The Soulborn sucks, everyone who has read Magic of Incarnum knows it. Combined with the many issues I have with the fluff of MoI in the first place, and I've been planning to make a lot of changes; I'm not done with the first of these, but think it's to a point where I can hang it out in public and let people PEACH it. The intent of this design is to create a class which is a warrior first and Incarnum user second, with fluff that's a bit less New Agey and a bit more genuinely introspective, to have a limited list of melds to choose from so that you don't have to learn the entire list at first level, to have a little fun with the weapon and armor rules, and to take a bit of inspiration from the Bard and the Knight, who both feel like they use Ideology as a power source (which is also an accurate statement of how Incarnates and Soulborns were conceived), but don't have mechanics which make this literal.
Note: Emphasis is my word for what MoI calls Essentia, as I don't think it needed such a vague and spacey-sounding term. I have alternate names for pretty much all the features of the incarnum system, including "incarnum", but so far none of them have "stuck" except this one.
While incarnum has granted the ability to hold a soul in your hand for all the world to see, some individuals have always known the soul was a reality; their surety in the knowledge of their spiritual self and the fate that awaited them on the appropriate Outer Plane brought them a sense of peace and inner strength, which made their physical or magical abilities seem secondary by comparison. Upon the unleashing of incarnum upon the world, these individuals have found that they take naturally to the creation of certain specific soulmelds, ones which visibly manifest their ideals to ensure that their devotion protects them and fells their enemies. They become living symbols of all that they have chosen to make of their souls - the Exemplars.
Unlike the Incarnate, who dips into the sea of all souls and can draw out any soulmeld she can imagine, the Exemplar has only a small number of soulmelds to wield at any time. At first her incarnum-channeling abilities are largely limited to enhancing her combat prowess; by giving proper Emphasis to attack or defense, she can become either deadlier or more enduring than a fighter, but not both at once. Only through experience does the Exemplar learn to wield the full range of incarnum's capabilities.
These are the class features of the Exemplar:
Base Attack bonus: Good.
Good Saves: Will.
Skill modifier: x2.
Class Skills: Concentration, Craft, Gather Information, Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (the planes), Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Spellcraft. Additionally, the following skills are class skills for you if you possess the corresponding alignment:
Good - Diplomacy and Heal
Chaos - Bluff, Escape Artist and Disable Device
Evil - Intimidate and Disguise
Law - Handle Animal, Balance and Use Rope.
Alignment - Since an exemplar gains additional class skills for being a certain alignment, they are usually a member of one of the four non-neutral alignments. The extremely rare True Neutral exemplar might devote himself to balance as an ideal, or he might simply have a highly abstract ideology which does not fall within any major alignment. While the polarization of souls toward an ideological extreme is fundamental to the structure of the planes, it does not explain everything that matters in the beliefs of sentient beings, and so it is perfectly possible for an Exemplar to represent some highly abstruse commonality underlying the souls of those who cleave to no extreme. Piorrb Siegart is the best known of these, espousing his belief in a "universal harmony with the cosmic flow," whereby all beings should "follow the path of least resistance" so that their actions may be "dictated by the sublime design of the invisible pattern". The majority, however, stand for ideologies that make intuitive sense to a large section of the populace - selfishness or self-sacrifice, devotion or indulgence, freedom or obligation, community or enmity.
Proficiencies - Simple and martial weapons, all armor, shields.
Aura - You radiate utter conviction in your ideals, which in most cases produces a powerful aura corresponding to your alignments which can be detected by appropriate spells. This aura is equal to your Exemplar level. (Technically a neutral Exemplar also has such an aura; there simply aren't any commonly used spells which detect for such unusual resonances. If anyone ever comes up with a Detect Vaguely Zen/Tao/Feng-Shui-Inspired Philosophy spell, Piorrb Siegart is in trouble, but for now he earns a certain mystical anonymity by cleaving to an ideal which nobody else recognizes, though contemplating such mysteries apparently keeps him too busy to spare much time for learning more immediately practical skills.)
Emphasis - An Exemplar possesses more Emphasis than any other meldshaping class, although his ability to use it is distinctly limited. At low levels, the exemplar can do little with his Emphasis except enhance the powers of his Incarnate Weapon and Armor. Once he gains the ability to shape soulmelds, the Exemplar can begin to expand beyond his initial combative role and begin displaying the benefits of his spiritual path in every arena.
(Full table of Emphasis per level forthcoming; this is a part of the incarnum rules I am still learning to understand.)
Incarnate Weapon - An Exemplar can conjure a weapon from out of his very soul, and continues to improve this weapon's abilities throughout his career. See the next post for the details of this ability.
