Shadows and dust. . . .
Quote Originally Posted by Sandamir
Sandamir – The Hunger in the Shadows

Human (Gravetouched Ghoul) – Chaotic Evil – Battledancer 2 \ Swordsage 2 \ Paladin of Slaughter 4 \ Shadowdancer 10

Backstory
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Sandamir grew up an orphan in a large town in the middle of noplace. She was a product of the city’s criminal population and quickly learned that she had to be both vicious and talented to survive. Quite the street thug, she made her living dancing… provocatively… for whomever would pay her for it, and then trying to avoid the worst consequences afterward. The merchants and so called “nobles” who gave up coins for her services were contemptible and weak, their wealth being their only real asset.

In the winter of her 17th year, a large orc horde besieged the town. Faced with starvation, death, and destruction, the town leaders struck an accord with the orcs, handing over much food, loot, and slaves in return for being left in peace. This is just the sort of action from the wealthy that Sandamir found so pitiful, so when the press gangs swept the town to round up enough lowlifes to fill the slave wagons, Sandamir just… volunteered. Walked right up to them and handed herself in.

The orcs at least were strong. And their vicious “I have strength, I will take it” appealed to her upbringing, and their habit of dining upon their weaker captives didn’t repulse her in the slightest. Sandamir soon began dancing for their leaders, and found herself one of the personal playthings of a great chieftain. In addition to bearing three children, she embraced the orcish way of life, and apprenticed (ingratiated) herself to the clan’s priestess. It was in the worship of Luthic, the orc goddess of fertility and feminism, that she finally found her path. The goddess empowered Sandamir, helped her to prosper, and in return she played the role of vengeful matron, healer, and clan enforcer.

But all bad things must come to an end, and Sandamir was no exception. While most of the clan was away on a raid, a necromancer and his band of companions came looking for treasure. Backed by his sorcery, warriors sacked the clan hold, slaying all within and carrying off their valuables and a few choice corpses for “raw material”. Sandamir had led the countercharge at the beginning of the battle, but was struck down by enervating magic and died upon the field.

But her goddess was unwilling to let her go. Perhaps it was the necromancy that felled her, perhaps it was the belly full of human flesh from her last meal, perhaps it was the hand of some ghoulish spirit or even Luthic herself, but Sandamir awoke the next night, knowing a brand new hunger for flesh. Devouring the bodies of her former clan members, she lurked in that place for weeks until the Cheiftain returned and she told him what had transpired. She then helped them track down and exact revenge on the band that killed their kin, striking from the shadows and vanishing again, leaving paralyzed victims in her wake to be hacked apart by her orcish masters.

She still dances for the Cheiftain and his sons to this day, she entertains those bold enough to visit with him, and she dances in the nearby towns as a spy on the lookout for any who would come to harm her clan again. If those she dances for are strong, they may sate their appetites on the pleasures she can provide. But if those she dances for are weak, it is she who sates her appetite upon them, the Hunger in the Shadows.

The Build
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{table=head]Level|STR|DEX|CON|INT|WIS|CHA
lvl 1|14|16|8|14|8|16 – 32 point buy
lvl 4|14|16|8|14|8|17
lvl 8|14|16|8|14|8|18
lvl 10|16|20|-|16|12|20 - +2LA template
lvl 14|16|20|-|16|12|21
lvl 18|16|20|-|16|12|22 [/table]
{table=head]Level|Class|BAB|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Skills|Feats|Class Features

1st| Battle Dancer 1|
+1
|
+0
|
+2
|
+0
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 4, Hide 4, Listen 4, Move Silently 4, Perform (Dance) 4, Tumble 4| Dodge, Mobility| AC Bonus (CHA), Unarmed Strike (1d6)

2nd| Paladin of Slaughter 1|
+2
|
+2
|
+2
|
+0
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 4, Hide 4, Intimidate 5, Listen 4, Move Silently 4, Perform (Dance) 4, Tumble 4|-| Aura of Evil, Detect Good, Smite Good (1/day)

