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    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground XIX

    Post 2.


    Ah, the Scarlet Corsair. Very similar flavor to the Dread Pirate, and very tempting to take in conjunction. Did you make it work? Let's find out.

    Originality: Bard. Swashbuckler. Scarlet Corsair. Yawn. (–1) Total: 2

    Power: Finally, someone takes the feat Scourge of the Seas! That feat is perfect for a dishonorable Dread Pirate, and I'm glad to see it getting some use. (+0.5) I'm frankly baffled why no one else decided to take it, but hey, all the better for you. Persuasive is kind of a confusing feat. As far as I can tell, it isn't a prerequisite for anything, and it's not exactly interesting or powerful. I understand that you use both Bluff and Intimidate, but honestly, I expect more out of a feat than a pair of +2 skill bumps. Hell, by the time you take it, you could have sunk two more points into Perform and taken Combat Panache (or something similarly interesting). You qualified for Imperious Command and Scourge of the Seas by that point, but you took Persuasive instead of getting one of your two strongest feats earlier. You've already got no shortage of Bluff and no shortage of Intimidate, so this is just a burned feat. (–0.25) You have the basic fear optimization tactics down, so that's a mark in your favor. (+0.25) I can see that you were trying to have some SA (even to the point of shockingly dropping the last 2 levels of the SI for another die), but you didn't do enough with it to really make me give you too much credit for it. If your fear tactics don't work, you're not going to be bringing too much to the table. Total: 3.5

    Elegance You never explicitly told me that you were a human. I had to guess from your bonus feat, use of Able Learner, and number of skill points. (No, having a bonus feat and/or Able Learner does not automatically make you a PHB human. Not even the bonus skill points are specific to the PHB human.) I shouldn't have to hunt that down. You should tell me. (–0.25) Anyway, in your notes, you mention that “Dread Pirate abilities add to Bardic abilities for party support.” With the level of DP that you take, actually, no they don't. They technically would if you had Motivate the Scum (which you do not), but as a dishonorable pirate, you don't have anything that makes your Barditude better. I understand trying to use every part of the buffalo, but you're using parts of the buffalo that you didn't kill.

    While I'm talking about your notes, you don't want to use a stingray whip, because you're not proficient with it. You're proficient with the normal whip, yes, but the stingray whip does not share proficiencies with that. Furthermore, since using a whip provokes an AoO, you can't really TWF with a rapier and a whip (cool as the image may be) without sucking up a lot of AoOs. Unless you find a way of increasing your reach, anything you can hit with the rapier can probably smack you back if you start waving a whip around. That said, I do approve of your use of the whip to aid another; that's quite a classy trick. I'm not sure what you mean by “using the whip for Combat Expertise,” though. None of these observations are sufficiently praiseworthy or blameworthy to make me change your score, but they're worth mentioning. Moving on, I similarly don't see too much that's actually too praiseworthy or blameworthy in your build itself. The fact that you don't get Imperious Command until 12th and Scourge of the Seas until 15th as a direct result of taking Persuasive really gets to me; you very much do not want to delay your ability to use fear tactics, since the higher level you get, the more foes will be immune to fear. (–0.25) Other than that, I don't see too much out of the ordinary here. Your level breaks mostly make sense. The only one that looks weird to me is Bard 3; I don't see anything special about exactly 3 levels of Bard, and I think that sticking it out until Bard 4 for 2nd level spells would have been worthwhile. Still, the level breaks are pretty sensible, the skills are mostly reasonable, and I do applaud the few tiny nods to flavor that you threw into your skill list (specifically, Speak Language and Whip Climber). (+0.25) Total: 2.75

    Use of Secret Ingredient: Whoa whoa whoa. Dread Pirate 8?! Really? In exchange for a redundant Scourge of the Seas and an extra die of SA? At level 20?! You should know better. (–1.5) You make average use of standard fear tactics (no one is going to say that Imperious Command and Scourge of the Seas don't taste great together), and I like your tactic of using Steady Stance and Grease to shift the balance of an encounter, so to speak. (+0.5) Overall, though, I'm not seeing much here that you couldn't have just done with Scarlet Corsair. This build feels like it wanted to be about Scarlet Corsair, but you had to put in Dread Pirate just because it's the SI. Total: 2

    Final Evaluation: I was underwhelmed with your build, but at least you pretty much covered the basics of fear optimization. I was sorely tempted to take off more for not finishing Dread Pirate; the fact that you really didn't get anything in return for those two levels is really bad. Still, this is at least a decent Scarlet Corsair build that happens to have some Dread Pirate in it.

    Final Total: 10.25

    Halavin d'Lyrandar

    Wow. That's a story right there. I'll be flat-out honest with you: I read it, but I don't remember much of it. You're not a bad writer, but when we've got so many builds to get through, it's damned tempting to just tl;dr the whole thing and move on. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I would have been a lot happier with it if it were about 60% shorter.

