It was shortly before Gen Con 2008 that I got a phone call from an associate of mine. "Hey, do you want to design some minis?" He had been offered the position of Lead Designer and was assembling a design team to update the Underdark set from the original edition rules to the current edition. Needless to say, I accepted the offer.
'Twas the week before GenCon, and as I lay snuggled in my bed, visions of the set list danced in my head. Our team consisted of three designers, and our Lead offered us the opportunity to call dibs on any favorite figures that hadn't already received the All Star treatment. There was only one figure that I absolutely had to work on: the Xen'drik Champion.
The Xen'drik was a favorite of mine for a few reasons. First, who can resist that hanging-ten, baseball umpire sculpt? In addition, I fondly remembered Chris Groves championing the HeXen'drik warband (six Xen'drik Champions and flavor to taste) back in the early days of Underdark's release. Finally, my good friend Scott Evans (known on the forums as Bleys) had piloted a multi-Xen'drik/Warpriest of Vandria warband to the top eight at the 2007 D&D Miniatures Championship. This little Eberron drow deserved some special treatment, and I couldn't wait to get working on it.
The Design Process
Designing for the D&D Miniatures updates is a unique process. One isn't designing a figure from scratch. Certain mechanical elements, such as point costs, have been established. In addition, each figure has a legacy from the original edition. So, when I design updates, I try to hit that sweet spot that captures the flavor and key abilities of the original, offers something new and unique to the revised edition rules (which mirror the 4th Edition D&D RPG), and tells a good story. It's not always easy, but it's my goal.
As I designed the Xen'drik Champion, I first thought about its role in the original edition of the D&D Miniatures Game. This figure was known as a dual-use figure with respectable ranged and melee attacks. It depended on movement to reach peak damage and was great for players who enjoyed the "scoot and shoot" style of warband. Though it was low in cost, it was a resilient figure, thanks to both Conceal 6 and Spell Resistance.
Next, I did a bit of research on the Xen'drik drow and their associated RPG lore. Reading through the Eberron Campaign Setting and Secrets of Xen'drik helped me to identify factions and possible names for weapons and attacks. So, all you non-RPGers out there can blame Keith Baker for the fact that this drow doesn't live in the Underdark.
As I started working on the updated figure's powers, I considered its role in the revised edition game. The Xen'drik Champion is a quintessential skirmisher. Skirmishers love to keep moving and usually have some sort of movement-dependent power. The Skirmish 10 power was a natural. Preserving the Xen'drik's legacy as a dual-use figure, I designed a solid basic melee attack () as well as a sight-range ranged attack (), which is unusual for a skirmisher. Finally, I designed Blaze of Instinct as a way to capture the resilience of the figure, given the absence of Spell Resistance and the greatly reduced use of Conceal in the revised edition.
From there, it was a matter of crunching the numbers to arrive at stats for defenses, attack bonuses, damage, etc. Once my initial design was ready, I posted it for feedback from fellow designers and other commentators. After incorporating their comments (for which I'm very grateful), the figure was passed off to Development, where the stats were tested and further tweaked. After the development process, the figure was finalized in the editing and artwork departments.
The New Xen'drik Champion
The result of all this hard work by many very talented people is a very efficient and flavorful figure. The Xen'drik Champion works well as a single figure and in multiples. It is comfortable firing away at the enemy from a distance and closing in with some well-executed charges. Shift and charge will be a favorite technique for this figure, as it needs to stay on the move to reach peak damage. Thanks to Blaze of Instinct, the Xen'drik is likely to survive distance attacks and hindering conditions, such as Dazed, Immobilized, or Confused, but it will want to close quickly on such opponents.
In Borderlands, the Xen'drik Champion makes good friends with the Eternal Blade. Bonuses to attacks, damage, and defense never hurt. The Ettin Spirit Talker is also an interesting figure to consider in either a Borderlands or Wild warband. Getting 45 Damage out of a 23-point figure is nothing to sneeze at.
In Wild, however, the Xen'drik Champion finds his most powerful allies. He still gets along well with his old friend, the Warpriest of Vandria. The Warpriest allows three opportunities for the Xen'drik to shift multiple squares, triggering Skirmish 10 without provoking opportunity attacks. The Champion of Eilistraee and Large Green Dragon are also solid Champions to include in a Xen'drik warband. The Umber Hulk Delver adds a bit of control and melee damage while creating opportunities for Xen'driks to shift away from Stunned or Confused enemies. Other great support figures include the Wild Elf Warsinger (extra damage on charges) and the Hellwasp (move away without provoking opportunity attacks).
In our most recent local tournament, I tried a variation on an old favorite warband. I ran the following, which I dubbed (groan) Bringing Hexy Back: Warpriest of Vandria, Xen'drik Champion x6, Wild Elf Warsinger, Hellwasp, Twig Blight, on Dragondown Grotto. I enjoyed a 2-1 record and had fun piloting this highly mobile and versatile warband. Discuss this article and let us know how you decided to use the new Xen'drik Champion!
Special thanks to Michael Domezio for his warband-building expertise.
About the Author
Jim Ansaldo has been playing D&D for thirty years and has been a D&D Miniatures skirmish enthusiast since Harbinger. In the past, Jim has worked as a freelance designer for Wizards of the Coast, updating D&D Miniatures sets -- including Dragoneye, Giants of Legend, and Underdark -- to align with the current rules. Jim currently serves the DDM Guild as Chapter Lead and is hard at work designing official skirmish stats for this summer's Monster Manual: Legendary Evils release.