Spoiler: NoteThis was originally posted as an entry in Base Class Challenge XIII: On a Whim…and, um... won the challenge. Woot!
"By Winter's frost and Summer's heat, by the decay of Autumn and the rebirth of Spring, I pledge my life to defend this land. May the Moon fall and Sun go black before I fail in my duty!"
From Summer to Autumn, Winter to Spring, the Cycle turns endlessly, day after day and year after year. A Cycle Warden is a warrior attuned to this circular progression, who taps into the fundamental natural forces and mystical energies of the Cycle in a profound way.
Adventures: A Cycle Warden's reasons for adventuring are as varied as the seasons. However, almost every Cycle Warden spends some time adventuring due to wanderlust, wanting to be away from civilization among the wilderness.
Characteristics: As a Cycle Warden, you are primarily a melee combatant. However, your abilities reward mid-combat tactics and planning, as you can tune the particular benefits you gain by the actions you take.
Alignment: As the seasons change, so does a Cycle Warden's personality. However, the Cycle orbits a center of dynamic stability and balance, and as such there is a measure of neutrality in every Cycle Warden's philosophy.
Religion: Like a druid or ranger, a Cycle Warden reveres nature above the devotion to a particular deity. Some feel strong connections to divine patrons of the natural world, such as Ehlonna or Obad-Hai, but most are more nonspecific in their faith.
Background: Some Cycle Wardens begin as warriors associated to a particular druidic order; others work with rangers to protect and explore the natural world. Some, particularly those of races who traditionally work closely with nature, such as elves and halflings, simply feel drawn to the Cycle and its contemplation.
Cycle Wardens most often come from small towns or enclaves embedded in the wilderness, mining villages perched on the slopes of forbidding mountains, or other communities with strong ties to nature and exposure to the Cycle. However, even in big cities and metropolitan areas, there are those who feel the pull of the seasons more strongly than their peers.
Races: Those with bonds to nature are most likely to become Cycle Wardens. Elves, halflings, humans, and half-elves in particular can find the Cycle compelling. Those races that live underground, sheltered from the seasons (dwarves, some gnomes, goblins), are very unlikely to become Cycle Wardens.
Other Classes: Cycle Wardens have few negative relations with other classes, as the Cycle is difficult to disrupt and few classes are actively against nature. On the other hand, druids, rangers, and other classes focused on the mystic primal energy of nature often get along with Cycle Wardens very well, though they will sometimes find Cycle Wardens' fickle and ever-changing nature somewhat baffling.
Role: Cycle Wardens are primarily melee characters; however, rather than being forced to simply deal damage, they have a large number of abilities which either grant them a measure of battlefield control, or allow them to debuff their enemies significantly. Their tunable defensive and offensive abilities make Cycle Wardens extremely versatile and skilled combatants.
Adaptation: As long as there are seasons in a particular campaign's climate, Cycle Warden as a class could theoretically replace the ranger in the normal array of character archetypes. However, the two are sufficiently dissimilar in abilities and theme that they could easily coexist (similar to the overlapping concept space of Wizard and Sorcerer).
In campaigns which take place primarily underground, a Cycle Warden could be tied to the life cycle of a glow-worm or mushroom which is used to keep time. Other cyclical progressions which a Cycle Warden could be associated with include the slow wheel of the constellations through the sky, the changing tides, or waxing and waning phases of the moon.
GAME RULE INFORMATION
Cycle Wardens have the following game statistics.
Abilities: As a melee class, a cycle warden relies on her Strength and Constitution scores. Wisdom is also of secondary importance.
Alignment: Any neutral. Though seasons change, the core of balance and renewal remains constant.
Hit Die: d8
Starting Age: As ranger.
Starting Gold: As ranger.
The Cycle Warden's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (geography, nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Martial Lore (Int), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), and Use Rope (Dex).
Skill Points at First Level: (4 + Int modifier) x 4
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int modifier
1st |+1|+2|+2|+0|Changing seasons|5|3|1
2nd |+2|+3|+3|+0|Epoch 1|5|3|2
3rd |+3|+3|+3|+1|Eternal gift +2|6|3|2
4th |+4|+4|+4|+1|Rise and fall|6|3|2
6th |+6/+1|+5|+5|+2|Skill mastery|7|4|3
7th |+7/+2|+5|+5|+2|Wax and wane|8|4|3
8th |+8/+3|+6|+6|+2|Eternal gift +4|8|4|3
9th |+9/+4|+6|+6|+3|Second epoch|9|4|4
10th|+10/+5|+7|+7|+3|Bloom and wither|9|4|4
11th|+11/+6/+1|+7|+7|+3|Call of the cycle|10|5|4
13th|+13/+8/+3|+8|+8|+4|Eternal gift +6|11|5|4
14th|+14/+9/+4|+9|+9|+4|Improved rise and fall|11|5|4
17th|+17/+12/+7/+2|+10|+10|+5|Improved wax and wane|13|6|5
18th|+18/+13/+8/+3|+11|+11|+6|Eternal gift +8|13|6|5
20th|+20/+15/+10/+5|+12|+12|+6|Improved bloom and wither, verdigris|14|7|6[/table]
All of the following are class features of the Cycle Warden.
