Judging time! Let's do this! This is too long to submit as a single post, so I'm going to have to break it in two. I'd appreciate it if everyone would wait until I do that. Thanks!

Al'ayn Q'tarmayn

Spoiler
Show
I feel like I'm missing a reference here, but who knows, that may end up working in your favor. Let's get started.

Originality: 3.25 Well, I didn't expect half-drow, that's for sure. That's mostly because half-drow really doesn't do much for you, but it's true that it's unexpected. That said, you somehow weren't the only half-drow, so I can't in good faith give you that many points for it. Why were there two half-drow? Beats me, but there you have it. (0) Other than that, we've got some Scout with Greater Manyshot, some Hit-and-Run Tactics Fighter, nothing new there . . . haven't seen a Dread Commando in a while, though, so I can toss you some points for that. (+0.25)

Power: 3.0 No Precise Shot? That's not a good thing, my friend. Precise Shot is an absolute necessity if you want to do anything ranged. I see that you tacked Precise onto your bow, but (1) that doesn't help you with your boomerangs, (2) I explicitly stated that I don't like seeing people rely too heavily on specific items in Iron Chef, and (3) a +1 Precise bow costs 8,000+ gp, making it out of reach for quite a few levels, probably at least 6th or 7th, which is a whole lot of levels to be sucking down a –4 penalty on nearly every attack. I almost took away a whole point for this, but I'll allow the item to serve as a mitigating factor. (–0.5) (How could you have avoided that, if you wanted to acknowledge that the Precise weapon enhancement is a thing? Simple: take Precise Shot as a feat, and then in the equipment section, say “If we can count on the Precise weapon enhancement being available, we'd definitely take it, and we'd take XYZ with the newly open feat slot.” But I don't like it when chefs assume they have full access to whatever items they please.)

(Improved) Skirmish and Greater Manyshot is a classic combo, and while you don't have as many dice (or as many shots—real shame you had no way to hit that magic 16 BAB) as a Swift Hunter would, that's about as much offensive might as I've seen in this round. You just might even be able to hide well enough to pull off Sudden Strike, at least on the first round of the encounter, and Hit-and-Run Tactics is a nice enough trick for an ambush. (+0.5)

I don't think you have quite enough juice to pull of reliable hiding after being attacked—Able Sniper only gives you a +4, which is a far cry from negating the –20 penalty for sniping. Woodland Archer's Moving Sniper option is a cool trick when it works, but I'm not convinced it will work against anything with a half-decent Spot check. Still, you've got enough stealth to convince me that you'll at least start most encounters hidden, even if I don't think you'll stay that way for long. The fact that you don't have Darkstalker is a mark against you (blindsense and the like are so very, very common, after all), so I can't give you too many points for this, but at least you're trying. Your other skills are also pretty good overall, so it looks like you have some skills covered. (It's unnerving to see a Scout without Tumble, but I guess you didn't want to make Mobility totally obsolete, am I right?) Overall, I think you pull your weight in the skill department. (+0.25)

It does look like you stagnate in the latter half of your career, though. Thunder Guide doesn't make you any stronger, so your damage kind of sags, and while Woodland Archer and Able Sniper will help you a lot against low-level enemies, I'm not convinced that they'll do much against CR-appropriate foes. You're better than average in that your stealth gives you at least some ability to set the terms of the encounter (and you might be able to avoid some foes that other characters would have to engage), but once you leave Dread Commando, you don't really improve. Your attack power is kind of lacking at the start of that era, and by the end of it, you've really failed to scale. Your late-game feats are passable, preventing me from giving you a bigger penalty, but you're still a lot more valuable in an ECL 13 group than in an ECL 20 group. (–0.25)

Elegance: 3.0 The level of Fighter was a good choice. You needed to squeeze in a bonus feat somehow, and since you're good at starting encounters with flat-footed opponents, Hit-and-Run Tactics is a pretty natural choice. I like seeing a lot of utility packed into one level like that, though it's a shame you couldn't spend those skill points on something better. (+0.25)

It looks like you overspent your skill points at level 3, but since you underspent your skill points at level 2, I assume you were taking a half-rank in Diplomacy at both levels? It shouldn't be my job to figure that out—you really should list half-ranks when you take them. I won't penalize this time, but trust me, you don't want to gamble on the judges figuring that stuff out, because I was all set to take away points for overspending.

