Meta: Early on, the party came across two BABY FERRETS, at which point I immediately said, "WHO WANTS A BABY FERRET!!??" and two of the players-- Feer the Ranger and Robyn the Bard-- raised their hands. And so I wrote up an index card for each of them, with a line where they could name said baby ferret.

As the game has continued, and certain party members have found themselves the masters of Dire Falcons, Skeletal Steeds, and Firefoxes, each of which have some kind of combat skill, there has been a slight twinge of jealousy on the ferret front.

FEER: Jarmangle's dire falcon has a swooping attack. What does my ferret have?

DM: A plus-two to adorability checks?

FEER: I want the ferret to have something special.

DM: Like some kind of combat power?

FEER: Yeah.

DM: Are you going to put the ferret in combat?

FEER: No! I don't want anything to happen to her.

DM: Then it doesn't need a combat power.

FEER: But the dire falcon has a combat power. I just want the ferret to have something special.

DM: Something special that it will never use.

FEER: Right.

She really clinched the deal when they hauled the scales they took from a dragon's remains in front of the master blacksmith and she demanded that some of the scales be used to make scale armour for the ferrets, as they would then look "cute". And so, faced with the prospect of two ferrets clad in scale armour, I decided to give in and stat up a combat-capable creature.

Fluff: It's a mundane ferret, but in scale armour.

Battleferret, Level 3 Skirmisher, small natural beast.
HP 34
AC 20 FORT 11 REF 22 WILL 12
Speed 8


A bloodied enemy is extra tasty, and the battleferret does 2d6+8 nom damage with its nom attack.

Sneaky-Pete Stuff
The battleferret can move through squares occupied by enemies and friends alike without provoking opportunity attacks.

The battleferret can co-occupy the square of any Medium or Small humanoid. The battleferret is safe from attacks from an enemy whose square they are occupying, and while the target may shift away from the square, it cannot move without triggering a Trip Attack.

Standard Actions

Nom (At-Will, Melee)
Attack: +8 vs AC; the battleferret noms the enemy. Nom nom nom.
Hit: 1d6+4 nom damage.

Triggered Actions

Trip Attack (At-Will, Melee)
Trigger: A target occupying the battleferret's square attempts to move without shifting (see Underfoot trait).
Attack: +10 vs REF
Hit: 2d6+3 slapstick damage, and the target falls prone in the first square to which they were moving.

STR 11 (+1)
CON 8 (+0)
DEX 17 (+4)
INT 14 (+3)
WIS 11 (+1)
CHA 14 (+3)

Dragonclaw Gloves

Pair of gloves fashioned from the claws of a dragon, gives a +1 item bonus to AC. Resist 5 to fire damage.

When hit by a fire attack, do an Endurance Check, DC 18. If successful, take only half damage and redirect the full damage amount back to the attacker.

9. X Marks the Spot

Our heroes, accompanied once more by the dwarf Uncle, decided to follow the piece of map they had found on the body of the zombie-hunter aboard the Eve of Destruction. En route, they made peace with both the ettercaps-- finally triumphing over the terror of the desert, the giant fire beetle Klikslyth-- and the kobolds, who had been angered to hear about the killing of the young dragon in the dungeon beneath the Tomb of Gnollish Kings.

In their travels, they discovered a dried-up lake, in the middle of which sat a palace made of coral, surrounded by the skeletal remains of a giant sea serpent. They decided to explore its environs at a latter date, and to press on to the destination marked on the map.

That destination was an ancient fort, manned by skeletons and undead. The group managed to fight their way into the fort, and in their subsequent investigations discovered that the site was cursed. Each night, a horde of zombie gnolls would attack the fort, and the human zombies would fail to protect it. In the morning, the human zombies would rise again and prepare for that night's attack.

Our heroes found an unfinished letter intended for a jilted bride, and having finished the letter themselves, they gave it to the weeping skeleton. She found closure, and her own personal curse was lifted. Tralamin decided to take the skeleton's dress, and Jarmangle had earlier absconded with another skeleton's cursed mustache.

Feeling they could lift the curse for the entire fort, our heroes decided to prepare themselves for the zombie gnolls. The dwarf Uncle was not so certain, and ran away, rolling himself down the hill upon which the fortress was situated.


