Weekly Optimization Showcase: Phantom Rush

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It's Friday again! And this time, people have made the case for me to post two builds this week. I don't mind, it helps clear out the queue some.

(It's also been a month of me posting these, so I'll shorten the preamble.) 

As usual for the showcase, these builds are intended to spur discussion and perhaps inspire a few people in the spirit of the old CO boards. They come from members of my gaming group - me, Radical Taoist, DisposableHero_, Andarious, Sionnis, and Seishi - and I'll always identify who wrote the build at the start, so do not assume I'm the guy behind all of them (because I'm not!).

Unless otherwise noted, showcase builds use 28 point-buy, and have their snapshots evaluated using fractional base attack / saves (because it simplifies the math). None of them actually rely on fractional to be built, though. The format I use showcases their progression at key levels rather than just presenting the build and showing off a few tricks at level 20; most of these are capable of being played 1-20 if you so choose.

With that out of the way, let's get started. This week, two builds: in this thread, one of mine, using a prestige class that really should have had more love during the heydays than it got.  

PHANTOM RUSH
 General Gish Gouda



Required Books: PHB2, Eberron Campaign Setting, Five Nations. Optional feats from Complete Arcane, Dragonmarked, Dragon Magic, Complete Warrior, and Complete Champion.
Unearthed Arcana used: Bloodlines. Any one of any grade will do. Unlike other bloodline builds of mine, this one doesn’t make the assumption that you can buy multiple levels at once – a single bloodline level just before your third character level, exactly as UA implies is intended, will work.


 
Background: Most of us know the cheeseball trick of entering Eldritch Knight at level 2 (Any two flaws, Illumian Sorcerer 1 (Krau sigil), Militia/Otherworldly + Precocious Apprentice + Improved Sigil (Krau) = full martial proficiency and able to cast 3rd level spells, so level 2 you take Eldritch Knight). Well, for the longest time, I was wondering if a similar trick could be employed with a slightly more fluffy class than the Eldritch Knight – the Knight Phantom in Five Nations – using the Lesser Mark of Passage to get Phantom Steed far sooner than a pure spellcaster would normally be able to cast it. Nothing I tried worked (usually the feat only buys you one level over pure wizard casting), until I realized I could really speed up the access using a single bloodline level. The result is a pretty elegant gish build, and it has a surprising degree of flexibility in it.

If you've never seen it - and since it's from a less-than-flagship setting-specific mostly-fluff book, I don't blame you - the Knight Phantom is basically a variant Eldritch Knight with a strong affinity for the phantom steed spell, and a few class features themed off of that imagery as well. In exchange, it's slightly harder to get into than Eldritch Knight usually is, since it requires a feat (Still Spell, which it makes obsolete) and access to the 4th level Phantom Steed. However, its requirements are much more interesting and just begging for optimization: it doesn't have a base attack requirement, its skill requirements can be met at level 1, and its casting requirement is limited to that single, specific spell. Which is available to humans on the Lesser Mark of Passage.

...Although you will have to explain, somehow, how your character has ties both to the Knights Arcane of Aundair and to House Orien, when the Dragonmarked Houses are supposed to be neutral transnational organizations, and how your member of a specific human-only family manifests traits from a non-human bloodline. There's a lot of possible RP routes here, though, so it isn't all that tricky.
 

EDITED IMPORTANT NOTE: People might think this is a mounted build. It isn't. Phantom Steed isn't Special Mount or even a true summon - it's really fragile in combat, even at caster levels in the 30s. The Knight Phantom itself makes it clear that members of this class aren't historical cavalry, but rather historical dragoons, using spells instead of firearms, but mounted infantry nonetheless. (The steeds are used to transport elite spellcasting troops to wherever they're needed, rather than serving as combat steeds. Ostensibly, this is because teleportation effects can be screened, blocked, traced or redirected while phantom steeds cannot (basically, you "fly under the radar"), but this conflicts slightly with Eberron's character level demographics as it's still a fourth-level spell! Apparently there were many more high-level characters during the Last War.).

