Keep PCs Grounded – A Look at Flying in D&D

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 2, 2011

The Pixies are invading D&D! With the release of Heroes of the Feywild it seems like everyone wants to play a Pixie. I don’t think that everyone finds the concept of being a Pixie all that appealing, rather I think a lot of players believe that being able to fly gives them a huge advantage over all other PCs races. And you know what, they could be right. However, after seeing a bunch of Pixies in action during numerous gaming sessions I feel the need to review some of the rules about flying. After all, until now flying was limited to monsters (with very few exceptions). This meant that players didn’t need to worry about how flying worked. But now that everyone and his mother are playing flying PCs it’s time to review the rules and clear up a few of the misconceptions abut flying in D&D.

I began by looking in the glossary at the back of my Monster Manuals. Upon reading the flying rules I realized that there are a few very important details that we’d overlooked. A quick double-check of the DMG confirmed it. At least I thought it confirmed it – until I looked up flying in the Rules Compendium. That’s when things really got confusing.

The glossary in all three Monster Manuals and the entry on flying in the DMG all state the following about flying.

To remain in the air, the creature must move at least 2 squares during its turn, or it crashes at the end of its turn. While flying, the creature can’t shift or make opportunity attacks, and it crashes if it’s knocked prone.

We were not following these rules at my gaming table. Introducing them will change the tactics of a lot of players running Pixies. Or at least I thought it would until I checked the online compendium. The rules for flying listed there were incredibly simplified and not nearly as restrictive.

To fly, a creature takes the walk, run, or charge action but uses its fly speed in place of its walking speed. A creature that has a fly speed can also shift and take other move actions, as appropriate, while flying. A flying creature does not need to take any particular action to remain aloft; the creature is assumed to be flying as it fights, moves, and takes other actions.

Although there is no official update to the original rule (I check the Wizards website), the flying rules listed in the MMs and DMG were clearly superseded by the newer rules from the Rules Compendium. This simplification makes it a lot easier for flying creatures (including Pixies).

The simplification eliminates all the possibly negative consequences to flying. Without any hindrances there’s no down side for creatures that can fly not to fly all the time. I think the initial restrictions about shifting and opportunity attacks were a good way to keep flying balanced. Without them flying creature now have a huge advantage (as a lot of the players continue to realize every week).

The only real restriction that Pixies have is their altitude limit of 1. At the end of a Pixie’s turn it will crash if it’s more than 1 square above a solid surface. So it can fly up six squares, but has to end on a platform, roof, ledge, ground or other solid surface. This is certainly a limitation, but a Pixie that does a double move is still capable of flying 12 squares in any direction (including up) on its turn as long as it can land on something. So much for wide crevasses or monstrous artillery firing down from a lofty perch, Pixies render these obstacles and challenges meaningless.

In the unlikely event that a flying creature does fall it can still mitigate falling damage. You begin by subtracting the creatures flying speed from the distance of the fall and if it’s zero or less the creature takes no falling damage. So Pixies can fall 30 feet, avoid any falling damage and remain upright. High altitude falls are a whole other issue which I’m not going to get into that since it comes into play so rarely.

So now that we’ve covered the basics on flying it’s time to look at some of the other complications that flying creatures present to the game in general.

I’ve played some great encounters, especially at low levels, that include very simple challenges that would in no way challenge a PC that can fly. Challenges like the insurmountable wall or the incredibly wide cavern that was supposed to require teamwork or even a simple skill challenge to overcome, are now easily bypassed by the flying PCs. Of course not every PC will be a Pixie, but the Pixie Dust encounter power allows Pixies to grant an ally flight for a short time. As long as time isn’t a factor than a 30-foot wide chasm is nothing more than an inconvenience and certainly not a challenge at all.

I’ve noticed that the players running Pixies have equipped their PCs with ranged attacks. This encourages tactics where the Pixie can fly to a safe perch and pelt non-flying monsters safely. This means that DMs have to include more artillery or flying monsters to keep things balanced. It’s not fair that the Pixie Rogue can hail sling bullets down on the land-bound monsters for obscene damage and not fear reprisal. In a home game a DM can adjust for this, however in D&D Encounters and other public play events, the encounters are more generic and they won’t always have something that can challenge a flying PC.

