Imitation has more to it than flattery.
Quote Originally Posted by Lycus Blackbeak


Lindsay hated guard duty.

He had fought hard for the Vicar of Mourning during the Blackwater Wars, had won every battle, proved himself enough to gain audience with the Vicar himself. The Vicar had promised him riches and a position within his own house. He had jumped at the chance, expecting higher wages and easy living. But the Vicar was demanding and intensely paranoid, requiring round the clock guarding, and as he neared the end of another twelve hour day, Lindsay found himself missing the bloody simplicity of the wars.

“Lindsay, I have need of you,” came the Vicar’s dusty voice from the door behind him. “Come in, quickly.”

Lindsay looked around at the other guards. They all shrugged. Lindsay turned and entered the crypt-like room.

The Vicar looked up at him, with surprise showing in his sunken eyes. He quickly covered the maps he was working on. “What are you doing here? How dare you enter without knocking?”

“I - I was called,” Lindsay stammered. “You asked -”

“I did nothing of the sort,” the Vicar said quietly, “and since you have so recklessly abandoned your post, perhaps you ought to stay on for a second shift.”

Lindsay was preparing to reply when he heard the sounds of a struggle from outside the room. He turned to speak, but the Vicar waved him away. “Go,” he commanded. “See what happens when you leave your post?”

Back in the antechamber, all was chaos. The guards were fanning out, preparing to face three men, all wearing mail and bearing swords. He paused a moment to wonder at how they managed to get in without an alarm being raised.

Suddenly he heard someone shout. “Guards, put down your weapons,” said the voice. “The Vicar’s orders! These men are here to see him!” Lindsay watched in awe as the guards all did, looking confused. He belatedly realized that the voice that spoke was his own.

“No!” He shouted, preparing to tell them it was all a trick, that he had not spoken, when he stepped forward. Something clicked under his foot. He felt a strange vapor puff up past his nose and suddenly fell forward, so drowsy he could no longer stand.

“That wasn’t me,” he muttered, but his voice was so low that the other guards could no longer hear him. With heavy, drooping eyes, he watched a strange bird-man step out of the shadows. And then, all he knew was sleep...

"Crow tool manufacture had three features new to tool use in free-living nonhumans... which indicates that crows have achieved a considerable technical capability in their tool manufacture and use."

Hunt, G. Manufacture and use of hook-tools by New Caledonian crows. Nature 379, 249 - 251 (18 January 1996).

Lycus Blackbeak
CG Kenku, Factotum 3/Totemist 2/Combat Trapsmith 5/Nightsong Infiltrator 10
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LYCUS BLACKBEAK
{table=head]Level|Class|Base Attack Bonus|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Skills|Feats|Class Features

1st|Factotum 1|
+0
|
+0
|
+2
|
+0
|Climb 4 ranks, disable device 4 ranks, balance 4 ranks, search 4 ranks, use magic device 4 ranks, bluff 4 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 4 ranks, craft (alchemy) 4 ranks, hide 4 ranks, move silently 4 ranks|Darkstalker|Inspiration, cunning insight, cunning knowledge, trapfinding

2nd|Totemist 1|
+0
|
+2
|
+4
|
+0
|Climb 4.5 ranks, disable device 4.5 ranks, search 4.5 ranks, use magic device 4.5 ranks, hide 4.5 ranks, move silently 4.5 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 5 ranks, craft (alchemy) 5 ranks||Wild empathy

3rd|Totemist 2|
+1
|
+3
|
+5
|
+0
|Climb 5 ranks, disable device 5 ranks, search 5 ranks, use magic device 5 ranks, hide 5 ranks, move silently 5 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 6 ranks, craft (alchemy) 6 ranks|Sacred Vow|Totem chakra bind (+1 capacity)

4th|Factotum 2|
+2
|
+3
|
+6
|
+0
|Climb 6 ranks, disable device 6 ranks, balance 5 ranks, search 6 ranks, use magic device 5 ranks, bluff 5 ranks, hide 6 ranks, move silently 6 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 7 ranks, craft (alchemy) 7 ranks||Arcane dilettante (1 spell)

5th|Factotum 3|
+3
|
+4
|
+6
|
+1
|Climb 7 ranks, disable device 7 ranks, search 7 ranks, use magic device 6 ranks, bluff 6 ranks, hide 7 ranks, move silently 7 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 8 ranks, craft (alchemy) 8 ranks, spot 1 rank||Brains over brawn, cunning defense

