Mr. Stupid - The Inescapable Grappler
Purpose: Our goal here is to make the ultimate grappler. Mr. Stupid was a 3ed barbarian/ex-monk Living Greyhawk character of mine that ran around grappling and implaling monsters on his spiked armor. This is an attempt to rebuild him using the 4e rules, which recently became viable with the Brawler Fighter option from MP2. In essence he is a:
Vampiric Half-Orc Mark of Shadow Garrote Specialist Fighter|Rogue/Assassin/Thuranni Shadow Killer.
Whew. We'll look at him at level 21, but he's very playable across all levels.
The Awesomeness: He always hits with his grab attacks (well, on a 2+) and monsters will have a very hard time escaping from his grabs. Most monsters won't escape even on a 20 - escape is not an attack, but a check, so 20s don't auto-succeed. So he's the perfect single-target defender - unlike other fighters that merely get a free attack if marked monsters go after their teammates, a grappler can make sure they always Respect the Mark (tm). We can also grab two guys at once, if we don't use a garrote.
Key Principle: We are a defender/controller. We don't worry about doing a lot of damage. If we hold the big boss in place and isolate him, someone else will come along and kill it for us. We're not going to win any DPR competitions, but we will win combats for our team.
Rules Muck: The brawler fighter recently introduced some neat new options along those lines, but are problematical due to rules issues. So if we want to make one we have to establish some sane clarifications on how the rules work:
1) If you are grabbing a guy, that hand counts as having "a hand free" for our brawler ability and for being able to make attacks against that guy. It's not "free" for any other purpose.
2) Garrotes. How can you ever grab with a two-handed weapon if grabbing requires hands free? We'll assume that hands that are holding a garrote are considered as being "hands free" for purposes of grabbing and such. Otherwise, garrotes would never work at all.
3) "Someone proficient with the garrote can use it to deal damage as part of a grab attack." We'll assume this just means a normal grab attack now deals 1d4+Str damage, not that we get to add damage every time we grab someone, since a grab attack is a specific thing.
4) It's an open question if attacks that grab (as opposed to "grab attacks") can grab Huge+ creatures. The grabbed condition itself is not ended if a size difference crops up, and the restriction is only on the target line of the grab attack itself, so we'll say that if we do somehow end up grabbing a Huge+ foe, we can sustain the grab against them.
5) There's other issues, like if your unarmed strikes count as an off-hand weapon, which we don't need to get into now. Just suffice it to say that CustServ should be getting a torrent of emails over the next few weeks as people start playing Brawlers. There's a LOT of rules problems with them.
6) We're assuming Hybrid Talent allows us to select Brawlers.
Stats: 24 Str / 24 Dex (Starting 18/18)
1) The Optimized Grab. Brawler Fighter+Improved Grab+Garrote = +6/+10/+14 to grab attacks, meaning we'll usually hit on a 2+ with Grab Attacks, and because we use a garrote, we inflict 1d4+Str damage on a grab. If we need to boost our +to hit with grab attacks, we'll use a grasping weapon.
2) The Optimized Hold. Brawler Fighter + Masterwork Hide Armor + Inescapable Hold + Garrote + Great Fortitude + Epic Fortitude + Crushing Pin = They have to roll against our Fortitude to escape, they take damage when they try to escape, we have a huge Fort defense, and garrotes lower their escape roll. We also have various powers that reduce their chances to escape. We're going to be at an equivalent of Fort 45 or 47 at 21st level, which means that even Orcus, a +12 level monster, will have a seriously hard time escaping from our grab. Even at 1st level, monsters will be at around 10-15% on their chance to escape from us, unless they're trained in Acrobatics or Athletics. We can also take Crushing Grab at Epic to add another 5+Str damage when we sustain a grab. Also, a lot of our powers will improve our ability to hold enemies.
3) We need to optimize the ability to avoid dazes, stuns, forced movement, etc. Use Snap out of It, if you play in the RPGA. Otherwise, collect whatever you can. These things automatically end our grabs. There's a lot of options for reducing or eliminating forced movement, but not a lot that lets you negate dazes and stuns, so pick them up whenever you get a chance.
4) Dealing with Teleporting. Enemies teleporting out of your grab is bad. Mr. Stupid recommends throwing a Nightmare Saddle on it and riding with it when it teleports, but you might find that Forbiddance Bolts or a Dimensional Anchor or Dimensional Shackle works better.
5) Defending. With a +14 bonus to Grab attacks, we can grab, and then later on move, pretty much any enemy in the game. So our game is to grab a person (either via the fighter power that hits and then grabs a foe, letting us latch onto Gargantuan Orcus) and then drag them into a corner. The monster can then only swing at us (woot, defending!) while our friends fill the poor monster with arrows. We want to optimize our ability to reduce damage taken from the monster, so things like a Raparation Apparatus (if we want to go Warforged), Iron Body Ki Focus, and all those powers that reduce damage or grant us temps are all good. We also want to boost our defenses as much as possible, so things like Defensive Advantage are very good (since we gain CA on targets we garrote). If we have allies that like to flank, taking things like Daunting Challenge or any of the many feats which boost the defenses of allies are good.
