Entry number 6:

Quote Originally Posted by Cocus Ferrea
Cocus Ferrea

"Always eat what you kill."

Neutral Evil Glimmerskin Halfling
Patron "Deity": Blood of Vol
Halfling Rogue 1 / Thief of Life 10 / Fang of Lolth 1 / Shadowdancer 1 / Thunder Guide 1 / Master of Masks 1 / Renegade Mastermaker 1 / Death Delver 1 / Acolyte of the Ego 1 / Acolyte of the Skin 1 / Ardent Dilettante 1


STORY:
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"The blood is the life! The blood is the life!" Every Seeker learns that early on, but I'm not sure they all get it, you know? I get it. I've always gotten it. What's more, some higher-ups in the Church knew that I got it. Pretty much as soon as I got out of school, I was kept in the church after services one Revelations Day and told that the Church wanted to teach me something. I was just a little stripling of a thing when they took me aside for training—barely knew the business end of a dagger, unless of course I was throwing it—but I understood from Day 1 that there's power in blood, and I understood it in a way that qualified me for some special training. Most Seekers get all hung up on their own blood—and don't get me wrong, my own blood is incredibly important to me—but I knew that you aren't the only one who can access the power in your blood. If there's power in my blood and power in your blood, how much power would I have if I could add yours to mine?

So they took me and they trained me. Ignore those who would seek to frighten you. Ignore those who would sap your life. Ignore those who would stop your heart without spilling your blood. Sense the blood, farther and farther away. Draw the blood with a quick blade (not actually that different from what I was doing from far away, just closer and better). And when the last drop of blood is drawn? That's when the fun part comes in.

Sure, every would-be cutthroat trying to sound tough talks about the "rush" they get after a successful kill, but they don't know what they're talking about. They get a little tawdry excitement from the spill of blood, like the common folk do when they watch a vulgar gladatorial match, but they don't know the power of it. When you understand blood the way I do, the excitement you feel comes not from the thump of body on ground but from the powerful communion of your blood with my blood. There's nothing like it. It alters the mind like an intoxicant, but it grants a feeling of perfect clarity instead of the stupor of wine. It wakes me up more perfectly than even the tea brewed by the dragons. It nourishes me more completely than anything House Ghallanda offers. I take what you're no longer using—your life guards my life, your soul energizes my reflexes, your mind bolsters my thoughts . . . you become part of me, and I am stronger for it.

They taught me how to do that in bits and pieces. I gobbled it up (I've always been a quick learner), but then they told me that they couldn't teach me any more. They said I held the secret of immortality already, and I was on my own to use it. So I did. I wandered about (mostly Arenal and Seren, but far and wide, really), sensing blood powerful enough to nourish my own and taking it whenever I found it. I had my share of close calls (even got dropped near death myself once or twice), but I made my way around. And nourish myself I did, though I didn't feel myself actually getting stronger as a result. I knew that I needed different fare if I were to make myself more perfect. And then one day I sensed someone who would qualify as just that—different.

They were hideous to look at with my eyes—a twisted mongrel of rat and spider, all arms and fangs and fur—but when I looked with my blood, I saw an aura about them. An aura of achievement, almost like a metaphysical wreath of laurels. Though my face's eyes clearly saw no such thing, I could swear that my blood's eye saw them holding a golden trophy. I knew right then and there that I needed to absorb their essence into my blood. They were everything I needed to be, this "Tchar-Lee Kuh-Lee," and I would make them mine. I hid, I pounced, I drew the blood—I had almost forgotten what sleep was by this point, except insofar as it makes for nice targets—and I absorbed the most delectable soul I had ever tasted. The feeling was indescribable. The spark of divinity in my blood resonated with the spark in their blood, and I understood what it was like to be Tchar-Lee, world-famed Fang of Lolth. My blow knocked loose a spider-like amulet from their neck. It took a bit of fiddling to figure out how to activate its magic, but I eventually succeeded—perhaps too well, because I've never been able to take the damn thing off! Immediately, I felt my whole form changing—my skin darkened, my teeth grew, my neck got hairy—and I knew that I had succeeded in becoming what Tchar-Lee represented. From that point, my path was clear—I would seek out other people with that same aura of achievement and absorb them into myself.

