Friday, May 29, 2009

Cloakers Wild

I’ve tried to go through the Monster Manual and, over the course of the last several campaigns I’ve run, use every monster in it. Some of them are very dumb and will most likely not be used again, but others I’ve grown to love. One such beloved creature is the mysterious Cloaker. They sort of look like giant, flat bats and they live in caves and other underground locales. Unlike a lot of aberrations they are actually quite intelligent (Int 14 and Wis 15) and coupled with their abilities make some of the best sneak attacking monsters out there. Their physical attacks are nothing special (1d6+5) but they can wreak havoc on a party with effective use of their moans and engulf power. The moan can be used in several ways and affects an entire group. It can panic, weaken, and nauseate the opposition depending on which it feels like using. Also, different versions affect both Fort and Will saves so it can target various PC’s with effectiveness. For as great as the moan is, I think that engulf is even better. Cloakers tend to hang out in cave ceilings and then drop down on opponents, engulfing them with their billowy bodies. Once an opponent is engulfed, any damage done to the Cloaker is split between the Cloaker and the engulfed foe. Awesome. There is nothing like a PC having no choice but to injure their comrade to kill the monster. It also makes criticals rather bittersweet. They also have some minor illusion powers that make them even more ideal for setting traps.

I really get a kick out of the Cloaker description in the SRD. It mentions how they are almost impossible to distinguish from a common cloak, even the claws of the creature look like a cloak’s clasp. You know, the type of cloak that is frequently left hanging from the ceiling of a monster filled cave. I guess that Cloakers should starting hanging out in bars on the coat rack.

Adventure Hook: The PC’s have been hired to explore a cave complex on the outskirts of town. Growing deep in the cave is a strange, rare fungus that a wizard needs as a spell component. The wizard passes it off as a simple snatch and grab assignment, though the locals are well aware of the dangerous reputation that the caves have in the area. Rumors have grown over the years as to what exactly is in the caves, though no one seems to have a solid answer. In fact, a group was hired by the same wizard just the previous week to get the fungus and no one has seen them since.

While in the caves the PC’s enter into a large, cavernous room in the complex. Since they have entered into the caves they have periodically heard strange moans, some of which seem to be emanating from the room that they just entered. As they look around the room they see the body of an elf in tattered armor in the center of the chamber. As they near the center of the room the moan is heard again, this time right above them! As they suffer the effects of the horrid noise several large, batlike monsters fall down onto them, attempting to engulf them and extinguish their flames.

This is a pretty simple adventure hook, but there are a couple of things that I like about it. Any adventurers worth their weight in ten foot poles are going to try and find some info on the caves before going in, so through the use of some Gather Information or Knowledge (Local) they can learn about the reputation of the caves (of course there are going to be monsters in it, this is D&D after all) and about the missing adventurers. Whenever PC’s can use skills like that and get some actual information it makes them happy, so I like to make them dig a little and have some interactions rather than just have the local inn keeper freely dole out the information. Plus, if they have some idea of what is inside the cave it sort of makes the scene a bit more tense, rather than just unknown. If they score high successes on their checks they may even be rewarded with some specifics as to the type of creatures or the tactics that they use (“My uncle remembers those caves from when he was a kid…”).

The dead elf on the ground is actually a Silent Image created by one of the cloakers, but by planting the seed of some missing adventurers it makes it seem a bit more plausible that a corpse would just be lying there. Otherwise it just reeks of a trap. Of course, a Knowledge (Dungeoneering) check could identify the moaning and shed some more light on the capabilities of the cloaker, in which case the group will have a heads up on the trap.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


With all the talk of swine flu in the news recently I thought that it would be a good time to talk about Pandemic, the board game of infectious disease from Z-Man games. As members of the Atlanta based Center for Disease Control the players work together to prevent the spread of four different strains of a deadly virus that is threatening to annhilate the world’s population. I have to say that I think Pandemic is one of the best games out there. The mechanics of the game are creative and work great to create a tense, fun environment. It is also a quick game at about 45 minutes, though it can also be much faster in a losing effort.

