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    Entry number 3
    Quote Originally Posted by Katjusha
    Katjusha, the Bloodstorm

    Guardian of the Ghost City, original art by Jake Murray, İFantasy Flight Games 2015

    A Warning
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    "The waters of the bay are almost unnaturally calm, giving rise to the rumors that some kind of subtly magic protects it from storms. Indeed, no storm has churned its waters for at least the last 500 years, though many stretches of coastline nearby have been repeatedly battered by winds and rain."
    - excerpt from the tales of Shining South, pertaining to Dambrath


    The Crinti dared not risk another human uprising, and so forbade these second-class citizens from ever possessing weapons. But, alas, the burning ambition inside Katjusha's brainwashed psyche simply wouldn't allow her to be quelled and subdued; it quietly whispered Nana's words over and over again, and it raged fiercely with a fire that forged her own weapons. Once Katjusha had her fangs and claws bared, she became just as lethal as any fully-armed warrior.


    She eventually turned to banditry, further sharpening her predatory prowess, so as to better ambush passing trade caravans with. Indeed, it didn't take long for her rising notoriety to be noticed by those in power. One of the Crinti houses took her under its protection, and in return her band of brigands directed the ambushes against merchant convoys allied to the other houses, employing hit-and-run tactics to wear down any opposition.


    Surely, however, being a dispensable lapdog of the nobility was far from being enough to sate Nana's ambition for her. Katjusha scratched and clawed her way to the top of Crinti society, eventually rising to the ranks of the elite Shadow Marauders while doing so. Nothing was ever too sacred to not be used as leverage, and at the end of all the politicking, backstabbing, bribing, blackmailing, and everything else, she finally (and rightfully, as Nana always told her) claimed her place as one of them. By the time her political enemies finally decided to stop her on her tracks, it was far too late: Gnollwatch Mountains and the entire slave trade had already been firmly under her control, and even she had grown powerful enough to mangle and eviscerate entire armies from afar in the blink of an eye.


    Lately, there had been a lot of rumours going around; of Katjusha gathering forces from outside Dambrath, of the pure-blood Drow aristocracies in the Underdark finally mobilizing their own denizens, of human uprisings brought about by the sudden surge of underground weapons distribution. For the first time in Dambrath's semi-millenial history of Drow complacency, its citizens can once again feel a massive storm heading their way.

    Under the Bloodied Hood
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    Soulknife 4 / Crusader 1 / Soulbow 3 / Bloodstorm Blade 4 / Crinti Shadow Marauder 5 / Kensai 3
    Lawful Evil Human
    STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
    Initial (with Point-Buy) 10 15 14 14 14 12
    Final (with Hit Die Bonus) 10 20 14 14 14 12


