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Wings of Black Glass


The worst fanfic ever written is still better than the greatest story never told.

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  • 18 weeks
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  • 20 weeks
    3 weeks

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Jun
20th
2018

"The Elements of Tyranny" characters and builds · 6:54pm Jun 20th, 2018

I’m writing this blog for giggles, and in case anyone bothers to read “The Elements of Tyranny” and wants to know what it is we are doing.

We’re playing the Planeshift: Equestria homebrew thing that popped up on EQD a while ago. It’s pretty adorable, although it’s got some nasty balance issues.

For instance, there’s a feat unicorns can get which gives them an infinite use 1st level wizard spell, which doesn’t sound too bad until you look at what’s available. If used to get an attack spell the feat is almost wasted, most 1st level spells are inferior damage choices, especially once you get past level 5 and all the cantrips do nearly as much. On the other hand, if you take Shield with it it becomes one of the most broken things ever. Shield is a reaction spell which grants +5 AC for one round (when +3 is a huge deal for top tier magic armors) Having limitless use of that renders your unicorn largely invulnerable, particularly if stacked with armor, as the feat doesn’t require you to be a spellcaster to take it.

Thats probably the absolute worst balance problem it has, although the Alicorn Amulet is a thing of terror (It turns all your low level spell slots into 5th level!) And the staff from the movie is the most OP anti-spellcaster thing ever. (Simply point and click, all the target's spellslots are gone AND you get a boost for it) At least items are easy to take away or simply not give out in the first place.

Anyway, off topic. So my players are:
-Eclipse Corona, NG Unicorn Sorcerer (Alicorn Bloodline) Noble background
-Tiny Hooves, NG Purified Changling Warlock (Hexblade) Charlatan background
-Red Haze, CG Unicorn Sorcerer (Red Draconic Bloodline) Wanderer background

As players we are all very sick and tired of starting at level 1, over and over and over. So I ran them through the short (ha!) adventure in the story to justify giving them a huge powerboost so we could start at level 6 instead.

With such a small group, and without any proper tank or healing, I decided to also give them some help in the form of:
-Rampart Rock, LG Earth pony fighter (Battlemaster) Folk hero background. I gave him a focus on defensive tactics and protection abilities, and started him at level 4 instead of 6. I justified this by having Celestia assign him to be the player’s bodyguard.

After the first session another friend joined, because he was amused by the yak’s personality quirks. So he brought along:
-Ormr, LN Yak Barbarian (Ancestral Guardian) Folk Hero background

Reading through the race options revealed some interesting stuff about the pony setting. Flight is really quite common; Pegasus and bat ponies get it, along with Griffons, hippogriffs, breezies, Changelings, and young dragons. Pretty much everypony is a bit faster than normal humanoids. Most creatures have a rule called “fingerless” which basically says you’ve only got one hand, which is your mouth, and there’s a small handful of things you can do with your front hooves.

But most important is that the pony races get cutie marks. In this setting it’s basically a free feat, albeit picked from a somewhat small list, with additional options based on subrace. Or they can take a free skill proficiency or fighting style or a couple of cantrips. This makes the various pony races quite powerful as character options. I’m only going to cover the races my players took.

Unicorns make naturally good wizards and sorcerers, as they get +INT (ponies get +CHA already) and a couple of free low level spells (a mage hand variant that represents the telekinesis used on the show, a wizard cantrip of their choice, and once they reach level 3 a 1/rest 1st level wizard spell as well) They also can use their horn for arcane/diving spellcasting, so they don’t need a hand to cast spells. Depending on class choice a unicorn can start with as many as 9(!) cantrips. Compare a human sorcerer, who starts with 4.

Changelings get to, no surprise, shapeshift into other ponies and the purified version gets +1 to any stat you want. They can also fly if in a form with wings.

Yaks are silly, they get immunity to cold damage and can boast loudly to get everyone nearby to target them. They can also just decide to take 1d12+CON less damage from a hit, 1/rest. And of course, “Yak is best!” “Yak needs no armor!” and “Yak needs no magic!” (you can see where this is going… I foresee headaches in my future.)

Only Eclipse is using one of the new class options, Alicorn Bloodline Sorcerer. Its comparable to the official Divine Soul bloodline. Most notably the fact that both gain access to cleric spells as well as sorcerer, and both gain wings/flight at level 14. Both get a form of luck manipulation where they can roll dice to add to another roll.

As an actual comparison the Divine Soul is probably a bit better, as they get a free spell based on alignment and some boosts to healing, and gets its luck manipualtion at level 6 while the Alicorn gets it at level 18. The only seriously different thing about the Alicorn bloodline is that it gets light/medium armor (…why? It doesn’t give a good handwave for that) and one particular ability which can be quite the gamechanger depending on your party and players.

When a level 6+ alicorn bloodline sorcerer casts a spell using metamagic, they can give a nearby friendly spellcaster the ability to also use that metamagic if they use their next action to cast a spell. Which can be quite powerful, assuming you have a group that knows what they are doing with it. Unfortunately (or is it the other way around?) the Alicorn sorcerer has to pay the metamagic cost for that spell, so an Alicorn bloodline is going to eat their sorcery points really quickly, and there’s no good way to get those back outside of long rests.

