by impartialcredit, Jul 26,2010

Rise of the Machine

Being unable to hit a nasty elite or solo as it grinds up the party is a situation to avoid, and arguably, few classes can compete with the Warlord as a remedy to such situations, as it churns out attack bonuses and free attacks like a machine. While both of those boons certainly matter, the free attacks generally only add damage, but the attack bonuses increase the likelihood of delivering hits from powers that carry status effects, raising control on top of damage, making them a higher priority most of the time, and among the Warlords, the Tactical Presence Warlord tends to get the juiciest options in the accuracy department. Now, the Warlord is Strength-based, but as with most classes, its different builds are linked to a spread of secondary stats. In the case of Taclords, that secondary stat is Intelligence, a sensible binding given the build's mechanics and default fluff. So a player could throw together a high Strength, high Intelligence Taclord and likely have a solid character the party will be grateful to have around.
But why stop there? Given how great the Taclord's Intelligence-based goodies are, cranking this secondary stat up a bit further, to the level of an attack stat, opens interesting multiclassing options. One particularly potent combination uses Wizard for the second class, keeping the Taclord's class features, while gaining the hardcore control powers and quality support utilities of the pointy hat. Going the other way, from Wizard to Taclord, is not advised, and I have not, admittedly, explored what hybrid could do for the pairing, but Taclord to Wizard definitely rocks. The real issue is whether to Paragon Multiclass to Wizard or to grab two or three powers and an Arcane Paragon Path instead. For me, it came down to the Wizard at-wills -- I wanted one, enough to finish paying the feat cost and give up Path features. An added benefit, though, was being able to cherry pick more powers in the quest for mechanical effectiveness and fluff considerations, rather than being stuck with the often awkward offerings of a Path. Ultimately, the build carries enough raw power to get away with Paragon Multiclassing, serving as one of the best examples of how that option can work.
With two attack stats, the character would get the most mechanical gain from a race with bonuses to both Strength and Intelligence, but the only selection available at the time of this character's construction to offer a double boost was the Genasi, and I did not like their default fluff and felt uneasy about reflavoring their signature racial powers. That rejection left races that had a bonus to either Strength or Intelligence, greatly expanding my mechanics and fluff options, but guaranteed that the subsequent stat allocation would be a strained affair. An Eladrin would have made an excellent choice for what I was trying to do mechanically, but the 4e high elf just doesn't sit right with me. Maybe it's the creepy eyes. In the end, I settled on Warforged, with the following stats: valign="top" valign="top" valign="top"
Lvl Str Con Dex Int Wis Cha
1 16 14 8 16 14 11
30 26 16 10 26 16 13

Every character needs to hit, but if a Taclord has to hit in order to grant subsequent attack bonuses to the party, and this is often the case, accuracy becomes even more vital, so a starting strength of 16 pretty much demands a weapon with a +3 proficiency bonus. I also wanted to cash in on how Commander's Strike interacted with reach weapons and to attack from the second row some of the time, but I knew of no reach weapon with a +3 proficiency that could serve as an implement for the character's Wizard half. At one point, the build made use of the Arcane Implement Proficiency feat, a glaive, and the Warforged Tactics feat (to compensate for the glaive's +2 proficiency bonus), but the combination felt clumsy and denied the character the flexibility of a second implement's properties, etc. The glaive could benefit from a Siberys Shard of the Mage, but I think Shards are nerfbait at this point, and overall, I just was not satisfied with the mechanics.
