The stone / iron / adamantine golem's Inexorable March: a TPK machine


Monsters and Hazards


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I was running The Frozen Oath earlier, and the party TPKed because I was trying to run the stone golem's Inexorable March as faithfully as possible.

Quote:

Action: Inexorable March The stone golem Strides up to its Speed, pushing back and damaging each creature whose space it moves into. A creature can bar the way by succeeding at a Fortitude save against the stone golem’s Athletics DC (32). Regardless of success or failure, the creature is damaged as if hit by the golem’s fist (though on a critical success, the creature takes no damage).

First of all, there does not seem to be anything at all stopping a golem from using Inexorable March to damage a creature multiple times with a single action. That was not, however, the interpretation I used. I had to rule that the stone golem could damage a creature only once per use of Inexorable March, and even then, the party still TPKed.

Secondly, that Fortitude save is completely unreasonable. The DC is terribly high, and even then, a critical success is needed to negate the damage.

Thirdly, we were all baffled as to how this was actually supposed to work in the relatively small room we fought the golem in. What happens if the golem tries to move into multiple creature's spaces? What happens if the golem has a creature up against a corner, and the golem would move into the creature's space? Does the golem keep on pushing a creature as it moves, or does the golem pass over them?

This degree of automatic damage is completely game-breaking in combat, even if Inexorable March is limited so as to damage a given creature only once per use. It also raises plenty of befuddling questions on how it functions in dungeon environments.


Did your party ever try to not prevent the Golem's march? As written the damage only occurs if you try to block it. Kinda like the Dwarf Ancestry Feat Boulder Roll. You go with the shoving, you get moved about but not hurt. You try to resist it, you might stop the movement but it's very likely gonna hurt.

Like, I think the idea isn't that the golem walks around damaging everything in its way. The idea is that the golem is coming through and if you try and stop it it darn well might just be coming through anyway. If you're getting steamrolled from trying to stop the thing moving around it only makes sense to let it just push around as it pleases and not get killed trying to halt it since if no one tries to stop it all the golem is doing with that Stride action is moving and pushing people around, no damage involved.

Also the text makes it clear that if someone succeeds at the athletics check they take damage but successfully bar the golem's movement. Wasn't sure from what you wrote if you ran it that way or not.

Also curious, what level party is this?


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No, it says "Action: Inexorable March The stone golem Strides up to its Speed, pushing back and damaging each creature whose space it moves into"

Which means that everybody is damaged whether they try to block it or not. Blocking it ("bar the way") seems to mean that the golem must stop it's movement and end this action. At least, I assume so. It definitely means the golem doesn't move into the space of whoever bars the way. I mean, that's what "bar the way" means, right? Maybe the golem must stop since it can't move into that space, or maybe it can keep using its movement to go around (assuming there are empty squares for it to move into without entering that space that was barred).

So the brave paladin realizes the golem is marching inexorably through the paladin's space then going to proceed to crush the whole party behind him.

His choices:
1) Do nothing. He is pushed back and takes damage. The golem moves past him and does the same thing to everybody else. Possibly the TPK the OP was talking about.
2) Bar the way. Fort Save. Fail, take damage and do not bar the way. Succeed, take damage and bar the way. Critical success, take no damage and bar the way.

I am curious if a successful "bar the way" ends the golem's action or if it can proceed around the "barred" square (if possible). This could literally mean that, in a large room, barring the way doesn't save the allies behind you, so why risk it?

Just kidding. You should ALWAYS risk it because it is no risk at all. I mean, if you do nothing you are 100% certain to take damage and get pushed aside. But if you bar the way, you are only 95% certain of taking damage and you also might not get pushed aside if your save is high enough. If nothing else, barring the way has a 5% chance of taking no damage and (maybe) stopping the golem's action. That definitely beats the do nothing effect.


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Now for my concern:

Assume the fighter either never "bars the way" or he does bar the way but fails every save.

