Friar Tekumel

2012-11-27

Playing a wood elf cleric, with the Trickery Domain. The DM's build narrows spell selection to utility only, while relying on the elf's natural abilities in combat. It's very fun (and different than other editions) to play a cleric who is one of the best in the party in stealth and observation. Even with Strength as a dump stat, I still felt competent in combat while at range, thanks to a high Dex. Similar to 4e, it's very nice to be able to cast CLW and still perform a (non-magicky) action. In 3e and before, nothing was worse than having to waste a round healing another PC and doing nothing else. Besides CLW, I haven't had much of a chance to explore my other spells, but admittedly, I haven't thought too hard about using them in interesting ways. Minor Illusion could be applied in all sorts of cool ways. It's a little disappointing to not be able to lay divine smackdown on enemies at 3rd level, but I understand this is a result of the DM's spell selection, and not necessarily of every cleric created. I was able to use Turn Undead on the lone ghoul, which blasted him to swampy smithereens. A high dice roll had a lot to do with that, I think, and it would've been interesting to see the fallout among other surviving undead. Reading the DM's notes, it looks like the lone ghoul was the result of a 1 on a d6 roll for the number of creatures in the encounter.

We talked about this at the session, but just for posterity's sake: I feel strongly that the cleric's niche protection vis-a-vis undead dominance should be divorced from the class entirely, and instead be a suite of powers/maneuvers/feats available to any class. With the focus on modularity, 5e looks to be the edition most capable of doing this. Perhaps — much like the rogue with thiefy stuff — if a cleric takes the suite, he could be better at undead stuff than another class with the same suite, just to give him an edge. Or maybe undead dominance could fall solely under the purview of specific domains: sun, light, life, etc. Playing a sneaky cleric of the god of trickery does not scream "best PC for fighting the undead" to me, though with my ability to Turn Undead, I basically am. It was cool to use the ability, but it's probably not something that particular character would have (or even want) access to. In this regard, I like the approach Pathfinder took in the Advanced Player's Guide with archetypes, which allowed you to switch out class abilities with new ones to better tailor your character to a specific vision. This was done much earlier with AD&D 2e kits, but Paizo actually attempted to balance the switches, with varying levels of success. Still, it's a good idea in theory.

Lastly, I freely admit I make a lot of noise about my preference for narrative combat, but even I was wishing for a tactical map during the fire fey combat. With the fey using cover to their advantage, it would have been nice to see positioning so we (the PCs) could team up to harry the enemy. As it was, the essential 5e mechanic of advantage/disadvantage went completely unused, which was a shame. Although, if the rogue/adventurer was playing, he probably would have found a way, regardless. My biggest fear about tactical combat is the time issue. On the positive side, it looks like the designers are doing everything they can to mitigate the grindy nature of 4e combat. When I think back to our 4e combats, we actually didn't take that long to make decisions in combat; it was just the extended length of wearing down hit points, resolving minor actions, reactions, and interrupts that slowed things to a crawl. Assuming that the group has basic knowledge of the combat rules and their PCs' capabilities, and that the ruleset eliminates grind, even tactical combat should flow quickly, and take up no more time than any of the other tiers of play. But there's still a big time-waster and mood-killer: setting up the tactical encounter itself. Getting a map ready, setting up tokens and minis, etc. takes away from the atmosphere (at least IMHO), and is when every player reaches for their phones/tablets/computers to check on the outside world. It might be worth a try to just have a piece of graph paper with a the encounter area sketched out in advance, and adjust relative positioning on the fly. That would be easy to do, wouldn't require setup, but would still allow for tactical play. It might not work for the full tactical combat module that WotC keeps promising (forced movement, five foot increments, AoOs), but it would certainly work for determining advantage/disadvantage and basic range distances.

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