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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground LVII

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    Ranger was the low hanging fruit of expected entries here. Given the wide variety of races with Darkvision, I'm going to forgo my usual docking of expected races. While all 15 entries were good, you'll see that several had issues in both Elegance and Use of the Secret Ingredient. Remember, proof-read your entries, double check that you qualify for everything (or at least qualify for the SI), and do something to either enhance each element of the SI, or come up with a use for them that isn't obvious or listed in the SI entry.

    Special Note: Given that this SI has a fluff requirement, I've decided not to give out an automatic 1 to anyone who fails to qualify for the SI based solely on the fluff requirement. I will instead be giving those builds a minor deduction in Elegance.

    My comments aren't meant to be mean, just critical.

    Ryld - 13.5
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    Originality: 4
    Ryld is an interesting build. A former captive of mindflayers who flees into the darkness and learns to survive in the school of hard knocks. A lost soul who finally finds a home. Lesser Tiefling was a nice touch to pick up easy boosts to both Dex and Int. Ranger was very much expected (and Arcane Hunter might as well be a basic class feature of Ranger, with how often it is taken). However, Drow Fighter came as a surprise (even more so when I realized it was an ACF that didn't require you to be a Drow). Scout was a solid alternative to Ranger, and Cavestalker adds some nice synergy. Darkstalker is almost a given, but Fiendish Bloodline and Outsider Wings were definitely neat to see. Given your focus on ranged combat and the SI's propensity for fighting while standing in difficult terrain, your choice of Flyby Attack is odd, but can be situationally useful.

    Power: 3.25
    You state that your primary role is a scout, which needs reasonable stealth, and good abilities to locate threats. You also state that tracking is an important role you fill. In addition to these, you fill a ranged combatant role. So let's take a look at how you manage to wear all these hats.

    First, lets take the scout role. You have excellent stealth capabilities, and fantastic Darkvision range. Your movement options are also good with the addition of flight (which unfortunately generally invalidates your mobility skills like climb and jump). You run into a fairly serious problem, however, when it comes to your detection abilities. You've got a weak Listen score (even with Lesser Cavesense and Alertness), and your Spot isn't top notch either. You're only going to be locating threats that aren't attempting to be stealthy, or are already within 30 ft (from Tremorsense). You put in quite a bit of effort to get long range darkvision, and then don't really do anything with it.

    Second, the tracker role. Your Survival skill is excellent, and you've picked up Track as a bonus feat from Ranger. You are a tracking machine, and can really provide for your party in either a wilderness setting, or underground.

    Lastly, lets talk about your role in combat. You've set yourself up as a ranged character reasonably well. Your skirmish and favored enemy damage (which are both precision damage) sadly won't be of much use to you with Manyshot (you'd need Greater Manyshot to apply precision damage to each arrow), but you can plink away at range. You hit the all important +16 BAB to at least make sure you can get the maximum number of arrows in the air.

    All in all, your power curve is pretty steady, but it's also nothing special. In other words, it's pretty close to a baseline average Darkrunner.

    Elegance: 3.5
    The build is well sourced, and qualifies for almost everything (and yes, I checked - Drow Fighter doesn't require you to be a Drow, and Tiefling Darkvision does not appear to be granted by being an Outsider, so Lesser Planetouched doesn't take it away). I have serious doubts as to whether or not you qualify for the Fiendish Bloodline feat from the Dragon Compendium. I know spell-like abilities can qualify for pre-requisites that require the ability to cast a specific spell, but I'm not sure they count for pre-requisites that require the ability to spontaneously cast spells. That said, the feat gives you no benefit, even if you qualify. Also, it is entirely different than the Fiendish Bloodline feat in Races of Faerun, so this is the case of two different feats with the same name, not an updated feat. You would have been much better off taking the feat in Races of Faerun, as it would have provided you an actual benefit.

    Your entry was easy to read and was nicely laid out, so thanks for that. The build flows reasonably well, with levels taken to avoid multi-classing penalties. The 2 level dips in Drow Figher and Arcane Hunter Ranger make sense in the context of your build. You entered the SI as early as possible (but did so apparently just to splash the first level), but then delay the SI until the end of your build, meaning that for most of your character's lifespan, it's not really a Darkrunner. Picking up Track as a bonus feat from Ranger is nice, and I liked the use of Drow Fighter to trade away feats that you don't use for a bonus that helps you out.

