My group consists of two familiar names from the old CO board (Radical Taoist and DisposableHero_) along with three others (Andarious, Sionnis, and Seishi); for the moment I'll be focusing on builds that I've spearheaded and cite their contributions accordingly. Over time I might showcase some of their work as well (with their permission, of course).
All of these builds, unless noted otherwise, assume 28 point buy and fractional base attack / saves (Unearthed Arcana; this dramatically simplifies the math and usually doesn't impact things much otherwise. If a build relies on fractional to work, I'll list a non-fractional variant as well); any expansion books and variant rules involved will be clearly identified, along with variants we've considered. I tend to do snapshots at significant levels, showing the rationale being specific choices and highlighting capabilities at key levels, rather than just presenting a giant table and summary and leaving it to you to figure out how to play them.
We'll start the series off with a build I've shown here before, actually (one that basically had no revisions from anyone but me), but rather than digging through the archives to fetch it each time, I'll present it here in more professional form. It'll give you a sense of what I'm trying to do and set the stage for other builds in subsequent weeks.
THE PINBALL BROTHERS - Flipper and Bumper
Large And In Charge
Required Books: PHB2, Races of Stone, Complete Warrior, XPH, Dungeonscape, Complete Psionic, Complete Champion, Tome of Battle (optional but recommended)
Unearthed Arcana used: Whirling Frenzy variant rage. LA Buyoff, but not strictly speaking required. Flaws, although they're not required if you're willing to weaken a few things. Traits, also not required.
Background: Long ago, we had a contest here to develop "partner" characters, who tag-teamed their way through a lot of problems. The Radical Taoist and I entered Flipper and Bumper, the Pinball Brothers, whose whole schtick was to turn the battlefield into, well, a pinball table. Flipper would launch targets great distances, while getting them to hit Bumper would result in big payoffs (Flipper used things like Awesome Blow while Bumper was an early AoO master). I wanted to see how something like this would work now, rather than working on limited material like we had back then. (I'm pretty sure the original even pre-dated Races of Stone - there's no way we would have used Awesome Blow if it were after RoS.)
It turned out quite well - combining the two basic elements of D&D melee (Reach/AoO Tanking and Damage Dealing/Charging) with a healthy dose of Juggling (position control) - and it worked without using Tome of Battle elements until the end of the build (which are optional and are really only there because I was basically out of ideas). And, as a result, a modern day Flipper and Bumper would actually use identical builds - the one presented below works for both of them at the same time.
Despite the name, you don't need to employ these guys in pairs, but they make a hell of a splash if you do.
- Race: Goliath.
- Ability Scores: Before racial adjustments, 10/15/13/14/12/8. I increase Con by 1 at 4, with all of the other pumps going into Dexterity. (The Con increase can go to Dex if you think you can get a Manual of Gainful Exercise.) The 14 Int is non-negotiable, and you benefit from eventual Wisdom-boosters.
- Traits: Musclebound, Quick. (These are optional, but they complement you well - Musclebound boosts all your Str checks (and you'll make a lot), Quick cuts your HP (you have a lot, and use a reach weapon) in exchange for speed (which is useful since you don't rely on normal full attacks and basically makes the Lion Totem choice a bit more interesting.).
- Flaws: Shaky, Vulnerable. (You aren't making any ranged attacks, and you'll be boosting Dexterity. Whirling Rage also comes with an AC *bonus* and you have enough reach to protect you most of the time.)
- Alignment: Neutral Any. At the start you can even be Chaotic Any; if you like alignment-shifts, grow more regimented with your fighter experience and disicplined as you meditate to awaken your psychic potential (as written in the Talaaric texts) to wind up as Neutral Any by level 9 and you'll be golden.
Skill Notes: Pump up Jump and its synergies; you also need 2 ranks of Knowledge: History to be cross-class. Once War Mind enters the picture, I tend to pump Autohypnosis. Your other ranks are more or less open to you; I like cross-classing a bit of Balance and Intimidate into the picture. The skill timing isn't very hard except between levels 8 and 9, but it's perfectly manageable.
Basic Equipment: Guisarme, Mithral Breastplate with armor spikes. Get the weapons in Large size.
