Bugbear in the Playground
Join Date: Mar 2010
Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge VIII
Fire for the Fire God!
Originally Posted by D. Merwin Elbert
D. Merwin Elbert, CN Human Warmage 4/Swordsage 2/Jade Phoenix Mage 4/Pyrokineticist 10.
"My life for you!"
On 32 points: STR 10 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 14 WIS 14 CHA 15
Always raise CHA with level increases.
The priest of Syrul rubbed a nervous hand over her newly shaved pate and carefully checked over her inventory one more time. No untreated cloth or paper, no wooden items, special metallic pen and ink reservoir, no oils or flammable unguents, several waterskins, and a spell of Resist Fire freshly prayed for in her mind. Nodding to herself that everything was in order, she looked through the window of the prisoner's stone door, and saw he was seated, curled up, bare as the day he was born, and fidgeting at his ear obsessively, on the stone platform he had to use as a bed. Such were the precautions when dealing with a follower of Pyremius. She unlocked his cell and walked inside, forcing a calm smile to her face.
"Good morning, Donny. I'm Fabulist Engstrom. I'll be working with you to get you well enough to go home again."
The prisoner's gaze darted frantically around the cell, searching for something neither Fabulist Engstrom nor he seemed likely to spot. He continued to fidget at his ear, rocking back and forth as he spoke, his a voice a raspy ruin from regular exposure to heat and smoke.
"Morning? Good, good morning. Name is Merwin, not Donny. Not, not Donny. Don't call me Donny. Name is Merwin. Merwin, yes. You're not Fabulist Lawry. Where's Fabulist Lawry? We were, I mean I was talking, talking with Fabulist Lawry before. Where's Fabulist Lawry? Morning, good morning. Bumpty bump."
Fabulist Engstrom watched the prisoner's restless eyes and took a deep breath to keep herself calm.
"Fabulist Lawry can't come see you anymore. Remember? You got a little agitated the last time the two of you talked? You had a little moment? All of her notes and some of her skin caught fire, Merwin, so she won't be coming back to talk to you again. We don't want to get you upset. We'll have to start from the beginning again, though, with her notes gone. Is that all right?"
Tell her it's all right, Merwin.
Merwin nodded like a marionette whose puppeteer had a sneezing fit.
"Says it's all right. It's all right. I mean, it's all right. All right. Bumpty bump."
"Who says, Merwin? Is it Flagg? Is he still talking to you, even in here, Merwin?"
You fool! Don't tell her you can still hear me! She'll try to separate us!
Merwin gave a tiny shriek and started to chew at a fingernail already bitten down to the quick.
"Nobody says. I say. I say. Just me. Not Flagg. Flagg's not here. Not here. Gone. I say. Bumpty bump."
"Okay, Merwin. I believe you," Fabulist Engstrom said hurriedly, as she noted his increased distress. "Let's just start at the beginning, okay? Why don't we just start with you talking about how you got your start as a firebug; will that be all right with you?"
Merwin gave another spastic nod in mute reply.
"As far back as I can remember. I can remember. I remember. Fire. Beautiful dancing fire. Warm fire. So pretty," he smiled, his eyes taking on a faraway cast as if watching a memory. His hands stilled, finally, and settled across his bare lap. "I was just a thug then. A thug then. Specialized thief's muscle. A thug. Said I was adaptable. Adaptable. Said I had a spark. Spark. Like fire. Even then I used fire. Called it. Called it to my falchion. Mine. Nobody else's. Mine. Made fire flash in their eyes. Dazzled them. Dazzled by fire. Surrounded by it. So pretty. Used cold, too, some. Just in case. In case. Not as pretty..."
At 1st level:
Swordsage 1. Feats: Adaptive Style (Bo9S 28), Wild Talent (XPH 52); Bonus Feats: Weapon Focus: Desert Wind Weapons (Bo9S). Skills: Concentration 4, Craft (alchemy) 4, Heal 1, Intimidate 4, Knowledge (arcana) 2, Knowledge (history) 2, Knowledge (psionics) 2, Knowledge (religion) 2, Spellcraft 2, Swim 1, Tumble 4. Armor: Leather. Weapons: Falchion, Spear, Light Mace. Maneuvers/Stances: Blistering Flourish (Bo9S 52), Burning Blade (Bo9S 52), Distracting Ember (Bo9S 52), Counter Charge (Bo9S 71), Shadow Blade Technique (Bo9S 78), Stone Bones (Bo9S 84)/Step of the Wind (Bo9S 74).