    Level Class Base
    Attack
    Bonus
    Fort
    Save
    Ref
    Save
    Will
    Save
    Skills* Feats Class Features
    1st Soulknife 1 +0 +0 +2 +2 Auto 4, Bala 2,
    Conc 4, Hand 2,
    Hide 4, Move 2,
    Ride 2, Spot 4,
    Tumb 4
    Able LearnerRD150,
    Weapon FocusB
    (Mind Blade),
    Wild TalentB,
    Point Blank ShotB
    Mind Blade,
    Weapon FocusB
    (Mind Blade),
    Wild Talent
    2nd CrusaderToB8 1 +1 +2 +2 +2 Auto 5, Bala 5(3),
    Ride 5(3)
    Furious Counterstrike,
    Steely Resolve 5
    3rd Soulknife 2 +2 +2 +3 +3 Auto 6, Bala 6,
    Hide 6(2), Ride 6,
    Spot 6(2)
    Weapon Finesse Throw Mindblade
    4th Soulknife 3 +3 +3 +3 +3 Auto 7, Bala 7,
    Hide 7, Ride 7,
    Spot 7, Tumb 6(2)
    Martial StudyB,ToB31
    (Steely Strike)
    Bonus Feat
    5th Soulknife 4 +4 +3 +4 +4 Auto 8, Bala 8,
    Hide 8, Ride 8,
    Spot 8, Tumb 8(2)
    +1 Mind Blade
    6th SoulbowCP36 1 +4 +3 +6 +6 Conc 5, Hide 9,
    Move 4(2), Ride 9,
    Spot 9, Tumb 9
    Martial StanceToB31
    (Punishing Stance)
    Precise ShotB
    Mind Arrow,
    Bonus Feat
    7th Bloodstorm
    BladeToB100 1
    +5 +5 +6 +6 Hand 5(3), Hide 10,
    Ride 10, Spot 10,
    Tumb 10
    Throw AnythingB,CW105 Throw Anything,
    Returning Attacks,
    Weapon Aptitude
    8th Bloodstorm
    Blade 2
    +6 +6 +6 +6 Hide 11, Move 7(3),
    Ride 11, Spot 11,
    Tumb 11
    Martial Throw,
    Thunderous Throw
    9th Bloodstorm
    Blade 3
    +7 +6 +7 +7 Hide 12, Move 10(3),
    Ride 12, Spot 12,
    Tumb 12
    Stealthy,
    Mounted CombatB
    Bonus Feat
    10th Crinti
    Shadow
    MarauderShS23 1
    +7 +6 +9 +7 Hide 13, Move 13(3),
    Ride 13, Spot 13,
    Tumb 13
    Shadow Ride
    11th Crinti
    Shadow
    Marauder 2
    +8 +6 +10 +7 Dipl 2, Hide 14,
    Move 14, Ride 14,
    Spot 14, Tumb 14
    Sudden Strike +1d6
    12th Crinti
    Shadow
    Marauder 3
    +9 +7 +10 +8 Dipl 4(2), Hide 15,
    Move 15, Ride 15,
    Spot 15, Tumb 15
    Combat Expertise,
    Mounted ArcheryB
    Shadow Walk,
    Bonus Feat
    13th Crinti
    Shadow
    Marauder 4
    +10 +7 +11 +8 Dipl 6(2), Hide 16,
    Move 16, Ride 16,
    Spot 16, Tumb 16
    Sudden Strike +2d6
    14th Crinti
    Shadow
    Marauder 5
    +10 +7 +11 +8 Dipl 8(2), Hide 17,
    Move 17, Ride 17,
    Spot 17, Tumb 17
    Shadow Pounce
    15th KensaiCW49 1 +10 +7 +11 +10 Dipl 10(2), Hide 18,
    Move 18, Ride 18,
    Spot 18, Tumb 18
    Ranged PinCW104 Signature Weapon
    (+Teleporting)
    16th Kensai 2 +11 +7 +11 +11 Dipl 12(2), Hide 19,
    Move 19, Ride 19,
    Spot 19, Tumb 19
    Power Surge,
    (+Distance)
    17th Kensai 3 +12 +8 +12 +11 Dipl 14(2), Hide 20,
    Move 20, Ride 20,
    Spot 20, Tumb 20
    (+Dispelling)
    18th Bloodstorm
    Blade 3
    +13 +8 +13 +12 Dipl 17(3), Hide 21,
    Move 21, Spot 21,
    Tumb 21
    Staggering StrikeCAd112 Lightning Ricochet
    19th Soulbow 2 +14 +8 +14 +13 Dipl 20(3), Hide 22,
    Move 22, Spot 22,
    Tumb 22
    Mind arrow
    enhancement +1
    20th Soulbow 3 +15 +9 +14 +13 Dipl 23(3), Hide 23,
    Move 23, Spot 23,
    Tumb 23
    Far Shot +1 Mind Arrow,
    Bonus Feat
    * Skill names are abbreviated to their first four letters. Numbers outside parentheses indicate skill ranks. Numbers within parentheses indicate skill points used, if equal to neither 1 nor the current skill rank.


    Maneuvers Known/Readied (2 Granted): Martial Spirit (Stance), Crusader's Strike, Vanguard Strike, Leading the Attack, Douse the Flames, Stone Bones


    Sources
    • SRD: everything else
    • Shining South: Crinti Shadow Marauder
    • Tome of Battle: Crusader, Bloodstorm Blade, Martial Study, Martial Stance, maneuvers/stances
    • Complete Warrior: Kensai, Ranged Pin
    • Complete Psionics: Soulbow
    • Complete Adventurer: Staggering Strike
    • Races of Destiny: Able Learner
    • Expanded Classes (Soulknife), Web Article: Soulknife ACFs (Bonus Feat)

    In Action
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    Riding into Battle
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    Tactics


    General: Across almost all levels, she has high HP due to d10s, AC due to Dex and armor/shield, and saves. Her skills are good, ending up with 6 nearly maxed out: Hide, Spot, Ride, Tumble, Move Silently, and then Diplomacy. Her BAB and attack bonus are above average whenever they're most important. Her combat mobility is unmatched due to her mount.


    Level 5
    She is a great support, having Crusader maneuvers give attack bonus, minor healing, and AoO prevention; this is coupled with a Mind Blade attack bonus of up to +11 = 4(BAB) +3(DEX) +1(Focus) +1(Enhancement) +1(Higher Ground) +1(Furious Counterstrike).

    With mounted combat, she can effectively hit-and-run with Maneuvers, making the 1/round mount-AC substitution sufficient. Her defenses are solid with the usual Crusader defensive perks, as well as Autohypnosis to stave-off Fear and Poison. Hit-and-run tactics also favor thrown her Mind Blades, whose generation isn't much of a problem and whose attack penalties at far ranges she can take.


