I am happy to finally introduce to you the beta version of the Harbinger, an elemental striker that can be played from level 1 to level 30, with two complete builds and two paragon paths. The Harbinger features polymorphing into elemental forms and a choice of steady or explosive additional damage. Please click on that link to the PDF, give it a look and tell me what you think. All input is valuable. Thanks in advance!
Note: As with the Xaosmith, powers which would otherwise be replaced with higher-level powers instead have a higher level version displayed as an additional line beneath the original power.
Developing the Harbinger
Of the elemental classes, the harbinger has been changed the most since I first introduced it as the Chaos Bringer. While the Chaos Bringer was initially envisioned as something that used a mix of weapon-based and blasting powers, with the occasional short-term elemental transformation, I felt that this caused the class to only feel unique once or twice an encounter, otherwise leaving it to feel like some kind of warlock variant. After a lot of thought, I decided to emphasize the elemental transformation over all else. Figuring out the best way to do this within the standard AEDU was something of a nightmare, especially with a striker class that needed to keep as much spike damage as possible, but I eventually got some inspiration from a handful of other transformation and transformation-like powers, especially the Stone Juggernaut power from Player's Option: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos, rather appropriately. With that figured out, the following structure followed: One at-will utility power that grants an elemental form, and an at-will attack power, one at-will power and the usual roster of encounter powers, which deal damage based on the current form’s element, and daily powers which provide an elemental form for the encounter, an at-will attack power unique to that form, and a single-use damage effect that can be applied to an at-will power on a hit, to provide for the daily power damage spike.
At some point during the development process, I decided that the most thematically-appropriate implements for elemental classes were orbs and gauntlets. Orbs are about control and vision, equally the world being crushed and the eye staring out, so they fit quite well with many primordial themes. Gauntlets are, basically, the hand wrapped around that orb, and represent domination, force, and shaping. Given that gauntlets aren’t actually a thing in 4th Edition, I opted for spiked gauntlets, much as sorcerers use daggers. When the time comes to speak of character options outside of just the classes themselves, I’ll handle spiked gauntlets as implements in more detail. In case it comes up, I feel that a Spiked Gauntlet Expertise feat might grant a +1/tier bonus to damage against prone targets, representing oppressive force. This also works especially well since I assign spiked gauntlets to melee builds, which also gain the advantage of being able to use versatile weapons or certain ranged weapons more easily than the ranged-focused orb-using builds.
The Harbinger (Beta)
A young woman walks in to the city in a tattered cloak, her hair matted, her face dirty, and her feet bare. The guards stop her to check for weapons, spell books, or other signs of danger, but she has only the cloak, clothes of poorly-stitched goat skins, mismatched gloves, and just enough copper to pay her way past the gate. The ragged woman walks past townsfolk and beggars, each disinterested in her plight, and comes to the church of Pelor, where a cleric mournfully hands her bread to eat and water to drink and wash in, before ushering her to the shrine to seek hope in its light. The young woman makes her way to the shrine and bows before it, surrounding by a dozen more men and women begging the brilliantly-lit shrine for Pelor’s grace, their eager, hungry hands reaching for the divine light. The young woman, too, reaches out for the shrine, with a single gloved hand outstretched. The pilgrims gasp as, for a moment, Pelor’s light seems to shine all the brighter, but screams follow as bright flames encompass the woman’s hand and flash back across her body, seeming to set her alight. The woman rises to her feet as the flames envelop her and become her, the intense heat turning flesh to ash all around her. With a sweep of her hand, a pillar of flame spins away from her, wraps around the cleric who led her there, and pulls him into her embrace to receive the gratitude of the primordials.
Harbingers exist to herald and bring destruction. Gifted – or cursed – with the power to become powerful elemental creatures and to unleash elemental energy even in their natural forms, harbingers are able to blend in to a crowd and then unleash a flashy display of terrifying power from deep within enemy territory. When they are not able to act with surprise, harbingers instead act as vanguards and symbols of primordial might to bolster the morale of elemental armies. Those few who seek something other than destruction have little choice but to become adventurers, where their powers can be turned on monsters worse than themselves. In combat, a harbinger enjoys great flexibility, since they can often choose from a variety of forms, and can temporarily increase their power when striking their most powerful foes, then turn to weaker enemies while they regain their strength. As with the Xaosmith, this is the beta version of the class, and when time allows, I’ll update things and maybe even add to it. Any and all feedback you can give me on the harbinger would be greatly appreciated. It’s a fairly complex class, so I’m sure there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Player’s Option: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos is out, and all-in-all, it’s a fantastic book that touches on many of the ideas I was hoping to see introduced into 4th Edition. It does have a few problems – such as failing to compensate for powers that aren’t used through implements or weapons – but so long as players and DMs discuss a few tweaks it beforehand with those bits, you should be able to find a lot of fantastic material in there that will let you play some fantastic elemental characters. DMs should seriously look at some of the magic items and boons in that book, as they bring in some great story options – I already have a player running around as a dragonborn made of ice thanks to the Pale Tooth they found encased in the frozen water of a Decanter of Endless Water on a living glacier.
Work continues now on the other two elemental classes, the Exulter and the Emanant. I have fortunately already written on the basic power lists for each class, and at least for the exulter I have some interesting inspirations to work with, so those will be forthcoming as the flows of coffee and time allow. Once the beta version of all four classes have been presented, I plan to follow them up with an article or two on supporting options, particularly multiclass feats and hybrid options. After that, I may just try and call in an offer from an artist friend…