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D&D 3E
Vile Darkness vs. Exalted Deeds 
17th-Mar-2006 11:50 am
Shiny
Somebody posted the point on the WOTC boards, and several people agreed with him, that both of these books are very broken, if you use them individually, but if you allow both of them in your campaign, they kinda balance out. I'll repost this there if there's no particular consensus, but I wanted to ask here first because there's a certain house-organ feel to the WOTC boards sometimes, where it feels like it's heresy to say that something is less than l33t.

Anyway.

My son just picked up Exalted Deeds and Champions of Valor, in hopes that he can come up with an uber build that the party will allow because it's Good. Ignoring all the other uber characters that he came up with that didn't go over too well, even though they were Good, on account of that whole "uber" thing. Yes, I know. We have issues.

I'm going to be taking a more proactive role in what people can build and play in the next campaign and, to be honest, my son may not be happy in my next camaign; on the other hand, the people who insist on building pathetically weak characters may also not be too happy, either, so we'll see how it turns out. Like I said. Issues.

On to the real question at hand: Is the premise correct that allowing Exalted Deeds and CoV into my campaign, without balancing them with the Book of Vile Darkness, an unbalancing thing, or were the people on the WOTC boards nuts?
Comments 
17th-Mar-2006 06:01 pm (UTC)
i've glanced through both and there were things in each that i liked. i find for most of my campaigns i stick pretty much with whats in the core 3 books and i have to read up on and approve anything else if a player wants to add it in. the brokenest book i've ever used was savage species. but these books? meh. i think it depends on the DM and the campaign. a lot of it won't be at home in a lot of campaigns. i guess i emphatically have no opinion. i'm gonna go whisper it from the rooftops.
17th-Mar-2006 06:04 pm (UTC)
Well, the people on the WotC boards are kool-aid drinkers anyway, so that goes without saying. If you can get your hands on them, AEG's "Good" and "Evil" are great books that are balanced that will allow good and evil without it being broken. Then again, if you are restricting it to WotC caliber, then I wouldn't allow BoVD, BoED, CoV or CoD. They are terrible books to balance out, and I should know, I have them all in my expansive library
17th-Mar-2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah apart both books are broken but together they create a nice balance in the game. As I DM I figured that classes from both books would require an experienced DnD player to properly play the class. So that the game isn't ruined by someone trying to show off how uber powerful their character is just to prove they are a better DnD play I make both books off limits at the start of the game. Someone wants to prestige into a class from either book, well it is time for an epic quest to prove to the gods that they are worthy of such a title.
17th-Mar-2006 06:22 pm (UTC)
When they talk about these books being used in the campaign, did they mean allowing PCs access to them? In our campaign, the Book of Vile Darkness has been used twice to my knowledge. Once for rules related to drugs (the PCs had to solve a serious drug issue within a city), and another time for a significant villain (a vampire wizard with a few levels of the Lifedrinker PrC).

Howevever there were issues with translating the material from 3.0 to 3.5, and in fact I helped the DM with that when I pointed him to a fan-created PDF file that does the conversion, which I believed is linked to in WotC's BoVD board.

None of this unbalanced the game. I should also mention, we don't use the Book of Exalted Deeds for PCs, ditto for the Book of Vile Darkness.
17th-Mar-2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
As a GM there are some bits in BoVD that I really like and regurally use in my games, mostly new critters and such. For players, I'd take a strong look at anything before allowing it in. Some fo the Vows are just silly, and there were one or two PrC's that I thought overbalanced. It can be hard though, as a GM, to look through a player's all shiney and new character and say No, so if you have doubts ban the books except for things you like.
17th-Mar-2006 07:02 pm (UTC)
I'd disallow all of those "vow" feats. They seem to me to be one of the most broken aspects. I regretted letting my character take on from the moment she started playing. Unless your games are specifically designed around them, they add power with very little restriction.
17th-Mar-2006 07:17 pm (UTC)
They do counter-balance each other, and are made as such.

By their very nature, if you're adding more powers/abilities/feats/etc to either side, you're making that side slightly more powerful than the other.

I would allow players to use 'em as long as I had something sufficient to counter-balance it with: such as BoVD, assorted templates, house abilities made specifically as counter-balance.

Generally speaking, DM's should never underestimate their players, but on the same token, players should never underestimate their DM just because they think they know the monsters/feats/spells.
17th-Mar-2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
I've used some stuff at random (as a DM) from the BoVD... like diseases and curses and sometimes just for evil inspiration.