BAB +0. F: +1 R: +4 W: +4.
Despite average STR and no BAB, Merwin fills the role of a front-liner at 1st level. His weapon choices and foci, abilities to augment damage with fire and cold energy like a minor caster, and ability to create Sneak Attack options for his partners make him an ideal candidate for runs where stealth and quickness are more prized than heavy armor, a big group, or a traditional melee and arcane type.
"Then there was the War College. Very dangerous. War College. Dangerous. Bad. Bad idea. Shouldn't have tried to take money. Take money from War College. It was dangerous. Very bad. Didn't work. They left me!" Merwin screamed in anguish, but continued. "Drafted. I was drafted. They said I was drafted to the War College. Gonna learn to be a Warmage. Had to learn to concentrate very hard. Very hard. Learn and practice. Practice, practice, practice all the time. It was good, though. Taught me how to use a shield. I got a shiny steel shield with a painted flame on it. So nice. Taught me more about fire. Beautiful. Warm. Dancing and warm. So beautiful. I made it. And other things too. I... I made acid and stone and cold again. Don't like cold. Don't. Useful. Still don't like. Made sounds and little lightning too. The sparks were pretty. They danced a little like fire. Beautiful warm dancing fire. The sparks. Like the spark they said was in me. Bumpty bump."
Fabulist Engstrom scribbled as quickly as she could across the treated skins with her metal pen. "Is that when Flagg started talking to you, Merwin?"
You can answer, Merwin. It's ancient history now. It won't tear the two of us apart. We need each other, don't we, Merwin?
Merwin gulped audibly and nodded.
"Yes. Came to me at the War College. While I concentrated. Concentrated and practiced and focused. Focused very very hard and one day Flagg was there. I could hear him. Just me. Said I'm special. Said he was the voice of my spark. Said he was helpful. It's true! Helpful. Sometimes I would get flustered. Flustered. Concentrating so hard. Flagg would just, just step in for me. Speak for me. Through me. Calm me. Help me focus. Help me concentrate. Flagg is helpful. Told me I was special. Had a special purpose. Told me I should teach those thieves. They left me, you know. Left me! Ran away! I went back to them. I did. I went back and I pretended and Flagg helped and I learned more sneaking. I learned. Then I taught them. I. Me. Taught them. Thanks to Flagg. Went to their armory and I taught them. I burned it. Burned it to the ground. Watched, too. So pretty. Beautiful, dancing fire. Then we went back to the War College. Flagg and I. He was with me from then on. With me. My friend. Helpful Flagg. Bumpty bump."
At 5th level:
Swordsage 1/Warmage 2/Swordsage +1/Warmage +1.STR 10 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 14 WIS 14 CHA 16. Feat: Practiced Spellcaster (Warmage)(CAr 82). Skills: Concentration 8, Craft (alchemy) 5, Heal 1, Intimidate 5, Knowledge (arcana) 8, Knowledge (history) 4, Knowledge (psionics) 2.5, Knowledge (religion) 4, Spellcraft 6, Swim 1, Tumble 5. Armor: Leather +1, Small Steel Shield +1. Weapons: +1 Spear, MW Falchion, MW Light Mace. Maneuvers/Stances: Wind Stride (Bo9S 56)/Child of Shadow (Bo9S 76). Advanced Learning Spell: Tenser's Floating Disk.
BAB: +2. F: +2 R: +6 W: +8.
Merwin's Warmage training couple with his WIS to AC benefit in light armor to give a decent little + 3 boost to AC before magic, at a point where AC is still valuable, and Child of Shadow further improves his defenses. He fills out the prerequisites for Pyrokineticist even as his role in the party shifts from front-liner to hard-hitting melee skirmisher, never losing focus on his damaging maneuver/spell choices. If the party needs it, his Warmage spells couple reasonably with his own mobility to do some decent battlefield control, though that's less a primary role than a job he can fill in a pinch.
By now Fabulist Engstrom recognized Merwin's speech patterns enough to sense a break in his monologue. "What about the whip, Merwin? When did you start being able to call the whip?"