I sort of have a thing for maps, so I love the board because it is just a map of the world. The world is divided into four regions, each of which is inflicted with a strain of the virus that is threatening humanity. The map looks nice, even though it does not have a ton of detail on it. And I’m sort of bummed that Philadelphia is not one of the cities featured, but with New York and Washington already there it would be East Coast overload. Infections are marked with generic wood cubes and the player pawns look like they could be from any of a hundred games. The infection cubes in particular get a ton of use so I see why they are nothing ornate. Plus it keeps the cost of the game down, which is well worth it is my eyes. There are also two stacks of cards, the Player deck and the Infection deck, which are fine. The strength of this game is not the components, but rather the clever game play and mechanics.

One of the nice aspects of a cooperative game is that everyone can go home a winner. Or a loser as the case may be. This game gives no bragging rights. But it is a good change of pace for all involved to throw their lots in together and try to save the world. There are five roles in the game available to the players, each one assigned randomly at the start. Since the game is for 2-4 players there is always at least one role missing from the team, which can make things sort of tricky. Each role is useful, though some are certainly better than others. The Medic is almost a necessity to control the large outbreaks, and I feel that the Dispatcher brings a lot to the table by being able to move other players on their turn. Some of them are more or less useful depending on the number of players in the game but none are a total waste. But more than anything working together with the other players controls the fate of the game. If the team is not organized they don’t stand a chance.

At the start of the game nine cities have been infected with the virus that the CDC has been tasked with stopping. Cities are drawn from the Infection deck and then the card is discarded. Each turn a player draws two or more cards from that deck and more cities continue to get infected. With each new infection a single marker is placed on the disease ridden city. At that rate there would just be low level infections breaking out in cities all over the world and it would be relatively easy to contain. However, dispersed throughout the Player deck are Epidemic cards which really kick things up a notch. When an Epidemic card is drawn the bottom card from the Infection deck is given a high level infection (3 markers), but even worse is that the discard pile is reshuffled and placed on top of the draw pile, meaning that all the places that are already infected will get infected again in the coming rounds. When a fourth infection marker is placed on a city an outbreak occurs and things start to rapidly spin out of control as the neighboring cities all begin to accumulate markers and perhaps spawn outbreaks of their own. If enough outbreaks occur the players lose and the world is doomed. Losing also occurs if there are no more infection markers of a strain left to place, or if the players run out of cards to drawer from the Player deck. This game is not easy. The difficulty level can also be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of Epidemic cards in the deck.

On each player’s turn they have four action points to spend. They can be used to move around the board, charter flights to cities around the globe, reduce the infection level of the city they are in, and trade cards with other players. Cures for diseases are found when a player has five cards of a certain strain and gets to a research center. The game is won when all four diseases have a cure. The team does not have to administer the cure to each city, so it is possible to win when the board is still filled with diseases.

This game is a lot of fun. One aspect of the game that I really like a lot is how quickly it can turn sour for the players, it really keeps everyone on their toes. An Epidemic card at the wrong time, or a certain city drawn from the Infection deck can create havoc in a short period of time. To date we have not had a single game where the outcome was assured. By the last couple turns everyone is keeping their fingers crossed every time a card is drawn. It’s also interesting to play a game that takes place in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, I love games in outer space and ones that take place in far off lands and idyllic medieval universes, but the familiarity of the real world brings an element to the game that imparts some actual concern for the places that are being torn apart by an epidemic.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Abjurant Champion

A while back one of the player’s in our campaign was looking to make a character that was primarily a martial type, but could augment their fighting with some magical ability. She ultimately wound up settling on a Elven Hexblade (which turned out to be an awful choice), but looking back I think what she was sort of describing as wanting was the Abjurant Champion. The Abjurant Champion has to be one of the most powerful prestige classes in the game, it’s almost stupid how good it is. Not only does it have obscene amounts of power, but also really has no downside. It’s supposed to be a fighting type who has some magic to help out, but it really has so much more going for it. It’s the kind of character that, unless everyone else in the game also makes high powered characters, will completely outshine the rest of the party.

So why is this class so good? For starters it is extremely easy to get into. All it takes is a Base Attack of +5, 1st level of Arcane spells, Combat Casting, and proficiency with one martial weapon. The weapon proficiency is a throw away, one level of a whole bunch of classes will get that. Combat Casting is exactly the feat that this character should have, of course a character that casts spells in combat would have it. The base attack means that this character is going to be a semi accomplished warrior by the time they enter the class, it’s really the only thing that even remotely balances the class by delaying how long it takes to get into it. Many other prestige classes use bizarre requirements to get into them (like the Frenzied Berserker or Fochluchan Lyrist) in order to balance them out a bit. No such tactic with the Abjurant Champion. My personal favorite entrance is a Ranger 4/Wizard 2, but really a whole bunch of options can work. One of the few things that limits the class is that it only runs for five levels, so at some point the character will have to switch to a non Abjurant Champion class.

