4E Preview for May and Beyond! (Warlord At-Wills, Traps, and Orcs, oh my!)


4th Edition


Here is the 4E preview for today. Not a very focused article but lots of crunchy goodness littered throughout.

The thing that jumped out as the coolest to me was the Warlord's At-Will powers. He can make one of his allies use a basic melee attack with +his Int damage. How cool is that?

I declare the Warlord 4wesome. ;)


I'm looking forward to the previews the week of the 19th:
* Mon 05/19: Minions (MM)
* Wed 05/21: Undead (MM)
* Fri 05/23: Magic Weapons (PH), Swarms (MM)


I really like the sounds of the Warlord class. Its the second class on my list next to the Warlock.

The crunch on traps was also an interesting read. They get their own roles as well (Obstacle and Blaster were mentioned), and can likewise be Elite or Solo. Good to see that traps do more than attack you, deal damage, and go away.

I'm a stickler for mechanics, and the page on orcs was a great read. Sounds like minions now only get 1 hit point, instead of "death after one hit".

Sovereign Court

Some of those orcs scare me. This is a good thing.


Im impressed by the sneak preview of 'Keep on the Shadowfell'. Art looks good and at least now i can start working the locations into my small 'points of light' map. And i agree; the orcs look great and they now seem much more in line with the Tolkien Uruk Hai orc in the way their abilities read.


Antioch wrote:

I really like the sounds of the Warlord class. Its the second class on my list next to the Warlock.

The crunch on traps was also an interesting read. They get their own roles as well (Obstacle and Blaster were mentioned), and can likewise be Elite or Solo. Good to see that traps do more than attack you, deal damage, and go away.

I'm a stickler for mechanics, and the page on orcs was a great read. Sounds like minions now only get 1 hit point, instead of "death after one hit".

Fortunately. "Death after one hit" was a large confusion generator (what happens when a minion falls on a pit?, for instance).

I like this part: "a missed attack never damages a minion.". That means, area spells are not instant kill to minions, even if they do partial damage on a miss.

The orc warrior statblock seems pointless to me. It is only an orc drudge with better stats. If you use the monster advancement rules presented on this excerpt over the orc drudge, you obtain a creature very similar to the orc warrior. The other orcs seem cool, but this one is just a waste of space.

All non-minion orcs seem to have the "Warrior's Surge" ability. Perhaps it will appear as one of the orc racial traits on the Monsters as PCs' appendix? I really hope so, it's awesome. It also would be nice if some of the presented orc abilities appeared as racial feats.


Another "must-to-do" comment: congratulations to Mr. Ralph Horsley.

This is, by far, the coolest orc illustration to appear in a Monster Manual.


Yeah, the orcs rock!

I'm trully looking forward to run the orcs against the PCs as already have informed my players.

They seem very cool.

And the preview that I certainly cannot wait to see is about Rituals.


What is the practical deference between the Eye of Gruumsh's Death Strike Aura and the Chieftains Inspire Ferocity Power? OK, the Ferocity needs recharging. Why not just give the Chief Death Strike Aura since he is more powerful?


Duncan & Dragons wrote:
What is the practical deference between the Eye of Gruumsh's Death Strike Aura and the Chieftains Inspire Ferocity Power? OK, the Ferocity needs recharging. Why not just give the Chief Death Strike Aura since he is more powerful?

The differences, between recharge:

- Death Strike only affect orcs. Inspire Ferocity may affect any ally.
- Death Strike works when the Eye of Grummsh is knocked down. Inspire Ferocity works when any ally is knocked down.
- Death Strike works on all orc allies simultaneously. Inspire Ferocity works only in the ally who was knocked down.

Death Strike seems really better, on most situations. But remember that the Eye of Grummsh is a controler and the Chieftain is a brute. The first wields divine power granted by Grummsh himself; the second is only a big tough guy who inspires his allies with his great strenght and furious war cries.


Curiosity: can the orc chieftain "revive" his allies with the Inspire Ferocity ability?