    Barring potential cries of foul with the Fiendish Bloodline and Outsider Wings (some folks might not consider a Lesser Tiefling to be a Tiefling), it's a pretty portable build.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.75
    So, how did you do with the SI? Let's take a look. We'll start with the pre-requisites. You max Survival and Knowledge(Dungeoneering), which is good. You abandon Search, though. You don't really do anything with Alertness (your Listen and Spot aren't well cared for), but picking up Track as a bonus feat was a nice way to qualify without sacrificing much (and you've got the Survival skill to make use of the feat, as well as using it to qualify for Cavestalker).

    So what about the actual class features? You have no listed use for Direction Sense or the Darkrunner Emblem. You barely use Spelunking (for Survival only), as Climb and Jump bonuses are mostly irrelevant to a flier (Escape Artist and Swim would have been handy, but you never take them). You do minorly enhance Climb and Jump with Advanced Spelunker from Cavestalker though. You don't do anything in particular with Aberration Lore. You greatly enhance your natural Darkvision with the addition of Cavestalker, which is further enhanced by the SI. Cavefighting, Tunnelport and Tremorsense are all just there, with no noted use, enhancment, or trick. Lore of the Stones helps you in the tracking role you have set yourself up for. Aberration Specialist gets a slight use via your Arcanist Favored enemy feature, but Aberration Lore suffers. Deepsong, Improved Cavefighting, Greater Tunnelport and Stonewalking all receive no love in your build.

    Ultimately, with the inclusion of Darkstalker and Manyshot, it looks like you tried to build a Cavestalker using mostly Darkrunner. Why wouldn't you just use more Cavestalker and ditch Darkrunner? This just doesn't feel much like a Darkrunner build.


    Richard B. Riddick - 12
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    Originality: 4
    Deep Imaskari? Telflammar Shadowlord? Jaunter? Astral Tracking? Keen Eared Scout? Man, there is a lot to like here. I guess I should have expected a shadow pouncer, but it still caught me by surprise. I've not really fiddled with Deep Imaskari, and they are a neat race. I do like the Jaunter class, and the two feats I mentioned were both new to me (and you use them well). Factotum isn't a surprise, and while Fighter is a bit surprising, it's also very boring. Darkstalker is par for the course for any sneaking build. Using Otherworldly to pick up the racial darkvision requirement was neato-frito. And then you had to go and slap it on a Riddick expy. Oh well, it's still neat.

    Power: 3.75
    So, just what can your Darkrunner do? He can scout and track like a boss, that's what. Keen-eared Scout is nicely used here, as is Astral Tracking (no matter where your prey goes, you can find it!).

    Sadly, for a Riddick expy, he doesn't fight very well. You don't hit the very useful BAB +16, which hurts because you only get 3 attacks per round. So at best you can land 4 attacks with +2d6 Sneak Attack dice. Rather importantly, you can't shadow pounce (see elegance).

    Versatility, however, is yours to command out of combat. You've got excellent skills, a few little boosts from Factotum, and some handy utility spells (and possibly maneuvers, although I don't really know what maneuvers you selected aside from Assassin's Stance). Jaunter gets your mobility really moving.

    Elegance: 1
    If you read the OP, you'll see this bit under the Elegance category:

    Quote Originally Posted by OP
    Use of flaws is an automatic loss of one point per flaw in this category.
    That's part of what happened here. Aside from that, you've got some other issues. First off, you don't technically qualify for the SI due to a lack of fulfilling the fluff requirement. As I stated above, it's a minor deal, so you get a small deduction in Elegance. You also don't qualify for Telflammar Shadowlord. You don't fulfill the Special requirement (either be from Thesk, or have 2 ranks of Knowledge (Local)). Given that you qualifying for Otherworldly negates the possibility that you can qualify for Telflammar Shadowlord via the region option, that leaves 2 ranks of Knowledge(Local), which you never get. You also don't list an alignment, Telflammar Shadowlord must be non-good (but this is relatively minor). Technically, you also never qualify for Jaunter (it requires that you have visited another plane, which I see no evidence of), but that's relatively minor in comparison to the SI and Shadowlord.

    Your build is sourced and layed out well enough. You also enter the SI as early as possible, and not just to splash it. Everything generally flows together well, despite the galring Factotum dip. I like that you avoided multiclass penalties.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 3.25
    You make use of the Alertness feat to qualify for Keen-Eared scout, further enhancing your scouting role (and enhancing your Tremorsense). You are an excellent tracker (especially with Astral Tracker), and utilize all of the entry skills aside from Search (which you don't completely abandon, but it suffers from neglect). Otherworldly is certainly a unique way to qualify for the SI's darkvision requirement, and turning Tunnelport into shadow pouncing is a great way to enhance the SI. Sneak Attack gives you a slight useage for part of Cavefighting (the boost to initiative).