House Rule: Skeletons are Zombies.

In 4E D&D, some zombie creatures-- but not all-- have a trait called "zombie weakness", in which a critical hit kills them instantly. Curious about this, I asked my friend J.D.-- a 3E and 3.5 devotee-- if those previous editions of the game had this feature. The answer was a resounding "no"-- apparently, the undead are immune to critical hits in those editions of the game.

But here's the thing; I like this rule. I get the idea of powerful, unholy undead have an unnatural resistance to a natural 20-- vampires, lichs, wights, etc. But a horde of zombies is a horde of zombies: ravenous, unthinking, slithering, fragile. The sense of terror is derived by their sheer numbers and unendingness-- which is kind of funny in a culture that's, of late, suffering zombie fatigue due to the sheer number of unending cash-ins. Anyway: for me, a critical hit killing a zombie outright makes sense. It also adds to the fun, as my players will be crossing their fingers extra hard in hopes of rolling that nat-20.

Cooler than zombies for me, though, are skeletons-- especially skeletons armed with swords and shields, ala Harryhausen. They're cooler visually, they're not quite as played out while still being familiar, and the weapons give combat encounters more complexity-- there aren't zombie archers or zombie soldiers with zombie polearms. At the same time, I really like the paradox of these fearsome undead badasses also being inherently fragile-- they're just bone, after all, and bones are prone to break and shatter. Which brings me to my house rule: animated skeletons have zombie weakness. A critical hit will kill them instantly, causing their bones to fall into a heap.

The flip-side of this rule is that "thinking" undead-- lichs, vampires, wights, et cetera-- will have an unnatural, unholy resistance to critical hits. Rolling a twenty, even if you don't hit the creature's AC, will still score an automatic hit, but the player will still have to roll damage and does not score any extra, high-crit damage.


Great Moments in 4E Combat, # 1 in a series

My players are a smart and clever bunch, but that doesn't mean they're immune to mistakes. After all, most of us are kinda new to the game, so the chances of misunderstanding or misremembering a rule is pretty high. In our most recent game, one of these little, completely understandable mistakes ballooned into something that was rather, well, epic.

So, everyone's fighting this group of orcs. But this particular section of the battle concerns six combatants: the tiefling rogue Jarmangle, the elfish bard Robyn, the human ranger Feer, two melee-heavy orcs, and one orc archer. They are arranged as follows:

Now, Jarmangle's player is always looking to score his sneak attack damage, for which he needs combat advantage. And the easiest way to get combat advantage is to flank someone. But in the heat of play, Jarmangle's player forgot that you need two people to flank someone. He moved Jarmangle to the other side of orc in question, making battle cry noises for every square:

He hits! He's about to roll sneak attack when I tell him he doesn't have combat advantage. "But I flanked him!" The game stops for a moment while we explain that, no, he didn't flank him.

The next turn goes to the orcish archer. He fires an arrow at Jarmangle, and it hits. Not only does it do damage, but it pushes Jarmangle back one square--

--so now, he's flanked by the two melee orcs. Each of which attack him on their turns, using that combat advantage to thrash him within an inch of his life.

But now Robyn and Feer are determined to come to his rescue. Robyn uses her Shout of Triumph bardic thingy, damaging enemies in a close burst-3 radius and allowing all allies in the radius to slide one square. Jarmangle slides back and to the left, and now he and Feer flank the toughest of the orcs!

Using that precious plus-2, Feer strikes a blow with her mighty two-bladed sword, the Mouth of Death! The orc dies! Unfortunately, dying orcs get to make one last attack, which targets Jarmangle. Oh, and enemies killed with the Mouth of Death explode, doing 1d6+3 damage to all creatures, save Feer, in a blast-3 radius.

Enough damage, that is, to reduce Jarmangle to zero hit points.

He, of course, "got better", but it remains I think a Great Moment in 4E Combat.

Why I Should Have NPC Names On Hand

TOM: And so, having given his warning, the Lord of the Forest Gnolls takes his leave of you...

JARMANGLE: Wait, what's his name?

TOM: Um, uh, Asimov.

* - * - *

TOM: It's a talking compass, Tralamin! It's talking about how awesome you are!

TRALAMIN: Awesome! What's your name, talking compass?

TOM: He, uh, um... Bradbury?