Evolution of a Power

One of my favorite parts of writing adventures is designing new monsters to slay challenge the player characters. And with new monsters comes new monster powers.

When I create new powers I try to keep them short, clear, and favorable. Unfortunately these qualities do not always go hand in hand. Take for example, the signature power of the final boss in Good Little Children Never Grow Up. (Warning: Spoilers to follow).

The villain of the adventure is a ghost, and ghosts possess people. Possession is nothing new to D&D monsters, but most possession is based on the dominated status effect, which only allows for one action. The boss is also a solo monster, so she needed something a little more. Because of this, in the first version I shied away from the using the word dominated.

Here’s the first attempt.

M Possess (charm) ● Recharge 4, 5, 6
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature): +9 vs. Will
Hit: Granny possesses the target creature (save ends). As long as she possesses the target creature, she is removed from the board. When the possession ends, return her to play in any unoccupied square adjacent to the target. While the creature is possessed it can take no actions of its own. Instead DeMay controls the creature. Each turn she can make the creature take one standard, one move, and one minor action. She can only force the target to make at-will attacks, but also gains the benefit of Granny DeMay’s life drain attack. If the target takes damage while Granny DeMay possess it, she takes an equal amount of damage and the target makes a saving throw against this effect.
Aftereffect: 2d8 + 7 psychic damage.
Miss: 2d8 +7 psychic damage.
Special: Anything that protects a character from domination similarly protects the character from this attack.

It was a starting place, but much too wordy and convoluted. The Hit line is especially dense. I decided that dominated could do more good than harm by cutting down the word count. I also moved text around to make it seem less dense and put some of the Hit line into Special.

It looked: a little something like this:

M Possess (charm) ● Recharge 4, 5, 6
Attack: Melee 1 (one creature): +9 vs. Will
Hit: Granny DeMay Enters the target’s square and is removed from play, and the target is dominated (save ends). When the target is no longer dominated, or when Granny DeMay chooses to end this power (as a free action) she reappears in a square adjacent to the target.
Special: While a creature is dominated by this power, the target gains DeMay’s life drain power, and Granny DeMay can force the target to take a standard, a move, and a minor action. Also while dominated, if the target takes damage, Granny DeMay takes an equal amount of damage, and the target makes a saving throw against the domination.
Aftereffect: 2d8 + 7 psychic damage.
Miss: 2d8 +7 psychic damage.

“Not bad” I though. “A little wordy, but not bad.” Then came playtesting, and I realized how hopelessly naive I was.

The party has worked its way through the haunted orphanage and learned its dark secrets. On the surprise round DeMay possessed one of the PCs. Then her turn came up again, and… I realized that when DeMay was possessing somebody, she did not have anything to do on her turn.

So I decided to kill to birds with one stone (the other bird being that there were not enough action). On the dominated PC’s turn the PC could take one action as normal for dominated, then on DeMay’s turn she could force it to take a full round of actions. This also had the bonus side effect of reducing word count (so maybe it killed three birds).

Playtesting also gave me a couple more ideas. For one I reduced the damage on the miss and aftereffect. I also added the requirement that DeMay must be insubstantial, so that characters who accepted Liandra’s help could reap an extra benefit.

So here it is in its final glory, DeMay’s possession power:

M Possess (charm) ● Recharge 5, 6
Requirement: Granny DeMay must be insubstantial.
Attack: Melee 1 (one living humanoid): +9 vs. Will
Hit: Granny DeMay Enters the target’s square and is removed from play, and the target is dominated (save ends). When the target is no longer dominated, or when Granny DeMay chooses to end this power (as a free action) she reappears in a square adjacent to the target.
Special: If Granny DeMay is possessing a creature at the start of her turn, she can force that creature to make a standard, a move, and a minor action on her turn. She may only force the creature to use at-will powers. Additionally, she may use the minor action to make a life drain attack from the dominate creature’s square.
Aftereffect: 7 psychic damage.
Miss: 1d8 +7 psychic damage.

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