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    Troll in the Playground
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    Apr 2011
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    The Great White North

    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground XLV

    Riding the Winds of Eternity

    Quote Originally Posted by Aleksander

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    The smoke rising over Erichsford was the color of Father's beard; the color Aleksander imagined his voice would have been, flat and gray and full of the past.

    "There is more to power than the strength of your sword arm," Aleksander could remember him saying. "The dragons of the mountains, the ones your grandfather spoke of...they are great and mighty beasts, yes, with claws and teeth and muscles that men cannot match, but they, too, seek the other kind of power. The kind that comes when men such as you and I speak of their great and terrible deeds, done in days when everything done by men is lost and forgotten. The kind of power you wield when whole tribes still speak of you when no-one alive remembers your face."

    The blood and soot that stained the snow around the ruins of Erichsford's timber cottages and thatched rooves stood out to Aleksander as wrong, somehow; they stained the pure, dim gray of the scene with a nagging reminder that the carnage here was his doing, his fault, when he preferred to view it as merely an expression of his progress along the path that had been laid out for him.

    "This power, my son, this influence...it is the kind of power you must wield when you lead this tribe. I am old; I have won my wars and outlived my wives, and our people are the stronger for my rule, but they will not sing of me in a hundred years. It has been too long since a true dragon of a man sat in my throne. You will face a choice, some day, whether to lead as a man does, or as a dragon. Choose greatness, my son."

    Billowing gusts of wind began to toss the stained snowfall across Aleksander's field of view, obscuring the wreckage he surveyed, as the hulking white form of Csevenskjarych's scaled bulk settled to the ground beside him.

    "Yes, this is as requested," her voice rumbled out. "The master will be pleased. You are ready."

    Aleksander stood still for a moment longer, watching his home burn. "You promised me power, the kind I could not wield with a sword," he said softly, turning to look at the dragon. "It is to be found in the service of Tiamat?"

    "For one such as you?" Csevenskjarych chuckled, an odd sound from such an enormous creature. "In spades."

    The dragon lowered her head to allow Aleksander to clamber up onto her neck. Ash and snow eddied around them as they took off together, and soared into the gray, empty sky.