Dodge is an unfortunate prereq feat. I really wish you would have taken Expeditious Dodge, Desert Wind Dodge (I know you didn't have a DW maneuver, but still), or Midnight Dodge instead, since you don't have any feats or class features that rely on the single-target nature of Dodge, so those would have been a strict upgrade. Expeditious Dodge would have been the best, since you actually do have a 40' move speed. (I do understand that you took Dodge as a Scout bonus feat, and the Scout list doesn't have Expeditious Dodge, but you could have just taken Expeditious Dodge at 3rd level, grabbed Mobility with the bonus feat, and taken Rapid Shot later, since it's not like you use Rapid Shot as anything but a prereq, what with your mobile fighting style.) Prereqs are prereqs, but it's your job to make the most of them, and I feel like you missed a good opportunity here. (–0.25) It's a shame that you needed a feat with so many prereqs (Greater Manyshot) to keep yourself relevant at the later levels, since Rapid Shot and Manyshot really don't do you any good, but there's not much you could have done to prevent that from happening. Still, it's a shame that your early feats don't really help you that much.

Your skill points are kind of jumpy in places, but at least you never totally neglect your core skills while shoring up new ones. It's a little awkward to jump 10 ranks in two levels (especially when you're not just trying to hastily meet a prereq of some kind), let alone 20 ranks in four levels, but I understand why you did it. (0)

Use of Secret Ingredient: 1.5 Well, you use Ghost of Xen'drik reasonably well, since you're actually trying to hide a lot of the time. I was expecting you to take Eye of the Chamber, since a stealthy character who starts encounters on their own terms is about the only character who could use that correctly. I'm not sure why you took Xen'drik Boomerang Expert (it's strictly inferior to using your bow, and you don't have any special tricks with it), though at least your other Thunder Lore choices are passable—if very small and situational—bonuses. You don't have enough Ride or enough STR-based skills to use Rescue Artist to the fullest (or much at all, really), so that's unfortunate, since that's one of the very few unique class features that Thunder Guide gets. Your Native Ties are fluff-appropriate enough, and at least you have enough Diplomacy to reliably make the associated checks, though it's not like they do much. (All those 2nd level potions would normally just break the bank at ECL 19, but not for you!)

Unfortunately, you didn't convince me that you're better off as a Thunder Guide than you would have been with just more levels in Scout. I know that you use Thunder Guide to take Diplomacy and other face skills, which I guess is better than nothing, but your other skills would have been much better as a Scout, not to mention your damage capabilities. (For that matter, a few levels in Rogue would have been more effective than Thunder Guide.) I don't see anything that you can do better than a non-Thunder Guide can do, and if I had to pick one as my teammate, I'd much rather have your build minus ten levels in TG and plus ten levels in Scout than I would your build as presented. You didn't really go out of your way to take advantage of any of the bonuses beyond Ghost of Xen'drik, and you just didn't make the class pop. (–1.5)

Final Thoughts: The non-Thunder Guide parts of your build are as good as any I've seen this round (you've almost surely got the highest base damage potential, or at least close to it), but like so many others, you really didn't do anything to sell me on being a Thunder Guide. The Secret Ingredient ultimately made you weaker instead of stronger, and you never managed to get past that.

Total Score: 10.75


Lord Professor Hexler

Spoiler
Show
Okay, wow, that's a pain in the butt to read. Comma splices, no capitalization, bizarre spacing. I'm getting a headache just looking at it. We'll talk about this more in Elegance.

Originality: 2.5 All of your Monk abilities are Iron Chef standbys—I know that I've personally made an Iron Chef Monk with Decisive Strike, Improved Trip/Knockdown, Travel Devotion, and Invisible Fist, and I know I'm not the only one. A Factotum with Improved Trip, Knowledge Devotion, and a hellaton of Fonts of Inspiration is certainly not going to raise any eyebrows, either. I'm not seeing anything you do to break new ground, really. (–0.5) You're almost the only chef who didn't latch on to the Xen'drik boomerang, but I can't really give you credit for something you didn't do (and you're not quite alone).