    Level 10
    Shadow Ride gives her and her mount more mobility that only teleportation effects can provide, helps her in scouting, and increases her attack/retreat range. Punishing Stance gives a slight bump to thrown-melee attack damage and Steely Strike gives a good bump to attack bonus, if needed.

    More importantly, activating Thunderous Throw allows her to hit any Maneuver from her throwing range (up to 150ft for Mind Blade), bringing Crusader support even at range. Full-attacking with ranged weapons while in a speeding mount is another option, so she can shoot or throw 2 Mind Arrows per round whenever not using Maneuvers.


    Level 15 (Sweet Spot)
    Combat Expertise trades attack bonus (max 5) for AC, while Ranged Pin enables Sudden Strike. Shadow Walk also provides her with a means to scout in/out (even interplanar) of target areas, and Shadow Ride becomes now triggers Shadow Pounce. Mounted combat works well with Shadow Pounce as intended: Shadow Ride to get in range, free full-attack and standard action mount attack, and then move out.

    Additionally, Thunderous Throw turns thrown-weapon ranged attacks from maximum range (150ft for Mind Blade) into Melee Attacks. Combined with Sudden Strike, it allows iterative melee Sudden Strikes and even at >30ft range. Combined with Shadow Pounce triggered from using a teleportation effect up to 50-150ft away, it gives a free full-attack by having "a place from which she can make a melee attack against the intended target". Shadow Pounce doesn't even have to be a melee full-attack, so she can be far away wielding a Mind Blade and making a full-attack shooting Mind Arrows; as a quick reminder, she can make a full-attack with her Mind Arrows even while her mount is moving at top speed.

    This is also where Katjusha goes from just being a mobile support/recon to also being a mobile artillery with pseudo-cover-fire support, courtesy of Kensai imbuing the Teleporting ability to her Mind Blade/Arrow, which is technically a part of "You". If even a single one Mind Arrow is thrown, it travels through the Astral Plane and returns it next round to its source. Thus, each single thrown Mind Arrow, such as those used for Maneuvers, will use a Teleportation effect on "You" and trigger Shadow Pounce full-attack, which can the be used to throw a newly generated Mind Arrow or two for more full-attacks, repeated ad infinitum. This means NI attacks of any combination of ranged-thrown/melee and ranged-projectile against anything/one within her maximum throwing weapon range.
    Spoiler: With this combo available, she unlocks more tricks:
    Show

    Inspiring Salvo: Give NI healing via Martial Spirit (melee attack only) to anyone within 30ft, a range which is actually pretty flexible when moving with a mount.

    Mind Arrow Pincushion: NI grapple attempts via Ranged Pin (ranged-projectile attack only) statistically means having opposing rolls of 20 and 1, in her favor, will occur; thus, any modifier less than her BAB+STR+19 is doomed to fail. This is the pseudo-cover-fire effect that vastly improves her support role, in that the enemies will have to waste a standard action to get out of grapple. This is more or less useful for opponents that needs to be alive and conscious, but denied of standard actions, with Martial Spirit likely used to keep them alive too.

    Mounted Bombing Run: Have all of the above tricks on a far larger scale with the help of her mount. Even a single movement of a Light Warhorse (60ft) or a Nightmare (90ft) already brings a massive increase in area coverage (60/90ft line, 300ft thick). That can only get worse with a double-move, or a run (with the Run feat).

    Shadow Ride Missile: Get larger effective range of where "Ground Zero" starts, by a distance of up to 250ft courtesy of Shadow Ride. In this case, Shadow Ride also doubles as an initial Shadow Pounce trigger.

    Shadow-Plane Orbital Cannon: Since Shadow Walk is effectively done at the edge of the Material Plane, a case could be made that she can attack within such a strategically situated edge, affecting anything on that part of the Material Plane. While she can't make out details of the areas/terrain, she doesn't have to because she can just bombard every arbitrary square within range during her entire trip, likely getting a 50% miss chance similar to attacking an invisible creature by attacking its square. In the end, she'd have laid waste to an entire 250mi. line, 300ft wide.
    Be wary, however, that her attacks have low individual damage output, and can be foiled by a combination of DR and critical hit immunity.


    Level 20
    Mind Arrow Enhancement provides Bane for preparing against enemies with crit immunity and high DR, or Merciful to knock creatures unconscious instead. Lightning Ricochet means even manufactured weapons can be used for her barrage of attacks, such as a tripping/disarming weapon or an adamantine weapon for atomizing virtually anything in range with Hardness less than 20. Far Shot doubles her throwing range, and with Distance, gives Mind Blade a max range of 600ft.

    Dispelling improves her supporting role further, with Martial Spirit keeping her target creature alive and a maximum Dispel check of 30 making sure the creature is completely dispelled of anything with CL below 20. Being another great addition to her support role, Staggering Strike also forces the staggered condition on those she Sudden Strikes, which, combined with Ranged Pin, makes for a perfect action-denial combo.