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    Aleksander, CE Human, Barbarian 1/Human Paragon 3/Warlock 2/Talon of Tiamat 10/Binder 1/Hellfire Warlock 3
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    {table=head]Level|Class|Base Attack Bonus|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Skills|Feats|Class Features
    1st|Dragon Totem Barbarian 1|
    +1
    |
    +2
    |
    +0
    |
    +0
    |Bluff 2 (cc), concentration 2 (cc), diplomacy 2 (cc), handle animal 4, intimidate 4, jump 4, ride 4, tumble 1 (cc), use magic device 1 (cc)|Intimidating rage, extra rage, blind fight (b)|Illiteracy, rage 1/day
    2nd|Human Paragon 1|
    +1
    |
    +2
    |
    +0
    |
    +2
    |Bluff 5, diplomacy 5, intimidate 5, spellcraft 1||Adaptive learning (diplomacy)
    3rd|Warlock 1|
    +1
    |
    +2
    |
    +0
    |
    +4
    |Diplomacy 6, intimidate 6, knowledge (arcana) 2, knowledge (the planes) 2|Dragonthrall|Eldritch blast 1d6, least invocations
    4th|Warlock 2|
    +2
    |
    +2
    |
    +0
    |
    +5
    |Diplomacy 7, intimidate 7, knowledge (arcana) 4, knowledge (the planes) 4||Detect magic
    5th|Human Paragon 2|
    +3
    |
    +2
    |
    +0
    |
    +6
    |Diplomacy 8, handle animal 5, intimidate 8, jump 5, knowledge (the planes) 6, SKILL TRICK: Never outnumbered|Imperious command (b)|Eldritch blast 2d6
    6th|Human Paragon 3|
    +4
    |
    +3
    |
    +1
    |
    +6
    |Balance 5, knowledge (the planes) 9|Instantaneous rage|Ability boost (con)
    7th|Talon of Tiamat 1|
    +4
    |
    +5
    |
    +1
    |
    +8
    |Bluff 7, diplomacy 10, intimidate 10||Breath weapon (cone of cold)
    8th|Talon of Tiamat 2|
    +5
    |
    +6
    |
    +1
    |
    +9
    |Bluff 8, diplomacy 11, intimidate 11, spellcraft 2, SKILL TRICK: Social recovery||Eldritch blast 3d6, voice of the dragon +2
    9th|Talon of Tiamat 3|
    +6
    |
    +6
    |
    +2
    |
    +9
    |Diplomacy 12, intimidate 12, spellcraft 6|Quicken breath|Breath weapon (line of acid)
    10th|Talon of Tiamat 4|
    +7
    |
    +7
    |
    +2
    |
    +10
    |Concentration 6, diplomacy 13, intimidate 13||Keen senses
    11th|Binder 1|
    +7
    |
    +9
    |
    +2
    |
    +12
    |Concentration 7, diplomacy 14, intimidate 14, knowledge (the planes) 12||Soul binding (1 vestige)
    12th|Hellfire Warlock 1|
    +7
    |
    +9
    |
    +2
    |
    +14
    |Bluff 9, concentration 9, diplomacy 15, intimidate 15, knowledge (arcana) 5|Entangling Exhalation|Eldritch blast 4d6, hellfire blast +2d6
    13th|Hellfire Warlock 2|
    +8
    |
    +9
    |
    +2
    |
    +15
    |Bluff 11, concentration 11, diplomacy 16, intimidate 16||Hellfire blast +4d6, hellfire infusion, resistance to fire 10
    14th|Hellfire Warlock 3|
    +9
    |
    +10
    |
    +3
    |
    +15
    |Bluff 13, concentration 13, diplomacy 17, intimidate 17||Eldritch blast 5d6, hellfire blast +6d6, hellfire shield
    15th|Talon of Tiamat 5|
    +9
    |
    +10
    |
    +3
    |
    +15
    |Bluff 15, concentration 15, diplomacy 18, intimidate 18|Mortalbane|Breath weapon (cone of corrosive gas)
    16th|Talon of Tiamat 6|
    +10
    |
    +11
    |
    +4
    |
    +16
    |Bluff 17, concentration 17, diplomacy 19, intimidate 19||Immunities (cold), voice of the dragon +4
    17th|Talon of Tiamat 7|
    +11
    |
    +11
    |
    +4
    |
    +16
    |Bluff 19, concentration 19, diplomacy 20, intimidate 20||Breath weapon (line of lightning)
    18th|Talon of Tiamat 8|
    +12
    |
    +12
    |
    +4
    |
    +17
    |Bluff 21, concentration 21, diplomacy 21, intimidate 21|Quicken spell-like ability|Eldritch blast 6d6, frightful presence, keen senses
    19th|Talon of Tiamat 9|
    +12
    |
    +12
    |
    +5
    |
    +17
    |Bluff 22, concentration 22, diplomacy 22, intimidate 22, ride 6||Breath weapon (cone of fire)
    20th|Talon of Tiamat 10|
    +13
    |
    +13
    |
    +5
    |
    +18
    |Bluff 23, concentration 23, diplomacy 23, intimidate 23, ride 8||Dominate dragon, voice of the dragon +6[/table]


    Skills:
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    Total Skill Ranks:
    Balance: 5
    Bluff: 23
    Concentration: 23
    Diplomacy: 23
    Handle animal: 5
    Intimidate: 23
    Jump: 5
    Knowledge (arcana): 5
    Knowledge (the planes): 12
    Ride: 8
    Spellcraft: 6
    Tumble: 1
    Use magic device: 1

    Starting languages (4): Common, Draconic, Infernal, Abyssal

    Skill tricks: Never outnumbered, social recovery


    Ability Scores:
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    Starting (32-point buy): Str 14, Dex 8, Con 16, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 14

    Increase Cha at levels 4, 12, 16 and 20, and Con at level 8. Ability bonus from Human Paragon goes to Con.