Power: 2.25 It's a good thing that you pointed out that Kung Fu Genius (not “genious”) gives you INT to AC, because I was all set to chew you out for having 9 AC for your first two levels. You still have a mere 12 AC at the start of your career, which is pretty shameful (especially with low CON), but at least it's not 9. Of course, you very carefully took the ACFs that don't care if you wear armor anyway (I know, because I've done 100% exactly that trick in an Iron Chef before, ending up making a Monk in full plate), so you actually would have had better AC by just taking Light Armor Proficiency and wearing a damn chain shirt. Sure, it would have been rendered useless when you took Factotum and earned medium armor proficiency, but so is Kung Fu Genius. See, without magic items—and I told you explicitly not to rely too heavily on items—you end up with an INT mod of +5, so if you don't wear armor, you have equivalent AC to if you wore a nonmagical breastplate. If we assume your extravagant tome and headband usage, you have an INT of +11 . . . but if we're assuming you get whatever items you want, you could just make that breastplate magical, pick up a Ring of Protection here and an Amulet of Natural Armor there (and maybe even a shield, since you allegedly fight unarmed and thus have no use for an empty off-hand, but we don't even need to assume a shield for you to come out behind), and end up with the same AC for less investment (and without having spent a precious feat). You would have been better off staggering your levels as Factotum 1 / Monk 2 / Factotum 2-8, because then you would have weapon and armor proficiency from the get-go, you'd have better starting skills, and you'd have a free feat that you didn't have to waste on Kung Fu Genius (as the only WIS-based Monk feature that you didn't trade away is unarmored AC, so it's not like any of the other benefits of the feat apply to your character). Overall, this just ends up counting against you. Between the sucky AC and the wasted feat, you can't get out of this unscathed. (–0.5)

Anyway, let's look at what you get out of Factotum. Taking Improved Trip on a Factotum is never a bad idea, even though using unarmed strikes instead of a basic weapon isn't a smart thing to do. (+0.25) (I would have made that +0.5, but you're effectively giving up a +4 bonus by using unarmed strikes instead of a weapon, and I can't reward that. If you're thinking “but I use a weapon, not an unarmed strike,” it's your fault for not telling me that in your build strategy section.) Knowledge Devotion is always useful, and you've got enough Knowledges to make it decent, though I really wish you would have taken Collector of Stories to turbocharge it a little earlier. (+0.25) Based on your comments about Tumble, I think you forgot that Cunning Knowledge can only boost a given skill once per day, no matter how much inspiration you spend, so I can't really give you as much credit for your skills as you'd probably like, since it looks like you're relying on Cunning Knowledge more than you really should.

Decisive Strike + Travel Devotion is a classic combo, though it's really dicey if you can sacrifice Opportunistic Piety pseudoturns for more uses of it. (The wrinkle is that you have to sacrifice multiple turn attempts at once to fuel Travel Devotion, but Opportunistic Piety gives you a single turn attempt for a standard action and an inspiration point, so it's not at all clear that you can generate enough turn attempts at once to actually give you more uses of Travel Devotion.) Since I don't think you can actually use it more than once per day, I can't give you too many points for it. (+0.25) It's also worth mentioning that Invisible Fist conflicts with Travel Devotion, so you might want to be aware of that.

I see that you made sure to fit Cunning Surge into your build, but unfortunately, I don't see why you bothered. You have a couple low-level SLAs from Factotum and from Thunder Guide, but none of them are high enough level to turn the tide of a battle at ECL 10+, even if they show up as a “free” standard action. You don't have anything interesting to do with your standard actions other than attack. If you had, say, some martial maneuvers or something like that, it might be interesting to combine them with Decisive Strike (because DS explicitly doubles the damage of every attack you make in the round, so the standard-action maneuver would be doubled), but you don't. You spent four feats on Font of Inspiration to make sure that you'd be able to fuel Cunning Surge, but I think you forgot that Cunning Surge is great because it gives you actions to spend on other things, not just on its own. Action economy may be king, but if you don't have anything worthwhile to DO with your actions, it doesn't matter how many of them you get. (0)