The Stone Golem starts its turn directly in front of the fighter. He uses this action and moves 5' into the fighter's square. This damages and pushes the fighter straight back 5'. The golem still has 15' of movement so he moves 5' forward into the fighter's new square, damaging and pushing him straight back 5' again. The golem still has 10' of movement so he moves 5' forward into the fighter's new square, damaging and pushing him straight back 5' again. The golem still has 5' of movement so he moves 5' forward into the fighter's new square, damaging and pushing him straight back 5' again.

The golem used 1 action and did 8d10+56 damage to the fighter.

Even worse, the golem still has two actions left, so he does that two more times. This results in 24d6+168 damage to the fighter. No miss chance, no attack rolls, no saving throw. That is 252 damage. Average. Could be more.

This is an 11th level monster. An 11th level dwarf fighter with a 20 CON and Toughness has 186 HP. 197 HP if you can get that CON up to 22. That dwarven fighter needs to be 15th level to have any chance of surviving the golem's average damage and that's just the first round!.

Yikes!

I think this alone supports my theory that we need to be able to stop the action on a successful bar the way. If not, this is a walking, rumbling, crushing TPK every single time it's used.

Well, OK, if the party knows about it in advance and everybody stays 60 feet away from it using ranged attacks, they might have a chance.


The party was 10th-level. I interpreted Inexorable March as being able to damage a given creature only once per Inexorable March, yet the confined quarters meant that the stone golem could always march into most of the party. Barring the way still meant taking damage.


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Oops, my bad. I missed the "and damaging" part on the movement.

Yeah, that could use some clarifying. I think it makes the most sense to have it end the action for stated reasons, and I agree that ruling it only damages once per move per character is right.

Does it by chance have a "frequency, once per round" caveat? That seems like it would be nice maybe.

As an aside, at 10th level I believe max bonus for an Athletics check is +19 (assuming there's a magic item for +2 athletics by this level), meaning you'd need a 13 to make the check, so 40% chance. Harsh but doable.

Feels like smart tactics are important here. Hampering or Entangling the Golem seems like an excellent choice, and if it isn't immune to such things Frightened or Enfeebled should bring down the DC of the check. Any option that can knock the Golem Probe could be useful too.

This does definitely seem like a tough ability but it shouldn't be insurmountable if the rough patches in the wording are fixed up.


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What it SHOULD do (I think):

Golem moves in a straight line (not zig-zagging around the room to maximize his inexorable damage). Anybody in that line is pushed aside (not back) so they are off to the side of the golem's straight line. You know, like the golem is a big snow plow.

This way nobody gets hit twice in the same action and the unintelligent golem is not choosing a winding path through the enemies to maximize damage.

Barring the way should end the action regardless of whether the PC gets damaged or not (unless the save is failed in which case the PC is simply swept aside as if he had never tried to bar the way).

Yes, the golem could do this three times in a round, but nobody would be hit more than 3 times (less if tanky guys are barring the way). Why not? I mean, it is the golem's ability, it should use it as often as it can.

None of that is literally printed in the text, but it seems to me that this interpretation is a non-TPK solution that fits the size and intelligence of a golem.

Will it still TPK? Maybe. Seems like it could. Collette says it can. Maybe with some good saves, or the right magic to slow it down, or even a cleric with a readied action to drop a big heal during the golem's turn.


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Edge93 wrote:
Does it by chance have a "frequency, once per round" caveat? That seems like it would be nice maybe.

None stated.

Edge93 wrote:
Feels like smart tactics are important here. Hampering or Entangling the Golem seems like an excellent choice,

As long as it's not magical.

Edge93 wrote:
and if it isn't immune to such things Frightened or Enfeebled should bring down the DC of the check.

It is immune. Unless you can find a non-magical enfeebling effect.

Edge93 wrote:
Any option that can knock the Golem Prone could be useful too.

Sure. This robs it of one use of Inexorable March.

Edge93 wrote:
This does definitely seem like a tough ability but it shouldn't be insurmountable if the rough patches in the wording are fixed up.

Don't forget to use the right magic to slow it. Limiting it to two actions instead of three reduces its damage output by a full third.


