Ettin in the Playground
Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground XXXVI
When they talk about 'skin and bones,' they're usually more metaphorical.
Originally Posted by The Rag and Bone Man
The Rag and Bone Man
As the sun set, the windows to the corner rag and bone shop shuttered. The door clicked shut and the bolt slid into place.
The proprietor was a shriveled, nondescript little man, who had been, on more than one occasion, been mistaken for one of the preserved mummies (both real and fake) that dotted the shelves of the store. He was busy making preparations.
Of all the things that had passed through his hands over the years, his keen eye could now distinguish with the barest of glances whether what he held in his hand from a prospective seller was trash or treasure.
He had easily bought a hundred supposed "keys to another world." He sometimes kept them on rings and sold them as a set. They'd never worked, of course, he hadn't expected them to, and the wealthy few who deigned to visit his shop knew nothing about the history of the pieces they bought, throwing their money airily onto the counter, as if to flaunt to him how little it meant to someone so privileged.
But none like this.
He had knew from the moment he saw the box in the hand of that little urchin that had to stand on tiptoe to get his attention from just under the counter that it was truly something special and that he absolutely would have it.
Common though the youth appeared, he did seem to have some small inkling of the box's worth. The paltry sum offered wasn't enough to stop him from threatening to cut out this middleman and sell the box directly to one of the bored nobles about town.
Without either another thought or another word, he found the lapel of the urchin's greasy brown coat clutched in his hand. Something in the box was calling out to him, letting him know that if he let it go now, never again with their two paths cross. He tried to pry the box from the tiny fingers that clenched it tightly, but was unsuccessful. The boy kicked him off and began fleeing to the exit.
If asked, the shopkeeper could not say where he found the energy or the speed that possessed him next, only that he knew he must have that box. Not to sell it, no. This was one of those few objects that only one finely trained in the arcane arts through years of study, as he himself was, could ever appreciate. Before he could even feel the rough wood scraping his fingers, he saw a spear from the display behind the counter sailing through the air and pinning the boy to the wall.
He ran over towards the door and locked it up tight. The youth's body slumped and blood ran out the sleeve of his coat, dribbling into his palm, making the box slick. It tumbled to the floor with the softest of thuds that nonetheless carried throughout the shop.This was how he found himself in his present situation.
He peered out the windows to make sure no one had seen him. Not that it was likely, the shop was hardly well-visited. After seeing no one, he went to claim his prize. He had a rag from the pile handy to wipe off the box, but upon lifting it from the floor, he found not a drop of blood on it, nor on the floor or coming from the boy's veins. When he turned his gaze to the limp form still pinned to the wall, it was as desiccated as though it was dug from some far away pyramid a thousand years ago. He touched what had once been a hand and was unsurprised when it crumbled to dust before him.
He examined the box more carefully and saw that it looked even more pristine than before. It shone with a glossy black malevolence that let him know it was not only taking credit for what had just transpired.
It was reveling in it.
He pushed his weathered pince-nez up on his nose and examined what looked like script on the side of the box. It was almost invisible before, but after what was doubtless its feeding, it was bright as fire.
He set it down on the counter and got out a book to begin translating it before it could fade away:
Anoint me with blood drawn by claw, fang, or knife
And away I will take you from this dreary life.
He recognized the couplet, having bought a book on it many years ago. He began to break into a smile. He knew just what would come out of this box, and just what it was expecting. It would be most impolite of him not to play the role fate had assigned him.
Walking up the stairs to the seldom-used top room of the shop, often referred to in angry mutters as the damp room, he felt a strange sense of calm.
The creatures that made these boxes, horrible monsters from a far-away realm, would appear and lure those without sufficient mortal character to their doom. They would only come when called, of course, but the methods of calling were sometimes less than what one would call obvious.
They were supposed to be terrifying to look upon. All the books he had been able to accumulate on them over the years had shown no pictures of them. It was a crime and a sin alike to make an image of them, or to call them by their true names, lest they be summoned. Even the tomes that he had acquired through less legitimate means had their forbidden illustrations torn out or redacted.
