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Dungeons and Dragons 30-day challenge

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I’m sure most of you will have seen these challenges around.  Where you have a question a day on your views on a certain topic you need to answer for 30 days. So me and a friend decide to do one in tandem.  Only we ended up choosing different topics!  And I thought I’d share mine here just for the fun of it, even if no one is interested.

At first I thought it would be easy to do, as I’ve been role playing for a long time now (even if my gaming is in something of a drought right now).  But on the other hand, this is a DnD specific challenge, and I haven’t played as much DnD compared to other games.  For fantasy I’ve mostly played in Iron Heroes games (sorta a low magic, somewhat more gritty variant of DnD) and in the DM chair it was almost exclusively Mutants and Masterminds (I had a very long running superhero campaign world).  But nevertheless, DnD does hold a place in my heart, so lets get to it.

 

Day 1 – How you got started

The short version is pretty simple.  There was a role-playing society at university, so I signed up for it, enjoyed the taster session, and then joined the DnD beginners’ game that started up.

Of course, that raises the point of how did I know to look for a role-playing society in the first place.  Well for that, I know about DnD from the original Baldur’s Gate game, which I got shortly after getting my first computer.  (Never finished it though!)  And the manual does make it clear that it is based on the DnD pen-and-paper game.  And so, when I reached Uni, I sought out a role-playing group and thankfully found one.  And I’ve been gaming since.

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Day 2 – Favourite Playable Race?

This one is easy for me; Half-Elves.

I’ve always liked Elves since reading Lord of the Rings waaaaaaay back.  There is always a sense of mystery and etherealness about them, as well as their natural grace and skill. BUT, most Elves often have a sense of aloofness and arrogance about them.  Which is why I prefer the Half-Elf over them.  You still have some of this almost other-worldly feel, but they are somewhat more grounded than your regular Elves.

There is also the fact they have the whole ‘a foot in two different worlds but belonging to neither’ aspect.  Anyone who is a fan of Star Trek’s Mr Spock should recognize that trait.  Do they try to fit in one society or the other?  Do they try to live up to both?  Do they reject one or both of their heritages?  There is a lot of character potential there, as well as plenty reasons why a Half-Elf might take to adventuring.  Being the permanent outcast, they are suited to being a wonderer on the road, or trying to prove themselves.

Mechanics wise, Half-Elves have historically been somewhat underwhelming, though that never stopped me from playing one.  But in the current 5th Edition they are arguably one of the stronger races, especially for any Charisma based character.

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Day 3 – Favourite Playable Class?



For me, it’s the class that seems to have the most inbuilt potential for character and stories.  The Warlock, 5th Edition version.



What makes the Warlock different is unlike the Wizard, who studies magic, or the Sorcerer, who is born with magical talent, the Warlock has gone to some powerful entity and struck a Pact with it for power.  Usually a case of ‘I’ll serve you for power’, but not necessarily. 



And this is where the potential comes in.  The powerful Patron as they’re known can be anything from a devious Fiend who has tricked some mortal for their soul, to an unknowable old god so unlike a mortal the mere sight of it would drive the mind to madness.  And yet, they will be a force in the game, who may require the Warlock to perform actions for them.



But even if they require the Warlock to serve them, that doesn’t mean the Warlock necessarily made a ‘I will serve you for power’ deal.  Maybe they were dying or about to die, and something made them an offer.  Maybe they found some ancient artefact or dusty tome and got more than they bargained for. 



Then there is the question of how the Warlock feels about their Patron.  Do they serve willingly?  Do they try to resist?  Are they plotting to somehow overcome them?



The Patron and the Pact offer so many potential plot threads for any DnD game, which is why I love the Warlock class as both a player and Dungeon Master

Mechanically however, Warlock is maybe… a little lacking.  It does have a bad rep in some circles, and I think there are two reasons for that.