Merwin grinned manically. "After I went back to the War College. Flagg got it for me. For me. For a present. When I was good and when I had learned. When I didn't tell about the armory. Flagg said he made it. Made it for me. Just for me. For being good. Flagg helped with the whip. Helped control it. Flagg's my friend. Taught me how to make fires with the whip. It dances too. Dances like the fires. Learned to make fire explode so the people would dance. Spent more time playing with the whip. Learned to make the beautiful fire dance on my hand, too. Then, Flagg said not to forget the Warmages. Said they were still useful. Said they had another trick to teach. Wise Flagg. Learned that next trick. I did. Flagg said I did good. Said now I could be one of the thirteen. Said I could be Jade Phoenix like he once was. Phoenix is a bird, Fabulist Engstrom. A bird on fire. Me. A bird on fire. Made me even better with the whip. It did. Smarter too. Jade Pheonix made me smart. Smart and better. Very fast. Faster than before. Better with magic, better with fire. Better with lightning, too. Flagg said lightning was important. Important. It burns without fire."
At 10th level:
Swordsage 2/Warmage 3/Pyrokineticist 2/Warmage +1/JPM 2. STR 10 DEX 14 CON 12 INT 14 WIS 14 CHA 17. Feats: Explosive Spell (CAr 79), Energy Substitution: electricity (CAr 79). Skills: Concentration 13, Craft (alchemy) 5, Heal 1, Intimidate 5, Jump 4, Knowledge (arcana) 9, Knowledge (history) 5, Knowledge (psionics) 5, Knowledge (religion) 4, Spellcraft 8, Swim 1, Tumble 5. Armor: Leather +1, Cold Resistance. Small Steel Manifester Shield +1. Weapons: Spear +1, Light Mace +1, MW Falchion. Maneuvers: Flashing Sun (Bo9S 54).
BAB: +6/+1. F: +8 R: +9 W: +9
Merwin enters into Pyrokineticist at level 5, the earliest entry without rules abuse. The fact that fire lash is a touch attack makes non-proficiency almost a non-issue. As written, as a ranged touch attack, his DEX is even more helpful. Flashing Sun's extra attack couples well with the fire lash's reach and the Explosive Spell feat to strengthen Merwin's battlefield control, and Hand Afire comes in handy if someone tries to grapple him. The Pyrokineticist and JPM levels shore up Merwin's saving throws. The manifester property on the shield is an investmet for the future. With JPM's Arcane Wrath, the -4 non-proficiency penalty for the fire lash can be completely averted by losing a single spell slot, which will also get even better damage for the attack. As written, Merwin could drop a 0-level spell just for the +4 to hit bonus with his fire lash, which is at least situationally useful. Access to 2nd level spells drastically improves Merwin's damage output, while Energy Substitution allows him to use an uncommon type - electricity - as foes start to have some of the same resistances he's able to manifest. While he's switched primarily to spear + shield for his weaponry, Whirling Blade with a Falchion does nicely against flame retardant enemies. Merwin's varied knowledge skills and decent INT combo reasonably with the Rite of Waking for a limited sage role, while the fact that Warmage is a CHA caster creates some synergies with Pyrokineticist's abilities.
"Flagg said as one of the thirteen I didn't need the War College anymore. Said I was ready. Said I was strong. Needed to show it. Show him. Show how strong I was. Strong with the fire. The beautiful dancing fire and the whip that danced and burned in my hand. Flagg needed me to set fires. Me. Flagg needed me. To set fires. My life's work in beauty. In heat. In flame. I owed Flagg. Owed him so, so much. Burn the world for him. My life for him. Went to a small town to set fires. Saw a water tower. Got scared. Scared. Thought my fire, my wonderful fire and whip, would be stopped. Flagg knew better. Wise Flagg. Took over for me and danced the lightning into the tower so it exploded. KABOOM! Tower fell down and Flagg started. Started burning, through me. The whole town. Lovely fires dancing everywhere, so warm. Not warm enough to hurt me, though. Not with Flagg. Flagg tapped into the fire. Made it shoot from my hands. Fire, fired. Good joke, huh? Made the Falchion burn in my hands. Didn't hurt me, though. Not with Flagg. Set my whole body ablaze in the beauty of fire. It was wonderful.
"Then I learned more. Flagg must have taught me. Must have. Great, wise Flagg. Taught me to run. Run on the fire in the air. The air on fire. Can you imagine? Taught me to combine hitting with burning in new ways. Special ways. Taught me to focus better. Taught me to hit harder when I ran with fire, so I left the ground and danced on fiery air. Taught me to really jump. I learned. I learned well. Learned for Flagg. Wise Flagg. My life for him. Bumpty bump."