The solution came in the form of the Arcane Familiar feat, specifically a Disembodied Hand / Rakshasa Claw. While I had no interest in giving the character a familiar, the familiar's free action item switching mechanic would allow me to toggle between the Greatspear (a +3 proficiency weapon with reach) and the implements of my choice, and thanks to the choice of Warforged for race, it could easily be reflavored as taking a hand off the spear to point the exposed tip of a wand, embedded in the associated arm, at an unlucky foe. A Staff of Ruin would have done more damage (and been legal since the embedding is via fluff not mechanics), but I did not want to push my DM consent luck with issues of implement size. Wands just felt right, anyway, even if the character's awful Dexterity meant Wand of Accuracy was a lost cause. Did I go for Superior Implement Training to raise casting accuracy? No, as great as +1 to attack is, feat pressures were too high and a focus on multi-target Wizard powers helped to mitigate the consequences of missing. For theme, I limited those powers to thunder, lightning, radiant, force (via a small collection of Master's Wands of Magic Missile), and teleport-induced damage, plus a summons representing constructs pulled from extraplanar storage. The character's Arcane utilities are likewise all force (by fluff) or teleportation-based. Finally, back to the spear, it is enchanted so it can be thrown using javelin ranges, enabling ranged attacks in addition to the obvious melee options. The whole setup is very clean and functional as long as the DM does not unduly curb the free action equipment swaps enabled by Arcane Familiar, and given that Warforged should be able to support embedded implements and the swaps are followed by the expenditure of normal or granted actions (basically just acting as Quick Draw preceded by "Free Stow"), it is a very reasonable grace to expect.
As for actual character development, those stats and the role combination could suggest an individual that plans out where and when to deliver force, then does so in serious quantity -- an iron chessmaster, figuratively speaking, or perhaps not so figuratively given the racial choice. Since Warforged can modify their forms, there is likely a story reason for the low Dexterity. Charisma is low for a leader, too, so what's going on here? My explanation is that the character was damaged in some awful event, being caught at the edge of the Mourning for instance, but having an existing tendency toward body modification, they managed to self repair enough to survive but not enough to fully recover, and having built upon those repairs in a manner incompatible with the original form, magical healing now recognizes the new form rather than the old as correct. Some of the damage may have been mental, mainly memory loss, though psychological trauma could justify why a leader of troops in the Last War is now a bit socially detached, even for a Warforged. Throw in the sudden lack of purpose that the end of the Last War brought to Warforged, and we could have a character that must build a new identity and life from the rubble of the old. They would be mindful of the past, but be willing to grow and change, and despite their intellect, have a perspective grounded in physicality. This theme of ongoing personal reconstruction and persistent evolution serves to explain why the character is out adventuring in the world, as they are driven to test their abilities and learn new things.
That leaves the gender issue. And while not wanting to start a discussion appropriate to Astrid's Parlor, a gross simplification of the options are: masculine, feminine, or neutral. While I think this character would be bulky, the "Hulk Smash" approach has been over done and does not, in any case, mesh well with such high Intelligence, and a toned down "Joe Six Cylinder" alternative just seems boring. Further, while I can understand a gender-neutral mindset, adding a sprinkle of femininity to the character's form and personality offers too much comedic potential to let pass, so say hello to Knobs, the militant survivor and self-taught artificer, her big spear backed up by embedded energy weapons and a sharp mind.

