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, one of RadicalTaoist’s babies is up. He also helped quite a bit with this writeup, which should be clear when the writing style shifts.
A little man who wasn’t there
Required Books: PHB2, Races of Stone, Lords of Madness, Complete Adventurer, Complete Mage, Tome of Battle, Spell Compendium, Magic Item Compendium.
Unearthed Arcana used: None!
Background: RT played a single-classed kenku beguiler in a game a while back, capitalizing on beguiler stealth and misdirection when combined with natural kenku psychology and mimicry. The Gnowhere Gnome (yes, the silent G does make it deadlier) is a natural revision of that build – the sneakiest bastard that you’ll gnever find.
- Race: Whisper Gnome. Everyone’s favorite elusive little bugger, they’re hard to beat in this area. If you don’t have access to whisper gnomes, any race with decent stealth synergy (goblin, strongheart / ghostwise Halfling, kenku, etc) would be a passable substitute.
- Ability Scores: 6/16/12/16/10/10, after racial modifiers. Intelligence and Dexterity are both quite important; put your 4th and 8th level stat increases into Intelligence, and after that figure out what your gear is likely to provide and pump accordingly.
Skill Gnotes: It goes without saying that you’re investing in Hide and Move Silently. Also max out the rest of the trapscout skills (Disable Device, Listen, Search, and Spot), as well as Concentration and Bluff. Plan yourself more as a scout than a caster on the skill front – you gneed 12 Spellcraft and a reasonable Concentration for your feats, but should be fine elsewhere. You should max out Use Magic Device, but not at first; you only need 12 ranks in Spellcraft, and by then your level-based stat increases should give you more skill points, so ignore UMD from levels 1-7 and then boost it more later on. If you can spare the skill points, look into some skill tricks in the mid-to-late levels; False Theurgy, Timely Misdirect, Group Fake-Out, and Swift Concentration come to mind.
Basic Equipment: Masterwork stealth gear (i.e. your gnome gninja outfit) is a good place to start. A light or heavy crossbow is a good fallback weapon to conserve early slots. You will need to have a melee threatened area later on; any basic weapon will work (dagger for style and preference, but a gauntlet works too – as does any magic staff or rod you’re packing at that point).
Magical Gear Goals: Your mundane and caster gear selection is pretty straightforward. I like the Collar of Umbral Metamorphosis here (it gives you a set of particularly nice stealth abilities that combine well with beguiler illusions – the real sell his Hide in Plain Sight, though, and you can get that through one of your Advanced Learnings), and you can save yourself a feat at the late game with the MIC’s Serpent Armor (preferably enhanced with Greater Shadow and Silent Moves). For reasons which will be discussed below, a Circlet of Persuasion is a better buy for you than for most beguilers. Similarly, you might want to pack a runestaff with Greater Dispel Magic on it – shockingly, it’s not on the beguiler list, but it’s highly desirable to have a dispeller who can’t be located, and it gives you some help against Mind Blanks and True Seers.
Build Stub: Beguiler 20.
1 – Beguiler – (Armored Mage, Trapfinding) (Darkstalker)
2 – Beguiler – (Cloaked Casting (DC +1), Surprise Casting)
3 – Beguiler – (Advanced Learning: Shock and Awe) (Improved Diversion)
4 – Beguiler –
5 – Beguiler – (Silent Spell)
6 – Beguiler – (Surprise Casting (move action)) (Mobile Spellcasting)
7 – Beguiler – (Advanced Learning: Phantasmal Strangler)
8 – Beguiler – (Cloaked Casting (Spell Penetration +2))
9 – Beguiler – (Rapid Metamagic)
10 – Beguiler – (Still Spell)
11 – Beguiler – (Advanced Learning: Nightmare Terrain)
12 – Beguiler – (Spectral Skirmisher)
13 – Beguiler
14 – Beguiler – (Cloaked Casting (DC +2))
15 – Beguiler – (Advanced Learning: Simulacrum) (Evasive Reflexes)
As a second point, Simulacrum can cause… problems if the DM isn’t prepared. Not only can it produce decoys or body doubles (including duplicates of yourself – see everything up there with Project Image? Now double it and shave off a few levels from the double), it can also duplicate NPCs. Expect a clever player to be able to do great things with this spell.