Even after a few short weeks of seeing the Pixie in action I realize (from the DM’s perspective) that flying is too powerful to allow at level 1. I’m not saying Pixies shouldn’t be able to fly but I think it makes more sense to force Pixie PCs to spend other resources to gain this advantage. Perhaps they have to take a feat to allow them to fly more than 1 square off the ground.

A creature that has the power to fly changes the game. For that reason gaining the power to fly should be a big deal, and until now it was. I remember a player with a Dragonborn PC who aspired for the Scion of Arkhoshia paragon path (from PHB2) because it would grant him flight as an at-will power at level 12. Until this PC reached paragon level he was incapable of flight and when he finally got it, it was a big deal. When other PCs got cool attack or utility powers at level 12 he got wings. Allowing players to create Pixie PCs and fly from day one belittles the few other specialized options that rewarded hard-working characters who earned the right to take to the air.

Although we’re sure to see updates to Heroes of the Feywild, I don’t think that the Pixies’ flying ability will change. The horses have already left the barn on that one. Now we’re just going to have to deal with the fall out. Perhaps this fad of creating Pixie PCs will go away and flying characters will become rare again, but I doubt it.

Where do you stand on allowing a playable PC race to fly automatically from the character creation stage? Do you think it’s too much of an advantage? Do you think my suggestion to require a feet for advanced flight is out of line? How are DMs planning to challenge parties where some characters can fly while others cannot?

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 CalebR December 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

But the thing you didn’t touch on was the “Hover” quality of flying. This allows a creature to remain flying turn after turn without moving. The Pixie race does not start with the hover ability. Therefore it would need to move at least 2 squares every turn to remain flying.

2 Amradorn December 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

Flying for a Pixie is kind of a key feature of the race. Not letting them fly at character creation would be akin to taking away a Dwarf’s shortness, and besides, there are plenty of ways for a DM to counter it.

Maybe that 30 foot crevasse has not lava flowing through that is sending up currents of hot air that prevent a pixie from effectively flying over it or at least requires an athletics or acrobatics check to cross.

3 CalebR December 2, 2011 at 10:49 am

As a DM i would hit them with a hard endurance check to fly over things like lava. No movement penalties, just a lot of damage if they fail.

4 Ameron (Derek Myers) December 2, 2011 at 11:00 am

@CalebR
A flying Pixie that ends 1 square above a solid surface will remain aloft without ‘hover’ according to the RAW in the compendium. “A flying creature does not need to take any particular action to remain aloft.”

5 obryn December 2, 2011 at 11:02 am

The rules on flying were officially updated over a year ago, though I couldn’t point you towards when, exactly. I remember their mention on ENWorld and a few other places. I thought it was around the time the MM3 was published, but I could easily be wrong – especially if the movement minimum was still printed there. Hover does a lot less now than it used to.

6 CalebR December 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

hmm…

Then what is the point of the Hover quality? If I had a pixie in my game I think I might house-rule that unless the gained the hover quality they would have to at least expend their move action each round to remain aloft. They would not necessarily have to move, just use up their move action.

7 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

Hover allows a creature to stay in the air even if it’s stunned.

I seriously don’t think Pixies are nearly as big of an issue as this article implies. Yes, I agree some things that would challenge an entirely ground-based party could possibly be trivialized by a pixie. Does this mean that you may have to… wait for it… adapt the situations in your game based on the knowledge of what your party can accomplish? Gasp! Is this really that hard?

Also, is it even that bad that the special ability of a PC occasionally makes something really easy that would otherwise be hard? Guess what? That would make the pixie player feel AWESOME. This isn’t something you’d want to happen every session, but it’s something to keep in your toolbox.