1. Bloodrager is reduced to zero hit points
2. Chieftain uses Inspire Ferocity on Bloodrager, granting him another melee attack
3. Bloodrager hits the attack and recover hit points using the Blood for Blood ability
4. Bloodrager has now 10 hit points

Or.. it wouldn't work because once the bloodrager reaches 0 hit points, he is dead for good (although he can use 1 melee attack before dying)?

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I'm not groking these disable rolls. Do you really need to roll a minimum of 4 skill checks to disable a trap? That sounds pretty dull to me - am I missing something that makes it interesting?


Sebastian wrote:
I'm not groking these disable rolls. Do you really need to roll a minimum of 4 skill checks to disable a trap? That sounds pretty dull to me - am I missing something that makes it interesting?

Hmm... at least two things come to mind:

1. The 4E philosophy of characters not dying because of a single bad roll. Even against a very deadly trap, if the rogue makes some bad rolls in the beginning, he may simply give up.

2. Allow multiple characters to coordinate their efforts to disable the trap. An all-rogue party may not be so effective against monsters, but at least they would rock against traps.


Sebastian wrote:
I'm not groking these disable rolls. Do you really need to roll a minimum of 4 skill checks to disable a trap? That sounds pretty dull to me - am I missing something that makes it interesting?

It seems that they did the traps as skill challenges because they wanted to extend some traps beyond a single round of action. Now, the whirling blades and firey death traps last at least a few rounds unless the party has multiple rogues capable of disarming them.

If the trap is currently inactive, say because the players spotted it before setting it off, then this isn't too intresting. But! If the players set off the trap and the room fills with deadly spinning blades, well then having to spend a few rounds deactivating the trap is now suddenly a lot more intresting (and painful).

Doing it this way also makes disarming this kind of trap will be more intresting, roleplaying wise. Each success on the challenge can represent disabling part of the trap with each check (as they showed with the flame trap) and thats kind of cool. Describing how the rogue works his way across a room, diabling one spinning saw blade at a time is kind of cool.


Krauser_Levyl wrote:
I like this part: "a missed attack never damages a minion.". That means, area spells are not instant kill to minions, even if they do partial damage on a miss.

So... if you were to, say, Fireball a group of minions with their leader in the middle, and you missed, the leader would take some damage, and possibly die, while his minions would keep on marching. So they've given the cannon fodder Evasion?


Infamous Jum wrote:
Krauser_Levyl wrote:
I like this part: "a missed attack never damages a minion.". That means, area spells are not instant kill to minions, even if they do partial damage on a miss.
So... if you were to, say, Fireball a group of minions with their leader in the middle, and you missed, the leader would take some damage, and possibly die, while his minions would keep on marching. So they've given the cannon fodder Evasion?

No. This is a misunderstanding of the minion's concept.

Minions' stats are abstractions. They have only 1 hit point to represent that PCs kill them with a single attack. They do fixed damage to make large scale battles faster. At the same time, they have attack bonuses and defeses comparable to PC's - to make the PCs truly threatened when they fight against them. Their purpose is gamist only; it does not make sense to use minions outside this context.

So, when a fireball "misses" a minion, the DM simply says that the wounds caused by the fire wasn't enough to kill them. The "actual" damage dealt doesn't matter.


The [b]orc warrior statblock seems pointless to me. It is only an orc drudge with better stats. If you use the monster advancement rules presented on this excerpt over the orc drudge, you obtain a creature very similar to the orc warrior. The other orcs seem cool, but this one is just a waste of space.[/b]

I think thats the point: the minion is a warrior that will die when its first hit. They said that some monsters, like zombies, will have similar functions except some will be Minions. This way, players wont know who is a Minion and who is a 6th-level Brute.
Keeps them guessing, but allows you to field more things at once without overpowering your players.


Sebastian wrote:
I'm not groking these disable rolls. Do you really need to roll a minimum of 4 skill checks to disable a trap? That sounds pretty dull to me - am I missing something that makes it interesting?

I think it allows you to do that scene in the second Indiana Jones where the girl is trying to disable the trap with the spikes in the ceiling (took more than a few rounds to get here to do it). Tension-building.

