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, we present one of Radical Taoist’s.
FACE FIRST We should talk.
Required Books: Expanded Psionics Handbook, Complete Psionic, Eberron Campaign Setting, Magic of Eberron, Secrets of Sarlona, anything with Urban Tracking in it. The Mind’s Eye is used for one power, one item from the Magic Item Compendium is suggested, and there’s a nifty power from Races of Eberron you might want in a psionic item. Unearthed Arcana used: None! (The Open Game source for Urban Tracking was from a variant in Unearthed Arcana, but the feat’s been reprinted lots of times, notably in Cityscape.)
Background: This build actually started out as one of the four that RadicalTaoist put together as the initial “build repository” that kicked off our group’s building spree. It’s since been substantially revised and documented.
The basic idea is to just combine everything you can get on psionic social support with the few direct social-control feats out there, and see how much room remains for offensive support. To make sure enough power points remain for both social mastery and combat, the build makes use of concentration-based skullduggery (including several efficient lockdown and damage powers) and a psicrystal, and in order to make sure your actions don’t go to waste while doing this, it also employs Astral Constructs.
Essentially, if you’re sticking to a team whose “natural face” isn’t actually acting as the face (i.e. in the classic Fighter/Wizard/Rogue/Cleric party, either the savvy rogue or the charismatic cleric is the “natural” face, but it’s easy for clerics to dump Int and for rogues to want to focus on flashier or more essential skills), you can pull this build out and work on your maniacal (telepathic) laugh.
Race: Grey Elf. Any +Intelligence race will do. It isn’t essential but it helps overcome DCs and gives you much needed stamina. The reduced HP are terrifying though: if you balk at that, any race without an Intelligence penalty comes second. (My choices for second-place race would be strongheart halfling (the best of Human and Halfling in one small package that everyone expects to be a glib bastard) or kalashtar (especially with the first and third Races of Eberron substitution levels).) Avoid races with Charisma penalties.
Ability Scores: 8/10/12/18/8/14, before racial adjustments (-2 Con, +2 Int). As if there was any doubt about this: you’re pumping Intelligence all the time. Do remember to pick up +Constitution items, though: d4 HD doesn’t bode well for 10 Constitution. DON’T dump Charisma; Master Manipulator has specific prerequisites.
Skill Notes: RT was quite surprised at how many skill points this build actually got – and given what those skills are, he also described it as "the handler to the Uncanny Trapsmith’s field agent." (We auditioned Dame Judy Dench for the role, but she was unavailable.) You can max out Concentration, Bluff, Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and Gather Information, and put 5 ranks into seven different Knowledge skills (suggesting Arcana, Psionics, Local, History, Nobility, Religion, and Nature), buy three skill tricks (Swift Concentration and Social Recovery are natural fits; the only other one you qualify for is Collector of Stories), and still have enough skill points left over to max out one other skill. Psicraft comes to mind, but isn’t strictly speaking required at max rank; you can lower it and train in the other Knowledges or pick up a few cross-class ranks in other skills (ideally Int-based ones) if you’d like.
Basic Equipment: As a telepath, you can actually wear armor and manifest, but you won’t be proficient with it; leather armor is a good compromise at level 1 (it’ll be stiff and chafe in the wrong places, but it’ll help keep you alive and won’t get in the way). You’ll also definitely be wanting “masterwork tools” for skills you intend to use; there are several nice outfits that give +2 Diplomacy, for instance. Since low-level telepaths tend to want a bit for offense, you’ll probably resort to crossbows to conserve precious PP.
Magical Gear Goals: You desperately want +Int and +Con items and tomes, probably to the point of considering them your basic offensive and defensive weapons and budgeting accordingly. +Cha and +Dex also help, but are less important (you tend to supplement both of those with your powers). Psionic tattoos (basically potions with a different set of limits, if you’re not used to psionics) of Tongues are a good investment (social skills rely on communication, and you can’t always rely on Mindlink to communicate). Furthermore, you’ll be investing in dorjes and psicrowns to expand your versatility and your stamina. Finally, at the mid levels consider +1 leather armor with the Greater Stamina enhancement from the Magic Item Compendium (p. 16). That’s 13,610 gp for a +2 armor bonus to AC with no armor check penalty, but more importantly, a +5 resistance bonus on Fortitude saving throws. That’ll be useful for the levels before you can afford a full +5 Vest of Resistance.