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Given the power of the ability, I feel that it should take two actions.
After all the golem is not just moving, it's doing something like moving while punching/kicking like mad. At least, that's how I figure it.


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Megistone wrote:

Given the power of the ability, I feel that it should take two actions.

After all the golem is not just moving, it's doing something like moving while punching/kicking like mad. At least, that's how I figure it.

It's just charging forward like a train, using mass + momentum to do damage. That's why Blake's suggestion that it should be limited to a straight line makes sense.


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Scythia wrote:
Megistone wrote:

Given the power of the ability, I feel that it should take two actions.

After all the golem is not just moving, it's doing something like moving while punching/kicking like mad. At least, that's how I figure it.
It's just charging forward like a train, using mass + momentum to do damage. That's why Blake's suggestion that it should be limited to a straight line makes sense.

It does. About how the golem does its march, well, I guess that everyone has its own opinion.

Also, the trample attack in PF1 allowed two options for the defender: try to get away (reflex save), or stand and attack back (and take damage).
In this case I would do something similar: stop it (fortitude) or get away (reflex). Because, as it is, your second option is just letting it trample you without trying anything at all.


Megistone wrote:
Scythia wrote:
Megistone wrote:

Given the power of the ability, I feel that it should take two actions.

After all the golem is not just moving, it's doing something like moving while punching/kicking like mad. At least, that's how I figure it.
It's just charging forward like a train, using mass + momentum to do damage. That's why Blake's suggestion that it should be limited to a straight line makes sense.

It does. About how the golem does its march, well, I guess that everyone has its own opinion.

That's fair. It probably colours my perception that I've seen what a train does to somebody without any need for punches or kicks.


This remembers me the ability of the Sea Serpent

Spine Rake:
Spine Rake (move) The sea serpent extends the spines along its back and Swims or Strides. Each creature the serpent is adjacent to at any point during its movement takes 4d6+8 slashing damage (DC 28 Reflex save for half, or no damage on a critical success).

In last stream when Mark was GMing he said that this ability should cost 2 action because an ability that makes you move and damage shouldn't cost only one action.

So maybe that should how Inexorable March works too


Dante Doom wrote:

This remembers me the ability of the Sea Serpent

** spoiler omitted **

In last stream when Mark was GMing he said that this ability should cost 2 action because an ability that makes you move and damage shouldn't cost only one action.

So maybe that should how Inexorable March works too

The Cat's pounce ability seems fine at 1 action though it does include move + damage.


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Flying or climbing could get people out of the way if there's room, which it doesn't sound like there was in this case. Similarly for running away and kiting it. Magic affecting the self like invisibility might help.

A classic closet troll.


ChibiNyan wrote:
Dante Doom wrote:

This remembers me the ability of the Sea Serpent

** spoiler omitted **

In last stream when Mark was GMing he said that this ability should cost 2 action because an ability that makes you move and damage shouldn't cost only one action.

So maybe that should how Inexorable March works too

The Cat's pounce ability seems fine at 1 action though it does include move + damage.

True, but abilities like Spine Rake or Inexorable March can do damage (and quite a lot of that) on multiple targets. I think they are just too good for a single action.

The golem doesn't even allow halving damage; if you are the first on the line you are going to get badly hurt unless you roll a 20, in most cases.


I seem to recall PF1 had a colossal centipede with a similar ability - single move trample autodamaging everyone in the area.

I used it on my the players and great hilarity ensued. For me. They weren't laughing. I could barely stop laughing long enough to roll more dice and trample more casters. Great fun!

Paizo Employee Designer

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If I recall correctly from the last time we played against a stone golem before the final beta, the golem is supposed to only damage those who try to block its way; everyone else accepts the push but avoids the damage. I agree that's not how that first line is worded any more though.


Mark Seifter wrote:
If I recall correctly from the last time we played against a stone golem before the final beta, the golem is supposed to only damage those who try to block its way; everyone else accepts the push but avoids the damage. I agree that's not how that first line is worded any more though.

