Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. I wanted to see what weird things could be done with this cool but amazingly weak class. What did I get? Well, builds that use a cool but amazingly weak class . . . and are therefore rather tricky to judge. However, after the skill-counting nightmare that was Dread Pirate, I found it a relief to rarely deal with vast quantities of skill points per level from many far-flung classes. (Yes, I do count your skill points.)
Incarnum Blade? That's one way to try to make Incandescent Champion look good, at least in comparison. Pity that it's not actually an incarnum class, huh? I do find it humorous that you pretty much said exactly what the book says about IB (that it's a good way to introduce incarnum to the table without delving too deeply). I'm pretty sure we both know that's a lie (given that it's not an incarnum class.)
Originality: Again, since it's not an incarnum class (yes, it has some similar names, but look me in the eye and tell me that the Blademeld has anything to do with normal incarnum use) and it's one of the only two PrCs in MoI that's undoubtedly worse than Incandescent Champion, I did not expect to see an Incarnum Blade. (+0.5) Vanara also came totally out of left field; not only are they obscure, but they really don't have much to do with incarnum, at least in my mind. Definitely didn't see that coming. (+0.25) Your battle strategy isn't unbearably hackneyed, but it's nothing earth-shakingly new. (0) Total: 3.75
Power: This build . . . is different. I don't really see any amazing synergy. You're not bad while you're raging, but you're nothing special. You have an awful lot of incarnum feats . . . which are nice in that they give bonus essentia, but are not so nice in that they lock your essentia away and defeat the entire point. I don't see Cobalt Power on your “typical investments” table anywhere. Why did you take it if you never plan to use it? Bonus Essentia could have gotten you 2 extra essentia (you do have the ability to shape two melds, after all, so it's not even ambiguous). I also really do not see the point of Threefold Mask of the Chimera. The Crown bind of the Threefold Mask is pretty much only useful for desperately running away. It gives you horrific penalties, it eats your full attack next round (and since you have 16 BAB by the time you get it, I imagine you care about that a little bit), and since it specifies that the extra move action happens at the end of your turn, you can't even use it to move into position and make a full attack (with or without the penalties). Just shaping it doesn't seem to offer the kinds of benefits I expect from a feat. I pretty much consider those two feats wasted, and Cobalt Power is nearly so. (–0.25)
The benefits from Incarnum Blade seem marginal. The extra HP really isn't enough to matter by the time you get the Heart bind (40 HP will only rarely be the difference between living and dying at level 20 . . . CR 15+ foes tend to hit really hard, or else just don't care about HP), and I don't see much of the point of the others. I don't see why you took it, honestly. The Throat bind is elegant (and I gave you points for it there), but it's not at all powerful enough to be worth the levels you spent on it, and it seems to be your primary Blademeld bind. In short, they feel like wasted levels. I don't see how you're better off with 5 levels in Incarnum Blade compared to 5 levels in one of many other melee classes. Yes, you succeeded in using it to make Incandescent Champion look good in comparison, but I ask you, at what cost? (–0.25)
I will say this: thank you for not just assuming that you can get any damn item you please. This should be the default assumption (rather than something I should call out as praiseworthy), so I won't give you extra points for it, but still, after looking at so many other builds that just bake their items into their baseline assumptions, this is refreshing. (0, but thumbs up) Total: 2.5
Elegance: OK, so, we kind of had that mini-dispute in the thread itself, but even if you got the order of your feats wrong (thus explaining why you have essentia at first level), you're still double-dipping somewhere. You should have 8 from IC and 1 each from Cobalt Power, Cobalt Charge, and Cobalt Rage, which should result in a total of 11, not 12. It's obvious where the error came from, but it's still a not-exactly-insignificant math error in your favor (there's barely an incarnum-user alive who doesn't want another point of essentia, after all), so there's gotta be some flavor of penalty. (–0.25) I do like the mix of Unbearable Countenance and the throat-bound Blademeld for fear stacking . . . very difficult to get the save DCs up anywhere respectable, of course, and the fact that