He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Quote Originally Posted by The Damned[COLOR="DeepSkyBlue"
The Damned of the Crab[/COLOR]
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The Barracks of the Damned are an unforgiving place, foreboding even for those sturdy Samurai and Ashigaru who defend the Kaiu Wall against the horrors of the Shadowlands. The barracks contains those who risked everything, and lost their minds and bodies to the darkness of Fu Leng; it is a monument to remind those to protect themselves and their comrades against the threat that risks embracing Rokugan should they fail in their task.

The Damned themselves are formed up into, what some might say, elite, battle unit, under the auspices of the Kuni Laboratory overseers and witch hunters; their research into the Jade and the taint following the Kuni land’s desolation at the hands of the Shadowlands Creatures lead to their obvious inclusion in the project. They rigorously tested those who were succumbing to the constant exposure of the Shadowlands Taint with the greatest of prejudice; those who showed any signs of being already “Lost” were given the final mercy of the Crab; a Tetsubo to the cranium.

Those who passed, however, were given to the Barracks; there they would be used as a Forlorn Hope, those would charge out into battle at the vanguard of the army, in an attempt to slay the marshalling forces of the Shadowlands; an amalgam of crack infantry who fight to the death knowing that should they live, they may live only one more day should they become Lost, and battlefield assassins.

Among those is one who is ranked above all else. He has no name; he did once, but that was burned on the pyre that he himself should have died on. That he survived his final battle is a story that no child would want to hear; his wounds were grievous, and infected so badly not even the touch of jade could save him. He had reverted to his bestial nature, hunting and scavenging the Shadowlands while the mutagens that envenomed his blood slowly warped him. Eventually, lucidity broke through, something unheard of, and he found himself at the Kaiu Wall, reporting for a duty that had long been considered over.

There are no ranks within the Damned; there is only those affected by the taint, and those who don’t; those who don’t are the overseers. In command of the overseers was Kuni Rihito, a grim Shugenja who saw himself purely as a murderer for the orders he gave to the Damned. It was he himself who checked the nameless, something he had not done for many a year, deliberating for 3 moon turns whether he was to killed or not. Whatever stayed his hand, none can be sure, but if ever the tainted were to have a leader, it would be this nameless Samurai; capable of embracing the taint so thoroughly he can reform his very body into a weapon, or sprout immense bat wings and fly above the enemies, hurling shards of razor-sharp bone at them. At other times, he can disappear and reappear in a completely different location, pulling apart opponents with either his claws or his Greatsword.



Making of a Monster
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The Damned of the Crab; Azurin Paladin 5/Totemist 2/Corrupt Avenger 9/Telflammar Shadowlord 4
{table=head]Level|Class|Base Attack Bonus|Fort Save|Ref Save|Will Save|Skills|Feats|Class Features

1st|Paladin 1|
+1
|
+2
|
+0
|
+0
|Hide 2, K. (Planes) 2, Move Silently 2|Midnight Dodge, Mobility|Aura of Good, Detect Evil, Smite Evil 1/day

2nd|Paladin 2|
+2
|
+3
|
+0
|
+0
|Survival 2, Hide 2, K. (Planes) 2, Move Silently 2.5| |Divine Grace, Lay on Hands

3rd|Paladin 3|
+3
|
+3
|
+1
|
+1
|Survival 2, Hide 5, K. (Planes) 2, Move Silently 2.5|Martial Study (Shadow Blade Technique)|Aura of Courage, Divine Health

4th|Paladin 4|
+4
|
+4
|
+1
|
+1
|Survival 2, Hide 5, K. (Planes) 5, Move Silently 2.5|Power Attack|Smite Evil Outsider 1+Cha/day, Holy Warrior

5th|Paladin 5|
+5
|
+4
|
+1
|
+1
|Survival 2, Hide 5, K. (Planes) 6.5, Move Silently 2.5| |Smite Evil 2/day, Charging Smite

6th|Totemist 1|
+5
|
+6
|
+3
|
+1
|Survival 4, Hide 5, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 2.5|Spring Attack, Shape Soulmeld (Astral Vambraces)|Wild Empathy, Moderate Depravity Bonus Feat

7th|Totemist 2|
+6/+1
|
+7
|
+4
|
+1
|Survival 5, Hide 8, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 3|Planar Touchstone (Catalogues of Enlightenment: Hunger)|Totem Chakra Bind (+1 Capacity), Moderate Corruption Bonus Feat

8th|Corrupt Avenger 1|
+7/+2
|
+9
|
+4
|
+1
|Survival 5, Hide 8, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 4.5| |Armoured Casting, Detect Sworn Foe, Sworn Foe +4, Taint Suppression, Tainted Strike 2/day, Lay on Hands

