Greg V wrote:
Only [the opponent] can choose (intentionally or not) to give you an opening. You can't choose to make a free opening in their defenses based on your own abilities.
Nitpicking, but that's not entirely true. A rogue (and probably some other prestige classes) with the Opportunist special ability can do just that.
It seems pretty clear on the "one attack per opportunity" thing, though, although the phrasing of the Cleave feats still leaves more wiggle room than I'd have liked.
My newsstand normally gets these early, but it seems this one was on time. Ah well.
I wasn't too impressed with this issue. I think it's my least favorite since the relaunch. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of content here, to me. But on to specifics...
Cover: Not bad art, though I have the nagging feeling I've seen it before. The gemstone is very nice, but something about the rest of the picture seems off. Maybe it's just the fuzziness of the art. Also, the cover blurbs are back, clogging up the page again. (Yeah, I know the reasoning. But last issue was just so nice...)
Four features this month, supposedly.
Tomb Raider was pretty well-researched and generally pretty well-written, but it didn't cover anything I didn't already know. Bits of the historical detail were interesting reading, though, so I'll give it a qualified thumbs-up.
The Spoils of War looked like it could've been a useful general-advice article for newer players, but I thought it lost some of its coherence later on. I have other articles that've covered the subject better, so no loss to me; seems like a wasted opportunity, though.
The Silverfish: Haven't read it yet, won't comment on it per se. I don't know whether or not I ever will; I don't look to Dragon for fiction. I would've preferred to see a game-related feature here.
With Friends Like These was a solid article. Some minor shortcomings IMO, but nothing worth mentioning. I really enjoyed the artwork for this one, too; fantastic character designs, there.
The features start closer to the beginning of the issue now. That's a positive change. On to the recurring columns...
Ecology: Pretty cool. I think I'd have enjoyed it more if we hadn't just had duergar and chokers recently. A little Underdark goes a long way for me. Still, that's no fault of the article's.
Winning Races: Diaboli. I used to love the Known World setting, but I didn't remember these guys until I read the sidebar. They don't excite me. The article itself seems competent though.
Bazaar of the Bizarre: Yeah, "magical technology" is a common inside joke that dates way, way, way back. But there's a reason for that: it's fun. I really like the slate/PDA and figurine/parcel service. Also, seeing the title "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (instead of "Magic Shop") gives me the warm nostalgic fuzzies. Please keep it that way.
Silicon Sorcery: Racial feats. Er, okay. Would've been nice if they hadn't been *drow* racial feats, but all the same... seems like a decent adaptation. (I should note that I don't play Everquest, I suppose.) Since the "Heroic Feats" column appears to have gone missing this month, I suppose one group of feats isn't overkill. And the basic idea -- a hierarchy of feats indicating further development of innate powers -- is a solid one.
A Novel Approach: Terrific article in all regards, but my English degree compels me to say: ShellEy! Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
Under Command: Glanced at it, skipped it. I don't play the mini game. I'd be just as happy replacing this with more D&D content. I'd rather have had Heroic Feats and Spellcraft (not to mention Player Tricks, Adventurer Tips, and Coup de Grace) than this.
Sage Advice: I like that last question; I'd considered that possibility myself just recently.
Class Acts: As usual, spanned the gamut. This issue did seem a bit more solid overall than previous issues. I also like the organization in alphabetical order, rather than putting the four "main" classes first. This month, I like Barbarian, Bard, Cleric (though I don't like the bonuses), Druid (hilarious *and* useful), Ranger, Rogue, and Wizard. Sorcerer leaves me cold; I have no use for flaws. Paladin is intriguing, but lacks sufficient space to cover its topic. Monk I find questionable; I'm not sure a ranged monk is really feasible in many cases. Fighter seems very obvious, though I suppose it would help new players.
Overall, while there were a couple of things I really liked in this issue, there was more content than usual that I found empty of both practical in-game use and sheer entertainment value. In other circumstances, this would be an issue I'd skip buying. I think the deletion of so many regular columns in exchange for the fiction (which I generally don't read) had something to do with that. I also missed the 'saurian shifters' article, which I see is now scheduled for next issue.
