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 Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull

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svendj
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PostSubject: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:07 am

This month in Dragon 427 we get an article for characters who want to worship the long-forgotten god of death and the dead. The player content in the article contains two feats, a paragon path and an epic-level artifact.

The first feat is called Reaper's Blade, and has the prerequisite that you need to worship Nerull. It gives you proficiency and a +2 feat bonus to damage rolls with the sickle and the scythe. This
bonus increases to +3 at 11th level and +4 at 21st level. In addition, you treat the scythe as having the high crit property.

The feat immediately reminds me of Turathi Weapon Training, a Tiefling-only feat that gives the same proficiency and damage bonus, but also for the khopesh (the only heavy blade/axe), scourge, scimitar and falchion. Unfortunately, there are better alternatives for almost all of these weapons, so this feat is rarely taken by anyone.

To make matters worse, sickles and scythes are the worst of all these weapons, and are not supported at all. There's basically just Slashing Kama Style which lets sickle-wielding Monks do their Flurry-damage as ongoing damage (bad because damage now is better than damage later), the level 14+ rare Blade of the Stalking Predator (also bad) and the level 4+ Rose Scythe of Chauntea (also bad).

Verdict: bad, only usable in corner cases.

The second feat is Nerull's Binding, a Channel Divinity feat that also requires you worship Nerull (by the way, the worship of Nerull has no domains associated with it, which means divine characters don't get to take domain feats. Depending on your class, this is already bad for you).

I'm going to be quick: this feat is absolutely useless. It gives you a CD power that's an immediate reaction to you reducing an enemy to zero HP, or an adjacent enemy dropping to zero. When is that going to happen outside of your turn? And even if it happens, the effect is so negligible (a concealment and wis-mod damage aura 1 that lasts until the end of your next turn) that you wouldn't want it anyway.

Verdict: abysmal, stay the hell away.

Coming up: a review of the other half of the article, which is at least kinda interesting.
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PostSubject: Re: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:33 am

The article brings a new paragon path called Soul Binder. It's only available to arcane, divine and shadow classes that worship Nerull (so divine characters again run into the domain problem mentioned previously).

The main feature is the level 11 encounter power that summons a Bound Soul, which has HP equal to your healing surge value, your defenses, is insubstantial, and has a partial concealment aura 1. Its melee basic attack deals 1d10+your Int/Wis/Cha mod necrotic and radiant damage and has no other keywords, so it doesn't benefit from other effects. Lastly, it has an opportunity action that lets you push an enemy 1 square while you're adjacent to the Soul. You command the Soul using your own actions, but you can make it move as a minor action and when you AP the Soul also gets a free standard action.

This reminds me of the Psion paragon path Thrallherd, that provides you with a sort-of summoned creature that you can command. There are some minor differences between the Thrall and the Bound Soul, but they're similar enough that a comparison is apt. Thrallherd was never very popular, since the Thrall ultimately blocks only one square and makes weak opportunity attacks. The Bound Soul isn't very different in that regard. If only its OA worked like the Spirit Companion's opportunity attack, then it could have been useful as an action-denying OA-machine. The way it's written, there is simply no reason to ever use the Bound Soul over your own attacks.

The level 12 utility power lets you dismiss the Soul to give the party 10 temp HP, and the level 16 feature gives you or your Soul some temps when either of you drops an enemy to zero HP. Both abilities are unimpressive.
The saving grace of this paragon path is the level 20 daily power. It lets you summon 3 more Bound Souls, which along with your original Bound Soul all act when you use a standard action to command them. Along with your action point and the AP feature, this lets you make no less than 12 attacks in one turn. Unfortunately the power is a standard action instead of a minor, which greatly reduces its appeal.

Lastly, there's another level 11 feature that lets you also deal radiant damage when you deal necrotic damage. If, for some reason, you often deal necrotic damage, you can now get around resistance and immunity by dual-typing. If you have a Morninglord in the party, you can also increase your damage (along with the other ways to abuse radiant damage).

