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, I’m getting my Chrono Trigger on.
I Am Iron Man.
Required Books: Eberron Campaign Setting, PHB2, Complete Warrior, Complete Adventurer (one feat), Dungeonscape (one swap), Tome of Battle (optional), Miniatures Handbook (one feat), Complete Champion (one swap), Cityscape web enhancement (one swap, optional).
Unearthed Arcana used: None.
Background: This didn’t start out as a theme build – rather, I was toying around with Blood-Spiked Charger on something else and this just sort of happened. It’s an interesting blend of the unconventional and the archetypal – it makes use of weapons no one in their right mind has wielding, and yet operates almost exactly like a stock racial role (that of the warforged juggernaut) while mixing in some action/position control and unusual multipliers. The name comes from my unabashed love for Chrono Trigger, and that largely the build will be trying to tackle targets as a primary means of assault.
- Race: Warforged. This is a very racially-motivated build.
- Ability Scores: 18/8/14/10/12/8 before ability score adjustments (+2 Con, -2 Wis, -2 Cha). Pump Strength all the time; you get quite a bit of mileage out of it.
- Alignment: As a crusader, you can’t be True Neutral, and you can’t be Lawful here either. We went with Neutral Good. (The good/evil or chaotic/not choice loosely affects your late-game crusader maneuvers.)
Skill Notes: Nope. You’re a stock fighter in heavy armor. Beyond the Jump prerequisite, you have only 40 skill points to spend and not a lot of diversity on your ability scores.
Basic Equipment: You are your basic equipment. You’ll need a spiked shield and that’s about it. You’ll get the matching armor spikes at level 7 (possibly sooner if you enhance your plating with Fearsome; you’re not a primary Intimidate build, but after Jump, what else are you going to spend your points on?).
Magical Gear Goals: Enhancement bonuses on your armor spikes, shield spikes, armor plating, and shield are a good (if expensive) place to start; I also throw in a battlefist there (helps more than you’d think). In terms of magic enhancements, you can’t do better than Brutal Surge (MIC) on your spikes (ideally both sets); Defending and Ghostward (MIC) on the spikes and plates can help with your durability (both boost your touch AC, and since all of your weapons are always being wielded Defending can get a lot more bang than usual). You’re carrying far more immunities than even your typical warforged; this translates into savings at the bank for other areas (permanent mind blank effects aren’t cheap). Your Strength score does a lot of heavy lifting and is multiplied in several places, so a higher-than-usual priority on getting that up there counts. (I’m ignoring Strength of My Enemy here, but an item that triggers an augmented form of that can get positively nasty here.
Early on – and for however long you intend to consider a normal charging bull rush tactically – you can get a bit of an extra boost from a Stone Dragon belt linked to Charging Minotaur. Eventually (especially after Brutal Surge) you’ll be triggering bull rushes off of normal attacks (a bull rush can’t substitute for a normal attack the way a trip can, so you can’t combine them), and can give up the belt or switch it over to Mountain Hammer or something. But before then, it’s a lot of bang for cheap. Similarly, you can bring both of your weapons to bear after level 9 with the ever-popular Gloves of the Balanced Hands, but these are quite optional.
If you’re willing to go out on a limb pricewise, attaching Wounding to your armor spikes will be very evil (as you’ll frequently be dealing damage with your armor spikes many, many times over the course of the round). Additionally, you’ll want to look for a warforged-compatible size-enhancer (being constructs, Enlarge Person won’t work), which has a lot of synergy here; the best one printed is the Tauric Belt, but as a minor artifact you might need to quest around for that one. (If you manage to score one, retrain Pushback out for Knockback.) One replacement worth mentioning is a set of Spell Sharing Bracelets (DMG2), which would allow him to borrow a teammate’s Giant Size or Expansion.
Build Stub: Fighter 12 / Warforged Juggernaut 5 / Barbarian 1 / Crusader 2.
NOTE: The order in which the feats come online after level 11 is pretty flexible; shift around to taste.
NOTE: There are two ways to allocate a few of the feats, one emphasizing armor spikes, damage, and push distance, and the other emphasizing your shield, tactical pressure, and action control. They play similarly so this is also a matter of taste.