I researched where this aura of achievement might have come from, and I searched high and low for other people with the same quality. I heard tales of one "Sandamir," and I sought them out. I had heard that they were the best Shadowdancer the world had to offer. My sources told me that they were undead, which stymied me a little bit. Undead blood just doesn't have the same pop to it. Still, I thought I'd give it a try, so I watched, I waited, I pounced, and—nothing. Sandamir just kind of looked at me, and then he asked what the hell I was thinking. A little bit of flattery never hurt, so I told him I was looking to gain the powers of the greatest Shadowdancer ever. He laughed and told me that there was no way I'd ever succeed against him, but he pointed me towards the second-best: a fellow named Lucian the Wanderer. His blood was as alive as mine is (even if the trophy my blood sensed was silver rather than gold), and then it became exactly as alive as mine is (in so far as that it became mine).

The next one I found was higher-profile than I expected. Everyone knows Kole Naerrin from the Korranberg Chronicle, right? Turns out he's one of these high achievers as well. What's more, it turns out he's nothing but a fake! All those tales he writes about his adventures in the Thunder Sea, serving as a Thunder Guide? They're nothing but fiction! He'd never, ever admit it, but his blood told me the truth as I staked him out and watched him. I threatened to expose him for the fraud he is, at which point he just bared his throat to me and told me he'd rather die. After getting what I came for (learning a new language in the process—funny what a person's essence can teach you), I saw no need to ruin the reputation of someone who contributed to the perfection of my blood. I probably did his estate a favor by boosting his book sales, anyway. (Why tell you this? Let's just say I'm not too worried about you spilling that secret.)

It took a bit of work to find another target worthy of my blood. I eventually saw one such fellow just walking around, not living the high life of luxury you might expect of someone so accomplished. I actually saw him in several different disguises and masks, but his blood stayed the same, and that aura never left him. No two people called him the same name (Genriyon? Jereth? I can't tell), but it seemed to me that the best way to get close to him would be to bump off someone he trusted and take their place, which I did. My disguise was flawless, and the poor sap's friends and associates didn't notice a difference, at least not for the brief time I was in character. Once I got close enough, I put my dagger in this Jereth's back, and that same rush of accomplishment overwhelmed me. If I live to be a thousand (and at this rate, I just might), I don't think I'll ever get tired of that. I thought that the masks I saw him wearing might have been magical, but they seemed completely useless when I tried to put them on. You'd think the world's best Master of Masks could make a magical one or two! Oh well. Got a few good ideas for making my own, though, and the ones I made seemed pretty magical to me. I'd gotten pretty good at making things.

It's actually a good thing that I'd been getting good at making things, because the next fellow I found seemed like a hard nut to crack. Thankfully, the energized divinity in my blood made it so that I didn't need to eat or sleep, so I had a lot of time on my hands to plan and prepare. Once a respected doctor but now the world's premier Renegade Mastermaker, AM-1468 (previously Dr. Antony Mallory) claimed to have transcended humanity and achieved "construct perfection." Now, I know that it's a little bit harder to get to the juicy bits of a construct, but that's why I had the foresight to make myself one of those Demolition Crystals you hear about. (Had to use a scroll to get the right spell, but that's not so hard.) I was willing to bet that AM-1468 still had enough blood in him to be interesting, if only I could get to it. I was right, of course! The blood never lies, even if it takes a bit of work to get to it. I absorbed his essence like all the others, and my mind opened to the possibilities that lay within the strange metal hand he had stuck on the end of his arm. Before he became part of me, I never would have thought of my own hand as being anything other than perfectly sufficient, but with his blood whispering to my own, I saw how easy it would be to become so much more. Part of me always becomes those I absorb; in this case, that just happened to be a bit more physically obvious than others. AM-1468, like me, planned to live forever; since his arm is now part of me, it looks like he's going to succeed. He lives on through this arm! That wasn't the only thing I found in his lair, of course. He had all kinds of blueprints drawn up for weird and crazy gadgets. Most of them didn't seem worth the effort to me, but I saw one for a crystal very similar to the one that had brought the mad doctor low, just tuned more to undead than to constructs. That, at least, let me get the last laugh on old Sandamir, even if his blood wasn't any use to me.