8 Thorynn December 2, 2011 at 11:36 am

I read “maximum altitude of 1″ as exactly that. No flying up 12 on a double move! Their tiny wings can’t sustain such lofty heights. No flying over chasms either. Or maybe pixies were just a terrible idea as a PC race…

9 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 11:39 am

No one would play a pixie then. You may as well houserule them out of your game. Well, I suppose you already effectively are by doing so. :P

10 Megan December 2, 2011 at 11:43 am

I’m particularly curious how diagonal movement works in 3 dimensions. In 4e you’re already allowed to corner move as a single square of movement, can you now 3d corner move to a cube that is up&north&east from your square for a single square of movement? Can you ascend and move a square in a single shift? This could dramatically increase the range of movement for flying characters.

11 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 11:44 am

And I think it’s fine to not let things in your game that you don’t want in your game. Go ahead! It’s your game! Just I think you should do it because you don’t feel tiny flying fae as heroes fit in your game, not because you’re paranoid that the encounters that you inexplicably make in a bubble without adjusting for the capabilities of the PCs are going to be easier.

12 Lahrs December 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Many of the responses to the article are directed at home play with a “if you don’t like it, change it” mindset. This is true, but the article points to the problem in public play where changing the materials for a race are not as easy as they come pre-made. It of course can be done, but not everyone has the time or skill to alter Encounters or LFR modules.

Pixies do have an unfair advantage, and you either have to go out of your way to punish someone for being able to fly (i.e. expanding the crevasse to just outside the pixies flight range, remove all ledges, or make the pit full of lava to hurt flying creatures,” or let them take this advantage. A flying creature will also not be affected by many types of difficult terrain, unless it is designated the floor trap encompasses the square cubed.

From my understanding, pixies can fly above 1 square. The maximum altitude of one is enforced at the end of their turn and it is written that if a pixie is above altitude one at turns end, they drop down to altitude one. The wording of dropping if above one makes it seem above one is possible, therefore they could conceivably double move 12 spaces.

Not mentioned are the benefits of being tiny, especially with the tiny warrior feet, which essentially grants a +2 to all their defenses and makes it easier to get combat advantage.

Between flying and the Fey Beast theme, the new Feywild book has given me headaches in public play.

13 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Okay, I agree that pixies are probably a problem in LFR. Not all LFR DMs are even aware they are allowed to alter modules, let alone do it.

As for Encounters, this season is the only one where pixies will be legal, and I would imagine they wrote the adventure with them in mind.

14 Lahrs December 2, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Where did you see pixie is only legal for this season of Encounters? As far as I know, all Essentials books are legal each season. This season I have someone playing a vampire, which is from the Heroes of Shadow book and Dark Legacy of Evard season.

15 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

It says specifically at the beginning of each season’s adventure book which books are legal for each season. For this one, they are Heroes of the Fallen Lands, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and Heroes of the Feywild and any Dragon content that specifically references these books.

Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Feywild are NOT Essentials books. One could say they follow post-Essentials design philosophies and sensibilities (as will everything else released for this edition in the future), but they are not officially part of the Essentials line (which all have the word “Essentials” on the cover.)

16 Lahrs December 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

It has been quite a few seasons since I have enforced the class/book restriction rules. Still, I was not aware that the new books would immediately become obsolete in Encounters play as soon as the season was over. I understand, new season, new book = money, but that is why I no longer play Magic:TG. I got tired of spending money only to have my cards no long valid for certain play after their new season blocks were released.

If my players ever found out, and I actually enforced the restrictions, I know they would stop buying the books.

Thanks for the info though, I do appreciate it, even if I did not care for the answer, that isn’t your fault.

17 Nex Terren December 2, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I’d tend to agree with Adam Ford’s first comment. In fact, I find myself agreeing with every point he made. (Nice job, by the way).

Flying is an advantage, but it should be an advantage. Yes, in certain situations–such as your trap filled dungeon crawl, as was pointed out–flying would be a huge advantage, but so is that free skill training Humans and Eladrin get, or that teleportation that Eladrin and Shadar-Kai enjoy. It’s an advantage the race enjoys, and it bothers me a bit when people wield the nerf hammer at it. Which, in my opinion, WotC already did with the altitude limit 1.

If you need to apply a penalty to the race, hand out maybe a healing surge loss as is with the shade, or a lifting/carrying weight penalty in general–both which would be fitting with the fluff behind the race.

