Friday, 27 April 2012

4e Conversion: Raptoran

Dominic Matte
I keep mentioning my ongoing Dark Sun game here and there, but I just realized that I haven't really talked about the race of one of my players. She's a raptoran - a race I first encountered in 3.5. Raptorans are bird people with feathers instead of hair, talons on their feet, and huge wings. The 3.5 version of the race was a real one-trick pony: it was a race purely designed to give players flight on their own capabilities instead of relying on magic or class.

Raptorans also have an interesting cultural tradition that makes them perfect adventurers. The coming-of-age ritual is known as the Walk of the Four Winds, in which a young raptoran leaves the flock and can return only after they have learned to fly.

Since mountains are of major importance in Athas (there are lots of them!) I thought that the raptorans, as cliff-dwellers, would be a good fit in the world. So let's take a look at how I brought this race into 4e! You can download a PDF copy of the racial stats from my Dropbox.

I won't go over the minor statistical stuff, since that's less important than the major race feature: flight.

I decided to give the raptoran two racial powers instead of one. The encounter power, Flight, is basically the same as that of the windsoul genasi. It allows your raptoran character to fly a little bit right away, as opposed to having to wait a few levels like in 3.5. Also 4e doesn't really have the rule support for higher-level racial features, unless you go with paragon paths.

The second power, Gliding, is probably more interesting from a mechanical perspective. You can't always use your wings to fly, but you can certainly use them to prevent fall damage. When you fall, you can "fly" a few squares, as long as you don't go up. The primary use of this ability is to get more control over an unanticipated fall, but you can also use it to float to locations you might otherwise be unable to reach, as long as you have some height on it.

4e doesn't really support gaining racial abilities at higher levels, but I found a way (hahahaha!). At 16th level, instead of gaining a paragon path feature, you can instead gain a fly speed equal to your speed. That means the speed is 6 by default, but if you take feats to increase your speed or gain a temporary bonus, those apply to your fly speed as well.

16th level is pretty late, but that's for balance reasons. Low-level monsters can have a very hard time dealing with flying characters, and proper, sustained flight doesn't even become available through other sources until mid-paragon. Flight is a powerful ability, and no other races get abilities after level 1, so I think it's fair to require a raptoran to swap a paragon feature for flight.

Of course, my 4e writeup does mess with the race's lore a bit. The 3.5 version was intended to be on the Walk of the Four Winds until about level 4, when the character first gained the ability to fly in spurts. My 4e version of the race can do that from level 1, but doesn't gain sustained flight until mid-paragon. 

One way to deal with this is to acknowledge that player characters tend to be special. Maybe your raptoran learned to use her wings very young, but the elders agreed that she should still go out on the Walk, because it's not only about learning flight but about learning and proving self-reliance and maturity.

You can also tie flight to age for NPC raptorans, and to level for PC ones. Maybe normal raptorans don't typically build the muscle mass required for sustained flight into their twenties or even thirties, but an adventurer who's constantly pushing his limits has the potential to learn to fly much sooner than normal.

Of course, depending on how your campaign is structured, it might take anywhere from one year to twenty years (or even more) to reach level 16, so in some games you might need an explanation as to why your raptoran can't properly fly yet, but his siblings have been able to for years. You can do this many ways: a mental block, a test from your god, a belief that you'll learn when the time is right. Or maybe your character just hasn't really needed to fly and hasn't bothered working at it.

The main problem with my implementation of the raptoran in 4e is the choice of 16th level flight. It's entirely possible that you might not want to give up your 16th level path feature, but if you don't, you never learn to fly. One way to deal with this is to work something out with your DM where you gain flight as a magic item of 16th level (maybe higher), taking it out of your rewards instead of your class. Model it as a boon instead of a typical item, so that you don't wake up in the morning to find your wings missing. That would be dumb.

I'd like to hear what you think of my take on the raptoran, both on its own, and as an adaptation if you're familiar with the 3e version.

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