The most complete copy he had managed to attain had been traded to him by a cenobite of Afflux in exchange for some equipment that he wasn't sure was intended for recreational use or torture. It was always hard to tell with those who followed Afflux. It was from him that he had learned how exactly one was to summon one of the foul creatures within its pages if he had ever been so inclined. The man trading him the book had no arcane inclination, so had little use for it, but thought it might be something to nudge the shopkeeper a little closer to Afflux's side.
He had never truly forgotten that encounter, yet he had never thought it would ever reenter his life, or that he would ever actually see the plain, black box that was drawn in exquisite detail below the jagged edge where whatever it summoned doubtless stood.
The damp room was cluttered with garbage and gewgaws galore, holy and unholy weapons alike jammed into umbrella cases, the floor covered with a patina of dust. He kept sweeping until he found what he needed. A plain silver circle inlaid into the floor. It had come with the shop, and though its purpose had been plain enough, he had never before possessed the time, resources and inclination to use it. Though the thing downstairs was now little more than a pile of ash, and had only been a street rat to begin with, it wouldn't be long before he was missed. When traveling with an object of such value, it was customary to let others know where you were going. He was sure he would hear people beating down the door any second now.
An out from this dreary life sounded like exactly what he needed. There was nothing for him here. There never truly had been.
He remembered the instructions from the book and stripped, laying his clothes in the center of the circle. A pristine box of silver razors and knives lay before him, an offer of submission to the monster that would come before him to do as he wished. He made a slice across the wrinkled flesh of his palm and knelt on the floor before the circle, the box cupped in his hand, drinking his blood as fast as he could ooze it out.
He spoke the unutterable name of the devil three times and winced as a flash of white, heatless fire sprang from the ground within the confines of the circle, immolating the clothes that had once lain on his back.
Who dares to summon me? You know we are called upon for but one reason
The shopkeeper nodded meekly, peeking at the thing in front of him out of the corner of his eye. It looked disappointingly like a man, and was naked too with a head covered almost entirely in chains, flowing down its shoulders like the hair of an angel.
You wish to be relieved of your life, little one?
He nodded again, not wishing to give himself away.
The devil in front of him laughed with a rattling of metal.
I cannot say I blame you. Who would not be unsatisfied with this paltry existence? Spiriting you away would be more a blessing than a curse.
A chain slithered down from the devil's neck and wound its way down his leg, picking up one of the razors that lay in the circle with him.
Shall we begin?
The shopkeeper could not help grinning.
You certainly are eager, mortal. You must have been damned long before you ever came to me.
The devil beckoned him with a crooked chain and he crawled into the circle, waiting for the devil to transfer the razor to his hand to begin his ritual scarification.
He did not jolt when he heard the devil scream.
His nostrils flared as he smelled the burning flesh and he came at once to his feet as the devil reeled in pain, trying to peel the razor from its fingers, succeeding only in getting its other hand burned as well, the melted flesh fusing them together around the razor in a useless lump.
The shopkeeper had drawn another from the box and looked down at the devil. Now that he was no longer kneeling, he saw it was no taller than he.
"You were right about me being unsatisfied with my life," he said as he took the devil's chin and tilted its head back, "I think I'll take yours."
The devil hissed some antediluvian curse at him as blood bubbled from his throat and he slumped down into the circle.
Books on leather working had not escaped his collection, and it was a relatively simple process to remove the devil's skin. When he slid his hands into the hollow gloves that lay before him, the blood felt scorching hot on his skin, and he saw that wherever the red interior of his devil suit touched, his own mortal skin was being eaten away. He forced his arms in with a scream and from that point, the skin seemed to have a mind of its own, slithering around him and stitching itself invisibly shut in the back. Though it spoke not a word to him, he could tell that there was no going back.
It was just as well. He could hear the folk from the streets trying to break down his door downstairs. Haze and magic drifted up from the circle where the meaty lump that had once been the devil now lay. He gave it a contemptuous kick and found that some scraps of his charred clothing had stuck to its form. Let them think him dead. Let them think that he tinkered with forces he did not understand and paid the ultimate price. Let them think him a foolish old man who had got what was coming to him.
He saw his new reflection in the edge of the razor and saw little difference. He supposed that covered with chains, one devil looked much the same as any other. He stepped into the circle without another thought and felt himself fading away just as the door to the attic broke through. He gave the townsfolk a fey little wave on his way out, and felt his hellbound heart skip a beat.