And "A wild-shaped druid in the form of a plant gains immunity to critical hits, sneak attacks, and mind-affecting spells"... since when? Maybe there's errata I'm not aware of, but by the book, the druid's ability functions like a polymorph spell. Polymorph does not grant extraordinary special qualities, and "plant traits" are listed in the Monster Manual as special qualities. The description of wild shape explicitly overrides that limitation for elemental form, but not for plant form. If there's no errata ruling (and I see none in the most recent posted PHB errata on the WotC site), this seems like an outright error in the article; if there is, shouldn't that have been put in a footnote or sidebar or something?
Actually, to be fair, I should add that there's a fair chance that I've just been confused about what qualities polymorph adds, all this time. The whole "changes the caster's type" addition in 3.5 has led to a number of bizarre occurrences already (for instance, having awaken cast on you while you're polymorphed into an animal....), such that I've had to house-rule it out in my games. There are times I've been tempted to just wipe out the spell entirely.
Even aside from that, though, I still think the article was unfocused and kind of sloppy.
I've had this one for a while now, but things have gotten in the way of writing a review/feedback post. So it goes.
First thing: cover. Beautiful piece of art there, and the absence of all the text that's been layered on top of the art lately makes it look even better. I hope the editors can keep the cover text-free below the masthead in the future.
Content... I'll save the features for last this time.
I like the 'dragon talk' blurbs, and I was glad to see one for Hero. One of the better movies of the year, there. Might've mentioned House of Flying Daggers (being released to theaters in early December), too, but hey; limited space. Hopefully next issue. Editorials and letters are always interesting, too.
First Watch/Player Initiative: I like this section. It's fun. As long as it's only 4 pages, I have no problems with it.
Under Command: This, on the other hand, is too big. I can see why it might be covered, but cut it back to 2 pages. The miniature game isn't really part of roleplaying, and that should be the magazine's focus. Under Command should be more like Silicon Sorcery or Novel Approach -- short articles about minis and the game. As for the article itself... okay. I'm not all that concerned about the mini game, but it seemed like a decent variation.
Silicon Sorcery: A nice expansion of animal companion options. I'm not sure that a monster companion really warrants requiring two feats, especially since Savage Empathy is specific to a creature type rather than general.
Novel Approach: Didn't really interest me. I'd prefer to see general game ideas or mechanics drawn from a novel, rather than writeups of specific characters. If I'm not running in the Realms, I have no use for this particular dragon bard, and even if I am, it may not fit my plans. But if this were an article about, say, the Cult of the Dragon, or the rogue dragons (mentioned as being a big part of the novel), it might be more transplantable. Or a writeup of the Rage in game terms. Or stats for a dracolich (which, as a generic creature instead of a specific character, would be more transplantable). Or just about anything other than what we're actually presented with. Disappointing use of two pages, here.
Comics: Pretty amusing; liked the Nodwick 'storage area' one.
Ecology of the Rakshasa: Very well written. This was fun to read, and the sidebar about variant breeds was pretty thorough. Psychology and Society and the writeup of Ravanna were entertaining too. Versus the Rakshasa had some good advice. One really ugly sentence, though: "A rakshasa's hands is easily its most unnerving feature." Might be grammatically correct, but it sounds jarring; seems it would've been better to pluralize the whole sentence. But that's minor. This's a strong article.
Spellcraft: Cantrips and orisons, always fun. I'm a bit underwhelmed by some of them (Nosy Neighbor? Come on...), but others are pretty cool. I especially like Fleeting Fame and Necrosurgery. Decent article overall.
Magic Shop: Nice theme, good variety of items. Nothing really stands out as either broken or exceptional, which is more a good thing than a bad one, I think. The thornblade's flavor text is pretty cool.
Heroic Feats: Blah. Flexible Mind is kind of cool, but I'm pretty sure it appeared as a non-Anarchic feat in the past. (Cosmopolitan, maybe?) This version might be slightly stronger, though. The first two feats help with multiclassing, which I guess is okay. The last grants the old wild mage ability to sort-of control a random magic item, but since there are so few of those... anyway, these seem okay, but they don't exactly inspire me.
Gaining Prestige: I'm not sure about this one. It's a cool concept, I'll say that much. But the flavor text and general slant of the class doesn't seem to fit a typical fantasy setting. I guess what I'm saying is, I like the class, but I'd have trouble using it unless I built a campaign with it in mind. Which is okay, of course. Fun read, anyway. But what's with the little Pokemon-looking things?