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: A cycle warden is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor, and shields. Though there is no specific restriction, most cycle wardens prefer wooden equipment to that made of metal.
Maneuvers: A cycle warden begins her career with knowledge of five martial maneuvers. She learns two maneuvers from the Solstice discipline, two from the Equinox discipline, and one maneuver from the Revolution discipline. Once she knows a maneuver, a cycle warden must ready it before she can use it (see Maneuvers Readied, below). A maneuver usable by cycle wardens is considered a supernatural ability unless otherwise noted in its description. A cycle warden's maneuvers are not affected by spell resistance, and she does not provoke attacks of opportunity when she initiates one.
A cycle warden learns additional maneuvers at higher levels, as shown on the above table. She must meet a maneuver’s prerequisite to learn it. The highest-level maneuvers she can learn are based on her initiator level, as normal. Upon reaching 4th level, and at every even-numbered cycle warden level after that (6th, 8th, 10th, and so on), a cycle warden can choose to learn a new maneuver in place of one she already knows. In effect, she loses the old maneuver in exchange for the new one. She can choose a new maneuver of any level she likes, as long as she meets the prerequisites and observes her restriction on the highest-level maneuvers she can learn; she need not replace the old maneuver with a maneuver of the same level.
Maneuvers readied: A cycle warden can ready three of her five maneuvers per encounter at level 1, and as she advances in level and learns more maneuvers, she must choose which maneuvers to ready. A cycle warden readies maneuvers by meditating and practicing for 5 minutes; once readied, the maneuvers remain so until she spends 5 minutes to ready new ones. A cycle warden begins an encounter with all her maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times she might have already used them since she readied them. When she initiates a maneuver, she expends it for the current encounter, so each of her maneuvers can be used once per encounter unless she recovers them. Whenever the cycle warden initiates a maneuver from the Solstice or Equinox disciplines, she may recover a single expended Revolution maneuver, and whenever she initiates a Revolution maneuver, she may recover a single expended Solstice or Equinox maneuver. A cycle warden can recover a maximum of 1 manuever per round this way, and she cannot initiate a maneuver in the same round she recovers it; nor can she recover an expended maneuver in the same round she initiates it.
Stances known: A cycle warden begins play with knowledge of one 1st-level stance from any discipline open to her. At 2nd, 5th, 9th, 15th, and 20th level, she can choose additional stances. Unlike maneuvers, stances are not expended, and she does not have to ready them. All the stances she knows are available to her at all times, and she can change the stance she currently uses as a swift action. A stance is an extraordinary ability unless otherwise stated in the stance description. Unlike with maneuvers, a cycle warden cannot learn a new stance at higher levels in place of one she already knows.
Changing seasons (Ex): The connection between a cycle warden and the Cycle itself is both fundamental and profound. The cycle warden's fighting techniques, defenses, and even her physical appearance reflect the changing Cycle and her place within it. To represent this give and take, a cycle warden has two sets of Season Ratings, one for the Solstice axis (a Summer rating and a Winter rating), and one for the Equinox axis (an Autumn rating and a Spring rating). The total rating for each of Equinox and Solstice is always 4 (for example, a cycle warden could have a Winter rating of 3 and a Summer rating of 1, as well as an Autumn rating of 0 and a Spring rating of 4).
At any given time, a cycle warden is associated with either the Equinox or Solstice axis, but not both; any time the cycle warden initiates a maneuver from the Revolution discipline, the axis she is associated with changes, and her appearance and abilities alter accordingly. Each time a cycle warden initiates an Equinox or Solstice maneuver, her rating for the season associated with that maneuver increases, and her rating for the opposing season decreases (for example, a cycle warden with Winter 3 and Summer 1 who initiated a Summer maneuver would then have Winter 2 and Summer 2).
A number of the cycle warden's class features are determined by her current axis and season ratings, as described below. In addition, a cycle warden gains an insight bonus to damage rolls with maneuvers equal to the rating of the appropriate season whenever she is associated with that axis (i.e., a cycle warden associated with Equinox with ratings of Autumn 1 and Spring 3 would gain a +1 bonus to damage rolls with Autumn maneuvers and a +3 bonus to damage rolls with Spring maneuvers). Finally, as a cycle warden's season ratings and associated axis change, so does her physical appearance. Her skin, eye, and hair color reflect the seasons to which she is attuned most strongly. An autumn cycle warden is a study in oranges and reds; spring brings hues of light green and brown; a summer cycle warden displays dark green and gold; and winter dusts the cycle warden in white, silver, and black. A cycle warden who has equal ratings in both seasons she is associated with shows a mix of colors between the two. Additionally, any equipment made of plant material that the cycle warden is wielding or wearing (including wooden armor, shields, or weapons, and linen or cotton clothing) changes appropriately as well.