1) People assume the Warlock is a magic caster style class, like the Wizard or the Sorcerer.  But the Warlock is more like a magical warrior in its style.  Because they have limited spells, a Warlock will rely mostly on a single cantrip (very basic spell), usually the excellent Eldritch Blast, or a summonable weapon if they have chosen the Pact of the Blade ability.  Their spells are more for situational use, than something to spam in combat.

2) Unlike other classes, Warlocks really only have two easy builds.  The cantrip caster, or the Pact of the Blade melee fighter.  All their different class options, while cool, don’t fundamentally change how the Warlock plays.  They just give it slight, though flavourful, tweaks.  That means that one Warlock can be very, very similar to each other in how they play, far moreso than say two Fighters or two Wizards.

Having said that, despite the limitations, Warlock is still a fun class, as long as you don’t mind casting Eldritch Blast a lot.  But then, that’s like asking the Barbarian if he ever gets bored swinging his axe! ;)

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Skye’s Dungeons and Dragons 30-day challenge

Day 4 – Favourite Gameworld?

This is a tricky one.  Not because I have trouble deciding between the different official DnD settings, but because almost all the games I have played and run have been in Homebrew settings.

If I have to choose an official one, I guess it has to be Forgotten Realms, which could be considered the ‘default’ setting of DnD, simply because it’s the only one I’ve actually gamed in or know anything about.  Though I do have some issues with parts of it, including with how much the idea Good and Evil is determined by your physical race.  Though, from the little I have gleaned from settings like Eberron and Ravnica those do sound like I may prefer them.

On the other hand, if I can chose one of my Homebrew settings, then it would be the land of Caladain.  A large continent which is mostly the ‘standard fantasy setting’, but with some tweaks on the races, and a different mythology to normal DnD, where the Sleeping Gods created the world but left it empty while they slept, only for their dreams to take form as the first Dragons, who in turn created the sentient races.  There is also a chunk of Steampunk, and a little smattering of Technomagic, added to the mix as well.  If you want to read more, there’s a background document here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TwcYTpe6pvf3U72BBaghuxkRhytpFngwODZJnzYINtM/edit?usp=sharing

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Skye’s Dungeons and Dragons 30-day challenge

Day 5 – Favourite set of dice or individual die

Just a single d20 for me.  It’s a pretty normal one, with a deep blue and a silver marbling effect.  But the reason I like this is it just rolls well.  Not crazy well, like 20’s all the time, be generally rolls above ten and hasn’t let me down on crucial rolls.

Needless to say, I don’t use this die when DMing!

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Day 6 – Favourite Deity?

 

I… can’t answer this.  I don’t have one.  I don’t really get involved with the deity side of things when I play DnD (yeah, I’ve never played a Cleric) so I know next to little about them.  Even less than the official game worlds that we talked about before.

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Day 7 – Favourite Edition?

Out of the three editions I’ve played, I would say 5th Edition.  But it’s hard to explain why without referencing the other two.

For 3.5 there is a huge amount of customisation you can do with your character.  There are hundreds of options.  The downside; there are hundreds of options. They can be very overwhelming for a new player, and there are so many complex rules on top of that.  Plus, it is very easy, due to all these options, for there to be a massive power disparity between characters.

 

4th Edition does two things really well.  It is a solid tabletop tactical fantasy game.  And it is very easy system to learn and play, making it a good gateway TTRPG.  However, for anything else, 4th Ed is very poor.  There is little to know character customisation, and even all the different classes feel very similar to each other, as all follow the same exact rules.

 

And this is where 5th Edition comes in.  It hits a nice middle ground between the two.  Simples to learn like 4th but does more than just table tactical combat.  More customisation that 4th Ed, but not as much to be overwhelming, or accidentally leading to bad builds as 3.5.  It is a very decent, solid system that isn’t intimidating to newcomers and still allows for many different characters.