    Unfortunately, you don't have a listed use for any of the other features of the SI, and you even wind up overshadowing some of them. Your teleportation abilities from Jaunter are more useful than Tunnelport, your Shadowsight from Telflammar Shadowlord is better than darkvision, and you don't take the last 3 levels of the SI. This normally wouldn't be a problem if you were picking up the same general things elsewhere (Jaunter gives you abilities better than Greater Tunnelport), but you miss out on Improved Cavefighting (for Int to damage so you can use your Inspiration points on attack rolls instead) and you completely miss out on Stonewalking. Sadly, you don't use much of the SI for anything.

    Also, while Riddick doesn't strike me as a Darkrunner (he's more like one of the things you should be afraid of in the dark), he does spend pretty much the entirety of Pitch Black leading a group of people through the darkness, and fights against gribbly horrors from beyond, so it kinda works.


    Skitters - 15.75
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    Originality: 4
    A plucky little kobold guide who specializes in getting out of the way and hiding is certainly fun. Your inclusion of Tunnel Fighting, Evasive Reflexes, Keen-Eared Scout and Hindering Opportunist is both useful and flavorful. I've never even heard of Prime Underdark Guide, and it works wonderfully here. Kobolds are neat, and you use the race well. Your choice of skill tricks help reinforce the theme and skillset of the build. Ranger was expected, and Darkstalker is practically mandatory on any stealth build.

    I could see a party growing very attached to a Skitters NPC.

    Power: 3.75
    You've got versatility in spades. Skill heavy, the ability to aid your allies, and your ability to evade your foe are all excellent. You are a very good scout and tracker, and have the detection skills to make use of your enhanced darkvision range. Your Move Silently skill suffers a bit, as does your Search skill. Your spellcasting is very limited, but can provide a nice benefit here and there. Corner perch gives you a relatively safe perch to shoot at your foes from, and your other two skill tricks can come in handy. Your support ability is pretty fantastic, and has put Prime Underdark Guide on my short list of prestige classes to remember.

    However, you are not much use in combat. Sure, you can aid another, but when that is among your best options in combat, you are definitely in trouble. You can put out a little bit of damage in ranged combat, which is to say that you are a little above the party wizard shooting his crossbow at enemies. Being able to crawl into a diminutive hole is hilarious, as long as it can't be filled with water.

    Elegance: 4
    Your build is well sourced, and you qualify for everything you take. I particularly appreciate your Class Feature Showcase, it's very helpful. The build flows well through all levels, but you enter the SI as late as possible (and still be able to finish it), so you spend quite a bit of time not being a Darkrunner. This is just a clean, straightforward build, and I can't imagine any DM refusing it. The only other quibble I've got here is your interpretation of how Direction Sense and Underdark Lore interact. Direction Sense is very clear that you must be in your directional focus in order to study it, and that you must study it for 8 hours. To me, that is much more specific than having heard of the place before (or even having been there before).

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 4
    Given that you nicely laid out this information, let's give it an easy rundown. You do a great job of building on the pre-requisites. You use Alertness and Track to qualify for other feats and Prestige Classes that further enhance the SI. Spelunking and Darkvision both get some love, and Cavefighting (and Improved Cavefighting) even get a boost from your corner perch skill trick. You enhance Tremorsense with Keen-Eared scout and Point It Out. Aberration Lore gets a small boost from your Favored Enemy feature.

    However, you don't have a good use for any of the other abilities, you just "have" them. I suppose an argument could be made for the Darkrunner Emblem use, but it's minor enough to not matter score-wise.

    Skitters is a good fit for the SI, and the build really evokes the flavor of the SI.


    The Ariadne - 15.25
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    Originality: 4
    A changeling adopted into a Hobgoblin tribe who emulates Hobgoblins and stalks the Underdark is interesting. I love Racial Emulation (I used it to fun effect in the Urban Soul round), and you've melded quite a few abilities here into something tasty. I liked the idea of petrifying foes and then interrogating them, even if it doesn't work (see elegance). Ranger was expected (urban ranger was a nice twist), but Stonedeath Assassin is pretty neat. Darkstalker pretty much has to be there, but you've got a nice light seasoning of Shadow Hand stuff that works well here. Using the Dark template to qualify for the Darkvision requirement is pretty snazzy. I always like to see well placed skill tricks, they really add a little flair.

