Making Wizards more wizardly: Part 1 – Something stinks!

I admit it – I have a thing for old men in long robes. No, its not what you think.  I’m a fan of wizards in 4e. My very first character in Dungeons & Dragons was an Elven wizard named Ralt Gaither.  I made him after picking up the old red box (Erol Otus cover, yeah!) and I’ve had an affinity for spellcasters ever since.

4rth edition (4e) wizards have high points & low points for me. I enjoy a lot of the direct damage spells, but wizards in 4e are controllers. As such, they should be the masters of the large scale battlefield, manipulating the environment & the elements to keep the upper hands on the bad guys. Some 4e spells do a great job of this, and I love using them. Others I find a bit lacking. In this series of articles, I am going to tweak a few spells & hopefully bring it more in line what I feel it should be in 4e.

Stinking Cloud & Cloudkill have always been two area of effect spells in Dungeons & Dragons that I really enjoy. There’s nothing like dropping a big yellowish green cloud of nasty vapors on the enemy. In previous editions, Cloudkill was identical to Stinking Cloud in size but Cloudkill inflicted damage whereas Stinking Cloud did not.  In 4e, the two spells became very similar in effect & damage capacity, which seems a little odd given both the history of the spells as well as the level difference between them.  Both spells now inflict the same amount of damage but Stinking Cloud blocks line of sight and can be moved further on each turn.  Cloudkill’s only benefit is that it is larger, which isn’t a large benefit given that it does not block line of sight.  These differences did not seem logical when comparing a level 5 spell to a level 19 spell, so I decided to change Cloudkill to bring it more line with what it should be doing as a higher level spell.

Enough talk!  Here’s my proposed changes and the logic behind the changes. Presenting, the new & improved Cloudkill!

1.  Change Area 5 to Area 2 – Seemingly a reduction in power by making the area of effect smaller, but reducing Cloudkill’s size will allow us to balance out the increase in power that comes from the remaining changes.  Also, as an old school nod, previously Stinking Cloud & Cloudkill have always had the same area of effect.

2.  Cloudkill now blocks line of sight – This allows the spell to have more of a controlling effect during the battle by giving it more tactical utility.

3.  Increase damage from 1d10 to 2d10 & add ongoing 10/5 poison damage – Cloudkill in its original form just wasn’t powerful enough.  Stinking Cloud did the exact same amount of damage and it was 14 levels lower.  Not good.  I upped the damage to 2d10 & added in ongoing poison damage.  I was a bit hesitant at adding ongoing damage to a spell that is supposed to kill outright, but as Stinking Cloud previously did no damage I needed some way of making Cloudkill be more deadly to anything it touched.  Ongoing damage is great for this sort of thing, so I decided to add that in.

4.  Increase the movement range from 3 squares to 6 – Decreasing the size of the cloud allowed me to increase its movement rate.  Easy change that kept the spell right in line with Stinking Cloud.

So that’s the new Cloudkill.  Its basically an upgraded Stinking Cloud, but since that’s the precedent established in the original spell I stayed true to its original form in 4e.  Comments & thoughts are appreciated, and if you do choose to use this new spell, be sure to let me know how it works out for you!


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Jonathan Westmoreland is a 40 year old chemist originally from the deep, dark woods of southern Arkansas. He began his gaming career after seeing the Erol Otus Red Box in a bookstore in 1981 and hasn't turned back since.


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About Eldritch Reverie

Jonathan Westmoreland is a 40 year old chemist originally from the deep, dark woods of southern Arkansas. He began his gaming career after seeing the Erol Otus Red Box in a bookstore in 1981 and hasn't turned back since.
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