 

On a side note, an amendium on the Day 4 question – Favourite Gameworld.  Since writing that I’ve got my hands on the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica sourcebook.  And I really like this setting.  It’s sort of a fantasy version of the sci-fi planet wide city, which is an interesting concept,  and the 10 Guilds in charge of the city offer many different story possibilities.  Plus, one of those guilds is pretty much a Technomagic guild, so that’s an automatic bonus for me.

I’m not sure I’d want to spend every DnD game in Ravnica, but it’s certainly a setting I’d love to explore at somepoint.

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Day 8 – Favourite Character you have played?

 

Oh, this is where I wish the challenge wasn’t DnD only.  Most of my DnD games as a player were when I was starting out, so my characters were kinda terrible.  After that, I tended to play in different systems.  I’ve only recently come back to DnD, and then as a DM rather than a player.

 

However, for DnD, my favourite character would be Nurik Stouthammer, a Dwarven Fighter.  (Some people reading this may recognize the name!)  This was a character I made back when 4th Edition just came out, and the group I was with was giving it a go for the first time.  I wasn’t sure if I could make it at first, and the plan was to have a mix of characters and races, to try all the different options out.  As I was late, most of my usual picks were gone.  So for a change of pace I went for the Dwarf.  And had a blast playing him.  Nurik’s attitude could best be summed up by, after being the only member of the party to pass a fear check save “What are you all worried about? It’s just a dragon!”

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Day 8 – Favourite Character you haven’t played?

 

Given a later question is ‘the character you want to play’ I’m assuming this question means ‘Another player’s Player Character’.

 

In this case, it is Maybelline, the strikingly handsome, fashion obsessed half-orc barbarian.  (Because he’s worth it!)  He is liable to given the opponents he fights advice on their fashion.  Right before going into a mad rage and cleaving them in twain.  This is coupled with a low intelligence, which means he’s speech is something like “Me need to go shopping!  Me know shop with seasons fashions!”

 

One of the reasons that Maybelline works well, and doesn’t overstay his welcome, is how often the game is run.  Week after week, Maybelline might overstay his welcome.  But the game is only run when me and my University friends all meet up, which is 2 or 3 times a year.  Which keeps him fresh and fun!

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Day 10 – Craziest thing that happened that you saw?

 

This is gonna call back to my Day 4 question about my setting of Caladain, and also yesterday’s question about the character of Maybelline, as it’s the same game.

 

As I mentioned before, this setting contains some elements of Magi-tech, and an antagonist in this story-arc had created magical drones.  As in the modern term.  Flying machines with camera’s attached, which could also turn (almost) invisible and silent.  However, their power-source contained an unstable magical component called ‘Nitro-magyceine’ (named by my players!) which meant that when destroyed, the drones would explode in a fiery explosion.

 

At one stage, searching for a runaway girl in the poor district of the city of Lanton, the party detected a drone, and so promptly shot it out of the air causing it to explode.  Right above the wooden buildings with wooden, and in some cases thatched, roofs.  The only thing that stopped it from becoming the Great Fire of Lanton was the Druid quickly making it rain before the authorities arrived to deal with the fire, as our heroes exited stage left.  And before you ask, yes, they knew that the drones exploded before this happened.

 

But that wasn’t the end of their popping of drones.  They had managed to capture one intact, and the Kobold tinkerer of the party managed to reprogram it to try and track down it’s controller.  So they tied a rope to it and let Maybelline hold onto it like a crazy balloon.  All went well, until they reached their destination.  At which point, Maybelline took the drone into his hands, asking if they were done with it.  Given the answer of yes, he proceeded to crush it with his bare hands.

BOOM!

Thankfully, he survived, and the altered guards were convinced that the explosion was caused by some wizard sending an unstable package to be delivered.