6th|Combat Trapsmith 1|
+3
|
+6
|
+8
|
+1
|Climb 8 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 9 ranks, craft (alchemy) 9 ranks, disable device 8 ranks, hide 8 ranks, move silently 8 ranks, open lock 1 rank, search 8 ranks, spot 2 ranks|Vow of Nonviolence|Combat trapping, trap sense +1, enfeebler trap, befuddler trap

7th|Combat Trapsmith 2|
+4
|
+7
|
+9
|
+1
|Climb 9 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 10 ranks, craft (alchemy) 10 ranks, disable device 9 ranks, hide 9 ranks, move silently 9 ranks, open lock 2 ranks, search 9 ranks, spot 3 ranks, bluff 6.5 ranks|Skill Focus (craft (trapmaking))|Entangler trap, equalizer trap (lose befuddler)

8th|Combat Trapsmith 3|
+5
|
+7
|
+9
|
+2
|Climb 10 ranks, craft (trapmaking) 11 ranks, craft (alchemy) 11 ranks, disable device 10 ranks, hide 10 ranks, move silently 10 ranks, open lock 3 ranks, search 10 ranks, spot 4 ranks, bluff 7 ranks||Trap sense +2, flashbang trap, spiderweb trap (lose enfeebler)

9th|Combat Trapsmith 4|
+6/+1
|
+8
|
+10
|
+2
|Craft (trapmaking) 12 ranks, craft (alchemy) 12 ranks, disable device 11 ranks, hide 12 ranks, move silently 11 ranks, open lock 5 ranks, search 11 ranks, spot 5 ranks|Alertness|Improvised materials, sleeper trap

10th|Nightsong Infiltrator 1|
+6/+1
|
+8
|
+12
|
+2
|Bluff 9 ranks, craft (alchemy) 13 ranks, disable device 12 ranks, hide 13 ranks, move silently 12 ranks, search 12 ranks, spot 6 ranks, use magic device 10 ranks||Teamwork trap sense +1

11th|Nightsong Infiltrator 2|
+7/+2
|
+8
|
+13
|
+2
|Bluff 12 ranks, craft (alchemy) 14 ranks, disable device 13 ranks, hide 14 ranks, move silently 14 ranks, search 13 ranks, spot 7 ranks, use magic device 12 ranks||Steady stance, teamwork infiltration +2

12th|Nightsong Infiltrator 3|
+8/+3
|
+9
|
+13
|
+3
|Bluff 15 ranks, craft (alchemy) 15 ranks, disable device 14 ranks, hide 15 ranks, move silently 15 ranks, search 14 ranks, spot 8 ranks, use magic device 15 ranks|Shadow Striker|Break away, trackless step (self)

13th|Nightsong Infiltrator 4|
+9/+4
|
+9
|
+14
|
+3
|Bluff 16 ranks, craft (alchemy) 16 ranks, disable device 15 ranks, hide 16 ranks, move silently 16 ranks, search 15 ranks, spot 13 ranks, use magic device 16 ranks||Detect magic, teamwork sneak attack +1d6, teamwork trap sense +2

14th|Nightsong Infiltrator 5|
+9/+4
|
+9
|
+14
|
+3
|Bluff 17 ranks, craft (alchemy) 17 ranks, disable device 16 ranks, hide 17 ranks, move silently 17 ranks, search 16 ranks, spot 16 ranks, use magic device 17 ranks, Skill Trick: Clarity of Vision||Defensive roll, grant move action 1/day

15th|Combat Trapsmith 5|
+9/+4
|
+9
|
+14
|
+3
|Bluff 18 ranks, craft (alchemy) 18 ranks, disable device 17 ranks, hide 18 ranks, move silently 18 ranks, search 18 ranks, spot 18 ranks, use magic device 18 ranks, Skill Trick: Corner Perch|Improved Diversion|Expert trapsetter, trap sense +3, stinkburst trap, glitterburst trap (lose entangler)

16th|Nightsong Infiltrator 6|
+10/+5
|
+10
|
+15
|
+4
|Bluff 19 ranks, climb 11 ranks, craft (alchemy) 19 ranks, disable device 19 ranks, hide 19 ranks, move silently 19 ranks, search 19 ranks, spot 19 ranks, use magic device 19 ranks, diplomacy 1 rank, forgery 1 rank||Improved evasion, skill mastery, specialized tools

17th|Nightsong Infiltrator 7|
+11/+6/+1
|
+10
|
+15
|
+4
|Bluff 20 ranks, climb 12 ranks, craft (alchemy) 20 ranks, disable device 20 ranks, hide 20 ranks, move silently 20 ranks, search 20 ranks, spot 20 ranks, use magic device 20 ranks, diplomacy 4 ranks||Teamwork trap sense +3, trackless step (allies)