neither has a duration greater than 1 round makes the usefulness rather sharply limited, but the move action of one and the standard action of the other work well enough together and was pretty clever. (+0.25) Your class progression isn't entirely clear to me. Why break IB after 1 and 3? Breaking IC after 4 I can see, but why after 8? If there's any method in this madness, you didn't make it clear. (–0.25) I find it a little weird that you didn't spend the skill points to become literate . . . I don't disapprove quite strongly enough to mark off for it, but I find it hard to imagine that you'd wait until level 6 to become literate if you were actually playing at the table. (Never becoming literate is fine and dandy, but waiting until level 6? Weird.) Total: 2.75
Use of Secret Ingredient: You kind of avoid the “not enough essentia to fill an Overloaded receptable” trap that other people fell into, but not if you make heavy use of your incarnum feats. You do at least have the option of keeping your essentia free and useful, so that's better than some other folks. (0) I know that you put IB in here to make IC look good in comparison, but I confess, in some ways, it worked. (+0.25) On some level, this build has to be an Incandescent Champion simply because it isn't anything else. The essentia does build on what you've already got (mostly your incarnum feats, but they complement Barbarian well enough), even if the class features don't seem to be astoundingly useful. I just don't see what else there is to say. Total: 3.25
Final Comments: Incarnum Blade. Just . . . Incarnum Blade. It was ballsy. I'll give you that. It takes guts to say “you think the SI is a crappy PrC? Ha! Get a load of this!” In the end, I wish I could justify rating you a bit higher, but when everything gets added up, it is what it is. There just isn't a whole lot of meat to the build . . . it seems to have IB just for shock value. It's otherwise just a lackluster melee basher.
Final Total: 12.25
Sorry, Shink, but I'm with Ushlaka on this one . . . Shifters get a raw deal among races, especially for Eberron. That doesn't make you a bad character, of course, but we'll see how you do. Also, for the life of me I can't tell what flavor of shifter you are. That's pretty important, no? I guess you're probably a longtooth, since you have Great Bite, but you didn't tell me that, and to be blunt, that's . . . worrisome.
I didn't expect a pseudo-Totemist. An actual Totemist, sure, but not, well, this. (+0.5) You made a decent use of the shifter race, which is indeed normally woefully underpowered if they want to actually use their racial abilities. (+0.25) Total: 3.75
I'll be blunt; I really don't like your reliance on items. While 100 gp a pop for those Braids of Dire Shifting isn't much, I question your ability to get the piles and piles of them you seem to assume you'll have; that should be a footnote at the end, not a baseline assumption. Likewise, I don't like it that you're just slinging around stat tomes and +6 stat boosts. Yes, in a real game you're very likely to have them, but honestly, you really shouldn't assume that, especially the multiple
maxed-out tomes. Add in the Necklace of Natural Attacks that you're just assuming in your final damage totals, and I see a build that seems to need items to function. Perhaps it can function on its own, but that's not what you showed me. (–0.75) That said, I do like what you've done with the shifter race. You've got a nice blender effect going, and Weretouched Master is a nice class. (Sure, most of your strength doesn't come from Incandescent Champion, but we'll get to that in UoSI.) (+0.5) Unfortunately, Bluesteel Bracers don't help you out nearly as much as you seem to think they do, since they only affect weapon
damage rolls and not natural weapon damage rolls (which seems to be where the real money is, as far as you're concerned). Incandescent Strike is a small damage boost for most of your career, but Thunderstep Boots seem to be your real source of bonus damage (aside from, you know, turning into a bear). Total: 2.75
No sources cited? When I explicitly said that failure to cite sources would result in a loss of points?
Bad Ushlaka! Bad! I don't have a spray bottle or a rolled-up newspaper handy, so we'll just have to settle for the loss of a point. (–1) I'm sorely tempted to take off more, since it's taken me way too long to hunt down all your feats, but I'm not going to judge in anger. Also, I will mention that you're wrong about taking Open Soul Chakra (not, by the way, “chackra”) at 21st level, since it requires you to be 24th level first. I won't count off for that, but I will mention it. While I'm nitpicking, my copy of ECS doesn't mention “Weretouched 3” at 5th level of Weretouched Master.