1 – Fighter – (Adamantine Body, Power Attack)
2 – Fighter – (Dungeon Crasher)
3 – Fighter – (Improved Bull Rush)
4 – Fighter – (Weapon Focus: Spiked Shield)
5 – Fighter – N/A
6 – Fighter – (Dungeon Crasher II) (Weapon Focus: Armor Spikes)
7 – Warforged Juggernaut – (Armor Spikes 1d6, Expert Bull Rush, Reserved) (Powerful Charge)
8 – Warforged Juggernaut – (Charge Bonus +1, Construct Perfection I, Extended Charge)
9 – Warforged Juggernaut – (Superior Bull Rush, Construct Perfection II, Healing Immunity) (Blood-Spiked Charger)
Blood-Spiked Charger has two maneuvers that you will want to use over and over – Spiked Avalanche and Spike Slam. Both of them take full-round actions to do (though the former can be done as part of a charge), and result in multipliers on your Strength modifier being added as bonus damage to your attacks. Spike Slam is the more straightforward of the two, in that it’s nothing more than a simple, slow attack that does a lot of damage and doesn’t require movement (though you can make it much more tactically interesting if you already have Brutal Surge on your spikes).
The more interesting component here is how both techniques interact with Superior Bull Rush. That ability adds your armor spike damage as automatic damage whenever you make a bull rush. This means you can charge an opponent with a bull rush and trigger Spiked Avalanche, which adds double your Strength modifier as bonus damage to your armor spikes. This means a bull rush (automatic hit, +15 or so on the Strength check at this point without a size enhancer) can automatically deal 1d6+(triple your Strength modifier, probably 3*6 at this point)+(whatever magic is on your spikes)+1d8 (Powerful Charge) damage, plus 8d6+(triple your Strength modifier) if the bull rush pushes a target into a wall. Alternatively you could do a normal spike attack (either through a Spiked Avalanche charge or through Spike Slam, both of which multiply your Strength), and trigger Brutal Surge to get the bull rush (and thus the automatic bonus damage (with boosted Strength on a charge) and possibly the Dungeon Crasher effect). Sure, you don’t get the two-handed Power Attack bonus with armor spikes (and it’s debatable if Power Attack would transfer through Superior Bull Rush anyway), but your Strength does a lot of heavy lifting here without any cost of accuracy instead. That’s something like 5x or 6x your Strength modifier in a single attack (which may or may not automatically hit, and probably repositions your target as well).
Finally, Blood-Spiked Charger has a side benefit. It includes a Pounce-like ability, provided you’re only attacking with armor spikes and a spiked shield (note that you normally can’t combine armor spikes with any other weapon during the same attack routine, but this lets you do so). Furthermore, even the off-hand attack gets the full +2*Strength bonus damage. While this probably isn't anything to write home about, it's unusual enough to draw your attention to it. If you plan on making use of this, buy Gloves of the Balanced Hands to offset the penalties.
10 – Warforged Juggernaut – (Armor Spikes 1d8, Construct Perfection III, Charge Bonus +2)
11 – Warforged Juggernaut – (Construct Perfection V) (Greater Powerful Charge)
12 – Barbarian – (Pounce, Ferocity) (Shock Trooper)
(Quick aside: The CR at which you need a big boost to damage output is 14. Before this, standard damage output with PA (or, here, serious Strength multiplication) can suffice. Turning on the ubercharging changes the game, and getting it online too early makes the game a bit too monotonous, even for melee, I find.)
Ferocity was picked over standard Rage because it can be used to cover for Initiative - you're still immune to the end-of-rage condition here (sickened), so trigger it as needed. Standard Rage is fine (and can help eke out just a tiny bit of extra juice from your Brutal Surge spikes). Better still is Whirling Frenzy, but I was trying to keep the Unearthed Arcana to a minimum.
13 – Fighter
14 – Fighter – (STYLE FEAT 1 - see below)
15 – Fighter – (STYLE FEAT 2 - see below)
16 – Fighter – (STYLE FEAT 3 - see below)
17 – Fighter
18 – Fighter – (Pushback, Leap Attack)
Of course, this isn’t all that impressive, but it’s still something that synergizes with the rest of your build. And it says a lot that there’s more to say on it than there is to say on Leap Attack (largely because you usually aren’t normally getting the 2-handed Power Attack unless you can shield-bash two-handed), even though you’re still making five or six attacks per Ubercharge/Pounce (and that’s without Haste effects).