Winning Races: Half-elemental class levels. Okay, I suppose. I could see alowing them, with a sufficiently good backstory or (as an addition) through in-game research and plot. But what I really liked about the article was the artwork of half-elemental Ember, Vadania, Krusk, and Hennet. Nice pic, and glad to see the "other" iconic types getting some exposure.
Class Acts: The usual hodgepodge. This month, I may make use of Rogues and Rangers; I consider Fighters, Wizards, Barbarians, and Sorcerers useful articles for some players; I consider Monks an interesting read. Clerics left me cold; I have no use for flaws. Paladins was pretty bland. Bards seems like it's trying to cover too much in too little space, and suffers for it. Druids... deserves its own little rant, I think.
Druids: This article is all over the place. A lot of the advice is either obvious or not particularly useful. For instance: "...transforming into a dire tiger goes a long way toward making up for the druid's d8 Hit Dice and average base attack progression." Well, yes, but the dire tiger is a 16-HD animal, so the druid can't transform into it until 16th level, as the next sentence states. Does a druid who's managed to progress successfully through the first 15 levels really need this advice? Surely she should be pretty familiar with the straightforward combat use of her wild shape by level 16? And "A wild-shaped druid in the form of a plant gains immunity to critical hits, sneak attacks, and mind-affecting spells"... since when? Maybe there's errata I'm not aware of, but by the book, the druid's ability functions like a polymorph spell. Polymorph does not grant extraordinary special qualities, and "plant traits" are listed in the Monster Manual as special qualities. The description of wild shape explicitly overrides that limitation for elemental form, but not for plant form. If there's no errata ruling (and I see none in the most recent posted PHB errata on the WotC site), this seems like an outright error in the article; if there is, shouldn't that have been put in a footnote or sidebar or something? This article just seems sloppy, to me, though I can see that there's a good article concept behind it somewhere. The execution doesn't seem to have come through.
Sage Advice: A great big THANK YOU! for changing the answer text color. The answers are more easily legible now. Very nice.
Coup de Grace: I can usually take or leave these, but as a writer, this one struck a chord with me. Very nice.
Okay, now for the features.
Dungeon Delver's Guide: Wow. This is great. Reminds me of some of the classic advice articles I read when I was starting out. This particular article doesn't offer much to me personally now, but it gives tips in so many areas... if I were a new player, I would love this. If I were GMing for new players, I would give them this to read. Great stuff. I like the artwork, too.
Down the Drain: This was a fascinating read. Terrific mix of historical material and suggestions for using that material in-game. Very strong.
Get Lost: I enjoyed reading this one, but the mix of history and game isn't as strong as the sewer feature's is. I'm not sure whether this just dwelled too much on the history and myth, or whether it separated the out-of-game and in-game portions of the itself too drastically, but it didn't work as well for me. Still, I'd consider it a pretty good feature. Certainly well-researched, anyway.
Only three features this month. However, they're three solid ones, and the Dungeon Delvers' Guide is exceptionally long, so that's okay. On the whole, I think this was a pretty strong issue; I found more to like in it than in the last two or three.
One problem: The first feature was on page 42. That's a long way to go to get to the meat of the mag. I suggest shuffling some things around. Keep the mail, editorials, and maybe First Watch and Player Initiative up front, but put the first feature right after them. That puts something substantial right up front. Then you could either stagger the short Under Command, Novel Approach, and Silicon Sorcery articles with the longer features (and Ecology, if there are only three features), or run the shorter articles then the other features, or run the other features then the shorter articles. I'd go for that last approach, personally; showcase the features, and put the recurring bits further back. The spells, magic, feats, class acts, sage advice, and coup de grace can be left toward the end, where they currently are.
I think getting the features closer to the front would be a format more appreciated by the readers; it seems to me that many people would most look forward to, so they'll want to get to them quickly. I think that the recurring articles, however useful they might be, would not be as much anticipated as the "one-shot" feature articles are... so if they're likely to be put off until later, why not put them later in the magazine to begin with?
Actually, I'd be happier not seeing ANY setting-specific content.