    Final: Str 14, Dex 8, Con 19, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 18


    Invocations:
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    1 -
    2 -
    3 - Beguiling Influence
    4 - Frightful Blast
    5 -
    6 - Eldritch Glaive
    7 -
    8 -
    9 -
    10 - Hellrime Blast
    11 -
    12 -
    13 - The Dead Walk
    14 -
    15 -
    16 - Flee the Scene
    17 -
    18 - Vitriolic Blast
    19 -
    20 -


    Suggested Equipment:
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    In addition to the usual stat-boosting equipment (which should focus on Cha and Con), the following items may prove useful:
    • Warlock goodies (Greater Chasuble of Fell Power, Warlock's Scepter, Gloves of Eldritch Admixture) to increase your Eldritch Glaive damage.
    • Swift action movement (Anklet of Translocation, Quicksilver Boots, etc.), to make sure you can deliver your full-round action Eldritch Glaive attacks even in cases where you don't have a mount to move for you.
    • A Novice Ring of the Diamond Mind to let you sub your excellent Concentration check for your terrible Reflex save with Action Before Thought.
    • Wands of useful utility spells (your Cha mod gets high enough that even with only 1 rank in UMD, you'll have a decent chance of success using wands, and failure doesn't use charges). Don't expect to be using wands in combat, though.


    Build Snapshots
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    Level 5
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    At this level, Aleksander is already an outstanding party face, capable of negotiating, lying, or bullying as needed to get what he wants, thanks to high social skill ranks and Beguiling Influence. In combat, he relies primarily on his fear-stacking shenanigans. Intimidating Rage + Never Outnumbered + Imperious Command lets him do serious demoralization work, with Frightful Blast (which doesn't escalate itself but can be escalated from) helping to reach Panicked status. Against opponents immune to fear, like the undead, he can do reliable damage with Eldritch Blast, and his rage and high Con modifier make him a relevant combatant in melee as well. At-will detect magic provides some investigatory utility.


    Level 10
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    By level 10, iterative attacks have come online and Aleksander has picked up Eldritch Glaive, which will be his main form of offense from here on. In order to reliably deliver his attacks (which require a full-round action), Aleksander will be mounted as much as possible, at this level relying on purchased or captured living mounts (which he can teach tricks or train as Warbeasts using Handle Animal), or using wands of Phantom Steed with UMD. His Intimidating Rage can now be activated out-of-turn, even when flat-footed, thanks to Instantaneous Rage. The secret ingredient has beefed up his abilities as both party face and fear-stacker (via Voice of the Dragon), and improved his blasting with a couple of breath weapons, which he can use as a swift action every few rounds thanks to Quicken Breath.


    Level 15
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    Aleksander can now take 10 on Diplomacy checks, and use the skill in combat with a standard action, thanks to binding Naberius every day. Hellfire Warlock has vastly improved his blasting abilities (along with Mortalbane), and the Con damage is mitigated by Naberius' ability healing. The breath weapons provided by Talon of Tiamat can now be used to debuff as well as blast, thanks to Entangling Exhalation. Finally, having picked up The Dead Walk as an invocation, Aleksander no longer needs to rely on purchased or captured animals for mounts; he can instead animate undead versions of whatever defeated foes suit his needs. For fluff reasons, as well as good stats and fly speeds, Zombie Dragon templated metallic dragons come highly recommended for this purpose.


    Level 20
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    By max level, Voice of the Dragon has kicked in two more times, now providing a total of +6 to Bluff (part of the party face skillset) and Intimidate (the core of Aleksander's fear schtick). The secret ingredient has also provided a frightful presence (for more fear-stacking goodness), immunity to cold (which, along with Hellfire Warlock's fire resistance, means Aleksander is protected against the two most common energy types), darkvision, and more/better breath weapon options with which to blast/entangle. Quicken Spell-like Ability lets Aleksander use his until-now-underutilized swift actions to deliver an extra round's worth of Eldritch Glaive attacks 3/day. Finally, Talon of Tiamat's capstone ability Dominate Dragon means he can expect to be riding a live, dominated metallic dragon into combat, rather than a dead, animated one.


