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Rule-of-Three: 04/11/2011
R&D Staff

You’ve got questions—we’ve got answers! Here’s how it works—each week, our Community Manager will be scouring all available sources to find whatever questions you’re asking. We’ll pick three of them to answer, whether about the about the making of the game, the technical workings of our DDI studio, or anything else you care to know about… with some caveats.

There are certain business and legal questions we can’t answer (for business and legal reasons). And if you have a specific rules question, we’d rather point you to Customer Service, where representatives are ready and waiting to help guide you through the rules of the game. That said, our goal is provide you with as much information we can—in this and other venues.

This week, we look at Heroes of Shadow questions.

1 The Heroes of Shadow assassin build (the executioner) changed significantly from the original. Why? Were you not satisfied with the mechanics of the original assassin’s shrouds (and how might you redesign shrouds)?

When we talked about creating a new assassin build, we started by looking at different aspects of the class we could embrace. The original assassin did a good job of emphasizing shadow power and was strongly grounded in a magical tradition. We decided that for the next build, we take the assassin to the opposite extreme: focusing instead on poisons and mundane assassination techniques. That creative vision is what drove the design process for the Heroes of Shadow build; in addition, we wanted to do something different to offer a broader range of options for players.

As far as redesigning shrouds goes, I think there are a few tweaks I might make if I designed it again. The biggest issue I see is that the assassin’s target sometimes ends up dead before he or she can take advantage of the shrouds. To get around this, I’d make the shrouds independent of the target. The assassin would build them up, and then use them on whichever target he or she wanted. That’s just off the top of my head, but I think it would make the class smoother in play.

2 Why create a necromancer as a school of magic, and not as a standalone class?

When we planned out the Heroes of… books, we decided early on that we wanted to make the material in those books as broadly usable as possible. When it came time to look at necromancy, we had to look at the role it has played in the game’s past (traditionally, wizards have had access to plenty of necromantic abilities) and how it would work in the present. It seemed like we could kill two birds with one stone by presenting an option to play a necromancer while also giving existing wizards new powers to choose from. Also, we ended up creating a mage option rather than a new implement expertise feature, because necromancy is more logical as a school than as a style associated with an implement.

That said, I think there is space in the game for a class dedicated to shadow magic and the undead. It would be interesting to explore a death master (drawing on elements from AD&D), as a shadow leader accompanied by a coterie of undead servants.

3 What’s the rationale behind the shade’s healing surge penalty? Why give them this penalty without an offsetting bonus?

Balancing the loss of a healing surge is a tricky matter. It’s sort of like taking out a loan without any promise that you’ll have to repay it. When we balance something like this, we have to look at the race’s role in the game session as a whole. We can’t just look at combat, as healing surges are a strategic resource.

With that in mind, the shade’s racial ability is a powerful tool. A shade traveling in the middle of a group is effectively invisible. At night, a shade can evade detection with ease. While the racial ability’s standard action cost makes it a suboptimal choice in many combat situations, outside of a fight its at-will usage makes it a powerful, versatile tool. In addition, a smart shade can begin most combats hidden.

Since the racial power focuses on strategic play, we decided to balance it with a strategic penalty.

How can I submit a question to the Rule-of-Three?

Instead of a single venue to submit questions, our Community Manager will be selecting questions from our message boards, Twitter feed, and Facebook account. You can also submit questions directly to So, if you’d like to have your question answered in the Rule-of-Three, just continue to participate in our online community—and we may select yours!

Poll Results: 04/04/2011

Which of the following options is most appealing to you?

  • I want long adventures that are sand boxes, with lots of possible options to ignore or follow: 32.5%
  • I prefer an even mix of these types: 30.7%
  • I want long adventures that plot out campaign-long arcs: 20.3%
  • I want short adventures that are complex enough that they require some prep: 8.4%
  • I want short adventures that are simple enough to require little to no prep: 7.2%
  • I want a different type of adventure, so I’ll email with my thoughts: 0.9%

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