Anyway, I'm not going to count off for your mishmash of levels before diving into PrCs, because honestly, the progression makes sense to me. You went Barbarbian for Pounce, you went Ranger to get TWF without investing in DEX, and you went Warblade because Warblades are awesome. Personally, I would have gone Ranger first instead of Barbarian (since I value the boost to skill points much more than the boost to HP), but I guess that's a personal preference. Your level breakpoints later on do confuse me. You never made it clear why you break Weretouched Master at 2nd and 4th, for example. If there's a method to the madness, you didn't make it clear to me. I really did mean it when I said that you need to explain your methods to me. (–0.25) I do approve of the way that you use Moment of Perfect Mind to cover for your abysmal Will save, given that you needed the points of Concentration anyway. Sometimes it's the little things that help. (+0.25) I've always found the “Shape Soulmeld lets you satisfy Bonus Essentia's 'if you can shape soulmelds' clause” argument to be highly suspect, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Total: 2 EDIT: After reading through the other judges' comments, I noticed that you don't qualify for Weretouched Master. I'm not going to lower your score (I messed up, so you get the benefit), but I will glare at you and shake my finger in a disapproving manner. Tsk, tsk.
Use of Secret Ingredient:
So, um, why the hell aren't you a Totemist instead? You gain very little from Incandescent Champion other than essentia. You have no CHA (no, I'm not counting your randomly listed +6 item and +2 book . . . first, I don't like that you have to rely on it and that you just assume you get it, and second, it feels like an afterthought), so you can't even use Incarnum Overload, which in my mind is the class's signature ability. You pretty much just use the essentia and the occasional Incandescent Strike, no? You do mention Incandescent Ray in passing, which is at least a small mark in your favor, but really, I don't get the feeling that you needed to be an IC. It feels like you just took it because it was the SI. (–1) Furthermore, only taking 8 levels is going to cost you. While it's true that you certainly wouldn't benefit much from the capstone (since you can't really properly use Overload and you don't have the CHA to use Transcendence very well either), I still think you can do better. (–0.5) Total: 1.5
I saw a very clear focus from you, and it wasn't Incandescent Champion. If you wanted to be a bestial, natural-weapon-using meldshaper, we already have a class for that. I just feel like the 8 (not 10) levels of IC were wasted. You made one of the nastier shifters I've seen in a while, so kudos for that, but it feels like the SI hindered you as much as it helped you.
Final Total: 10
You know, I like your backstory. The more I judge, the more I come to appreciate a really short and sweet backstory. I get a nice little bite of fluff without having to try to keep your character straight in my head with all the others. Anyway, let's get to your build.
Originality: Two Bard/Paladins of Freedom? I guess if you're trying to justify packing a character with as much CHA as they can hold, it makes sense. Anyway, I see pretty much everything I'd expect on a character like this (Sapphire Smite, Snowflake Wardance, Divine Soultouch, yada yada yada), so while I won't take off for your classes not being unique, I'm going to take off a little bit for not seeing anything surprising within your class structure. (–0.25) Total: 2.75
Power: I do not like your assumptions about your magic items. While it is not terribly unreasonable to assume that you will have a basic stat boosting item or two at mid-high levels (so while I'm not thrilled that you need a CON boosting item for essentia investment, I'm not going to punish you for it), the Slippers of Battledancing are a little bit dicey. (Also, they don't stack with Charging Smite . . . they specify a move action, while charging is a full-round.) The build should stand without items. This is hardly the worst offender I've seen, but I don't like that you put the items in your baseline assumptions. If you had talked about what you could do without all your stat boosts and Slippers of Battledancing and whatever could have done for you and then said “oh, and if I get free pick of items by WBL, this goes up even higher, to [blah],” I wouldn't mind, but as it stands? Don't make those kinds of assumptions. (–0.25)
Your feats are mostly to be expected but are effective nonetheless. Divine Soultouch is a superb feat for this kind of character, and Sapphire Smite means that you might be able to smite often enough that you remember that it exists! Divine Might doesn't suck either. (+0.25)