Once the character walks through the entrance door into the class they are literally showered with abilities, some of which are the better ones in the game. Full base attack and full spell casting progression are enough to carry most classes and are certainly the focal point of the Champion. In addition they get a d10 hit die and a good Will save. (By comparision the Eldritch Knight is much harder to get into, also has a full base attack, loses a level of spell casting, and has a d6 for hit die.) The abjurant armor ability helps shore up the biggest kink in the (non)armor of the class and it increases as they get better. Extended abjuration makes it even better.

Swift abjuration is totally out of control. Champions get it at 3rd level and it allows them to Quicken any abjuration at no additional level cost. Wow. One of the things about this ability that is really strange is that the maximum level spell that can be quickened is half the class level rounded up. Nothing in D&D is rounded up, numbers are always rounded down. It’s like they were rewriting the rules to make this class even better. As for the actual ability itself; quickened Dispel Magic during combat is pretty awesome. The low level abjuration spells as a whole are not the best options for quickened combat spells, but it is a real nice feature. And I’m sure that the non core books offer a bunch of nice spells for this ability. To balance the class a little bit it would make more sense if the class granted abjuration and one or two other schools, instead of all of them. Transformation would work great for this. How can a character find time to excel at fighting, spellcasting, and other handy tricks? Perhaps an Intelligence minimum to get into the class? 18? A really corny feat like Brachiation? Something?

It’s not so much that the class is just sheer power manifested into a D&D character, it’s that it is so much better than the characters that came before it that are supposed to do similar things. Though it makes a hell of an opponent.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hera and Zeus

The ages old clash of husband and wife takes on a much more lethal tone when the married couple are Zeus and Hera, gods in the pantheon of spiteful and vindictive behavior. The two are, once again, feuding and have taken hostages that are dear to one another. It’s quite a marriage that those two have. In Hera and Zeus each player assumes the role of one of the gods and attempts to liberate their hostage from the other, using the help of gods and monsters from Greek mythology. The card game is for two players and takes about 45 minutes to play.

Each player has a deck of cards that contains all of their allies in the battle, as well as the hostage that they have taken. Hera has taken Io, while Argus is imprisoned by Zeus. The game ends when the hostage is freed, or when either player is unable to use all of their action points in a given turn. Players put cards face down on the table and build columns and rows of their forces to oppose the enemy. Most cards have a number which represents their strength in combat, the higher the better. The mighty Poseidon battles at a 7, while an Amazon has a score of 2. Some cards contain the mythology symbol to indicate that they also have some sort of non combat power. Dionysus, Pandora, and Pythia are just a few of the gods that have thrown themselves into the fray. There are a lot of different cards that all have unique powers, fortunately the game comes with a little cheat sheet for each player to help keep track of what each one does. The cards are just okay. I am not a big fan of the art. Mythology is such a great subject for visual representation, but the illustrations here fall a little short in my opinion. Both Zeus and Hera are represented by small wooden tiles, instead of cards like every other character in the game. It seems pointless, especially since the tiles are not that nice. And if it was not for these tiles the entire game could fit into a small box for a deck of cards. But with the tiles the game instead requires slightly larger packaging, so it does not travel as well as a quick two player game should.

The game ultimately winds up as a battle of attrition since most cards are pretty vulnerable. A strong card like Artemis (6 strength) can be defeated by Medusa (0 strength). Medusa can not attack an opponent, but wins any combat in which she is attacked, unless she is attacked by an Amazon or a Hero (2 strength). Poseidon and Nemesis are vulnerable to Pythia. Even the normally unstoppable Hera and Zeus can be defeated by the Pegasus, it of the 1 strength. The result is a lot of back and forth, which is fun and keeps the game moving along. Just when I thought I had my opponent on the ropes I found myself scrambling for reinforcements. The strategy is both long term and short term. Sometimes it seems necessary to throw something down to plug a hole in your defenses, and at other times you are planning several turns ahead. It’s good.