Of course, traps in 3rd Edition take 2d4 rounds to knock out, so its about the same.


Antioch wrote:

I think thats the point: the minion is a warrior that will die when its first hit. They said that some monsters, like zombies, will have similar functions except some will be Minions. This way, players wont know who is a Minion and who is a 6th-level Brute.

Keeps them guessing, but allows you to field more things at once without overpowering your players.

Byt my problem is not with the orc warrior itself. My problem is with the orc drudge vs. orc warrior redundancy.

If you advance a drudge to 9th-level, it will have the following stats:

Initiative +0 Senses Perception +0; low-light vision
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 21; Fortitude 20, Reflex 17, Will 17
Speed 6 (8 while charging)
m Club (standard; at-will); Weapon
+14 vs. AC; 7 damage.

While an orc warrior has:

Initiative +3 Senses Perception +3; low-light vision
HP 1; a missed attack never damages a minion.
AC 21; Fortitude 19, Reflex 16, Will 16
Speed 6 (8 while charging)
m Battleaxe (standard; at-will); Weapon
+14 vs. AC; 6 damage.

They are too damn similar. They could at least have given some extra ability to the orc warrior (like: +2 to damage when charging).

Scarab Sages

Antioch wrote:

I think it allows you to do that scene in the second Indiana Jones where the girl is trying to disable the trap with the spikes in the ceiling (took more than a few rounds to get here to do it). Tension-building.

Of course, traps in 3rd Edition take 2d4 rounds to knock out, so its about the same.

That's nice; I've always hated the idea that locks and traps can be bypassed in a round.

Heck; it can take longer than that to get through a door even with the right key! Never mind with a bent wire.

Scarab Sages

Sebastian wrote:
I'm not groking these disable rolls. Do you really need to roll a minimum of 4 skill checks to disable a trap? That sounds pretty dull to me - am I missing something that makes it interesting?
Krauser_Levyl wrote:

Hmm... at least two things come to mind:

1. The 4E philosophy of characters not dying because of a single bad roll. Even against a very deadly trap, if the rogue makes some bad rolls in the beginning, he may simply give up.

2. Allow multiple characters to coordinate their efforts to disable the trap. An all-rogue party may not be so effective against monsters, but at least they would rock against traps.

Or a fluffed initial roll could simply be the rogue evaluating the trap (ie deciphering it's DC), and declaring it 'too much for me...'.


Ah, okay. I thought that an orc warrior was the "staple" mob, here (that would be the berserker, I suppose).
I guess its just them quick-statting a minion for use at a higher level. I think that if you leveled up your own drudge it would be the same thing since it IS, after all, the exact same minion.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Okay, I can see how it would be more exciting in combat, particularly if you can make more than one thievery roll, and I can appreciate the not having everything rest on making a single check, but it still seems like a dull mechanic - it's almost like rolling 10 times instead of taking 10. I suppose since they are working to integrate traps into combat encounters, they will typically be encountered in a setting where the amount of time it takes to disable a trap is important, so it's probably just a problem of looking at it in a vacuum.


Sebastian wrote:
Okay, I can see how it would be more exciting in combat, particularly if you can make more than one thievery roll, and I can appreciate the not having everything rest on making a single check, but it still seems like a dull mechanic - it's almost like rolling 10 times instead of taking 10. I suppose since they are working to integrate traps into combat encounters, they will typically be encountered in a setting where the amount of time it takes to disable a trap is important, so it's probably just a problem of looking at it in a vacuum.

Also, if you've got more than one person working on a trap, it lets you know how long it takes to disable.

Scarab Sages

And the idea of complex skill checks appeared back in Alternity. I know Bill Slaviscek was one of the writers. How about you, Rodney? Were you on that team?

'Make X successes before you blow Y failures; critical sucesses or failures count double...'.

It makes scenes like the fight over the winching cage in 'Temple of Doom' more of a possibility, rather than 'one check; yup, I'm done'.


Krauser_Levyl wrote:

The differences, between recharge:

- Death Strike only affect orcs. Inspire Ferocity may affect any ally.
- Death Strike works when the Eye of Grummsh is knocked down. Inspire Ferocity works when any ally is knocked down.
- Death Strike works on all orc allies simultaneously. Inspire Ferocity works only in the ally who was knocked down.

