Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ezren's Magic Stick

This past year, I acquired the Free RPG Day adventure Risen from the Sands, for the Pathfinder system. I had been running D&D v.3.5 for years (since 2003, in fact) and only recently decided to investigate Pathfinder as an alternative for my next long-term campaign. At the time of Free RPG Day, my regular group had agreed to convert my Freeport game to Pathfinder for a trial run with the system, but we hadn't yet implemented the change. (The fact that Green Ronin was working on a huge new Freeport sourcebook for Pathfinder heavily influenced that decision!) We had also found a couple potential recruits to replace a lost player, and needed a good one-shot to test how well they fit into our group. Risen from the Sands--a short, one-session adventure for 3rd-level characters--fit that need perfectly.

I decided to use pre-generated characters rather than spend part of our valuable play time in character creation. We were all still fairly new to the system, so I didn't want to use the ones provided with the module, which were built using the soon-to-be-released Advanced Class Guide. Instead, I used the original Core Rulebook iconic characters, whose 1st-level stat blocks are available on the Pathfinder Reference Document website. With some help from my wife (who loves building characters), I advanced these heroes to 3rd level while the players decided what classes they wanted to play. A few days before the game, I emailed them copies of their chosen characters to look over: Amiri the barbarian, Lem the bard, Lini the druid, Merisiel the rogue, and Ezren the wizard.

Ezren's player was perplexed that the wizard had a club (cane) as his bonded object--if he was going to choose a weapon, why couldn't it be something more impressive? This prompted me to review the wizard class more carefully, in order to weigh his options. As a wizard, Ezren is only proficient with the club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, and quarterstaff. He is a universalist, giving him the hand of the apprentice feature. This ability requires a melee weapon, which reduced the list from five weapons to three. Of these, the club and quarterstaff do more damage, and are effectively identical except for how many hands they require. A staff is a stereotypically wizardly prop, but as a two-handed weapon, Ezren can't wield it and cast spells at the same time, and he would be hopeless at wielding it as a double weapon. This makes the lowly club the best choice for his bonded weapon.

Naturally, an elf, dwarf, or half-orc wizard would be able to choose a more deadly weapon--imagine the terror value of a half-orc wizard with a flying greataxe!--but that benefit would be at the cost of the bonus feat and skill ranks that Ezren receives as a human. Much of the reason that I chose the iconics in the first place was because I knew that they were heavily playtested to be well-balanced, highly effective examples of their class. My players will have plenty of opportunities to explore other builds as we gain experience with the system and move on with the converted Freeport game, my upcoming "Time of the Tarrasque" campaign (which I'll say more about in future columns), and the occasional new one-shot.

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