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Friday’s 4e Freebie: Combat Advantage #14: “Savages”

Hawkwood: Bless you Martin, your reward is in Heaven.
Martin: I’d rather be paid sooner if you don’t mind. ~ Flesh+Blood (1985)

If you’ve never seen the movie Flesh+Blood, well then you may want to pick it up and see it at least once, assuming you are of appropriate age, of course. It’s a grim and gory Paul Verhoeven flick about about a band of the most ruthless Medieval mercenaries you’d ever want to encounter, pillaging and raping their way across Renaissance Italy. Filled with murder, betrayal and bloodlust – and real lust at a couple moments – this movie is not for the faint of heart.

I went to go see the movie with a bunch of my D&D playing friends from the college gaming club at a midnight showing at the campus cinema. And when asked later to descibe what it was about, I summed up the movie in one sentence, and I quote:

It’s a movie about Chaotic Neutral people, doing Chaotic Neutral things, Chaotic Neutrally.
Combat Advantage #14

While not exactly a great date movie, however, Flesh+Blood can make the perfect inspirational viewing experience with your gaming buddies, especially if you’ve downloaded the newest Combat Advantage #14 from Emerald Press Games. Subtitled aptly as “Combat Advantages goes to the Savages”, this free-zine has some awesome new content for your D&D 4e Campaign.

Article1: Living on the Edge: Mercenaries

This is a great campaign idea for an experienced DM, and well worth exploring with a group of seasoned Gamers. Mercenaries tend to be non-good, and at times downright evil, and so Players and DMs need to be prepared for this type of role-playing. However, it does offer from subtle differences than a typical “evil” campaign, and has a lot of potential with a mixed group of “Evils” and “Unaligneds”.

The Author mentions this as a disclaimer at the end of this article, and I have to thoroughly agree:

Before the first encounter begins, sit down with your players and discuss intentions and limitations on the campaign. Tell them what you have envisioned and how you intend to portray the world, and listen to their concerns and desires in turn. Certain players will be uncomfortable with extreme situations, so it should be made clear from the very beginning which subject matter is off limits. No matter what. In doing so, anything left on the table can be toyed with endlessly and safely. A poorly chosen situation can offend a player deeply and cause him or her to leave the group permanently.

Disclaimer aside, the article provides a good framework for creating a Mercenary campaign, one in which the Characters will be taking quests for money, not for glory, honor, or fame. While some Characters may choose, from time to time, to do an altruistic act, in the end the campaign is about getting the job done and getting paid, regardless of who gets killed in the process.

The article covers a wide range of Mercenary concepts, such as collecting badges from underworld employers, betrayal of your employer or even fellow mercenaries, or being particularly brutal in the course of the “job”. Collecting badges, betraying others, and being senselessly brutal have tangible benefits ranging from bonuses to Skill Checks to extra Experience Reward. Bonuses like these will help to guide Players into the properly ruthless mindset of Mercenary life. Even comcepts like having a Ruthless Appearance or a Signature Kill can add to your reputation, and grant you additional Skill Bonuses or even a bonus healing surge.

Signature Kill: All mercs have to make a name for themselves, that much is certain, and there are plenty of opportunities in this shady line of work. A signature kill is a particular delivery of death used to clearly mark the target as a victim of a merc.

When you have completed a signature kill, you gain one of the following benefits. Each of these are provided as additional uses of the standard type, just like bonus hit points. Once they have been used, they are gone and they do not increase your listed maximum number.

  • one bonus healing surge
  • 1d6 hit points
  • the use of an encounter power

To add to role-playing and to increase the immersion in the Mercenary lifestyle, the Author provides information on developing Mercenary Tags, or nicknames, and a form of slang called The Cant, filled with jargon used to discuss topics important to Mercs, such as who is paying, and who needs to die in order to get paid.

And for DMs considering a Mercenary Campaign, there is an ad at the end of the article that may be of interest. There is an upcoming adventure for Mercenaries Levels 1 to Level 3, called “The Key to the Fey” from Emerald Press, which I am certain will draw heavily from this article as a source.

Article 2: Beast Warrior

The Beast Warrior is a new Paragon Path for Barbarians, and takes the class in a very savage direction. Requiring the Prerequisites of being a Barbarian with the Initiate of the Old Faith multiclass (druid) feat, this Paragon Path allows the Character to draw upon his beast-form in order to become a brutal damage dealer.

Tossing aside your weapons and other possessions, you have attuned your wild shape power to polymorph into a hybrid of humanoid and animal, interchanging from one form to the other with ease in a fierce flurry of claws, teeth, and anger.

Savage Appearance (11th level): You develop claws or teeth capable of inflicting significant damage to your enemies. As a minor action, your fingers develop long, sharp claws or you gain a mouthful of jagged teeth capable of rendering flesh, causing 1d8 points of damage. You cannot use your claws or teeth in the same round as any weapon in your possession but they can be used as a melee basic attack. At 21st level, your claws or teeth inflict 2d6 damage.

The Beast Warrior also has the path features of Beast Rampage (11th Level) and Fearsome Growl (16th Level) to round out their new animalistic hybrid nature. The Paragon Path includes a new Encounter Power called Enraged Leap (11th Level), a new Utility Power called Enabling Boost (12th Level), and a Daily Attack power of Rage of the Pure Beast (20th Level), making for a very fun-looking package to play with.

Article 3: Epic Level NPCs / Encounters – Blades (Goblin Warlord)

The final article in CA #14 deals with the rise of Blades, a goblin who has risen through the ranks to become a Level 23 Elite Skirmisher.

The Author provides the background story of how Blades managed to rise through the ranks by using trickery, deceit, and training to become a underworld warlord over a veritable army of thieves, assassins, and smugglers.

Although Stat Blocks are given for Blades, and his favored lieutenants, Gaxut (Level 19 Elite Controller), Tsozegg (Level 20 Elite Artillery), and Izix (Level 18 Elite Skirmisher), as well as his Minions, Guards, and Phalanx fighters, I think that Blades would be best used early on in a long term campaign, as a crime-lord or underworld guild master. As a an shady mastermind operating behind the scenes, the unique story of Blades could be used to spawn any number of adventures, possibly even having the Characters working for the goblin without their being aware. Eventually, when the Heroes do face him down, he’ll be seen as a major force, and not merely an elite goblin.

So here’s to hoping everyone gets the chance to pick up Combat Advantage #14 free-zine. It’s got a lot of great content, well worth the read, and you can download it now from RPGNow.com. It is also available to EN World Subscribers.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming.


About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

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