Magical Gear Goals: In general, boost Dexterity, then Constitution, then Wisdom. I'm a fan of packing Feather Tokens (Tree) as well; a few key class features depend on obstacles, and sometimes you might have to make your own. (Plus, they're useful anyway.) An Eternal Wand of Heroics can also be a good investment, letting you pick up a few feats needed to adjust yourself more towards tanking or more towards pouncing as you see fit. Offensively, you don't need much gear. When shopping for weapons, look for accuracy above all else (even a flat enhancement bonus is fine!); you'll get most of your damage from class features. Defensively, shore up your Will save. If you want a cheap (cheesy) method of protecting yourself from arrows, buy a buckler of appropriate strength and attach a Crystal of Arrow Deflection (MIC) to it; the crystal provides its own bonus AC against ranged attacks, rather than enhancing the shield's AC bonus, so it continues to apply even if you aren't actually using the shield for defense. Once you take a level of psychic warrior, you can also start shopping for good dorjes - Dimension Slide and Hustle are perennial favorites - which you probably can slot into wand chambers in your armor's gauntlets. The psychic warrior power list is amazing here, and the ability to use such dorjes without Use Psionic Device is a huge boon if you're clever.
EDIT: If you're using one or two Eternal Wands of Heroics, you can probably replace Improved Trip with Stand Still, since the former is a fighter feat while the latter isn't (though it probably should be). Even if Stand Still doesn't work with your main abilities (it's unclear what triggers on a 0-damage Power Attack), it's still a good feat: it provides defense after an ubercharge, it's the quintessential lockdown feat for an AoO tank, and, oddly enough, appears to still work with the power you learn at 13th level. Improved Trip is in the main build instead of Stand Still because it synergizes a bit better with the rest of the build (particularly after level 14), but Stand Still is perhaps slightly better on its own and can't be picked up through equipment.
Buildstub: Goliath Barbarian 1 / Fighter 6 / Psychic Warrior 2 / War Mind 9 / Crusader 2.
1 - Goliath Barbarian (Mountain Rage/Whirling Frenzy, Lion Totem: Pounce, Illiterate) (Power Attack, Extra Rage, Improved Bull Rush)
On your turn, Bull Rush quickly becomes your most powerful standard action, as it's an automatic "hit" that they're opposing 1d20+14 (yes, you read that right) with just a Strength check. Plus, Bull Rush requires you to enter their space, but you're Large during a rage, so you can hypothetically bull rush multiple targets and count different directions as "away" from you.
2 - Fighter - (Bonus feat: Knockback) (No Longer Illiterate)
Oh, and since Knockback adds your PA damage bonus to your Strength check, you will probably never fail a bull rush EVER, and be able to push them ridiculous distances.
3 - Fighter - (Dungeon Crasher 1) (Combat Reflexes) (LA BUYOFF)
Your basic strategy is to run between your enemy and your friends (probably raging if the encounter demands it; you get 3/day), and either pounce the nearest person or park yourself. Anyone who tries to move through your (large, if you're raging) threatened area gets smacked, which sends them flying into the nearest wall for bonus damage. Check with your DM if Knockback triggers on a Power Attack hit that doesn't deal damage, such as Power Attacking on the touch attack to trip a target. (I assume it doesn't for this build.)
4- Fighter - N/A
5 - Fighter (Bonus feat: Combat Expertise)
6 - Fighter - (Shock Trooper)
And, despite being recognized as a charging feat, Shock Trooper was chosen for bull rush synergy. Directed Bull Rush / Domino Rush combine well with 20' reach (in a rage) and can let you push multiple foes into the same square before racquetballing them.
7 - Fighter - (Dungeon Crasher 2)
Sadly, this is about as good as bull rushing gets, so we transition from here. Pounce + Shock Trooper + Power Attack is already 3/4 of the way to an ubercharger anyway, so...
8 - Psychic Warrior - (Bonus feat: Leap Attack) (Catfall)
If your DM cares about RP being reflected in your builds, you've had plenty of levels at this point to learn about psionic abilities or find a copy of the Talaaric texts (or learn about psionics from a psionic PC). Furthermore, Races of Stone has the most support for psionics out of all the Races of X books (except Races of Eberron, but that one includes the kalashtar, so I'm not surprised), and all of your psionics go into psychometabolism anyway.
The reason 14 Int is non-negotiable is because you need to invest every single psychic warrior skill point into Knowledge: Psionics to meet the requirements for your prestige class and keep the cross-classing down. Remember to do that.
9 - Psychic Warrior - (Bonus feat: Improved Sunder) (Combat Brute) (Adrenaline Boost)
Adrenaline Boost is a poor power, but here it's a poor-man's Prowess, since it boosts your Dexterity and lets you take an extra AoO... if you can time it correctly. If you don't want to play that game and want a more conservative choice, consider Chameleon or Float. (There are other no-augment psywar powers out there to pick; look for ones which are NOT ML-dependent.)
(Minor aside: Compare Float to Longstrider; it's clear that psionics gets the short end of the stick again. Why is its duration that short?!)