Honestly, I don't see much of the value of Bard here. Snowflake Wardance is good CHA synergy, but the fact that you have Power Attack for your entire career makes me wonder if it's truly worth it, since it prevents you from two-handing your sword. With your respectable number of smites per day (woo, Sapphire Smite!) and Charging Smite, this seems . . . suboptimal to me. I don't think that you get much good out of it (meaning the Bard levels or SFWD). Dropping Bard would free up two levels, two feats, and two hands. Yes, I'm aware that you think that you get the Slippers of Battledancing, but frankly, I don't think it's appropriate to base your build around something like that. (–0.25)
Overall, I see a strong T5 or bottom T4 build here. Your tricks are acceptable, but not amazing. I don't see any kinds of good mobility boosters aside from Charging Smite (which is only a stopgap without Pounce, really), so you're pretty much stuck to fighting things that are no more than 5' away from you if you want to full attack. Is it an improvement over straight Paladin? Yeah, probably. Within your power level, you're not awful. Having a Crusader at the table would probably make you feel permanently upstaged, but you'd look acceptable next to a Ranger. (+0.25) Total: 3
Elegance: You know, as a weird quirk of RAW, taking Devoted Performer means that you have to be LG, even if you're a PoF, because it explicitly says that you must remain LG to retain your Paladin abilities. RAI is so painfully obvious on this one that I wouldn't dream of taking off for it (and would look askance at anyone who would), but it's a weird quirk. Moving on, you forgot to remove Heal from your skills at first level, but no harm done. (0)
I hereby declare Martial Study (Shadow Stride) to be my favorite 18th level “eh, now what do I take?” filler feat ever. Sure, it might have nothing to do with the character thematically, but 18th level feats rarely do, and everyone can use a free move-action teleport once per encounter. I always kind of laugh at the 18th level feats in Iron Chef builds, because most of the time, you want to take the really important feats as early as you can . . . so despite it being the last feat you usually get, it rarely ends up being that critical or that amazing. MS(SS) is an excellent choice. (+0.25)
Technically, your build is illegal for your last three levels. Incandescent Champion does not contain a clause that states that you may return to being a Paladin after taking it. Silly? Yes. Still the rules? Also yes. (–0.25) Total: 3
Use of Secret Ingredient: As I mention in Sir Karel's build, your CHA is so high and your essentia pool is so small that you rarely have the ability to actually get the maximum benefit from Incarnum Overload. For instance, at ECL 11 (when you get Overload), you have 4 essentia and the ability to put 2 into any given receptacle. If you put your typical 2 points into Sapphire Smite, you gain literally no benefit from Incarnum Overload, because the 2 essentia you have left would fit into any given slot without the boosted cap. Even without Sapphire Smite, you have 16+ CHA at that point, so you can boost any cap up to at least 5 essentia . . . but you only have 4. Divine Soultouch also raises the cap, so that's a wash. This problem never really goes away . . . the numbers go up and down relative to each other, but they never really match up. (–0.25)
I guess this build was pretty much a miniature Soulborn. You get smites (good ones, with that PHB2 ACF), a little bit of essentia but nowhere spectacular to put it, and . . . yeah, nothing really special. Incandescent Ray makes you slightly less frustrated at enemies that are far away, you get essentia to fuel Sapphire Smite, Incandescent Strike is low but at least relatively consistent damage . . . eh, I really don't see anything to write home about. I don't see anything special about your use of Unbearable Countenance . . . yeah. I got nothing. Total: 2.75
Final Comments: This build was uninspiring. I didn't see anything really special about it. It would be acceptable at a very low-powered table (the kind that takes Weapon Focus for reasons other than prerequisites), but I didn't see any new tricks, or even really any amazing applications of old tricks. It's not the worst CHA-stacker I've seen, but I just don't see much to it.
Final Total: 11.5
I've noticed that we get an average of one 10/10 build per Iron Chef. It's always a gutsy move, but we'll see how you do. I find it cute that you included the example NPC in your backstory. Also, aren't azuki red, not blue? We clearly can't allow that in anything incarnum-related.