The build has a lot of free feats and thus includes Mounted Combat, but this is intended to allow you to use your Phantom Steed to give your melee self a boost when fighting flying enemies, not to serve as a primary mounted character. (Note that even at your exceptional CL and with three bloodline levels, phantom steed HP is barely 41 at level 20; consider that even fireball has been averaging 35 since level 10, and that not even Mounted Combat can block an AoE. Even if you're using the steed as an elevator in melee, you'd still probably want to teleport or jump from it to your target, and have the steed keep its distance with an action readied to intercept you if you fall.). Mounted Combat itself is optional, and any further mounted support beyond that feat is supplied through equipment or ignored altogether. The build works perfectly well if you never mount up while initiative is ticking!




The Basics
 



  • Race: Human, from House Orien. Any bloodline of any grade will do, but for illustration below I went with Major Silver Dragon. This has very nice ability score boosts and isn’t as thematically odd with a dragonmarked character as it would normally be (link him to the Chamber trying to act on the Prophecy or something).

  •  Ability Scores: 15/10/13/14/8/12. Intelligence is bumped up at every opportunity. We assume a +1 Intelligence tome at some point; a bigger one is appreciated. This particular array is chosen due to the ability bonuses from the Major Silver Dragon bloodline; if you pick a different bloodline (type or grade), you'll want to adjust the scores accordingly.



 Skill Notes: This is actually kind of interesting despite being more or less open. You need 7 ranks in two skills to enter Dragonmark Heir (which two don’t matter, but Concentration and one Knowledge skill work well). By taking a bloodline level just before character level 3, you raise your maximum skill rank at 3HD to 7, letting Dragonmark Heir come online at level 4. From there, you just need the requirements for your PrCs (which, believe it or not, amount to just Ride 4 and Knowledge: Arcana 6, pretty easy). The rest are entirely up to you based on your concept; since the demo build below uses Knowledge Devotion, I’d suggest at least 1 rank (and possibly as many as 5, if you like the synergy) in assorted Knowledge skills and the Collector of Stories skill trick.


 Basic Equipment: The best light armor you can find (probably a mithral breastplate) and a lance will serve you well. You could also make use of a sword-and-board style if you prefer. Since your combat feats generally don't care about your weaponry, you can switch around as you need.


 Magical Gear Goals: The MIC has some surprisingly good gear for you, including the Riding Boots (12k to basically buy Ride-By Attack; at your mounted speed this is insane). Other than that, equip like any duskblade gish -  +Int, +Str, Rings of Wizardry, and related gear. Any method of expanding your Duskblade spells known takes top priority, particularly if it grants abjuration magic; these can REALLY help in expanding your defensive repertoire. (The Explorer's Handbook has the Drake Helm, for instance.) As usual for my combatants, I also recommend Eternal Wands of Heroics to expand your fighter style options.


 


The Build.
Build Stub: Duskblade 3 / Dragonmark Heir 1 / Knight Phantom 10 / Abjurant Champion 5 / Spellsword 1
Note: As with many bloodline builds, I’m listing bloodline bonus feats, unique powers, and ability score increases only. This illustration uses a Major Silver Dragon bloodline, but any bloodline (minor, intermediate, or major, of any type) will do.
Note 2: Any feat marked with a * can be rearranged (prerequisites allowing) or completely replaced without affecting the integrity of the build. See the level they appear at to explain why I suggested them; see the Variants at the end for alternatives.



1 – Duskblade – (Arcane Attunement, Armored Mage) (Favored in House Orien, Least Dragonmark: Passage)

*
Your dragonmark power should probably be Dimension Stride; it’s only 1/day, but it remains useful throughout your career.

2 – Duskblade – (Combat Casting) (Alertness)

3 – Duskblade – (Arcane Channelling) (Still Spell) (Strength+1)

*
Still Spell is sadly a wasted prereq for you, but the Combat Casting bonus feat you got last level is also working as a prereq, so we’re not actually behind a feat.

Arcane Channelling + a reach weapon is a well-known good combination as well; good thing we use a lance.

As noted above, you’ll have picked up one bloodline level by this point, raising your maximum skill rank by one to 7 for this level. Be sure two skills have 7 ranks in them. (It also raises your duskblade caster level, but this isn’t all that significant just yet.)


4 – Dragonmark Heir – (House Status) (Lesser Dragonmark: Passage) (Resist Cold 5)
*
Dragonmark Heir gives us Lesser Dragonmark two skill ranks earlier than it would normally be available, and picking Phantom Steed gives us the ability to cast that spell as far as prereqs are concerned (see Warlocks and Prestige Classes in Complete Arcane.) The version you cast from your mark isn’t ever going to be that impressive (CL 8-10 pretty much your whole career, depending on the number of bloodline levels you get) but it also isn’t the version you’ll actually be casting.