    Power: 3.75
    As a scout, Ariadne is solid. Excellent sneaking skills, excellent detection skills, and a couple of handy skill tricks. The dark template really helps your stealth out, as do Stoneskulk Cloak of Deception. Stonedeath Assassin brings in several useful abilities, as well as some Sneak Attack for some much needed punch. She is an ok tracker, and her inclusion of Earth Devotion and Planar Touchstone add a little more to her in-combat abilities. Escape Artist provides a ready defense to grappling. However, Ariadne has a few design issues that should be addressed. The inclusion of two-weapon fighting is good (particularly to get more sneak attack), but also not well supported. Weapon Finesse helps to ameliorate the low strength and low-BAB issue (as well as Spot the Weak Point), but she still suffers a damage penalty to attacks (until she hits 16th level, where it's largely drowned out), and hitting is not a guarantee. In other words, it's a good thing you get TWF as a bonus feat. It's probably unwise to select Illithids as your Aberration Specialty with such a horrible will save. She also has no real versatility. She's a scout and skirmisher, and that's pretty much it. If it weren't for the inclusion of Stonedeath Assassin and a few feats, she'd be a model baseline build.

    Elegance: 3.75
    Nicely laid out, easy to read, and well sourced. You qualify for everything, and the build flows well except for the jump to Stonedeath Assassin after splashing Darkrunner. I'm not sure why you did that, as it seems like Stonedeath Assassin levels could have come at any point in the build, and not interrupted the SI. I did like that your sweet spot came so early in the build, and the clean mix of classes is pleasing. The main thing I wanted to address here, however, is Ariadne's advertised trick of using Lore of the Stones on a petrified creature. Sadly, this does not work, because a petrified creature is neither natural nor unworked stone. More to the point, a petrified creature isn't an object either (this ruling came up in the Cipher Adept round too). It's very cool and flavorful, and I'd let it ride on rule of cool at my table, but it's something that some DM's might frown upon.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 3.75
    You made solid use of one of the entry skills. You picked up both feat pre-requisites as bonus feats, which is nice. You have a use for Cave Fighting/Improved Cavefighting, Tremorsense, a partial use of Spelunking, and Lore of the Stones (it doesn't work, but it's a neat idea).

    Unfortunately, the majority of the class doesn't get any love. You pump up your Escape Artist skill, which is good, but you start to neglect your Survival skill (granted, Spelunking gives you a benefit there).

    The build works as a Darkrunner, but it just doesn't stand out. It has all of the iconic abilities, but very few of them are put to any use. I liked the concept, there just needed to be more of a showcasing of her abilities. I think Stonedeath Assassin was a really good spice to add here, but you seemed to lose focus on the SI because of it. With a little more polish, I think Ariadne could really shine.


    Orion Garranan - 12.5
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    Originality: 3.75
    Wow, I had to dig to find Eneko, and Primordial is almost always good. I liked the use of Savant here, but Factotum really provides the oomph for this dish. I didn't pick up much on Orion as an entity, so it's hard to say anything about him here. Supernatural Transformation is a neat way to enhance your Invisibility spell-like ability.

    Power: 3.75
    Orion can provide some limited (but very useful) support. He's an excellent scout, as long as his foes can't see through his invisibility. You don't list any hide or move silent ranks, so I'm left with what you stated in your entry - that you only placed 1 rank in each (i.e. you placed 1 rank in all the skills after getting the ones you listed). Orion has some great versatility with UMD, Arcane Dilettante, 8 levels worth of Factotum goodies, and can operate as a face character. But what he can't seem to do is participate all that well in combat (aside from Intimidation, which he does very well). Factotum does pretty much all the heavy lifting here. Once he picks up Improved Cavefighting, he can dish out damage after he's set up the battlefield with Earth Devotion. Unfortunately, that doesn't come online until 17th level. Before that, he's left burning Inspiration to be more than a mild annoyance in combat.

    Elegance: 2.75
    The build is sourced, and laid out well enough. Alertness via familiar is clever. But there are three things that jump out immediately to me. The first is that you didn't take the time to finish your entry. I will judge the build as presented, but I won't build it for you. So I considered the skills you listed, as well as your note that you took 1 rank in every other skill. Aside from that, I won't play Schrödinger's skill points to try and complete your entry for you. I would suggest you finish your builds for future competitions. The second is that if your familiar dies or is dismissed, you have to make a DC 15 Fort save or lose xp. Given that you take a Rat familiar, then replace it with an Earth Mephit, and have a terrible Fort save, this is a recipe for lost xp. And lastly, your level dip in Savant means that you wind up taking multiclass penalties. You enter the SI early, but only to splash it and leave the rest for the end of your build.