18th|Nightsong Infiltrator 8|
+12/+7/+2
|
+10
|
+16
|
+4
|Bluff 21 ranks, craft (alchemy) 21 ranks, disable device 21 ranks, hide 21 ranks, move silently 21 ranks, search 21 ranks, spot 21 ranks, use magic device 21 ranks, diplomacy 8 ranks|Ability Focus (combat trapping)|Teamwork infiltration +4, teamwork sneak attack +2d6

19th|Nightsong Infiltrator 9|
+12/+7/+2
|
+11
|
+16
|
+5
|Bluff 22 ranks, craft (alchemy) 22 ranks, disable device 22 ranks, hide 22 ranks, move silently 22 ranks, search 22 ranks, spot 22 ranks, use magic device 22 ranks, diplomacy 12 ranks||Grant move action 2/day

20th|Nightsong Infiltrator 10|
+13/+8/+3
|
+11
|
+17
|
+5
|Bluff 23 ranks, craft (alchemy) 23 ranks, disable device 23 ranks, hide 23 ranks, move silently 23 ranks, search 23 ranks, spot 23 ranks, use magic device 23 ranks, diplomacy 16 ranks||Hide in plain sight, teamwork trap sense +4[/table]

FINAL SKILL RANKS:
Balance 5 ranks
Bluff 23 ranks
Climb 12 ranks
Craft (alchemy) 23 ranks
Craft (trapmaking) 12 ranks
Diplomacy 16 ranks
Disable device 23 ranks
Forgery 1 rank
Hide 23 ranks
Move silently 23 ranks
Open lock 5 ranks
Search 23 ranks
Use magic device 23 ranks
Clarity of Vision skill trick
Corner Perch skill trick

Ability Scores
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Str 6/Dex 15/Con 13/Int 18/Wis 10/Cha 12 (includes racial mods)

Boost Intelligence at every level.


Suggested Items
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Equip yourself like you would any thief. Intelligence is far and away your most important stat, so pick up items and tomes that boost that. Following that, boost Dexterity.

Weapons are unnecessary; your claws mean you can always flank without needing to carry a weapon in your hand, and you have vowed not to deal damage regardless. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a feycraft sap on you for when you need to deal nonlethal damage, or a few nets or bolas, but that’s about it.

You’ll want armor that restricts you as little as possible, and when you can afford the greater version of Shadow and Silent Moves enhancements, I would pick those up, which will free up a soulmeld for you. (Anything other than the greater versions is not worth it, however, as your Kruthik Claws grant you a +8 competence bonus on their own.) A Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis is also always nice on a stealth build.

A hat of disguise or a wand of alter self would not go amiss, combining well with your Mimicry ability to impersonate just about anyone. Wands are also great. A wand of glibness in particular would be nice, as would a wand of heroics. An eternal wand of open least chakra is also a very nice thing to have.



The Blackbeak's Code
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Where the shadows fall, evil may grow. To attack evil in the light of day is a futile task; evil must be destroyed where its roots grow deepest.

Redemption exists in the souls of all men. I must always remember this.

The greatest form of evil is tyranny. One man with evil in his heart may cause mischief but little more, while an empire threatens the entire world.

Societies built on tyranny are like a stone wall with no mortar. An army may fling itself against the wall to no avail, while a clever bird picks at the cracks.

If I am to truly succeed, I must do this without the shedding of blood. Certainly evil blood must sometimes be spillt, but it must not be at my claws. This is not an abdication of guilt. This is my sacrifice.


Build Snapshots
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LEVELS 1-5:
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You begin play as a stealthy scout. Darkstalker comes online right from the get-go, because what kind of scout would you be if you couldn’t even sneak past a CR ⅓ guard dog?

Anyhow, like all factota, you are a jack of all trades. Combined with your racial bonuses, totemist soulmelds and your inspiration points, you should be putting out truly phenomenal skill bonuses in all the stealthy skills. This especially becomes true at level 5, when you are adding your Intelligence bonus to many of these skills.

With your two levels of totemist, you get three soulmelds and the ability to bind to your totem chakra. Feel free to switch these up as circumstances require, but you’ll pretty much always want the Kruthik Claws for the potential +8 bonus to your stealth skills. Other good ones include the Lammasu Mantle, for a nice bonus to saves and AC, the Blink Shirt for tactical movement, and the Great Raptor Mask, for Evasion and nice boosts to your spot checks.



LEVELS 6-10:
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Well, that escalated quickly. Right at level 6, you pick up both Vow of Nonviolence and your first level in Combat Trapsmith, giving you a wide variety of new abilities.