Not everyone tried to fight me, of course. Normally, I would stalk someone for days after finding that aura of achievement, hiding in the shadows and waiting for just the right time to get them alone. I tried to do just that with some motley-wearing entertainer who called himself Parsifal the Fool, but the first time I saw him alone, he turned and stared directly at my hiding place, just as though he could see me! "So you've come at last?" he asked me. He seemed to know exactly what I was planning, and he seemed alternately resigned and terrified at my presence. He explained that he knew that his prophecied hour had come, so he wouldn't try to fight me off. I figured it was a trick, but so far as I can tell, it wasn't—he took a few more stabs than I would have expected, but his blood became mine just the same. His last action was to have the oddly passive skeletons following him around plink out a requiem on their instruments, the comedic value of which was overwhelmed only by its poignancy. So ended the tale of the most celebrated Death Delver.

My next target, a gentleman by the name of Benjamin Nutt, seemed incredibly prepared for a fight against a very specific foe. Thankfully, I didn't happen to be that foe. Honestly, he seemed shocked that I wasn't some wielder of Truename magic. He'd apparently risen to fame as an Acolyte of the Ego just to try to fight them. How someone so focused on that kind of thing ended up with that aura of achievement, I'll never know, but it was on him clear as day. As I took his essence into my being and felt was it was like to be him, I became aware of the name the universe has for me, which I've decided to go by ever since: Cocus Ferrea. (Or at least, that's a rough transliteration of it—even I have a hard time saying the proper thing out loud.) It probably means something in Celestial or Draconic or something. Still, I think it has a nice ring to it.

I had a bit of trouble finding another victim with that same aura of achievement. I had to employ some unusual methods, including working with some Wizards who liked to summon fiends and use them as sources of information. Those Wizards tended to be useless in their own nutty way, but some of the fiends they summoned were pretty neat. One such fiend told me to seek out a fellow known as The Sacred Demon, apparently an esteemed Acolyte of the Skin. According to my demonic informant, The Sacred Demon was interfering in the plans of a certain Ta'ligul, a demon for whom my informant had some respect. I realized that I was probably advancing some kind of hidden agenda, but as long as I could get access to people with that aura of achievement, it didn't matter to me if I had to help out an unsavory character or two. A quick blade made just as short work of The Sacred Demon as all the others, but he didn't fall in a heap the way everyone else did—rather, he fell in two heaps. One was a desiccated humanoid corpse with a celestial air to it (not dissimilar to what I was expecting), but one seemed to be simply the skin of a demon. The demon skin seemed to be hollow, and it looked like I could wear it like a cloak—so I did. (What can I say, I have a habit of picking up trophies, and it usually works out, even if I still can't get this damn spider necklace off.) Long story short, I found Ta'ligul, and he's helping me out now. He says I'm a lot easier to work with than that Sacred Demon fellow. Something about fewer conflicts of interest.

Ta'ligul didn't have a ton of useful information for me (his suggestions mostly boil down to "KILL THEM ALL," which isn't really helpful for someone of my refined palate), but he did suggest that I take to the planes to see if I could find anyone else who would meet my needs. One thing led to another, and I found myself in Sigil. Practically everyone there seemed to belong to some kind of faction, and not all of them seemed like the most helpful sorts of people, but the folks who called themselves the Sensates seemed pretty easy to talk to. You can get away with asking them about damn near any sort of depraved thing, and a lot of them will just talk about how daring you are in the pursuit of sensation. (Plus, they didn't seem to care about my spiderlike features, my metal arm, my mask, or the demon riding around on my back.) They did, however, demand that I tell them about some various things I had experienced, so I humored them. I went up in one of their "sensoriums" and started talking about what it's like to commune with the blood of one of my targets. How sharp your vision gets, the sound of your heartbeat as their heartbeat stops, the feel of their vigor strengthening you, the scent of their fear, even the taste of their soul. The Sensates lapped it up and had me recount experience after experience . . . and I won't deny that it was fun to showboat a little bit for an audience who wouldn't judge the contents of my story so much as the telling. After I was done, a Sensate named Arleigh Skye came up and congratulated me on weaving such a fine tale—at least, I assume that's what she was talking about, because I was a little bit distracted by being actively approached by one of the very luminaries I was seeking. She was what the Sensates call an Ardent Dilettante, and she was one of their very best. I concocted an excuse to get her alone—and she got to experience the new sensation of nourishing my soul.