I would be very careful about the stuff in Exalted Deeds. Most of the exalted feats are really powerful, but are supposed to balance with the fact that the player should be the frickin embodiment of good. Very few players actually play exalted characters--unless you have a good roleplayer, those abilities are not going to be balance. The PrCs usually require the feats; I'm not sure how broken those classes are (comparable abilities to a lot of classes in Complete Divine I think), but the same issue comes up. Being an exalted character is difficult and significant to roleplay. If your player really wants to play that way (and you think they can), then you could allow some of the abilities. But Vow of Poverty is always broken (it doesn't scale based on how much gear you're giving up), so make sure you nix that VoP monk.
20th-Mar-2006 01:33 am (UTC)
If I ever DM'ed a game with a VoP player, I would limit the character's gold ability sooo hard. Like, 10% of the total for that level, or even less. So broken.

Not sure about monks--if there were a monk with the VoP, I think I would require them to give up all magical items.
20th-Mar-2006 03:29 am (UTC)
Err... you do know that Vow of Poverty means you can't use/carry/own/whatever any items other than like clothes and a quarterstaff? So they wouldn't be getting any gold, or any magical items anyway.
20th-Mar-2006 11:36 pm (UTC)
Okay--I don't own a copy of the BoED (though I want to soon!) and I think I misremembered the feat reqs--I thought it was something like you only have to tithe a certain percentage of your winnings or something.

So...never mind! I feel silly now, but...eh. ;-)
17th-Mar-2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
Two of the givens are, PC's are going to have to earn prestige classes in-game, not just qualify for them. If they want to become an Initiate of the Order of the Bow, they're going to have to go looking for them, or distinguish themselves enough as archers first that the Order comes looking for the PC. The other is, if I use BoVD, the players won't get to read it. Also, I don't own it, and don't relish the idea of spending $30 so that I can maybe, with player cooperation, break my game.

On VoP, somebody said it's broken because it doesn't scale--is it that it's too weak or too powerful?
17th-Mar-2006 08:03 pm (UTC)
Too powerful. Like it gives you a bonus to AC that assumes you'd be wearing magical heavy armor. You don't give up the ability to wear magical heavy armor if you can't wear heavy armor, so why should you be gaining a compensation for it?
17th-Mar-2006 10:03 pm (UTC)
I find the paltry bonuses it provides on a lightly armoured character can easily be offset by magic.

I think for fun I'll remake Chip Norris as a Vow of Poverty practitioner.
17th-Mar-2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
Both books (BoED and BoVD) are unbalanced even if both are allowed to use unless everything uses them (extremely virtuous heroes and extremely despicable villains).

I haven't had a chance to read CoV yet, but I don't know why he's going out of his way to come up with an "uber" build when it's pretty simple to do with just the simple core books and the core accessory books (all 3.5).
17th-Mar-2006 08:37 pm (UTC)
...on the other hand, the people who insist on building pathetically weak characters may also not be too happy, either...

Can you give an example of that?
17th-Mar-2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
I meant, in comparison to the heavy-hitters (your character, Rass (Bow Initiate), and any character built by my son).

Elsa (single-classed 3.0 ranger), Sigh (mostly wizard) and Galedir (bard/sorceror) were pretty ineffective. Even with a couple levels of Dervish, Elsa's still behind the curve on fighting ability, Sigh does very well now so long as she can defeat spell resistance, and Galedir has been swapped out for a flying drow bard Spelldancer who shows promise, but is mostly just providing everybody a +2 to hit and damage. The "pathetically weak" was probably an overreaction on my part, and I should have said something more like "compared to characters that are doing 150-200 hp per round in melee, some of the characters are pathetically weak".

My son's new sorceror is now doing about 200 hp per round in melee, by the way.
17th-Mar-2006 09:19 pm (UTC) - Depends on the kind of game you are trying to play;
If you're running an evil party going against evil NPC's, it works out well.

A good party against evil, you kind of need both books to balance it.. But it could be an adventure without the BoED. Just drop everyones alignment a notch every time they use something from the BoVD and they'll turn evil ;)

Good against good, BoED alone would be good.

This is all assuming of course that the BoED rules only apply to the good people and the BoVD only applies to the evil people... and any crossing of that resulting in aignment changes.
17th-Mar-2006 10:01 pm (UTC)
I must be the only person on the planet who thinks that neither of these books are particularly broken.

Book of Vile Darkness?

The evil prestige classes seem fairly mediocre, and the better ones generally require some unpleasant roleplaying aspects to use them or are very limited in scope.

The items (both magical and mundane), in the same vein, are pretty tame with a few minor exceptions. The only thing that seems to be 'problematic' would be the spells, although the books SPECIFICALLY mentioned that notoriously vile spellcasters are a rarity.

