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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

My First D&D 4E Character: Field General Zhoran

by Ken Newquist / June 6, 2008

D&D 4E is upon us ... and I've created my first character for the game. If I’ve learned one thing about the game in doing this, it’s that the 4E's mechanics don’t fit easily into the old fantasy molds. To that end, I’ve been building out my own 4E campaign setting called Planetorn (detailed in a previous "Game Theory" post), in which a terrible war is ripping through the planes, destroying worlds and tearing people from their realities.

Field General Zhoran is the first 4E character I’ve created for this setting, but he’s not the first character for the campaign setting: that honor belongs to Zilanderan the Second, the Book of Nine Swords swordmage I created for our D&D 3.x campaign.

The Burning Realm of Irth

The lands above burned. And all of the surface races – the humans, the elves, the halflings – burned with them. The source of the inferno that doomed the Realm of Irth were the draconic legions of the ancient red wyrm Talgarith. The insane dragon’s great Burning Wing – a council of dragons almost as terrible as him – incinerated the nations of men and burned the forests of elves, leaving nothing but ash behind. Every last ounce of gold was taken to the great volcano Mount Everflame, where they added to Talgarith’s arcane mastery.

The great dwarven fortresses of the lands below did not burn. The ancient gates, blessed by the gods of old, held against the flames of the Inferno for centuries. A handful of divine portals, connecting fortresses with armories, and armories with forges, allowed the dwarven nations some freedom of movement, but ultimately proved to be the kingdom’s undoing. For when one fortress fell, the dragons and their kin were able to force their way through the portals like a lizard squeezing into an egg. The portals would be closed, sealing off the compromised realm, but not before thousands of dwarves died.

After a thousand years of war, all but the fortress of Werack (“Battle Bridge” in the dwarven tongue) had fallen. The armies of Talgarith swarmed at its gate, bringing to together the sorcerous might of the ages an effort to shatter the Last Gate.

Field General Zhoran stood on the other side of that gate, shoulder to shoulder with the final defenders of the Dwarves of Irth. The gate shuddered, trembled and finally disintegrated under Talgarith’s wrath and Zhoran felt the world go red with burning pain.

He awoke to find himself on a burned, blasted plain. The fortress was gone. The dragons were gone.  His kin were gone.

The general was alone. He wandered for what seemed like ages until finally he came across a great obsdian tower rising from the cracked clay of the plain. A red-haired, pale skined man in black robes strode from the tower and offered him salvation. More importantly, he offered him revenge.

Zhoran took them both.

Character Summary

Zhoran is a fiery, antagonistic leader of dwarves, the sort of commander who constantly pushes himself and all those around him to give the utmost to the fight. He has a relentless hatred for dragons because of the Inferno they unleashed on his world as well as a strong dislike for the draconic races that allied with them. He seeks two things: to learn the fate of his world, and to – should it still be living – to slay the ancient wyrm Talgarith.

4E Character Notes

In some ways, Zhoran is an evolution of my old dwarven battle-cleric D’klar Ironforge. D’klar was created under 2nd edition rules as a cleric/fighter of the dwarven god of war, Clangeddin. When we converted to 3E, I found him to be a more powerful, more capable character, but one with a fatal flaw for a battle leader: a lack of charisma. Under 2E, Charisma wasn’t important to clerics, but under 3E, it became useful for turning undead and certain other clerical powers.

With 4E, I’ve tried to create a dwarven battlelord that takes advantage of one of the new edition's strengths: roles. In this game, every class has a defined role (e.g. leader, defender, controller) and as such, I crafted Zhoran to be a field commander, someone who can battle on the frontlines, but also support his fellows. As such, I chose to build him using the new 4E-specific "Warlord" class.

As such, he can use his Furious Smash at-will power to beat on an enemy, while simultaneously granting an ally a bonus to their attacks. His Hammer and Anvil per-encounter power gives an ally a free attack against a targeted enemy.

Just as importantly, Zhoran can take on critical leadership tasks when necessary. He can use his Commander’s Strike at-will power to temporarily take control of another character and have them make a basic attack against an opponent, which is very much in keeping with his field general status (though I’m curious to see how the rest of the party feels about that ability). Finally, his Lead the Attack daily power lets him grant a bonus to everyone’s attack (or at least, everyone within 5 squares) as they charge into battle.

Comparing this to 3E, I would probably have built the same character out as a dwarven cleric, with the goal of taking on the war priest prestige class. The big difference is that in 4E, he gains leadership powers and abilities immediately at 1st level, instead of having to wait until the mid-levels to gain the upper-level spells needed to really shape and command the battlefield.

