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, RT's answer to the Super Sentry Challenge.
Man’s Best Friend
Required Books: Eberron Campaign Setting, Magic of Incarnum. That’s it, really. Races of Eberron or the Monster Manual III will do in a pinch if you don’t have the ECS, though you’ll still want the ECS for the warforged repair rules and docent components. That said, page 129 of Dungeonscape will be incredibly valuable as a source for the best poisons.
Unearthed Arcana used: None
Background: Rusty the Guard ‘Forged was a response to a little challenge in our group; who could optimize the best sentry. The ideal build would result in a PC who could stay up all night long and watch the camp without needing rest. Avoiding reliance on per-day abilities and being able to provide your own healing and supplies would be a definite plus. Several builds were thrown together; RT’s favourite was Rusty.
Warforged were a natural race pick for this challenge, and totemist a natural class (literally) with access to Spot, Listen, and Craft. While the build itself is simple, a few key skill and feat choices really synergize well with the race choice and compensate for the totemist’s weaknesses. If you’re in a wilderness adventure, taking on something like the World’s Largest Dungeon, or just have a GM who likes to ambush your party in the night, then Rusty is the perfect pet for your whole party. He only ever needs rest if he wants to change his soulmeld layout, which he can do without rest to a limited degree, and he has practically nothing in terms of per-day abilities upon which he relies. And with the ability to repair himself and shape his own natural weapons, he really doesn’t need anything else from the party besides a scratch behind the ear. Who’s a good ‘forged, boy? That’s a good ‘forged! That’s a good ‘forged!
- Race: Warforged. Of the races that don’t require sleep, these guys enjoy the most immunities, including a critically important immunity to poison.
- Ability Scores: 15/14/16/10/12/6, after racial modifiers. Boost Str at level 4, and then boost Con from then on out. It gives you decent attack rolls and keeps your Con score far enough ahead of your number of soulmelds shaped for the rest of your career.
Skill Notes: You have four skills, and you will max them. They are Craft (Blacksmithing), which can be used to repair damage you take; Craft (Poisonmaking), to brew toxins to which you are immune (and thus can use with impunity); Spot, because you’re a sentry; and Listen, for the same reasons. These are the only skills to enjoy your ranks. Any other skill you might want can be boosted with soulmelds as necessary.
Basic Equipment: Hey, you’re a totemist! Get yourself masterwork equipment for your Craft checks, and a simple weapon for the low levels before your natural weapons come online. Anything to which you can apply poison is good stuff – don’t forget caltrops! In addition to your poisons, it’s worth your time to look for alchemical items in Complete Adventurer, Complete Scoundrel, and the Planar Handbook. Atramen oil from the Planar Handbook is particularly useful to any poison user.
Magical Gear Goals: Other than incarnum foci? Get what you can that won’t compete with your soulmelds for space. As you’ll pretty much always want the bloodtalons shaped but have no real reason to want them bound, magical gloves are a safe bet. Consumables are a definite yes – a potion of Ebon Eyes completely removes the drawback to the Shadow Mantle’s shoulders chakra bind. Remember that you come with armor that’s always on, and that can be enchanted for many useful benefits.
Build Stub: Totemist 20
1 – Totemist – (Wild empathy, illiteracy) (Mithral Body)
2 – Totemist – (Totem chakra bind (+1 capacity))
3 – Totemist – (Totem’s protection) (Cerulean Will OR Shape Soulmeld: Enigma Helm)
4 – Totemist
5 – Totemist – (Chakra binds (crown, feet, hands))
6 – Totemist – (Totem chakra bind (+1 meldshaper level)) (Bonus Essentia)
7 – Totemist
8 – Totemist – (Rebind totem soulmeld 1/day)
9 – Totemist – (Chakra binds (arms, brow, shoulders)) (Double Bind: Brow)
10 – Totemist
11 – Totemist – (Totem chakra bind (double bind))
12 – Totemist – (Rebind totem soulmeld 2/day) (Double Bind: Totem)
13 – Totemist
14 – Totemist – (Chakra binds (throat, waist))
15 – Totemist – (Totem chakra bind (+2 capacity)) (Double Bind: Arms)
16 – Totemist – (Rebind totem soulmeld 3/day)
17 – Totemist – (Chakra bind (heart))
18 – Totemist – (Combat Reflexes OR Split Chakra: Brow)
19 – Totemist
20 – Totemist – (Totem embodiment, rebind totem soulmeld 4/day)
- Raptor Mask, Bloodtalons, Manticore Belt – all three of these soulmelds boost your Spot checks, occupy different chakras, and best of all, provide stacking bonuses. At the high levels, it is trivial to get Spot check bonuses in the 40s if you have all three shaped (and you will much of the time). At 20th level, binding the Mask and the Belt to the totem chakra and filling them up with essentia can get your bonuses so high, you will have a 9 out of 10 chance – or better! – of spotting immobile, invisible nonliving creatures. See Invisibility is for chumps. The Manticore Belt is a decent ranged attack method too.
- Basilisk Mask – it gives you darkvision, which is what you’ll need for many a night shift. You probably won’t want to bind it unless you know you’ll be fighting invisible opponents. That said, if you’re in large underground caverns and are expecting opponents like drow, binding this to the totem chakra can net you 180’ darkvision, which can be somewhat of an unfair advantage.