After you go into Thunder Guide, nothing you do really gets any better. You didn't tell me why I should care about any of the tiny little bonuses you get from Thunder Guide. You devoted three big paragraphs to the abilities you get from Monk and Factotum, and one tiny little paragraph to what you get from Thunder Guide (which is more a listing of the class features than any rationale of why you care about them or what good they do you). Based on this, I'm forced to conclude that you stop scaling at level 10, and you don't actually bring anything new to the table for the second half of the game. You keep up your K: Arcana checks, so Knowledge Devotion will give you a slightly bigger set of numbers against certain enemies, and you keep a few other skills at a passable level, but that's it. No new tricks, not even really bigger numbers, no nothing. Just blah. The tricks that worked at level 10 are not going to be that effective at level 15, let alone level 20, so it seems to me that you simply gave up trying to contribute after level 10. I know that you keep gaining inspiration points with FoI, but like I said above, the amount of good that does you is pretty limited, so I don't see that as making you sufficiently stronger to avoid this penalty. (–1.0)

Elegance: 3.0 Your entry was really, really hard to read, and that does not make me happy. First, you did not make it easy for me to determine your race. You're lucky that you listed your 1st level feat as “human,” because that was literally the only indication I had of your race. That's not okay. Second, my eyes twisted in on themselves trying to read your text. Like I said, there's no capitalization, you've got several comma splices, I can't figure out your spacing scheme, and it just isn't easy to read. Making me unhappy results in a penalty. (–0.5)

Your classes themselves flow nicely enough before you enter Thunder Guide. Two levels of Monk is a classic dip, and using the levels of Monk to easily get Improved Trip is effective, if not exactly new and exciting. (+0.25)

I don't like how random your skills are—as I said in Power, Cunning Knowledge only works once per skill per day, so while it makes sense for a few skills to have that option in your back pocket, some of them just seem weird. (How often are you going to need exactly one Swim check, or exactly one Ride check? Why did you bother putting a point in Truespeak when Truespeak literally cannot do anything without utterances or similar abilities?) Overall, I see your goal of having back-pocket options for a lot of skills, but I feel like not that many of them are actually going to be useful with a single good check per day, so I don't feel inclined to give you any points for it. (0)

You don't have any weird prereqs lying around forever, and I approve of that. Your score in Power probably suffered for not building toward any particular goal, but at least you basically never said “it'll pay off in four levels, trust me,” and that's something to be at least a little bit proud of. (+0.25)

Use of Secret Ingredient: 1.25 Well, you entered Thunder Guide really late, as late as you possibly could to actually finish it on time. This is bad for two reasons. First, it means that by the time you actually get any bonuses from Thunder Guide, it's probably too late in the game for them to really be terribly noticeable. Second, it indicates to me that you value Thunder Guide less than you value the rest of your build—that it's just there because it has to be there, not because it really makes the build stronger. You probably managed to make your build slightly stronger in the early game by not having Thunder Guide in it, but that's still not something that's going to serve you well when we're considering UoSI. Furthermore, you explicitly stated that your sweet spot happens at level 10, which is before you took your first level in Thunder Guide. While that's probably true, that means that I can't really give you too many points for using Thunder Guide, now can I? I see absolutely no reason for you to be a Thunder Guide. You don't use any of its abilities in your strategy. You don't go out of your way to incorporate its features into your style, or to make any of its features better or more relevant. It's the quintessential example of taking the Secret Ingredient only because it is the Secret Ingredient, not because it actually does anything for the build. You did at least take all 10 levels, so I won't give you a rock-bottom score, but you did nothing to convince me that this build should be a Thunder Guide. There's nothing you do better than a non-Thunder Guide does (you don't even have enough points in STR-based skills to make Rescue Artist, one of the class's only unique features, relevant), and there's no reason for you to actually be a Thunder Guide. (–1.75)

Final Thoughts: This build did not make me happy. It was a pain to read, it seemed to actively avoid doing anything with the Secret Ingredient, it didn't bring anything to the table that I've never seen before, and it doesn't bring enough early power to the table to survive the late-game slump.