The funny thing about Eclipse is that he was built first, and was originally planning to be a damage caster, until the other unicorn player revealed what they were going for. As a draconic bloodline Red Haze gains the ability to add her CHA modifier to her fire spells, and as her cutie mark she took “elemental affinity (fire)” feat, which lets her ignore fire resist, and her minimum damage die roll is a 2 instead of a 1. …and she got an 18 on her CHA, so she hits pretty hard with that. Then Tiny got rolled up, as a Hexblade with a blade pact, with 20 CHA. This means Tiny adds his CHA instead of STR or DEX to his attacks/damage. And he attacks multiple times. And he curses targets to take extra damage, and he curses them (again, using the Hexblade ability) so he crits on 19-20, and gets to add his proficiency to his damage. Yeah, he uh… hits really hard. If anything is ever outside sword range Tiny also took Eldritch Blast invocations so adds his CHA to that damage, and can also yank people towards him so he can better carve the poor suckers like Thanksgiving turkey. (Ponies don’t have a Thanksgiving equivalent, do they?)

Poor Eclipse doesn’t have anything like that. Even considering he took Spell Sniper as his cutie mark (to snag Eldritch Blast as his basic attack, which is arguably the best damage cantrip) he just doesn’t get any way to improve his output. So he switched over to being a support caster, picking up spells like Sleep, Shield of Faith, Invisibility, and Haste. He also grabbed Counterspell to help shut down enemy spellcasters. He took Twinned and Quickened as metamagic choices, which are both expensive on sorcery points. Some players might ask why he doesn’t have any healing magic, that’s sort of the point of going divine soul/Alicorn, isn’t it? To which he says, it doesn’t fit his theme. Which is a “star mage” picking all his spells to fit with a night/stars theme, almost all his damage sources are going to be radiant.

Red, very predictably, choose a bunch of fire damage spells; Firebolt, Burning Hands, Scorching Ray, Fireball. As well as a couple of defensive/utility choices; specifically Shield, Hold Person, Blink, and Dispel Magic. Between the two spellcasters both having anti-magic spells, enemy casters aren’t going to have a fun time against these two.

Ormr, the Yak. Barabarians don’t get a lot of choices the way other classes do. The biggest choice they get to make is the “primal path” which grants many of thier abilites. The Ancestral Guardian is from the Guide to Everything, and is downright amazing. The first guy the barbarian hits every turn while raging has disadvantage to attack anyone else, and if they do hit that someone else they get resistance to that hit. They also get ancestral spirit guardians, so “Yak says no.” And the nearby friend just… takes 2d6 less dmg, it costs the barbarians reaction, but still! (and those 2d6 eventually become 3d6, and then 4d6.) his phenomenal tanking is helped by the fact he got a 20 on CON, and slipped his 16 into DEX instead of STR. (which is an odd choice for barbarians, many abilities improve STR attacks) Combined with his starting gear (a cloak of resistance) he’s got 19 AC. (Full plate, the best non magic armor, grants 18)

I gave Rampart Rock both the “defensive” fighting style, and then used his cutie-mark to give him “protection” as well, and then at lvl 4 he grabbed the shield mastery feat. So as long as he’s wearing armor he gets +1 AC, and he can use his reaction to give disadvantage when attacking someone next to him, and then he can bash people around using his shield. This gives him phenomenal defensive ability, but limited offense. Which was the point. He’s supposed to simply help keep the party alive, not overshadow the others. Appropriately he also didn’t manage to get any spectacular stat rolls, unlike everyone else.

The reason those clearly magic items showed up in the story is because I also gave each hero a special piece of gear. I’m calling these “Evolving items” as they start with abilities compareable to “uncommon” rank magic items and might eventually gain more. Right now Red’s gauntlets are the equivalent to a cloak of protection (+1 to saves/AC) but may gain some defense spells for him to use. Tiny’s sword is just a +1 longsword, but as you might guess from the story, it will get some unusual properties should he figure out how to unlock them. Eclipse’s casting crown is… I’m not sure if its overpowered or not. (as I homebrewed it) Right now all it does is store a couple of sorcery points for later use (costing him 2 to store 1 in the first place, so its not super efficient) But eventually he’ll be able to store more, and it will improve his spell attack and spell DC.

In the first actual session, portrayed in the story “The Elements of Tyranny, Awakenings” we only actually had one real encounter, which was the encounter with Knight Harrow, I was just using the timberwolves to make sure they couldn’t run away from the stone henge. Being as the players were still level 1 I gave the big guy a bunch of debuffs to make sure he wasn’t going to outright slaughter the players. (greatswords are no joke to a lvl 1, a good hit can down anything short of a barbarian) It turns out the real threat were the two skeletons I threw into the fight to make sure they couldn’t just dogpile him. The first attack made against Red… crit. 2d6+2 is a lot of pain for an 7 hp sorcerer. Red went down instantly. Its a good thing Eclipse put one of his 16s into CON, because the second skeleton marched right up to him… and ALSO crit. He survived, barely. Similarly, Tiny was busy trying to hold off Harrow, and took a bad hit he only barely lived through because of a spell called Armor of Agathys which gave him a bit of extra hp. (that’s that strange ice armor spell he used in the story)

Ormr and Rampart Rock didn’t show up until the next session. Which is why they, well, haven’t shown up yet.

One cool thing about 5th edition I like is that it provides convenient background detail charts for players to roll on, or just pick from. They give each character a Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond, and Flaw. None of these have a mechanical effect, but it helps guide their characters. Eclipse ended up being a respectful noble pony who would do anything for his family, but secretly believes he’s better than everyone else. Red left home because of visions of disaster, and believes strongly in honesty, but is slow to trust. Tiny is driven by revenge for his murdered brother, and his friends mean everything to him, but he just can’t resist a pretty face. Note how the cookie cutter race/class stat line became a distinct character with just 4 little things picked off a chart. I would like to contrast them with Ormr, whose player did not make any of these choices, feeling they were too restrictive, and in turn feels bland because he’s sort of generic barbarian. (but I haven’t had a chance to write him up yet in the story, we’ll see what I come up with.)

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