    There's also a distinct possibility that you might not qualify for a Obtain Familiar. But since I can't quite sort that mess out, and given that Warlocks qualify for it, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt here.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.25
    You ditch most of the prerequisites, but you do make use of Survival. Savant helps you to make use of a few of your Darkrunner skills by letting your party use your Listen skill. Earth Devotion lets you make good use of Cavefighting and Improved Cavefighting. Unfortunately, you pretty much ditch everything else.

    So, here's the dreaded question, why Darkrunner? Why not more Savant? Why not more Factotum? This really doesn't feel like a Darkrunner build, and it clearly would have been better of leaving the SI in the pantry.


    Ihlmrhys Do'ar - 11.75
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    Originality: 4
    A Lesser Drow Paladin bringing the mercy of the Martyred God to the Underdark is certainly fun. Noble Heart Paladin was something I had to look up (I like it), and Underdark Knight is awesome (especially for Earthglide at Paladin 12). I like the vibe that comes across for this character and build.

    Power: 3.75
    Ihlmrhys has a solid BAB, but suffers a little in the damage department until he picks up Shadow Blade. He's got smiting for bursts of damage, and Earth Glide helps with mobility. He's even got a small smattering of Paladin spells to bust out when needed. Your Earth Devotion/Spike Stones trick is neat, and provides some handy battlefield control. Divine Grace ensures that his saves are good. However, as you pointed out, his skills are pretty terrible across the board, leaving him with several skills that will be hard pressed to be meaningful in appropriate CR encounters.

    Elegance: 3
    Everything is nicely laid out and sourced. The level split here is good, and the build flows well at pretty much all levels. Picking up Track as a bonus feat would help lessen feat starvation, but you don't qualify for Noble Heart (see UotSI). You don't get into Darkrunner until late in the build, but otherwise this is build has a solid feel to it. I like it, and if it weren't for the failure to qualify for Noble Heart, I couldn't imagine many DMs having any issues with it.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 1
    So, you don't qualify for the Noble Heart substitution level, as per page 34 of Champions of Valor (which states you also need 1 rank of Knowledge(Religion)). Given how tight your skills are, I think this pretty much shoots you in the foot here. I'm going to provide my writeup anyway, but you get a 1 here for not qualifying for the SI.

    You do the best you can with what you work with, but you pretty much don't use any of the entry requirements. You make solid use of Darkvision, Cavefighting, and Improved Cavefighting. Earth Devotion is the prime thing that builds on the SI here. Underdark Knight improves your Darkvision further, but you lack the Spot ranks to fully take advantage of it. Your listed use of Direction Sense doesn't work, you have to be in the location you want to set as your directional focus, and study it for 8 hours. Pretty much every other ability from Darkrunner is left unenhanced. Not taking the last two levels doesn't hurt you much, however, because you make up for it. Underdark Knight more than makes up for the lost Darkvision boost, and Earth Glide is more potent than Stonewalking. About the only thing you lose out on is Greater Tunnelport, which doesn't hurt too much.

    Mechanics aside, Ihlmrhys really evokes the feel of Darkrunner. It's a tasty dish.


    Adlib - 17.25
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    Originality: 4
    Underfolk is certainly different, and human paragon? Neat. Your focus on skills and skill tricks is awesomely noteworthy, and great googly moogly you used the destiny feats from Races of Destiny. I've only seen one other build here do that, and it worked really well, so I'm glad to see them here. The madlib thing was cute, otherwise unhelpful.

    Power: 4.25
    Ok, let's see what you've got. You are a terrific scout (though the lack of Darkstalker is glaring). Between your skill tricks, your ability to take 10 on almost all the meaningful Darkrunner skills, and max ranks in all of them, you've got magnificent mobility skills, tracking, and grapple defense. The destiny feats are nice for a couple of get out of jail free options (but they are expensive options). You've got some great versatility. That said, your advertised combat abilities only last for as long as you have Inspiration points to burn. After you run out of Inspiration points, your combat contributions drop by half. Basically, your build has some issues with consistent power levels.

    Elegance: 5
    This build is pretty clean. Everything is sourced, and the layout is easy to read. You qualify for everything you took, and the build is generally solid all the way through. The only thing I can think of that might be of issue is whether or not Underfolk qualify as humans, but in my book if it has the Humanoid(Human) type and subtype, it qualifies.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 4
    Let's see how you did. You make good use of the entry requirements by taking max ranks in the skill requirements (and having the ability to take 10 in all of them from Exemplar). The Lend Talent ability of Exemplar adds a use for all of your class skills, and Trapfinding from Factotum adds a use for your maxed Search skill. You make massive use of the SI's class skills, which is great to see. Surprisingly, you are one of the only entries to benefit from the SI's Weapon Proficiencies. You enhance Spelunking via Exemplar, and Knowledge Devotion gives you enhanced benefit from Aberration Lore and Aberration Specialist. Cavefighting and Improved Cavefighting benefit marginally from Factotum, but you have no way of reliably generating difficult terrain. Unfortunately, the rest of the SI is mere sitting there.

