Bugbear in the Playground
Join Date: Mar 2010
Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge VIII
His skin may be tough, but his soul is on fire.
Originally Posted by Varholm Grimhide
Beasthide Shifter Warblade 4/Warshaper 2/Pyrokineticist 4/Kensai 4/Pyrokineticist +6
Quick breakdown of build:
Initial Stats (32pb)
STR 16 +3
DEX 14 +2
CON 12 +1
INT 12 +1
WIS 10 =0
CHA 12 +1
1| Hidden Talent (Offensive Prescience), Improved Unarmed Strike, Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike)
3| Superior Unarmed Strike
6| Ordered Chaos
9| Combat Expertise
12| Brutal Throw
15| Vestigial Wings
18| Beasthide Elite
Flaws | Weak Will, Unreactive
Traits| Detached, Honest
6| Str+4, Con+4
1| Concentration 4, Knowledge (Psionics) 2, Diplomacy 4, Ride 2, Jump 4
2| Concentration 1, Ride 0.5, Jump 1, Craft (Alchemy) 1, Diplomacy 1
3-4| Concentration 1, Ride 0.5, Jump 1, Intimidate 2
5-7| Concentration 1, Ride 0.5, Jump 1
8-10| Concentration 1, Jump 1, Intimidate 1
11-14| Concentration 1, Jump 1, Intimidate 1, Tumble 1
15-20| Concentration 1, Jump 1, Intimidate 1
1| Wolf Fang Strike, Steel Wind, Charging Minotaur. Stance: Hunter's Sense
2| Leading the Attack
3| Battle Leader's Charge
4| Claw at the Moon, Leading the Attack>Rabid Wolf Strike. Stance: Punishing Stance
- Core+UA (Brutal Throw is in MM5)
- ECS (Shifter, Beasthide Elite)
- ToB (Warblade, Superior Unarmed Strike)
- CW (Warshaper, Kensai)
- XPH (Pyro, Hidden Talent, Teleporting weapon enchance)
- FCI (Ordered Chaos, Vestigial Wings)
Final Top Stats (without equipment, with buffs)
HP 3d12+12d8+4d10+42 (avg 137) +bonus from shifting
AC (while shifting) 15
STR 32 +11
Attack Unarmed +28 (7d6+12) (+2d6 from various maneuvers).
Level by level breakdown.
Warblade 1 - Weak-willed and Unreactive, Detached and Honest, IUS, WF(US), and Hidden Talent.
Varholm was always a little different. Many of his brothers and sisters had much longer claws, much stronger teeth. His main advantage was his toughhide, but this didn't win him many fights. In the end, he learnt to fight with his fists, despite their lack of a claws, even in wild form. Mostly to avoid being bullied. Being called the runt. Sometimes, this all seemed to well up in him, a surge of emotions, and then, at those times, he knew exactly how to act, how to twist the shoulder of his opponent to floor him, even as if he'd already done it. These were the only fights he won.
Levels 3 and 4
Warblade 3 and 4 - Superior Unarmed Strike
Despite working with his mentor, Varholm never managed to quiet down the wild and aggressive spirit natural to his kind, and he continues to work hard to overcome the weakness of his flesh, and, because of his role with the Medicine Man, is come to be trusted by the tribe elders, who choose him to lead small raids or hunting parties.
Warblade maneuvers, although ToB overused I know, really just help pump the edge here, and are useful throughout the build. Hunter's Sense is the primary stance, since Scent is somewhat useful and very flavourful for this character.
Level 5 and 6
Warshaper 1 and 2 - Ordered Chaos
It is on one of these missions, while shifting, that Varholm feels a change within him. It's almost like his meditation has had a much greater impact on him than he could ever have imagined; complete control over his body. This gives him the ability to grow what he always though he wanted; claws, horns, teeth. Not sure what this means, he leaves his tribe on a quest to find out more, sure that his newfound resilience will mean he comes to no harm.
The warshaper pump to STR and CON is very nice for Varholm, gives him a strong edge for his level (given I've done this without equipment), and increases both his shifting, hit points, and concentration, which will turn out to be very useful later. At this point, natural Morphic Weapons still deal more damage than his unarmed attacks, and so he should be using them.