Keeping in mind the premise of vile feats (must be granted by a powerful being of evil and can be revoked at that creature's whim), the feats aren't that great other. Vile Weapon Damage is the only one that's ever leapt out at me as being strictly better than abilities from other sources.

Book of Exalted Deeds?

Prestige classes are very limited in scope and I personally find underwhelming, with prerequisities that require you to essentially 'dump' feats slots on tame abilities -- a straight build out of a core book could come out more 'broken', as it were.

Items and spells are pretty much the same as Vile Darkness -- only a view are really overwhelming, and again, they are supposed to be EXTREMELY uncommon, and must be provided TO THE PLAYERS by a creature of great good.

Same for the exalted feats -- they need to be a gift, and they are immediately lost an evil act is committed.

The only truly broken feat -- Vow of Poverty -- is only broken on a monk, and even then, can eventually be surpassed with the value of accumulated magic items a character of say twelfth level or higher would have.

Our group has plenty of self-professed power gamers, although we usually don't bring our 'best' characters into games -- they mostly sit there as a lingering threat and to show off to new inductees to the group to see how they react.

That being said, even our most 'broken' builds haven't had anything from these books. Personally, in the time since the release of this book...

From Vile Darkness: I have used the ring that allows evil outsiders to confirm a crit on non-outsiders when a threat is rolled, I have used vile weapon damage, I have used the Sadism/Masochism spells (primarily Sadism), and I have occasionally used other spells from the book. The only prestige classes I have bothered trying to use for a 'broken' build are the mortal hunter, lifedrinker, and soul eater.

From Exalted Deeds: I have used the coure eladrin (as a PC, twice, albeit it was the same PC in two subsequent games in the same period), I have used Resounding Blow and Quell the Profane (albeit, with GM permission and in a d20 Future game), I have used some of the spells (Greater Luminous Armor and Sunmantle see use on my current character, but that's the only character I've built with those spells in mind), I have used Vow of Poverty but found it underwhelming even when taken at first level.

The only thing from the two books that sees ANY form of frequent use (and that's maybe one character every second game) is Ancestral Relic from Exalted Deeds.

To make a long story short, I think the people on the WotC boards are nuts for thinking that these books are unbalancing period. They see very little use.
18th-Mar-2006 12:01 am (UTC)
Same for the exalted feats -- they need to be a gift, and they are immediately lost an evil act is committed.

The reason these are seen as broken is because they aren't used that way, like I said above. People just take them as they would any feat (like Dodge or Power Attack), and then don't lose them for not acting Exalted. With the roleplaying aspect balancing them the books are fair, but that isn't always the case. I think that's the logic behind saying the stuff is "broken."

The only truly broken feat -- Vow of Poverty -- is only broken on a monk, and even then, can eventually be surpassed with the value of accumulated magic items a character of say twelfth level or higher would have.

Well it's broken for any character that doesn't use gear--think wizard or sorcerer. Sure you can't use wands, but that +8 to intelligence is going to mean something. I recently had a shapechanging Druid (Master of Many Forms right before it was errata'd) ask for it: he's not going to use any gear, just change into something with a powerful natural attack. And while I haven't run the numbers, I have a feeling that the bonuses from Vow of Poverty are greater than or equal to the amount of "treasure" that people are supposed to have, not to mention that they don't have to worry about the gear being stolen. Oh, and that's in addition to the bonus exalted feat every other level. That's just as many bonus feats as a fighter gets!

If you have numbers about the relative value of Vow of Poverty I'd be interested in those.
18th-Mar-2006 12:21 am (UTC)
Just curious, what'd they nerf on MoMF?
18th-Mar-2006 01:31 am (UTC)
Err, there was this big errata on the Polymorph spell, unlinking it from all special abilities. The idea is you can now ditch polymorph and all the problems that go with it without is messing up other aspects of your game.

Polymorph and MoMF got taken out of the Mark of Heroes RPGA thingy. Which I read as basically Wizards saying "sorry, we goofed on that one."

So it wasn't officially nerfed, exactly... yeah. Wizard's website has a little sidebox about the whole thing.
18th-Mar-2006 01:34 am (UTC)
Ahh, I remember the polmyorph thing. That's a mighty beefy nerf there.
18th-Mar-2006 05:13 pm (UTC)
Considering the Exalted feats are pretty tame, I think the Exalted bonus feat value diminishes significantly as you rise in level.

Money-wise I'd imagine that, strictly speaking, comes out better, but you lose out on a lot of versatility and I find the gain is truly minimal. Most of the abilities can be easily accomodated with spells or fairly inexpensive items, in my opinion.

Since my reply and information post is soooo long, I'm just going to start a new thread.
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