Note that this build includes Psychic Reformation; this allows you to retool your power and feat selections on the fly. This is intended to let you switch into a “crafting mode” as soon as you could take Craft Psicrown and then switch back. You can use this to keep the GP costs down on your other items: swap in Craft Universal, for instance, when making the +Int item (which should probably NOT be on the headband if you can swing it, since you’ll probably be swapping in psicrowns). A definite worthwhile investment is the Crystal Mask of Discernment, which is 10,000 gp for a +10 insight bonus to Sense Motive. You can also enchant that mask to grant Intelligence bonuses as per the MIC pp. 233-234. Powers you will want in a psicrown or dorje include Psionic Dominate and Implanted Suggestion (from Races of Eberron). The normal Psionic Suggestion is also good too, but note that you’ll eventually be able to implant mundane suggestion effects with your Bluff checks!
Mindlink is amazing party support at every level, while Disable is amazing at lower levels (it’s the “Psionic Sleep”, but quite frankly better designed. A passable alternative for low-level offense is Mind Thrust.) Vigor is there to protect your fragile body in case of emergency, and it has synergy with a stunt later on.
Don’t forget that your psicrystal can Aid Another on several skill checks, although at this level that’s mostly Knowledge checks since the psicrystal can’t communicate with others yet. The psicrystal’s personality is freely chosen. Friendly, Sympathetic, and Liar personalities are natural fits.
The conventional wisdom is right: EK (Astral Construct) is one of those ZOMG feat choices for nearly every manifester, particularly wilders (who need the versatility; the fact that it combines well with Surge is an afterthought) and telepaths (who need something to do when fighting creatures whose minds are shielded). You’re not a specialist in this power, but you don’t need to be – it gives you an extra source of actions and a powerful melee combatant (without extra specialization, most astral constructs are about on par with earth elementals) to take over when you just need to beat face. You can freely customize them based on your opponents with little hassle as well.
Mental Rage is a jewel of a power from the final regular 3.5 Mind’s Eye article (“final”, actually; the Mind’s Eye went through three separate 3.5 phases, and this was the end of the first), although it’s tricky to use unless you’re alone, since you have to augment it to exclude your allies instead of enhancing its killing power. (The reduce-AC-penalty augment is usually a trap, just so you know.)
Of course, if you are alone against your foes, put the two together. The constructs fight while you concentrate on the Rage, and they’re immune to Rage’s effect so you can channel more power points into the power’s damage/DC augment.
Share Pain is there to give you combat support – mostly by linking your team’s glass cannons or yourself to your psicrystal. Its hardness actually protects it from the damage from Share Pain, believe it or not, which – when combined with the temporary HP from a Vigor, shared between yourself and the crystal – can save your low-Constitution hide.
Inquisitor is the flipside to Psionic Glibness; you’re now a master of lies as well as of the lying liars who tell them. Not to mention its interaction with your next feat is amazing.
Solicit is now part of your key offensive strategies. If you have PP to spare, use it to shift concentration of powers like Mental Rage or Energy Wall to your psicrystal to keep your actions free for power use or double moves. As you read the rest of the build, note how many powers have a duration of “Concentration” and you’ll see just how useful this trick can be.
And now you have arguably the best social feat in 3.5, along with a ridiculous score in Bluff, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive. (Diplomacy doesn’t get the sick boosts that your powers have provided so far, but it does have three synergistic skills and several already-printed (as opposed to implied) masterwork tools, so you probably have an extra +8 bonus on it by now.)
Faint Memory is an underused power in Magic of Eberron, largely overlooked because it’s on the same page as Forced Dream, widely held to be one of the most broken powers ever published (to the point where no one ever actually optimized it; it was too easy. It’s like a 3rd level Time Regression!). The main reason you’re taking Faint Memory is because of its secondary effect: Anyone you interact with while under the power has to make a Will save to even remember the encounter. If they fail, they don’t remember the meeting, except for specific (true) details you specify. This power can wreak some serious havoc in any game where you’d want to play a social character.
FSI gives you generic illusions – they all rely on a will save, but they don’t rely on multiple powers to do, which is nice since we’re starved for powers. Schism gives you extra actions, which is always nice – it takes a round to set up, but once it’s active it can manifest and maintain concentration on concentration-based powers with no loss to you. (This is best with things that aren’t heavily ML-dependent.)