Someone was calling out for an end to their dreary little life. He shut the razor with a click and a smile.
It would be terribly rude of him not to oblige.
|Level||Class||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Skills||Feats||Class Features|
|1st||Dread Necromancer 1|
|Concentration 2, Know(religion) 4, Know (planes) 4, UMD 4||Apprentice (Spellcaster) (bonus spell: spirit worm), Tomb-tainted soul||Charnel touch, rebuke undead|
|2nd||Dread Necromancer 2|
|Know (religion) 1 (5), Know (planes) 1 (5), UMD 1 (5)|| ||Lich body DR 2|
|3rd||Dread Necromancer 3|
|Know (religion) 1 (6), Know (planes) 1 (6), UMD 1 (6)||Spell Thematics||Negative energy burst 1/day|
|4th||Dread Necromancer 4|
|Know (religion) 1 (7), Spellcraft 1, UMD 1 (7)|| ||Advanced learning (Escalating Enfeeblement), mental bastion +2|
|5th||Acolyte of the Skin 1|
|Know (arcana) 2, UMD 1 (8)|| ||Wear fiend (Chain Devil) +1 natural armor, +2 inherent dex, dark vision 60ft, poison 1/day|
|6th||Acolyte of the Skin 2|
|Spellcraft 3 (4)|| Practiced Spellcaster||Flame Resistant|
|7th||Acolyte of the Skin 3|
|Concentration 3 (5)|| ||Fiendish Glare|
|8th||Acolyte of the Skin 4|
|Concentration 1 (6), Know (religion) 1 (8)|| || |
|9th||Pale Master 1|
|Concentration 1 (7), Know (religion) 1 (9), Know (planes) 1 (7)|| Skill Focus (Knowledge: Religion)|| |
|10th||Pale Master 2|
|Know (religion) 2 (11), Know (planes) 1 (8)|| || Animate Dead|
|11th||Acolyte of the Skin 5|
|Know (arcana) 1 (6), Know (planes) 2 (10)|| ||Skin Adaptation: natural armor +2, +2 inherent con, dark vision 120ft, poison 2/day|
|12th||Acolyte of the Skin 6|
|Concentration 3 (10)|| Sickening Grasp||Cold resistant 10|
|13th||Acolyte of the Skin 7|
|Concentration 3 (13)|| ||Glare of the pit|
|14th||Acolyte of the Skin 8|
|Concentration 2 (15), Know (planes) 1 (12)|| || |
|15th||Acolyte of the Skin 9|
|Know (arcana) 1 (7), Know (planes) 3 (15)|| Versatile Spellcaster||Summon fiend|
|16th||Acolyte of the Skin 10|
|Know (arcana) 3 (10)|| ||Fiendish symbiosis, DR 10/good|
|17th||Pale Master 3|
|Know (religion) 2 (13), Know (arcana) 1 (11)|| ||Darkvision +60ft (180ft)|
|18th||Pale Master 4|
|Know (arcana) 2 (13), Know (religion) 1 (14)|| Arcane Disciple (Deathbound Domain)||Undead armor affinity (10%)|
|19th||Pale Master 5|
|Know (arcana) 2 (15), Know (religion) 1 (15)|| ||Control undead, deathless vigor (+4 to fort saves unless it affects objects) |
|20th||Pale Master 6|
|Know (arcana) 1 (16), Know (religion) 2 (17)|| ||Undead graft, paralyzing touch|
Congratulations! You're already in Acolyte of the Skin!
Qualifying for the secret ingredient is something of a triviality. Qualifying with this particular class and qualifying early is something else. Apprentice Spellcaster gives planes as a class skill for the 1st 5 levels, along with an extra 2 points at 1st, which is long enough to get points for acolyte. It also gives another 1st lvl spell known, which is nice for someone with a limited list like a dread necromancer. I chose spirit worm from the spell compendium, since it's a sor/wiz 1 necro, but you can choose any you feel is appropriate.
