Crash Test Magic — Hail of Arrows

December 14th, 2009 by Ed Grabianowski

archers4Crash Test Magic (where we design and test new spells, cards or features for our favorite games) has been away too long. Don’t call it a comeback — this new 4E monster power will make even low-level minions into a serious threat.

This new power is not perfect, I must admit. I like the idea and I’m pretty sure it works as intended, but explaining exactly how it works is really unwieldy. Here’s the actual text of the power — take a look and see if you are grasping what I’m trying to get across. Then I’ll explain it in more detail below. By the way, the attack bonus and damage are irrelevant, those would scale to whatever monster you wanted to give this to (and I just noticed the typo…oh well).

Hail of ArrowsThe idea is, you would give this to a large group of minions positioned behind cover a good distance from wherever the party would enter the encounter. Equipped with bows, the entire group of minions would act at the same time, taking the same action using this power. The burst radius is equal to the number of minions participating: 5 hobgoblin archers create a burst 5.

The hard part is the attack and hit calculations. It’s not actually complicated — in my head, it makes perfect sense and is quite simple, but explaining it with any amount of brevity has been really difficult so far. Basically, after rolling a D20 for each attacker (not target!), you take the lowest attack roll, compare it to the target with the lowest AC. If it hits, then you move to the next lowest attack roll and the target with the next lowest AC. If it misses, you still move to the next lowest attack roll, but continue to attack the target with the lowest AC until it is hit. Conceptually, the entire area is under a volley of many arrows, so the easiest targets to hit would get hit before anyone else.

Does that make any sense at all? Is there an easier way to accomplish the same thing that I’m overlooking?

I do like the flavor and the idea of a joint action by minions. The 50 % recharge simulates the time required for a small group to draw and knock new arrows. You can tweak the name and the damage type for some really cool effects at higher levels. Change it to fire and have a bunch of imps shooting flaming stones at you. How about Psychic Bombardment? “Oh, your armor lets you resist most damage? Not this kind!” A group of weird aberrations could shoot out acid like lawn sprinklers, and add some ongoing damage for fun. For maximum synergy, the effect could create difficult terrain within the burst radius, making it even harder to close in on the artillery.

Can you tell I’m DMing again?

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12 Responses to “Crash Test Magic — Hail of Arrows”

  1. Comment by Megido

    It’s like you WANT us to have to use new characters. We’ll be good, I promise! Just don’t murder us!

    As for altering or streamlining this, I have no idea. I don’t know enough about the machinations of D&D. Plus, I’m not evil.

  2. Comment by ggodo

    I’m not even sure how the targeting is supposed to go on this. Does it hit the smallest AC first? That would probably be fairly easy to just say that, right?

  3. Comment by Gavin O'Brien

    I don’t think “Area burst” is the correct range to use. Since it is “burst” and line of effect is determined from the origin square, you could technically fire arrows that curve around doorways in dungeons or fly through the roof of buildings to hit creatures with total cover and concealment from the attacker on the other side.

    Also, having it recharged by anyone, could provide a ridiculous number of rerolls on the already high recharge rate. I think it makes more sense as a leader role ability.

    Having every minion within range make a coordinated ranged basic attack against an enemy within range as a free action is very cool. I think the strange roll mechanic just makes the power needlessly complicated.

    So, make it Close burst 5. Effect: Each ally in burst makes a ranged basic attack against an enemy in range as a free action if able. No two allies may target the same enemy. Special: You may spend a minor action to swap attack rolls between two of the targets before a hit or miss is confirmed.

  4. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    Yeah, that’s way better. See, this is why I rely on you guys.

  5. Comment by ggodo

    I like the fix Gavin posted. That makes more sense to me than your targeting system.

  6. Comment by Ryk Perry

    Yeah Ed, I agree with Gavin. A leader ability is the way to go. It makes sense that a group of minions would have to be commanded to act in concert in any effective way.

    The area of effect however seems a little large to me though. Perhaps it should be an area like a wall; a number of continuous squares equal to the number of archers acting in the attack (maybe squares and rectangles only). Otherwise they are firing an awful lot of arrows awful quick (the crossbow area of effect attack already defy belief).

    Perhaps the leader could call for concentrated fire; each time he reduces the area of effect by half, the attack rolls twice for each target or rolls with a +4 bonus or something
    (saturate the area with arrows and some are bound to get through).

    Presumably the attack expends the minion’s standard action. Also, minions usually do fixed damage, but it makes sense for the damage to be based on the competence of the leader as well as the general power of the weapons.

    I like the idea of the hail of arrows, particularly because this is how lowend middle troops were frequently used.