valign="top" valign="top" Size: Medium
Speed: 6
Sex: Female Personality
Height: 6'0"; Weight: 280 lbs.
Vision: Normal
Defense: +1 racial Will
Save: +2 racial vs ongoing damage
Feature: Living Construct#, Unsleeping Watcher#,
  Warforged Mind#, Warforged Resilience#
Language: Common
Skill Bonus: +2 racial Endurance, +2 racial Intimidate
Utility: Warforged Resolve# valign="top" valign="top" Background: Perception class skill
Healing Surges Per Day: 7+Con
Defense: +13 AC, +14 Fortitude, +13 Reflex, +14 Will,
  Equipment: +3 AC via Hide Armor
Armor: Cloth, Leather, Hide, Chainmail; Light Shield
Weapon: Simple Melee, Military Melee, Simple Ranged
  Equipment: Longspear, Javelins
Implement: Orb, Staff, Tome, Wand
  Equipment: Wand
Feature: Combat Leader, Tactical Presence
Feat: Modifications (Arcane Initiate)
Skill: Arcana*, Athletics, Endurance, History, Perception
At-will: Commander's Strike, Opening Shove
Encounter: Storm Pillar*, Pin Cushion
Daily: Lead the Attack
Utility: Refreshing Insight (Inspiring Word) valign="top" Utility: Shake It Off valign="top" valign="top" valign="top" valign="top" Encounter: -No Gambit is Wasted, Flash* (Color Spray)
Utility: Rousing Words valign="top" valign="top" Utility: Insightful Warning valign="top" valign="top" Daily: -Caught in the Gears (A Rock and a Hard Place),
  Defender Drone* (Summon Abyssal Maw)
Utility: -Insightful Warning, Repelling Shield* valign="top" valign="top" Weapon: Greatspear
Feat: -Component Bus (Arcane Familiar: Disembodied Hand),
  Extended Bus (Arcane Familiar: Rakshasa Claw),
  Refactored Lance (Weapon Proficiency: Greatspear)
At-will: -Opening Shove, Sonic Pulse** (Thunderwave)
Encounter: Twist of Space** valign="top" Utility: Arcane Gate** valign="top" valign="top" valign="top" valign="top" Utility: -Repelling Shield*,
  Defensive Ploy (Instant Planning), Fly* valign="top"   Brutal Blitz (Thunderous Fury) valign="top" valign="top"   Warlord's Recovery, Victory Surge valign="top" Daily: -Ball Lightning*,
  Defender Drone.15* (Summon Abyssal Maw),
  Ball Lightning** valign="top" valign="top" Feature: Something Has Changed*** (Divine Spark)
Feat: -Field Masking (War Wizardry),
  Improved Field Masking (Spell Accuracy),
  Component Recharge (Arcane Mastery) valign="top" Utility: -Fly*, Warlord's Banner, Mass Fly* valign="top" valign="top" Feat: Epic Will valign="top" valign="top" Utility: Endure and Advance*** (Divine Regeneration) valign="top"   Brutal Setup valign="top" valign="top" valign="top" Feat: Martial Mastery valign="top" valign="top" Skill: Arcana*, Athletics, Endurance, History, Perception
Skill Bonus: +2 racial Endurance, +2 racial Intimidate,
  +2 Arcana via Extended Bus (Arcane Familiar: Rakshasa Claw),
  +5 Insight to recognize illusion via Extended Bus
  Equipment: +4 item to Int skills via Opal Ring of Remembrance
At-will: Commander's Strike, Sonic Pulse** (Thunderwave)
Encounter: Storm Pillar*, Twist of Space**,
  Flare* (Prismatic Burst), Sudden Assault, Brutal Setup
Daily: Victory Surge, Ball Lightning**,
  Defender Squad* (Summon Abyssal Horde), Perfect Front
Utility: Warforged Resolve#, Refreshing Insight (Inspiring Word),
  Shake It Off, Rousing Words, Defensive Ploy (Instant Planning),
  Arcane Gate**, Warlords Banner, Mass Fly*,
  Endure and Advance*** (Divine Regeneration)
Lvl Hp Str Con Dex Int Wis Cha Base
16 14 8 16 14 11 Race: Warforged
Lvl Hp Str Con Dex Int Wis Cha Heroic
1 26 16 14 8 16 14 11 Class: Warlord
2 31 16 14 8 16 14 11 Feat: Component Bus (Arcane Familiar: Disembodied Hand)
3 36 16 14 8 16 14 11 Encounter: No Gambit is Wasted