Death Strike seems really better, on most situations. But remember that the Eye of Grummsh is a controler and the Chieftain is a brute. The first wields divine power granted by Grummsh himself; the second is only a big tough guy who inspires his allies with his great strenght and furious war cries.

Correction: now that I reread the ability, it seems that Death Strike works when the orc ally is knocked down, not when the Eye of Grummsh is knocked down. Err.. it's far more powerful than I initially thought!

The Exchange

Krauser_Levyl wrote:
Krauser_Levyl wrote:

The differences, between recharge:

- Death Strike only affect orcs. Inspire Ferocity may affect any ally.
- Death Strike works when the Eye of Grummsh is knocked down. Inspire Ferocity works when any ally is knocked down.
- Death Strike works on all orc allies simultaneously. Inspire Ferocity works only in the ally who was knocked down.

Death Strike seems really better, on most situations. But remember that the Eye of Grummsh is a controler and the Chieftain is a brute. The first wields divine power granted by Grummsh himself; the second is only a big tough guy who inspires his allies with his great strenght and furious war cries.

Correction: now that I reread the ability, it seems that Death Strike works when the orc ally is knocked down, not when the Eye of Grummsh is knocked down. Err.. it's far more powerful than I initially thought!

I initially did not see the Orc vs Ally distinction. But Inspire Ferocity just seems weak for a Level 8 Elite Brute (Leader). I thought he would get more abilities similar to a Warlord since he is both Brute and Leader. The Death Strike seems more like a high level Warlord ability rather than a Controller ability.

Edit: I guess the Blood of the Enemy is his Leader ability. I was just obsessing with Inspire Ferocity for some reason.

Sovereign Court

Rodney Thompson wrote:


Also, if you've got more than one person working on a trap, it lets you know how long it takes to disable.

Hadn't considered that initially. Interesting... Of course how often does that actually happen? Is it really a good idea to have the fighter "help" the rogue?


Since skill bonuses scale differently and anyone can take the Trapfinding feat, I dont see why a fighter couldnt. Of course, it doesnt have to be a fighter: a halfling wizard might know a thing or two about traps.

The Exchange

Pete Apple wrote:
Hadn't considered that initially. Interesting... Of course how often does that actually happen?

A lot more often now, than it used to.

Pete Apple wrote:
Is it really a good idea to have the fighter "help" the rogue?

It is, if you need to hold back a crusher, to get at the gubbins.

It doesn't have to be a fighter, though. You're better using somone with a bit of class. I help our rogue all the time; 1 skill rank = 1 auto assist (well, it is from me, anyway).

And I can stand my studly-wizard body in the way of the poison/death rays etc, to protect his frail weedy rogue carcass.


Rodney Thompson wrote:
Also, if you've got more than one person working on a trap, it lets you know how long it takes to disable.

Rodney, if you are still there, could you please explain what happens when the bloodrager gains an additional attack from Death Strike/Inspire Ferocity (after being reduced to 0 hp) and uses his Blood for Blood ability?

Possibility 1: He regains 10 hp and is still alive with 10 hit points.

Possibility 2: He doesn't regain any hp, because a monster with 0 hp is dead, and someone dead can't regain hp.

Possibility 3: The additional attack occurs immediately before he is reduced to 0 hp, so his hp now is = his hp before the attack + 10 - the damage dealt that would reduce him to 0 hp.


Snorter wrote:
And the idea of complex skill checks appeared back in Alternity. I know Bill Slaviscek was one of the writers. How about you, Rodney? Were you on that team?

No, I actually hadn't started doing professional design at that point.

Pete Apple wrote:
Hadn't considered that initially. Interesting... Of course how often does that actually happen? Is it really a good idea to have the fighter "help" the rogue?

Well, the Thievery skill isn't the only way to disable some traps. Just a while back my wizard used magic missile to destroy a poison-spouting statue that was part of a trap. The DMG gives some very specific guidelines on dealing with non-traditional methods of defeating traps.