Incarnate Armor - Beginning at 2nd level, an exemplar's ideology begins to physically protect her in the form of a soulmeld resembling full body armor. Like her weapon, her armor is highly personalized and symbolic. The armor protects both body and soul, granting immunity to certain status effects depending on alignment, as well as improving armor class and saving throws.
Initially the character's Incarnate Armor functions as a Chain Shirt (+4 AC, maximum Dex bonus of +4), though it has no armor check penalty. At every level divisible by 4, the character may either:
* increase the maximum Dex bonus and reduce any armor check penalties by 1 (make the armor more flexible),
* increase the AC bonus by 1 while gaining a -1 armor check penalty (stiffening the armor slightly), or
* increase the AC bonus by 2 while gaining a -2 armor check penalty and reducing maximum Dex bonus by 1 (thickening the armor considerably).
Thusly, the character might make his armor thicker (+6 AC, -2 ACP, max Dex +3) at level 4, then at level 8 lighten it (+6 AC, -1 ACP, max Dex +4), and at level 12 lighten it again (+6 AC, -0 ACP, Max Dex +5), then at level 16 increase its rigidity (+7 AC, -1 ACP, Max Dex +5), before lightening it one more time at level 20 (+7 AC, -0 ACP, Max Dex +6). Alternatively, he could just making it thicker at every single opportunity, resulting in a monstrous +14 AC but a highly impractical -10 ACP and with no Dexterity bonus allowed at all. (Actually it should probably be ruled that if the Dexterity bonus drops to 0, it can't be further reduced and the character must choose a different enhancement, lest the armor make him unable to move at all.)
Rules for adding Emphasis to the armor forthcoming. I'm not sure I was quite thinking about that part when I wrote this bit.
At 6th level, the character may automatically add a shield to the armor if he wishes to; he may make the shield appear or disappear as part of his swift action each turn, though he must still have a hand free in order to make use of it. Treat the shield as heavy (+2 AC), but it has no armor check penalty. At 16th level, the shield gains the ability to grow into a tower shield on command (as part of the character's swift action), while in this form it offers either total cover or +4 AC, but applies a -5 armor check penalty and restricts the character to a +4 Dex bonus for as long as it is in this form.
At 10th level, the character gains immunity to dazzling and fear if Good, immunity to stunning and paralysis if Chaotic, immunity to sickening and nausea if Evil, and immunity to dazing, fatigue and exhaustion if Lawful.
At 4th level, the character gains a +4 bonus to saves against any effect which he will be immune to at 10th level (assuming his alignment remains the same). At 14th level, all of his allies within 30 feet gain the +4 bonus to whatever he is immune to, and at 18th level they are immune as well.
At 20th level the character is immune to blindness, deafness, and death effects if good, to petrification if chaotic, to ability damage (not drain) if evil, and to confusion and disabling (treat him as having the Diehard feat) if lawful. Only at epic levels does the exemplar gain the ability to grant these higher-level immunities to others.
A character who wishes to wear normal armor may shape his Incarnate Armor into a skintight suit or shirt and still gain the benefit of his immunities or save bonuses. He may not produce a shield while using this "incarnate clothing".
Resounding Conviction - Beginning at 3rd level, an exemplar can bind her incarnate weapon to her chakras, causing that chakra to glow brilliantly in the same hue as the weapon. This enables her to inflict a status effect on anyone of an opposite alignment whom the weapon strikes. The character must use an available chakra bind and must have opened the chakra in question (through either a meldshaping class level or the Open Chakra feats). Each chakra grants a minor and a major condition, and affects foes who are a "perfect opposite" (exactly the opposite alignment) with the major condition while "imperfect opposites" receive the minor. In the case of a half-Neutral Exemplar, for example Lawful Neutral, the perfect opposite is also half-neutral, in this case Chaotic, while the imperfect opposites are any others who do not share the examplar's non-neutral alignment but are not True Neutral. Peculiarly enough, True Neutral functions as its own perfect opposite, while its imperfect opposites are the extreme alignments; such an irregularity has yet to be explained.
Crown chakra - Perfect opposites panicked, imperfect opposites shaken
Brow chakra - Perfect opposites blinded, imperfect opposites dazzled
Throat chakra - Perfect opposites silenced, imperfect opposites deafened
Soul chakra - Perfect opposites petrified, imperfect opposites rendered unconscious.