Let’s look at those traps for a minute. Note that none of your chosen traps break your Vow of Nonviolence. Note also that the Vow of Nonviolence provides a hefty +4 bonus to their save DC, meaning that by level 9, you’re looking at a DC of 18+Int. To make matters worse, many of your chosen traps still inflict a debuff even on a successful save. Slink around the battlefield setting traps under the feet of your foes, allowing you to entangle them, knock them prone, put them to sleep, sicken them and more. Heck, by level 9 you don’t even need materials to do this anymore - you can create these traps at-will using whatever happens to be at hand.

It’s also worth taking a gander at that excellent craft (alchemy) skill. While your trapmaking tops out at DC 26 (enough to make a Sleeper or Stinkburst trap with improvised materials), the better you are at alchemical crafting, the faster you can churn out these items. So in addition to laying nasty traps all over the place, you’re also debuffing with tanglefoot bags, eggshell grenades, alchemical sleep gas and torch bug paste. You’re using noxious smokesticks and stinkpots to create battlefield control, or boosting allies with nerv, bloodspikes and antitoxins.

You should pretty much exclusively switch to the Great Raptor Mask as your totem bind from here on out, by the way. As a scout, the bonus to Spot checks is becoming very important (and soon you’ll have Clarity of Vision as well). The evasion is also essential, allowing you to pick up your first level of Nightsong Infiltrator. Right now that means a big boost to your skills and a passive boost to you and your allies, but over the next few levels, it’s about to become VERY important.


LEVELS 11-15:
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Hey, let’s take a nice long look at what those Nightsong Infiltrator levels offer you. In addition to a ton of excellent defensive abilities (hello, break away and defensive roll!) and some nice scouting boosts (hi, trackless step and detect magic at will!), you also pick up a lot of nice teamwork benefits.

First of all, teamwork trap sense. It’s nice on its own, since it gives your party a reasonable boost against traps. It’s especially handy for you, just in case one of them stumbles into one of your traps. (No matter how many times you tell that fighter not to step there, he just never seems to learn...)

Oh, hey, your skills. Nightsong Infiltrator gets a hefty 8 skill points per level and every skill you need here as a class skill. Now you can catch up on both bluff and use magic device, right at the levels when those two skills become super important. You can also pick up the Clarity of Vision skill trick, letting you spot invisible enemies to target with your Glitterburst traps.

Now, see that maxed out bluff skill? You’ve got three very good reasons to take advantage of it. The first is the “Delivering a Secret Message” ability. You’re laying traps all over the place, and you want your party to know where they are without your enemies doing so. Using bluff, you can convey to them where not to walk without cluing in the baddies.

Also, as a kenku, you’ve got the Mimicry ability. You can mimic voices, sounds, etc., that you’ve heard. You’re going to be spending a lot of time hidden. Use this time to spread confusion as you mimic the voices of your foes, issuing contradictory orders or calling for help where none is needed. This is especially nice if vision is obscured by things like smokesticks and Stinkburst bombs.

But we were talking about Nightsong Infiltrator’s teamwork benefits. You’re lending some of your stealth ability to your party, which is always nice. Also, while you have sworn not to attack, by flanking enemies you can still lend your aid to your allies, granting them not only a flanking bonus, but sneak attack damage as well. Now let’s look at Shadow Striker. If you and an ally have an enemy flanked so that you both threaten, you can make a Hide check versus his Spot, and if you succeed, he can’t attack you as long as the other enemy still threatens. This means he can’t make attack of opportunities on you while you trap the square he’s standing in. In fact, you can lay trap after trap right under his feet and there’s not a darn thing he can do about it. Your ally, meanwhile, is free to attack, and dealing extra damage to boot.

Oh, hey, I said there were three reasons why bluff was so important to you. Take a look at that level 15 feat, Improved Diversion, which allows you to make a bluff check to create a diversion to hide as a move action instead of a standard action. Well, notice that at the same level, you get the ability to start setting traps as a standard action, including things like the Stinkburst trap. Ever seen a ninja disappear in a puff of smoke? That’s you, baby! Standard action to create a stinking cloud bomb, move action to call attention to create a diversion, and then take a five foot step and use that movement to hide. The net effect is that you toss down a bomb or smokestick, causing a big bang and smoke, and then... disappear.


LEVELS 16-20:
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The good just keeps on getting better.

Right at level 16, you get three great boons - improved tools (essentially a +2 bonus to just about every useful skill you’ve got), skill mastery, and improved evasion. Failure just isn’t an option for you!