6) Neutralizing our Mark. We will use Disheartening Strike every round with Underhanded Tactics to give our opponent a -4 to hit every round. With our high dex and hide armor (and Brawler bonus), we will be able to do quite well. We'll also hit a lot since the target will always grant CA, and garrotes are +3 weapons.
7) Our Paragon Path. Thuranni Shadow Killer seems like a weird choice for a Brawler. Things like Dreadnought seem like the more optimal path, since they make you tough enough to endure latching yourself onto the biggest guy in a fight. But I like the Shadow Killer for two reaons: 1) With an action point you get to go invisible for two rounds, which is a huge survivability boost against a combat where every enemy might conceivably be going after you and 2) Spectral Garrote is perfectly flavored for us, and it is ridiculously overpowered (Cover on a grab! Massive damage when we sustain a grab! With a minor action! And...) Once a round, we get to redirect an attack at us into a guy we have grabbed! Since it doesn't say otherwise, we can even use this to make our target beat on himself. =)
Little Mac: (An Alternative Grappler Build): Go minotaur instead of half-orc and take Beastblooded Minotaur to immbolize people two squares away. I have a sample build along those lines here. The Little Mac build there also goes into ways of preventing monsters from escaping via forced movement and teleportation, which is equally applicable here. In a nutshell, you want to use the various powers that say things like "and the monster cannot move away by any means" - this prevents his friends from pushing him out of the way or escaping via teleportation or whatever. There's also options on there from stopping them from forced movementing you.
Feats are the key to this build. I'm not even going to worry too much about powers, since beyond the new Brawler at-wills, you can basically decide for yourself which powers you'd like. I've highlighted a couple that are ridiculously good, though, within this list.
- Garrote Training: -2 to escape because of garrote, and we gain CA when we sustain. The garrote deals damage when you grab.
- Garrote Swap Feats. Each of the Garrote Swap powers are pretty good. Novice, Expert, Specialist. I'd recommend swapping in both the expert and specialist ones, and the novice one if you feel like it. The expert one in particular is hilarious and powerful.
- Vampiric Heritage. We get a bonus encounter power (NOT a swap power, which is why heritage feats are great), which heals us by sucking blood from a grabbed enemy. Perfect match for us. It also opens up Dominating Gaze and some other nice feats and powers if you want to go down that road. It's also very flavorful playing a vampiric half-orc. (I think a vampiric warforged is even better, though - "They say the devil is a robot.")
- Mark of Shadow. Opens up Shadow Killer Paragon Path, and lets us be sneaky and stealth around in our hide armor. We also don't lose invisibility or Hidden when we miss. Also is very flavorful for a garrote user.
- Shadow Initiate. You need to be from Windrise Ports to get the second MC feat. It also lets us burst a lil' bit of damage (2d6+12 on top of sneak attack) on the first round. MC Assassin swap feats and Killer in the Crowd are also nice options for us, and Black Garrote is the best grabbing daily 10 levels before we get Spectal Garrote. Retrain it out later.
- Daunting Challenge and similar feats for boosting allies' defenses are good if you have friends that like to come in and flank the target you're grappling.
- Improved Grab. 'Nuff said.
- Hybrid Talent. Naturally.
- Great Fortitude + Epic Fortitude = +2 + 4 = +6 to Fort. Stacks with our +2 to Fort from Brawler. Enemies ain't getting out because of...
- Inescapable Hold. Enemies can only roll against your Fort to escape a grab.
- Defensive Advantage. Since you'll always have CA against the target you garrote, this works out to a solid +2 to AC against your main target.
- Underhanded Tactics. Combines with Rattling attacks to give a -4 penalty to our target's attacks.
- Expertise. Sure.
- Warborn Fury - if we want to Riposte Strike instead of Disheartening Strike them, we can get a better AC bonus if both our attacks hit. We'll do more damage, but take a little bit more too.
- Hide Armor proficiency. Of course. Second Skin? For laters. Hide Spec? If we still have room.
- Alternative to Garrotes: We can use Vicious Advantage to gain CA on people we grab if a DM disallows garrotes from working (even though they should work).
Quick Draw (or take the Fast Hands skill power), but only if your DM is uppity over how open hands work with the Brawler.
Pin Down - why force your enemy to stay prone when you want your allies to be taking ranged attacks at him? But it is useful to give him an additional -2 to hit you.
- Masterwork Hide Armor (for the +1 or +2 Fort bonus)
- +Fort Belts (there's a couple different ones, take your pick) or the Belt of the Goliath
- Maybe a Cunning Garrote (-3 to saves against Strangler's Hold is nice), maybe something else.
- Grasping Javelins are outstanding ways for pulling enemies from two squares away and grabbing them. They also give us an even larger to hit bonus (up to +6) with grabbing, so they're essential.
- Boots of the Fencing Master are a free +1 to AC against our grabbed target.
- Armor of Dark Deeds (as the 1910 D&D Gamer points out) gives you permanent concealment.