Shoulders chakra - Perfect opposites stunned, imperfect opposites dazed
Heart chakra - Perfect opposites confused, imperfect opposites disabled
Arms chakra - Perfect opposites paralyzed, imperfect opposites staggered
Hands chakra - Perfect opposites blown away, imperfect opposites knocked down
Waist chakra - Perfect opposites nauseated, imperfect opposites sickened
Feet chakra - Perfect opposites exhausted, imperfect opposites fatigued
Soulmelds - Beginning at 4th level, you gain the ability to shape soulmelds other than your Incarnate Weapon or Incarnate Armor. An exemplar's meldshaping abilities are based on Charisma; he does not simply wield soulmelds, he proselytizes with them. The Exemplar knows how to shape two soulmelds at fourth level, and can add one to this list at every level thereafter; of the soulmelds known, he may shape one at fourth level and one more at every second level thereafter, to a maximum of nine soulmelds (from a selection of seventeen that he knows how to shape) at 20th level. In any case, he may have no more than his Charisma minus 10 soulmelds shaped (so with a Charisma of only 18 he could not shape a ninth soulmeld even at level 20).
(List of Exemplar soulmelds forthcoming. For now assume it will resemble the selection available to Soulborn, but eventually I hope to make it better represent the fluff of every meld being the manifestation of a concept that the character values - think of the Ardent from Complete Psi for a vaguely similar characterization basis.)
Leadership - A 6th-level Exemplar gains Leadership as a bonus feat. Swaying others to their cause comes naturally to Exemplars.
At higher levels, an Exemplar begins to gain abilities similar to those of a bard or knight, investing Emphasis in these effects in order to empower them. Many Exemplars believe that these powers are ultimately from the same source, whether or not incarnum is visibly involved; there is a shared weave among all souls which they believe draws - or chains - people together, and they can use those connections to inspire their allies or manipulate their foes.
Ex-Exemplars - An exemplar who changes alignment takes a penalty to each of the skills which come with the lost alignment equal to half of the number of ranks he has purchased in those skills, rounding up. For instance, a lawful good exemplar becomes lawful neutral. Her 5 ranks in Diplomacy still exist for the sake of synergies and so forth, but she takes a -3 penalty to all Diplomacy rolls. She does not treat any additional skills as class skills as a result of her new alignment. Additionally, her Resounding Conviction no longer functions with respect to any alignment she has drifted away from; our formerly-good example Exemplar, for instance, if her weapon was bound to her Crown chakra, could still render Chaotic foes shaken, but would no longer have any effect on Evil ones (including the Chaotic Evil foes which she would otherwise be capable of panicking).
Incarnate Weapon - An Exemplar can conjure a weapon from out of his very soul, and continues to improve this weapon's abilities throughout his career. The weapon is a perfect representation of his ideals - chaotic exemplars produce gratuitously oversized weapons which seem like they shouldn't even function, yet do so in an incredible and often baffling fashion, while lawful exemplars produce weapons which seem to herald the inevitability of their opponent's doom. Good incarnates produce weapons of mercy and judgment, and evil incarnates pride themselves on the fearsomeness and sadism of their weapons.
* A first-level Exemplar's Incarnate Weapon starts out as a 1d6 weapon (1d4 if the character is Small) with a x2 critical, no throwing range, and the player's choice of any one damage type (bludgeoning, piercing or slashing). At every odd-numbered level including first, the Exemplar gains one Weapon Refinement Point, which may be spent to reshape the weapon into a new form. The WRP may be spent immediately or held until later, but once spent it cannot be reclaimed. The following characteristics may be added to the weapon at the listed cost in WRP.
1 WRP - DAMAGE INCREASE. The weapon's damage die increases by one size (d4 -> d6 -> d8 -> d10 -> d12). This may only be taken once.
1 WRP - THROWING. The weapon may be thrown with a range increment of 10 feet (without entailing the usual -4 nonproficiency penalty for a weapon that isn't designed to be thrown, and without reducing the frequency or severity of critical hits caused by the weapon). As with any Incarnate Weapon, it will return to the character's hand at the beginning of her next action.
1 WRP - MULTIPLE DAMAGE TYPES. The weapon's damage counts as either or both of two damage types (bludgeoning, piercing or slashing). Once this choice is made it cannot be changed.
1 WRP - TRIP. The weapon is hook-shaped and may be used to make trip attacks. If you would be tripped during your own trip attempt, you may drop the weapon instead. It will return to your hand on your next action as is typical of incarnate weapons.
1 WRP - DISARM. The weapon adds a +2 bonus to your rolls during a disarm attempt.
1 WRP - MERCIFUL. The weapon may be used to deal nonlethal damage without the usual penalty on the attack roll.
1 WRP - FINESSE. The character fights with the weapon as if using the Weapon Finesse feat, despite the weapon not being Light. The character may not add 1.5x his Strength modifier to an attack with this weapon by holding it in two hands.