It’s the DM’s job to challenge the players, and then the DM’s job to make the players feel like heroes when they conquer the challenges–if the sense of heroism comes from a cunning plan, a high skill modifier, that artifact sword, a handsome share of luck, or in this case, flying. That a player might hold this advantage over another PC shouldn’t be worried too much about. That a player might hold this advantage over a DM should be given a gentlemanly tip of the hat.

Our goal as DMs are for the characters and their players to win.

Now, a bit of context where I’m coming from; I don’t–nor ever expect to–play LFR. With the exception of (possibly) one of my players, my entire group is this way. We are competitive in terms of our group and as a team, but not beyond. As long as a player doesn’t steal the spotlight too oft or devalue an adventure for the group (which most oft is a failure on my part) I’m fine with him curb-stomping my adventures.

On a bit of another topic…

I do think they should have kept the old rules and had the keyword hover remove the restriction of moving 2 squares. To me a creature who isn’t able to hover shouldn’t be able to remain in the same spot while flying. To me, that’s hovering, plain and simple. If they want the stun protection effect, another keyword would make more sense.

I honestly didn’t know about this rule update until reading this, and I don’t expect to bring it in; that dragon provoking attacks of opportunity on his downard swoop is just fine by me, and makes sense.

18 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 2:14 pm

The FLGS store where I play Encounters also abolished the book restrictions as we found them to be too limiting.

However, with the restrictions in place, I think it’s a little silly to complain about having to buy a new book every three-ish months to play a free weekly game ran by your FLGS to play it to its full potential. You don’t even need to buy the book as you can just use Heroes of the Adjective Nouns and borrow the book from one of the other fine folks that actually supported the store and jot down your level 1 theme features!

19 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Other than encouraging customers to buy their product (which I think is a fine thing for WotC to do), the main purpose of restricting Encounters seasons to specific content is two-fold:

1. To feature said content; and
2. To make life easier for new players, which is the target audience for this program

They don’t want new people to come in and play D&D Encounters, want to make their own character, and have the DM go through every class in every book ever printed for 4E.

I figure they also don’t want have to figure out what in the Nine Hells a “revenant shardmind hybrid runepriest/swordmage” is.

20 William December 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I regularly read this column and love the great advice and questions that are posed here. Today, I disagree with Ameron.

I really don’t think Flying, even in organized play, is that big of a deal. As a DM for Encounters, your job isn’t is to create a world filled with interesting challenges that are tailored to reward and punish your player’s strengths and weaknesses. Your job is to run the module as written and handle any unforseen situations. If WotC specified that Heroes of the Fey is allowed for use in Encounters, then (at least some of) those encounters are probably balanced to account for potential flyers. If they aren’t, well, that’s just one more thing WotC messed up, but next season it won’t even matter. For now, take this as an oppourtunity to learn how flight interacts with premade adventures and use that knowledge to make your home games better.

As for requiring a feat (or some other cost) to gain flying at level 1, do you require a feat for Changling to use his change shape power? What about Dragonborn’s minor action aoe attack (absurdly powerful on a level 1 Fighter) or Elf’s reroll (one of the best racial powers, regardless of level, in the game)? Probably not. Those are all very powerful racial powers, but there are many more that you let your players have while accounting for them in encounter design. Bugbear’s Oversized. Orc’s hit and heal. Warforged’s attached components. Flying is powerful, but it’s not much more powerful than a shoulder mounted crossbow that never runs out of ammo and can’t be removed, or increasing the die size of every weapon you use.

Finally, the ranged weapon issue. If you put a 5 square tall piece of scenery in every fight, then yes a Pixie with a ranged power can fly up there and gain an advantage. But seriously, how often does that actually happen? Do you include these flat, idealy sized pieces of terrain in every fight? If not then I don’t see a problem. Pixies must constantly hover at Alt 1, which is within reach of every enemy with a melee attack unless you are intentionally nerfing the bad guys.

21 William December 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Just posted and refreshed, and Nex Terren coverd a few of my points before I could. Sorry to be redundant, but glad i’m not alone in this thinking.

