In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck
A Guide to Truenamers
Welcome, all and sundry, to my guide to Truenamers. Those of you who are familiar with my other thread may notice some similarities, which is no accident . . . this is basically a revised version of that. Parts of it are copied directly. Many more parts of it are new, rewritten, or otherwise different.
Anyway, this guide will teach you what I know about Truenamers. Make no mistake, my friends: Truenamers are bad. Very bad. They are not a good class, and I don't have any hidden secrets on how to turn them into a good class. If you're thinking about playing a Truenamer, my best advice is not to. Save yourself the frustration. This guide is NOT intended to make anyone want to play a Truenamer. I mean it. If you still want to play a Truenamer . . . my second-best advice is the rest of this guide. You have been warned, though. The path of the Truenamer is one fraught with frustration, confusion, and lunacy. You'll be spending a lot of time talking to your GM about what some poorly-worded rules mean, about things you can do, and about what CR that thing is. To this day, every time I do a thorough read of the Truenamer chapter, I discover something new and stupid. (You don't want to know how many I found while writing this guide.) You're highly unlikely to be the MVP in any respect, and you will have to stay constantly vigilant to make sure that you're really contributing to the party. Your reward is . . . well, playing a Truenamer and saying that you did.
Words of Identification: What are Truenamers Good At?
So, Truenamers aren't good at much. I'm not gonna lie to you. They're not. That said, they do have a few niches they can carve out for themselves.
The first niche is the party encyclopedia. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, you're an INT-based class with a skill list that consists of basically nothing but Truespeak, UMD, and Knowledges. You're going to end up with a handful of Knowledges pretty much no matter what, unless you're just being obtuse and intentionally trying to avoid them. Second, you get a class feature called Knowledge Focus which just flat-out gives you bonuses to Knowledges of your choice. Third, if you want to get into the Paragnostic Assembly (more on that later), you're going to be rewarded for taking a whole bunch of Knowledge skills, so there's that. Finally, there are two utterances that are very much worth taking (Hidden Truth and Universal Aptitude) that together can give you (or anyone) a +15 bonus on Knowledge checks (which they can then use untrained). Convinced yet? You're gonna be a smart fellow. When you see something weird, the party will turn to you to be the Pokédex and explain what it is. Your GM may love it (“ooh, I get to explain all those background details I spent all this time mapping out, and I don't even have to TRY to drop plot hooks!”) or hate it (“again? You got a 45? Really? Just take my notes and be quick about it”), but they're probably gonna have to learn to deal with it sooner or later. I'm writing this guide assuming that you're at least somewhat interested in playing a really brainy character who knows a lot of things about a lot of other things.
Another niche is that of a mage's cheerleader. Truenamers get a good handful of utterances that are much more useful to the Truenamer's mage friend than to the Truenamer proper. If you're willing to take up the pom-poms and make the party members who were already more awesome than you even more awesome than they already are, the Truenamer can do that, and they can do it relatively well. This is, I will add, a frustrating role to play sometimes, but if you're into that sort of thing, it's good for the party as a whole.
On their own merits, Truenamers make passable buffers and debuffers, assuming that they can make their checks. The Law of Sequence (combined with the lack of multi-target utterances) means that they won't be affecting too many people at once, but they have a few decent effects. How these effects stack up to what another class can do really depends on the level, since high-level utterances tend to suck.
Weirdly, at high levels, a Truenamer can make a decent healbot, though they probably shouldn't. From level 1, they can keep your HP filled with the Word of Nurturing utterances, and eventually (much too late, of course) they get a bunch of restorative utterances that will actually get rid of status conditions and the like. These usually aren't the best choices to take, but if you actually enjoy being the medic and your party doesn't feel like in-combat healing is a waste of time, a Truenamer can do it.
Finally, a Truenamer gets a weirdly large number of damage-over-time effects, which will appeal to some more hardcore players of MMOs. Damage-over-time effects aren't usually a good deal in D&D (much better to just kill them, since there's no real incentive to use slow burns), but if for some weird reason you just adore that archetype, you can pull it off. It won't be good, make no mistake, but it'll be possible.
Morphemes: Truenamer Class Features
Truenamers are caster-types who live and die by their spell-equivalents, but they do have class features besides. Most of them aren't worth much, but let's look at 'em.
Known Personal Truename: This is about half fluff and half crunch. Functionally, you'll get a net +2 (+4 bonus for it being yours, then –2 penalty for it being a personal name, net +2) to affect yourself with an utterance. What kind of bonus? Well, pg. 200 lists it as untyped, and pg. 196 says it's a competence bonus. Beats me.
Knowledge Focus: Basically, this is a free Skill Focus: Knowledge that stacks with itself, if you so choose. It's a neat little prize, and you get a few of them.
Truename Research: I don't think you're likely to use this, since the benefits of researching personal truenames are almost never worth the effort. Basically a useless bonus feat.
Recitation Feat: The recitation feats are pretty awful. They all take full-round actions, and few of them give anything worthwhile in return. Recitation of the Fortified State gives you a tiny bonus to natural armor in exchange for removing yourself from relevance. Recitation of Meditative State will basically never come up, since whenever a condition is bad enough to warrant the action cost, you can't use it. Recitation of Mindful State gives you a teeny-tiny competence bonus on skills that don't appear on the Truenamer skill list and that mostly can't be used untrained. Recitation of the Sanguine State is decent, but of course forgets that Neutralize Poison has a duration, which gets weird. Recitation of Vital State is situational and unlikely to come up. I don't know why only Fortified and Sanguine have “the” in their names.
See the Named: Interesting, but researching personal truenames is an enormous pain in the butt, so this will probably never see use.