    The build here is great. If you could have given more focus to the SI, or given a sample of the feel for the character, that would have helped here. As it is, you did good.


    Graima - 14
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    Originality: 4
    Foe Hunter? Lurk? Warlock? You have my attention! Blend Into Shadows and Crossbow Sniper are fun, and Whisper Gnomes are super sneaky. Ranger was expected, and Darkstalker is all but mandatory on a sneaking build. All in all though, this is a neat little package of vengeance upon Aberrations.

    Power: 3
    You are a good scout with excellent stealth and perception skills. You can trapfind (as long as you are psionically focused), and you can track. All good things. Foe Hunter adds some nice oomph to your combat abilities against aberrations. But even with Crossbow Sniper, your chosen method of engaging foes is dicey at best. Early on you are unlikely to remain hidden for long, and at later levels, you will plinking away at your foes for a long time and giving them ample opportunity to call for reinforcements, escape, etc. I have to admit, I'm a little bit surprised to not see Able Sniper here.

    Elegance: 4.25
    There's some good stuff here. The build is nicely laid out, and qualifies for everything. Everything is sourced. You jump into the SI as early as possible, and stick with it for a good while before interrupting it again. Picking up Track as a bonus feat was nice. My only real complaint here are the three dips you put forth.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.75
    Brass tacks time. You did well with the prerequisites. Gnome favored enemy gives a boost to your perception skills as well as enhancing Aberration Lore and Aberration Specialist. That said, you didn't really have any interesting use or enhancement for any of the other abilities. You do mention an interesting use for Tunnelport (teleporting around traps), so I'll give you that. But everything else is just "there".

    I love that you used Foe Hunter, but I'm afraid I have to ask the Dreaded Question, why didn't you just go with more Foe Hunter rather than Darkstalker? The focus here certainly seemed to be more on stalking and killing your chosen prey, rather than dealing with the SI. It definitely feels like there was some potential here. With a little more focus on the SI's abilities, you could have really scored well.


    Roy - 13.25
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    Originality: 2.75
    Let's see, dwarf, ranger, warblade, ubercharger. All pretty standard (and ranger was expected). But Deepstone Sentinel? At first I was skeptical about this, but thematically it fits well. A dwarf who can not only speak with the earth, but can command it as well? That's pretty snazzy. I can also appreciate the Bladerunner reference.

    Power: 4
    As an ubercharger, you are quite competent in melee, as expected. Your skills are competent, but you may struggle to hit your DC's in appropriate CR encounters. Maneuvers add extra punch, but it's not like you needed it. The battlefield control you get, however, is a nice addition. You aren't terribly versatile, but you are a very credible melee threat.

    Elegance: 4.5
    The build is nicely laid out and flows well. You qualified for everything you took. Snagging Track as a bonus feat is nice. However, you sneak in a Multiclass penalty at 15th level, which is going to cause you problems. Aside from that, I don't see anything that jumps out as being a problem for most tables.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2
    Well ... you enhance Aberration Lore and Aberration Specialist with Favored Enemy. That ... that's pretty much it. Your Mountain Fortress doesn't trigger Cavefighting, because it doesn't make your square difficult terrain. Why did you take the SI again? It really seems like you'd have been better off with just doing a Warblade/Deepstone Sentinel ubercharger.


    Esmar Tuek - 15.25
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    Originality: 4
    Another Foe Hunter? I can't say I expected this class. And Martial Rogue with Web Enhancement substitution levels I haven't heard of to boot. It's great to see Quick Reconnoiter get some love. Let's see, you've got some feats here that I can't say I have much experience with: Gnome Tunnel Acrobatics, Undermountain Tactics, and Tunnel Fighting. And what the heck is False Pretenses? Huh, that's neat. Dwarf is pretty much the only thing here that's boring.

    Power: 3.5
    Ok, you've got some good skills to play with, mainly your perception skills. So you make a good lookout. Your mobility skills aren't bad (some of them will give you trouble in appropriate CR encounters), and you've got a solid knowledge skill. Your various tactics feats give you a host of options in combat besides hacking away. You make repeated mention of tumbling in full plate, but I don't see heavy armor proficiency anywhere in the build. Your BAB is low for a melee character, and your damage output isn't generally too hot against things that aren't Aberrations.