5 – Knight Phantom – (Phantom Steed, Somatic Prowess)
*
THIS version of Phantom Steed is actually pretty badass – take your Knight Phantom class level (which is boosted by your bloodline levels) and add it to your caster level (which Knight Phantom advances 9/10, and your bloodline further advances by increasing your effective duskblade class level) and you’ll get the full suite of abilities in no time. You also get to use it once per class level per day, and this is also boosted by your bloodline. Phantom Steed isn’t Teleport, but when it’s this good it’s far better than Overland Flight. And here, it’s online far earlier than most other good party transport mechanisms.

6 – Knight Phantom – (Mounted Combat*) (Natural Armor +1)
*
Even at a high CL, phantom steeds aren’t exactly sturdy. This lets you deflect some attacks aimed at them, keeping them alive that much longer. The steed itself serves as your means of fighting aerial targets late-game, and this can make the difference in how long they survive. (Their high CL means they aren’t likely to be dispelled, but their low HP still renders them vulnerable to AoE attacks.)

The other reason we take this feat is that a few magic items activate secondary features if you have Mounted Combat. However, it’s still optional.

7 – Abjurant Champion – (Abjurant Armor, Extended Abjuration)
*
To qualify for this, make sure one of your 1st level duskblade spells is Lesser Deflect. You’ll get better ones soon (you just unlocked 2nd level spells, after all) but that one will help you qualify. And on the plus side, this makes use of the more-or-less useless Combat Casting bonus feat you got at level 2.

It’s worth noting that bloodlines combine obscenely well with the Abjurant Champion, since several of its abilities are keyed to class level, which is inflated with bloodline levels. Here, that includes Abjurant Armor – eventually adding +8 to any abjurant AC bonus is beyond badass. Check the snapshot below for an example.

8 – Abjurant Champion – (Swift Abjuration) (Resist Cold 10)
*
Speaking of bloodlines boosting Abjurant Champion features, with 3 bloodline levels, you can Quicken up to 4th level abjuration effects like this, when you’re normally limited to 2nd level effects.

9 – Abjurant Champion – (Extra Spell: Shield*) (Constitution +1)
*
The usual AbChamp spell of choice, with a feat to expand the duskblade's spell list.

This was originally Shield of Faith until Omen of Peace pointed out that Abjurant Armor doesn't work with deflection bonuses, something I keep forgetting.

10 – Abjurant Champion – (Arcane Boost) (Alter Self 1/day)
*
The bonuses from Arcane Boost aren’t all that hot, but you certainly have the spell slots to spare. Alter Self from the major dragon bloodline may not appear on your version, but here it’s a welcome buff.

11 – Abjurant Champion – (Martial Arcanist)
*
Oddly, this is useless to you - even with just one bloodline level, your caster level is always at least equal to your base attack bonus. The real bonus on this level is that 3rd level spells are now online.

12 – Knight Phantom – (Arcane Strike*) (Natural Armor +2)
*
You’ve got the spell slots to spare, so why not use them to power up your combat that much more? Again, this is an optional feat, so feel free to move it around or replace it.

13 – Knight Phantom – (Aspect of the Phantom)

14 – Knight Phantom – (Power Attack)

15 – Knight Phantom – (Knowledge Devotion*) (Charisma +1)
*
4th level spells are online.

I chose Knowledge Devotion because it synergizes well with duskblade-type combat and your high Intelligence, but it’s not required nor necessarily the best choice for this build (since most knowledges aren’t class skills for the majority of your levels; this is also why it isn't picked up sooner despite being a "classic" duskblade feat). Still a good choice when you can get it to work, though, which is why Collector of Stories was suggested above.

16 – Knight Phantom – (Countenance of the Phantom) (Breath Weapon)
*
The Countenance ability is more gravy than anything else; if you happen to like it (or are playing in a party where it synergizes well), consider a bump to Charisma at some point to increase its DC.

The breath weapon from the bloodline isn’t all that amazing and may not show up in your version, but it’s worth noting that it appears to be usable at will.