4 41 17 14 8 17 14 11 Feat: Integrated Targeting (Versatile Expertise: Spear,Wand)
5 46 17 14 8 17 14 11 Daily: Caught in the Gears (A Rock and a Hard Place)
6 51 17 14 8 17 14 11 Feat: Novice Power
7 56 17 14 8 17 14 11 Encounter: Stirring Force
8 61 18 14 8 18 14 11 Feat: Skill Power
9 66 18 14 8 18 14 11 Daily: Stay on Target
10 71 18 14 8 18 14 11 Feat: -Skill Power, Acolyte Power, Adept Power
Lvl Hp Str Con Dex Int Wis Cha Paragon
11 77 19 15 9 19 15 12 Paragon: Biothaum Engineer (Paragon Multiclassing: Wizard)
12 82 19 15 9 19 15 12 Feat: Combat Commander
13 87 19 15 9 19 15 12 Encounter: -Flash* (Color Spray),
  Flare* (Prismatic Burst)
14 92 20 15 9 20 15 12 Feat: Refactored Shielding (Armor Specialization: Hide)
15 97 20 15 9 20 15 12 Daily: -Defender Drone* (Summon Abyssal Maw),
  Ball Lightning*
16 102 20 15 9 20 15 12 Feat: Tactician's Word
17 107 20 15 9 20 15 12 Encounter: -Pin Cushion,
18 112 21 15 9 21 15 12 Feat: Paragon Defenses
19 117 21 15 9 21 15 12 Daily: -Lead the Attack, -Stay on Target,
20 122 21 15 9 21 15 12 Feat: Field Masking (War Wizardry)
Lvl Hp Str Con Dex Int Wis Cha Epic
21 128 24 16 10 24 16 13 Epic: Ascendant (Demigod)
22 133 24 16 10 24 16 13 Feat: -Paragon Defenses, Robust Defenses, Blind-Fight
23 138 24 16 10 24 16 13 Encounter: -Stirring Force, Sudden Assault
24 143 25 16 10 25 16 13 Feature: Contingency*** (Divine Recovery)
25 148 25 16 10 25 16 13 Daily: -Defender Drone.15* (Summon Abyssal Maw),
  Defender Squad* (Summon Abyssal Horde)
26 153 25 16 10 25 16 13 Feat: Epic Reflexes
27 158 25 16 10 25 16 13 Encounter: -Brutal Blitz (Thunderous Fury),
28 163 26 16 10 26 16 13 Feat: Field Expansion (Enlarge Spell)
29 168 26 16 10 26 16 13 Daily: -Warlord's Recovery, Perfect Front
30 173 26 16 10 26 16 13 Feature: Zero Point Energy*** (Divine Miracle)
Lvl Hp Str Con Dex Int Wis Cha Summary
30 173 26 16 10 26 16 13 Race: Warforged
Size: Medium
Speed: 6
  Equipment: equal fly speed via Zephyr Boots
Sex: Female Personality
Height: 6'0"; Weight: 280 lbs.
Vision: Normal
Language: Common
Class: Warlord
Healing Surges Per Day: 7+Con
Save: +2 racial vs ongoing damage
    +2 item vs charm, fear, psychic via Nightmare Ward Voidhide +6
Defense: +33 AC, +36 Fortitude, +39 Reflex, +36 Will,
  Equipment: +11 AC, +2 Fort via Nightmare Ward Voidhide +6,
    +6 Fort, Reflex, and Will via Resplendent Cloak +6,
    +3 Will via Circlet of Indomitability (epic),
    +2 Will vs charm, fear, illusion via Resplendent Cloak +6,
    +2 item AC and Fort when unbloodied via Golden Ring of Teros
Armor: Cloth, Leather, Hide, Chainmail; Light Shield
Weapon: Simple Melee, Military Melee, Simple Ranged
  Equipment: Refactored Lance +6 (Hungry Greatspear +6)
Implement: Orb, Staff, Tome, Wand
    Thaumic Waveguide +6 (Master's Wand of Thunderwave +6),
    Seekers (Master's Wand of Magic Missile +1 x5),
    Make it Last (Orb of Inevitable Continuance +1 x3)
Feature: Living Construct#, Unsleeping Watcher#,
  Warforged Mind#, Warforged Resilience#, Combat Leader,
  Tactical Presence, Something Has Changed*** (Divine Spark),
  Contingency*** (Divine Recovery),
  Endure and Advance*** (Divine Miracle)
Feat: Modifications (Arcane Initiate),
  Extended Bus (Arcane Familiar: Rakshasa Claw),
  Integrated Targeting (Versatile Expertise: Spear,Wand),
  Novice Power, Acolyte Power, Adept Power,
  Refactored Lance (Weapon Proficiency: Greatspear),
  Combat Commander,
  Refactored Shielding (Armor Specialization: Hide),
  Tactician's Word, Improved Field Masking (Spell Accuracy),
  Component Recharge (Arcane Mastery),
  Robust Defenses, Blind-Fight, Epic Will, Epic Reflexes,
  Field Expansion (Enlarge Spell), Martial Mastery
Key: x (y): fluff (mechanic),
  -x: x lost to retrain, power swap, etc.,
  x.n: x using nth level slot,
  x#: x via racial feature,
  x*: x via multiclass feat,
  x**: x via paragon path,
  x***: x via epic destiny