Krauser_Levyl wrote:
Rodney, if you are still there, could you please explain what happens when the bloodrager gains an additional attack from Death Strike/Inspire Ferocity (after being reduced to 0 hp) and uses his Blood for Blood ability?

Hm, this is probably not going to get me in trouble for talking about it, but the way Death Strike is worded it is no action, meaning it occurs when the condition occurs without requiring an action. So, with Death Strike, the bloodrager hits 0 and makes his attack, but he's both dying and attacking simultaneously. So, when the attack is resolved, he still dies. Likewise, since Inspire Ferocity is a reaction, the orc is technically hitting 0 hit points and then attacking. Reactions resolve after the triggering action, so basically the Chieftain lets the dying orc make one final attack before he dies. A dead character can't take an action on its own, but basically the chieftain forces the dying orc to make an attack as it does down. The two abilities are essentially identical, but are worded slightly differently because the Inspire Ferocity is an ability with a recharge that costs the Chieftain a reaction, whereas the aura is always-on and requires no action from the Eye of Gruumsh.

At least, I'm pretty sure how that works. :D I may be wrong about one of these, because it's late and I've been at the Emerald City ComiCon all day.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

I dunno.

I'm not sure I'm liking what I'm seeing with the orcs. Their entry in the Monster Manual seems to be an array of (largely similar) stat-blocks with some small stereotypical bits of orc fluff at the beginning and end. Maybe I'm too concerned about the fluff of creatures the PCs are supposed to just know are the bad guys they should rampage through, (especially since I can do what I want with fluff.) But I like good, solid, well written fluff, even if I use something else. It helps me know the designers are trying to do something other than just churn out a battle system with generic baddies in it.

Stat-wise I'm most concerned about the lack of spell-casting with the orc priest. People are going to know what to expect from orcs fast. And I feel like I'm going to develop a sense of lather-rinse-repeat.


Rodney Thompson wrote:
Krauser_Levyl wrote:
Rodney, if you are still there, could you please explain what happens when the bloodrager gains an additional attack from Death Strike/Inspire Ferocity (after being reduced to 0 hp) and uses his Blood for Blood ability?

Hm, this is probably not going to get me in trouble for talking about it, but the way Death Strike is worded it is no action, meaning it occurs when the condition occurs without requiring an action. So, with Death Strike, the bloodrager hits 0 and makes his attack, but he's both dying and attacking simultaneously. So, when the attack is resolved, he still dies. Likewise, since Inspire Ferocity is a reaction, the orc is technically hitting 0 hit points and then attacking. Reactions resolve after the triggering action, so basically the Chieftain lets the dying orc make one final attack before he dies. A dead character can't take an action on its own, but basically the chieftain forces the dying orc to make an attack as it does down. The two abilities are essentially identical, but are worded slightly differently because the Inspire Ferocity is an ability with a recharge that costs the Chieftain a reaction, whereas the aura is always-on and requires no action from the Eye of Gruumsh.

At least, I'm pretty sure how that works. :D I may be...

Thanks, Rodney. Now I'm going to post your reply on EnWorld/WotC Boards/RPGNet/everywhere as an "official" answer... I'm kidding. =D


Drakli wrote:

I dunno.

I'm not sure I'm liking what I'm seeing with the orcs. Their entry in the Monster Manual seems to be an array of (largely similar) stat-blocks with some small stereotypical bits of orc fluff at the beginning and end. Maybe I'm too concerned about the fluff of creatures the PCs are supposed to just know are the bad guys they should rampage through, (especially since I can do what I want with fluff.) But I like good, solid, well written fluff, even if I use something else. It helps me know the designers are trying to do something other than just churn out a battle system with generic baddies in it.

Just a question: how many lines of orc "fluff" is presented on 3.5 MM?

Probably not the necessary for a DM who isn't familiar with "orcs" to know what they are and how to use them. That's probably the reason that DMs rarely use "3E MM only monsters" like ravids, rasts and tojanidas. They are basically combat statblocks with few information on how to insert them into the adventure.

