The Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate
Quote Originally Posted by Dusk and Dawn

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Dusk & Dawn
LG Dvati Monk 2/Swordsage 3/Shadow Sun Ninja 10/Master of Nine 4

The Legend
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The old master sat in quiet meditation in his chambers. The twilight air was still and silent, the winds were peaceful. But the perfect evening rhythm was shattered by an ululating cry that rose from outside the walls, and the sharp crack of splintering wood as the gates were torn asunder. The courtyard filled with a horde of orc bandits, their roars of triumph echoed off the walls as they pillaged the storehouses. At the head of the bandits strode a tall, sinewy orc, his rough hide adorned with warpaint and scars of battles long past. He gazed around at his minions as they ransacked the monestary, and his eyes narrowed as he noticed that none had come out to challenge them. He had heard of this place from a defeated rival, who had spoken of the monestary only in hushed, fearful tones. The orc bandit chief had expected to find a worthy foe here to crush, and the lack of challenge infuriated him. He grabbed his lieutenant and growled out an order, "Find me their champion! Bring him before me!"

The old master sat in quiet meditation in his chambers. All around, orcs crashed doors from their hinges, spilled foodstuffs on the ground, and argued over trinkets. The general din of the warcries from the bandits died down as one by one they all realized that there was no foe to fight, no blood to be spilled. The bandit lieutenant went building to building, kicking each door in and searching their contents. All the while, the bandit chief roared out various challenges to the evening air, "Come before me mighty warriors of this place! Face Thorg the Merciless, of the Scarred Eye tribe! Scourge of the Western Steppes!" His bellowing continued to be met with silence, which only served to infuriate him. His lieutenant kicked in a door, and to his surprise, he saw the old master, sitting in quiet meditation. "My chief!" he shouted, "I have found someone!" He stepped into the old master's chambers and reached for him, "On your feet old man!" His hand stopped short of the old monk's shoulder, as someone grabbed him from behind and hurled him from the building. He landed at Thorg's feet, his neck broken from the impact.

The old master sat in quiet mediation in his chambers. The mighty Thorg raced to the door of his chambers, and stopped short when he saw the old monk sitting in a calm, cross-legged position. He stared in disbelief for a moment, before a toothy smile spread across his face as he hefted his axe. "You!? You are the champion of this place? Your head hardly seems worth taking!" He took a step towards the old master, and for the first time that evening, the old monk's lilting voice was heard. "You have chosen a most inauspicious time for your raid, Chief Thorg." The orc chief stopped, a look of bemusement decorating his visage. "Is that so, old man? And why is that?" The old master reached for a cup of cooling tea and took a sip before continuing, "By attacking at Dusk, you have angered the Dawn, and by angering the Dawn, so too have you angered the Dusk, for they are as one." As the old master set down his cup of tea, a bright explosion of light erupted across the courtyard. Orcs screamed in pain and fear, and Thorg swiveled his head around in confusion. As he watched, a grey-garbed figure wreathed in darkness and light leaped and tumbled through his forces, landing impossible blows and hurling orcs twice his size in all directions. Enraged, Thorg spun on the old monk, his axed raised high for a killing strike. Before he could land the blow, the world went white, and someone grabbed him and hurled him from the building. All around him, the sounds of panicked and injured orcs piered the night air, but Thorg could not see. He swung his great axe in wild arcs around him, only managing to kill a few of his bandits. As his vision returned, someone landed a hammer blow to his kidneys, and he dropped to the ground, momentarily stunned. As he gazed up at the stars, two figures moved to stand over him, each planting a foot on the orc chief's chest. "Who ... who are you?" Thorg managed, those few words coming in between painful gasps. The twin warriors gazed down upon him and replied, "Dusk. And Dawn." Shortly after, Thorg breathed his last as the duo routed the bandit forces and sent them fleeing into the night.

The old master sat in quiet meditation in his chambers.