17 – Knight Phantom – N/A

18 – Knight Phantom – (Versatile Spellcaster*) (Natural Armor +3)
*
With the duskblade’s spell slot progression and Rings of Wizardry's geometric effect, this gives you impossible high-level spellcasting stamina, even if you’re burning slots for Arcane Boost, Arcane Channelling, and Arcane Strike every battle. You may very well want to move this feat earlier for that reason.

19 – Knight Phantom – (Blade of the Phantom)
*
If you look only at the benefits, Brilliant Energy really is a great enhancement to your weapon – but most people forgo it because it’s both expensive and double-edged (it renders the weapon worthless against a lot of possible targets, which is not something you'd want if you're paying a whopping +5 bonus for it!). Blade of the Phantom gets around both of those issues, giving you several (13, here) rounds per day of almost-touch-attack accuracy, usable whenever the situation calls for it. (I say “almost” because it doesn’t work against natural armor, which is what many of the high-level AC bonuses are made of. But against humanoid foes? Slice and dice.)

5th level spells are now available too.

20 – Spellsword – (Reduce Spell Failure -10%) (Cold Immunity)
*
There’s a dearth of good +1 attack / +1 CL at 1st level classes out there, so we use the old standby to cap the build off.

 
Snapshot: With the usual three +6 items on Str, Con, and Int, and a +1 tome of Intelligence (normally I assume higher, but the gear demands on a gish aren’t cheap; if you can afford it, do it!), we’re looking at 198 HP, base attack +19 (melee +30 with Greater Magic Weapon, ranged +19, usually reserved for touch-attack spells), saves of Fort 20 / Reflex 7 / Will 13, casting as an 18th level duskblade at CL 21. (This gives us spells per day of 9/13/12/11/10/4 before we start looking into Rings of Wizardry.) We have an effective level 8 in Abjurant Champion for its level-based abilities, and effective level 13 in Knight Phantom for its level-based abilities. Using, for instance, a +5 Mithral Breastplate (or a drakehelm/knowstone with Magic Vestment; the armor allows for special abilities though), Shield of Faith, a drakehelm/knowstone of Shield (the alternative is an expensive +5 light shield with +5 defending shield spikes, which is actually one point lower than the Shield spell here!), and a +5 amulet of natural armor gives you a final AC of 52. If one of your armor abilities is Ghostward, your touch AC works out to an impressive (for a non-agility character) 27. Between Arcane Strike, Arcane Channelling, Power Attack, and Knowledge Devotion, we’re not lacking for direct offense either - it's pretty typical Duskblade offense but with a significantly improved arcane defense. Oh, and you can basically give this guy the most amazing spring attack known to man without resorting to Chuck Increments – double damage charges with a lance + Ride-By Attack on the boots + a Phantom Steed (base speed capped at 240) = “Where the hell did that hit come from?”.

Overall Strengths: +19 base attack, 18th level casting at CL 21. That’s a respectable (almost top-tier) gish even before you consider the class features augmenting your attacks and defenses. Five of the feats are more or less free for you to choose, and the spell selection is totally open. Ridiculous magical stamina for a gish, even with a lot of abilities that drain spell slots. Although it relies on a bloodline, it will work with any bloodline even under the most conservative interpretation.

Overall Weaknesses: That high casting you get is duskblade casting, which is pretty much only good at damage rather than reshaping reality as we know it. Similarly, it can be expensive to equip this kind of character, particularly if you want to employ the mounted abilities in combat (which is optional). Finally, like most duskblade/prc builds, you lose out on a lot of what makes the duskblade a fine class in its own right.

Variants:  Since your feat selection is pretty open, you have many possibilities in rearranging the ones marked with a * above. You can even rotate them; three other feats that come to mind as possibilities are Dragonmarked Spellturning (lets you reflect spells of up to 3rd level cast at you), Mark of the Dauntless (gives you the very-difficult-to-get immunity to dazing and stunning), and Orien Battle Stride (allows you to evade attacks in melee in an interesting way, costing you nothing but an immediate action if an attack aimed at you misses – and speaking of misses, did you see this guy’s AC?). These three are only available to dragonmarked characters and are very rarely considered in actual builds (well, we have a few serious uses for Mark of the Dauntless in builds yet to be showcased, but that's another story.)