Originality: On the one hand, I approve that someone had the guts to go for a full meldshaper and risk the “so why didn't you just keep advancing Totemist?” question that's bound to pop up. (+0.25) On the other hand, while your Totemist strategies are perfectly respectable, they're also pretty textbook. Skarn? Check. Girallon Arms? Check. Pounce? Check. Multiattack? Check. I can't look you in the eye and tell you that it's not a powerful strategy, but you can't look me in the eye and tell me that it's anything we haven't seen before. You're a stock-standard Totemist before you're an IC, and you pretty much keep being one after you enter the SI. While the power impressed me, there was very little here to surprise me. (–0.5) Total: 2.75
Power: Standard Totemist face-eating and multiattacking is always good fun. Totemist and Incandescent Champion actually sync up pretty well together. Totemists can get by with only a handful of binds if they keep getting essentia, and you're one of the few contestants who really has enough essentia to make proper use of Incarnum Overload. 17 essentia is nothing to sneer at. 6 melds, 17 essentia, 3 binds (plus hands)? Yeah, a smart and creative Totemist can get by with that, since so many of their goodies are tied to the Totem chakra rather than the higher-level ones. In other words, yes, you probably would have been strictly better off with Totemist 20, but Incandescent Champion didn't really cripple you, since you still have all your natural weapons and plenty of nice binds. It's not the world's most original strategy, but dammit, it works. (+1)
Once again, I'm never happy to see an Iron Chef entrant just assuming that they get full access to whatever items they damn well please. Item suggestions are fine, but I'm not thrilled to see you including your Ring of Freedom of Movement and your Third Eye Conceal in your final stat block, let alone your Belt of Magnificence and your +4 tome. Thankfully, I don't think you really need too many of those items, so I'm not going to dock you too heavily for relying on them, but I think you can do better. (–0.25) Total: 3.75
Elegance: Whoa. What's up with those stats? If the 16 and 12 are pre-racial, you spent 40 points. If they're post-racial, you spent 38 points. Either way, you're waaaaay over budget. You could keep your (pre-racial) 16 STR, 18 CON, 14 CHA by dropping everything else to (again, pre-racial) 8, but somehow I don't think that's what you meant. This is a pretty major error. Not only is it blatantly illegal, but it also puts me in a bind when it comes to fairly assessing what you can and can't do, since you clearly don't have the stats you wrote down, but I don't know what your actual stats are or should be. Don't do that again. (–1)
As for your melds of choice, you were put in kind of a hard situation. In my mind, the strength of a meldshaper is in their flexibility, so locking yourself into a certain set of soulmelds every day is counterintuitive. However, in a competition like this, you can't very well list every meld in the book, and saying “oh yeah, I just swap my melds as the campaign requires” is pretty much just a cop-out. However, the fact that you set up a standard list but left one of your two Totem binds squishy really earned you points in my book. You have a core strategy to fall back on, but it's not so rigid that you can't embrace the flexibility that really defines a good meldshaper. It was a little thing, but I liked it. (+0.25)
As I mentioned with another build, you seem to wait a really long time to become literate. I could totally see someone just never bothering to become literate, but becoming literate at 9th? Eh, it strikes me as weird. Not points-off weird, but weird.
I really would have liked to have seen a typical essentia investment strategy at more levels than just 20th, but at least with a Totemist it's reasonably clear what's going on. Add in the fact that you don't always have the exact same set of soulmelds shaped, and I understand why you didn't go into more detail. Still a little disappointing, but not enough to warrant a penalty. (0) Total: 2.25
Use of Secret Ingredient: You know, this isn't bad. Totemist does do a lot of the heavy lifting, but IC complements it well enough that it doesn't feel like 10 totally wasted levels. I could see someone playing this at the table. It's not as good as Totemist 20, as I said, but I don't get the “you were doing so well! Why did you do that to yourself?!” vibe I might have gotten in another situation. You actually make decent use of the class features—Incandescent Strike is a perfectly acceptable way of getting more damage on each of your many swings, Incandescent Ray does a decent job of covering your ranged weakness, and you arguably make the best use of Incarnum Overload that I've seen in this competition (because you have not only enough essentia to actually use it but also essentia receptacles that are worth supercharging). I won't go so far as to say you turned the class into a strength, but you at least prevented it from being a true liability, and that's about all you can ask from a class like this. (+1) Total: 4
Final Comments: I was kind of hoping to see someone do something ridiculous with Incarnum Overload and the Manticore Belt (a boring strategy to base your entire character off of, but kind of hilarious to do just once or twice), but overall, I still like what you gave me. This may be one of the least bad ways of using IC.
Final Total: 12.75
First, I must say that your backstory (and specifically its talk about “illegal non-Vancian magics”) made me laugh, primarily because I once DM'd a campaign in which it was Vancian magic that was illegal, and the PCs were a special ops unit (which did include an incarnum user and a couple psionics users) who hunted down Vancian casters. Also, one of my favorite (terrible, terrible) stories includes an unfortunate mention of an “illuminated silhouette” (whatever that means), so you talking about “bright shadow” made me think of that. So yeah. Fun. On to the build! (One last thing: your mother's cover-up is that she “drank magic-tainted water when she had you as a child”? Your mother had you as a child? No wonder you turned to a life of crime!)