1 WRP - REACH. The weapon has a reach of +5 feet; it cannot be used against foes within its original reach.
1 WRP - READY VS. CHARGE. The weapon does double damage against a charging opponent if it strikes as part of a ready action triggered by the charge.
1 WRP - FREQUENT CRITICAL. The weapon scores a critical threat on a roll of 19-20. The cost of this enhancement increases to 2 WRP if you already have Deadly Critical, or to 3 WRP if you have Murderous Critical.
1 WRP - DEADLY CRITICAL. The weapon scores x3 damage on a critical hit. The cost of this enhancement increases to 2 WRP if you already have Frequent Critical or 3 WRP if you have Reliable Critical
2 WRP - RELIABLE CRITICAL. The weapon scores a critical threat on an 18-20. The cost of this enhancement increases to 3 WRP if you already have Deadly Critical or to 5 WRP if you have Murderous Critical.
2 WRP - MURDEROUS CRITICAL. The weapon scores x4 damage on a critical hit. The cost of this enhancement increases to 3 WRP if you already have Frequent Critical or to 5 WRP if you have Reliable Critical.
2 WRP - ADDITIONAL DAMAGE INCREASE. The weapon's damage die increases by one size (d4 -> d6 -> d8 -> d10 -> d12). This may only be taken once. (If you already have Damage Increase, the two of them together increase damage by two die sizes at a cost of 3 WRP.)
2 WRP - EXCELLENT DISARM. The weapon adds a +4 bonus to your rolls during a disarm attempt.
2 WRP - REACH AND CLOSE. The weapon has a reach of +5 feet; it can be used against foes within its original reach.
2 WRP - FAR REACH. The weapon has a reach of +10 feet; it cannot be used against foes within its original reach.
2 WRP - OVERSIZE. The weapon is increased by one Size Category but you may wield it without the associated penalties. This increases its damage by one die size (1d4 -> 1d6 -> 1d8 -> 1d10 -> 1d12 -> 2d6 -> 2d8, etc). It also makes it less likely your opponents will be able to wield the weapon skillfully if they manage to steal it (unless they are themselves of unusual size). This enhancement makes it necessary to wield the weapon two-handed, prohibiting the use of a second weapon or a shield, and it cannot be combined with Double Weapon or Division.
2 WRP - EXCELLENT THROWING. The weapon may be thrown with a range increment of 20 feet (without entailing the usual -4 nonproficiency penalty for a weapon that isn't designed to be thrown, and without reducing the frequency or severity of critical hits caused by the weapon). As with any Incarnate Weapon, it will return to the character's hand at the beginning of her next action. This enhancement may be purchased for only 1 WRP if the character already has Throwing; it replaces that enhancement.
2 WRP - DIVISION. The weapon splits into a pair of light weapons of similar shape - a Medium heavy mace becomes two Small light maces, for instance, while a Medium longsword becomes two Small short swords. The character fights with these weapons as though they were sized for him, though the damage is per their actual size; he receives the benefit of the Two-Handed Fighting feat and treats both as light weapons, so he may attack with both at a -2 penalty as a single attack. However both weapons receive his full Strength bonus to damage rolls as if they were one-handed weapons. If the character throws one of these weapons, he may also throw the other using the Two-Weapon Fighting rules, or he may keep it and remain armed so as to perform attacks of opportunity before the thrown weapon returns on his next action.
3 WRP - DOUBLE WEAPON. The weapon takes the form of a double weapon and may be used to make two attacks at once, per the normal rules for double weapons. The character receives the benefit of the Two-Weapon Fighting feat when using it. Unlike with Division, this enhancement does not reduce the size (and thus damage) of the weapons. The weapons cannot be separated, but the entire double weapon may be thrown, doing damage with only one head (it is impossible to guarantee which head will strike, so the DM should roll a 50% chance for either head).
3 WRP - FAR AND CLOSE REACH. The weapon has a reach of +10 feet; it can be used against foes within its original reach.
3 WRP - FINAL DAMAGE INCREASE. The weapon's damage die increases by one size (d4 -> d6 -> d8 -> d10 -> d12). This may only be taken once. Previous Damage Increase enhancements may combine with this one (potentially turning a d6 into a d12 or a d8 into 2d6, at a total cost of 6 WRP).