9th|Corrupt Avenger 2|
+8/+3
|
+10
|
+4
|
+1
|Survival 5, Hide 8, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 6|Bonus Essentia|Tainted Strike 3/day

10th|Corrupt Avenger 3|
+9/+4
|
+10
|
+5
|
+2
|Survival 5, Hide 8, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 7.5| |Grim Resolve

11th|Corrupt Avenger 4|
+10/+5
|
+11
|
+5
|
+2
|Survival 5, Hide 8, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 9| |Sworn Foe +6

12th|Corrupt Avenger 5|
+11/+6/+1
|
+11
|
+5
|
+2
|Survival 5, Hide 9, K. (Planes) 8, Move Silently 10|Open Lesser Chakra (Brow), Open Least Chakra (Arms)|Frightful Fury, Severe Corruption Bonus Feat

13th|Corrupt Avenger 6|
+12/+7/+2
|
+12
|
+6
|
+3
|Survival 5, Hide 10, K. (Planes) 9, Move Silently 10| |Tainted Strike 4/day

14th|Corrupt Avenger 7|
+13/+8/+3
|
+12
|
+6
|
+3
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 10, Move Silently 10||Sworn Foe +8

15th|Corrupt Avenger 8|
+14/+9/+4
|
+13
|
+6
|
+3
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 11.5, Move Silently 10|Martial Stance (Assassin’s Stance)|

16th|Corrupt Avenger 9|
+15/+10/+5
|
+13
|
+7
|
+4
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 13, Move Silently 10| |Unnerving Fury

17th|Telflammar Shadowlord 1|
+15/+10/+5
|
+13
|
+9
|
+4
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 14.5, Move Silently 10||Shadowsight, Shadow Jump

18th|Telflammar Shadowlord 2|
+16/+11/+6/+1
|
+13
|
+10
|
+4
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 16, Move Silently 10|Open Greater Chakra (Waist)|Shadow Blur

19th|Telflammar Shadowlord 3|
+17/+12/+7/+2
|
+14
|
+10
|
+5
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 17.5, Move Silently 10||Shadow Walk

20th|Telflammar Shadowlord 4|
+18/+13/+8/+3
|
+14
|
+11
|
+5
|Survival 5, Hide 11, K. (Planes) 19, Move Silently 10|Double Chakra (Totem)|Shadow Pounce, Severe Depravity Bonus Feat[/table]

Ability Scores
Str; 14
Dex; 14
Con; 16 (+3 before 18th)
Int; 12
Wis; 8
Cha; 14 (+2)

Spellcasting
As Spellcasting is not the focus of the build, I have not bothered to include individual break down level by level.

However, I have two spell lists at level 20;

Corrupt Avenger (not including bonus spells for High Corruption); 2x 1st Level, 2x 2nd Level (Darkness, Vampiric Touch), 1x 3rd level (Dispel Magic), 1x 4th level (Evard's Black Tentacles)
Shadowlord; 2x 1st Level (Chill Touch, Darkness), 1x 4th level (either Haste, or Improved Invisibility, both with a +2 Int Item).


Levels 1-5
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I am a Paladin. There is little more to it than that. With a focus on duties guarding the wall against Invasion against the Oni of the Shadowlands (Outsiders, hence K. Planes), I have less need for my Special Mount; my Charging Smite (in conjunction with Smite Evil Outsider) increasing my damage and also making it more efficient to use my Smite should I miss; Martial Study means I am likely to get my attacks in place, while Power Attacks increases my damage to a level where I am capable of dealing damage at a level that can one-shot level appropriate threats. With no other investment of Essentia available, it goes someway to helping me to stay alive, as does Mobility; after all the attacks of level appropriate Shadowlands Oni are more damaging than mine. Divine Health, Lay on Hands, Divine Grace all help me to stay alive during and after the fight.

With an interest into joining the Hiruma Scouts famed for ranging beyond the Kaiu wall, my skills focus on learning their tricks.


Levels 6-10
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Having been accepted into the Hiruma Scouts of the Crab Clan, I went on my first mission, but I was not quick enough to flee; the Oni were stronger the deeper I went into the Shadowlands, and easily overpowered me; the corruption caused the loss of my honour, and my mind broke; whatever Kami were protecting me before had long since fled, and I succumbed to the horrors of corruption. My mind had been broken, but I was inured to pain (Shape Soulmeld; Astral Vambraces). Without the Kami's support, I took to ambush tactics (Spring Attack), but became ever more bestial and brutal, becoming more like the Oni I swore to defeat (Totemist, Hunger Domain's Bite Attack).