Ok, now that is a little more sane.


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But not as fun!

I can hear the paladin in front saying, "Oh, look, it decided to march inexorably. Nobody resist! Let it waste its action pushing you. Lucky for us it didn't want to damage anybody this round."

If the rule is
A) Resist and probably take damage or
B) Do nothing and take no damage

Then there is no motivation to resist, no reason at all, really. Unless maybe this encounter is on a narrow bridge over lava or some such - in which case the guy who wrote that adventure really really wants a TPK here no matter how you read the ability.

The only other reason is if the inexorable march puts the golem in reach of the squishy casters. In this case, the frontline guy might try to bar the way. But, definitely, if he fails, nobody else will ever try because there is nothing to gain by it. At all. And, since it is unintelligent it's unlikely to use any ability to bypass one enemy to hit a different one. Also, squishy mages aren't much threat to magic-immune golems anyway and it won't have the INT to understand buff spells or healers.

If this is really the correct wording, I suggest renaming the ability. Maybe Inscrutable March or Inconsequential March or maybe even Ineffective March - at least that way GMs will recognize it as a trap option and look for better ways to use the golem's actions.

Sorry, that was meant to be funny but sounded harsh. I still think it's funny so I won't rewrite it; hopefully Mark will take it as a poignant joke rather than harsh criticism (I guess it's really both).

How about Insignificant March?


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DM_Blake wrote:

But not as fun!

I can hear the paladin in front saying, "Oh, look, it decided to march inexorably. Nobody resist! Let it waste its action pushing you. Lucky for us it didn't want to damage anybody this round."

If the rule is
A) Resist and probably take damage or
B) Do nothing and take no damage

Then there is no motivation to resist, no reason at all, really. Unless maybe this encounter is on a narrow bridge over lava or some such - in which case the guy who wrote that adventure really really wants a TPK here no matter how you read the ability.

The only other reason is if the inexorable march puts the golem in reach of the squishy casters. In this case, the frontline guy might try to bar the way. But, definitely, if he fails, nobody else will ever try because there is nothing to gain by it. At all. And, since it is unintelligent it's unlikely to use any ability to bypass one enemy to hit a different one. Also, squishy mages aren't much threat to magic-immune golems anyway and it won't have the INT to understand buff spells or healers.

If this is really the correct wording, I suggest renaming the ability. Maybe Inscrutable March or Inconsequential March or maybe even Ineffective March - at least that way GMs will recognize it as a trap option and look for better ways to use the golem's actions.

Sorry, that was meant to be funny but sounded harsh. I still think it's funny so I won't rewrite it; hopefully Mark will take it as a poignant joke rather than harsh criticism (I guess it's really both).

How about Insignificant March?

Most other "push stuff out of the way as you charge" give you this option though.

Basically the Golem starts his March, trampling everything in its path. You either go alongside it (basically 0 resist vs his reposition "attack") , or try to stop it, getting hurt in the process but also giving you the chance to stop it at its feet.

Terrain advantage aside (bridges, hazards, difficult terrains, etc), this allows a golem to basically go "screw you, I go wherever I want, push whomever I want and you can do nothing about it, or, do something and get damaged"


If that's true, why try to stop it?

First, it's mindless. INT 0. It can't be thinking stuff like "I'll push the fighter out of the way so I can kill the healer first". It's literally incapable of that kind of thought. Maybe, if there is some villain controlling it and it was given specific instructions to kill some back-rank PC first, then maybe this is useful. But how often is the encounter scripted this way? Also, it just means all the PCs will ignore the golem, kill the villain, then deal with the uncontrolled unintelligent golem after the villain is dead - at which time, the golem is not smart enough to use this Inexorable March as a tactical solution.

Second, if it's just mindlessly moving forward, then there is literally no reason to resist it. EVER. Let it waste its actions walking around, let it harmlessly brush you aside without even leaving a bruise, then beat the crap out of it after it has wasted its turn.

shroudb wrote:
Terrain advantage aside (bridges, hazards, difficult terrains, etc), this allows a golem to basically go "screw you, I go wherever I want, push whomever I want and you can do nothing about it, or, do something and get damaged"

But it would never think that. Ever. It doesn't have the intelligence for it. INT 0. It literally can't think that.