I'm a Mystara fan from way, way back (the red-boxed D&D Basic set), and I sometimes still use the setting. I've also run games set in Greyhawk and even the Realms (and in Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and a couple other published settings). But I'd rather not see any articles specifically geared to any of these settings.
Why? Well, because I most often run games set in worlds of my own design. I find it much easier to adapt a "generic" article to any setting I may want to use it in than to "reverse-engineer" a setting-specific article to be appropriate elsewhere. An article on spellfire or navigating the phlogiston would be useless to me outside of a Realms or Spelljammer campaign, because I don't use those elements in other games. But an article about large-scale warfare in fantasy, I could adapt to fit any setting I wanted.
Sure, there can be exceptions. If the setting is generally cosmetic, as with many new spells, monsters, feats, and so on, it's not hard to reverse-engineer. But that means the setting-specific stuff is just flavor text, not really support. I don't mind the Greyhawk pantheon being used; it's the default, and it's generally easy to map to other pantheons (unlike, for instance, the Realms pantheon, which is pretty complex).
Basically, I guess, there's a difference between setting-specific tidbits added for flavor (good), and setting-specific information that makes the article difficult to divorce from that setting (bad). I'd much rather see a generic article with a couple sidebars added for particular settings than a setting-specific article.
Well, that's fine. But I put to you that it is, in fact, impossible for the fighter to consistently defeat the wizard at higher levels without using magical equipment. The reason is simply that the fighter is good at one thing: weapon use. The wizard is good at one thing also: magic. But magic encompasses much, much more than weapon use does.
Movement: The fighter has no feats that will allow him to fly, but the wizard can do so as early as level 5 (or levitate at level 3). The fighter cannot teleport; the wizard can starting at level 7 (dimension door). The fighter can move at most 60 feet (assuming standard races and feats) and attack, by charging; the wizard can move 60 feet and cast a spell, if he knows expeditious retreat. This makes it tough for the fighter to get into melee with the wizard.
Defense: The fighter has armor, but it's largely useless against spells (see above post). The fighter's armor cannot grant a miss chance (blur, displacement, mirror image in a sense); the wizard gains these spells at low level. The wizard's AC can easily approach the fighter's, if the fighter is limited to nonmagical armor (mage armor, shield). In fact, if the fighter is wearing light armor for mobility, the wizard's AC is probably better. The wizard gets access to spells that cut down the fighter's damage, such as stoneskin and protection from arrows. (The fighter *can* gain access to Deflect Arrows, providing vaguely similar ranged defense, but it costs him two feats and doesn't work against the wizard's spells anyway.)
Attack: The fighter always has to make an attack roll. The wizard has many spells that have no attack roll. Some of these (magic missile) don't even allow a saving throw. Others (charm person) win the fight for the wizard if they work. The fighter has no way to instantly win -- and his Reflex and Will saves are both weak, so he has little resistance to the wizard's 'gotcha' spells.
And that assumes the wizard is willing to fight face to face. Wizards bring whole new meaning to the phrase "hit and run" if they want to.
Is the fighter just weak, then? No. It's good at what it does. But what it does happens to be very unsuited to going up against a wizard with no support. The fighter needs allies, magical gear, or both to take on an equal-level wizard beyond maybe the first couple of levels. No matter what feats they choose, they won't make very good wizard-killers without such support.
Is the wizard overpowered, then? No. Other classes have abilities more suited to taking them out one-on-one -- rogues, monks, clerics, even paladins. But the fighter is not among those classes. The fighter lacks the stealth, save bonuses, and magic that those other classes use to offset the wizard's variety of spells. In fact, the fighter may be the poorest class to pit against the wizard.
That said, maybe you can come up with some way for a fighter to consistently beat a wizard without using magical gear. If you can, then I'd say that's worthy of an article; evil wizards are pretty common, and the tactics would certainly interest the fighter players, even though they normally have both allies and magic.
Cold Steel wrote:
I don't understand this thread. If the wizard really have the total advantage then why the red wizards of thay in the forgotten realms did'nt take over the world by now?
Also, there are many powerful good wizards who would oppose them. I think there must be 10 high-level wizards in the Realms for every high-level member of any other class. Which in itself says something.
But fair enough. How would you set up an encounter between a high-level wizard and a high-level fighter, in which the fighter has no magical equipment, such that the fighter would win?