Interestingly, I’m not sure if Share Powers can trump mind-affecting immunity. If it can, nothing stops you from using Share Powers to schism your psicrystal’s personality, and have it take over concentration for two of your powers.
Normally, undead creatures are a pain in the neck for characters who rely on mind-affecting effect. You already have two counters to such creatures in Astral Construct and Energy Wall, but with the underrated Undead Empathy feat from the ECS, now you can handle undead with your Diplomacy skill checks as well. Mind Probe is a useful way to pick up blackmail material, and Dimension Door is grade-A utility for the mid levels.
More utility and defensive powers here. You are too good a negotiator to fear grappling assassins or invisible court spies. Remote Viewing is a magnificent information gathering power, and a few of your powers (notably Ego Whip) can be manifested through it for devastating effect.
You now enjoy every psionic concentration trick in 3.5. Between this power, Schism, and Solicit Psicrystal, you can have three separate concentration effects running at the same time. If you pick up the Swift Concentration skill trick, you can even peek out a regular power while focusing on three others.
Mass Cloud Mind has great options with a build as deceitful as yours, and Contingency is great overall utility, but the winner is Energy Current. We have another concentration power, and this one is multitarget and high damage. Stacking a few of these up gets painful quick.
This build excels at efficient damage over time, but so far it’s been lacking in spike damage, relying on mind-affecting powers to remove foes from the fight RIGHT NOW. That changes when you pick up Energy Conversion. Share it with your psicrystal, manifest Energy Current on the two of you, and charge up a big chunk of energy damage that can be used immediately in the odd case that negotiations fail.
Temporal Acceleration is great for our tactics; nothing like some action advantage to set up a construct or a concentration power. Retrieve gives us a non-mind-affecting Will save power that can be used to defuse conflicts without fighting, as though your skills weren’t enough.
You can also cause some serious havoc by combining Retrieve with any ability that lets you sense objects remotely. You don’t need line of effect to the object you’re heisting – just line of sight. (Unfortunately, Remote Viewing doubles the power point costs of powers manifest through it, so you need a Torc of Power Preservation and a forgiving GM to pull that combo off at level 20, unless you fit an Overchannel feat in somewhere.)
A lot of things come online now. Telekinetic Sphere gives us a(nother) concentration power, this time a defensive option. Reality Revision is just good utility. Affinity Field is the well-known linchpin to a lot of nova tactics, including the devastating suicide novas.
Why not a lot of cheese? Timeless Body is good defense and Etherealness is good utility, but the knockout here is Astral Seed. Between that and True Mind Switch, not only can you cheat death, you can rob the sucker blind and move into his house. Go ahead and suicide nova! That’s not your body you’re blowing up!
Snapshot: As a caster, you don’t have much in the way of equipment needs, so we can justify more ability-boosts. Specifically, with a Tome +5 on Int, a tome +4 on Con, +6 Int/Con items, and +4 Dex/Cha items (leaving you roughly 300k for other gear), you wind up looking like this: 151 expected HP, Base Attack +10 (or ranged touch +12), saves of 11/8/11, and a prodigious set of skills as described above. These skills are further boosted through your feats (socially) or your powers if you so desire. Psionically, you have a full telepath ML (20), so 473 power points and a base DC of 23+power level+augmentations. You also have just about every classic telepath trick in the book, and as your levels go up that includes the ability to rewrite your team from within.
But this is a social build, so you probably want the social skill bonus modifiers. Assuming a +2 Diplomacy outfit and the Crystal Mask of Discernment, you have a +27 bonus to Bluff, a +35 bonus to Diplomacy, and a +32 bonus to Sense Motive before any feats or powers come online. The Inquisitor feat boosts that Sense Motive check to a +42 bonus, and manifesting Conceal Thoughts and Glibness will boost your Bluff checks to a whopping +67 bonus. That’s the point where you want to bust out the epic usages of the skill.
Overall Strengths: You own social encounters. You simply own them. Your skill modifiers can make nearly anyone your friend or get people to believe whatever you want them to, and in between Inquisitor and Master Manipulator, trying to hide information from you is a fool’s game. This is all BEFORE you take into account your wide array of powers, with which you can modify people’s memories and perceptions of events or pick their brain for information like a salad buffet. When talk fails, you have an extremely wide array of versatile and efficient powers for controlling the battlefield and dealing lots of damage over time, combined with a growing array of end-the-fight-now save-or-dies. Combine that with your utility powers, and it’s practically guaranteed that you’ll always have something useful to offer the team.