Originality: The existence of Psycarnum Infusion (I can never decide if that name is cool or stupid) made me expect at least one psionicist, though the Psychic Rogue caught me off guard (I was expecting an Ardent, since they have the easiest time multiclassing). (+0.25) The whole “glows like Light/Daylight” thing definitely would have discouraged most people from taking the sneaky route, but it looks like you did a good job dealing with that. (+0.25) Your psionic powers are very appropriate thematically, which is nice to see. (+0.25) Total: 3.75
Power: Your to-hit is pretty low. Medium BAB for almost the whole build, TWF gives you another penalty, 10 STR with no Weapon Finesse (which wouldn't really make an enormous difference for a while, but every point of attack bonus matters at early levels), and nothing that really increases your to-hit in any way (no, Incandescent Strike does not increase your to-hit, only your damage). TWF and ITWF with no Quick Draw makes me believe that you're not attacking at range aside from the occasional ray, so you're not really going to have a very easy time hitting. Hiding is nice, but it only does so much. (–0.5) Control Light is an interesting choice, but kind of a limited one. I don't see any way for you to see through your own darkness (so dropping it to 0% will let you hide, but will kind of strand you as well), and it's important to remember that it only lasts as long as you concentrate on it, so it's not very useful for actually getting a good SA off. You're good at hiding, but you're bad at using that ability to hide to actually do anything (since the inability to see out of the darkness hurts scouting, and the need to concentrate hurts attacking or setting up proper ambushes). My Light is similarly confusing . . . it's canceled by Control Light, and if you're hiding in normal darkness, it'll make you stand out like a beacon. Thematically, it fits very well, but it's nonetheless not actually doing you any good. (–0.25) At higher levels, you're also not amazing at hiding . . . Embrace of Shadow is a really cool ability, but it comes online at ECL 14. At ECL 14, if you don't have Darkstalker, hiding is going to be very difficult indeed. It's great for the miss chance, but you're not really that sneaky. I hate that Darkstalker is such a necessary feat tax, but WotC was so free with blindsense/blindsight/scent/tremorsense that late-game hiding just isn't possible without it. (–0.25) Azure Talent doesn't really seem to be that useful, since you don't have that many uses for your PP, but hey, at least it's a source of essentia.
It's not all bad, of course. I like that you have TWF and ITWF so that the bonus damage from Incandescent Strike actually applies often enough to notice, and you kept up a respectable (if hardly maxed) level of SA, so if you actually get off a full attack, you'll have a pretty good time of things. I don't see anything that'll help you get into position to do a proper full attack, and your low to-hit bonus hurts, but at least it's there. (+0.25) Between Indigo Strike, SA, Incandescent Strike, and Craven, you've got plenty of bonus damage, so I certainly can't complain there. (+0.25) Basically, your build has a pretty cool trick or two, but it's not very good at getting those tricks to work as smoothly as they might. Total: 2.5
Elegance: No sources listed? Dammit, I told you about that. Your build was relatively easy to read otherwise, but I penalized everyone else for this, so I have to be fair and penalize you too. (–1) I also only count 7 ranks in Listen (4 at ECL 1, 5 at ECL 2, 6 at ECL 3, 7 at ECL 4, then nothing before taking UD), so you don't actually qualify for Umbral Disciple. It's a minor lack of qualification, but it's still illegal. (–0.25) Also, you take TWF at level 3, but you don't have 15 DEX until level 4, so that's illegal. It doesn't cause your build to crumble (it'd be easy enough to swap Psycarnum Infusion and TWF), but it's illegal nonetheless. (–0.25)
Your pre-PrC life makes sense to me. PsyRogue gives you skills, SA, and PP, while SA Fighter keeps your SA up while you're getting the BAB necessary to enter Incandescent Champion. Classy. (+0.25) Dimensional Pocket fits your fluff like a glove, since it's perfect for a sneak thief. You're not very good at scouting or at ambushing, but I can easily imagine an early-level version of you sneaking around stealing things. (+0.25) Total: 2
Use of Secret Ingredient: I feel like you thought that Incandescent Strike increased your to-hit (you do mention it several times), and you seemed to rely on that to make up for your weak overall attack bonus. So, on the one hand, you did rely on the SI a fair bit. On the other hand, it doesn't help you in the way you think it does. I'll call it even. (0) I do feel like you strike a nice balance between hiding and glowing, so it's good that you didn't let the SI become a weakness. (+0.25) It was a little weird to see you basically trying to work around your own abilities, but you managed to do it in a reasonably elegant manner. The mix of Psycarnum Infusion and Incarnum Overload nicely solves the problem of “well, I can put more essentia here, but what do I pull it out of?” that has the potential to pop up. Expected, perhaps, but it's by no means a bad trick. (+0.25) Overall, I didn't see anything too amazing, but you really didn't do anything to be ashamed of. Total: 3.5
Final Comments: I do love the idea of hiding with Embrace of Shadow but keeping your Aura at Daylight levels. Sure, it'll be easy to figure out where you are, but they still can't see you . . . just your light. Nifty. I was saddened to see that your build was much cooler than it is powerful, but aside from the missed prerequisites, it's still pretty nifty.