 

And as one extra silly thing, for the same game but an earlier story.  Looking through the monster manual as I planned the session, due to skimming through and speed reading I misread one of the entries at the back as ‘Saber-Toothed Horse’.  After a WTF moment I explained to my friends what I’d been confused by, to some amusement.  But then I thought, as this adventure was dealing with the Fey and some weirdness and oddities, a Saber-Tooth Horse would fit right in.  So yep, the party did indeed engage in a fight with a man-eating Saber-Tooth Horse.

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Day 11 – Favourite Adventure you have run?

 

Hmm, another question I can’t really answer.  At least for DnD.  I’ve only run two DnD campaigns, and both of those are not only still ongoing, but in their early stages.

 

If I’m allowed to expand outside of DnD, then it would be Project Angel, my long running superhero campaign.  There were three main campaigns in the game-world, one that was inspired by The Incredibles/Watchmen, one that was more low powered, more about conspiracies, and the last was more classic style super-heroic with magic and time-travel thrown in.  There were also some short mini-campaigns, and the whole storyline concluded with a massive final game with around a dozen players.  Not a number of players I’d normally run for, but it was fitting for this finale.

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Huh.... day 12 wasn't posted.... wierd!  So double bill!
 

Day 12 – Favourite Dungeon Type?

 

Ice!  First, I just really like how ice can look, from simple icy caves, to elaborate structures created from ice.  And then you can have lots of interesting (and fun for the GM) environmental effects.  Finally, it can be fun to come up with ice based variants of monsters to use.

Just be careful if your arcane spellcasters have a fondness for fire magic.
 

 

Day 13 – Favourite Puzzle or Trap?

And we’re back! 

So, this is going to be a little bit of an odd answer.  Rather than a typical ‘do X or Y to open the door’, the puzzles I prefer are the ‘working out what happened’ style of puzzles.  Not necessarily an investigation, just subtle clues around that explain, if you look for them and work things out, what happened to, say, cause the castle to now be a haunt of the undead or somesuch.  And of course, finding these clues could make certain elements of the adventure easier as it continues.

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Day 14 – Favourite NPC?

Gonna cheat a little with this one.  Because my favourite NPC is… *drumroll* Deekin from Neverwinter Nights.

Doom doom doom doom doom doom!

This cute little kobold is a loyal companion to you, dedicated to charting the grand adventure he has no doubt the two of you will have.  He will follow you through the Nine Hells, all the while singing his little Doom song!

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Day 15 – Favourite Monster: Undead?

When I first looked at this question my first thought was some of the higher level undead, such as the various flavours of Liches.  But after a bit of thought, I went in the other direction.  The humble Skeleton.

Like the Zombie, Skeletons have the whole unnatural undead element of something walking around that shouldn’t be, and being face to face with mortality.  They can do most things Zombies can, from hordes to bursting from the ground.

But what I like about Skeletons is their flexibility.  Now, Zombies have this two, but in a different way.  It’s easy to make different types of Zombie.  But for Skeletons, their flexibility is how they are used.  Are they slow, shambling undead?  Are they eternal and loyal guardians of some sacred or unholy place?  Are they a regimented army?  All of these can fit Skeletons no problem.  Heck, if you want to repeat the scene in The Phantom Menace of the mass droid activation and advance, but don’t want to use constructs as that would be too obvious, again, Skeletons can fit in as a metaphor for it perfectly.

They don’t even need to be mindless.  They might retain some or all of the person they were.  Something you don’t usually get with your average Zombie.

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Day 16 – Favourite Monster: Aberration?

Sometimes, you just want to send a Dalek against your players.

An insane, evil genius, convinced it is superior to all others, compelled to destroy or dominate all those it sees as inferior, armed to the teeth with long range energy blasts.

Step (or rather float) forward the Beholder.  A large, floating head with a single eye in the center, and several eyestalks.  Each of these eyestalks, as well as allowing the Beholder to see, can fire a different type of blast, from a fear ray, to turning living flesh to stone, to outright disintegration.  And the main eye, on top of that, can shut down all magic in a wide area.  And to that it can fly, and half the challenge is just reaching it, when you have no magic to help you.