3rd| Paladin of Slaughter 2|
+3
|
+3
|
+2
|
+0
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 4, Heal 5, Hide 4, Intimidate 6, Listen 4, Move Silently 4, Perform (Dance) 4, Tumble 4|Combat Reflexes| Divine Grace, Deadly Touch
4th| Paladin of Slaughter 3|
+4
|
+3
|
+3
|
+1
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 5, Heal 5, Hide 4, Intimidate 7, Listen 4, Move Silently 4, Perform (Dance) 5, Tumble 4|-| Debilitating Aura, Divine Health

5th| Paladin of Slaughter 4|
+5
|
+4
|
+3
|
+1
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 5, Heal 5, Hide 4, Intimidate 8, Listen 5, Move Silently 4, Perform (Dance) 5, Tumble 5|Extra Smiting| Rebuke Undead, (un)Holy Warrior (replace spellcasting with bonus feat)

6th| Swordsage 1|
+5
|
+4
|
+5
|
+3
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 5, Heal 5, Hide 8, Intimidate 9, Listen 5, Move Silently 8, Perform (Dance) 5, Tumble 5| Healing Devotion | Quick to Act (+1), Discipline Focus (Weapon Focus), initiator level 3
7th| Battle Dancer 2|
+6
|
+4
|
+6
|
+3
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 5, Heal 5, Hide 9, Intimidate 9, Listen 5, Move Silently 9, Perform (Dance) 10, Tumble 5|-| Battle Dancer’s Performance (Reckless Bravery)

8th| Swordsage 2|
+7
|
+4
|
+7
|
+4
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 5, Heal 5, Hide 11, Intimidate 11, Listen 8, Move Silently 11, Perform (Dance) 10, Tumble 5|-| AC Bonus (WIS) (see Notes below), initiator level 5

9th| template
10th| template|
-
|
-
|
-
|
-
| -|Multiattack| Gravetouched Ghoul template, Type (Undead), +2 NA, Bite 1d6, Claw 1d4, Ghoul Fever (10+1/2HD+CHA), Paralysis (10+1/2HD+CHA), +2 Turn Resist, Diet Dependent (flesh)

11th| Shadowdancer 1|
+7
|
+4
|
+9
|
+4
| Balance 4, Escape Artist 8, Heal 5, Hide 12, Intimidate 11, Listen 8, Move Silently 12, Perform (Dance) 12, Tumble 8|Spring Attack| Hide in plain sight

12th| Shadowdancer 2|
+8
|
+4
|
+10
|
+4
| Balance 5, Escape Artist 11, Heal 5, Hide 13, Intimidate 11, Listen 8, Move Silently 13, Perform (Dance) 13, Tumble 11 |-| Evasion, darkvision, uncanny dodge

13th| Shadowdancer 3|
+9
|
+5
|
+10
|
+5
| Balance 6, Escape Artist 14, Heal 5, Hide 14, Intimidate 11, Listen 8, Move Silently 14, Perform (Dance) 14, Tumble 14|-| Shadow illusion, summon shadow

14th| Shadowdancer 4|
+10
|
+5
|
+11
|
+5
| Balance 9, Escape Artist 15, Heal 5, Hide 15, Intimidate 11, Listen 10, Move Silently 15, Perform (Dance) 15, Tumble 15|Ability Focus (Paralysis)| Shadow jump 20 ft.

15th| Shadowdancer 5|
+10
|
+5
|
+11
|
+5
| Balance 12, Escape Artist 16, Heal 5, Hide 16, Intimidate 11, Listen 12, Move Silently 16, Perform (Dance) 16, Tumble 16|-| Defensive roll, improved uncanny dodge

16th| Shadowdancer 6|
+11
|
+6
|
+12
|
+6
| Balance 15, Escape Artist 17, Heal 5, Hide 17, Intimidate 11, Listen 14, Move Silently 17, Perform (Dance) 17, Tumble 17|-| Shadow jump 40 ft., summon shadow

17th| Shadowdancer 7|
+12
|
+6
|
+12
|
+6
| Balance 18, Escape Artist 18, Heal 5, Hide 18, Intimidate 11, Listen 16, Move Silently 18, Perform (Dance) 18, Tumble 18|Robilar’s Gambit| Slippery mind

18th| Shadowdancer 8|
+13
|
+6
|
+13
|
+6
| Balance 19, Escape Artist 19, Heal 5, Hide 19, Intimidate 11, Listen 18, Move Silently 19, Perform (Dance) 19, Search 2, Tumble 19 |-| Shadow jump 80 ft.