    Originality:OK, Bard was expected, but Storm Sentry wasn't. (+0.5) It's good to see House Lyrandar being well-represented; this is pretty much the one chance that half-elves have to shine. Total: 3.5

    Power: You're spreading yourself a little thin. What you do, you do quite well, but I found myself wishing that you could have found room to advance a lot of the tricks you started on. Storm Sentry is quite flavorful, but taking only 2 levels of it doesn't really seem that amazing in context, you know? Warblade was a nice choice. Your maneuvers were well-chosen (though I don't see what you took at ECL 5); it's a little sketchy whether or not you can use prereqs the way that you did, but since it is sketchy, I'll let it slide. You obviously knew exactly what maneuvers you wanted, and you used them to good effect. (+0.5) As for your use of Bard—I mostly noticed what you didn't do with it. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that you didn't take the Half-Elf Bard substitution level in Races of Destiny, given the amount of attention you pay to Diplomacy. I really would have liked to have seen Song of the Heart in there somewhere (it's practically the most basic form of Inspire Courage optimization, after all), as well. Overall, though, you didn't do too much else to stand out. Your build is solid, but not overwhelming; respectable, but not noteworthy. Total: 3.5

    Elegance: You, like so many others in this contest, did not realize that Diplomacy is not a class skill for Dread Pirate. This means that your skills are illegal at ECL 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, and 19. (–0.5) Also, reading through that wall of text gave me a headache. The interview format was cute at first, but by the time it was over, I had been ready to be done with it for pages. Please don't do that again. (–0) [What? I did explicitly say that I wouldn't punish you for having poor fluff. I'm a man of my word, so you won't lose points, but I have to put a minus of some kind out there.] You did, however, do exactly what I warned you against. You misused the word “whom,” using it when you really meant to say “who.” If you had only done so once, I would have forgiven you, but twice? Man, that's exactly what I said to be careful about. (–0.25) Furthermore, you overspent your point-buy. Four 14s at 6 points each is 24, and a 16 at 10 points is 34 point buy. (–0.5) Another thing that I noticed is that you don't qualify for Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, since it requires 17 DEX. You've only got 15 DEX by that level. (Yes, in a real game you'd almost certainly have a +2 DEX item by that point, but as it stands, you still don't qualify.) (–0.5) I do approve of you taking ITWF, but you can't actually do so. Anyway, your build wasn't entirely inelegant. Your levels of Warblade were expertly timed, and using Storm Sentry to get Use Rope was a nice touch. (+0.5) Total: 1.75

    Use of Secret Ingredient: This build did feel like it needed Dread Pirate. Using Warblade to turn Acrobatic Charge into Pouncing Acrobatic Charge is an excellent example of using non-SI material to augment SI abilities. Everything just seemed to fit. I don't have a lot more to say about it. (+0.5) Total: 3.5

    Final Evaluation: This build took me longer to judge than any other so far. It took me forever to figure out exactly what you were trying to do and what was important to you. Your fluff didn't help; it was easy to lose track of what I was looking for. Overall, your build is relatively well-rounded compared to a lot of the other builds here. I would have liked to have seen a little more direct explanation of what your build goals were; really, I think that's what took me the longest.

    Final Total: 12.25

    Vincent Alsey d'Lyrandar

    Oh joy! A Windwright Captain! I was so hoping to see one of these. Let's see what you do with it, shall we?

    Originality: Well, you weren't the only member of House Lyrandar, but you were the only Windwright Captain, and those are pretty awesome. (+1) I also was glad to see a Beguiler in the mix . . . most people probably didn't want to have to explain why they gave up their casting progression, but hey, it does have Appraise. (+0.5) Good show. Total: 4.5

    Power: Where to start? Your Diplomacy score is, of course, quite scary (Really, taking Skill Focus? That's dedication!), which is always a strong ability (even if a lot of tables houserule it into submission). That's a nice touch. (+0.5) Arcane Strike is a beautiful way to bridge the gap between casting and noncasting classes; you get to keep the utility spells (who doesn't like Haste?) for when you need them, but Arcane Strike means that you have something to do with the low-level slots that just can't really scare the enemy anymore. Sure, we all know that being a full caster is the most powerful choice, but this clearly isn't a caster build. (+0.25) Stacking Master Pilot and Seamanship is a very nice touch; I'd be terrified of this guy in ship-to-ship combat. Between Master Pilot, Seamanship, and Lesser Shipbond, your only hope against Vincent is to attack him face-to-face. If you're engaging his ship instead of his person, you're not going to do too well. (+0.5) Your skills are a little weird. I'm confused as to why you'd completely neglect Sense Motive; even if you don't max it out (I consider it to be an essential skill for a party face, but you may disagree), I'd have expected to see at least 5 ranks for the synergy bonus. That's honestly a big enough oversight that I'm going to have to ding you for it. (–0.25) Total: 4