22 Nex Terren December 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Every point that we might have shared you said in a different way, and brought a different light upon it–so there’s nothing to apologize for, William.

And I do like how you put the racial features/powers bit.

23 Ameron (Derek Myers) December 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

@ Nex Terren and William
The Pixies have “Pixie Dust” and “Utility Shrink” as their racial powers akin to “Dragonbreath” and “Elven Accuracy.” The flying is just a bonus racial thing which is why I’m being so hard on it. It seems like too big an advantage given their other racial abilities; at least based on what I’ve seen so far.

I agree that flying is an advantage, and that it should be an advantage. My real concern is that it will end up being a game-breaking advantage that comes into play way too often. A Changeling’s shape changing ability is cool, but has limited uses. When he can disguise himself as an NPC and bypass a skill challenge, I’m all for that because I know it doesn’t happen often. When it does the player running the Changeling feels heroic for making a difference. I’m worried that the players running Pixies will come up with too many ways to use and abuse their advantage of flight.

I also agree that the terrain won’t always give the Pixie an advantage, but in the few weeks I’ve seen them in action it has made for a lot of very unbalanced encounters. Perhaps a nice tight battle in a dungeon or other close quarters will illustrate some of the limitations that flying PCs will experience, especially if their only tactic is to fly to safety and attack from range.

24 Kiel Chenier December 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm

@Everyone

*facepalm* This is why I play a Dwarf when I play D&D.

25 Starhawk December 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

It’s kind of similar to how I felt when they gave away encounter-power racial teleports: a lot of those little terrain challenges or traps because much less interesting. Take your classic: you’re exploring a dungeon when you trigger a pressure plate, and a portcullis clangs to the floor, trapping you!

Back in the day, that was a big, big deal. Your path to the surface might have even been blocked! Now the eladrin smirks, calmly zoinks past it, and pulls the lever to release the trap.

26 Amradorn December 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Also don’t forget that Encounters like the Crystal Cave can be altered if it’s felt necessary to counter the fact that half your party is a flipping flying flock of pixies (say that three times fast).

27 Amradorn December 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

@Starhawk then don’t make your lever so easy to find, or make it so that the pressure plate has to be tripped in order to release the lever. There is always a way for a creative DM to counter such abilities whether its teleporting or flying, or anything else for that matter.

28 Adam Ford December 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Or leave it in and let your eladrin feel extra-awesome that one time, and don’t overuse it!

29 William December 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm

@Ameron – You make some good points. The PC’s probably don’t have that many chances in Encounters to make a power like Changeling Disguise as awesome as it can be in a city campaign or something like that. I still think Oversized is a stronger racial passive than restricted Flying which is why i’m not that worried about Flight, but you clearly have much more experience than I do with Pixies on the board (our first one appears in game tomorrow) so i can’t speak to how much trouble they actually cause.

Can you cite more specific examples of ways that they made the encounters unbalanced? I haven’t played any of the Encounters stuff so I don’t have much for a point of reference.

30 B.J. December 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I will never play a fairy. That is all.

31 Lahrs December 3, 2011 at 1:04 am

@Adam Ford

I have been in charge of the Encounters program in town since season 1, and have watched it grow and shrink multiple times depending on the storyline, new college students, people moving and so forth. I have purchased every single kit and book Wizards has come out with for fourth edition and freely let the other players look through them as needed while encouraging regulars to pick up any books they may want to utilize for some time. Many of our Encounters players only play Encounters and not in any other D&D program, such as the much less restrictive LFR we run weekly, and while some also buy books, if they felt they were obsolete after the season they would just use mine and not buy them. I am full on for supporting the local store, lord knows I have poured enough time, money and energy into mine. Even after the second Troll and Toad location popped in just down the street and that I can get books cheaper from Amazon, I have staid loyal to the little guy. I would expect Wizards to do the same and allow players to continue using the materials they purchase.

I understand the point of Encounters, to draw in new people, which is great. However, the new people are only new once, and after a season or two, the once timid are ready to fully explore other options. You are right, Encounters is a free program, but again, they are asking people to pay money for a product, which is fine, and then restriction that product 13 weeks later. It isn’t silly to be concerned over this.