However, I eventually broke the spell the corruption had placed on me, and I returned to my duty; but it was not one I was expecting. I couldn't be trusted to serve alongside my former brothers in arms, and was forced to serve with the Damned. It was there that I was taught to tame the corruption, and hide it deep within, despite the pain (Corrupt Avenger, Taint Suppression), and turn the loss of my Honour and the harbored agony of the taint to destroy my foes (Tainted Strike). I dedicated myself to learn the ways of my opponents; using the darkness within to power my ability to hunt them down; Lamia Belt Soulmeld for Bluff, Yrthak Mask for Listen, Manticore Belt for Spot, and Hunters Circlet for Survival (Bonus Essentia). Despite the horrors I had witnessed and commited, my conviction stayed true (Grim Resolve), and should I ever encounter those vile Shadowlands Oni, I erupt in unstoppable violence (Sworn Foe). Even despite the Kami leaving me, I learn to channel the inner corruption into making myself stronger and tougher, (Bear's Endurance, Bull's Strength, False Life, Vampiric Touch, Death Knell),

Note; the Internal Corruption may lower my Constitution Score to a level which makes the Shape Soulmeld abilities (and later versions) unuseable; this can be got around in several ways. 1; by being in tainted lands. As I'm based on the Kaiu Wall, and the Shadowlands are considered tainted, hopping into the Hiruma territory over the border would turn it on for 1d4 days. 2; There are rules for cleansing tainted places; asking for the reverse to occur could conceivably be used to create a tainted location. 3; Although 3rd party, and is hence not to be included (it is simply included for completion), one of my favourite items from the 3rd party AEG book on the Rokugan Setting "Secrets of the Shadowlands" is armour made out of the Oni Chitin special material; which counts as being inside an a tainted area at all times while wearing it.


Levels 11-15
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Continuing my training with the Damned Garrison, I learn how to channel my anger and pain into my fury, scaring my opponents into submission (Frightful Fury), while I can use my corruption ever more readily (Tainted Strike). However, using the taint of the Shadowlands has begun to harm me even more; Severe Corruption is now in effect, causing further harm to myself (-6 to Con), meaning that if I'm to make use of my Tainted abilities (Meldshaping, without items) I need to dip across the Kaiu Wall, regaining that ability.

My combat damage becomes far more powerful with access to Assassins Stance at ECL15; with a Full Attack routine of Sword/Sword/Sword/Claw/Claw/Claw/Bite, I'm generating an additional 14d6 damage each round. However, that does not effectively come online until l can get Shadow Pounce later on, but if I'm in a position to Full Attack, well, use it; Evards Black Tentacle is finally online as well; with a BAB of 16 they're reasonably capable as well.


Levels 16-20
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I only take 9 levels in the SI, as by virtue of my Paladin levels converted, I have gained the same abilities, and taking an additional level would only advance minor abilities and get me an additional 3rd level spellslot. It is at this point that if the DM rules that the Dimension Door ability of the Blink Shirt does not qualify, then he undertakes the Rite to become a Shadow-walker. I also have the Basilisk Mask nearly permanently bound to my Brow for the purposes of gaining Blind Fight bonus feat.

With Unnerving Fury finally helping me debuff my enemies (Character Level based modifier, rather than Intimidate check based), I start to take levels in Telflammar Shadowlord; each ability improves my tactical capabilities; Darkvision, Shadow Blur (Darkness is on my spell-list as a Corrupt Avenger), Shadow Jump and Shadow Walk, finally gaining Shadow Pounce as the builds ultimate capstone; combined with Move Action Dimension Door, Double Totem Chakra for Girallon Arms, and four iterative attacks gaining a fairly punishing full attack routine in conjunction with Assassin's Stance. Haste (from the Shadowlord spell-list) makes it one more. Assuming Greater Invisibility replaces the 3.0 Improved Invisibility spell on its spell-list as well, it ensures Assassin's Stance goes off; all in all, +20d6 damage on a Full Attack.

My other final feat I gain is to open the Waist Chakra; it is at this point that I have the Manticore Belt nearly permanently bound to myself for Fly-by attack (and flight). It is at this point that with all the important bits of Shadowlord catered for, I can choose to retrain the Spring Attack feat line into something more powerful; perhaps additional Incarnum Feats to gain more essentia; so that I can Shadow Pounce and Fly further/faster.


Notes
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Notes on Setting and Qualification
The setting is based on the Rokugan Campaign setting; the Azurin race being those of the Samurai caste (hence the extreme alignments), which utilise their incarnum for feats rather than soulmelds, while Paladin is simply a mechanically superior class for the Samurai. The usage of Forgotten Realms mechanics was an attempt to try and recreate the mechanical differences that the AEG game expansions introduced with their “Secrets of…” series, and is refluffed as such, as are references to Core mechanics (like Planes) which have parallel “differences” (like the Spirit Realms).