To put stereotypical fluff is important on an MM, because a DM may not be familiar with the monster. The fluff gives an outline of the general role of the monster in the world. Experienced DMs will spontaneously make deviations and more creative uses of it. I myself used tribes non-evil orcs in my old 2E campaign, without any sourcebook telling me that I could do so.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber
Krauser_Levyl wrote:

Just a question: how many lines of orc "fluff" is presented on 3.5 MM?

Probably not the necessary for a DM who isn't familiar with "orcs" to know what they are and how to use them. That's probably the reason that DMs rarely use "3E MM only monsters" like ravids, rasts and tojanidas. They are basically combat statblocks with few information on how to insert them into the adventure

To put stereotypical fluff is important on an MM, because a DM may not be familiar with the monster. The fluff gives an outline of the general role of the monster in the world. Experienced DMs will spontaneously make deviations and more creative uses of it. I myself used tribes non-evil orcs in my old 2E campaign, without any sourcebook telling me that I could do so.

Good points, both of them.

On the first, I think my mind is running on the mass of orc stuff I've accumulated from various D&D books over the years.

On the second... well, it's just a good point.

I'm still a little concerned about the way each monster seems to have one or two specialized tricks (like the attack routine in a Final Fantasy game) and that's all they do, and if you want a monster to do something different, you need a new monster. But even that's... up in the air, since I don't have a monster manual 4E in hand and probably I can easily use the monster builder rules so that my Orc Cleric of Grog the Rummy can use a Stinking Cloud effect instead of Chaos Hammer. It just sounds hard to build him to do whichever fits the situation, like a PC cleric can do.

I love monsters a bit too much to really appreciate the 'monsters don't need to do what PCs do, they just need a couple of cool things to do in the 1-3 rounds before they die' approach. That's kind of what blew me away by 3E, the fact that a monster was approached by all the same rules as a PC and theoretically could be just as good. That said... it can be time consuming to build a monster villain in 3.5.

Aw, heck, I'm just apprehensive. Curious, but apprehensive.


I'm still a little concerned about the way each monster seems to have one or two specialized tricks (like the attack routine in a Final Fantasy game) and that's all they do, and if you want a monster to do something different, you need a new monster. But even that's... up in the air, since I don't have a monster manual 4E in hand and probably I can easily use the monster builder rules so that my Orc Cleric of Grog the Rummy can use a Stinking Cloud effect instead of Chaos Hammer. It just sounds hard to build him to do whichever fits the situation, like a PC cleric can do.

Each monster might only have a handful of specialized powers, but thats still more than what you got in 3rd Edition in many cases. Orcs, for example, basically hit you with an axe (which is what many monsters do already). Now, they have some things that make them stand out from the gnolls, goblins, and kobolds.
Of course, you will be able to customize them. Likely, it will be easier to do so, and there will be less of a chance that you will accidentally make it too powerful for your group. If you want, you can also make it powerful enough that the party will realize that they need to run before being outright killed (as happened in a designer blog when a party went up against an angel that was like, 9 levels higher than they were).
If you want to give the orc cleric a stinking cloud, I think its as easy as changing the chaos hammer attack to target the Fort Defense and drop a condition on the players (-2 Atk & Dmg; save ends).
The great thing about that is that you could do that in the MIDDLE of combat without slowing things down.

I love monsters a bit too much to really appreciate the 'monsters don't need to do what PCs do, they just need a couple of cool things to do in the 1-3 rounds before they die' approach. That's kind of what blew me away by 3E, the fact that a monster was approached by all the same rules as a PC and theoretically could be just as good. That said... it can be time consuming to build a monster villain in 3.5.

See, I dont mind that the monsters arent built like characters because now I can build them however I want without a player going, "it must have X levels in this class," or asking what ability it has, or whatever. I also dont need to worry about shuffling stats around, or giving it stat-boosting items to get it to have the attack, damage, or saves that I needed: I can challenge my players without making it impossible for others.
It doesnt make me think of the monster as any less "real" than the players, who wouldnt know if I didnt bother doling out feats for a 3E monster anyway.

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