There were others, of course. Old Lob. Little Starry-Eyes. Sortes. Nyldene and Lady Liandra. Jorath, Hand of Annihilation. More luminaries than I can count, each one worthy of praise in their own way. It's almost enough to make a Seeker want to revere some of those things the yokels call gods, because whoever was responsible for bringing those people into being deserves some kind of recognition. So long as I live, I'll seek each one out . . . and they will become mine.


TABLES:
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Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
1 Halfling Rogue 1 +0 +0 +2 +0 Heal 4, K: Arcana 4, K: Religion 2, Hide 4, Move Silently 2, Perform: Dance 4, Perform: Act 4, UMD 4, Truespeak 2 cc Education (bonuses to Arcana and Religion) Trapfinding, Sneak Attack (ranged 2d6/melee 0)
2 Thief of Life 1 +0 +2 +4 +0 Concentration 1, Disguise 1, Hide +1 (5), Move Silently +1 (3), Truespeak +0.5 cc (2.5), UMD +1 (5) Lifesense (5 ft)
3 Thief of Life 2 +1 +3 +5 +0 Concentration +1 (2), Disguise +1 (2), Hide +1 (6), Move Silently +1 (4), Truespeak +0.5 cc (3), UMD +1 (6) Midnight Dodge Sneak Attack (ranged 3d6/melee 1d6)
4 Thief of Life 3 +2 +3 +5 +1 Concentration +1 (3), Disguise +1 (3), Hide +1 (7), Move Silently +1 (5), Truespeak +0.5 cc (3.5), UMD +1 (7) Lifesense (10 ft)
5 Thief of Life 4 +3 +4 +6 +1 Concentration +1 (4), Disguise +1 (4), Hide +1 (8), Move Silently +1 (6), Truespeak +0.5 cc (3.5), UMD +1 (8) Borrow Vigor
6 Thief of Life 5 +3 +4 +6 +1 Concentration +1 (5), Disguise +1 (5),Hide +1 (9), Move Silently +1 (7), Truespeak +0.5 cc (4.5), UMD +1 (9) Mobility Immunity to Fear, Lifesense (15 ft)
7 Thief of Life 6 +4 +5 +7 +2 Concentration +1 (6), Disguise +1 (6), Hide +1 (10), Move Silently +1 (8), Truespeak +0.5 cc (5), UMD +1 (10) Sneak Attack (ranged 4d6/melee 2d6)
8 Thief of Life 7 +5 +5 +7 +2 Bluff 2, Concentration +1 (7), Diplomacy 1, Disguise +1 (7), Truespeak +0.5 cc (5.5) Immunity to Energy Drain, Lifesense (20 ft)
9 Thief of Life 8 +6 +6 +8 +2 Bluff +2 (4), Concentration +1 (8), Diplomacy +1 (2), Disguise +1 (8), Hide +1 (11) Combat Reflexes Steal Vitality
10 Thief of Life 9 +6 +6 +8 +3 Bluff +1 (5), Craft: Blacksmithing 1, Diplomacy +1 (3), Hide +2 (13), Perform: Dance +0.5 cc (4.5) Immunity to Death Effects, Lifesense (25 ft)
11 Thief of Life 10 +7 +7 +9 +3 Craft: Blacksmithing +2 (3), Perform: Dance +0.5 cc (5), Truespeak +0.5 cc (6), Speak Language 1 cc (Elven) Sneak Attack (ranged 5d6/melee 3d6), Steal Immortality
12 Fang of Lolth 1 +7 +7 +11 +3 Craft: Blacksmithing +5 (8), Truespeak +0.5 cc (6.5) Craft Magic Arms and Armor Skill Bonuses (+2 Climb, +2 Jump, +4 UMD)
13 Shadowdancer 1 +7 +7 +13 +3 K: Religion +1 (3), Perform: Act +4 (8), Truespeak +0.5 cc (7) Hide In Plain Sight
14 Thunder Guide 1 +7 +9 +13 +3 Bluff +3 (8), Truespeak +0.5 cc (7.5) Speak Language (Giant)
15 Master of Masks 1 +7 +9 +15 +5 K: Religion +1 (4), Truespeak +1.5 cc (9) Craft Wondrous Item Persona Masks (Assassin, Faceless)
16 Renegade Mastermaker 1 +7 +11 +15 +7 Spellcraft 4 Battlefist, Craft Master
17 Death Delver 1 +7 +13 +15 +9 K: Planes 2 Spells, Deathsense, Rebuke Undead
18 Acolyte of the Ego 1 +8 +15 +15 +9 K: Planes +4 (6) Practiced Spellcaster (Death Delver) Known Personal Truename
19 Acolyte of the Skin 1 +8 +17 +15 +11 Profession: Chef 2 Wear Fiend (natural armor +1, DEX +2, darkvision), Poison 1/day
20 Ardent Dilettante 1 +8 +17 +17 +11 Lucid Dreaming 6 Heightened Senses, Lore