19th| Shadowdancer 9|
+13
|
+7
|
+13
|
+7
| Balance 20, Escape Artist 20, Heal 5, Hide 20, Intimidate 11, Listen 20, Move Silently 20, Perform (Dance) 20, Search 4, Tumble 20 |-| Summon shadow

20th| Shadowdancer 10|
+14
|
+7
|
+14
|
+7
| Balance 21, Escape Artist 21, Heal 5, Hide 21, Intimidate 11, Listen 21, Move Silently 21, Perform (Dance) 21, Search 7, Tumble 21|Improved Paralysis| Shadow jump 160 ft., improved evasion [/table]

Maneuvers
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{table=head]Level 6|Level 8
Child of Shadow (St)|Assassin’s Stance (St)
Cloak of Deception|Feigned Opening
Shadow Blade Technique|-
Drain Vitality|-
Clever Positioning|-
Emerald Razor|-
Sapphire Nightmare Blade|
-|-
Initiator Level 3|Initiator Level 5[/table]

Level Highlights
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Level 6– At level 6, Sandamir is a skirmisher who isn’t afraid to get stuck into combat. She has concealment as long as she moves and can disappear if needed, has 3 uses of smite per day powered by an awesome charisma bonus, has both Emerald Razor and Shadow Blade Technique to make sure those smites don’t miss, and her worship of Luthic allows her to fire off 7 or more charges of Fast Healing each day on herself or one of her clan. Her one shortcoming is armor class, but concealment offsets this slightly.

Level 11 – Having risen from the dead by a combination of necromancy and divine will, Sandamir has her first level of Shadowdancer and a strong Paralysis attack. She will fade in, use spring attack to claw someone to force a saving throw (DC 19 plus equipment, net of 23), and complete her move someplace where she can hide again. Smite and martial maneuvers make it so she is unlikely to miss and has extra methods of disappearing. She has many uses of Fast Healing, and can inflict wounds upon herself with her Deadly Touch ability (28 points or so). She has everything her concept needs at this point, and the following levels just make her stronger.

Level 17 – Sweet Spot – Sandamir is truly fearsome at this level. Her paralysis DC is up to 29 or so, and she has a shadow companion who can scout for her (see Comments and Options below). Her tactic now is to spring into the midst of a group and stop, paralyze one of them and provoke attacks of opportunity, which activates her Robilar’s Gambit and allowing her to attempt to paralyze everyone. (She has a martial maneuver to provoke attacks of opportunity, but much prefers to coup de grace a paralyzed opponent, which provokes all the allies that might save said helpless target.) If she does get truly hampered, she can use a defensive roll, disappear even when there are no shadows around, and activate one of a dozen uses of Fast Healing to recover while she hides.

Level 20 – At the apex of her career, Sandamir has 18 class levels now (thanks to her +2 LA template) and a Paralysis DC of 34. Smites and martial maneuvers help guarantee that she’ll hit on that first surprise attack, and her use of Robilar’s Gambit to paralyze multiple opponents per round is even more effective.

Equipment Needs
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Sandamir relies on natural attacks, wears no armor, and often has 20% concealment. Plus, those natural attacks primarily deal their damage by forcing a Fort save. Any item that adds a hit/damage bonus to natural attacks or that adds an AC bonus is fine, but it’s stat boost items that she needs, particularly charisma. There are three specific items that she needs, though the build works fine without them.

