Building a Fun, Mid-Optimized Low Epic PC

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Hey, I originally posted this in the optimization forum, but then decided that it might be better here.

My friend is planning a level 22 campaign, themed around dragon-hunting and the great game of Xorvintaal (MMV). This will be everyone's first time playing Epic, and the highest I've ever played before is level 15. The biggest problem that I'm having is that I can't decide what to play. I want to play something strong, whose power is appreciated by the party without overpowering everyone else, who are less into optimizing than I am. I would be content playing a support role, but I don't want to be useless or forgotten. If I was a damage-dealer then I'd like to be able to do significant damage, but not one-hit KO things (though I suppose I'd like to be ABLE to, if it came down to it, because with dragons if you don't take them out then they'll take you out pretty quick). Do you see the kind of vibe I'm going for? Strong, maybe a little OP, but nothing that would require a great deal of cheese to pull off. I don't want to have to resort to spurious readings of rules, because it would be easy for my DM to say "Nope, your thing doesn't work." I want to be legit, capable, but played the way the powers involved are supposed to be played. For this reason I'm doubtful of casters, especially since my DM doesn't really recognize their power, and I would be corrupted by the power. Most of all, I want to be COOL. I want my character to be awesome. 

There are probably going to be only three members of the party, myself included. One's going to go beatstick BSF, I don't know if via Ubercharger or straight Fighter or what. She liked Duskblade playing before, but she probably won't want to repeat. ToB might be too much bookkeeping for her, but it could go that way. The other player is likely to be a scouty type, either actual Scout or something similar. He's been Scout and Warlock before, so he likes medium range and the ability to get out of harm's way quickly. So, for my build, I don't want to do so much damage either by battle or by spellcasting (Mailman style) as to invalidate the BSF, I don't want to be too skillful as to invalidate the Scout, and I don't want to overpower/powergame with a God/Batman wizard.

My potential ideas are (built to level 20 unless stated otherwise):
A Dragonfire Adept 20, who's spent all WBL to buy protective items to make him virtually unkillable. Not very offensively strong or versatile, but I like his personality. I know that I could buy those items for anyone, but I like a "dragon" with a hoard.
An Erudite 20/Psionic PrC 2 who would have basically all spells and powers known. Definitely overpowered, only limited by his indifference to common beings.
A Tibbit Rogue who fights with feats like Confound the Big Folk to get lots of SA damage. But SA against dragons? 
A Frenzied Berserker, just because it's pretty fun, crazy, and does insane damage. Less TPK potential at Epic levels, riiiiight? Thinking Thri-Kreen just because it's a chance to play one.
Shadowcraft Mage, because I love the idea of illusions that are realer than real. Still, since everything will have Mind Blank, the more creative and clever illusions are unusable and I get stuck with Shadow Fireballs and other direct damage.
A Paladin (or pseudo-Paladin RKV). The Paladin is interesting just because if you go Paladin 12, you get Earth Glide. Which is cool. And RKV can get 9th level Cleric spells and 8th level maneuvers.
A Chameleon, because if I can't pick one thing I could do them all.
Wizard/Swiftblade, focusing mainly on melee (maxing out at 6th level spells, and rounding off with Warblade). Kind of a fun and dashing swordsman idea.
Truenamer 20, because at high levels with lots of cheese I could get my Truespeak as high as an Incantatrix gets its Spellcraft. Gates everywhere.
Eternal Blade, to be a bit like Link. Hey, listen! Maybe make him mute. But it might step on the BSF's toes.
Stalker of Kharash, because Rangers like Aragorn are cool, and hunting evil by scent is neat. But what damage would it do?
Jade Phoenix Mage is neat because at this level it can grab 9ths, but might be too strong.
Force Missile Mage. If we're going classic Dungeons and Dragons, Magic Missile is as classic as it gets.
Teflemmar Shadowlord, because my DM loves Rogues and Assassins and would probably love to see it played. But again, the damage...
Master Transmogrifist. Probably the strongest build here, apart from the Erudite. Could lead to Persisted Shapechange with Infinite Variety abuse. 
Soulbow/Cragtop Archer could allow me to attack from almost a mile away, but the damage is pitiful.
Healer 20 is certainly not overpowered, would be supportive, and can cast Sanctified spells. But it's a bit boring.