You can also use Improved Sunder + Sundering Cleave to bootstrap up attack rolls on tricky maneuvers or ones where the attack roll really matters. For example, if you make a sunder attempt on a shield, you get +4 on the attack roll due to Improved Sunder. If you sunder the shield, you get a Sundering Cleave, which uses the same attack bonus as the sunder attempt - essentially letting that followup attack "inherit" the +4 from Improved Sunder. You can then apply other typeless bonuses as you see fit - at this level, that will probably just be a higher-than-usual Power Attack, but at later levels it could very easily be an Improved Trip attempt (at an extra +4)! Who'd've thought that Improved Sunder could actually sometimes prove useful?
10 - War Mind - (Chain of Personal Superiority +2) (Expansion)
Quick knockback update: At full power attack, with your buffs active at this point but assuming that Leap Attack/Combat Brute/etc do not increase Knockback's power, you're capable of bull rushing at 1d20+37 at this point. At level 10. That's just a little impressive.
11 - War Mind - (Chain of Defensive Posture +2) (Skate)
12 - War Mind - (Enduring Body 1/-) (Improved Trip)
13 - War Mind - (Strength of My Enemy)
14 - War Mind - (Sweeping Strike)
However, the real power of Sweeping Strike here isn't even the 2-square region. It's the "melee attack targets a SQUARE instead of the guy in it" effect. Remember Shock Trooper's seldom-used bull-rush boosters? You have Directed Bull Rush and enormous reach, meaning you can easily pile people up in the same square - and thanks to Domino Rush and your ridiculous Trip checks, they're prone, so if any one of them tries to stand, you're smacking all of them.
Just be advised that Sweeping Strike shuts down if you move more than 10 feet in one turn. And you need to move at least 10 feet to trigger your pounces. So in general, you're pouncing on the first turn (which tends to pile up targets) and then rooting yourself in place for the second (with Sweeping Strikes on the aforementioned piles). You can bypass this with swift-action teleportation items - move to a place that's exactly 10 feet away from your desired charging end point - and you can manipulate it a bit with your reach (you can charge Alice, make your first attack, then use your remaining hits in your full attack against Bob), but it is certainly something to consider tactically.
15 - War Mind - (Enduring Body 2/-) (Robilar's Gambit) (Detect Hostile Intent)
At this point the build is complete, really; the rest of this is just to hit 20. And, I admit, to get the War Mind ML up to make Expansion / SoME more worthwhile. Alternate builds are possible at this point; just take care that it's full base attack or damn close to it.
16 - War Mind - (Chain of Personal Superiority +4)
Oh, another side note is that now your ML is high enough to double-size with Expansion. Which raises your full Power Attack Bull Rush check to 1d20+53. At this point it's kind of hard to find battlefields that don't have obstacles within range for you to aim your targets towards for bonus damage.
17 - Crusader - (Furious Counterstrike, Steely Resolve 5) (Boulder Roll, Defensive Rebuke, Mountain Avalanche, Overwhelming Mountain Strike, Elder Mountain Hammer) (Iron Guard's Glare)
On a more mechanical note, it's worth pointing out that Sweeping Strike works on any melee attack. As in "As part of this maneuver, make a melee attack". You can apply Elder Mountain Hammer and Overwhelming Mountain Strike to multiple targets if they're bunched up.
The real winner at this level, though, is your stance. ToB wording limits you to level 1 stances even as you pick level 5 maneuvers here, but thankfully Devoted Spirit has some awsome options for you - Iron Guard's Glare is keyed off of your massive reach, letting you act as a moving no-save debuff as well as your usual duties. And, if the targets go for the bypass and aim at YOU, you've got a huge threatened area to get through, Combat Reflexes, and - if all else fails - Robilar's ready to beat face.
Oh, you also have a rules-lawyer kill move here: The wording on Overwhelming Mountain Strike actually prevents 'trading' your standard for a move, so it combines really well with Bull Rushes into spells, magma, bottomless pits or similar (your victim needs a swift- or standard- action ability that lets them move if they want to escape next round). Since those bull rushes involve bonuses of up to +55 at this point, said obstacles don't even need to be closeby.
18 - Crusader - (Indomitable Soul) (Practiced Manifester: War Mind) (Thicket of Blades)
Just note that you'll need to get your Dexterity up there to offset Expansion's drain on it. You've probably been pumping it with magic gloves or Manuals of Quickness of Action by this point (good on you!) for Combat Reflexes use; here it'll pay off again.
19 - War Mind - (Chain of Defensive Posture +4)
Full base attack, extra ML and power points, that's basically everything you'd ask for at this point. The class feature is a cherry on top.