- Girallon Arms, Landshark Boots – the Boots provide another sensory ability, but more importantly, they can provide a claw attack that will rend with the Arms. Four landshark claws and a rend with a mobile attack can stack that damage up pretty fast.
- Lamia Belt, Landshark Boots – this may need confirmation from the GM, but it appears the four-claw hit will work with the added speed and spring attack granted by the belt. Handiest if you have the Girallon Arms bound too.
- Shedu Crown – again, effects that target your weak Will save are dangerous. The Crown provides a bonus against mind-affecting effects.
- Shadow Mantle – this is one of the soulmelds that boost Listen, and it does it fantastically well. It can also provide another sensory ability and some confusing magical darkness, which is great for screwing up, say, sneak attacking ambushers who want to stick arrows in your teammates’ vital organs.
- Disenchanter Mask – this provides another sensory ability, one a bit more unusual and difficult to counter.
- Brass Mane, Frost Helm – while you’ll have an easy time going after low-Fort enemies with your poisons, these soulmelds will be effective against weak-willed foes who might be too hardy for the normal approach.
- Heart of Rage – this meld works well with a grapple-happy set up.
The Phoenix Belt, Wormtail Belt, Hunter’s Circlet, Kruthik Claws, and Threefold Mask of the Chimera also bear mention.
Snapshot: At level 20, with full investment in Cerulean Will and +6 items for Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, but no tomes, you’ll have 253 HP, +15 BAB, 19 essentia to play with, and Fort/Ref/Will saves of +20, +17, and +11 (before any resistance bonuses). Shaping the Totem Avatar can give you another 20 hp (21 if it’s bound to the totem chakra), and the Shedu Crown can give you another +4 to those Will saves against mind-affect effects; you can also bind the Great Raptor Mask to gain evasion. Your attack rolls are +21 melee and +20 ranged BEFORE you start investing essentia in anything. An incarnum focus in your feet chakra lets your totem bound Landshark Boots attack with a +28 melee bonus four times as a standard action, if you make a good jump first. Each claw that hits deals 1d6+13 damage (before you invest anything in the Totem Avatar’s totem chakra bind). If you hit with all four and have the Girallon Arms bound for the rend, you’re dealing 6d6+78 damage (or 99 damage average) with a mobile “full attack” that can’t be foiled the way charges are foiled. An incarnum focus on the arms and a pumped out Girallon Arms meld can give you a +33 grapple check (as much as +37 if you’ve bound the Arms to your totem chakra). Finally, your Craft (poisonmaking) check is +28 with a +5 competence lab to work in; take a look at page 129 of Dungeonscape to see what you can do with that. Colossal scorpion venom (Injury DC 33, 1d10 Con/1d10 Con) comes to mind.
Overall Strengths: Rusty doesn’t turn off. He can go 24/7/365, watching the camp while the rest of the party sleeps. If offered downtime, he can repair himself, brew poisons, or reshape his soulmelds. He’s a fairly decent tank with enough HP and saves to avoid going down quick, plus immunities to a few nasty things. Contact and injury poisons make him far more hazardous than his middle-of-the-road damage output would suggest, and pulling surprise totem binds like the Basilisk Mask’s petrifying gaze, the Frost Helm’s stunning trill, or the Brass Mane’s exhausting roar can turn things around in a hurry. He’s a decent grappler on top of all that, too. And don’t discount some full-level wild empathy when the situation calls for it.
Overall Weaknesses: As much as we try to shore it up, Rusty’s will save is his Achilles heel; the more you can prevent enemies from targeting it, the better. While being a warforged does give Rusty a number of immunities, it does also give him some curious weaknesses (Rusting Grasp, Heat Metal, and the Inflict Damage line all come to mind). Finally, all Rusty has to rely on in ranged combat are his Manticore Belt and Ankheg Breastplate, which are pretty pathetic (well, in his hands, at least) at the high levels.
Variants: Rusty's pretty simple - a simple idea with a simple execution. There's any range of ways to modify this, but doing so tends to detract from its simple effectiveness. On the flipside, given how reconfigurable his totemist melds are, you have practically the full range of options available to that class (which is prett diverse!) available to you, becoming a slightly different character every day.
At Piggyknowles' suggestion, one variant is to swap a feat (likely the 18th level feat, or one of the Split Chakras if you can live without its effects) for Mindsight, qualifiying with the Shedu Crown's crown bind. Mindsight is notoriously hard to foil, and it's a perfect fit to Rusty's sentry abilities - anything intelligent within 100' now pretty much can't hide from Rusty, and as a side effect he can see through some disguises (i.e. he can empirically prove that any normal animal the DM describes is either a polymorphed villain or the villain's familiar, simply because animal intelligence and humanlike intelligence show up differently under Mindsight). Mindsight does not tell us how it interacts with Mind Blank, however, so check with your DM before applying this variant.
There you have it. You can rest easy at night knowing that Rusty's around. He doesn't stop, so you can.
Next up: Take your pick from the other two "runners-up" builds, plus a third "runner up" that wasn't part of the original list: [RT] The T3, [SN] Handy, or [AR] Evason Tank. (And no, for the last time, the T3 is not a construct. No one's guessed what the name means yet.)
Next week, we'll pick the next set up for rotation.
What do you think of Rusty! and which should be showcased first? Let us know in the thread.