    Elegance: 4.75
    The build is nicely laid out, and you qualify for everything you took. The build flows well. You entered the SI as early as possible, and finished it before picking up anything else. Picking up Track as a bonus feat was nice. The only glaring issue here is the use of variant rules (False Pretenses is a Spelltouched feats, which are variant rules). While the choice of feat is flavorful, it's also subject to a minor penalty. In general, I don't see much that a reasonable DM would argue against.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 3
    You take a hit here. You keep one entry skill maxed, and the other two flag behind a little. You enhance Spelunking a bit with Tunnel Fighting, and Favored Enemy enhance Aberration Lore and Specialist when dealing with Aboleths from your stated organization. Aside from that, you don't really build on or enhance much of the SI.

    That said, Esmar certainly feels like a Darkrunner, at least before he goes down the path of vengeance. I liked this build, and would have really liked to see it focus on the SI more.


    Creb Covenant - 16.75
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    Originality: 4.75
    Well, Sentinel of Bharrai and Spirit Shaman are straight out of left field. Those coupled with Hellbred just really threw me for a loop. It was neat to see Quick Recovery here. I'm still stunned at the appearance of all this stuff from BoED. It's a good thing that, like Creb, I've got Quick Recovery, or I wouldn't have recovered in time to judge the next category.

    Power: 4.5
    You've got up to 5th level spells from a solid list. That alone lets you be hugely versatile. You've got metamagic shenanigans you can play, some good skills, and a Bear form for combat. You don't hit +16 BAB, but you are close, and your bear form can really make up for that fact. The only real issue here is that your power level falls off once you jump into the SI, and never really recovers.

    Elegance: 5
    The entry is well laid out and easy to read. You qualify for everything you took, and the build flows well. There's really nothing here that I object to. It's a clean build, and I like that.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.5
    Yeah, I almost immediately had to ask why you took the SI in this build instead of more spellcasting. You took so much spellcasting, it is noticeably painful when you stopped. Sure, you use your spellcasting to enhance Cavefighting and it's Improved version, and Quick Recovery helps to minimize the risks with Stonewalking. But other than that there isn't anything else. There's not even a thematic connection I can see between bears, spirits, and the SI, despite your efforts to link them.

    Don't get me wrong. I like Creb, and I think he's an interesting and potent character. I just think he'd have been better off without the SI.


    Delehdas - 14.25
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    Originality: 3.75
    Savage Bard and Horizon Walker are fun, and Underfolk is neat. Ranger is expected, and Darkstalker comes as no surprise. I liked the theme of someone seeking out the homelands of their ancestors by powering UP through the underdark.

    Power: 3.5
    Your skills are decent, with solid perception skills, maxed UMD, Diplomacy, and a Knowledge skill. Your stealth skills are ok. You are also an excellent tracker. You hit +16 BAB, which is good for a melee fighter. Your Bard spells give you some added versatility. Horizon Walker gives you a handful of nice benefits. Unfortunately, you fall behind in the damage department and never really catch up. In short, your power comes from your versatility, not your combat ability.

    Elegance: 4.25
    The build flows well, qualifies for everything taken, is well sourced and easy to read. You take the SI reasonably early, and take it to completion without interruption. You pick up Track as a bonus feat, which is goo. You've got Endurance listed twice, so you've wasted a feat slot that might have been more useful to you.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.75
    Favored Enemy and Improved Favored Enemy build on Aberration Lore and Specialist. And you use an entry skill to qualify for Horizon Walker. You really don't do much else with the SI though.

    While I really enjoyed the thematic idea of dungeon delving in the opposite direction, you didn't do much to focus on the SI. The build still feels like a Darkrunner through most of it, but the inclusion of Horizon Walker just falls flat here. I think it's a case of adding the wrong spice to a promising dish.


    Amaljss Myund - 12.75
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    Originality: 3.75
    Well now. This is interesting, and risky. You eat 3 La for a Lolth-touched Drow. You got guts, I'll give you that. Favored Power Attack and Improved Favored Enemy were good additions. Swift Hunter isn't anything new, and ranger was expected. This is a fun concept of a good little drow male doing as he's told and slaying the enemies of his matriarchy.

    Power: 3
    You've got an excellent array of skills that support your role as a scout and tracker. Power attack is handy to bring the hurt ... but you've also gone the two-weapon fighting route (which doesn't mix well with power attack). More importantly, you don't have the BAB to really take advantage of either. You are also extremely fragile in your early levels.

