"The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials." -Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
Rivers tumble, dance, and slowly wear away at everything. As fierce and free as they appear, they still need protection from the depredations of civilization. Druids of course try their best, but sometimes a more subtle touch is needed. This is where the River Wardens step in.
Becoming a River Warden
Most River Wardens are selected by fate. Maybe they live downstream of a huge logging camp and watch their family and friends sicken and die. Maybe they draw water from groundwater contaminated with leftover magics which warps and twists life. Maybe they were selected and trained by another River Warden. In any case, they turn their training as skillful combatants towards protection of water, and emulate the slow cutting of a river in their combat style.
Skills:4 ranks in Knowledge (Nature)
Special:2d6 of Sneak Attack, Skirmish, or Sudden Strike
Feat:Water Devotion (from Complete Champion)
Class Skills: A River Warden gets 6+ Int Modifier skill points per level. Class skills are Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Int), Escape Artist (Dex), Forgery (Int), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (Nature)(Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Open Lock (Dex), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spot (Wis), Survival(Wis) Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), and Use Rope (Dex).
Hit Die: d6
Level BAB Fort Ref Will Special 1st +0 +0 +2 +0 Canny Warrior, Water Guide, Wet Empathy 2nd +1 +0 +3 +0 Erode DR, Flowing Form 2/ encounter, Water Guardian 3rd +2 +1 +3 +1 Erode SR, Formless Body, Heal Water 4th +3 +1 +4 +1 Erode AC, Flowing Form at will 5th +3 +1 +4 +1 Erode Saves, One With Waves
Proficiencies: A River Warden gains no additional armor or weapon proficiencies.
Canny Warrior(Ex): Levels in River Warden stack with one class (chosen at each level of River Warden) that grants sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike for purposes of determining the amount of sneak attack or skirmish or sudden strike the character has.
Water Guide(Ex): A River Warden gain a bonus to swim checks and to Survival checks to find water equal to twice his class level.
Wet Empathy(Ex): A River Warden gains Wild Empathy, as the druid ability of the same name, but can only use it on creatures with the Aquatic subtype. This stacks with Wild Empathy from other sources, but only for communicating with Aquatic creatures.
Erode DR(Ex): Each time a second level River Warden successfully uses sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike against a foe with DR, the foe's DR is reduced by one. The DR is reduced after damage from the attack is calculated, but even if the DR removes all damage from the attack it still reduces the DR by one. This reduction lasts for the rest of the encounter and stacks with itself. DR cannot be reduced below 0. At fifth level, remove two points of DR per successful sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike.
Flowing Form(Su): As a swift action, a River Warden may turn into water, move to a square within 5' per class level, and revert to their normal form. This movement may only occur along the ground and cannot pass through walls but can pass through occupied squares and does not provoke attacks of opportunity. It ignores difficult terrain but cannot pass through walls, over chasms, or otherwise through areas that water could not pass through. This ability is usable twice per encounter at second level and at will at fourth level.
Water Guardian(Su)A second level River Warden gains an additional use of Water Devotion for every five character levels he has. In addition, the water elemental summoned via Water Devotion lasts an additional minute per class level of River Warden the summoner has.
Erode SR(Su): Each time a third level River Warden successfully uses sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike against a foe with SR, the SR is reduced by one. This reduction lasts for the rest of the encounter and stacks with itself. At fifth level, reduce their SR by two per successful sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike.
Formless Body(Su): When precision damage or a critical hit is used against a River Warden, there is a 25% chance that it is negated.
Heal Water(Sp):A third level River Warden may cast Purify Food and Drink at a caster level equal to twice times his class level, at will, but may only purify water with it. Note that ten cubic feet is not even a sneeze to a river, so this is not a viable solution to a polluted river by itself.
Erode AC(Ex): Each time a fourth level River Warden successfully uses sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike against a foe he may reduce that foe's AC by one. This reduction stacks with itself and lasts for the rest of the encounter. If he uses this ability, he does two fewer dice of precision damage (or one fewer die if he reduces skirmish damage instead). He may use this ability as many times in the same attack as he has dice of precision damage to spend.
Erode Saves(Ex): Each time a fifth level River Warden successfully uses sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike against a foe he may reduce one of that foe's saves (Fort, Ref, or Will) by one. This reduction stacks with itself and lasts for the rest of the encounter. If he uses this ability, he does two fewer dice of precision damage (or one fewer die if he reduces skirmish damage instead). He may use this ability as many times in the same attack as he has dice of precision damage to spend and may target different saves with different uses of the ability in the same attack.
One With the Waves(Su): A fifth level Wave Warrior has nothing to fear from water. He gains a swim speed equal to his land speed and can breathe in water as though under the effect of a Water Breathing spell. In addition, he is unimpeded in use of weapons underwater as though under the effects of a Freedom of Movement spell.
Playing a River Warden
Combat: Stab people in the vitals. Flowing Form is awesome for Scouts and for people who want to flank. Eroding SR and DR happens automatically, remember it. Eroding AC is useful so your iteratives can hit and for the big dumb fighter to power attack more. Eroding saves helps your spellslingers mostly, but it can be all kinds of handy too.
Advancement: You should probably keep getting sneak attack or whatever it is you do, so aim for another PrC that gives that. You've drastically slowed down your ability to get higher level rogue or scout or ninja (hah) abilities, so PrC's are probably best.
Resources: Go steal some stuff, preferably from loggers and other ne'er do wells.
River Wardens in the world
"I thought the water would just carry away all that magical waste. The next day, we received a polite note asking us to pick up the discarded staffs and jars of unguents. The day after that, the door to our tower was jammed shut. We decided to clean up before we started getting killed." -Anonymous Wizard's Servant
Daily Life: Rivers are long. You should probably wander up and down one. Alternately, take a more pro-active approach and go adventure while keeping your eyes and ears open for pollution and such.
Notables: Reginald Q Forrester is well known for his single handed sabotage of a large orcish mining operation. Archibald the Soggy takes a more active and evil approach, killing owners of mines and logging operations.
Organizations: The Order of the Red Tide is significant for being the most radical group of River Wardens. They do not warn or threaten, they simply slaughter any group that they decide has polluted waterways.
"Why should I care about a river? Everything I put in it gets washed downstream, away from me." -Nameless Peasant
Conservation is not a typical concern in most D&D settings. The human population is kept lower by all the monsters eating them, and the technology level is too low to dump poison wholesale. Therefore characters espousing protection of nature are likely to be ignored.
River Wardens in the game
Scouts, as noted, will love Flowing Form. The ability to reduce stats like AC is more useful for long battles, which tend not to happen so much in D&D. Bonuses to swimming and water breathing are pretty easily done with magic, so it's a different direction for a skillmonkey but shouldn't break things.
Adaptation: A desert warrior who eventually burrows through sand could be interesting. Likewise, a mountaineer who always finds a cave when he needs it could help.
Encounters: PC's generally do not stay in one place long enough to really mess it up, so it is more likely that a River Warden band will misidentify the party as working with known polluters. They can also serve as a source of quest hooks or as more long-term antagonists to a campaign based around building a town.