Well, it's pretty hard for the fighter. Armor doesn't matter much, because many of the wizards' spells don't need to roll to hit, and many of the ones that do are touch or ranged touch attacks anyway. So the fighter's armor advantage is pretty limited, although it helps against summoning spells.
The fighter can go two ways here. First, he can pick a big weapon like a greatsword, greataxe, or falchion, go with light armor for the movement speed, and add magic items that make him more maneuverable, like winged boots or a helm of teleportation. Then he buys a brooch of shielding, the best cloak of protection he can afford, and maybe a ring of evasion. He tries to close the distance and thwack the wizard. He only needs maybe three solid hits to do it, and he's protected reasonably well against the wizard's automatic-hit spells (magic missile, fireball, lightning bolt, and so forth) and, thanks to the boosted saves, against the wizard's automatic-win spells (charm person, baleful polymorph, flesh to stone, dominate person).
Second, he can go the archery route. With the feats he has available and a magical mighty composite longbow, he can try to turn the wizard into a pincushion. He'll need more hits to do it than the melee guy would, but he can take Manyshot shots using Shot on the Run while he goes from one location of cover/concealment to another. Extra movement is helpful here.
The wizard, on the other hand, has the advantage. One displacement or mirror image or greater invisibility can ruin the fighter's day. He's got a number of spells that win the fight for him instantly if they work, and a lot of those spells have a Will save, where the fighter will be weak. He has range that's hard to match even with a longbow, and he doesn't generally suffer penalties because of range the way the fighter does. He can move around pretty freely with fly, dimension door, and the like. He can even protect himself with stoneskin and protection from arrows, making his low hit points stretch further. He has spells that can counter many of the fighter's moves, while the fighter can't inherently do anything about his.
Now, cleric vs. wizard, that's a different story...
Ah, now that's a shame. It sounds as if the other half of your original article would have had the kind of thing I'd wanted to see.
This seems like taking player-centered focus to an extreme. Personally, I don't have a lot of interest in Dungeon (don't run many canned modules, although I may start GMing some at RPGA events soon), so I can't justify buying it just for the handful of GM-centered articles. At the same time, it seems they're cutting most of the GM-oriented material (which is generally what I find most useful in feature articles) out of Dragon. Hrm.
Cold Steel wrote:
It would be a refreshing change to have the fighter armed with no magic weapons or armor whatsoever.
If by "refreshing change" you mean "total slaughter of the fighter," yes.
Fighters barely stand up to wizards at higher levels even with magical equipment. Take that away, and they're basically dead in the water, unless you manipulate the situation to heavily favor the fighter. ("They turn a corner and find themselves face-to-face.")
Hey, you earned it. ^_^
To expand, it was a good choice of theme, you made some good use of both historical and 'iconic' mythological Egypt as influences, and a couple of these (the jars, scarab, desert cloak, and eye of horus in particular) have some very interesting 'special effects' (to borrow HERO system's terminology).
A couple of the items (the cartouche and scorpion bracers) aren't terribly exciting, but most of them are solid, and they all seem useful. And not many of them were very high-powered/expensive, which is a plus.
You know, it strikes me that this sort of setting is ripe for a couple of articles, at least. I can't think of much in the way of official sources on adventuring in an area patterned off Egypt, aside from maybe the old Desert of Desolation series.
Secret manuals are in fact a common element of kung fu movies. Typically a student will have to pass some sort of test in order to be given access to the manual, or an initiate will have to stop rival monastery or school from stealing the manual and learning the secrets of their style, or a dying father will pass on the family's manual to his son in hopes that he can take revenge later. I've thought this might make for an interesting article, myself, but the game-mechanical aspects are somewhat trickier to implement. The martial arts styles that showed up in Oriental Adventures (and their descendants, the weapon styles in Complete Warrior) are probably the best way; either house-rule that you don't gain the style bonus until you've read the manual and practiced its techniques, or have the manual add a small additional bonus over and above mastery of the style.
You've got some other good article ideas, there. Might want to think about submitting a query yourself.