Epoch (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, a cycle warden can choose a particular season to which she can attune more strongly, called an Epoch. The cycle warden chooses one season to be her Epoch at the beginning of each day; she may not choose the same season two days in a row. A cycle warden's maximum and minimum rating for her Epoch increases by 1 (becoming a range of 1 to 5; the other season on the same axis is still limited to the range of 0 to 4 for its ratings). For example, a cycle warden with the Spring Epoch could have a Spring rating of 5, at which point her Autumn rating would be 0. At 16th level, the maximum and minimum rating of her Epoch increases by an additional 1 (becoming a range of 2 to 6); if she is attuned to two Epochs with her Second Epoch ability (see below), both Epochs gain the increase.
Eternal gift (Ex): Upon reaching 3rd level, a cycle warden understands how the Cycle's constant change affects the world around her. She gains a +2 insight bonus to Wisdom-based skill checks, which increase by +2 at 8th level and every 5 levels after.
Rise and fall (Su): At 4th level, a cycle warden's ties to the Cycle begin to show more strongly. Whenever she is associated with the Equinox axis, she gains resistance to Acid and Electricity equal to 5 times her Autumn and Spring ratings, respectively. When the cycle warden is associated with the Solstice axis, she gains resistance to Fire and Cold equal to 5 times her Summer and Winter ratings, respectively.
Renewal (Ex): A cycle warden learns to reinvent herself, growing anew from the remains of what she was before. Whenever a cycle warden of 5th level or higher switches into an Equinox or Solstice stance, she may ready one maneuver she knows from the same discipline as her new stance in place of any readied and unexpended maneuver.
Skill mastery (Ex): Beginning at 6th level, a cycle warden can draw on the Cycle to provide focus in otherwise trying times. She can take 10 on Wisdom-based skill checks even if stress and distractions would normally prevent her from doing so.
Wax and wane (Su): Starting at 7th level, a cycle warden's connection to the Cycle strengthens once again. Whenever she is associated with the Equinox axis, she gains an enhancement bonus to Wisdom and Constitution equal to her Autumn and Spring ratings, respectively. When the cycle warden is associated with the Solstice axis, she gains an enhancement bonus to Dexterity and Strength equal to her Summer and Winter ratings, respectively.
Second epoch (Ex): Upon reaching at 9th level, a cycle warden can attune to two Epochs simultaneously, one for each axis, at the beginning of each day. She still may not attune to the same season on consecutive days.
Bloom and wither (Su): At 10th level, a cycle warden manifests the next aspect of her connection to the Cycle. Whenever she is associated with the Equinox axis, she gains fast healing equal to her Spring rating, and an insight bonus to Initiative checks equal to her Autumn rating. When the cycle warden is associated with the Solstice axis, she gains an insight bonus on Fortitude saves equal to her Winter rating, and any creature that attacks her with a natural weapon or non-reach melee weapon takes 1d8 fire damage times her Summer rating.
Call of the Cycle (Su): Beginning at 11th level, a cycle warden can draw upon her connection to the Cycle to grant her incredible resiliency for a short period of time. A number of times per day equal to her Wisdom modifier, a cycle warden can gain the Plant type (with all associated immunities) as a swift action on her turn. She retains the benefit for 1 round per class level.
Improved renewal (Ex): At 12th level, a cycle warden learns that change need not be slow. Whenever she uses her Renewal ability, she may exchange an additional readied and unexpended maneuver for a readied maneuver from the other season associated with that discipline. For example, a cycle warden switching into an Equinox stance could exchange two readied and unexpended maneuvers to ready one Autumn maneuver and one Spring maneuver.
Improved rise and fall: The energy resistance granted to a cycle warden of 14th level or higher by her Rise and Fall ability increases to 10 times the appropriate season rating.
Cyclic knowledge (Su): Beginning at 15th level, a cycle warden can meditate on the Cycle itself and the knowledge contained within, sensory experience of the world around her. By spending 10 minutes in concentration, she may use commune with nature as a supernatural ability once per day per 5 class levels, with a caster level equal to her class level.
Improved wax and wane: At 17 level, the enhancement bonus to ability scores granted by a cycle warden's Wax and Wane ability increases to twice the appropriate season rating (to a maximum of +8).
Greater renewal (Ex): Upon reaching 19th level, a cycle warden can alter her techniques with barely a thought. Whenever she makes use of her Improved Renewal ability, the cycle warden may exchange a third readied maneuver, readying a Revolution maneuver in addition to the two seasonal maneuvers.
Improved bloom and wither (Su): A 20th level cycle warden gains increased benefit from her Bloom and Wither ability. Whenever she is associated with the Equinox axis, her fast healing becomes equal to twice her Spring rating, her bonus to Initiative increases to twice her Autumn rating, and she additionally gains an insight bonus to Reflex saves equal to twice her Autumn rating. When the cycle warden is associated with the Solstice axis, her bonus on Fortitude saves increases to twice her Winter rating, she gains an insight bonus to Will saves equal to twice her Winter rating, and the damage dealt by her Summer aura increases to 3d8 fire damage times her Summer rating.
Verdigris (Su): At 20th level, a cycle warden's connection to the Cycle is complete. She permanently gains the Plant type (as per her Call of the Cycle ability), but still counts as her original type whenever it would be beneficial to her.