Total Score: 9.0


Noamuth, the Aberrant

Spoiler
Show


Originality: 4.0 Well, you weren't the only half-drow, which probably surprises you as much as it surprises me. You were the only half-drow who used half-drow to qualify for anything, which is a bit of a mark in your favor, but I can't really give you credit for using half-drow when I didn't give Al'ayn credit for using half-drow. Aberrant (not “abberant.” by the way) dragonmarks aren't something you see very often, though, and I didn't even know Child of Khyber existed, so you do get credit for that. It takes a lot to bring in a whole class I literally had no idea about, so you'll be rewarded for that. (+1.0)

Power: 1.0 I'm not sure why you took a lot of what you took. Spring Attack doesn't play nice with Pounce—or rather, Pounce is almost strictly better than Spring Attack, so that's three whole feats you're spending to make yourself worse than if you just used Pounce. I don't like seeing wasted feats. (–0.75) You gave up your spells to take Champion of the Wild, but you never selected a Champion of the Wild bonus feat, so I'm really not sure what you were intending to do there. I see very few times when it's worth it to spend a standard action in combat to cast your Shield SLA, though I suppose Shield is, at least, one of the Least Aberrant Dragonmarks that doesn't offer a saving throw. I can kind of respect the flavor of Blessed of Vulkoor and of Drow Skirmisher, but they seem like pretty much wasted feats—the SLAs of BoV are so minor as to be nearly useless, and I don't see what benefit a non-scaling Medium Monstrous Scorpion offers you (especially with no ranks in Craft: Poisonmaking, so you can't use it just as a source of venom); Drow Skirmisher seems like it's not giving you anything more than drow long knife proficiency (though I'm not sure why that's important, as the DLK isn't really an amazeballs weapon—since you have no ranged combat capabilities, they're totally equivalent to short swords for you) and a conditional +1 to damage, which is about as lame a benefit as you can get for a feat, flavor or no flavor. (–0.5) Skewer Foe is about your only feat that's actually worth anything as far as your chosen combat style goes, and even it's not that impressive, especially at ECL 18+.

Whirlpouncebarian is a classic dip for a reason, and I'm glad that you actually do have Pounce. It's a shame that you wasted so many feats—you could have taken ITWF, and maybe something else that would actually increase your damage, but at least you can move and make a few attacks. (+0.25)

I'm not impressed by your skills. A lot of them have too little investment to really be worth anything (or the investment comes really weirdly late in the game), and you don't really excel at anything but Survival. I do understand that you max out Survival to make Track useful, but it looks like that's about the only skill you can be relied upon to handle for the party. Late in the game, you can hit a few low DCs for face skills, but I wouldn't feel comfortable having you serve as the party's front man. In short, your out-of-combat tricks do not impress me, so I don't feel like your adventuring utility shores up your combat abilities. (–0.25)

Child of Khyber gets you a couple tricks, I suppose, but I don't see them as being really amazing. Touch of Idiocy is probably the best one, though since penalties don't usually stack with themselves and it can't bring the target's scores below 1, it's unlikely that it will actually do anything to bring combat to a close faster. Cloudkill isn't very impressive at ECL 20, especially with only 14 CHA backing up the save DC. Overall, I don't see why you bothered with the whole Aberrant Dragonmark chain—it's flavorful in some regard, but it's not actually very useful. (0)

Thunder Guide doesn't make you any stronger, except insofar as you get BAB from it. Nothing more than BAB increases your damage dealt between Drow Skirmisher and Skewer Foe, which is pretty sad, since it's not like you had a lot of power to begin with. TWF without a source of bonus damage is a pretty sad state of affairs, and if you actually use Spring Attack instead of Pounce, then you're just attacking once for what, 1d6 + 3 (2 STR, 1 Drow Skirmisher) before items? Maybe 1d6 + 5 if you're lucky enough to be fighting your Favored Enemy? I'm not impressed by that at level 1, but you never seem to scale above that. Level 3 is your sweet spot, when you can (in one encounter per day) make three attacks a round, which is pretty nice at level 3 (even if the damage is still pretty low). And then you never really improve on this baseline. An NPC Warrior with Power Attack is going to do more damage than you are. In short, I don't think you're worth your share of the XP budget. (–0.75)