Cloak of Charisma +6 – adds to Paralysis DC, armor class, and skills
Veil of Allure - increases her Paralysis DC by 2. Between that and a +6 cha item, she tops out at a Paralysis DC of 34 by the end of the build.
Hat of Disguise – once she becomes a ghoul, this item keeps her true nature hidden from most onlookers until she chooses to reveal it.

Comments and Options
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An Undead Shadowdancer – It’s kind of a natural concept to start with, an evil soul lurking in the shadows, striking and disappearing again, and Shadowdancer does few concepts better. In this case, the character is a ghoul and works off strike, paralyze, and fade. A high DC for paralysis powers this, plus martial maneuvers to make the hit easier and to provoke attacks of opportunity.

With an Undead Shadow Companion – With it’s limited hit dice, what do you do with the shadow companion? Scouting. It hides, it’s incorporeal, it flies, it has Listen and Spot, and has racial bonuses to same. Hook it up with the feats Lifesense (Libris Mortis) and [b]Quick Reconnoiter[b] (Complete Adventurer) and add skill points to those skills, and it becomes even better at darting out of a wall, checking things out, and darting in again.

A note on Swordsage – I haven’t developed the wisdom stat to make use of the Wis bonus to AC on the assumption that it does not stack with the CHA bonus to AC provided by Battle Dancer. This also lets me shed Wis as a stat altogether and trade in the Paladin casting for the Extra Smiting feat. If your DM rules that they DO stack, then an option for this build is to reduce DEX by two points and raise WIS by 4 (resulting in 12 WIS at early levels and 16 after level 8, plus equipment), and trade the Extra Smiting feat back for Paladin spellcasting.

Gravetouched Ghoul – while normal ghouls are created via disease, a gravetouched ghoul is or can be a spontaneous divine (or epic whomever) act, “gifted” on someone of exceptional debauchery who savored the taste of sentient creatures. As such, even someone with the Divine Health ability might be cursed by it. And in our backstory, that’s exactly what has happened. I have elected not to use LA buyoff rules on an acquired template. (Were I to do so, two more levels in Swordsage would result.)

On Luthic – Luthic happens to be the only diety who accepts a chaotic evil worshipper that also offers the Healing Domain. And Healing Devotion is important to the character’s survivability, allowing her to disappear for a minute or two and recover considerable vitality, and being fast healing rather than positive energy, it works fine on the undead.

Use of Special Ingredient
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This section details how exactly this build advances each of the Shadowdancer’s special abilities, rather than just having them on the c-sheet.

Hide in Plain Sight is used for ambush fighting and hiding between attacks as well as granting time to use fast healing between engagements.

Shadow Illusion is used as a lure. Place an image of something that might attract the attention of her targets in place, and then attack from the shadows from a different direction.

Summon Shadow is used as a scout, as noted above. Maximized spot and listen and two feats that maximize that make it even more useful.

Shadow Jump and Defensive Roll are another abilities used to retreat or relocate from a fight gone wrong. Disappear and spend time with fast healing or Deadly Touch (for the negative energy healing), then come back for more.

Slippery Mind more than soaks up anything that Sandamir isn’t otherwise immune to as an undead creature.

Evasion, Uncanny Dodge and their improved versions are useful as ever to a melee combatant, but are not otherwise expanded, while Darkvision is actually redundant as the character has it before adopting the prestige class.

Source Books
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{table=head]Sourcebook|Class/Race|Feats
Complete Champion|Holy Warrior ACF|Healing Devotion
Dragon Magazine Compendium|Battle Dancer|-
Dungeon Master’s Guide|Shadowdancer|-
Libris Mortis|Gravetouched Ghoul|Improved Paralysis
Monster Manual I|-|Ability Focus
Player’s Handbook|-| Dodge, Mobility, Combat Reflexes, Spring Attack
Player’s Handbook 2|-|Robilar’s Gambit
Tome of Battle|Swordsage|-
Unearthed Arcana|Paladin of Slaughter|- [/table]