Cue an image of me standing in a room of pure white, not unlike the beginning of those World of Warcraft commercials. You know the ones. They’ve starred such famous celebrities as actor Verne Troyer, voice talent Vic Mignona, and most recently, rock legend Ozzy Osbourne. Only I’m not standing in a cool pose with an arrogant smirk on my face. Instead, I’m in a stiff pose with my eyes wide open like a deer in headlights, nervously wringing my hands as I speak into the boom mic:
“Hi. I’m Azalea Cloud. And I am so not used to 4th Edition’s power level. o_o”
That’s kinda how I feel right now about my newest 4E character, a drow rogue named Shivra. (Yes, I named her Shivra. That way, nobody’s confused about who’s playing her. >.>) Now, I know that rogues are supposed to be “strikers” according to D&D’s new system of class roles, and it’s a striker’s job to deal as much damage as possible in a single swing of their weapon, but Shivra is only 2nd Level, and already she’s teetering on the edge of what I would call broken.
The new 4E rules for critical hits might be one of the reasons why.
Those who have played 3rd Edition games know how critical hits used to work. You’d roll a natural 20, then you’d roll again to confirm whether it’s a critical hit, then you’d roll two of your weapon damage dice before applying bonuses like Sneak Attack. For the big muscley fighting classes who could usually be seen carrying the D&Dverse’s closest things to weapons of mass destruction that weren’t magical implements, this was nothing to complain about. But for supposed “striker” rogues who used a dagger, a weapon whose damage dice is the lowly d4, this was a big waste of time. The only difference between a crit and any other kind of hit while flanking was an extra 4 damage, maximum.
So yeah… You’re guaranteed at least 4 damage when you flank, but you won’t deal the full 20 unless you have incredible dice luck. And let’s face it: Most of us don’t have incredible dice luck. >_>; Why do you think we stuff whole Crown Royal bags full of $30+ worth of dice, even though D&D doesn’t require any more than six? It’s because gamers are as superstitious as baseball fans. Trading in one d20 for another won’t necessarily improve our rolls, but it makes us feel better. ^_^
Well, good news for damage-dealing rogues and anybody else with bad dice luck: Wizards loves you. The new 4E critical hit rules say that you don’t have to make a confirm roll on your natural 20s, only that a natural 20 automatically hits, and the only time it’s not a critical is when your target’s defense is still greater than 20 plus all your attack bonuses.
Then there’s the damage calculation…
-Maximum Damage: Rather than roll damage, determine the maximum damage you can roll with your attack. This is your critical damage. (Attacks that don’t deal damage still don’t deal damage on a critical hit.)
*record scratch noise* o.O
“The maximum damage you can roll with your attack?” Not just weapon damage? Suddenly, those random nats you roll amidst the dismal single-digit numbers are paying off. Now when you crit with a Sneak Attacking dagger, you deal 16 damage every time. Period. And that’s with just a basic attack as opposed to a power.
The other reason why I feel overpowered when playing Shivra is 4th Edition’s decree that every class has to have powers. Back in 3E, the task of heavy-duty damage-dealing was left to the spellcasting classes. Got a tough boss fight ahead? No problem. Odds are, somebody in the group knows Fireball. All the other fighters in the party, except for the Sneak Attacking rogue, were left with the much less prestigious job description of “live bait.” >_> (Rappy’s note: Unless you have Tome of Battle, which is sorta like 4E-lite.)
Sensing an imbalance and wanting every combat class to have a more equal role on the battlefield, WotC decided to change that in the next edition. Now, everybody’s got special abilities that are equivalent to spells according to the game mechanics. Martial fighters got stupid-powerful, and casters… ehhh… they stayed about the same.
So where does this leave Rogues? Well, they got stupid-powerful along with all the other martial classes… and they still have Sneak Attack. If you max out your rogue’s Dexterity score, all of his or her 1st Level At-Will powers are guaranteed to hit for 7 or more damage when you sneak, which is kinda normal for 3E… until you consider that there are more bonuses on top of that. Depending on which of those At-Will powers you took, you can either move a couple squares without spending a move action (Deft Strike), slip in your blade against a defense other than Armor Class (Piercing Strike), threaten a second attack as a way of drawing anti-aggro (Riposte Strike), or deal even more extra damage if you also have a high Charisma score (Sly Flourish).
A certain Emperor Palpatine line from Revenge of the Sith is playing in my head right now… <.<
It is with all this in mind, that my DM, Luminaire, recommended to me the logical build for Shivra. She would be all about maximizing every opportunity to gain combat advantage (the status that makes Sneak Attack work) and maximizing every opportunity to roll a critical hit. It felt a little embarrassing playing this way at first, I must admit. Rather than focus on roleplay opportunities, I had, just this once, decided to morph into the number-crunching MMORPG nerd. For many of my friends who loved the more open style of 3E and didn’t want information-age gaming elements encroaching upon their pen-and-paper turf, I had crossed over to the Dark Side.
Then I started playing Shivra. And darn near everything she attacked exploded. o_o She may be aligned on the side of evil, but so far, she’s been quite the hero for her adventuring party, at least when my rolls are good. The sheer power behind her is intoxicating. Right now, Shivra’s 2nd level (and pushing 3rd with a short stick) and holding a +1 Vicious Dagger. One swing with Sly Flourish deals anywhere between 12 and 29 damage when her target grants combat advantage, and when she crits, that shoots up to anywhere between 30 and 41.
And yet, I’ve been told by multiple sources that these kinds of numbers on a 4E rogue of Shivra’s type are normal.
Color me surprised. o_o;