For a PaladinSamurai (especially an AzurinNoble) to forego his oath, it must take something big; the Damned experiencing a life threatening injury only to survive yet be infected with that which they intended to give their lives to protect against is just such one of those crisis of faiths, the corruption festering away inside.

The Telflammar Shadowlord requires either the Shadow Walker Template (a +1 Template), or Dimension Door as an SLA. The usage of the Blink Shirt Soulmeld to gain the Dimension Door ability is not strictly RAW, but is appropriate, as the Telflammar’s Shadow Pounce ability still triggers off of the Blink Shirt’s teleport action. Failing that, it is possible to attain the Template, but then to gain the Shadow Pounce ability (the entire point of going for Shadowlord), you must use LA Buy-off. If this is ruled, then the ability scores need to be changed around; I need to take +3 for Constitution during level up, leaving only +2 for Charisma. He should gain the template around the time he takes his first level in the SI.

In addition, it requires me to be from Thesk. If the campaign was set in the Forgotten Realms, then there would be no problem; however, there fluff I’m using is a slightly modified Rokugan campaign setting, replacing Thesk with being from the Crab Clan. This is again, not technically RAW, but fluff is often mutable. This does not seem an unreasonable request to make for a DM.

Please note as well that the Depravity Bonus feats were not included for the build to work; they are not used as a Prerequisite, and are used to thematically show the breaking of the Damneds’ mind (but also with a mechanical benefit); by 20th level, his utter depravity is a complete risk for the Crab, and he must constantly prove himself lest he be too much of a threat, and killed out of hand by his Kuni Overseers. As a consequence the “taint” manifests in the form of more “mutations” – opening up Chakras mechanically. In addition, if the DM enforces the suggestion that Severe Corruption changes you to Evil, then the fluff of the build slightly changes, but also Mandates that I gain it at ECL17 or later.

Items
The build is not reliant on Items. However, those which grant large bonuses to skills are always welcome in this build; particularly with regards to those at which I get sworn foe bonuses against. A Spear of the Hunt (A+EG) gets me the Track feat. Alternatively, a Custom Item of the Open Least Chakra (Brow) from the same book lets me shape the Hunters Circlet for Track, among other things if I need to.
Con is important for gaining bonuses to my Totemist DC’s, while Charisma sets the DC of my Corrupt Avenger spellcasting. Strength is important for additional combat benefits.
It is not a 3.5WotC product, but as much of the game fluff revolves around Rokugan, the use of the Rokugan expansion by AEG for 3.0 allows a far greater number of options. One of my favourite, and most applicable for this character is one mentioned in “Secrets of the Shadowlands”, which has a new material with which to make armour out of called “Oni Chitin”, which counts as the wearer being permanently exposed to Taint as if I was in a corrupted environment; this would allow me to “turn off” the Con penalty from Taint Suppression whenever I’m not in the Shadowlands; hence allowing me to use my “Open Chakra” feats without too much trouble, and without relying on items to keep the abilities “on” (with 3 levels of Corruption, I’m sacrificing 6 Con, reducing me to 13 Con without this item; I need 17 for Open Greater Chakra). Normally, I wouldn’t include a “3rd party” book, but it was too thematically appropriate to not make a mention, particularly as it is from the setting. Yet again, I must reiterate that IT IS NOT IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM integral to the build, and was simply made note of for awareness and introduction to the DM; feel free to not include.
If I’m going to be utilising thrown weapons, then about the only item needed is the Gauntlets of Endless Javelins.
Anything granting additional essentia to invest are helpful; Essentia Rings, Jewels and Helms are invaluable, as are Gloves of Incarnum Theft. On the other hand, Incarnum Focus makes it essentia binds more powerful. Soulstones make it helpful for switching out to a combat ability after a utility "Brow" bind.
Due to the low numbers of spells per day, Pearls of Power would be a massive help; Haste and Greater Invisibility, Vampiric Touch, Black Tentacles etc).

Sources
Magic of Incarnum; Azurin, Totemist, Bonus Essentia, Open Lesser Chakra, Open Greater Chakra
Planar Handbook; Planar Paladin, Planar Touchstone, Catalogues of Enlightenment
PHB2; Charging Smite Paladin ACF
Heroes of Horror; Corrupt Avenger, Taint
Unapproachable East; Telflammar Shadowlord
Tome of Battle; Martial Study, Martial Stance
Astral Vambraces; http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/psm/20060217a
Secrets of the Shadowlands (3rd party book, AEG); Oni Chitin (optional; see items)