Example: Otto the Odd takes his first character level as an Exemplar and creates his Incarnate Weapon. He chooses to spend his first WRP on Damage Increase, making his weapon a 1d8 weapon with normal critical hits and no special enhancements, and chooses to make it a piercing weapon - it's essentially a long spike but has a swordlike handle, making it shaped roughly like a rapier, though it does more damage and has none of the special characteristics. At 3rd level, Otto gains a WRP and spends it on the Trip enhancement; a hook branches off from the tip of the spike which can be used to sweep a foe off his feet. Otto gets another WRP at 5th level but chooses to save it, and continues to fight with the unmodified hook-spike. At 7th level he obtains another WRP and adds Reliable Critical to the weapon; it now does critical hits three times as often as it used to, as the point has become exceptionally sharp and good at finding a weak spot. Otto spends the WRP he gets at 9th level on Multiple Damage Types to make the weapon do both piercing and bludgeoning damage - the spike thickens most of the way along its length, creating essentially a hand-sized battering ram with a piercing tip in the middle (and the hook emerging from the side). After this Otto saves his 11th- and 13th-level WRPs and waits until he reaches 15th level to finally add Far Reach and Close to the weapon; the spike is now 15 feet long, looking utterly absurd held in just one of Otto's hands, yet he wields it with supernatural skill and can attack or trip anyone within its three-square reach. Finally, at 17th and 19th levels, Otto spends two more WRPs to acquire first Throwing and then Excellent Throwing; at long last Otto has a weapon as odd as himself, one which he can throw up to 19 feet with no penalty or as far as 100 feet with increasing penalties, though it still deals the same 1d8 damage as when he created it.
Another Example: Steven the Even, a halfling, sets out to prove that Otto is being an idiot and tries to make the most efficient Incarnate Weapon he can. At 1st level he sticks with the 1d4 damage of a Small weapon, using slashing damage and shaping it exactly like a shortsword (though a real shortsword would do more damage), and takes the Finesse enhancement to let him use his Dexterity to hit with it more often (something a real shortsword wouldn't allow). At 5th level he spends two saved-up WRP for Division, splitting the Small sword into two Tiny ones which do 1d3 damage each; he takes a -2 penalty on each attack but has twice as many chances to roll a critical hit, and spends his next WRP at 7th level on Deadly Critical in the hopes exactly this will happen. At 9th level he purchases Damage Increase, getting back up to 1d4 damage on each of the two Tiny swords; at 13th level he adds Additional Damage Increase and is now doing 1d6 for the first time. His 15th and 17th level WRPs go into Oversized so he can increase the damage one more time, as he can't afford Final Damage Increase without waiting for his very last WRP. His swords are now big enough for Medium characters to use, but he can still wield them easily since they weigh nothing (and are, y'know, part of his soul), and they deal 1d8 each. With his 19th-level WRP, he considers Trip so he can bring his opponent prone with one attack and then get an easy attack against him with the second, but decides instead to go with Ready Vs. Charge; the two curved blades grow elongated and stiff, and anyone who charges at Steven after his initiative is in for a world of hurt, taking 4d8 damage if both attacks hit and with a double risk of Deadly Critical besides.
If the DM doesn't mind getting a little silly (like Otto), he can allow the character to continue piling WRPs onto the Incarnate Weapon even into epic levels, possibly allowing for an After-Final Damage Increase or an Even Farther Reach to make a weapon at least vaguely comparable in ridiculousness to the kinds of spells an epic magic-user can produce.
looks really cool but that said: "soul" chakra seems overpowered.
like, REALLY overpowered. petrification or unconsciousness to those who oppose your alignment? since almost all your enemies will oppose your alignment, thats pretty powerful for 3rd level (unless they unlock at later levels and im missing something?
other than that though, this is very cool and flavorful, and im a big fan
The soul chakra can't be unlocked until very late levels. Incarnates get it at 20; soulborn and totemists (unless epic) never get it at all. I think the Open Soul Chakra feat is epic-level. I'll be more likely to make it happen at 20th even if this is slightly overpowered; after all, everyone says fighter-types are too weak. (And the main counter to that is Tome of Battle, which I don't currently use, so for my game at least it's especially appropriate to throw the fighter types some goodies.)
Armor Improves, Soul Chakra Bind, Greater Status Immunity
Alignment: Any Hit Die: 1d10
Proficiencies: Simple and martial weapons, your Incarnate Weapon, all armor, shields, and your Incarnate Shield. Class Skills: Concentration, Craft, Gather Information, Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (the planes), Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Spellcraft. If Good - Diplomacy and Heal. If Chaotic - Bluff, Escape Artist and Disable Device. If Evil - Intimidate and Disguise. If Lawful - Handle Animal, Balance and Use Rope. Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int modifier) × 4 Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier
Alright, this is good enough for a first draft. I'll almost certainly change numbers and shuffle effects around. Feel free to create a few sample characters (you can get in 3 levels without any soulmelds, after that just use ones that are legal for soulborns for starters) if you wanna help me out.