It's no secret that the 4E designers hated the 3E bard, and the warlord is essentially what you get when a bunch of bard-hating gamers decide to create something that addresses the class's perceived "jack of all trades, master of none" failing. Like the bard, the warlord bolsters other characters on the battlefield, but unlike the bard, the class takes an active role in combat; it leads from the front, rather than the rear. The drawback to that is that although the class has the "leader" role, it's ultimately far less flexible than the bard. Indeed, 4E lacks a bard-like class that can assume a number of different roles depending on the party make up, and it suffers for it.

Field General Zhoran

Class/Race:
Warlord 1 Male Dwarf

Abilities:
Str 16 (+3) Dex 10 Con 13 (+1) Int 14 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Chr 13 (+1)

Defense
Armor Class: 17 (Arm+6/Sh+1), Fortitude Defense: 14 (+10/Str+3/Dwf+1/Lvl+1), Reflex Defense: 13 (+10/Dex+2/Lvl+1), Will Defense: 13 (+10/Wis+2/Dwf/+1Lvl+1)

Characteristics:
Initiative: +0, Hit Points: 12+13 = 25; Healing Surges Per Day: 7+1 = 8 (3 hp)
Size: Medium, Speed: 5 squares, Vision: Low-light; Languages: Common, Dwarven

Skills
Endurance (Con) +9 (Ba+5/Con+1/Dwf+2/Lvl+1), Dungeoneering (Wis) +5 (Dwf+2/Wis+2/Lvl+1) Heal (Wis) +8 (Ba+5/Wis+2/Lvl+1), History (Int) +8 (Ba+5/Int+2/Lvl+1), Intimidate (Cha) +7 (Ba+5/Cha+1/Lvl+1)

Feats
Dwarven Weapon Training
You gain proficiency and a +2 feat bonus to damage rolls with axes and hammers.

Class Traits
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, leather, hide, chainmail, light shield
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, military melee, simple ranged
Bonus to Defense: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will

Racial Traits
Cast-Iron Stomach: +5 racial bonus to saving throws against poison.
Dwarven Resilience: You can use your second wind as a minor action instead of a standard action.
Dwarven Weapon Proficiency: You gain proficiency with the throwing hammer and the warhammer.
Encumbered Speed: You move at your normal speed when it would normally be reduced by armor or a heavy load. Other effects that limit speed (such as difficult terrain or magical effects) affect you normally.

Warlord Class Features
Combat Leader: You and each ally within 10 squares who can see and here you gain a +2 power bonus to initiative.
Commanding Presence (Tactical Presence): When an ally you can see spends an action point to make an extra attack, the ally gains a bonus to the attack roll equal to one half your Intelligence modifier (+1).

Equipment:
Warhammer: +2 proficiency,  Damage: 1d10+2*
Throwing Hammer: +2 proficiency, Damage: 1d6+2*, Range: 5/10
Chainmail: +6 AC
Light Shield: +1 AC
* Dwarven Weapon Training

Attacks
Basic Melee Attack Powe
At-will / Warhammer
Standard Action, Ranged weapon
Target: One Creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC,
Hit: 1[w]+Str

Basic Ranged Attack Power*
At-will / Throwing Hammer
Standard Action, Ranged weapon
Target: One Creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[w]+Str
* Uses Str instead of Dex because it’s a heavy thrown weapon.

At Will Powers (2)
Commander’s Strike
At Will / Martial, Weapon
Standard Action, Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: An ally of your choice makes a melee basic attack against the target
Hit: Ally’s basic attack damage + your Intelligence modifier.

Furious Smash
At Will / Martial, weapon
Standard Action, Melee Weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. Fortitude
Hit: Deal damage equal to your Strength modifier, and then chose one ally adjacent to either you or the target. This ally applies your Charisma modifier as a power bonus to the attack roll and the damage roll on his or her next attack against the target. If the alley does not attack the target by the end of his or her next turn, the bonus is lost.

Encounter Powers (1)
Hammer and Anvil
Encounter / Martial, Weapon
Standard Action, Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. Reflex
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage. One ally adjacent to the target makes a melee basic attack against it as a free action. The ally adds your Charisma modifier to the damage.

Daily Attack Powers (1)
Lead the Attack
Daily / Martial, weapon
Standard Action, melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hits: 3[W] + Strength modifier damage. Until the end of the encounter, you and each ally within 5 squares of you gain a power bonus to attack rolls against the target equal to 1 + your Intelligence modifier.
Miss: Until the end of the encounter, you and each ally within 5 squares of you gain a +1 power bonus to attack rolls against the target.