20 - War Mind - (Enduring Body 3/-) (Vampiric Blade)
Snapshot: With a +6 item on each of the three physical scores (you need all three), a +5 Tome of Dexterity and a +4 Tome of Con - which you can afford since you don't need to rely too much on your actual weapon for damage - assuming average HD rolls, you've got over 250 hit points (with DR 3/-; if you drop the Quick trait that climbs to nearly 275), +19 base attack, melee attack +29 (assuming only Greater Magic Weapon), saves of Fort+27, Ref+17, Will+8, and a passable (though not amazing by any stretch) sum of skill points to distribute. A +4 Periapt of Wisdom gives you a base of 81 power points to use (Psywar ML 2, War Mind ML 13), and you have a Crusader IL of 11. This is without any of your buffs (powers, War Mind features, or rage) active, nor is it using any special maneuver (you get +4 on a surprising number of them, and can daisy-chain those +4s onto other attacks if you time it right). The boosts from Rage and Strength of My Enemy alone can be downright devastating and can make that +29 melee modifier get substantially larger.
(EDITED NOTE: This originally said "belt of magnificence". I forgot that was an all-six scores item, and thought it was just the three physical scores. You have no real need for a boosted Intelligence, and the only things Charisma buys this build are a higher Intimidate modifier (if you've been going that route) and a slightly better Will save. However, since you don't add a charisma penalty to your Will save, it's uneconomical to boost Charisma for this reason over Wisdom, particularly because Wisdom improves your psionic stamina as well (oh, and your passive perception skills, which can actually be quite respectable in this build!).)
Overall Strengths: You've got just about everything you'd want as a fighter here. High HP, high attack bonus, DR, answers to just about every combat situation, and a good combination of AoO tanking and ubercharging. Your position control causes opponents to waste actions just getting back to where they were last round, and chances are if they try that, they're getting slammed into a wall for even more damage. You also aren't incredibly equipment-reliant, as far as non-ToB fighters go - you could get by with a nonmagical guisarme and you wouldn't suffer all that much. You're capable of bull rushing great wyrm red dragons (they resist bull rushes at +37, and you're bull rushing at up to +64 in the snapshot - and note that this started with 10 strength and doesn't actually pump it at all beyond a basic +6 item) on regular attacks, as well as chaining together basic combat maneuvers (charge, full attack, sunder, trip, bull rush, and AoO tank) all without expending a single resource. You have a decent amount of rages to push those results even higher, plus the War Mind's class features.
Overall Weaknesses: As you'd expect for a fighter, your Will save is in the gutter. Boost it as soon as you can, preferrably doubling-up with a high save bonus AND mind-immunity. Similarly, against a really good sniper (at very long range), you don't have a lot of options, as your senses depend on cross-class skill spending and the shorter-range Detect Hostile Intent. Plus, you have no inherent means of teleporting, but I'm assuming you're shoring that up with magic equipment (and there are variants for that if you want inherent teleporting). There's an unfortunate tradeoff between your key ability score (Dexterity) and your key buff effect (size increases), meaning you have to either engage in a Dex-boosting arms race or think tactically about when you Expand or Rage. Finally, like all Expanders, tight quarters can be your downfall. Unlike most of them, though, you still have pretty good combat prowess without your size increases.
Suggested Variations: If you'd like, you can drop Improved Trip and Combat Expertise, freeing up two feats and letting you drop the flaws (you still need 14 Int, though). If you keep the flaws, this lets you grab Stand Still (the most important AoO tank feat that you don't have); the other feat can be used to bump Practiced Manifester earlier, letting you hit augment breakpoints faster. If you do this, your 18th level feat can easily become Defensive Sweep; a Gargantuan character takes up enough room to have a LOT of targets be "adjacent", especially if he can trample his way to them. If you want a more classical approach without Improved Trip, you can also pick up a spiked chain if you prefer. The power selections (apart from Expansion) are actually pretty wide open as well; most notably missing is a self-teleport, so if you don't want one of them, exchange it for Dimension Slide or Dimension Swap. Finally, the later levels (basically everything past 15) are completely interchangeable; I haven't explored what's doable with those levels, but I imagine it could be pretty fierce.
There you have it. I plan on doing one of these a week. Not all of them will be that involved - this one works level-by-level because it was designed that way (playable 1-20), but others may only snapshot specific levels. This particular build, as I've said, isn't new, but I wanted a better place to link to when I discuss it.
I'll be taking requests if people want specific builds (i.e. melee, ranged, casters, gish builds, sneaks, villains, supports, ZOMGCHEEZ, etc... we've got plenty to show off). Next week is probably going to be Ashardalon Reborn unless I get a request for another type. (I'll leave it to you to guess what kind of character that is.)