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Background

In a campaign I'm DMing, I like to give special treats to each character, often after a spectacular feat they managed to pull; as a result of this, the Warlord has a talking demonslayer sword, the Swordmage is able to use Arcana check to unlock some locks, etc. Weapons and "skill" powers of the like are easy enough to balance.

However, Argawaen the Rogue is giving me trouble. I initially wanted to give him a magical dagger, but he's already on a personal quest to get a very specific weapon to kill a very specific foe. And that's fine with me; if anything, his current weapon of choice is good enough to get by for now. And I can't really give him magical items either; the guy's already stuffed with magical items he's been stealing everywhere.

So, because of how stealthy he's been throughout the campaign I turned to my next choice: custom powers.

Which brings me to Shadow Skip. The ability to travel through shadows. With Shadow Step (Dragon Magazine #379) as a better starting point. I've talked to the player about it, and he likes the idea about as much as I do, but he also has the same concerns as I do. Basically it would be something like this:

Shadow Skip (temp.) -- Argawaen Power 11

You step into the shadows, only to reappear out of them, somewhere else.

At-Will ✦ Martial

Move Action -- Personal

Effect: You must start your move in a shadowed square. You can move your speed. You must end your movement on a shadowed square. You ignore obstacles on your movement, as long as you have a line of sight with the destination from the start. You are hidden during the movement. At the end of that movement, you can use a Stealth check. If you make the Stealth check, you remain hidden after your movement.

Problem is, it brings a couple questions.

  • Is that balanced enough? (I want it to be better than normal powers, but not game-breaking)
  • How to determine what is a valid "shadowed square"? Does "dimly lit area" do it?

Additional info:

  • Party average level is around 10-11. I plan to "unlock" that power when Argawaen hits 11, the Paragon tier (might be happening next session).
  • It's a high-magic heroic setting, with occasional over-the-top situations.
  • Although most of the party has low-light vision (including Argawaen), they tend to avoid fighting at night. Besides, most of the adventure happens out in the open; caves and abandoned dungeons are rare, but they still go through one every now and then.
  • I trust the player to use that power in the most creative ways possible, and I'm more than okay with it (e.g. I would accept it if they use a torch to cast a shadow of a pillar across the corridor and use it to get behind the enemy).
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Simple Version

Shadow Slip -- Argawaen Power 11

You step into the shadows, only to reappear out of them, somewhere else.

At-Will ✦ Shadow, Teleportation

Move Action -- Personal

Requirement: You must be in a square of darkness.
Effect: You can teleport your speed to another square of darkness. If you were hidden when you began, you may make a Stealth check to remain hidden.

I like 'slip' for teleporting. It also evokes sneakiness. 'Skip' works too.

The shift in your example power ignores obstacles, only requires line of sight, and doesn't stop you from being hidden regardless of concealment. This might as well be a teleport, and is simpler that way. A teleport from shadow to shadow seems pretty clearly magical in nature, and the power source for this is usually Shadow.

Restricted Version

I have one big problem with this power as it stands: it only requires darkness, not shadows. If it's dark everywhere, then your player can now teleport their speed as an at-will move action, without restriction. I would make two small changes to fix this:

Shadow Slip -- Argawaen Power 11

You step into the shadows, only to reappear out of them, somewhere else.

At-Will ✦ Shadow, Teleportation

Move Action -- Personal

Requirement: You must be in a square of darkness and within 5 squares of dim or bright light.
Effect: You can teleport your speed to another square of darkness that is within 5 squares of dim or bright light. If you were hidden when you began, you may make a Stealth check to remain hidden.

Now the player must be in darkness that is near light, indicating that something is blocking the light. In other words, they must be in a shadow.

Possible Tweaks

Distance

You might not let them move their full speed. Perhaps make it a smaller number, like 4, or based on one of their attributes, like WIS + 2.

Dexterity is often used for rogue/assassin like powers like this, charisma is often a secondary attribute used instead of the primary attribute, and wisdom and intelligence often control teleportation.

Light Range

You could change the required range for dim or bright light. Make it smaller to more strongly enforce the idea of a shadow. It might even make sense to require that the square be adjacent to brighter light.

Or you could flip it, if you want to enforce the flavor of teleporting through darkness, rather than between shadows. Require that the player be at least a certain number of squares from dim or bright light.

This range could also be based on one of the character's attributes.

Shift

If you want, you could make it a shift rather than a teleport. This would have different synergies. Keep in mind that losing concealment during a shift makes you stop being hidden, unless the power says otherwise.


Rules Note: You can normally make a Stealth check after every move, whether the power says so or not (assuming you have sufficient concealment). However, you cannot normally become hidden again with the same action that made you stop being hidden. The clause at the end of this power's effect allows one to make a Stealth check at the end of the move even if they were hidden to being with.

Cautionary Note: Regardless of which version of this power you use, you may find yourself needing to pay more attention to lighting than you were previously. Make sure you know how each battlefield is lit, and where all the light sources are. If your players already have powers that take darkness into account, than this shouldn't be a problem.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty complete answer! Something interesting to note, actually; just earlier I came across the Ring of Shadow Travel in AV1. Just found it interesting. Anyway I'll be accepting the answer now; thanks for the many options! \$\endgroup\$ – Linkyu May 26 '15 at 9:06
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Looking at the rogue's handbook, the level 10 utility "Shadow Stride" (which your power's text seems to be inspired from) is rated meh:

Shadow Stride (PHB) - A decent upgrade for Fleeting Ghost for out-of-combat situations (lets you get through lighting without getting seen), except if you're a Cunning Sneak. For them, this is as obsolete as its predecessor.

The power, as written, isn't something I'd turn down as a free power, but it'd go into the "meh" pile with the other forgotten item based utilities save for out of combat shenanigans.

The alternative reward magic items, boons, are much better for this sort of reward purpose. They last about 5 levels and tend to be useful without being character altering. I'd recommend giving him "The fading one - spirit body", which in the same vein allows for uncommon access, but this grants insubstantial and phasing with the use of an action point -- allowing all sorts of shenanigans without the need for the complex and tedious phrasing in your power.

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