19 – Crusader – (Steely Resolve 5, Furious Counterstrike) (Shield Block, Revitalizing Strike, Radiant Charge, White Raven Tactics, Lion’s Roar) (Leading the Charge)
Most of these are to give you better use of your swift actions (they conflict with Brutal Surge, but you won’t always be in a position to use that and you may wish to conserve its charges per day). Sadly, your IL isn’t high enough for Shield Counter, which’d be a godsend here. Radiant Charge / Leading the Charge are there as a way of augmenting your standard charges for Blood-Spiked Charger / ubercharging, and Revitalizing Strike is there as a stand-in for Cure Beam. Devoted Spirit healing isn’t Conjuration (Healing) nor is it supernatural, so it actually bypasses both Healing Immunity and the warforged’s natural resistance to healing magic, giving you full-strength healing if you target yourself.
20 – Crusader – (Indomitable Soul) (Aura of Triumph)
- Weapon Specialization (Armor Spikes) – you’re dealing damage with these pretty frequently, particularly if they’re Brutal Surge, so the prereq isn’t quite as bad as it seems. Still bad, but you'll at least get a lot of mileage out of it.
- Melee Weapon Mastery (Piercing) – This prerequisite actually boosts all of your weapons – armor spikes, shield spikes, and even your natural slam (if you’re using a battlefist, it’s piercing).
- Driving Attack – This largely replaces Spike Slam as your non-charge kill move (Spike Slam will do more damage on its own, but Driving Attack will do more overall if you’re positioned right.). It gives you a positively beastly bull rush / knockdown add-on effect to your piercing weapon (including adding the +4 bonus from the prerequisite feats and to your bull rush check; flat damage bonuses on your weapon, from enhancement to Power Attack to Collision, also transfer). This means you can attack with your armor spikes as a FRA, trigger Driving Attack, and then get Superior Bull Rush (dealing your armor spike damage again), and possibly either Dungeon Crasher (dealing triple Strength as well as respectable bonus dice of its own) or Shock Trooper: Domino Rush; if you’re close to a wall you finish this off with an automatic knockdown from Driving Attack. (If you’ve already got them right next to the wall, or you reduce the Driving Attack distance enough to still threaten them after they fall down, you can follow this up with Pushback or Brutal Surge, delivering more armor spike damage and possibly another Dungeon Crasher / Superior Bull Rush result.) “Multiplying” your Strength this many times over on a single attack while adding in effective melee position control is the name of the game.
- Improved Shield Bash – This is largely a prerequisite, but if you’re going this route, the increased effective AC means you don’t need to invest quite so expensively in your other gear to protect yourself, and can consider your shield more for its offensive capacities.
- Shield Charge – Any time you hit with a shield bash during a charge attack (including Blood-Spiked Charger’s Spiked Avalanche), you can get a free trip attempt. Combine this with multi-targeted Pounce attacks (bash multiple nearby foes), the Pushback feat (shift position after a charge, in between Pounce attacks, as well as adding in armor spike damage), and Brutal Surge shield spikes (send one critical target flying, perhaps into a wall for Dungeon Crasher or into an ally for Shock Trooper: Domino Rush, dealing armor spike damage in the process) to break through defensive lines.
- Shield Slam – This becomes an alternative to Spike Slam as your non-charge kill move. While the armor style focused on raw damage and position control, Shield Slam works on the action economy. It takes a full-round action of its own to perform (although unlike Spike Slam, you can combine it with a normal shield-bash charge – including Blood Spiked Charger’s Spiked Avalanche / Shield Charge / Pounce / Pushback), and dazes its target on a hit (the Fortitude DC is based on your maxed-out Strength, or in the neighborhood of 32 as snapshotted here). A Dazed target can take no actions on its next turn, and unlike many other effects it’s rather hard to become immune to Daze (I can only think of one obscure feat offhand that does this – unlike, say, stunning, no creature type gives blanket immunity to daze. Most of the small number of magic items that can block it are limited in uses per day as well). Combine with Brutal Surge + (Dungeon Crasher and/or any of Shock Trooper’s maneuvers), Superior Bull Rush, and the multi-targeted Pounce attacks (including a Pushback reposition (and an instance of your armor spike damage) if need be) and you can really ruin several people’s days.