16 – Beguiler –
17 – Beguiler
18 – Beguiler – (Combat Reflexes OR Extraordinary Concentration)
19 – Beguiler – (Advanced Learning: Shades)
20 – Beguiler – (Cloaked Casting (SR Breach))
Snapshot: Let’s toss on the +6 items on Constitution, Dexterity, and Intelligence, and assume you pumped Intelligence all the way (i.e. all five pumps into Int, along with a +5 tome, as opposed to amping up Dexterity) – the long game version. We also discussed, above, that your ‘ideal’ armor is probably Serpent Armor (mechanically +1 leather) with Greater Shadow and Greater Silent Moves, and a Circlet of Persuasion. (While this does give the Gnowhere Gnome a bit more equipment than usual for snapshots, I group these particular on the “+skills” heading that I usually use when discussing skillmonkeys, although they are a touch pricier. No one blinked when we gave +Concentration items to Diamond Mind specialists - same thing here). This finishes off with 152 HP, +10 base attack (or ray +16), and saves of 10/12/12, with a spell save DC of 21+spell level (+2 if you catch ‘em off-guard, which is, er, likely) – rather good for a baseline without further gear or buffs on a spellcaster, albiet slightly skimpy on straight-up HP. Skillwise you’re looking at 228 total skill points and no changes in skill list from 1-20: this is plenty to max out Concentration, Hide, Move Silently, Bluff, Disable Device, Search, Spot, Listen, and Use Magic Device, with points left over to hit Spellcraft 12 (required for your feats). This approach leaves you with 9 skill points left, which you can use to pick up four skill tricks; our recommendation is Timely Misdirection, Clarity of Vision, Swift Concentration and any other one that seems useful to you (i.e. Listen to This).
Taking a step back, let’s look at those skill bonuses. Adding in the gear above, synergy, and racial modifiers, you’re looking at trapscout skills of +34/+34 and sense skills of +25/+25, along with a Bluff of +28 and a Use Magic Device of +30. Those are very good. But the real victor here? Stealth. Hide is +52, Move Silently is +48, and you’ve got the full suite of Beguiler misdirections (Project Image, Simulacrum, and assorted Invisibility tricks), plus Darkstalker (+Hide in Plain Sight from Nightmare Terrain or equipment), Shadow Striker + Evasive Reflexes (+Serpent Armor's Combat Reflexes), and Mobile Spellcasting (+Rapid Metamagic +Silent Spell + Still Spell).
Let me put it in perspective. On the left, you have your common ninja. On the right, you have the Gnowhere Gnome.
Fig. 1a: Ninja
Fig. 1b: Gnowhere Gnome
Overall Strengths: You’re gnot exactly an easy guy to pin down. Able to hide from just about anything, including a direct target, and able to do so in the middle of combat in an open plain should you so desire, the Gnowhere Gnome is basically a paragon of what the beguiler can be. It’s also simple enough to fly at any table – and with his skill list, he’d have no problem being welcome at many tables either. Stick him in your stealth/scout roles and watch him shine (…or, okay, gnot see him shine – let’s be honest here); later on his magic grows to the point where he can even play at being a wizard, particularly with Shades or runestaff fun.
Overall Weaknesses: What do your opponents do when they fight someone who can’t be pinned down? That’s right, they nuke the site from orbit bring on the area effects. Your Reflex and Fortitude saves are your natural weak points as a result – they’re all that stand between you and a very painful Fire Storm or Cloudkill. Look into Rings of Evasion, or the much cheaper (but less spammable) Diamond Mind rings linked to the appropriate counter, and don’t be afraid to use that Moment of Prescience effect to stay alive. There’s also the usual issues with beguilers in specific or illusionists/enchanters in general, gnamely, the host of things immune to your spells. You’re better equipped than most to handle that (Use Magic Device), but this can get costly really quick. (Thankfully, you’re Beguiler 20, so SR usually isn’t a factor.)
Variants: As a Beguiler 20, the points of variation here largely fall on feats and Advanced Learning choices. Your feats largely fall in two categories (deceptive spellcasting and stealth/misdirection), and there’s no direct synergy between them that depends on these particular sets of feats (they work well together, but they don’t depend on each other), you can rotate them around as you see fit. The only potential problem is that with so (relatively) few degrees of freedom, the further you deviate, the more likely it is to run into another beguiler 20 build.
There you have it. I think, quite possibly, that the Gnowhere Gnome is the iconic Beguiler. Go ahead, tell us how you’d beat this.
…And gno apologies from us on the random silent G. It’s required, ye’see.
Looking for feedback, and, as always, a vote!
Next up: Take your pick from [DH] Eat Sleep Gank, [RT] Edge of the Light, and - shock of shocks - [TS] Flip the Bird. (Yes, it's been too long since I contributed a build!). Depending on how on the ball we are this week, I'll try to get [AR] Uberflank up as well.
And re: the other forums: Due to circumstances both unforeseeable and predictable (read: we're all Canadian, and last week was our Thanksgiving holiday), our group didn't meet last week for game night, which means the final say is a bit delayed. Not forgotten, not procrastinated, just delayed. This really should be the last delay; you'll get an answer before the next build is showcased.