And yes, it is awesome when a racial power comes up that can save the day and I have seen some great unorthodox uses of teleports, dragon breath, iron stomachs and the like. I love it. Read my comments on Crystal Caves weekly reports and you will see I love the RP. I do see a big issue with an encounter teleport or dragon breath vs. an at-will ability to fly.

I have argued my point, and you may not agree, but that is where I stand.

@William – The ability to fly allows an easy by-pass of most rough terrains, no need for acrobatics checks on slippery slopes or dangerous bridges, can simply fly over all chasms, realistically removes any fall damage, no longer needs to make athletic checks to climb, and so on. This wouldn’t be a huge deal if it were an encounter ability, but as it is an always on move action, it is over powered.

32 Dan December 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I think what most people dislike with the new character content is that there is no strategic disadvantage to playing a pixie character with the ability to constantly fly. Now, if WOTC had incorporated an equally strong disadvantage (i.e. severe strength/load bearing restriction, minimal damage output, etc…) I think that most players would think twice about playing a character of this type.
As far as Encounters and public play is concerned, I agree that this can be potentially problematic because it can negate the majority of an encounter’s tactical difficulty. However, it should be the DM’s job to assess a party’s strengths/weaknesses and adjust the encounter to make it adequately challenging, as well as fun. If a party has the ability to fly, have ranged enemies target them and rule that flying characters hit while flying must make saves/skill checks to remain aloft, or they fall and take falling damage. This way, players will think twice before going airborne in combat situations.
Also, one might rule that flying characters could be “winged” when hit, making the character tumble off of high perches and maybe even completely removing the character’s ability to fly for the rest of the encounter. I don’t know if these solutions would fit for every situation, but they are potential ways of “leveling the playing field”. Sorry for the bad pun.

33 sawblade December 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

…. I don’t think that pixie’s flight is a problem if you have hanging onto a wall or ledge be like climbing, meaning that pixies grant combat advantage and have to take an Athletics Check to not fall when hit.

and every encounter should have some ‘ranged’ possiblities (i.e. actual ranged/area attacks or some monster flyers/climbers.) to give some threat to the backline of an adventuring party.

34 Sunyaku December 3, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Here’s a thought– how about the power of flight naturally improves with character level? For example, how about the “flight ceiling” starts at 10 ft (2 sq), and increases by 1sq every 5 levels? So level 5=3sq, 10=4sq, 15=5sq, 20=6sq, 25=7sq and 30=8sq? You could take a feat to increase this further… And a feat for hover is a good idea.

35 brc December 4, 2011 at 3:18 am

Flight is strong, but I don’t take issue with new races getting strong features. Given the glut of options that races from older material have, particularly in terms of feat support, newly released races start out fairly far behind on the power curve.

In any case, it’s never been particularly difficult to find rules elements to exploit in public play, so the pixie doesn’t really bring anything unique to the table in that regard.

36 thorynn December 4, 2011 at 8:17 pm

I dunno, maybe I’m taking it too literally, but altitude limit 1 means altitude limit one to me: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4pr/20111007

37 Carda December 4, 2011 at 10:35 pm

As mentioned already, “Altitude Limit X” simply means you can’t end your turn more than X squares above the ground, else you’ll fall. While this feature may trivialize certain things like ground-based terrain, there’s nothing that says the DM can’t make it work both ways. You’ve got a wide chasm the pixie could double-move over without a problem? Maybe that chasm has tricky wind currents that would count as difficult terrain for a flying creature. It challenges the players to think outside the “fly wherever” box, and I’d applaud my DM for factoring in such a thing even while cursing his existence for “crippling” my character (quote marks for silly, emotional overstatement).

38 brc December 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm

From the compendium entry on Altitude Limit:

If a creature has a specified altitude limit, the creature crashes at the end of its turn if it is flying higher than that limit. See also fly speed.
Published in Monster Manual 2, page(s) 216, Player’s Handbook 3, page(s) 220.