Erik Mona wrote:
I was always pretty fond of the late '80s-early '90s Dragons, with the minimal cover text aside from the masthead and a short 'teaser' line near it (#138 and #191 are good examples.) "Halloween greetings from the Undead" in small type and out of the way of the artwork might not be as informative as "James Wyatt on Creating Eberron" and three other blocks of relatively-large text plastered across it, but it was enough to hint at the feature contents and get me to look at the mag.
(I realize you try your best not to cover up the artwork, and I appreciate that, but the large amount of big text in contrasting color can't help but detract. #325 is a great cover, but it would look better if there were no text below the masthead region -- the letters in the mid-left are just mildly distracting, but the text in the lower left covers some detail. The barcode does too, but that can't be helped.)
Anyway, I very much hope this experiment proves successful.
I just picked up #325 today. I'm ambivalent. On the whole, I liked it... as reading material. I didn't find much of it that would be very useful in a game, and there were a couple of real disappointments.
Hometown Heroes: I could see this being a very useful article for new players. Offered me nothing, though. Which is okay, but a sidebar or a couple of paragraphs sketching out some unusual ideas for using characters' home towns in a campaign would have been a nice addition to the standard stuff (training, downtime, family/mentor figures) the article covered. Possibly it would've been considered outside of Dragon's new player-centered focus, though. Anyway, on the whole, I'd call it a solid feature.
Arcane Ancestry: A bunch of feats, about half of which seem to exist primarily to allow a domain-like list of bonus spells known to sorcerers, at the expense of being allowed to choose certain other spells. Not really my thing, and I suspect that a bard who took a level of wizard (thereby meeting the spontaneous casting and familiar-summoning ability prerequisites) and then selected one might prove unbalanced. Also, I'm not clear on how a serpent bloodline allows one to neutralize poison (with a second feat). Minor quibbles, I guess.
War Magic: Serious disappointment here. "What if Mordenkainen wrote the Art of War"? Well, I'd hope he'd have something more to discuss than areas of effect. Now, the article itself is decent, and it includes some useful advice, even though it doesn't cover the subject in depth (hard to do in roughly 2 pages of text, to be fair). But it was oversold. If it'd been mentioned as an article dealing with areas of effect, I wouldn't feel disappointed. But Mordenkainen's Art of War? Uh uh. The actual article is a long way from earning a tag like that. Mordenkainen's Introduction to Area-Effect Spells, maybe.
A Surge of Theurgy: I'd have to reread this one to review it honestly; I was pretty burnt out on feats after the Arcane Ancestry article, so I skimmed it. My impression was that there are some good ideas here, but that they'll need to be carefully managed for balance reasons.
So much for the features. I'm not sure it was a good idea to have two features that were mainly lists of feats, but I suppose as long as people like them...
The recurring columns were somewhat better.
Ecology: Very strong opening. I suspect the later parts of the article were hampered somewhat by the humorless, pragmatic, work-driven nature of the duergar themselves; there's not a lot of elaboration possible for a race so strongly devoted to sticking with the essential and avoiding anything else. The "Vs." section was good advice, but "Lairs" was rather terse. I would've liked to see something more about the duergar cities. I imagine them being laid out in close to identical fashion, varying only as necessary for the terrain, with streets set up along a rigid grid, important buildings in the same place, and so forth.
Spellcraft: A bunch of skill bonuses, mainly. Still, the idea of the Myths of the Shadow book itself is interesting enough that I'll work something like it into my game.
Magic Shop: I'd like to say that I, too, miss the name "Bazaar of the Bizarre." The article itself is pretty decent. I like the canopic jars, and the scarab charm is a nice flavor item.
Heroic Feats: Even more feats. Some of these seem rather better than others; Ability Enhancer, Enhanced Shadow Reality, and Charmer are pretty strong, whereas Girded Soul and Hidden Thoughts are very narrow. Conjurers really seem to get the shaft, with Heavy Teleport's tiny benefit, though I suppose they already had Augment Summoning. I doubt I'd ever use any of these, so I suppose it's academic.
Gaining Prestige: The bowman charger seems a bit unfocused. Oh, the concept is very specific, but the implementation seems odd. Mainly, Riding Dervish seems out of place for a class intended to focus on mounted archery. Also, the goblin wolflords don't seem to fit the class at all. Archers who dismount and fire from behind their mounts are not what I'd think of as "mounted archers," and dismounting costs them the use of half the class's abilities anyway. They sound more like goblin rangers with wolf companions and the archery combat style, to me. Decent flavor text, though. I might allow the class, with minor modifications.