32 point buy
Starting stats:
STR: 14 – 2 racial = 12 (6 points)
DEX: 16 + 2 racial = 18 (10 points)
CON: 14 (6 points)
INT: 10 (2 points)
WIS: 12 (4 points)
CHA: 12 (4 points)

Stat changes: All level-up stats go to DEX; +2 DEX from Acolyte of the Skin

Multiclass penalty: No

Starting Languages: Common, Halfling

Glimmerskin halfling traits (Dragon Magic pg. 9): Like PHB halflings except as follows:
Dragonblood subtype
Touch of Luck: Once per day, grant self or ally within 30 ft a +2 luck bonus to one saving throw as an immediate action
Heal is always a class skill
No Move Silently bonus

SPELLS:
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Level 0lvl 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st - - - - - - - - - -
2nd - - - - - - - - - -
3rd - - - - - - - - - -
4th - - - - - - - - - -
5th - - - - - - - - - -
6th - - - - - - - - - -
7th - - - - - - - - - -
8th - - - - - - - - - -
9th - - - - - - - - - -
10th - - - - - - - - - -
11th - - - - - - - - - -
12th - - - - - - - - - -
13th - - - - - - - - - -
14th - - - - - - - - - -
15th - - - - - - - - - -
16th - - - - - - - - - -
17th - 0 - - - - - - - -
18th - 0 - - - - - - - -
19th - 0 - - - - - - - -
20th - 0 - - - - - - - -


STRATEGY AND DESIGN:
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The Secret Ingredient has prereqs that aren't that easy to meet in a traditional manner, but each element of them can be gotten around somehow. The SI requires Sneak Attack, so we're looking at a Rogue or a Rogue-analogue. Knowledge (Arcana) and Knowledge (Religion) aren't usually in-class for Rogues, but Education fixes that. Getting Heal as a class skill is as simple as being a glimmerskin halfling, and it just so happens that the RotW Halfling Racial Substitution Level for Rogues lets us get 2d6 Sneak Attack right off the bat. (Sure, it only works on ranged attacks, but it's still 2d6 Sneak Attack.) Once we're in Thief of Life, we pick up everything the class has to offer as soon as possible. Extra Sneak Attack never goes amiss, the immunities are always handy, and Lifesense is a relatively unique ability, especially so early in the game. Midnight Dodge gives us an essentia receptacle, so we can actually use the essentia we steal from people. Once we get the ability to devour people's souls, we pack it up and look elsewhere.

Fang of Lolth gives us useful skill bonuses, particularly UMD. Shadowdancer offers true Hide In Plain Sight, which is hugely important for a stealthy Sneak Attacker. Thunder Guide teaches us another language, which allows us to qualify for Master of Masks. Master of Masks gives us the Faceless mask for when we don't want to be found out and the Assassin mask to make our Sneak Attack even better. The Supernatural abilities from Thief of Life have no listed caster level, so as per the Monster Manual, the CL defaults to our HD, giving us the CL necessary to take Craft Wondrous Item and Craft Magic Arms and Armor, which lets us get into Renegade Mastermaker; Renegade Mastermaker in turn gives us a very nice semi-natural weapon that can't be taken from us (and that could conceivably be enchanted if we use Greater Magic Weapon/Fang to temporarily enchant it while it's being permanently upgraded, though that's really just a gimmick and not a primary strategy). Death Delver grants access to spells and to Rebuke Undead. The language we got from Thunder Guide also qualifies us for Acolyte of the Ego, the benefits of which are self-evident. Acolyte of the Skin gives us natural armor, increased DEX, and darkvision, along with a nice Poison effect once per day. Ardent Dilettante gives us more skill bonuses and a Bardic Knowledge-style effect. So as you can see, everything blends together in a natural way, and the end result clearly . . .

