Wizards of the Coast has released the first round of 4e errata. That was quick. A few highlights:
Blade Cascade: This level 15 power became somewhat infamous for allowing almost arbitrarily long strings of attacks when the attack roll was boosted enough through bonuses, especially if the character could reroll. It’s now limited to a maximum of 5 attacks. This is still pretty good damage for a level 15 daily, mitigated by the fact multiple attack rolls are necessary to deal it all. I was looking at house-ruling it to a cap of 6 attacks, so 5 works for me.
Ranger, Rogue, Warlock: In order to gain the striker bonus damage dice, the character has to hit the target. They don’t get to add bonus damage to a miss if the power does damage on a miss.
Flaming Sphere: The sphere occupies a square, so it can’t be moved through.
Skills: DCs mentioning the target’s level (eg. Insight) now add half the target’s level instead. That should help scaling.
Shield Push feat: Replace the text in the special section with “You must be using a shield to benefit from this feat.” I had to mention this one because it’s a silly argument. The printed text says “You must carry a shield to benefit from this feat.” Evidently people were arguing that they would swing a two-handed weapon while a shield was strapped to their back, and use the feat. Sheesh. Still, I kind of wish they’d added a similar note for the Rogue Weapon Talent, though; I’ve seen people try to pull the same thing with holding a shuriken or a dagger in the offhand, while attacking with a more damaging weapon.
Surprised condition: You can’t take free actions while surprised. No more yelling warnings about the ambush that took you unaware. I think I like this one — it makes the “take him out before he can alert the others!” approach a lot more likely.
DMG Page 42: The DCs all get reduced by 5, basically, and the footnotes to the table are stricken. This goes a long way toward fixing skill challenges. The skill check DCs on page 61 also get reduced by 5.
More skill challenge fixes: All challenges now end at 3 failures, baseline. It’s not dependent on the complexity of the challenge any more. This makes the more complex challenges actually harder, rather than making them easier after a certain point. Also, using an “unusual” skill in a skill challenge is no longer automatically a hard DC; now it’s “usually moderate or hard.” And of the “Assist Another chain,” the following advice is given: “On checks that aren’t described as group checks, consider limiting the number of characters who can assist another character’s skill check to one or two. The goal of a skill challenge isn’t for the entire party to line up behind one expert but for the entire group to contribute in different and meaningful ways.” Makes sense.
I’ll have to try these new skill challenge rules, but offhand, they seem to address the problems of the published system. Again, they’re pretty similar to what I’d already house-ruled, so I’m happy in that respect.
Resistance: If you hit with a combined-damage-type attack, resistance only reduces the damage if the monster has resistance to both damage types, and then only by the lower amount. So if you hit for 15 fire and acid damage against something with 10 fire resistance but no acid resistance, you do 15 damage. If it had 10 fire resistance and 5 acid resistance, you’d do 10 damage. This makes “blended” damage a lot better.
There are also a couple of monster changes, mostly corrections to hit points or damage.
This errata addresses most of the problems I’ve run into with 4e. There are a few that didn’t get touched upon yet, though:
* Seal of Binding: This cleric power allows for easily taking out any monster that can be hit with a single Wisdom vs. Will attack, provided the party has some means of healing the cleric. My fix for this: The cleric is unable to be affected by any effect other than Seal of Binding while sustaining the power. Also, the target is immune to damage (other than Seal of Binding), not simply to attacks; that addresses some issues such as Arcane Gate/Slashing Wake combination being used to inflict damage without technically making an attack.
* Divine Miracle: People have posited various bits of brokenness involving this Demigod power, all of which rely on it being able to restore an unlimited number of encounter powers per turn — because as soon as one is used, another can be recalled, as written. My fix: It works once per round. The Demigod still never runs out of encounter powers, but he can’t do things like retrieve Elven Accuracy unlimited times until a critical hit is scored.
* Stealth: On various forums I visit, people seem to have some trouble applying the stealth rules. I think this probably goes beyond the scope of errata, though — I’m not convinced that it’s a problem with the rules, per se, just a certain amount of confusion. I suspect there could be a Dragon article in this. Perhaps I’ll pitch one.
* Rerolls: Mostly this involved Blade Cascade (which the errata addressed) and Divine Miracle/Elven Accuracy, and I’m not sure it’s necessary any more. I’ve been using the following house rule though: A given die can only be rerolled once. If you’re an elf and an Epic Trickster, you don’t get to reroll an attack four times — just once. You can pick whether to use Elven Accuracy or your Trickster rerolls. It might not be broken any more to allow for more, but I’m keeping it for now because it limits the amount of time one character gets to spend making his attack, and keeps things moving.
On that last one, I should note that I separate abilities that allow “roll twice” from ones that allow a reroll. So a Divine Oracle making a Will-targeted attack would roll two dice for the class feature, and could then reroll one of those dice (the higher one in this case, since that’s the one the class feature specifies is used) if he wishes to.
All the same, I’m pleased that WotC managed to get errata out so quickly, and also that there’s so little of it. I’m sure there will be more; it’s the nature of the beast. But it’s a good start.