The Path
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Dusk & Dawn
{table=head]Level|Class|Base Attack Bonus|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Skills|Feats|Class Features

1st|Dvati LA|
+0
|
+0
|
+0
|
+0
| | |

2nd|Passive Way Monk 1|
+0
|
+2
|
+2
|
+2
|Balance 4, Concentration 4, Hide 4, Move Silently 4, Tumble 4|Improved Unarmed Strike(B), Combat Expertise(B), Dodge|Bonus Feat(Combat Expertise), Flurry of Blows, Unarmed Strike(Improved Unarmed Strike), Unarmed Damage(1d6), AC Bonus +0, Unarmed Speed Bonus +0ft, +2 bonus on Bluff checks

3rd|Passive Way Monk 2|
+1
|
+3
|
+3
|
+3
|Balance 5, Concentration 5, Hide 5, Move Silently 5, Tumble 5|Improved Trip(B)|Bonus Feat(Improved Trip), Evasion

4th|Swordsage 1|
+1
|
+3
|
+5
|
+5
|Concentration 6, Hide 6, Jump 3, Move Silently 6, Tumble 6|Darkstalker, Weapon Focus(Setting Sun)(B)|Quick to Act +1, Discipline Focus(Weapon Focus - Setting Sun)

5th|Swordsage 2|
+2
|
+3
|
+6
|
+6
|Concentration 7, Hide 7, Jump 6, Move Silently 7, Tumble 7| |AC Bonus

6th|Swordsage 3|
+3
|
+4
|
+6
|
+6
|Concentration 8, Hide 8, Jump 8, Martial Lore 1, Move Silently 8, Tumble 8| |

7th|Shadow Sun Ninja 1|
+3
|
+6
|
+8
|
+8
|Concentration 9, Hide 9, Jump 9, Move Silently 9, Tumble 9|Blind-Fight|Monk Abilities, Touch of the Shadow Sun

8th|Shadow Sun Ninja 2|
+4
|
+7
|
+9
|
+9
|Concentration 10, Hide 10, Jump 10, Move Silently 10, Tumble 10| |Flame of the Shadow Sun

9th|Shadow Sun Ninja 3|
+5
|
+7
|
+9
|
+9
|Concentration 11, Hide 11, Martial Lore 2, Move Silently 11, Tumble 11| |

10th|Shadow Sun Ninja 4|
+6
|
+8
|
+10
|
+10
|Concentration 12, Hide 12, Martial Lore 3, Move Silently 12, Tumble 12|Improved Initiative|Light within Darkness

11th|Shadow Sun Ninja 5|
+6
|
+8
|
+10
|
+10
|Concentration 13, Hide 13, Martial Lore 4, Move Silently 13, Tumble 13| |Darkness within Light

12th|Shadow Sun Ninja 6|
+7
|
+9
|
+11
|
+11
|Concentration 14, Hide 14, Martial Lore 5, Move Silently 14, Tumble 14| |

13th|Shadow Sun Ninja 7|
+8
|
+9
|
+11
|
+11
|Concentration 15, Hide 15, Martial Lore 6, Move Silently 15, Tumble 15|Adaptive Style|Void of the Shadow Sun Ninja

14th|Shadow Sun Ninja 8|
+9
|
+10
|
+12
|
+12
|Concentration 16, Hide 16, Martial Lore 7, Move Silently 16, Tumble 16| |Child of shadow and light

15th|Shadow Sun Ninja 9|
+9
|
+10
|
+12
|
+12
|Concentration 17, Hide 17, Martial Lore 8, Move Silently 17, Tumble 17| |

16th|Shadow Sun Ninja 10|
+10
|
+11
|
+13
|
+13
|Concentration 18, Hide 18, Martial Lore 9, Move Silently 18, Tumble 18|Stunning Fist|Balance of light and dark

17th|Master of Nine 1|
+10
|
+11
|
+13
|
+15
|Concentration 19, Hide 19, Martial Lore 11, Move Silently (19), Tumble 19| |