I've come up with some other ideas too, most of them gishy somehow (Sacred Fist w/ Apostle of Peace, things with Ur-Priest, etc), but those are basically just casters, and not that cool.
Arcane Heirophant. Wiz 1/Dru 5/Mystic Theurge 2/Arcane Heirophant 10/MT +2/Arcane Heirophant +2
"Today's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same. If you are too attentive to the former, you will most certainly not do the hard work of securing the latter." -Condoleezza Rice "My fellow Americans... I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. Bombing begins in five minutes." - Ronald Reagan This user has been banned from you by the letters "O-R-C" and the numbers "2, 3, 4, and 6"
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56788208 wrote:
I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
So when do you think Bachmann will be saying she met a mother the previous night that had a son who got a blood transfusion using a gay guy's blood, and now the son is retardedly gay?
When she meets CJ's mom?
Resident Pithed-Off Dragon Poon Slayer of the House of Trolls
That's just being a double caster. I'm worried about being a single caster. Being a double caster is exponentially worse than that.
Here's one thing I've always kind of wanted to try.  The truth domain (Races of Eberron, p181) gives a bonus to sense motive equal to your cleric level.  The domain focus alternative class feature (Dragon 347, p91) doubles the bonus from a domain, but removes your other domain and your spontaneous casting ability.  There are a couple ways to get sense motive added to your class skill list.  

The major problem with this is that you lock yourself out of prestige classes to maximize a skill bonus.  However, since you're trying to limit yourself anyway, not throwing extra power on a cleric is good, and you don't need to be concerned that a skill isn't a very powerful thing to optimize.  

Another thing I've always kind wanted to try is combining streetfighter barbarian and fangshields barbarian (Champions of Valor, p40).  Streetfighter lets you charge multiple times in a round, limited only by your ability to drop an opponent in one hit and four times you speed in total distance.  Fangshields gives you a +60-foot bonus to speed when charging.  That'd probably step on the toes of your friend, but maybe you can suggest it to him.  

The major problem with this is that it doesn't come fully online until 19th level, and then you're playing a non-caster in a near-epic game.  Starting at epic level and eschewing the power of casters provides a good opportunity to play it. 
There's a big problem when you use the words "mid-optimized" as it means different things to different people.  Some also see no difference between "mid" and "fully" optimized character and this is especially true if you consider how some "fully" optimized concepts may not be as powerful as builds some people could consider relatively unoptimized.  I know that I'll look at 22 levels as giving me two additional levels that I can use to help boost up a concept that some will not like at 20th-level.

With 22 levels to play with there are some "magic lite" PrCs that I start considering that I can now throw in the full five levels of Abjurant Champion into.  I'm sure there is nothing "optimized" about it but a Barbarian3/BattleSorcerer4/AbC5/DragonDisciple10 is an interesting gish idea as you could gain extra 4th-level spell slots from DragonD and the build only gives up three points of BAB pre-20th. 
Hm, I don't really see what the purpose of optimizing Sense Motive is? Besides, Guidance of the Avatar would be good enough for high checks if I need it. Also I don't want to use Dragon Magazine material. That Streetfighter Barbarian is interesting, though you're right that it would be far stronger in melee than my friend's melee character, and I wouldn't want that. If I'm charging a Dragon, I need to take it out in a single full attack in order not to be smashed, and that implies heavy optimization.

 That's true, StevenO. I suppose when I say mid-optimized, I mean along the lines of a well-optimized but not using well-known cheese (of the level of Dragonwrought Kobold or PaO shenanigans) on a Tier 3 or lower class. Like, a well-optimized Knight is going to still be weaker than a low-optimized Wizard, but it'd be fun to play up the archetype, you'd do what you're trying to do well, and you wouldn't outshine people unless they were doing your same schtick but less-optimized, and that last part is what I want to avoid doing. 
Sorry for pointing out what should be obvious.  If you've heard about the "tier" system which puts classes into one of five (or is it six?) tiers based on how much "power" they have you may know that a fully optimized tier 5 character still isn't as powerful as a poorly optimized Tier 1 character can be.  I know I like looking at things and figuring out how to "optimize" them in a basic sense although I don't dive into all the feats, spells, and class abilties that could maximize something.

I mentioned the low level epic Dragon Disciple in my last post but with 22 levels I really would like to see if I can have an ArcaneArcher11 (admittedly some of the class needs a little work) with Abjurant Champion5 in there; this leave six levels to play with but to meet the prereqs for either class those are going to get eaten up in the begining.  The idea behind such a character it to find a way to take advantage of cheap (free) +6 arrows with a limited amount of spellcasting to help along the way.
 
Hm, I don't really see what the purpose of optimizing Sense Motive is?