    Tips and Tricks
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    Rules Lawyering
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    You can't make a full melee attack after your mount moves for you. Are you sure you can use Eldritch Glaive?

    Yes. Eldritch Glaive is not a full attack; it's a spell-like ability with a non-standard activation action (full round rather than standard) whose resolution happens to have some mechanics in common with full attacks. According to this Rules of the Game article, anything on Table 8-2 in the PHB that isn't listed (including SLA's) and takes a full-round action can be used after your mount's movement.

    Are you sure you can use SLA's while raging?

    Pretty sure. Spells are explicitly disallowed, but SLA's aren't. The clause about "abilities that require patience or concentration" might mean you can't use them defensively, which would be a pity, but not game-breaking, especially since Eldritch Glaive has reach. Ask your DM.


    Adaptation
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    If flaws are allowed, you might consider inceasing Dex to pick up Combat Reflexes to take more advantage of Eldritch Glaive's AoO abilities. You may also consider shuffling feats forward to pick up Maximize Spell-like Ability for more blasting power. Finally, although you've already picked it up once, you can't go wrong with more Extra Rage.


    Use of the Secret Ingredient
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    Talon of Tiamat has 7 features: 5/10 casting, breath weapons, voice of the dragon, keen senses, immunities, frightful presence, and dominate dragon. It also has one feat prerequisite and skill prerequisites. Aleksander utilizes them in the following ways:
    • Casting advancement gives Eldritch Glaive damage and Warlock invocations, Aleksander's core tricks in combat.
    • The breath weapons are combined with Quicken Breath and Entangling Exhalation to take advantage of swift actions (which Warlocks normally have little use for), improve Aleksander's blasting capability, which might otherwise be lackluster due to low Eldritch Blast damage, and allow him to debuff fear-immune opponents who he might otherwise have few options against.
    • Voice of the dragon improves Aleksander's Intimidate score, the core of his fear-stacking ability. It also gives him a bonus to Bluff, part of his party face skillset.
    • Keen senses isn't exactly emphasized in the build (can you really build around getting Darkvision that late in a character's career?), but at least as a human, Aleksander doesn't put the feature completely to waste.
    • Along with the fire resistance from Hellfire Warlock, the cold immunity from the secret ingredient allows Aleksander to be protected against the two most common energy types. The other immunities (sleep and paralysis) are things the build would otherwise be vulnerable to, and don't hurt a bit either.
    • Frightful presence synergizes with Aleksander's other fear abilities to make it even easier for him to get his opponents to Panicked or Cowering.
    • Dominate dragon is a good ability for anybody (who doesn't want a mind-controlled draconic minion?), but Aleksander takes particular advantage of it, since he has particular need of a tough, flying mount to deliver his main combat ability reliably.
    • Dragonthrall grants bonuses to Bluff (part of Aleksander's party face schtick) against dragons, and to Ride when mounted on a dragon (which should be as often as possible at high levels). For such a crappy feat, Aleksander takes as much advantage of it as he can.
    • Talon of Tiamat requires ranks in Bluff, Intimidate, and Knowledge (arcana). Bluff is maxed and used to become a better party face, which is especially useful since it can sub for flubbed diplomacy via the Social Recovery skill trick; Intimidate is maxed and used for fear shenanigans; Knowledge (arcana) is admittedly only bumped up to 5 ranks for the synergy bonus to Spellcraft.


    Sources
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    • Book of Vile Deeds: Mortalbane feat.
    • Complete Arcane: Warlock, most invocations.
    • Complete Scoundrel: Skill tricks.
    • Complete Warrior: Extra Rage, Instantaneous Rage, and Intimidating Rage feats.
    • Draconomicon: Talon of Tiamat; Dragonthrall and Quicken Breath feats.
    • Dragon Magic: Eldritch Glaive invocation.
    • Fiendish Codex II: Hellfire Warlock.
    • Monster Manual: Quicken Spell-like Ability feat.
    • Races of the Dragon: Entangling Exhalation feat.
    • SRD: Dragon Totem Barbarian, Human Paragon.
    • Tome of Magic: Binder, Naberius.