18th|Master of Nine 2|
+11
|
+11
|
+13
|
+16
|Concentration 20, Hide 20, Martial Lore 13, Move Silently (20), Tumble 20| |Dual Stance

19th|Master of Nine 3|
+12
|
+12
|
+14
|
+16
|Concentration 21, Hide 21, Martial Lore 15, Move Silently (21), Tumble 21|Superior Unarmed Strike|Perfect Form

20th|Master of Nine 4|
+13
|
+12
|
+14
|
+17
|Concentration 22, Hide 22, Martial Lore 17, Move Silently (22), Tumble 22| |Counter Stance[/table]


The Stats
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Starting Ability Scores:
Str - 14
Dex - 16
Con - 14
Int - 12
Wis - 14
Cha - 8

Final Ability Scores:
Str - 14
Dex - 17 (+1 at 20th)
Con - 14
Int - 12
Wis - 18 (+4 from levels - 4, 8, 12, 16)
Cha - 8


The Techniques
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Maneuvers
{table=head]Level|Maneuvers Known|Maneuvers Readied|Stances Known

1st|-|-|-

2nd|-|-|-

3rd|-|-|-

4th|6|4|1

5th|7|4|2

6th|8|5|2

7th|9|5|2

8th|9|5|2

9th|10|5|2

10th|10|5|2

11th|10|6|3

12th|11|6|3

13th|11|6|3

14th|11|6|3

15th|12|6|3

16th|12|7|3

17th|14|8|3

18th|15|9|4

19th|17|10|4

20th|18|11|5[/table]

Maneuvers/Stances Known:
1st
Crusader's Strike(Devoted Spirit), Moment of Perfect Mind(Diamond Mind), Counter Charge(Setting Sun), Mighty Throw(Setting Sun), Clinging Shadow Strike(Shadow Hand), Shadow Blade Technique(Shadow Hand), Stone Bones(Stone Dragon), Island of Blades Stance(Shadow Hand), Hunter's Sense Stance(Tiger Claw)

2nd
Action Before Thought(Diamond Mind), Mountain Hammer(Stone Dragon)

3rd
Revitalizing Strike(Devoted Spirit), Devastating Throw(Setting Sun), Assassin's Stance(Shadow Hand)

4th
Obscuring Shadow Veil(Shadow Hand)

5th
Soaring Throw(Setting Sun)

6th
Rallying Strike(Devoted Spirit), Ballista Throw(Setting Sun)

7th

8th
Immortal Fortitude Stance(Devoted Spirit), Ghostly Defense Stance(Setting Sun)

9th
Strike of Righteous Vitality(Devoted Spirit), Tornado Throw(Setting Sun), Five-Shadow Creeping Ice Enervation Strike(Shadow Hand)



The Critiques
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Level 5

First off, I want to take a moment to discuss how I interpret the interaction between Dvati and the initiation and recovery of maneuvers. I've covered some alternate takes in the Adaptation section below, in case the judges disagree with my inerpretation.

My interpretation:
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Here are the relevant rules quoted from the Dvati entry:
Quote Originally Posted by Dragon Compendium
A dvati character is actually two separate dvati twins who share a soul. These two creatures move and act separately but have a number of restrictions based on their connection.