The majority of the game is fun, but the ending lacks a bit. Rather than building to an exciting climax, it just sort of runs out. Or the ending comes out of nowhere, such as when Pegasus takes the hostage (Io or Argus) from the hand. With a little bit of luck it is easy to protect Io and Argus (the Pegasus card has the potential to end the game very quickly, but it takes some luck to accomplish) so the more likely ending occurs when a player is essentially cornered and unable to use their actions points. To me it is always better when a game ends upon a player’s actions, rather than another player’s inaction. It’s as if a player is losing the game, rather than a player winning the contest.

Unlike Age of Mythology, Zeus and Hera is a mythological game that is actually fun to play. It does a good job of incorporating mythology into game effects. Hades, lord of the dead, is able to bring a card back from the discard pile. The chaotic and unpredictable Dionysus is able to move cards around in the columns and rows (way better than it sounds). It is also a game that has a lot of replay value as repeated play sheds insight into strategy and planning, allowing players to grow into the game. It’s probably not the best two player game out there, but is still enjoyable.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miniature Golf at Franklin Square

Cris and I took advantage of the nice weather the other day and went over to Philadelphia’s Franklin Square to play a round of miniature golf. I had wanted to play there for a while, but this was the first time for both of us on the course. Half of the course’s 18 holes are Philadelphia themed, which was the real attraction for me. It’s mostly pretty standard fare; Liberty Bell, LOVE sculpture, and the Art Museum steps. I would like to have seen a couple more non traditional entries, maybe Eastern State Penitentiary or something in the Italian Market, but I can’t really argue with choosing the iconic selections since I presume the main audience for this is out of towners who wouldn’t pick up on lesser known locations. The cost is $8 for adults. I chose a green ball, Cris went with yellow.

We both agreed that the best hole was #2, Philly Music Legends. The hole itself is pretty straightforward, nothing other than a few curves and embankments and some records stuck into the turf. The goal is to hit the ball through the records. But the best part was when we walked up and some speakers began to play “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, getting us pumped up for our round of golf. Nothing like a little McFadden and Whitehead to get going. The Ben Franklin Bridge (Hole #7) was also a highlight of the course, and it’s kind of neat that the actual bridge is right behind you as you are putting your way through a miniature replica.

I was somewhat let down by Hole #16, Philadelphia Sports. No stadium replicas, no Mike Schmidt or Dr. J, really nothing other than little banners of all the local sport franchises. Kind of a let down, especially considering what a huge role these teams inhabit in the psyche of the average Philadelphian. I also had some issues with Hole #12, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The hole itself was fine, but I had a problem when I hit my ball up the ramp and into a chute and it never came out. I was then forced to stick my arm up a narrow PVC pipe and fish around for it. Not really a big deal, and it actually added an exciting element of danger to the course. That may be an exaggeration.

Miniature golf is what it is and the course at Franklin Square was fine for a leisurely 45 minutes of putt putt. I would recommend it to locals and tourists alike. I do hope that in the future they may update some of the course and get some new symbols of Philadelphia into the mix.


There is a great comic book store near my mother's house that also has an excellent selection of games. A lot of them I have never heard of, so whenever I am visiting I always try to pick up something new. I was up there over the weekend and I decided to pick up Murdero, a rummy based mystery card game. Murdero takes places in (what I presume to be) 1940's era Hollywood and players play the role of detectives trying to solve a murder in one of three areas; movies, politics, and the mafia. It is for 2-4 players and plays as a rummy style game, with runs representing the progress of the case. A hand ends when one player has all five steps in their Case. Score and repeat.

First off, I do not understand the name of the game at all. Why isn't it just called Murder? What's this Murdero thing? Why is there an O at the end of it? The weirdness of the name is easy to get past since the cards themselves look so nice. The cards all feature photographs that appear to be from the era (note: we had a discussion while playing about the authenticity of the photos. We all agreed that they don't look quite right, but we also thought that the game probably did not have the budget to stage all of the photo ops. Afterwards I checked the rules and it indicates that the pictures are from 2007.) The cards are a little on the thin side so I'm not sure how they will handle repeated shuffling, but they are fine. Each card also had a quote that adds some flavor to the picture. I like it. My favorite card is Louis Petrovsky, an unfortunate victim of the world of organized crime. Everything comes in a tidy little box, making it great for traveling.