While I have never faced, or used, a Beholder, I certainly hope to someday.  They are an iconic part of DnD.

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Day 17 – Favourite Monster: Beast?

Sorry for the delay with this.  I’ve been pretty busy the past few evenings (ironically part of that business being DnD related) and also, I got muddled up with the days, and was kind stuck on the next question, forgetting about this one.

But yes, favourite beast.  Wolves!  C’mon!  Wolves are awesome! ;)  Do I really need to say more?  Though the only reason I’m not saying Winter Wolf (i.e. large wolf with ice powers) is because alas they are classed as a monster rather than animal!

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Day 18 – Favourite Monster: Outsider (Celestial, Fiend, etc)?

I had difficulty with this one.  Demons, Devils and Angels are just…. Not that interesting to me.  I don’t dislike them, and I know they have potential.  But most of the time, I won’t use them unless there is a very good reason to do so.  And of course, if they would tie in with the players, such as a Tiefling or a Fiend Pact Warlock I won’t hold back.  But in general, not my cup of tea.

But flicking through the Monster Manual I saw that Night Hags are classed as Fiends.  So this gives me an excuse to talk about Hags, even of the rest of them are actually Fey.

So, Hags.  Hags add an almost fairy-tale element to DnD, being the creepy old witch woman in the forest.  Most are pure evil, wanting to inflict misery on others, but also enjoy bargaining, making them more than just a monster to fight.  Their powers reflect this.  They’re not designed for a stand-up fight, but for tricking and deceiving adventures who might seek to stop them.  They make great villains who might not necessarily be directly opposed to the part.

Night Hags in particular (to bring this back to the Fiends question) can mess with others dreams, weakening them, causing them to commit evil deeps, and possibly even killing them from lack of sleep.  All to capture the person’s soul for their own use. This makes them both creepy, and very hard to track down.

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Day 19 – Favourite Monster: Elemental/Plant?


I was gonna say Genie at first, for the whole ‘corrupt a player’s wish’ thing, but that’s really not in the spirt of the question.  Then it was the simple Water Elemental, because water/ice is my favourite element.  But then, in Ravnica, we have the Galvanice Weird.  An artificially created ice elemental, powered but lightning energy inside it.  It looks cool, it’s perfect mad magic, it’s not that high a CR so you can throw them at low level parties, and for added fun they explode when you kill them!

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Day 20 – Favourite Monster: Humanoid/Fey/Other?

Hmmm… Well I plan to save my actual favourite monster in this category for the ‘Favourite Monster Overall’ question, and I talked about Hags before, so…

Werewolves!

I like wolves, I like transformations, so combine the two is fun for me.  Having said that, I don’t like how werewolves are always evil.  I can understand for the unknowing werewolf who involuntary transforms, but once they have control of it, or are born to it, why need they be evil?  Poor wolves have such an unfortunate rep being cast as evil all the time.  And if you have a setting where wolves are evil but foxes are good (looking at you Narnia) that is utter bull*bleep*!

Anyway, back to werewolves.  Like many of my favourites, there are lots of ways you can use them.  There is the classic curse of lycanthropy, the feral tribe of shapeshifters, the hidden group wo enjoy their blessings, a group of noble warriors using it to protect the weak.  Or even mixing up the different versions.

And don’t forget to howl at the moon!

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Day 21 – Favourite Dragon colour or type?

I mentioned by in the undead question about Liches.  Specifically, what I had in mind was the Dracolich.  C’mon, a crazy powerful skeletal dragon with extra magic!

Butttttt…. In the same way it missed out on the slot there, as I thought more, again, the poor Dracolich was pipped at the post by another.

The Psudodragon.  As the name implies, it’s not a true dragon.  Though from all appearances it is one, aside from one detail.  It is the size of (and has the personality of) a housecat.  C’mon, a tiny, cute dragon you can keep as a pet!  Adorable!  It’s just a shame only certain Warlocks can get them as familiars in 5th Ed Dnd unless your GM is kind.