Overall Weaknesses: Until you get Energy Conversion, your spike damage is not that hot, and anything immune to mind-affecting techniques will ignore your quick finishers. True Seeing will counter illusions and the like, but don’t discount mundane tricksters who just crank their Hide, Disuise, and Move Silently skills into next week, as you don’t have the skills or powers to counter them. Fortitude save-or-die effects are the biggest threat to you, so buy equipment to compensate for it. While Share Pain increases your normal HP by 50 to 100%, that normal HP was still pathetic. You’re only a moderately less squishy wizard with that buff up; avoid taking lots of damage if you’re not Vigored up (at least before the high levels when you become harder to finish off than a Time Lord).
Variants: You certainly meet the requirements (normally the feat requirement is considered a one-off, but here it was chosen for inherent synergy!), so if you’re willing to give up a manifester level or two, leveling in Thrallherd is a distinct possibility. This will require some finesse due to the ML timing on Expanded Knowledge and the sudden shift in class skills (most notably the loss of Gather Information), but it’s certainly possible. A good thrall can make up for the lost manifester levels as necessary, and the followers make a very good information network. (Followers also make surprisingly good expendable agents, especially if they’ve been trained in Autohypnosis. Dragonmarked allows one to use that skill to “forget” parts of one’s knowledge.)
There you have it: a highly flexible diplomat and trickster who can talk his way out of almost any situation. And given the hurt he can lay down in combat? Anyone who starts a fight will soon wish they’d let him talk them out of it.
For the next round, vote between [SN] Chaingun Porcupine, [RT] Quiet Murder, [DH] Eat, Sleep, Gank. These three have a loose theme this time around - they all specialize in spike damage, albeit in rather different ways. Subsequent vote packages may or may not also be themed, depending on what we have written up.
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)
It's almost a shame to not see clairvoyant sense get a look in on the information gathering, though Face First should be able to get the same information fairly readily with all those different options available.
On that sort of line, I'm not sure I'd take correspond as a 16th-level choice with both greater teleport (to directly visit) and remote viewing (to locate and communicate remotely) in there, especially with options like the more generally useful psionic moment of prescience and the immensely abusable soul crystal (yet another way to multiply your concentration powers) available.
I don't have a lot of preference for the next round, but I'll put in a vote for the Chaingun Porcupine simply because I like its name.
The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens
= My most popular campaign item; for all your adventuring convenience.Show
Zauber's Mutable Rod: This rod has a number of useful functions that make it easier to live in the wilderness. It is made of polished wood, with five studlike buttons on one end. Each button produces a different effect when pressed. Unless otherwise noted, the rod’s functions have no limit on the number of times they can be employed. • When button 1 is pressed, one end of the rod produces a small flame, equivalent to a candle. • When button 2 is pressed, the rod unfolds into a two-person tent, complete with bedrolls and warm blankets. • When button 3 is pressed, the rod becomes a one-handed hammer, suitable for pounding pitons into a wall. • When button 4 is pressed, the rod becomes a sturdy iron spade. • When button 5 is pressed, the rod becomes a wooden bucket able to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Once per day, it can be commanded to fill with fresh water. If the rod is seriously damaged or broken in any of its alternate forms (button 2, 3, 4, or 5), it reverts to its basic rod form and cannot be activated for 24 hours. Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Rod, minor creation; Price 375 gp; Weight 2 lb.
Mostly I threw in correspond for the chance to talk to (and thus influence) plot-important NPCs at a distance if you need to do so immediately, without removing yourself from a situation where you need to be there in person. But yeah, it's one of the more expendable powers, and moment of prescience and soul crystal are fantastic alternatives.
Not what I was expecting when I voted for it, but I am not at all disappointed in what the build ended up being. Phenomenal work, as usual, by your group in general, and RT specifically. My vote is Eat, Sleep, Gank.
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Resident Pithed-Off Dragon Buttler of the House of Trolls
I always enjoy the more simple builds that you put out, I feel they highlight the effectiveness of a single / 1 prestige classed chracter. Keep up the good work :D. With that said my vote is for chaingun porcupine, because of the imagery the name creates.