Nightsong Infiltrator’s huge number of skill points means you’ve long since hit the ceiling on most skills you care about, so with the extra points, you begin to branch out a bit. You can actually make a pretty passable diplomancer in these levels, assuming you can dodge the flying books. You also pick up forgery, a nice little skill that is only opposed by... forgery! With forger’s paper (which you can easily craft yourself) and an inspiration point, not to mention your massive Int bonus, you should be able to forge almost anything.

All of your other abilities improve as well. Once your party was a bunch of bumbling fools who couldn’t clunk down a hallway without alerting half the castle. Now they’re a crack team that can put Charlie and his roller-skating astral devas to shame. Your whole team moves everywhere without leaving a trace, quiet and deadly. You can even grant them extra movement to help reposition them into flanking positions and push them past the tougher parts.

That team sneak attack bonus gets better as well, so your little flanking Shadow Striker trick becomes even deadlier. You get a very nice Hide in Plain Sight ability for when you’re in natural terrain, and it combos well with your smoke bombs. Oh, and the DC of your traps is now 21+Int. With level appropriate gear, that means a whopping DC of 33, with the ability to target multiple saves.



Tips and Tricks
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In addition to Lycus Blackbeak's hefty stealth bonuses, soulmeld use, factotum abilities and high-DC traps, Lycus has several particular tricks he uses to get the drop on his enemies.

Evasive Flanking
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Find an ally and move into a flanking position. In addition to flanking bonuses, you’re also granting your ally sneak attack damage. Meanwhile, using Shadow Striker’s “Evade Notice” option, you can make a hide check to avoid being attacked, as long as you don’t directly attack your enemy. That’s OK, because your Vow of Nonviolence means you don’t really like directly attacking anyhow. One thing you CAN do? Set traps! So while you’re boosting your ally’s attacks, you’re also setting trap after trap on your enemy... and as long as you both threaten him, he can't attack you or take AoOs on you while you do it!


Disappearing in a Puff of Smoke
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You can create small stinking clouds at will as a standard action via the stinkburst trap. You can also make a diversion to hide as a move action via Improved Diversion. The actual act of hiding itself isn’t an action at all, but rather is combined with movement, as long as you have some form of cover or concealment, and if you spend your move action on something other than movement (ie, making a diversion), you can follow it up with a 5-foot step.

So what happens when you combine that? Well, set off a stinkburst bomb as your standard, make a bluff check to distract everyone as a move action, then 5-foot step into hiding. The stinking cloud gives you the concealment you need to successfully hide. Yes, that’s right, you’ve just recreated the ninja disappearing smoke bomb trick.


Trapped!
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Sometimes, no matter how cleverly you lay a trap, you just can’t convince an enemy to set it off. Good use of the bluff skill should help keep this problem to a minimum, but in a pinch, you can set traps off yourself to excellent effect.

Many of your traps create lasting battlefield control, or affect all adjacent squares in addition to their own square. Go ahead and set these off yourself, especially those requiring a reflex save. Despite the massive DC, you’ve got excellent Reflex saves, improved evasion, and a whopping +7 trap sense bonus to saves.

Your allies also share a good portion of these trap sense bonuses, meaning that if they've got decent saves, you can also include them in the radius of your traps without fear of harm. Just be prepared to buy them a mug of ale afterwards if things don’t go quite as planned...


Break Away and Make Them Pay
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Mobility is important to you, and the Break Away ability is pretty sweet, offering a huge AC bonus if you do nothing but move. But... not ANYTHING else? That seems sad! Still, it comes in handy, especially since you’ll want to be constantly moving into flanking positions. You’re an EXCELLENT flanking partner, after all.

But hey, wait a minute, isn’t speaking a free action? And when it comes to speaking, your words are deadly. Thanks to your Mimicry ability, you can perfectly mimic other voices and sounds you've heard. Your goal is to completely confuse and confound your enemies, so while you dance around the battlefield granting flanking boosts and sneak attack damage, you can also shout commands in their leader’s voice, imitate the sounds of swordplay or arrows firing, convince enemies that there are traps where none exist, and more. You can simultaneously deliver a secret message to your own allies, completely under your enemy’s radar.



Sources
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Combat Trapsmith, skill tricks: Comp Scoundrel
Darkstalker: Lords of Madness
Sacred Vow, Vow of Nonviolence: Book of Exalted Deeds
Shadow Striker: PHB2
Improved Diversion: Comp Adventurer
Factotum: Dungeonscape
Totemist: Magic of Incarnum
Ability Focus: MM/SRD