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Day 22 – Favourite Monster Overall?

KOBOLDS!  Kobolds Kobolds Kobolds!  I just love these cute little draconic beasties.

Those of you who remember my answer to favourite NPC probably saw this coming.  But yes, Neverwinter Nights is the reason I started loving these little guys so much.  Mainly for both their cunning and comedic effects.

Now individually, a little Kobold is no match for even the most green adventurer.  And skilled adventures laugh at them.  Thing is, if you play Kobold right, they shouldn’t.  Mazes, traps, dirty tactics, jars of rot grubs falling on players.  All these things are Kobold standard tactics.  So if your players don’t take a Kobold threat seriously, you can teach even a skilled party to be very wary of the little buggers!

That’s cunning, and then you have comedic.  Because of their traps, their cowardly personality, and just the way they talk and yip, Kobold are rife for anything from actual slapstick to very dark humour.  You can play them seriously of course, but I feel they work best as an almost comic relief race.  Even in a serious campaign, just a little silliness can help left the bleak mood for a little while.

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Day 23 – Least Favourite Monster?

Hmm, this was a tricky one.  Sure, I’ve monsters I’m not so keen on.  But nothing really sprung to mind that I’d go ‘Oh no!  Not THAT!’  After some more pondering, I thought that what I really hate in DnD is ‘Save or Die’ effects.  Cause just one bad dice roll and you go from 110% to dead beyond recovery.  Looking at you in particular, you basilisk hiding at the top of the tower in Baldur’s Gate.  (For context, Baldur’s Gate does have Save or Die monsters, such as the Basilisk that turns you to stone.  But, there are several ways to come back from the dead.  EXCEPT for the main character, who if they die, game over.  So… Instant death effects, coupled with a game over condition = not fun.  And to make it worse, there are even some conversations that can instant kill a character.  I lost an hour of play cause I didn’t except to instant die talking to someone.)

Sooooo…. In that vein…. I can’t remember this monster’s name.  But it was from 3.5, one of the supplemental Monster Manuals.  An undead creature that had died by drowning.  I remember the last part because it had an Aura of Drowning.  Fail one save, massive penalties.  Fail two saves, unconscious.  Fail three, instant death.  This this almost wiped the whole party, and it wasn’t a fun fight at all.

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Day 24 – Favourite Energy Type?

Pretty easy one this time, and some of you who remember earlier question may see this coming, but Cold!  Sure, it’s pretty common and easily resisted, but thematically is a, excuse the pun, really cool energy type.  And it covers the whole range from Water to Snow to Ice and many other things.  And there is a lot you can do with it beyond just damage.

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Day 25 – Favourite Magic Item?

We’re going back to Ravnica for this one.

Now, most of the DnD game#s haven’t been that magic item heavy, so in some ways it’s like asking a player who only every plays Barbarians ‘what is your faviourate spell?’.  But I’ve read though enough books to have some ideas, and from Ravnica, there’s the perfect item for me.  Mizzium Aperatus.

A Mizzum Apperatus is a crazy mismatch of magic-tech that a magical character can wear, and use to cast spells.  What makes it so much fun is that you can use it to try and cast a spell you don’t actually know.  But, you have to pass a check, or you cast a random spell.  Crazy magical fun all round.  Now if only there was also a way to tie it into the Wild Surge table! ;)

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Day 26 – Favourite Non-Magical Item?

 

I expect the idea here is to answer with something practical and flexible, like a rope, or a bag of marbles or something.  But for me, it’s a weapon, the elegant Rapier.

 

Partially, it’s because it’s a weapon very similar to the one used in fencing, a sport I used to do when I was younger.  And partially because it’s a finesse weapon, so you can use your Dexterity instead of your Strength when wielding it.  As it stands, it’s the most damaging of all the finesse weapons.

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