If you want more powerful or varied casting, replace Duskblade with your casting class of choice, pick up Combat Casting as one of the “free” feats (probably the Extra Spell, since most non-duskblades don’t need it for AbChamp), and just use Knight Phantom levels to bide time until you qualify for Abjurant Champion. Be advised that this is actually harder to do than you’d think – Knight Phantom requires full martial proficiency to enter, so you might need to rely on a flaw to grab Militia or something. However, since the only other caster class with full base attack is the hexblade (and really, you're not playing a hexblade for its spells...), you'll need more levels in the base class to hit the base attack requirement; this means that you don't need the bloodline level to enter Dragonmark Heir (in fact, if your casting class is low base attack, you may need to skip the Heir altogether and just pick up Lesser Dragonmark at 6th, a mere one level earlier than wizards get phantom steed - not as much of a rush, and a large source of the reason I got frustrated trying to early-entry Knight Phantom.)

If you’re able to do the controversial “buy all three bloodline levels early” stunt, you can actually pull this off without Dragonmark Heir – a major bloodline bought up to 3 raises your 3rd level max ranks to 9. Although you have to pick your class first, you can do the rest of the level-up procedure in just about any order under my understanding, which means you can meet the skill requirements for Lesser Mark at level 3 and take it that same level. Under this build, level 1 becomes Least Mark and Still Spell, level 3 becomes Lesser Mark, and level 4 gets you into Knight Phantom (which, unusually for gish PrCs, doesn't have a base attack requirement). By picking up another level of Duskblade somewhere along the way (or another +1/+1 gish PrC) to replace the Heir level, you can reach BAB +20/casting 19/CL 22 with the same suite of class features above; even without the features that's a damn fine set of stats. I don’t like doing this as the base approach already relies on Unearthed Arcana, but it’s worth noting this if you’re in a no-holds-barred game.
 




There you have it. An alternative early-entry gish with an interesting suite of class features and a non-game-breaking selection of spells, with its own unique style and a reasonably smooth progression while you’re at it.



Next up: Due to other discussion, next week will probably be the Storm Knight... but other options include my Inevitable Nightmare, Andarious’ Captain Constitution (note: these two builds actually go together), a joint Andarious/Tempest Heavy Crusader, or a theoretical build of mine (the first to be showcased) called Gun Fu. Go ahead and place your votes!

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

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These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

Storm Knight.

And my second choice is Storm Knight.   
"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
You can use Dragonslayer from Draconomicon to get full prof.s without sacrificing CL, assuming it's available.  Otherwise, its a fantastic build to see online.  How does it do when it comes down to combat, though?

Other than that, I do want to see Storm Knight next week, as I'm rather curious about it.  The Nuker choice from last week sounds ominous (and interesting), though after that I wouldn't mind seeing Gun Fu (sounds like you were inspired by the movie Equilibrium) and Inevitable Nightmare.  The other choices seem to catch my eye too.  But my votes for what comes next are in the order they were mentioned in this post.

Thanks for sharing this with us all, Tempest.  I know I've enjoyed every one of these builds so far, and this one is no exception.
Hmmm cheaky as all hell, but awesome nonetheless. So you turn into a phantom, riding a phantom with a red glow around your vampiric touch lance... nothing creepy about that.

 I like it, not as much as Wizassassin, but I like it.
 
 Is there no way to get improved ride-by attack?


My votes are on the Wizassassin page.
It plays just like any other duskblade without full attack channelling, really. The mounted aspect is minimal; Mounted Combat is the most expendable part of the build. The Knight Phantom really is just an eldritch knight with a few extras; the steed is good but its no Special Mount. Think of it as any other duskgish but with an early entry trick applied.

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

Show
These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

Phantom Rush is fantastic.  I didn't even know about the PrC until I read this post and Duskblade is a perfect fit.

Now my next gestalt idea may do a variant of this on one side and swiftblade on the other.  Who knows, maybe some Iaijutsu in as well... 
I've edited the main post a bit to make it more clear that this is not a mounted build. I also added a couple extra notes about the Knight Phantom, since I thought the class was better-known than it actually is.

Phantom Rush is fantastic.  I didn't even know about the PrC until I read this post and Duskblade is a perfect fit.