At 15th level:
Swordsage 2/Warmage 4/Pyrokineticist 2/JPM 2/Pyrokineticist + 3/JPM +2. STR 10 DEX 14 CON 16 INT 14 WIS 14 CHA 22 (26 in Nimbus). CON +4 and CHA +4 items used. Feats: Psionic Meditation (XPH 50), Sudden Still (CAr 83). Skills: Concentration 18, Craft (alchemy) 5, Heal 1, Intimidate 5, Jump 14, Knowledge (arcana) 9, Knowledge (history) 5, Knowledge (psionics) 5, Knowledge (religion) 4, Spellcraft 13, Swim 1, Tumble 5. Armor: +1 Cold Resistance. Small Steel Manifester Shield + 1, Electrical Resistance. Weapons: +1 Collision Acidic Spear, +1 Cold Iron Light Mace, MW Silver Falchion. Maneuvers: Searing Charge (Bo9S 56).
BAB: +10/+5 F: +13 R: +11 W: +11
The damage is really adding up here. Searing Charge with the spear for 1d8+ 5 + 1d6 Acid +7d6 Fire damage on the first attack, assuming no STR buff. Add in the Empowering Strike ability of JPM 4 to empower the spell cast before the end of next round; empowered Poison, as a good choice against a single target, or empowered Ice Storm, to damage more foes while doing some battlefield control. Bolt of Fire and Searing Charge mean that the various Orb spells previously held in reserve to deal with unexpected flyers can be expended to add damage to weapon strikes via Arcane Wrath. Sudden still is the choice on the off-chance that someone immune to the Nimbus ability gets inside Merwin's Fire Lash, while psionic meditation prepares for the Fire Walk ability that comes online at 16th. The Nimbus ability also makes those empowered spells harder to resist thanks to the CHA increase. The variety of different damage types Merwin can do at this point means he's inconvenienced, but not crippled, against fire immune opponents, and he can still do battlefield control to a degree. Defensively, his saving throws are universally decent, if not spectacular, and easily buffed with a Cloak of Resistance, while he can still generate concealment for himself through his Child of Shadow ability, or through creative use of his spells.
Fabulist Engstrom watched Merwin carefully. His manic gaze had stopped flitting around the room, and was settled on her with a curious intensity. She felt a hint of an itchy, nervous sweat start to steal over her as she, the examiner, was examined.
"The whole town didn't burn, did it, Merwin?" she asked, her throat surprisingly dry.
"The whole town? I don't know. Don't know. Town's enchanter got inside my head somehow. Somehow. Where only Flagg had been with me. Made Flagg go quiet. I got scared. Very scared. Flagg was my friend and he was quiet! They made him go away! They can't DO THAT! CAN'T! NOT ALLOWED! HAVE TO SAVE FLAGG! MY LIFE FOR YOU!"
By the time it took Fabulist Engstrom to incant the Fire Resistance spell in her memory, it was too late. Flagg set her blood boiling out of her skin, for a gruesome death as he engulfed his naked frame in flames, and the metallic walls started to turn cherry-red from the heat.
"My life for you..." he whispered.
At 20th level:
Swordsage 2/Warmage 4/JPM 4/Pyrokineticist 10. STR 10 DEX 14 CON 18 INT 14 WIS 14 CHA 26 (30 in Nimbus). CON and CHA reflect +6 item boosts. Feat: Desert Fire (Bo9S 29). Skills: Concentration 23, Craft (alchemy) 5, Heal 1, Intimidate 6, Jump 23, Knowledge (arcana) 9, Knowledge (history) 5, Knowledge (psionics) 5, Knowledge (religion) 4, Spellcraft 18, Swim 1, Tumble 5. Armor: Leather +1 Manifester; Cold Resistance; Small Steel Shield +1 Manifester, Electrical Resistance. Weapons: +1 Collision Dislocator Acidic Spear, +1 Cold Iron Light Mace, +1 Silver Falchion.
BAB +14/+9/+4 F: +16 R: +14 W: +13
Merwin saved his copper pieces to invest in the Manifester property for these levels. Lacking more than a couple power points of his own, he uses the Manifester items plus a Rainbow Ioun Stone for enough PP to consistently utilize his Firewalk ability. The ability to quickly regain psionic focus, paid with the 15th level feat, is important at these levels, as Firewalk and Heat Death both require its expenditure. Good saves couple with concealment and DR to provide real defenses at a level where AC is rarely worthwhile. Merwin takes the Desert Fire feat mostly for thematic reasons at this stage, as there's little that is both susceptible to his attacks and capable of surviving long against them. Maximizing Jump checks just provides a little extra mileage on Firewalk and Searing Charge. Conflagration can be used to change the battlefield on multiple levels, from creating impassable heat to melting away the walls or floors as he sees fit.
If flaws are used:
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."