When a dvati casts a spell, both members of the pair must focus and concentrate on it. Both twins must simultaneously take the actions required to cast a spell, although only one must supply material components. One twin cannot cast a spell while the other attacks, for example. A lone dvati can cast spells if his twin takes no actions while he casts. Any other sort of action, including a free one, makes it impossible for the casting twin to focus and use his spell. If the dvati tries to use a spell anyway, his casting attempt is ruined and the spell is lost.
And here is my interpretation:
  • Dvati appear to have their own separate action pools, but have a special restriction when it comes to casting spells. Specifically, one twin has to do nothing while the other casts. So the question is, how does this racial quirk affect Spell-like abilities, Supernatural abilities, initiating Maneuvers, and recovering Maneuvers? You can read some of the designer's thoughts on the Dvati action pool here, although that doesn't address this point specifically.
  • The glossary definition for Spell-like abilities specifies that they function just like casting a spell. So it seems reasonably clear that the Dvati limitation applies to Spell-like abilities. For this dish, I have assumed that the Dvati limitation does apply to Spell-like abilities.
  • The glossary definition for Supernatural abilities doesn't include language comparing them to spells, so I'm interpreting this to mean the use of (Su) abilities is not subject to the Dvati limitation. For this dish, I have assumed that the Dvati limitation does not apply to (Su) abilities.
  • On page 38 of the Tome of Battle, it states: "The process of initiating a maneuver is similar to that of casting a spell or manifesting a psionic power, although there are some key differences." It goes on to state: "Unlike with spells or psionic powers, you need not concentrate to initiate a maneuver or stance." It goes on to specify that you don't lose the maneuver when injured or disrupted, and that you don't provoke an attack of opportunity when initiating a maneuver. Taken together, all of this reads very much like using a (Su) ability, rather than a spell or spell-like ability. Given that Dvati are two bodies with one mind, and coupled with the statement that you do not need to concentrate to initiate a maneuver, it seems safe (albeit powerful) to assume that the Dvati limitation does not apply to initiating maneuvers. For this dish, I have assumed that the Dvati limitation does not apply to initiating maneuvers or stances. After all, that +1 LA has to come in somewhere, doesn't it?
  • Oddly enough, because of the phrasing for Swordsage maneuver recovery and the fact that a Dvati is one character with two bodies, it seems to imply that the Dvati limitation applies to Swordsage maneuver recovery. This is the point I'm the most unclear on, and for the purposes of this entry, I have assumed that the Dvati limitation does apply to recovering maneuvers.


We start early in Dusk & Dawn's career, where they are a nice even mix of Monk and Swordsage. They work well as flanking partners thanks to the Dvati racial traits. They've got great defenses thanks to their good saves, solid AC, and maneuvers. They've got the will and reflex save boosting maneuvers to prevent complete shutdown from will save spells, and damage from reflex save spells (and evasion to come through squeaky clean!). The Stone Bones maneuver really helps out with their lower than average hitpoints, and Dodge, Combat Expertise, Counter Charge, and Clinging Shadow Strike layer on some extra defenses. The Island of Blades stance helps guarantee they get their great racial flanking bonus, and Hunter's Sense is a good utility stance. Dusk & Dawn function as solid sneaks out of combat with Darkstalker and good sneak skills, and in combat they function as good skirmishers (which is a role they will carry forward through this build). They've got some battlefield control ability with a solid Dex score, Mighty Throw, and Improved Trip (all of which mean that it is likely that Dusk & Dawn can hurl opponents about with ease (+9 or higher on opposed trip attempts with Mighty Throw), especially if the Aid Another action is allowed on the trip attempt, as Dvati grant their twin +4 from a successful Aid Another check). Note: Because passive way grants Combat Expertise and Improved Trip as monk bonus feats, and because the Monk entry states that the monk gains their bonus feats even if they don't meet their pre-requisites, Dusk & Dawn are good to go with Combat Expertise and Improved Trip even though they don't have Int 13. They've also got Weapon Focus with any Setting Sun weapon (like Unarmed Strike) to help them land their strikes.

Level 10

Dusk & Dawn have gotten a taste for the Secret Ingredient, and it is good. By this point, a couple of the SI's very nice abilities are available, Touch of the Shadow Sun, and Light within Darkness. Touch of the Shadow Sun provides some nice added damage, and allows Dusk or Dawn to heal on the round after it is used, which helps mitigate their lower than average HP. The real winner here is Light within Darkness. If both Dusk & Dawn start an encounter hidden, one can pop out and blind the opponents. The next round, the revealed twin and hide while the foes are blinded, and the second twin can pop out and blind them again. Dusk & Dawn can repeat this strobe light disco action as long as they continue to blind at least one opponent. This tactic plays nicely into their skirmishing role, and they can continue to exercise some limited battlefield control with Might Throw, Devastating Throw, and Improved Trip. Mountain Hammer gives them a handy way to punch (literally!) through DR, and Obscuring Shadow Veil can give them the needed concealment to hide from an enemy that didn't get blinded by Light within Darkness. The enhanced monk abilities granted by the SI also begin paying off a nicely, granting Dusk & Dawn 1d8 Unarmed Strike Damage, +1 unarmored AC, +20ft unarmored speed, and a reduced flurry penalty of -1. Lastly, Dusk & Dawn have the rather under-used Blind-Fight feat. While this feat loses some of it's limited potency when the twins pick up Darkness within Light next level, it is still useful against non-blinded opponents, fits thematically, and is required for the last ingredient in this dish.