Snapshot: Get the usual +6 items on Strength and Constitution, and tome up Strength by 5. (Ideally you’d also tome Con by 4, but with several weapons to enhance we’ll leave this out of your snapshot). You’re finishing off with 240 expected HP (DR 2/adamantine before any other gear or maneuvers), a base attack of +18 (melee +36 with Greater Magic Weapon; you have a +12 Strength modifier (before any size increasers and assuming you’re not Ferocious) and most of your abilities have ways of tripling that on damage), and the most hilariously out-of-balanced saves ever seen on the showcase, +23/+4/+5. However, you basically have the full set of Construct immunities (including mind-affecting, necromancy, ability damage, ability drain, and critical hits), and a few Devoted Spirit healing abilities.
More to the point, you’ve got two interacting tactical feats and lots of charge / bull rush synergy, often with trigger effects added on top of those (such as Superior Bull Rush and Dungeon Crasher). Between Dungeon Crasher and Blood-Spiked Charger, you have plenty of options for multiplying your Strength score on damage rolls without using the usual ubercharge tricks (although you have those too), and a nontraditional tactical kill move (either Driving Attack or Shield Slam depending on your choices above).
You also pack on a few extra benefits on charges beyond the typical ubercharge options (such as Leading the Charge and the ability to shuffle around during a pounce with Pushback), and have a hidden bonus on breaking through objects (+27 before any other modifiers such as size – that’s enough to effortlessly rip through just about anything in the DMG with a Strength check alone). As a warforged with increased emphasis on Fighter-style passive boosts, you really can do this all day.
Overall Strengths: Ridiculous triggering, almost like the Pinball Brothers in this regard (except Robo’s almost more like the ball). Makes use of unconventional weapons, including expert use of a shield (something that’s contentious around here) – and except for the shield, all of his important gear is part of him (and you can easily shatter restraints and walls given a mere standard action), so the stereotypical “you’re stripped and thrown in jail” scenario won’t slow you down. Sustained damage even if you’re concentrating on his prodigious positioning-control effects, and impressive baseline durability (both numerically and in terms of pre-equipment immunities) to make sure he can sustain that pressure.
There’s also the side benefit that the concept and mechanical execution is pretty close to established fluff on the Warforged (they favor Fighter, Juggernaut is an iconic PrC, and warforged juggernauts are expected to charge and push things around; all the non-Fighter classes are very fighter-like and built to avoid an XP penalty). This means that even with the unconventional weaponry, you’re not very likely to trip conservative DMs’ itchy ban-hammer triggers.
Overall Weaknesses: Did you see his saving throws? Even with mind-affecting immunity and the slight trap sense from Dungeon Crasher, you’ll probably want to invest there. He’s also very focused on a single damage type (piercing, although I think you can still do a normal bludgeoning shield bash using the side of a spiked shield, Spartan-style), and his weapons tend to not be compatible with the cheapest damage multiplier (2H power attack – although I think you can do this with the shield, I’m not certain; they compensate by dealing their damage many, many times over instead of in one lump sum).
Variants: I included two options for the free feats above (one putting emphasis on pushing targets around and dealing damage, and another focused on making a shield a deadly tool that monkeys with action economies). Other feat selections are possible. You can also try more dramatic shifts – I have a mostly-finished build that makes use of Blood-Spiked Charger and Warforged Juggernaut, but employs the MM3’s Warforged Charger as the base race (they’re pricey (4HD, +4LA), but they have ridiculous ability score modifications and can qualify for Knockback and possibly even War Hulk if you want to get that multiplicative Strength score as high as possible). If there's interest, I'll post it as an addendum to this thread.
There you have it. Despite the delays, I'm quite tickled with how this build plays - weapons and mechanics that aren't frequently used, implementing tactics that are pretty iconic, and with plenty of style along the way.
Next up: I'm putting together an index thread for all of this, and there'll be a change to how voting works when that's finished. The delay will be worth it, as there's about a dozen new showcases in progress and you'll see most (or all) of them shortly. There's also some news in the works for the showcase, and I'll fill you in on that as soon as I can.