You can take this build in a lot of different directions. |Barbarian is an outstanding possibility, with |Assassin being quite viable whenever they publish it, and |Warlord quite solid if you are worried about being hit a lot while grappling, and you want the two encounter heals (now available due to a rather powerful feat in MP2).
- Bloodknight is a great grab and self-healing oriented PP for those wanting to play up the vampire aspect. It has crazy good synergy with the Brawler, allowing you to Blood Drain as a free action when you grab, and recharging Blood Drain every time you kill someone.
- Giantslayer, solely because of this. Comedy gold when you have an opponent grabbed and you leap onto his neck - all attacks made at you split damage between you and him, and he's at an additional -2 to hit you.
- Hybrid or MC Barbarian is a great option due to Blood Bear Rage and Clawed Ancestor Rage. Both of these rages boost your grappling ability.
- Shock Trooper is better for a traditional Brawler, but Shocking Skewer and the ability to add +Dex to damage once per round is quite good. Not as good as Shadow Killer (who get to add 10 ongoing damage once per round), but it is LFR legal.
- |Warlord + White Raven is quite good as well. For this one, you'll want to be a Warforged with a Reparation Apparatus. You can use your heals twice an encounter with +7d6+2x"Number of Allies within 2 Squares" added to your surge. That's good clean fun right there. Especially if you have a Cincture of Vivacity. If you overheal even by 1 point, then you get an additional 2d6+2x"Number of Allies within 2 squares" temps. Even your Crushing Surge will give you +2d6+2xAllies in bonus temps every time you use it. Being able to pick up +17 temps every round? That's pretty good when you're the only target the main boss can hit.
We'll base this on the last RPGA game I was in. There's an arena, with a dire bear facing the party on the arena floor. There's 4 to 6 enemies up in the stands, shooting down at you, along with an enemy wizard leading the show. We're at 10th level at this point.
Round 1) We win initiative. (High dex is nice, right?) We want to keep the bear away from our squishy teammates. We walk up to it. Since it's not larger than Huge, we just make a grab attack on it (otherwise we'd need to use one of our abilities which give grabbed as a status effect). We're at +BAB+Str+6/+10/+14 (Heroic/Paragon/Epic) vs. Ref to hit, so we'll be hitting very reliably across our entire career. If we need to boost this further, we can whip out our grasping javelin, which adds its bonus to our grab attacks. However, we want to deal damage, I guess, so we'll use our garrote, which inflicts damage on a grab. The monster takes 1d4+Str.
Note: See The Mancatcher (in my .sig) on a build that is focused on using grasping polearms to negate enemies entirely. You can combine that build with this one for a super grappler.
We then action point, and drag it into a corner. The monster is stuck there. He bites at Mr. Stupid. We're AC 27 or 28 at this point, so he needs 13+ to hit us, so he's not going to get his own grapple off very often. He also can't escape from us by this point (it's possible he could escape on a 20 depending on which magic items we have on at this point).
Round 2-5) We hold the Dire Bear there while our allies run around putting down all the mooks. We take a fair bit of damage, and end up being grabbed ourselves, which is ironic. At some point, Mr. Stupid second winds and sustains the grab. An enemy shoots at us, but we pull the Dire Bear in front of us instead.
Round 6+) Our allies hover at a respectful distance and pepper the Dire Bear with arrows and cleric laser beams until it dies. We might need a heal somewhere along the way, but basically it's going to be averaging about 12 DPR to us, so with just our second wind we have enough HP to last for 8 rounds of an elite monster beating on us. And that's with us just standing there, doing nothing!
Incoming Damage: If we use Disheartening Strike with Undeadhanded Advantage, the bear gets -4 to hit. If we have Defensive Advantage (this is moving into Paragon territory), we get an always-on +2 to AC. In other words, if we hit the bear, it hits us only on a 19+, for 3DPR. If we miss, it hits us on a 15+, for 7.5. Given that we hit it 70-% of the time, its joint probability DPR is 4.35. We've got enough health on our own to last 25 rounds against an elite brute! And this is without popping off Unbreakable or any other endurance powers that defenders get.
Outgoing Damage: Garrotes count as light blades for rogue powers and sneak attack, which is nice, but might be sacrificing one die a round to debuff his attack by -2. Because we don't really care about damage. But here is the analysis anyway: 65% chance of normal hit, for 1d4+7+2d6 + 5% crit chance for 14+2d6 = 11.8 DPR. Which means that we'll kill the bear in 25 rounds also, using nothing but at-wills. If we pop off some encounters or dailies, we'll be able to drop an elite by ourselves!
Conclusion: We're a better defender than most defenders. Rather than beat on the bear while it walks over and scoops up the party wizard in its loving embrace (BAD BEAR! BAD BEAR!) instead we've been able to negate it entirely. Sure, we'll be taking a lot of hits, but this is exactly what a defender is supposed to do. We're tough enough to survive the undivided attentions of an elite, and have a high enough Fortitude that it'll never get out.
And so I leave you with this:
Mr. Stupid, vampiric half-orc wrestler, was also a Drunken Master in 3rd Edition.