Level 16

Dusk & Dawn now have the full flavor of the SI. Darkness within Light enhances the already effective tactic that Dusk & Dawn use Light within Darkness for, meaning that the twin that is striking the blinded target can get a little boost in accuracy and damage essentially for free (closing your eyes is a free action). Void of the Shadow Sun Ninja and Child of Shadow and Light function exactly as written and are minor area damage and battlefield control abilities, except that Dusk & Dawn can both use them, thereby covering twice the area and affecting more of the battlefield. The minor boost to AC from Void of the Shadow Sun Ninja is particularly nice for Dusk & Dawn, assuming they both haven't managed to pick up a Ring of Protection +2 or better by this point in their career. If nothing else, it allows them to save their cash for other more necessary items. Balance of Light and Dark is an awesomely potent ability, and it is just a bit better for Dusk & Dawn. While one of them is using Balance of Light and Dark, the other can use Touch of the Shadow Sun to alternately heal themself and the one in Darkness Form (because the twin in Darkness Form is healed by negative energy). The increased monk abilities are again useful here, as it means that Dusk & Dawn gain a +2 unarmored AC bonus, 2d6 Unarmed Damage, and +40ft unarmored speed, and no penalty on flurry attacks. Additionally, as Dusk & Dawn pick up Stunning Fist at this level, they now have several uses to burn (12, to be exact).

Dusk & Dawn have also picked up some increased versatility with the Adaptive Style feat, which lets them switch out readied maneuvers with a full round action, rather than 5 minutes of meditation.

As far as maneuver's and stances, Dusk & Dawn have picked up some excellent ones. Assassin's Stance came in at 11th level, which gives the twins a nice boost in damage that is almost always on. Soaring Throw and Ballista Throw help Dusk & Dawn really lay down some damage and control a few foes on the battle field. When coupled with one twin throwing an enemy into a line position with another enemey, Ballista Throw can reliably drop it's damage on three foes at once.

This level really would be the "Sweet Spot" of the build, if it weren't for...

Level 20 "Sweet Spot"

Wow, Master of Nine really enhances the power of Dusk & Dawn. Coupled with the abilities from Shadow Sun Ninja, some of the benefits of this prestige class are supercharged. First and foremost, Dual Stance really shines, especially with Child of Shadow and Light (which requires you to forgoe the benefit of a stance to gain it's benefit). Now you can do both! The amount of time you can keep this ability is limited to 8 rounds a day, but there are some terrific combos to be had here. For example, Assassin's Stance coupled with Island of Blades let's Dusk & Dawn get their sneak attack damage in from any squares adjacent to a given enemy. Ghostly Defense coupled with Immortal Fortitude let's you survive the nastiest damage if it sneaks through any miss chance you might have, or redirect it to another foe within reach if it doesn't. Perfect Form enhances the DC on your Shadow Hand maneuvers, and Counter Stance let's you jump into a needed stance whenever you use Counter Charge, Moment of Perfect Mind, or Action Before Thought to shut down an incoming attack. And the extra maneuvers and stances this opens up are the perfect frosting on this cake.

