ideas, concept, and tropes, and does not simply reproduce the work without regard to what makes the new medium — or the new game system — different.
The spell fits the wizard’s “controller” role very well; it forces enemies to move well beyond the wall, and deprives them of actions of they do not. It has a slightly “defender” aspect in that it draw enemy attacks to it; those in the wall have a harder time harming anyone else, unless they have area/close attacks… which are also especially effective against the wall. This makes the spell nicely situational — it can be devastating against enemies they rely on weapons but a mere nuisance to powerful controller or artillery types.
The “other actions” bit is added to try to pull 4e, kicking and screaming, out of the realm of “This is not actually a swarm of monkeys; it’s a listing of combat effects we’re describing as a swarm of monkeys”. While it’s not possible to completely remove that aspect of the game design and still be 4e, it is possible to start making the “special effects” of a spell more “real” and to encourage DMs to think more about what’s happening in the game world. At the same time, I’ve tried to set out clear boundaries as to what can and can’t be done and what mechanics resolve it, as opposed to just letting the player and DM argue about it for 20 minutes. There should be enough information there to allow for player creativity while giving the DM the information he needs to make fair and consistent rulings.