    The Great Shadow Marauding
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    Use of Crinti Shadow Marauder
    • Prereq (Stealthy + stealth skills): Maxed out, although not useful during combat. Her guerilla tactics is sufficiently stealthy in principle, as well as nuking the Material Plane from the border of the Shadow Plane.
    • Prereq (Mounted Combat + mount skills) + Mounted Archery: Her mount isn't just tacked-on. It complements and massively augments her style from the first quartile to the fourth, with Handle Animal enough for low-levels and Ride maxed out. Mounted Archery is useful whenever she isn't nuking, such as when shooting or throwing manufactured weapons pre-LightningRicochet.
    • Shadow Ride: Utilized for actual Mounted Combat, mobility, Shadow Pounce, and the Shadow Ride Missile trick.
    • Sudden Strike: Combined with Thundering Throws for iterative sudden strikes from up to 600ft of distance. Additionally, it's enabled with Ranged Pin's grappling, and further combining the two with Staggering Strike means enemies spend their only action getting out of the pin.
    • Shadow Walk: Utilized for getting in/out of areas for reconnaisance, interplanar travel, and the Shadow-Plane Orbital Cannon trick.
    • Shadow Pounce: Combined with Thundering Throws for ranged/melee full-attacks. Further combined with Teleporting Mind Arrows for NI attacks, and thus is one of the keys to the tricks presented in Level 15. Additionally, her usage of this ability means effects like Dimensional Anchor isn't a complete problem for her.

    Originality
    Expectation Reality
    Manifester with (Teleportation) Teleporting Mind Blade/Arrow
    Initiator with [Teleportation] Buffer Crusader + Bloodstorm
    Sudden Strike beatdown Sudden Strike lockdown
    Shadow Walk tacked-on Shadow Walk orbital-cannon
    Swift+Move+Standard Shadow Pounce Standard+Combo Shadow Pounce
    "Share <X>" to carry mount always carried by mount

    Power
    She ranges from good to overpowered at what she does, such as physical offense buffing, out-of-combat stealth, mobility, battlefield control, HP healing, and then dispel support.

    Elegance
    Since one of the goals was to highlight the SI, the other classes were utilized such that they don't overshadow the SI but she will still get more from taking at least 3 levels. Unfortunately for Crusader, this is a 20-level build; It's really hard to choose who gets shafted, considering Iron Guard's Glare and even the underrated Order forged from Chaos will be great upgrades to this build. The class choices are thematically based on either her personal career or her conviction to further sharpen her "fang"/"claws". Lastly, being a "combo build", the whole will be far larger than the sum of its parts, and nothing it does is doable with any of those taken alone.


    Conflicts
    Spoiler
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    RAW Concerns

    Shadow Pounce (Full-Attack) on a moving mount: While making a melee full-attack is normally forbidden on a mount moving more than 5ft in a round, this seems to be a Specifics trumps General rule similar to how Pounce (Ex) enables a mounted charger to make a full-attack at the end of its charge, or even a full-attack at the end of a normal charge, despite not normally allowing it. Furthermore, the rule seems to refer only to this since the SRD action economy only anticipates one move + one standard action per round as references, which Shadow Pounce already breaks. Lastly, this would make Shadow Pounce almost dysfunctional, since teleporting more than 5ft towards an enemy still technically means that the "mount moves more than 5 feet", only not of its own will/action.

    Throw Mind Arrow: Mind Arrow is based on Throw Mind Blade, and even has Returning as an available enhancement choice, which can only be applied on weapons that can be thrown. Furthermore, Throw Anything pretty much makes normally-non-thrown melee weapons throwable.

    Teleporting Mind Blade/Arrow:
    A Mind Blade/Arrow is created from the very own distilled psychic energies of a Soulknife/bow, and thus sufficiently satisfies the requirement of "You". Unlike manufactured weapons, it's pretty much an extension of your being, using your own energy. Thus, it triggers the Crinti Shadow Marauder's Shadow Pounce.


    Plunders and Bounties
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    Items
    She needs no item in particular, but she can utilize any melee weapon quite well once she gets Lightning Ricochet. An adamantine weapon, for example, would allow her to terraform and destroy nearly anything. Other weapons allow her to trip and disarm from afar with Thunderous Throw.


    Mounts
    She doesn't need a permanent mount. Her choice heavily depends on 1. creature availability and 2. whether she can successfully use Diplomacy on a non-animal mount (as stated in DMG p.204). She prefers fast and maneuverable ones to complement her tactics: something like Light Warhorse or Dire Bat earlier and Dragon, Hoary Steed, or Nightmare later.
    Last edited by Heliomance; 2015-11-30 at 05:31 PM.
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