The big wins here are the ability to pick up the capstone maneuvers for both of the SI's favored schools, Setting Sun and Shadow Hand. Five-Shadow Creeping Ice Enervation Strike is a potent finisher, further enhanced by Perfect Form. Tornado Throw is the big winner though, with the enhanced monk abilities from the SI granting a huge speed boost (+40ft), allowing for potentially 4 additional throws than would normally be available. Ghostly Defense is the capstone Setting Sun stance, and for good reason. When coupled with attacks from hiding, opponents blinded by Light within Darkness, or the two Shadow Hand maneuvers that Dusk & Dawn have that grant a miss chance, this stance lets you put your foes to work for you in the battle, assuming there are multiple foes.

The last selection of maneuvers really help to offset the lower than average hitpoints that Dvati suffer from. At the end of the day, despite all the defenses they have in place, all the terrific saves and save enhancers(evasion and the save boosting maneuvers) they have, Dusk & Dawn are going to take damage. Even though they've got some great healing from the SI, the addition of Crusader's Strike, Revitalizing Strike, Rallying Strike, and Strike of Righteous Vitality just made them a very useful addition to any team (and to each other). Now they've got some added versatility as backup in-combat healers. The last big ticket item here is Immortal Fortitude, which is an amazing stance, and all but eliminates the fragility of these Dvati twins.

The final addition to this topping is Superior Unarmed Strike, which further enhances Dusk & Dawn's unarmed damage. This feat can be swapped out for another, if necessary, and I've provided some suggestions in my Adaptations section below.


The Adaptations
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First off, the Superior Unarmed Strike feat can be swapped out for Martial Study to pick up Mind Over Body, virtually guaranteeing that Dusk & Dawn won't fail the saving throw from Immortal Fortitude. It could also be swapped out for Pebble Underfoot (Dragon Compendium) to make throwing larger targets a possibility, or Ring the Golden Bell (Dragon Compendium) to allow for shenanigans with ranged stunning fist attacks and the like.

As far as items are concerned, it's obvious that cash will be tight with any Dvati character (as most gear must be purchased twice), but not needing to pick up armor is a nice savings. Beyond the usual stat boosters (Dex, Con, and Wis being the most desired), Dusk & Dawn are going to want to pick up amulets to boost their unarmed strikes, and will almost certainly want cloaks of displacement (just the basic 20% miss chance will do) so that Ghostly Defense can be constantly active and effective. Monk's Belts would also be a terrific investment here. Depending on how one interprets the Dvati action limitation, Belts of Battle may be necessary to keep the power level up.

Now for the elephant in the room. What if my interpretation for how the Dvati action limitation isn't kosher?

There are a few different ways I could see this going:
  • The full nerfing. A DM could decide that initiating maneuvers and using (Su) abilities are both subject to the Dvati limitation. This obviously puts the hurt on power here, but surprisingly it doesn't limit versatility all that much. Under this interpretation, the non-initiating Dvati twin is mostly relegated to a flanking buddy, and a "forward spotter", positioning themself in order to launch a maneuver or (Su) ability. Under this interpretation, both twins should still be able to have stances active, they just wouldn't be able to activate them on the same round. Dusk & Dawn's main tactic of using Light within Darkness would remain intact.
  • The partial nerfing. A DM could decide that only initiating standard action maneuvers or using standard action (Su) abilities are subject to the Dvati limitation. This still cuts back on power, but not as badly as above, and leaves many of Dusk & Dawn's tactics intact.
  • The Full Monty. This would be any interpretation that provides greater flexibility than the one I've already assumed for this dish. Allowing Dusk & Dawn to share the SI's (Su) effects (making Flame of the Shadow Sun a much more usable ability), or allowing one twin to recover maneuvers as a full-round action while the other does as they please would all lead to amped up power and versatility.



The Sources For Real Ultimate Power!
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Dragon Compendium (Dvati)
Tome of Battle (Adaptive Style, Superior Unarmed Strike, Shadow Sun Ninja, Master of Nine, Swordsage, Maneuvers)
SRD (Monk, Feats)
Unearthed Arcana (Passive Way Monk variant)
Lords of Madness (Darkstalker)