    Elegance: 3.25
    The build flows reasonably well, and you qualify for everything you took. Your mix of classes is good. The build is not really sourced. Darkrunner comes online as last as it possibly can and still complete. You've also got issues with your fighting style selection. Power Attack and TWF are not chocolate and peanut butter, they are oil and water. The build is otherwise solid, and would be unlikely to raise any eyebrows in any DM's game, save for one that started at low level.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.75
    You kept all the entry skills as maxed as they can get. You enhance Aberration Lore and Specialist with Favored Enemy, Favored Power Attack, and Improved Favored Enemy. But aside from that, you don't really do anything with the SI.

    Amaljss doesn't really sell me on being a Darkrunner. He's a good little male who hunts the foes he is told to hunt. The connection to Darkrunner just seems pretty tenuous.


    Rizzo - 10.75
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    Originality: 3.75
    A dragonborn out to kill all the Umberhulks is an interesting thing. Tunnel Fighting and Tunnel Fighter pique my interest. Warrior? You took an NPC class ... no, you took the Generic Warrior from Unearthed Arcana? Well, that's certainly a risky proposition in this competition. I'll toss you a few points here, because you are going to lose some in Elegance.

    Power: 2.75
    You are a good tracker, and can find traps. You've got a solid knowledge skill, and can reliably maneuver around foes in combat. You hit that tasty +16 BAB. Unfortunately, you'll struggle to do much in combat. You do pick up Power Attack (at 18th level), but prior to that, there isn't much. Darkstalker doesn't really do anything for you, as you have no ranks in hide, so you'll be trivially easy to spot. You used Generic Warrior, which nets you a bunch of tasty bonus feats (not just fighter bonus feats), which you use to grab a whole bunch of stuff that doesn't help your build (Power Attack being the only one that provides a strong benefit).

    Elegance: 2.25
    The build is nicely laid out and is easy to read. You qualify for everything you took. Picking up Track as a bonus feat was nice. You jump into the SI as early as possible, and finish it without interruption. You provide a list of sources, but don't specify what items go with what sources, so any time I encountered something I wasn't familiar with (Tunnelfighting), I had to crack open everything on your source list until I found it. You used a variat rules system (incorrectly too, you can't combine generic classes with regular classes), and didn't even leverage the power that gave you (not to mention the issues some DM's will have with it), so you take a hit here for that.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2
    You max the entry skills, which is good. And Dragonborn gives you enhanced Darkvision range to couple with the SI. But then you don't really use any of the rest, or enhance them with anything in your build. Not only that, but there's nothing here that indicates why you took the SI instead of something else.


    Steven - 12.75
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    Originality: 3.5
    Steve the dwarf if all over the place. Trapsmith was a nice surprise, and setting traps to hinder your foes before they get to you works well with the SI. Staggering Strike is a classic. Swashbuckler was an interesting inclusion, and I like how it mixes with the SI. Cloistered Cleric dips are well known.

    Power: 3.75
    You are the only one here who tried to leverage Search, but with a Disable Device skill that low, you will have issues later in the build. You are half of a good lookout, have a smattering of solid knowledge skills, and have some interesting utility with Trapsmith. You get a handful of devotion feats from your cloistered cleric level, but no spellcasting, because 8 Wisdom. Staggering Strike is great. Getting Int to damage from Swashbuckler, and again from the SI (reliably with Earth Devotion) is a much needed boost.

    Elegance: 2.75
    The build is laid out well enough. It was easy to read and flows ok. Your sources were a little wonky for me, but that's probably because I'm used to seeing a list of them in the build, rather than embedded where they are used. You jump into the SI very late. You don't qualify for Practiced Spellcaster. And lastly, you are facing multiclass penalties for your two dips.

    Use of the Secret Ingredient: 2.75
    So, what do we have? You've got two of the entry skills at max, or near it. You build on your search skill to qualify for Trapsmith. Knowledge Devotion helps build on Aberration Lore and Specialist, and Swashbuckler 3's Int to damage doubles up with the SI all cozy-like when you use Earth Devotion to take advantage of Cavefighting/Improved Cavefighting. The rest of the class is left by the wayside, unfortunately.

    This just doesn't evoke the feel of the SI. It honestly seems a bit rushed, but is too bad, because I really think if you had re-worked this a bit and focused more on the SI, you could have really shined here.


    So there you have it. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence!
    Last edited by Deadline; 2014-06-13 at 04:50 PM.
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