    Elegance: OK, here's where things are going to start to get hairy. Your quick stat line lists you as a Bard rather than a Beguiler . . . probably an artifact of a build revision, and an easy enough mistake to make. The problem, though, comes with your skills. By my count, you sold yourself short on skills at level 6 and at level 10. If I counted correctly, you spent 2 of your 8 possible skill points at level 6, and you spent 5 of your possible 9 at level 10. Selling yourself short like that isn't a heinous crime—perhaps it's a bit sloppy, but it's better than fudging in your favor, right? Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story. Unless you've got some method of making Diplomacy a class skill for Dread Pirate, you're at least 1 point over the limit for most of your build. I got that you should have 9 skill points per level for your entire Dread Pirate career. By my count, you spent 11 at level 12, 12 at level 13, 10 at level 14, 10 at level 15 (but see below), and 10 at every level thereafter. Level 15 also has something weird . . . you bumped Use Rope up from 4 to 5, but at level 16, it's down to 4 again. I'm going to assume that was a typo—but that's almost even weirder, because if we grant that you didn't actually increase Use Rope at 15, that's the only Dread Pirate level in which you didn't go over the limit. Bizarre. Between the sloppiness and the extra skill points, I've gotta take off something. (–0.5) Also, I'm almost positive that your BAB is incorrect. No class has a +0 at level 2—but once you start increasing it, I'm pretty sure that you increase it too quickly. 2 levels of Beguiler would give you +1. 2 levels of Rogue would give you another +1, total +2. Your third level of Beguiler wouldn't increase it; you'd still be at +2 until you took Beguiler 4 (ECL 6), when you'd have +3. Beguiler 5 (ECL 7) doesn't increase it, so you'd still be at +3. Windwright Captain 2 (ECL 9) will be your next boost, up to +4. Windwright Captain 3 puts you at +5, and Windwright Captain 4 puts you at +6. From there, Dread Pirate gives you full BAB, so you should end with +15, not +16. You're not an attack-heavy character, but you still don't get to claim that much-desired four swings. Fractional BAB is delightful, but we don't get to assume that it's the case in Iron Chef. (–0.5)

    Anyway, while I did say above that this isn't a caster build (and I stand by that statement), your choice of when to take your rogue dip strikes me as odd. While you are a most capable skillmonkey at low levels, to still have nothing but spells of 1st level as late as ECL 5 is really rough. I don't see why you took the levels when you did. It's such an obvious prereq-grabbing dip (not that those are automatically bad, of course; just usually so) that there's no truly GOOD time to take it, but it really does seem to clog up your progression a bit. (–0.25) Trading away your second Trapfinding for Mimic was a nice touch; sure, it's not useful for very long (especially since a disguised Dread Pirate can't use Fearsome Reputation), but it beats doubling up. Man, this has all just been negative, hasn't it? I do have to give you credit for using Windwright Captain to completely unambiguously fulfill the special requirement of Dread Pirate. Yes, it's what we expect from Windwright Captain, but it does the job really well. (+0.5) You didn't tell me what you took for Advanced Learning, either, but I guess that's an easy mistake to make. One last thing—on a formatting level, I find your use of en dashes to be most suspect, good sir. I think that you really meant to use em dashes in most of those cases. Between that and a few minor comma issues, I feel compelled to deliver this slap on the wrist. (–0.25) Total: 1.5

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 9 levels? You just had to make this difficult for me, didn't you? I cannot look you in the eye and tell you that Lesser Shipbond is neither useful nor appropriate. The fact that House Lyrandar provides you with a crew does make the loss of Pirate King more bearable, and you've already got a really high bonus to Diplomacy. Losing Dread Pirate 10 really doesn't weaken the build the way it could have. That said . . . well, I can't very well condone it, can I? I wouldn't have taken points off if you had explained to my exactly why you made the decision to skip the capstone, but since you left me to figure it out myself, I can't really let it go untouched. (–0.25) I would have taken off more if you hadn't perfectly filled the niche with your other classes, but at least you've earned only a minor penalty. For the rest of the class . . . honestly, I like what I'm seeing here. I like that you've taken the skill-boosting aspects of the class and run with them. Arcane Strike is a decent source of bonus damage for TWF; not amazing, but definitely noticeable. Steady Stance has some overlap with Shipboard Fighter, but oh well. In the end, though, it comes down to one thing: is your build better off with Dread Pirate, or could it have achieved similar or superior ends with 10 (well, 9) levels in some other class? Did you do something with Dread Pirate that you couldn't do with anything else? I'm kind of torn. On the one hand, I think you would have made a perfect Exemplar (hell, you have all of the prerequisites in place by the time you leave Windwright Captain); on the other hand, Dread Pirate still fits. The shift between skill-heavy caster to swashbuckling fighter is kind of abrupt and a little bit forced, but the build still feels like it should be a Dread Pirate. Perhaps a nontraditional Dread Pirate, but still a Dread Pirate. (+0.5) Total: 3.25

    Final Evaluation: I liked this build a lot. I really wish that you had been more careful with the skills and BAB; that cost you rather a bit, but it's important to make sure that all the numbers line up. You've got skills, you've got spells, you've got a terrifying ship; everything fits together. Good job.

    Final Total: 13.25
    Last edited by Zaq; 2011-04-05 at 02:54 PM. Reason: Fixed calculation; thanks, T. G.!
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