Pyrokineticist 1-4 - Combat Expertise
A couple of winters after leaving the tribe, while sitting freezing in a cave, trying to meditate, Varholm has a peculiar vision, of himself, with his hands on fire. After a couple of attempts, he realises he can in fact throw a long whip of fire from his hands, although he struggles to maintain his lawful state of meditation to do so; this act seems to be inherently chaotic. Nevertheless, he learns to use this power of fire over the next year, as well as developing an expertise of combat due to having to survive on his own.
These Pyro levels are primarily useful for giving Varholm some ranged attacks, something he previously lacked and could do with at this point. I think it's been stated in the thread you need Weapon Afire for Unarmed Strikes, but to be honest he's still probably better off using Hand Afire until he gets Weapon Afire, since his normal unarmed damage is only 1d8 there.
Kensai 1-4 - Brutal Throw
Living out in the wilderness was fine for a while, but Varholm realises it isn't doing much for his 'quest'. That night he pledges a Oath. He prays to his spirit ancestors, and with them as witnesses, he avows never to rest until he learns the source of his now prodigious power of mind over the physical world. These spirits grant him an amazing ability in return. It seems, now that merely by thinking it, Varholm can punch something that is far away from him, transporting his body temporarily there, and then back again to where his mind still rests. He also continues to learn the power of fire, using it frequently in fights against the monsters of the wilderness.
Over the course of Kensai, Varholm develops his fists into +1 Throwing Teleporting Flaming weapons. I realise I'm not the first to do the whole Rayman, thowing-your-fists thing, and a DM might easily look unfavourably given the precise nature of the cheese, but hopefully the fluff above shows there's at least a minor blag possible...
Sweet Spot Level 18
Pyrokineticist 5-10 - Vestigial Wings, Beasthide Elite
One night, while shifting back to humanshape, Varholm feels an itch. Reaching back over his shoulders to scratch it, he is greatly startled to feel a pair of wings there, batlike, hanging loose and downwards. "Maybe this is a clue to my peculiar heritage?" he thinks, and trains himself to use them, and although he can't quite learn to fly just yet, they certainly aid his particular style of combat, involving a lot of jumping around.
Growing close to a middle-aged man now, Varholm decides to visit a city. This is where, after a fair bit of research, he learns of people like himself, and after a couple of long conversations with wizards at the arcane university, he comes to the conclusion that is a descendant of a fiendish or abyssal heritage. Horrified, he turns from the path he laid out for himself, forsaking the abilities the spirits granted him, and returns to his tribal village, begging to be dealt with as befits such a monstrosity.
In the search for them, on the way, his attempts at flight finally become frutiful, although not for very long at all, and certainly not more than once a day, the amount it takes out of him. Nevertheless, useful for ascending cliffs and the like, and eventually his finds his people again.
His mentor, now an old man, begs him to reconsider; his experience has made him a much stronger fighter than any in the village, he could lead them when the current alpha dies. After much deliberation, Varholm makes his decision. Going to his mentor, he asks him to intercede on his behalf with the spirits, and he pledges a new Oath. To protect the people of his tribe without prejudice or arrogance. He decided never to lead the tribe, rather, be there whenever they come under threat, and indeed he does. By training young shifters he even gains a better understanding of hsi own shifting powers.
The spirits grant him full Atonement, and set him on a new task, walking the path of flame; rather than simply wielding it, he begins to learn to incite it in others, which leads him to wonder whether the power of fire came from his infernal heritage or not...?
The end of the build. The last two levels are mostly just class-ending fluff-filler, although they are hefty effects for dealing with crowds (Conflagration) and targets immune to fire damage (Heat Death), which he otherwise deals a paltry 2d6+X to.
Sweet Spot Level 13
Showcase Level 10
At this level, Varholm has just returned to the village and Atoned for his break of Oath.
Tactically, this is the point where his full damage comes online, the last two levels really are just flavourful filler to max out Pyro. With Greater Weapon Afire fists that are also flaming and maxed Superior Unarmed Strike, that's 7d6+X damage, where X can be increased by 4 with Power Surge, and although that be used only twice a day, his Concentration is high enough to maintain it a fair while.
Defensively, shifting grants him a lot of temporary hit points, and a fair chunk of natural armour, which is handy given his comparatively low dex. If he's getting low on hp, Combat Expertise comes into play.