  7. Comment by Ryk Perry

    I think I partially misread Gavin’s last paragraph. The burst 5 to determine which minions join the attack sounds right. The ‘hail of arrows’ though indicates that the minions are firing enmasse at an area. A free attack against any enemy in range is also neat but probably shouldn’t be rechargeable. It could be called ‘the whites of their eyes.’

  8. Comment by mordicai

    I am not as mech savvy on 4e as I might otherwise be…how do vrock’s work in this edition? Can you borrow the “vrock lightning dance” mechanic for comparison? I have to say, in 3e treating armies of rabble as swarms of medium creatures, thus a threat to high level characters, was the way to go.

  9. Comment by mordicai

    Oh, also– for this & Gavin’s fix– TOO MANY ROLLS. I know wizards & their ilk roll for every target; can’t we at least reduce it to that?

  10. Comment by Gavin O'Brien

    Epik megapost incoming:

    Ryk, I, too, though about making it into a “wall” effect, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to use it properly. Let me give it a shot…

    Maybe make it wall X where “X” is the number of participating minions within 5 squares. Leaving squares within the wall takes two squares of movement. Entering the wall or starting your turn there subjects you to an attack. The wall is sustain standard make the attack again against all creatures in the wall (the leader’s standard action), but participating dazes the allied contributors (giving them only one action since they are focusing most of their efforts on maintaining the ridiculous number of arrows). If any participating minion falls, randomly remove a squares from the wall. The leader can use a move action to rearrange the squares or add a new minion.

    Make the “wall” power called “Darken the Sky.” This is the rechargeable leader ability. The attack (for starting or entering the wall’s area) is “Hail of Arrows.” It should be slightly more accurate and damaging than a ranged basic attack, but not too much. If you want to make it really dirty, make the attack have a chance to either slow (on an odd roll) or immobilize (on even).

    Mordicai, my setup uses no more rolls than if you had each minion take an attack action on their turn. Ed’s is the same. Since each minion can only attack one target, if you have 5 minions, it is 5 rolls.

    Here’s my current concept:

    “Darken the Sky” (standard, recharge 6) * Martial
    Close burst 5
    Target: Each participating ally in burst
    Designate an area wall x within 15 squares, where “x” is the number of ally participants, until the end of your next turn. Leaving the wall requires 2 squares of movement. All creatures who enter or begin their turn within the wall are subjected to the “Hail of Arrows” attack (see below). All participating allies are dazed until the power ends. An ally is no longer considered a participant if they are rendered unable to perform a standard action, engaged in melee, or dead; after which point the wall decreases in size to the current number of participants. The wall can never conist of a size greater than the number of participants. Using a move action, you can reposition the wall, add allies, or remove allies.
    Sustain Standard: Make the “Hail of Arrows” attack against any creatures within the wall.

    “Hail of Arrows” (immediate reaction) * Martial, Weapon
    Ranged 15
    Trigger: A creature enters or begins its turn within the area wall created by the “Darken the Sky” power.
    Target: The triggering creature.
    Attack: 15 vs. AC
    Hit: 1d10 + 9 damage, and, if the attack roll is odd, the target is slowed until the end of its next turn. If the attack roll is even, the target is immobilized until the end of its next turn.

    Actually, that immobilize/slow thing might be a bit too overpowered. But, then again, if you’re dumb enough to run into a hail of arrows, you probably deserve what you get.

    I’ll probably reread this and decide it makes no sense at all…

  11. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    Ima think about this while I eat lunch and take another shot at it. I like how the initial idea is getting pulled and prodded.

  12. Comment by Philo Pharynx

    I like the variable burst, though I’d give it a maximum size. 10 archers blanketing 2500 square feet seems like a bit much. I’d max it out at 5 – if you have more archers you can make a separate attack or cover a different area. I’d also

    Rolling the attacks and performing them against the lowest AC first is a bad idea. I understand that those with the lowest AC are likely to be hit, but this makes it almost automatic. It could be restated like this: “Make [X] attack rolls against the lowest AC. Order them from lowest to highest. Once the target has been hit, apply the rolls against the next highest AC. Rinse, repeat.” Likewise, the person with the highest AC is not likely to be hit unless there are many more minions than PC’s. If there are more minions than PC’s, what do you do once everybody has been hit? Start again at the lowest AC? This is especially important when the highest roll is a 20. Most importantly, it slows down the game.

    I have a couple of ideas:

    1) Variable Accuracy. Have the attack start out a couple of points lower than the standard for the level. Add 1 per archer (max 5). Then just treat it as a standard attack.

    2) Attack vs. Reflex. This will hit more on average and will judge how quick you are getting cover. And it’s the simplest solution.

    3) Half damage on a miss. This assumes there’s enough arrows to cover the area and people who are better protected manage to avoid the worst of it. This is my favorite, but I’d reduce the recharge for this.