. . . Okay, yeah, I can't keep a straight face with that anymore. Being real for a minute, this is obviously more of a showcase build than a playable character. Once I realized that it was possible to qualify for the Secret Ingredient after level 1, I knew that I wanted to set a record of entering/completing the Secret Ingredient at the earliest possible level. (It's possible that one of the 5-level ingredients could have been completed first, but still, there's no way we've had an ingredient that can be entered sooner than I enter this one.) This also means that I have an entry who only needs 1 level in a base class, which should also be unique (not counting entries who rely mostly on racial paragon classes before the SI), which left me with some interesting possibilities. I figured that I might as well set another record by making an entry with the greatest possible number of Secret Ingredients. It may technically be possible to touch more Secret Ingredients, but there's no way to do that while still finishing the primary Secret Ingredient (and then using its powers to eat the souls of the other Secret Ingredients, though I hope that we never use Illithid Savant as a Secret Ingredient).

To be fair, though, the character does have some tricks that make them playable. Thief of Life gives us some cool immunities, and since we enter it so early, it's really hard to get those immunities any earlier while still being a living creature (especially for always-on immunity that can't be dispelled and that doesn't take an action). Lifesense is unique enough to be noticeable, and Steal Immortality (and its cousins) of course forms the heart and soul of the character. With the Assassin Mask active, we end up with a decent handful of Sneak Attack (6d6 ranged, 4d6 melee), and Shadowdancer gives us the good kind of Hide In Plain Sight. That's not going to smash any power records, but honestly, it's not bad; the character's late game might not be a whirlwind of competence, but they're actually pretty cohesive for a large part of their career.

In the end, I've accomplished my goal by simply constructing this build. I have entered and completed a Secret Ingredient at the earliest level that's physically possible (I dare you to beat that record), I managed to qualify for ten different Secret Ingredients (with 10 INT worth of skill points and zero bonus feats, I will add!), I squeezed in more Secret Ingredients than should ever be possible in a single build, I stuck religiously to my own fluff, and I got to eat the souls of a bunch of beloved champions. Thanks for reading, and I hope I made you smile.



SOURCES AND CREDITS:
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Rogue: Player's Handbook/SRD
Halfling Rogue Substitution Level: Races of the Wild
Thief of Life: Faiths of Eberron
Fang of Lolth: Song and Silence
Shadowdancer: Dungeon Master's Guide/SRD
Thunder Guide: Eberron Explorer's Handbook
Master of Masks: Complete Scoundrel
Renegade Mastermaker: Magic of Eberron
Death Delver: Heroes of Horror
Acolyte of the Ego: Tome of Magic
Acolyte of the Skin: Complete Arcane
Ardent Dilettante: Planar Handbook

Glimmerskin Halfling: Dragon Magic
Education: Eberron Campaign Setting
Midnight Dodge: Magic of Incarnum
Practiced Spellcaster: Complete Arcane
Mobility, Combat Reflexes, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item: Player's Handbook/SRD
Truespeak skill: Tome of Magic
Lucid Dreaming skill: Manual of the Planes
Other skills: Player's Handbook/SRD
Greater Demolition Crystal: Magic Item Compendium
Name: Google Translate

Many thanks and accolades to those responsible for my targets: The Viscount (Tchar-Lee Kuh-Lee), gbprime (Sandamir, Arleigh Skye), Piggy Knowles (Lucian the Wanderer, AM-1468, Parsifal the Fool), Chronos (Kole Naerrin), Draz74 (Jereth), Zaq (Benjamin Nutt), and The Dark Fiddler (The Sacred Demon). Kudos to all chefs and champions I didn't mention; I included as much as I reasonably could, but that doesn't mean that the ones I singled out are the only ones worthy of comment (or even necessarily the best of the bunch)! Eternal thanks (past, present, and future) to our judges and to our Chairpeople. Here's to 75 more rounds!