Spell thematics (I suggest a body theme: meat, bones, blood, skin, etc. For example, a ray of enfeeblement could wither your enemy's muscles, or blindness could cause blood to seep from their eyes) allows 1 spell at each level to be cast at +1 CL. For this build, the specific spell chosen is not particularly important, and is a matter of personal taste. Whatever you pick though, you will be casting that spell at arcane CL 5 at level 4, providing early entry into the secret ingredient.
Originally Posted by Amphetryon
"Caster Level 5th" reads to me as distinct from "able to cast 5th level spells." If you are able to cast any single spell as a 5th level caster - which +1 CL to a single spell may allow you to do - you qualify; the Prestige Class doesn't go back and check other spells, because you've already met the pre-reqs.
Tomb-tainted soul is mandatory as a dread necromancer and can be a real life saver at low levels. Not having to spend money on healing potions or wands is nice, as is healing yourself for free. Dread necromancers can be ok healers if you can "corrupt" the rest of the party into taking tomb-tainted soul as well, which with this character could take place with his devilish influence tricking them into "making a deal" with him in the form of taking the feat (lose the good alignment and you will be able to be healed by my diabolic power)
While Apprentice stops giving you a skill as a class skill after level 5, planes is now a class skill for the SI, and UMD checks are sort of low, plus you are cha based. Wands of all kinds are useful, as are rune staves for later on in the game. It gives you more versatility when fighting something immune to fort saves (undead, constructs) and is handy to save on spell slots.
Dread necro gives you focus primarily on Cha, which the save for acolyte's fiendish glare is keyed off of, making it less MAD.
Enjoy being ahead of the curve for the moment, already being in a prc, having a little dr, bottomless healing, an initiative check and armor that sucks a little less than normal, and you can see in the dark and use a 4th level spell as a SLA 1/day, all at level 5! Pretty spiffy for a build with 10 levels of acolyte of the skin in it.
Remember, dread necromancers can cast in any light armor without ASF, so get a mithral breastplate when you can. Pale master helps if you want undead armor, but that comes later.
Practiced spell caster comes online to help make up for the CLs that acolyte loses. As far as CL goes, you're only behind 3 at level 10 and you've got a whole bunch of cool new abilities.
You're (kind of) fireproof now, so that's cool, it saves you from resist energy from wands a little, so that's nice.
Fiendish glare is online earlier than it's supposed to be, so you have a chance to use it on some enemies that aren't immune to fear before those start becoming common.
You're a dread necromancer, and, like delicious french fries, fear is best served with more fear. Many of your spells can induce fear in your enemies, and fiendish glare gives enemies the shaken condition for 10 minutes regardless of whether they make the save. If you can layer more fear onto them, you can have them frightened and panicked in relatively short order since Heroes of horror reminds us that if two effects that induce fear affect a character, then the worst one applies for the duration of both of them.
(Ex. you hit someone with cause fear and they fail, thus are frightened. if you hit them with doom as well and they fail, they are now panicked for the duration of doom, which is much longer, even if cause fear's time limit runs out)
This can be quite potent when layering effects on the same target. If they make the save, who cares? you've got fear spells as 1sts and in combination with this, you can severely hinder any boss who's vulnerable to fear when you get this at 7 (when most of them still are)
It would be unforgivably dishonest to call SF(knowledge religion) anything but a painful feat tax, but it does fit thematically for this character if nothing else and provides entry into the ignored-in-the-same-way-as-acolyte pale master.
Your casting is delayed, and dread necro gets animate dead as a 4th since they're arcane casters, meaning you normally wouldn't get the spell until level 12, but you can ignore that entirely thanks to pale master and get it as a SLA 1/day at 10. not having to pay for them is a handy bonus, and besides, if you're having to animate dead more than 1/day, your DM is sending you a not-so-subtle signal that he doesn't want you to be a necromancer.
While the pale master dip does technically delay the completion of acolyte by 2, the rag and bone man entered 1 early, so he's only behind by one. More importantly, it serves to give him something that he really does need around this level, some undead minions to cover his flank.
Have you lost weight? No, your skin just fits better. You're getting closer to one another, finding common interests, telling each other stories about your respective childhoods, and going on long walks on the beach together (by yourself?)