The rules are really simple and honestly take moments to grasp. The winner is the first to a hundred points and that should take about 6 hands or so to reach. It plays fast, but the game has huge issues with the balance and distribution of cards. The biggest issue seems to be that the deck only has 60 cards in it. In a four player game that is about 15 cards a player, making it really hard to solve a case since there are only three cards that are murder weapons, which is the final card needed to solve the case. Additionally, there are several ways for another player to remove a card and take it out of play. It just doesn't add up. In the majority of the games that we played the case file (the draw deck) ran out before anyone solved a case. It happened with enough regularity to make me think that it is a fairly common occurrence, yet the rules do not address what to do when this happens, which sort of left us scratching our heads and making up some rules on the fly. The tricky part is that each turn a player has the option of picking from the case file or the discard pile, so once the case file is dead, does the game end or can players keep drawing discards? I have some doubts about the playtesting for Murdero, there just seems to be some fundamental flaws in it as a four player game. Perhaps I was just under the impression that most hands would end with a completed case, and this assumption was wrong. I don't know.

There are also Action Cards that mix up a lot of the rules and add a random and strategic element to the game. Like a lot of rummy games, card farming is at a premium, which makes a card like Overtime (draw three cards from the case file) really good. A card like The Don's Alibi (a player can't win by closing out the mafia case) is not that useful since most hands are not ending with a completed case anyway. Shakedown, look at another player's hand and take one card, might be the most powerful of them all.

Despite the issues and strange name, Murdero is a fun game with a lot of personality. We all liked playing it. It is probably better off as a two or three player game, which I am looking forward to trying.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Hungry Backpack; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Resource Denial

While playing Munchkin the other night I had the rare pleasure of using the Hungry Backpack against another player. The Backpack is what I consider to be one of the real power cards in the game. For those not in the know, the Backpack essentially devours the hand of the soul unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of the curse. At the end of each turn the player rolls a d6; on a 6 the Backpack greedily eats itself and is removed, on any other roll the player must randomly discard that number of cards from their hand. Devastating, especially since a hand can’t be larger than five cards. Within a round or two the player is stripped of just about all resources in their hand.

Denial or loss of resources is a basic strategy in most games, the Backpack is merely this principal manifested in Munchkin. In Settlers of Catan it can be seen as the Robber, casting a blight on one’s land. Losing the ability to move your first ship in Starfarers of Catan. In the above example with Munchkin the player in question was at Level 9 (one level from winning) and the Backpack essentially spelled a death sentence for her, leaving her unable to help herself win that final battle. Why is the loss of something so devastating? For starters, the game continues to move forward, other players gain resources, move their pieces, etc…But the affected player is left in a sort of stasis, unable to generate anything new. Even if they are in a good place when the freeze arrives, they may quickly find that the advantage was not as sizeable as they imagined. A turn or two without anything new may not seem like much, but often the best crafted strategies are contingent on each move, and well charted out several turns in advance based on the cards at hand. This ruins all that, so not only is a player not moving forward, they may actually be moving backward as they scramble to readjust or chart a new course.

Also, games may seem like they go on for a long time but rarely does a game go for more than 15 turns or so. Losing out on one or two of them can hurt a lot. And generally each turn counts as much as any other., though that may not always be the perception. Like in baseball, games played in April count as much as those played in the pressure of a pennant race in September, though many would say the opposite. The point is, losing out on some of them can really set a player back and the ability to enact this on another is usually the greatest resource in a player’s arsenal. Even more than helping yourself, is hurting another? Maybe, but I think that the number of players in a game ultimately decides that question.

One of the games that we’ve been playing a lot lately is Pirate’s Cove, a game that I consider to be extremely balanced. Perhaps too balanced, but that’s a post for another day. But the interesting thing about Pirate’s Cove is that there is no resource denial mechanism. Even when you lose a fight you get some tavern cards or some gold. You are always moving forward, even if only in smaller increments than your fellow scalawags. Without a mechanism to really hinder other opponents the game sometimes becomes a crap shoot, with luck playing a large role in the outcome.