Final Total: 11.75
Sir Karel of the Five Rivers
Another Bard/Paladin of Freedom? There's always something that we see a few of in every Iron Chef, and I guess that's it this time.
Originality: It's not very often that you see an older Iron Chef ingredient in a new Iron Chef competition. I really didn't see Mythic Exemplar coming. (+0.5) I was also shocked to not see Sapphire Smite in a build featuring both Paladin and Incandescent Champion. You'll hear about this in Power, but at least you surprised me. (+0.25) Bard/Pally of Freedom wasn't technically unique, but it's still weird enough (at least, I didn't expect it) that I won't count off. Total: 3.75
Power: Yeah, OK, the loss of Sapphire Smite seems like a real oversight. Yes, it's obvious, but it's one of the nicest incarnum feats there is, and it really goes a long way toward making smite attacks useful. If you hadn't taken Extra Smiting, I probably would have just let it go with a comment, but you obviously care about your ability to smite, and Sapphire Smite is just so appropriate. (Hey, at least it perfectly balances with the bump to Originality.) (–0.25) Your 10 STR just feels out of place. Your BAB isn't bad, but until you get the ability to use Snowflake Wardance more than once per day or get reliable smiting, you don't reliably get to add a stat to your to-hit roll. Since most of your early levels are in a clearly frontline class, this is kind of a problem. I really don't like how long it takes you to get off the ground, so to speak. (–0.25)
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like you really go anywhere great, either. I have a hard time thinking of 4d6 (Will 21 half) 1/round as a “superpower” at ECL 18, especially since it triggers at the start of your turn (so if they take a basic 5' step away, they laugh at your aura). Free damage without action expenditure is nice, but it's kind of dated by the time you get it. Please note that I'm not taking off because Aura is weak . . . I'm taking off because you really miss your chance to do anything fun with it. The same goes for Unbearable Countenance as well . . . by the time you get it, the save DC is acceptable but hardly stellar, and a lot of things are just going to be immune to fear. Your absurd CHA and Divine Soultouch would have made these halfway decent, but the level at which you get them just kind of kills their usefulness. (–0.5)
In short, your build suffers from a case of “that's very nice, but what does it do?” You have a really confusing progression of Inspire Courage, but I don't see anything here to really make it awesome aside from Inspirational Boost. (I respect your decision to not cross setting lines for Song of the Heart, but I still don't see anything special here.) You have some minor fear effects, but the duration is kind of a problem until Imperious Command hits the table: both vanilla Intimidate and Unbearable Countenance have a duration of 1 round, so you really can't take a foe out of the fight with fear for long. None of your tricks really add up to a harmonious whole. (–0.25)
I will give you some credit for Divine Soultouch alone. It's great for giving yourself a lot of miniature Incarnum Overloads, and you've got the Charisma to use it with reckless abandon. Good show on that front. (+0.25) Overall, though, I guess I just don't see what you're supposed to do. Total: 2
Elegance: I don't like lesser aasimar, but it beats LA. I'll leave you with a stern look, but no loss of points. (0) Using Mythic Exemplar to get Motivate Charisma is downright sneaky (I had to read it a few times to make sure that it was legit), but so far as I can tell, it seems legal. Quite sneaky, but legal.