This gives you a couple of cool things, including a few extra hp from that con boost, which is great, since you've got 6+ 3d6s from DN, 10d8 from acolyte, and 6d4 from pale master (why not d12s? it keeps talking about how undeady you are) for a total of around 124hp at the end, which isn't horrible. You can see in the dark longer, which can be a very real asset when fighting other monsters with dark vision (almost all of them only have it out to 60 feet. if you see them before they see you, you get a surprise round. very important for the sneak in your party)
While slinging poison around is less impressive now than it was at level 5, it's still kind of cool, plus it's free, so it's another trick in your bag of tricks. Chain devils (as you know firsthand) are also a real pain to do combat with, so summoning one for an entire hour is pretty awesome, and while it's not a huge obstacle for an average lvl 15 character, it wouldn't make a fight easier
Sickening grasp, a reserve feat, allows you to make a touch attack against any living foe and sicken them for a number of rounds equal to the highest lvl necromancy spell you have available. As a dread necro, you'll get a ton of use out of this. The save DC isn't given, but it would be reasonable to extrapolate it follows the normal formula of 10+cha mod + highest lvl of necro spell you have available.
this is a great way to debuff enemies without using up your spell slots, and it stacks with fear to get their numbers way down. also, since it's not a spell, you don't need to touch defensively or provoke AoOs.
you also are resistant to cold now, which is not as common as fire, but still a welcome contribution
glare of the pit is a pretty excellent way to go nova and obliterate things which are either huge walls of HP that you've debuffed somewhat with con draining things like your poison ability or enervation. it's not especially hard to remember IC or OOC which monsters are fire resistant/immune, most of those are actually on fire or use it as an attack, so as long as you don't go around zapping balors and fire elementals, you should be able to hurt at least 1 monster really badly 1/day. the damage isn't great on an absolute scale, but it does allow you to break the cap of 1d6/lvl that the game (mostly) adheres to when it comes to direct damage spells, so that's certainly something.
since you don't get as many high lvl slots as a straight caster, versatile spell caster helps you by pooling 2 lower ones to get 1 higher one (2 1s for a 2, 2 2s for a 3, etc) but you can only do this one layer at a time (no pooling 2 1s for a 2, then using that 2 and another 2 for a 3) so it helps when you're out of enervations or dispel magics and can't think of anything useful to do with your 3rds.
finishing the class is just around the corner. believe me, delaying for 1 level for free animate dead is worth it. you already get it late, no sense getting it later.
Here it is. You're a real fiend now, sporting the outsider type like a boss. I hope you picked up a wand of alter self earlier. It's kind of cool when you're a humanoid to get movement speeds, but you get all kinds of excellent weird forms, like the xill, voor, and xorn, along with the mephitis, which are like mini-elementals. it's a better way to pick up mobility (the speeds they give are more varied and better than humanoids') and while they may not be the best combat forms, they do provide utility, something the dread necro list on its own is a bit short on.
speaking of fleshing out (pardon the pun) your spell list, arcane disciple from the death bound domain comes online at 18 due to your subservience to afflux. you may not know it, but when you torture and kill, you're revering him wherever you are. the spells that you get are pretty nice, and you have a good starting wisdom. it requires minimal investment to boost it another 3 points because the death bound domain's spells mostly are either buffs or do not allow saves, so as long as you get to cast all 7 when you have the spell levels for it, you're just fine.
Pale master lets you ignore some ASF for undead armor, but all the undead armor that's keyed off real armor is kind of terrible, and the other things, like the ghost shroud, don't impose it in the first place. you can wear it if you want to be scarier, but a mithral breast plate (or chain shirt) would provide much the same effect for a lot less money.
having control undead as a SLA also saves you some spells, and deathless vigor is just an awesome ability, giving you +4 to all fort saves that don't affect objects. after skinning yourself and wearing a devil, the only taboo more extreme that has not yet been explored is the pale master's signature ability of the undead arm (and its +4 str bonus to boot) whether you want it to be a patchwork frankenstein monster arm on your devil body or a nasty skeleton arm flopping around inside a glove of flesh (my personal preference) is a matter of taste. this class (acolyte) and this character is all about breaking taboos, and pale master is the one thing that would not feel anticlimactic after becoming a real bona fide fiend.
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Who made my awesome Dwarf Hexblade avatar, you ask? BRC