Now I have to run, my Armor Class is starting in 5 minutes.

39 Thoth December 9, 2011 at 5:22 am

Oh no – Pixies can easily bypass moderate pits and cliffs!

Why is this an issue? Eladrin or Shadar-kai can just as easily bypass similar obstacles without breaking a sweat… and Thri-kreen, and Monks… and anyone with a decent strength score and training in Athletics.

Pits and cliffs are neither interesting nor heroic challenges. Throw in other complications at the same time – like trying to navigate the party up that cliff while a dozen archers snipe at you – and it becomes heroic and interesting. In a situation like that, the Pixie can zip up the cliff (and possibly Pixie Dust one ally up as well), and they are rewarded for their ‘cool trick’. This is no different from the Changeling being rewarded for their cool trick by impersonating a local political figure in order to foil an assassination attempt, or the Eladrin being rewarded for their cool trick by being able to teleport through the bars of the party’s jail cell in order to free the group and begin a daring prison break.

For many races, their cool trick is a more constant advantage, something that is almost assured to come up every encounter (Heroic Effort, Elven Accuracy, etc.), for others, it will be ‘neat’ most of the time, and have a really cool / fun impact sometimes (flight, teleportation, telepathy, extra skills, trance, undead, living construct, etc.). Is flight a powerful bonus feature? yes. Is flight more powerful than other racial bonuses? sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

After playing alongside 2 Pixies in 2 different games so far (both games in early-mid heroic) I can say without any reservation that their innate flight speed hasn’t proven to be more (or less) ‘powerful’ than any of the other racial features the other PCs have.

40 CraziFuzzy July 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Honestly, I don’t think the flying is the major problem here, I think it’s that the disadvantages tiny creatures are supposed to have, pixies do not. A shrunken long sword should NOT do the same damage as a normal long sword. It just physically doesn’t make sense. A pixie character can effectily do everything another race can, PLUS fly. The reach of 1, the lack of a strength penalty (well, aside from the strength check penalty for breaking objects) etc, all ruin the flavor of the character, and that is what makes them inappropriate.

41 CraziFuzzy July 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Of course, I’m also of the opinion that Pixies should permanently glow… meaning a penalty to hide checks.. :-)

42 FlyingIsFunForAll August 15, 2012 at 4:23 am

Wow.

I’m a DM back in 3.5, and I gave a Warforged Artificer player the ability to fly with his own crafted Mithril Wings, a nerfed version of an artifact in the campaign setting.

We knew in advance that we would then make Flying Carpets and Wings of Flying for the other players – we can’t have anyone being left behind like that in the aerial battles. You know, the aerial battles that make those wings worthwhile, fun, useable, but basically essential?

Hover is a feat in 3.5, (but spending a different feat on better flying maneuverabiltiy to get Perfect Maneuverability would negate that premise!) And he spent a fortune on the materials alone. And his entire crafting pool.

He wanted to do this from the moment he created that character! It took a **long time** to reasonably adjust the campaign to accomodate this new dynamic. Outside of the campaign itself, we rigged up systems with string and coins to denote depth and height for the minis!

He was waiting patiently for level 20, but escaping bombardment from a heavily armed airship didn’t work out well without that when they were all level 13. Another character (who was uninformed of this plan) developed a “White Whale” complex towards the thing, vows and all which would nerf his character if something wasn’t done. Several levels too early, but we’re adjusting.

It would have been easier with a Virtual Tabletop that could accomodate flying out in the open sky, but those still don’t seem to exist yet. We may have to remedy this.

The results? Holy cow I’ve got some creative players! We’re in less dungeons, but fighting more dragons ;) Dungeons are great for variety now, with given incentive to motivate the players and their characters.

It is a challenge to do right, but we’re enjoying the literal new dimension.

Now, I need to figure out a way to justify in game how to keep that same PC from retrofitting that same airship into his personal humunculus. I made the mistake of considering the thought of a humunculus, living construct vehicle, and a few design choices for asthetics are being turned into very convincing arguments for such. We’ve already done the research on how to conduct ship battles, and they don’t know about the even bigger ships I’ve got coming for them!

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