Elegance: 2.25 Your skills, your skills, they burn my eyes! It's bloody impossible to see how you actually spent your skill points at each level. I implore you, the next time you enter Iron Chef, do something to visually distinguish new skill points from old ones. Either put the new ones in boldface, or specify the change as well as the total (for example: “Climb +1 (3)”), or don't list the old ones alongside the new ones, or something. That was really, really hard to read. (–0.25)

Speaking of your skills, they're pretty weird in a lot of places. Why so much more Move Silently than Hide? For that matter, why bother with Hide/Move Silently if you're not going to max them out? Why is your Tumble so low? (I know you used it for Twisted Charge, but it's hardly a useless skill on its own.) Why do you have any ranks in Climb and Jump if you're only going to have so few of them? Why wait so long to get the critical 5 ranks in Balance? In short, your skills didn't seem to flow naturally for me. It doesn't make sense to me why you took what you took when you took it, and that's not elegant. (–0.25)

Given that you use the stat bump up to 15 STR to qualify for Skewer Foe (and nothing else), wouldn't it make more sense to bump DEX at levels 4/8/12, and then bump STR at 16? I guess it technically makes your carrying capacity a little better, but you're delaying the actual progression of your DEX by four whole levels, when you don't need the bump for a whopping 14 levels after you first take it. That just seems totally inelegant to me. (–0.25)

Whirlpouncebarian is, as I said in Power, a good dip for a reason. You get more power out of your first level in Barbarian than you get out of any other level in your whole build, and I like seeing a lot of utility crammed into a small investment. I think you might have gotten more use out of a level in Fighter or another full BAB class rather than Barb 2, but it's not like it's bad to have Uncanny Dodge. (+0.25)

Taking one level of Thunder Guide at 5th level is really weird—Thunder Guide 1 is nearly a dead level, and I don't see it letting you qualify for anything else by spacing out your other levels, so that's just weird to me. Why take it at all if you're going to ignore it for three levels? (–0.25)

I don't see anything that would let you cleverly cover a weakness, I don't see any elegant ways of meeting prereqs, I don't see anything that's especially synergistic (I guess TWF + Pounce, but that's so elementary that I can hardly give you credit for it)—in short, nothing about this screams elegance to me.

Use of Secret Ingredient: 1.5 Why are you a Thunder Guide? What does Thunder Guide give you? I suppose Pandin Temn fits thematically with your FE: Giants, but that's the only Thunder Lore that does you much good (your attacks are too wimpy to ever trigger Vicious Barbarism, you don't have Quick Draw or Precise Shot or anything else you'd need to get any use out of Xen'drik Boomerang Expert, and you don't have any ranks in Swim to use Breath of Shargon—I guess Ghost of Xen'drik bumps up your Survival a little, though your Hide/MS are too low to take advantage of the Hide/MS bonuses). You put a few token ranks in Gather Info to make your Stormreach Irregulars Native Ties make a little bit of sense, I guess, and you can PROBABLY make the Diplomacy checks associated with the other Native Ties you have, but I don't see you really going out of your way to really make your picks do anything for you. You have a couple token ranks in some STR-based skills, so I guess you can use Rescue Artist a little bit better than some of your fellow chefs, but not enough to make me really sit up and take notice. I don't think you're better off being a Thunder Guide than you would have been for taking more Barbarian and/or Ranger. Truth be told, I'm not sure you'd be worth your share of the XP budget even without Thunder Guide, since you're really not bringing anything to the table, but if I had to have you as a partymate, I'd rather have you be a normal Barbarian than a Thunder Guide. About the only things I can say in your favor are that you did take the first level as soon as possible (though that didn't actually do your build any good), and you did take all ten levels, so I guess that counts for something. But you did nothing to sell the class to me, there's nothing you can do better than a non-Thunder Guide can do, and I just don't see the point. (–1.5)

Final Thoughts: This is one of the weakest characters I've seen in an Iron Chef context. Some of your feats seem flavorful on paper, but they don't actually let you do anything that would let that flavor shine through in the game. Combine that with a really lackluster SI (that you didn't do anything special with), and this is what you get.

Total Score: 8.75