There isn't that much of a point to it.  The idea just appeals to me for reasons I don't understand.  It might be nice with a DM who's really into social intrigue.
Exactly, that's what I want. When I say mid-optimized, I'm kind of going for a well-optimized lower Tier character that would indeed be less powerful than a Tier 1 like a Wizard or a Cleric, but would still be fun since I picked a "thing" to do and because it's optimized I'm doing that "thing" well, but because it isn't all-powerful like a Tier 1 I wouldn't be outshining my also-not-Tier-1 party mates. 

The Dragon Disciple just doesn't strike me as that cool. See, I see Dragon Disciple as a kind of weak class. It's sort of designed for casters, since it grants bonus spell slots, but it is really bad for casters. I don't want to make myself weaker than I could be on purpose, for the sake of non-optimization. I guess it's like this: I want to start with an idea (like armored warrior, archer, sneak, etc) and then optimize that idea. If the idea was "spellcaster," then I'd have an optimized Tier 1 and that would be very powerful. If the idea was "loyal knight," I'd have an optimized Tier 5. I wouldn't want to make a low-optimized Tier 2, because it would be awkwardly stronger than an optimized Tier 3 or 4 that my friends are doing, while not being as satisfying to the idea that I would want it to be. Does that make sense?
I don't want to turn this into a thread on Dragon Disciple and it may be a "weak" class but it certainly is NOT designed for casters.  The DragonD is designed for warrior types who can benefit more from the Half-Dragon stuff in the class.  Yes, it requires a minimal amount of spellcasting (Duskblade can often fill that although I'd use BattleSorcerer for some 'real' magic) to get in but the abilities are all geared for the warrior except maybe the extra spell slots which may just mean more magical boosts.

Now based on that last post it seems like you're looking for something that fills as Tier 3 or so.  I'll just say I'm no expert on the "tiers" but that kind of information will probably help some people on these boards direct you towards a more intersting character.
 
With the mention of tier 3 and dragon disciple the thought of dusk blade 13, dragon disciple 9 comes to mind. If you gain a level you'll have the full benefits of the half dragon template an a few other nice boons along with full arcane channeling. You can follow that up with 2 levels of sword sage if you get to 25th level (and as a 13th level initiator you could get avalanche of blade to combine with arcane channeling), and top that all off with 5 master of nine (provided you invested in the necessary feats) if you reach up to 30th.
Guys, I don't want Dragon Disciple. I just don't think it's that cool. The #1 thing I'm looking for is being cool, followed by being a team player (not being useless nor stealing the spotlight), followed by being effective at the level I'll be playing at. 
If psionics are allowed, what about just a basic Monk 2/PsyWar 20 Tashalatora build? Sure it's "full casting", but it's only 6th-level powers. Plus it's pretty solidly a Tier 3 build.
"Today's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same. If you are too attentive to the former, you will most certainly not do the hard work of securing the latter." -Condoleezza Rice "My fellow Americans... I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. Bombing begins in five minutes." - Ronald Reagan This user has been banned from you by the letters "O-R-C" and the numbers "2, 3, 4, and 6"
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56788208 wrote:
I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
So when do you think Bachmann will be saying she met a mother the previous night that had a son who got a blood transfusion using a gay guy's blood, and now the son is retardedly gay?
When she meets CJ's mom?
Resident Pithed-Off Dragon Poon Slayer of the House of Trolls
Hm, that's neat, but how good would that be? Would having only 6th level powers give me a chance against Epic level dragons, and keep me capable alongside my party members? I think of Tashalatora builds and being good at weird sorts of combat, making use of things like Expansion, so I don't know how effective that would be against dragons.
A spell-to-power erudite could learn greater mighty wallop (Races of the Dragon, p115) as a power.  A telepath could then use thieving mind link to learn it temporarily followed by psychic chirurgery to permanently add it to someone else's powers known.  If you can pay to have that done, it'd be nice for that tashalatora build. 
Soulbow/Cragtop Archer could allow me to attack from almost a mile away, but the damage is pitiful.

Sorry, I didn't see this post before I posted on the older one, but... Don't do this. No really, the epic level feat Distant Shot makes this irrelevant by giving you infinite range with no penalties. This is one of the reasons why I brought up the importance of looking through the Epic Level feats for any jewels that will tie your previous 20 levels together in my previous post.
Hm, that's neat, but how good would that be? Would having only 6th level powers give me a chance against Epic level dragons, and keep me capable alongside my party members? I think of Tashalatora builds and being good at weird sorts of combat, making use of things like Expansion, so I don't know how effective that would be against dragons.