Winning Races: The Lupins. Not a race I'm terribly familiar with, but I do recall them from the old days. The article itself was very well written. They interest me enough that I'd allow a player to have one, and I'd consider playing one if allowed to do so. Definitely a bright spot in the issue.
Class Acts: The usual hodgepodge. This month, I consider the Fighter, Wizard, Sorcerer, and Monk articles worthwhile in general, and the Ranger one interesting to me as a DM. I suppose the Rogue article would be handy for inexperienced players considering a multiclass. Clerics, barbarians, druids, and bards leave me cold this month. Paladins seemed like a complete waste of space.
Player Tips: Eh. Seems like a lot of text to say "Well, if your DM's okay with it, you can use player knowledge because your characters have high mental stats. Otherwise, use Knowledge skills." I would've advocated going with the Knowledge skills approach first, and the "metagaming is okay" approach second, since the second one seems more optional and I feel the Knowledge checks should be the baseline. But okay.
Adventurer Tricks: For a one-page article, there's some good stuff in here. Nothing new, necessarily, but it takes a simple idea and explores it surprisingly well in a limited space. Well enough that I'd like to see an expanded version as a feature. In fact, this may be the most "Art of War"-type thing in the entire issue.
Sage Advice: Please, please, switch to darker ink for the answers. Please.
Silicon Sorcery: Intriguing idea. (Apparently I'm partial to magical books.) Too bad they're minor artifacts; that makes them harder to use than regular magic items. Still, I think they could be toned down sufficiently, and if not, it at least added to another idea I'e been using in my game, so it's all good.
Novel Approach: This deserved way more space. I'm not a big fan of Dune, but the adaptation is fun to read, and I could see it being useful. Another short article I would've liked to see expanded to feature length.
On the whole, I see a lot more good than bad, even if I personally won't be using a lot of it. It seems like there's a lot more artwork scattered around this one than in, for instance, #323 -- that's another plus. Also, terrific cover art.
Quex Ul wrote:
As you mention, readying will work. But there's a wrinkle: if they ready with a melee weapon, and the spider reappears out of reach, they won't get their attack. But if they ready with a missile weapon, and the spider appears in a square that threatens them, the spider may get attacks of opportunity if the PCs take the shots.
This works best when the PCs can restrict the area in which the spiders decide to appear. Narrow passageways, targeted area spells that stick around for a few rounds, maybe even pools of acid or burning oil (although with an Int of 7, the phase spider might be smart enough to risk appearing in the pool if it seems advantageous).
There is one other way to deal with ethereal creatures: force effects. A wizard wouldn't have to ready the magic missile in order to hit the spider; force effects extend onto the ethereal plane. But since ethereal creatures are invisible, the wizard needs a see invisibility spell or effect in order to target the spider.
The phase spider's ethereality is a supernatural ability, so no. attacks of opportunity.
As for how I run them...
Hit and run, as you described. They don't use a lot of stealth, because they don't need to -- they'll usually get surprise, unless the party can detect invisible creatures. They're smart enough that, if they're losing, they'll go ethereal and not return. They're *not* smart enough to plan out detailed strategies; they tend to just pick a target and attack in waves. However, if anyone uses a force effect on them while they're ethereal, and they're not sufficiently weakened to run away, they are smart enough to switch their attention over to him. If they can't get to him right away (because, say, the other PCs are taking up all the possible squares that would threaten him), then they'll probably run, unless the party as a whole looks pretty badly wounded.
They're a pretty challenging encounter, and I think CR 5 might be a little low for them. Be careful how many you throw out your first time using them, especially if your PCs have low Fortitude saves.
Vernon Avaritt wrote:
In a recent Dragon Magazine the featured a city in the shadow plane. The city watch rode giant moths which bite. I have news for you moths and butterflies are harmless.
Not on the Plane of Shadow, obviously.
But that would kind of make sense for a plane that's a dark, nightmarish reflection of 'reality,' wouldn't it?
Quex Ul wrote:
While I agree with the general sentiment, I still think #324 pulled it off very well. There's some nice detail on the figure, and I thought the washed-out background was appropriate in this case.