Sending: See See the Named. As above, so below.
Speak Unto the Masses: This comes way too late (level 17? Really?), but it's a necessary tool that you'll be really happy to have (or that you'll really wish you had). Basically, this is great, but it would have been much better much earlier.
Say My Name and I Am There: Behold, perhaps the coolest capstone in D&D. I still say that the Elite Beat Agents (and perhaps the Ōendan) are 20th level Truenamers, probably gestalted with Bard. I can't say enough how awesome this is. How useful it is depends on how you use it, but it's definitely awesome.
Phonemes: Truenamer Stats
A Truenamer has a d6 hit die, Rogue BAB, a good Will save, and 4 + INT skills from a very limited list. They get simple weapons and light armor. They're pretty thoroughly caster-types.
STR: It is possible to make a Truenamer gish, but if you're not going to do that, you can safely dump STR.
DEX: You've got a few debuffs, so initiative matters. Keep this up if you can afford to.
CON: Again, d6 hit die. This is as important for you as it is for everyone else.
INT: You're not playing a Truenamer without INT. This drives your Truespeak skill, so obviously, you'll want it high.
WIS: You'll want to avoid having a penalty here, but you don't have much direct use for WIS, since you don't have any skills or class features based on it.
CHA: The save DCs of your utterances are based on CHA, and you have UMD. That said, there are plenty of utterances that don't allow saves, and there are other ways of boosting UMD. If you plan on using utterances with a lot of saves, put as much here as you can safely afford to. If not, don't worry about it.
Lexicon of the Lexicons: Truenamer Vocabulary
- Utterance: Basically, a spell. This is what the Truenamer does with their time, aside from swearing in frustration.
- Truespeak: A trained-only INT-based skill that you'll need to keep maxed at all times. Pretty much everything a Truenamer does requires a Truespeak check, and the typical DC is 15 + (2 × CR) of the target. Yes, this means that the typical DC goes up by 2 every level, while you can only add 1 rank every level. This is just as annoying as it sounds, and it means that you'll be spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to boost this check . . . then trying to figure out what to do with the check once you've boosted it.
- Lexicon of the Evolving Mind (LEM): The "normal" category of utterances. These are the most common kind of utterances. They affect creatures (well, one creature at a time), and they're all reversible: each utterance is two utterances in one, which is kinda cool. They come in 6 levels. A level 20 Truenamer has 20 of these. The DC to speak one of these utterances is the familiar 15 + (2 × CR), where CR is (you guessed it) the CR of the target, or HD for PCs.
- Lexicon of the Crafted Tool (LCT): These utterances affect items. You'll probably forget that you have them more often than not, because very few of them are actually interesting. These come in 5 levels, and a level 20 Truenamer gets 5 in total. Yup, one per utterance level. Hold your applause until the end, please. The DC to speak one of these is 15 + (2 × CL), where CL is the caster level of the item. If the item is nonmagical, the DC is a flat 25. Yup, that means that you'll have an easier time affecting the little trinket that the apprentice mage enchanted than the nonmagical thing he started with. Don't ask me. This was all WotC.
- Lexicon of the Perfected Map (LPM): A breed of utterance that was clearly tacked on at the last possible minute (definitely after it could be edited), these utterances are your only AoE/multitarget options until level 17. They affect "places," which basically means that they're area effects. There are 4 levels of these, and a level 20 Truenamer gets 4 of them, so once again, one per level. Choose well. WotC literally forgot to include the DC to speak these utterances and had to include it in the errata. No, I'm not joking. That should give you an idea of just how much effort went into this section. (Whether "this section" refers to the LPM section or the Truenamer section is left as an exercise for the reader.) Just so you don't have to look it up, it's 25 + 5 per level of the utterance, with an additional +5 if you're trying to affect a "magical location," though what that means is undefined. This does mean that they're the only utterances who are harder to say if you're using a higher-level one.
- Law of Resistance (LoR): The first Law of WotC Hates Truenamers, this is an annoying little rule that makes Truenaming harder as the day goes on. All those utterance DCs I gave you above are just for the first time you use any given utterance during the day. Each time you succeed, the DC of that particular utterance increases by 2, though (in a rare display of mercy) failing doesn't increase the DC. Yes, this is kind of a pain to keep track of. Anyway, I think this is intended to keep you from just using your utterances at-will, but it basically means that low-level or unoptimized 'Namers will have a hard time doing anything past the first combat of the day, while optimized 'Namers will basically just ignore this until they actually have to roll to Quicken. It's still annoying.
- Law of Sequence (LoS): The second Law of WotC Hates Truenamers, this Law will be the bane of your existence. The LoS says that you can only have one "copy" of an utterance active at any given time. This means that if you have, for example, Knight's Puissance active on your Warblade buddy, you can't cast Knight's Puissance again on your Crusader buddy until the first one runs out, nor can you cast Reversed Knight's Puissance on the Bulette you're fighting. If you've never played a Truenamer, you might think that the LoR is worse than the LoS. You'd be wrong. I consider the LoS to be one of the single worst-designed parts of the entire Truenamer chapter, and you can quote me on that.
- Recitation feat: A totally useless class of feat that you'll end up with one or two of as bonus feats. You'll forget you have them unless you're willing to use the Dark Chaos Shuffle, in which case they're a useful class feature.
- Paragnostic Assembly: An organization from Complete Champion that every single Truenamer is (or desperately wishes they could be) a part of. This might lead to some weird fluff consequences, knowing that they hold sway over all the world's Truenamers, but the potential bonuses that the organization provides are just too good to pass up. They're one of the only places that Truespeak is mentioned outside of Tome of Magic.
- Truenamer: You, you poor bastard.