Incredulous March. Imprudent March. Incompetent March. Inutile March.


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DM_Blake wrote:

If that's true, why try to stop it?

First, it's mindless. INT 0. It can't be thinking stuff like "I'll push the fighter out of the way so I can kill the healer first". It's literally incapable of that kind of thought. Maybe, if there is some villain controlling it and it was given specific instructions to kill some back-rank PC first, then maybe this is useful. But how often is the encounter scripted this way? Also, it just means all the PCs will ignore the golem, kill the villain, then deal with the uncontrolled unintelligent golem after the villain is dead - at which time, the golem is not smart enough to use this Inexorable March as a tactical solution.

Second, if it's just mindlessly moving forward, then there is literally no reason to resist it. EVER. Let it waste its actions walking around, let it harmlessly brush you aside without even leaving a bruise, then beat the crap out of it after it has wasted its turn.

Incredulous March. Imprudent March. Incompetent March. Inutile March.

He can be programmed to always try to attack the one furthest away but within 1 March distance. It makes sense if its creator was worried about casters.

It can be controlled from another place via scrying.

It can be programmed to hunt specific targets.

It can be sent to murder a protected individual.

A vicious caster can program it to go after people who drop "prone" (dying)

Etc.

Am ability that allows you to move and manipulate the battlefield at will without anyone being able to stop you, can never be weak.


Look, the only reason to "bar the way" is if there is a consequence for NOT barring the way.

If you are going to risk taking damage, especially when the alternative is guaranteed to cause NO damage, then why would anybody ever risk it?

It's like touching a pan on the stove. Maybe the heat has been off. Maybe the pan is cool. Or maybe the heat was just on and that pan is hot enough to burn me. I don't know. I could risk touching it. Or, I could simply NOT touch it. No risk. Why would I ever touch it and take the risk of getting burned? Well, maybe I NEED to touch it. Maybe my wife will kill me if I don't get the dishes done right away. In that case, there are consequences that I want to avoid. So I risk it. But if there are no consequences, then I can just leave it there and there is no risk at all.

If all the golem is going to do is walk past me and walk past all my friends and nobody gets hurt, nobody at all, then what is my reason to risk getting smashed in the face by trying to "bar the way"?

If we're in a hazard and letting it march inexorably through us will push us off a cliff or into lava or some such then there ARE consequences. Barring the way might be critical to saving us from certain death.

But if not, if there are no consequences, then nobody will bar the way.

In that case, it would be good for adventure designers to make sure they set up hazardous consequences to transform this ability from Insignificant March of Diddly into Inexorable March of Doom.


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DM_Blake wrote:

Look, the only reason to "bar the way" is if there is a consequence for NOT barring the way.

If you are going to risk taking damage, especially when the alternative is guaranteed to cause NO damage, then why would anybody ever risk it?

It's like touching a pan on the stove. Maybe the heat has been off. Maybe the pan is cool. Or maybe the heat was just on and that pan is hot enough to burn me. I don't know. I could risk touching it. Or, I could simply NOT touch it. No risk. Why would I ever touch it and take the risk of getting burned? Well, maybe I NEED to touch it. Maybe my wife will kill me if I don't get the dishes done right away. In that case, there are consequences that I want to avoid. So I risk it. But if there are no consequences, then I can just leave it there and there is no risk at all.

If all the golem is going to do is walk past me and walk past all my friends and nobody gets hurt, nobody at all, then what is my reason to risk getting smashed in the face by trying to "bar the way"?

If we're in a hazard and letting it march inexorably through us will push us off a cliff or into lava or some such then there ARE consequences. Barring the way might be critical to saving us from certain death.

But if not, if there are no consequences, then nobody will bar the way.

In that case, it would be good for adventure designers to make sure they set up hazardous consequences to transform this ability from Insignificant March of Diddly into Inexorable March of Doom.

