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Fun with Pigs and Other Stories
by Bill Slavicsek

Is it really September already? Time sure flies by when you’re having fun. And, for me, August was packed full of fun and excitement. The highlights were Gen Con and PAX, two great shows full of great things to do and great people to talk to.

I approached Gen Con with an equal measure of anticipation and trepidation. Were the fans going to be pumped up and excited about 4th Edition D&D like we are (and as our sales and other metrics indicate), or were they going to hurl rotten fruit at us when we got up in front of the seminar crowds? Now, I really didn’t expect the latter, but hey … you never know. From the moment we entered the exhibit hall and the crowds came streaming in, all we heard were congratulatory comments, glowing testimonials about how this player or that player loves the new edition, and an unending series of questions about what’s coming next on the release schedule. It was amazing and very gratifying, and it was the response we had been hoping to receive.

More than one D&D player came up to me during the show to tell me about how the new edition brought him or her back to the hobby. I had a significant number of players approach me to say that the Delve or one of the RPGA events (which were full all weekend) was the first time they got to play 4th Edition, and now they couldn’t wait to keep playing in their own campaigns. I think that that’s the secret to getting into the new edition. You can’t just check out a blog or a message board or an incomplete review to get a sense of the game, and you can’t just read through the new Player’s Handbook and immediately grok the intricacies of the new system. You have to get in there and play.

Throughout the weekend, all of the RPGA events and Delve slots were packed, our booth was hopping, and our seminars drew great crowds. From the activities surrounding the 20th anniversary of Drizzt to our 4th Edition Q&A’s, we encountered enthusiasm, excitement, and a sense of wonder that we hadn’t seen in years. To everyone who stopped by to play a game or ask a question or listen to us talk, I thank you all.

I was at PAX for a smaller amount of time, but that show was certainly hopping! We drew a constant stream of people to our signing, and the game hall was full of happy players playing D&D. Everyone I spoke to from my team and around the company had a great time at PAX, and hopefully we’ll expand our programming there next year.

Here a Pig, There a Pig …

Speaking of fun, I had a great session last week at my Thursday night D&D game. The adventurers have been building toward a confrontation with the mysterious Lord Neverlight, who they have learned commands a vast army of undead and is preparing to invade the unsuspecting and peaceful lands they have come to know and love. After an intense session where the PCs battled a mummy lord and its allies, and then had to figure out (using a skill challenge) how to make the skeletal warships that rose from the sea return to the shadowy depths without disgorging their undead hordes, the PCs were faced with a grave decision. Should they follow the escaping mummy lord through the strange portal? Or should they depart these haunted shores and find a new adventure to dig their teeth into?

After a short deliberation, the team decided to leap into the unknown and finally confront Neverlight in his lair. Girding themselves to deal with endless armies of undead creatures, the adventurers entered the portal … and found themselves in an even stranger, scarier place than they had ever imagined. They had somehow wound up in a sleepy island village of friendly, peaceful folk. Everyone they encountered had a smile and a pleasant greeting to share—and a pig under their arms.

I wanted to throw something unexpected at the party after the long parade of undead monsters. Something that would throw them for a loop, but in a good way. I dug out every Farmer miniature I had from the Desert of Desolation set. You know, the cute, friendly looking guy carrying a pig under his arm. So, what they saw on the village market map was what their PCs were seeing—a dozen friendly faces, each nodding and smiling and petting their pigs.

This had the desired effect. It creeped my players out. Why were all these villagers so happy? Why were they all carrying pigs? Why were unseen children singing about how happy they were so that the sickly sweet melody filled the quiet streets? And how come whenever the PCs asked a tough or personal question, the villager they were speaking to shifted his or her eyes and starting nervously petting a pig? Was this the Stepford Pigs? And where were Neverlight and the mummy lord? What the heck was going on?

Hee hee. It was a great session, inspired in part by one humble little miniature. And it had my players talking about the events for days afterwards. Wait until they see what I put on the table next time!

And Now For Something Completely Different

Next month, I’ll report on a private event I’ll be attending next week. I’m gathering my original gaming group and meeting them in Las Vegas. We’re going to spend four days and four nights playing D&D. For all of them, it will be their first time playing the new rules, and I don’t think any of them have played D&D since we did this two years ago as a sort of reunion. Last time, we had a blast. I’ll let you know how everything turns out this time when next I sit down to write this column.

Until then, here’s a preview from the upcoming Martial Power sourcebook. Enjoy!

Keep playing!

--Bill Slavicsek

New Build: Tempest Fighter

Rather than a shield or a big weapon, you have specialized in fighting using a weapon in each hand.

You see it as the best of both worlds—given the right training, you can deliver good damage and make up for the lack of a shield with deft parrying. Strength remains any soldier’s bread and butter, and good battlefield awareness—Wisdom—is a must. You also rely on speed, maneuverability, and agility—Dexterity—to get your dirty work done. Constitution is a tertiary ability for you, granting useful staying power against foes not so easily fooled by your fancy footwork and feints. The Tempest Technique class feature is designed to complement this build.

Suggested Feat: Two-Weapon Fighting (Human feat: Human Perseverance*)
Suggested Skills: Athletics, Intimidate, Streetwise
Suggested At-Will Powers:dual strike,* footwork lure*
Suggested Encounter Power:funneling flurry*
Suggested Daily Power:tempest dance*
*New option presented in Martial Power

Tempest Technique
When you wield two melee weapons, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls with weapons that have the offhand property.

You gain Two-Weapon Defense as a bonus feat, even if you don’t meet the prerequisites.

When wearing light armor or chainmail, you gain a +1 bonus to damage rolls with melee and close weapon attacks when you are wielding two weapons. This bonus increases to +2 with weapons that have the off-hand property.

At-Will Powers

Dual Strike
Fighter Attack 1
You lash out quickly and follow up faster, delivering two small wounds.
At-Will Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding two melee weapons.
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC (main weapon and off-hand weapon), two attacks
Hit: 1[W] damage per attack.
Increase damage to 2[W] per attack at 21st level.

Encounter Powers

Distracting Spate
Fighter Attack 1
Your flurry of feints and strikes leaves your foe’s defenses unsteady.
Encounter Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage, and the target grants combat advantage to you until the end of your next turn.
Weapon: If you’re wielding two melee weapons, the attack deals extra damage equal to your Dexterity modifier.

Funneling Flurry
Fighter Attack 1
With snakelike strikes, you force two of your enemies to move where you want them.
Encounter Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding two melee weapons.
Targets: Two creatures
Attack: Strength vs. AC (main weapon and off-hand weapon), one attack per target
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you slide the target 1 square.

Weaponmaster’s Lure
Fighter Attack 23
You make a passing attack, throwing your foe off balance. With a shove, you send him stumbling away as you switch positions with him.
Encounter Martial, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be wielding two melee weapons.
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC (main weapon and off-hand weapon), two attacks
Hit: 2[W] + Strength modifier damage per attack. If one attack hits, you can swap places with the target. If both attacks hit, you can swap places with the target and slide it 3 squares. If you have combat advantage against the target, each attack deals extra damage equal to your Dexterity modifier.

About the Author

Bill Slavicsek is the R&D Director for Roleplaying Games, Miniatures, and Book Publishing at Wizards of the Coast. All of the game designers, developers, editors, book editors, and D&D Insider content managers working on Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, and the WotC Publishing Group report into Bill's R&D team.