Tbh, I don't the answer to this. But I can think of a few people who probably do.
"Today's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same. If you are too attentive to the former, you will most certainly not do the hard work of securing the latter." -Condoleezza Rice "My fellow Americans... I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. Bombing begins in five minutes." - Ronald Reagan This user has been banned from you by the letters "O-R-C" and the numbers "2, 3, 4, and 6"
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56788208 wrote:
I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
So when do you think Bachmann will be saying she met a mother the previous night that had a son who got a blood transfusion using a gay guy's blood, and now the son is retardedly gay?
When she meets CJ's mom?
Resident Pithed-Off Dragon Poon Slayer of the House of Trolls
Ah, the same thread in two forums! Confusing conversations abound!

I'm kind of going for a well-optimized lower Tier character that would indeed be less powerful than a Tier 1 like a Wizard or a Cleric
...
The Dragon Disciple just doesn't strike me as that cool. See, I see Dragon Disciple as a kind of weak class.

So you want a weaker class you can make a bit less weak, so that it's mid-road in terms of power? But you don't want to play a weak class?
Hm, that's neat, but how good would that be? Would having only 6th level powers give me a chance against Epic level dragons, and keep me capable alongside my party members?

I thought your party members sucked, and you didn't want to be a full caster or anything? I have no idea how this would stand up to Epic level dragons, but your best bet is probably just to play something and find out.

The problem is, it doesn't seem as though you don't know what level you want your character to be pitched at... so how are we supposed to?

The problem is, it doesn't seem as though you don't know what level you want your character to be pitched at... so how are we supposed to?


Yeah, that is a problem. See, the rest of my party is likely to be fairly unoptimized. If the enemies my DM is going to be sending at us are also unoptimized in terms of buffs and things, but are still dragons with like +50 to each attack and +100 damage on each one, then it doesn't matter if they aren't all buffed because neither are we. The way I see it, there are only two ways to stand up to an enemy like that. Be a melee monster who wins initiative and takes it out in a single full attack, because if it's still standing after I charge then it full attacks and takes me out, or be a buffed up caster that the dragon can't even touch due to lack of buffs, at which point it's child's play to defeat. Both of those suggest that I'd have to be pretty optimized, and at a higher power level than my party, which I don't want to do. I guess the real problem is that I don't think my party would be able to handle dragons, so I need to somehow be what enables them to handle dragons, without being so strong as to overshadow them. And that's a tough position to be in.


 Also, Distant Shot is cool. I was silly not to see it. I should look at more cool Epic feats like that. Imagine a Bloodstorm Blade with Distant Shot!
Hm, that's neat, but how good would that be? Would having only 6th level powers give me a chance against Epic level dragons, and keep me capable alongside my party members? I think of Tashalatora builds and being good at weird sorts of combat, making use of things like Expansion, so I don't know how effective that would be against dragons.

Very. You have access to a huge number of highly powerful buffs. Look up "The King of Smack." Also, Tempest's Psycarnum Warrior, just for kicks and giggles.
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
Could you provide a link to King of Smack? It's too much of a pain to try to search for it on my iPhone.
"Today's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same. If you are too attentive to the former, you will most certainly not do the hard work of securing the latter." -Condoleezza Rice "My fellow Americans... I've just signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. Bombing begins in five minutes." - Ronald Reagan This user has been banned from you by the letters "O-R-C" and the numbers "2, 3, 4, and 6"
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56788208 wrote:
I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
So when do you think Bachmann will be saying she met a mother the previous night that had a son who got a blood transfusion using a gay guy's blood, and now the son is retardedly gay?
When she meets CJ's mom?
Resident Pithed-Off Dragon Poon Slayer of the House of Trolls
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
My suggestion? Make your character as terrible as possible. Unoptimise him. Preferably in an easily-reversable way, e.g. by playing a wizard or meldshaper or even binder. Then, when you come up against these foes you fear so much, you'll get a TPK, and the DM will realise he's thrown you something too tough. Hopefully the others will learn a bit from the process too.

What you're suggesting is trying to take on tough foes, by yourself, whilst holding the rest of the team together and making them feel like they're doing the work. Whilst you can do that to a certain extent by, say, buffing (and saving their necks with immediate-action teleport-others, or Crusader-style immediate defend-other moves, or whatever), you're treating the the symptom not the cause.

If your party can't handle dragons, either you're more-or-less soloing them, or you're not fighting dragons. I'm not sure there's a middle ground.
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