Take a close look at the Knight Phantom's prereqs too. They're very loose in how they work - for instance, it's actually possible to qualify as a non-caster. Or, more appropriately, as a warlock (the original attempt at this used warlock, in fact). The casting advancement also doesn't look at your requirements at all; you could hypothetically do something like qualify as a wizard but use KP levels to advance Dread Necromancer or something. The Lesser Mark of Passage makes it possible to qualify with any casting class, but it's very hard to get this early enough to be worth reporting (as without early-entry tricks, the usual time the Lesser Mark shows up is level 6 (roughly on schedule with other PrC entries), or level 5 with Dragonmark Heir (on schedule for very late 3.5 PrC entries but still a touch delayed). Phantom Rush is the breakthrough result I've had of doing this, finding a way to shunt Dragonmark Heir to level 4 and then figuring out what I could do with the 3 initial levels. Duskblade 3 was the natural fit, and once you've got Duskblade 3 and a committal to a PrC, you really have no reason to not go Abjurant Champion to round it out.).

Now my next gestalt idea may do a variant of this on one side and swiftblade on the other.  Who knows, maybe some Iaijutsu in as well... 


If you're working in iaijutsu, here's an example build based around another idea I had a while ago. (It's one of the builds in the same doc as all of these, but since it isn't as good or as interesting, it won't be getting a full writeup.) Basically there is a way to trigger Iaijutsu against just about any opponent at will as a standard action.

The issue, of course, is that iaijutsu doesn't combo well with other effects if you're using it this way (since it requires a very specific standard action to do). Thus, I'm not sure if it's worth pursuing - honestly, I think a lot of us are enamored with iaijutsu since it was very good when it first came out but it was so hard to trigger we just didn't get enough experience with it to learn how bad it can be. It's still a nice bonus when you can get it, though.)

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

Show
These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

I like this build less than the others. A few remarks:
- RP-wise I like your choice of a Dragon bloodline, since it's in part the mix of dragon and dragonmarked bloodlines in Erandis Vol that precipitated the destruction of the House of Vol at the hands of the dragons... That PC might be in for interesting times.

- Abjurant Champion reads: "Any time you cast an abjuration spell that grants you an armor bonus or shield bonus to AC, you can increase the value of the bonus by your abjurant champion class level."
So Shield of Faith isn't enhanced by it. Luminous Armor and Shield are pretty much the only ones that are (with Deflect IIRC).

- You seem to be sweeping the Bloodline levels under the rug. But the build is actually
Duskblade 2 / Bloodline 1 / Duskblade +1 / Dragonmark Heir 1 / ...,
is it not?
Do you use a houserule to buy off bloodline levels? Apologies if it's mentioned somewhere and I've missed it. But as it is I see 23 levels, not 20.

OoP's characters
My current character in Real Adventures Play-by-Post games:

 

  • Maeve in The Lost History of Istar


 
I like this build less than the others.

Honestly, it's my least favorite from the showcased ones so far too - it doesn't significantly improve on even Duskblade 20 and it's less well-defined than the other showcased builds. It's more of an early-entry trick than anything else, and even that depends on Unearthed Arcana (which, thanks to flaws, enabled a lot of early-entry tricks). Still, no one ever really played with Knight Phantom before, even with the Lesser Mark, so I think it deserved a showcase. (One of the edited-in paragraphs explains why I thought it was so tantalizing.)

It'd be a lot cooler if I could find an easier way to get better spellcasting - i.e. if Battle Sorcerer gave full martial instead of single-martial proficiency, or if you went something like Fighter 1 / Wizard 2 (picking up Combat Casting the hard way and building like any other wizard gish). Since the dragonmark itself supplies all the casting prereqs you need, those first few levels are wide open as far as you like, so long as you have full martial proficiency, at least one of your levels has Ride as a class skill and at least one of your levels is an arcane spellcasting class (up to and including warlock). Duskblade just combined all three of these into the same chassis, meaning minimal CL loss.

A few remarks:
- RP-wise I like your choice of a Dragon bloodline, since it's in part the mix of dragon and dragonmarked bloodlines in Erandis Vol that precipitated the destruction of the House of Vol at the hands of the dragons... That PC might be in for interesting times.

Heh. You know, I thought Erandis was actually a full-on half-dragon, but you're absolutely right - and I'd forgotten she was attacked by the dragons. (For some reason I thought it was the other marked houses, but I think I'm mixing up the Mark of Death with the Aberrant Marks.) It would be much more interesting in this case if it was accidental, I think: the Knights Arcane wouldn't flinch that much if a loosely-draconic character was in their ranks, but if that character spontaneously developed a Least Mark (due to unknown Orien ancestry) and had developed sufficient war-hero cred that Orien is kind of forced to shower favor on him or risk a PR disaster, you create a lot of options for intrigue and a lot of potential foes.