Because the ability exists exactly so that none can bar its passage.

No so that it can move like a train back and forth and do nothing.

So, March to target, slam target. Bypassing potential meat walls in front of him (depending on its programming)


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shroudb wrote:

Because the ability exists exactly so that none can bar its passage.

No so that it can move like a train back and forth and do nothing.

So, March to target, slam target. Bypassing potential meat walls in front of him (depending on its programming)

This.

Don't think of Inexorable March as some kind of offensive charge attack. Instead, you can basically read it is "when an Iron Golem takes a Stride ability, its gets to wherever it is going, and nothing is likely to stop it." Sort of like an... inexorable... march?

The golem is still going to stride-strike-strike like most monsters; the difference is that if it's given a specific target, the usual "block it from getting to the caster" tricks are not going to work.

Generally I like it.


shroudb wrote:

Because the ability exists exactly so that none can bar its passage.

No so that it can move like a train back and forth and do nothing.

So, March to target, slam target. Bypassing potential meat walls in front of him (depending on its programming)

That's probably the intent, sure. However, I'd bet that you will see a lot of GM's it marching back and forth up and down hallways three times every round. Is 3x melee damage automatically every round to everyone in a line stride distance long an intended use of this creature?


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Garretmander wrote:
shroudb wrote:

Because the ability exists exactly so that none can bar its passage.

No so that it can move like a train back and forth and do nothing.

So, March to target, slam target. Bypassing potential meat walls in front of him (depending on its programming)

That's probably the intent, sure. However, I'd bet that you will see a lot of GM's it marching back and forth up and down hallways three times every round. Is 3x melee damage automatically every round to everyone in a line stride distance long an intended use of this creature?

all this i'm writing is under the impression, that as Mark suggested, it's a typo when the ability got written to be ported, and that it will be fixed before release.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

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DM_Blake wrote:

But not as fun!

I can hear the paladin in front saying, "Oh, look, it decided to march inexorably. Nobody resist! Let it waste its action pushing you. Lucky for us it didn't want to damage anybody this round."

If the rule is
A) Resist and probably take damage or
B) Do nothing and take no damage

Then there is no motivation to resist, no reason at all, really. Unless maybe this encounter is on a narrow bridge over lava or some such - in which case the guy who wrote that adventure really really wants a TPK here no matter how you read the ability.

The only other reason is if the inexorable march puts the golem in reach of the squishy casters. In this case, the frontline guy might try to bar the way. But, definitely, if he fails, nobody else will ever try because there is nothing to gain by it. At all. And, since it is unintelligent it's unlikely to use any ability to bypass one enemy to hit a different one. Also, squishy mages aren't much threat to magic-immune golems anyway and it won't have the INT to understand buff spells or healers.

If this is really the correct wording, I suggest renaming the ability. Maybe Inscrutable March or Inconsequential March or maybe even Ineffective March - at least that way GMs will recognize it as a trap option and look for better ways to use the golem's actions.

Sorry, that was meant to be funny but sounded harsh. I still think it's funny so I won't rewrite it; hopefully Mark will take it as a poignant joke rather than harsh criticism (I guess it's really both).

How about Insignificant March?

I know if I had a golem guardian with this ability I'd place pits, lava, and traps around that it could push people into. Even without that, pushing the frontline fighters out of the way to pound on the squishy wizard in back is also good.


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Yeah, it really goes back to the original idea of the Golem - it gets one task and nobody is going to keep it from doing that task. Unstoppable Monsters are a tradition, and that rule fits in nicely with the mental picture.


I mean, we can have our cake and eat it too. How about the March does some amount of damage if you get pushed by it, but double damage if you actually try to stop it. So with our 2d10+14 golem, it does 1d10+7 normally, 2d10+14 if you try to stop it. Just clarify it only damages any given target once per move.


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I am definitely against Inexorable March being a directly offensive ability. It is much more thematic - and balanced - as an "unstoppable movement" ability instead of an attack.

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