It sometimes seems devious and rotten, but hindering opponents is often the most sound strategy to victory. Of course, it also garners ill will and animosity from your fellow gamers, but it’s just a game. Right?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Games for beginners

Navigating the seas of the board game world can be a tricky one. There are literally thousands of game out there with different themes, rules, from all sorts of companies. To an outsider it can either seem like a bizarre and overwhelming world better left to the experts and serious hobbyists, or it can be a tempting invitation into a fascinating realm of social enjoyment. Clearly, I prefer the latter definition but the first one is not without merit, especially the overwhelming aspect. So, I offer up a couple of games for the novice board gamer to get their feet wet.

Settlers of Catan has received numerous accolades as a spectacular game and is often credited as the flagship product for the burgeoning introduction of board games into the mainstream (especially in the U.S.). It’s all true. The game is not just very fun, but also an excellent gateway to the world of strategy games. It’s the pot of board games. The theme of the game is simple; players are settlers on a recently discovered island competing with one another to develop the land and generate resources. Like all the good games it is easy to learn but also continues to hold the interest of more experienced players, which makes it great as a learning game since everyone can get into it. It also introduces some of the basics of board gaming; resource harvesting and managing, planning for the short and long term, recognizing trends and fluctuating values, and developing an endgame strategy. Even with newer players the game shouldn’t take more than an hour, so it is frequently easy to convince people to sit down and play it, which is often a hurdle for some. Additionally, the game has numerous expansions so it is also great to grow into should you find that it’s the right game for you and your group.

Another game that I would recommend for inexperienced players is the cutthroat game of backstabbing and treasure hording, Munchkin. Unlike Settlers, Munchkin is a card game which sets it into a different genre. Though it’s really just like a board game without the board. Thematically Munchkin is in the world of fantasy adventure, that is to say it shares a theme with Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately, that appears to be a turnoff for some, but if they can get past that a great game awaits. Players fight monsters, gain powers and treasures, and try to fend off their fellow players and win the game. It’s the last aspect that makes it so much fun and engaging. A big aspect of the game is the ability to hinder other players as much as you can aid yourself. This is great for keeping players involved since you can act even on the turn of another player. I will caution that if the people you game with take things very personally than this may not be the game for them. Munchkin is also quick paced, though it tends to drag when more than four players are involved. And like Settlers, it has a bunch of expansions that add tons of new cards to the mix.

There are also many great resources available on line to get suggestions for games and to read reviews.

Feats to make your character worse

Most characters only get a feat every three levels, which makes them pretty scarce for the majority of adventurers out there. So in turn, that makes them very valuable. They can be used to expand the arsenal in every regard; offense, defense, magic, and skills are just some of the realms that they can improve. However, if you are looking to make your character substantially worse here are some great feats.

Green Ear: Music to soothe the savage plant. Normally plants are immune to the magical effects of a bards music. Take this feat and that problem is a thing of the past. However, plant creatures do get a +5 (!) bonus to the Will save from the magic music. One of the prerequisites is 10 ranks in a perform skill, which means a character has to be at least 7th level to take this. I have hard time believing that a 7th level character can’t find a better feat to take. I suppose that in the right type of plant-based campaign this could be very useful, but I don’t know anyone who plays in a plant based campaign.

Eagle Claw Attack: The party confronts a locked door deep in the crypt of the evil lich. How will they surmount this obstacle? The wizard with Knock prepared, the lock picking thief, and the greatclub wielding barbarian all get out of the way for the monk who has mastered the art of the Eagle Claw Attack! With this awesome feat a character gets to add their wisdom bonus to damage against objects. Yes! Why would anyone take this feat? Then again, one of the requirements is Improved Sunder, so perhaps this character has a deep rooted hatred of objects and will take any advantage over them that they can get. A monk with this feat teamed with a barbarian who has Destructive Rage are clearly the bane of all inanimate objects.

Ki Blast: Keeping with the theme of all the great feats available to monks is Ki Blast, which allows the character to expend uses of stunning fist to throw a single, low powered ball of energy. It costs two uses of stunning fist to use the Ki Blast, which is not a very good ratio considering that stunning fist is actually very good. And what do you get for this trade? A single attack that does 3d6+wisdom modifier. It is a touch attack, which it has going for it, and the damage would be okay if the character was around 4th level. However, the requirements (Base Attack +8 and some other stuff) insure that this is a high level character, which really has no use for such a weak attack. I know that monks frequently struggle with ranged attacks, but there has to be a better option than this.