What's not quite so legal is your use of Intimidate as a Bard. Maddeningly, Bards don't get Intimidate in-class, and while you stayed within the rank limits, you spent too many skill points. So far as I can tell, you only did this once and it really didn't mess anything up, but I still can't condone it. (–0.25) EDIT 10 May 2011: It was pointed out to me that Apprentice gives two extra skill points to spend, so Sir Karel is legit on this front. I hereby restore the 0.25 points.
Midnight Dodge is interesting. At first I thought it was a really weird choice, but with your loss of armor and shield (Snowflake Wardance = no heavy armor and no shield), I suppose it's not entirely irrelevant. It's still pretty irrelevant, but I can at least see what you were aiming for. (0)
I reall don't feel like your early build flows. The progression of a single level in Bard (which you don't really get to use until significantly later) into Paladin (on a statblock that's not really good at melee combat) into the PrCs just doesn't feel natural. It's obvious that you used Bard for skills, but its other abilities just kind of sit and moulder until much later. No element of your build feels like a natural choice. (–0.25) Total:
Use of Secret Ingredient: You said it yourself: you get into IC really late. I already covered this in Power, but I'm going to mention it again, even if I'm not going to take off for it.
Also, your low essentia and propensity for locking up a good chunk of it in Midnight Dodge means that you'll have a hard time actually taking advantage of your increased cap with Incarnum Overload. For example, at ECL 13 (when you get Overload), you have 4 essentia. If even a single point of it is locked into Midnight Dodge, you gain no benefit from Overload (and even if it's not, you don't really get to flex your massive Charisma that much). At ECL 16 (when you get Overload 2/day), if we go by your table and accept that you have 3 essentia in Midnight Dodge, you get the same benefit from Overload as you would if you had 12 CHA. (Even without Midnight Dodge, you never manage to reach the cap.) I'm aware of Divine Soultouch, but it also increases your cap, so that's a wash. (–0.25)
I do approve of the fact that you gave yourself a pile of abilities that will all work when you're in Transcendence form. That's pretty classy. I can't really reward you in Power (both because it comes online way too late and because it's not that amazingly strong), but it's very classy. I really wish it had come online earlier, but I applaud the effort. (+0.5) Total: 3.25
Final Comments: Your build felt scattered. Everything was pointed at the Incandescent Champion, but nothing really had much synergy with it. I'm still really not sure why you're a Paladin (yes, smite and BAB while sorta-kinda advancing Bard, but I don't feel it), and I'm just not impressed with any given part of the build.
So, like usual, I saw some things I didn't expect, I saw some things I did expect, and I didn't see some things that I expected. I would have loved to see a grappler, if for no other reason than that Incandescent Aura requires your foe to be adjacent to you at the start of your turn. I'm surprised that no one took Soulborn, since it seems like a natural choice. I imagine that the lack of Soulborn is about 50% because people wanted to avoid the obvious choices and 50% because the Soulborn's just that bad. I can't prove it, of course, but that's what I'd guess.
I m the one who requested this PrC in the first place. I've always been intrigued by the fluff and, well, negatively intrigued by the crunch (since it seems to almost go out of its way to not mesh with anything). I wanted to see what the collective minds of the Iron Chefs could come up with. Was there gold waiting beneath the surface? Could we pull strengths out of hidden pockets? In short, can we force it to work? After all this, I still don't know the answer. It doesn't seem like we managed to come up with anything groundbreaking. That's not to cast aspersions on our fine contestants, of course . . . none of you filled me with rage or disappointment the way some of the Dread Pirates did, for instance, and there's only so much you can do to turn a really crappy class into an actual build. It's entirely possible that the class just resists optimization, and that there's no real way to make it worth it. It looks like some of the highest praise I gave out in UoSI was “well, it doesn't hurt you TOO badly” or “it doesn't help you, but at least it doesn't really hinder you.” Again, I think that's the fault of the ingredient, not the fault of the chefs.
For my own part, I noticed that my scores tended to be a lot closer together than they were for Dread Pirate, and while I'm still kind of the harsh judge, I feel like I was slightly less so than last time. (You may not think so, but at least I think I was even-handed about it). Overall, I had fun. I sincerely applaud everyone who had the guts and the wherewithal to enter. I guess I was hoping against hope that someone would discover some crazy combo with Overload that made the whole thing worthwhile, but in the end, I don't think that this class really has anything to offer us. But hey, at least now we know. Congratulations to all our entrants!