- Abjurant Champion reads: "Any time you cast an abjuration spell that grants you an armor bonus or shield bonus to AC, you can increase the value of the bonus by your abjurant champion class level."
So Shield of Faith isn't enhanced by it. Luminous Armor and Shield are pretty much the only ones that are (with Deflect IIRC).


D'oh! I keep forgetting that. Oh well, swap it to Shield and it works just fine. (I know that the class was almost certainly intended to work differently, since all of its examples have Abjurant Armor working with the conjuration-schooled Mage Armor, but for some reason I forgot that it was phrased to deny abjuration-schooled deflection.)

- You seem to be sweeping the Bloodline levels under the rug. But the build is actually
Duskblade 2 / Bloodline 1 / Duskblade +1 / Dragonmark Heir 1 / ...,
is it not?
Do you use a houserule to buy off bloodline levels? Apologies if it's mentioned somewhere and I've missed it. But as it is I see 23 levels, not 20.

The interesting thing with bloodlines is that buying a bloodline level costs as much as raising your level, but does not actually change your ECL:
Class levels of "bloodline" do not increase a character's character level the way a normal class level does, but they do provide certain benefits (see below).

Thus, for instance, if an ECL 1 character took a level of bloodline (1000xp), he'd still be ECL 1, and would only need 1000xp to reach ECL 2.

There's also no explicit text preventing you from buying all three at ECL 1 (you'd be a pretty weak ECL 1 character when your party is ECL 3, but this is similar to a level adjustment in terms of when the abilities giving you that adjustment come online - and better than a level adjustment when you realize you're ECL 1 in a party taking on CR 3 encounters). However, this is slightly contentious, since it's implied that you need to buy the bloodline level immediately before buying the actual levels (thus you'd be paying for major bloodlines at ECL 2, 5, and 11, for a total XP loss of 18,000 - not insignificant, but nowhere near as significant as it looks). There's text supporting the early-purchase interpretation, but since it's disputed I never rely on it. I've done two bloodline builds so far - this one and Ashardalon Reborn - and neither one requires early bloodline purchasing. (Ashardalon Reborn uses it during its level-up snapshotting to show off what it can do for that build, but only needs it for its 12th level feat, so it works just fine with the normal rate too. This build works just fine with a minor bloodline instead: the difference in this build between buying that off at level 1 and buying it off "on-schedule" is only 2000 xp at a low enough level that the XP system barely flinches.) 

Since bloodlines are Unearthed Arcana, this "doesn't change ECL" effect isn't as well-known as it could be; it took me by surprise when I realized it a few months ago.

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

Show
These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

I've been pretty busy, but here's my reply.
Still, no one ever really played with Knight Phantom before, even with the Lesser Mark, so I think it deserved a showcase. (One of the edited-in paragraphs explains why I thought it was so tantalizing.)


I'm always in favour of more builds gettign showcased! Your work is appreciated. (Not that you need me to tell you this.)

Heh. You know, I thought Erandis was actually a full-on half-dragon, but you're absolutely right - and I'd forgotten she was attacked by the dragons. (For some reason I thought it was the other marked houses, but I think I'm mixing up the Mark of Death with the Aberrant Marks.) It would be much more interesting in this case if it was accidental, I think: the Knights Arcane wouldn't flinch that much if a loosely-draconic character was in their ranks, but if that character spontaneously developed a Least Mark (due to unknown Orien ancestry) and had developed sufficient war-hero cred that Orien is kind of forced to shower favor on him or risk a PR disaster, you create a lot of options for intrigue and a lot of potential foes.


Indeed, Erandis is a half-dragon, and the aberrant-marked were beaten by the Dragonmarked Houses in the War of the Mark(s).

I'm not sure anything is "accidental" in a world with the Prophecy, but I see what you mean: no actual sentient agent meant for the dragonblood/dragonmark mix to happen.

Thus, for instance, if an ECL 1 character took a level of bloodline (1000xp), he'd still be ECL 1, and would only need 1000xp to reach ECL 2.