Ranged-wise, Bolt of Fire is now an 8d6 weapon, nearly topping his thrown fists, an giving him a reliable source of damage beyond the range he can generally expect to hit things in person.
Out of combat, Ki Projection, a lot of ranks of Intimidate, a fair few in diplomacy, and the charisma bonus he get for being on fire will make him an acceptable conversationalist, nowhere near party face, but not incompetent if that situation comes up.
Overview, and equipment
I realise I'm kind of doing these in reverse order. Here, Varholm has a fair amount of Pyrokineticist experience, but as yet still only has 'mundane' hands, albeit ones that are on fire and deal 2d6+1d8+X damage. Again, maneuvers are still very important for the character at this point, although he has just learnt Combat Expertise, which, in combination with his AC from Beasthide shifting, gives him a slightly better defense, although AC is still a weak point. He has access to 4d6 Bolt of Fire now, for when ranged is necessary, filling a useful hole.
I haven't included equipment with this build, mostly because offensively, his main equipment is attached to him, and the fluff is kinda wildernessey, so it didn't make too much sense. Plus there's always the issue with many DMs in that they (perhaps rightfully) think WBL is too high, and it's just true that in many many campaigns you aren't given access to the level and number of high-powered magic/psionic items that you might like.
However, one thing this guy could really do with is a suit of armour, to put that poor AC up; at each level, probably the best he can afford that doesn't grant him too high an AC penalty (for jump checks). None of his classes restrict armour use, and he has all proficiencies theoretically, so he can probably wear full-plate once his jump maneuvers become less usefull (or just absorb the penalty... at levels 15+ a -6 or -7 isn't too much.
Obvious other magic items are stuff like STR+ items, CON+ items, NA+ items.
Throughout this build, Varholm is a damage-dealer. I used ToB to get some damage-dealing maneuvers, and deliberately ignored the two-levels-of-monk dip, because I liked the idea of attempting an unarmed fighter without it. And plus, this way, no multiclassing penalties! I'm taking enough xp drain from Kensai that under some interpretations I wouldn't hit lvl20, multiclassing penalties as well would hurt.
Unfortunately I had to take flaws to meet the requirements of the PrCs while still taking stuff I wanted. Ordered Chaos is purely a qualification feat, as is Weapon Focus, and Hidden Talent really. Combat Expertise is obviously taken in order to qualify for Kensai, but actually really helps out, as does Hidden Talent to some extent. Without flaws, he'd probably have to drop Superior Unarmed Strike until much later, creating a bit of a power vacuum in the middle, and would probably end up not taking Beasthide Elite or Vestigial Wings, they're probably the most irrelecant ones there. (Vestigial Wings, by the way, is a reference to Rayman's helicopter hair, if you didn't get that; just a bit of fun there
Like has been stated before, the main drawback of this character is AC; hopefully high hit points and party support can overcome that, in a campaign sense, plus, you know, even something like mundane Studded Leather is a significant improvement :P
My initial thoughts in designing this were obviously to make use of the Weapon Afire in combination with unarmed attacks, and thus in combination with kensai's possibilitiy of making your hands magical. Reading Power Surge interested me enough to aim for a character with massive top-end strength, which lead me to Warshaper, and then to Shifter as an LA0 qualifier for that.
I've tried to keep the book count fairly low on this one; Core+XPH obviously was required, and I decided fairly early on I wanted to use stuff from CW. I chose to use Ordered Chaos from Fiendish Codex I rather than ask the judges to accept alignment-fudging cheese (the whole atonement thing in the fluff is entirely that; fluff. Buildwise, it's not necessary.), which added that book, and in the end I had to give in and use flaws (UA), and Tome of Battle was pretty necessary for Superior Unarmed Strike, allowing a high damage output unarmed strike without Monk. Warblade is really there because since I was using ToB anyway, I might as well use the powerful base class; this could be something duller, like fighter or ranger. Eberron I obviously had to use for Shifters.
So yeah, thanks for looking at this build! Sorry I haven't presented a MM-style statblock at any point, I have just run out of time.
Originally Posted by Optimystik
'Adding up numbers' is completely independent of roleplay. What you're saying makes as much sense as "peeling a banana is not a good way to drive."