Verdict: below par. The paragon path is not actively bad (unless you use your standard actions to command the Soul to attack), but there are so many better paragon paths available to every class that I can't recommend anyone taking this. Wrathvokers can take the Righteous Summons feat to increase the Soul's damage by their Con mod, FWIW.

The last bit of player content in the article is an epic level artifact, Nerull's +6 scythe Lifecutter. Normally I wouldn't consider artifacts as player content since it's up to your DM if you get them, but the abilities are so good that I want to spend a little time talking about them.

First, the properties. It's a scythe-only item, but staff-wielders can also use it like a staff to make weapon and implement attacks. You gain resist 15 necrotic and radiant, which is always useful. All attacks made by it now deal radiant and necrotic damage, so you can use radiant support and don't have to use it over an elemental weapon (like a Frost Weapon). You ignore 15 points of resistance, which is awesome. The only caveat is that you need to kill a creature every combat or lose a healing surge, but with this scythe, I doubt that will be a problem.

The powers are also incredible. It has three encounter powers. The first lets you make an at-will attack as a minor action. The second lets you turn one of your attacks into a critical hit as a free action (although you lose a death save that you only regain after an extended rest), and the third power lets you make all your attacks vs AC against Reflex instead as a minor action until the end of your next turn. It's safe to say that these powers are every striker's dream: a non-standard attack, more accuracy and more damage.

Verdict: all-around awesome. This is what a good rare item looks like. Should you get your hands on this, you can easily carry it around until the end of the campaign (or until Nerull takes it back, whatever happens first).
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PostSubject: Re: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:47 am

This article was obviously written with a top-down approach. This sometimes produces interesting and even good results, but not in this case. Unfortunately the author forgot that his content doesn't exist in a vacuum. It has to compete against every other piece of content written for 4th Edition, and frankly, it's not a fair fight.

There's no reason to fight with sickles and scythes over better blades like daggers, rapiers and longswords, so Reaper's Blade is useless. The Channel Divinity power is simply crap, even when compared to native CD powers that divine classes get, so there's no reason to ever take it. The paragon path, while it does something pretty unique, also does it badly, so why should anyone ever take it over a myriad of other more powerful options?

I'm disappointed that both the author and the editors don't seem to grasp the simple fact that content needs to be at least equally good as existing content or do something completely new, in order to be usable. Since they don't, what we get instead is pagefiller. As evidenced by the above, I can also fill page upon page with words, but I at least try to make it worth the reader's time. Since apparently the authors and editors don't make that effort, I can't say I'm unhappy that the magazines are coming to an end at the end of the year.
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PostSubject: Re: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Thu Sep 19, 2013 12:07 pm

I'd houserule the damage buff from Reaper's Blade to a 2/4/6 growth and have it give HighCrit AND Brutal 1 to the affected weapons myself.
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PostSubject: Re: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:23 am

Brutal 1 and an increased damage buff at higher tiers is cool. But what I'd really like to see is a reason to use scythes and sickles over other weapons like daggers and longswords. Like, a good magic item for assassins or avengers that only comes as a scythe. As I mentioned in the review, I like the artifact scythe. Perhaps something like this:

Reaper's Weapon Level 3+ Common
Weapon: scythe, sickle
Critical: 1d6 per plus

Properties:
* Divine and shadow characters can use this weapon as an implement for divine and shadow powers.
* All damage dealt with this weapon is necrotic and radiant damage.

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PostSubject: Re: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:15 am

Sounds like one more thing for the pile 'o stuff to do in the Forge Smile

Really, I think a large majority of weapon details need to be rebuilt from the ground up. There's plenty of weapons out there beyond the Sickle and Scythe that are just NOT worth the time to use simply because of how the options stack against them.

A large majority of Superior Weapons come to mind that are total garbage, which is just sad really...
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PostSubject: Re: Dragon 427: Channel Divinity: Nerull   Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:46 pm

ToeSama wrote:
I'd houserule the damage buff from Reaper's Blade to a 2/4/6 growth and have it give HighCrit AND Brutal 1 to the affected weapons myself.

This.

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