There's also no explicit text preventing you from buying all three at ECL 1 (you'd be a pretty weak ECL 1 character when your party is ECL 3, but this is similar to a level adjustment in terms of when the abilities giving you that adjustment come online - and better than a level adjustment when you realize you're ECL 1 in a party taking on CR 3 encounters). However, this is slightly contentious, since it's implied that you need to buy the bloodline level immediately before buying the actual levels (thus you'd be paying for major bloodlines at ECL 2, 5, and 11, for a total XP loss of 18,000 - not insignificant, but nowhere near as significant as it looks). There's text supporting the early-purchase interpretation, but since it's disputed I never rely on it. I've done two bloodline builds so far - this one and Ashardalon Reborn - and neither one requires early bloodline purchasing. (Ashardalon Reborn uses it during its level-up snapshotting to show off what it can do for that build, but only needs it for its 12th level feat, so it works just fine with the normal rate too. This build works just fine with a minor bloodline instead: the difference in this build between buying that off at level 1 and buying it off "on-schedule" is only 2000 xp at a low enough level that the XP system barely flinches.) 

Since bloodlines are Unearthed Arcana, this "doesn't change ECL" effect isn't as well-known as it could be; it took me by surprise when I realized it a few months ago.


Very interesting. I admit I had never parsed the Bloodlines text sentence by sentence - I was not a huge fan of them.
So I was relying on the previous CharOp interpretation that I'd seen, which led to the builds labeling Bloodline levels as class levels. But, reading the text, your take on them appears pretty valid too: this is yet another area where the rules could use clarifications.

Leaving the realm of RAW, I like it also because Bloodlines-as-full-levels are too costly for what they bring. An overall cost of 18k XP over the course of ~12 levels is much closer to what it should be IMO.

OoP's characters
My current character in Real Adventures Play-by-Post games:

 

  • Maeve in The Lost History of Istar


 
I'm not sure anything is "accidental" in a world with the Prophecy, but I see what you mean: no actual sentient agent meant for the dragonblood/dragonmark mix to happen.

And if that does happen to be too much of a stretch, any other bloodline works - in addition to the dragons, I can see vampire, doppelganger, or lycanthrope having plenty of decent hook possibilities without being too far outside the realm of possibility.

Well, vampire is a better fit for Karrnath than for Aundair, but doppelgangers can show up everywhere (perhaps that bloodline's one of the possibilities if a changeling mates with one bearing a marked bloodline - the marked race is easily dominant, but the changeling heritage is still present. Races of Eberron makes it clear that a changeling/human pairing has 50/50 odds of being either, but the dragonmarks themselves are odd cookies), and of all the nations, Aundair is one of the more likely to have lycanthropic/shifter mixing. You're not hurting for options here - the limiting factor is if the game allows bloodlines, not finding a place for that bloodline that also intersects with the two required power groups for this build.

Note that the variant that uses two or more bloodline levels and early-buy-in can do this without entering Dragonmark Heir, which removes the need for an RP connection to House Orien, which simplifies things a bit.

Very interesting. I admit I had never parsed the Bloodlines text sentence by sentence - I was not a huge fan of them.
So I was relying on the previous CharOp interpretation that I'd seen, which led to the builds labeling Bloodline levels as class levels. But, reading the text, your take on them appears pretty valid too: this is yet another area where the rules could use clarifications.

Leaving the realm of RAW, I like it also because Bloodlines-as-full-levels are too costly for what they bring. An overall cost of 18k XP over the course of ~12 levels is much closer to what it should be IMO.


Honestly, I view them as an alternate take on a level adjustment, which is basically what they amount to. The abilities supplied by a bloodline collectively work out to being just a little less than a similar LA typically provides, except the costs are much more manageable and you catch up rather quickly after paying the costs (a major bloodline is still a substantial chunk of XP change, though, and might require quite a bit of "one-level gravy training" to get that back. It might even require two-level gravy training; I haven't run the numbers on this).

Honestly, with a bit of tuning, I think bloodlines could have been a far better system than level adjustments to handle powerful races, particularly if paired with things that scaled with level (kalashtar power points and psi-like ability augmentation, for instance) or unlocked in tiers (raptoran or dragonborn flight). But as you note, they're in a half-baked state (or, let's be fair, three-quarters-baked; most of UA is better than random houseruling, but very little of it has enough polish to be used writ large in the game, especially in areas where it interacts with rules that were written after UA came out, such as the Tome of Magic or the Tome of Battle. Neither of them are used here, though).

(...Although I'm guilty of using it with the Tome of Magic with Ashardalon Reborn, I'll admit.)

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

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These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

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