Look into my eyes...
Originally Posted by OpsablepsiaOpsablepsia
Dragonborn of Bahamut [RotD] (Heart aspect) (previously Silverbrow Human [DrM])
Dragonfire Adept [DrM] 1 / Binder [ToM] 8 / Serene Guardian [SGoSG] 10 / Swordsage [ToB] 1
Multiclass penalties: No [Favored Class: Any and Fighter]
Feats with asterisks will change upon undergoing the Rite of Rebirth; see below.
Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features 1st Dragonfire Adept 1 [DrM] +0 +2 +0 +2 Intimidate 4, K: Planes 4, Concentration 4, Sense Motive 4, Spellcraft 4, UMD 4 Entangling Exhalation [RotD], Human bonus: Least Dragonmark (Mark of Passage)* [ECS] (post-rebirth: Dragon Wings [RotD]), DFA bonus: Dragontouched* [DrM] (lost upon rebirth) Breath Weapon, Invocation: Endure Exposure 2nd Binder 1 [ToM] +0 +4 +0 +4 Intimidate 5, K: Planes 5, Sense Motive 5, Spellcraft 5 Soul binding (1 vestige), 1st level vestiges 3rd Binder 2 +1 +5 +0 +5 Intimidate 6, Sense Motive 6, Concentration 5, Spellcraft 6 Breath of Syberis* [DMk] (post-rebirth: Improved Dragon Wings [RotD]) Pact augmentation (1 ability), Suppress sign 4th Binder 3 +2 +5 +1 +5 Intimidate 7, Sense Motive 7, Concentration 6, Spellcraft 7 2nd level vestiges 5th Binder 4 +3 +6 +1 +6 Intimidate 8, Sense Motive 8, Concentration 7, Spellcraft 8 Binder bonus: Improved Binding [ToM] 3rd level vestiges 6th Binder 5 +3 +6 +1 +6 Intimidate 9, Sense Motive 9, Concentration 8, Spellcraft 9 Elemental Grafter [MoE] Pact augmentation (2 abilities), 4th level vestiges 7th Binder 6 +4 +7 +2 +7 Intimidate 10, Sense Motive 10, Concentration 9, Spellcraft 10 Soul guardian (immune to fear) 8th Binder 7 +5 +7 +2 +7 Intimidate 11, Sense Motive 11, Concentration 10, Spellcraft 11 9th Binder 8 +6 +8 +2 +8 Intimidate 12, Sense Motive 12, Concentration 11, Spellcraft 12 Irresistible Gaze [SS] Soul binding (2 vestiges), 5th level vestiges 10th Serene Guardian 1 [SGoSG] +7 +10 +4 +8 Intimidate 13, Sense Motive 13, Concentration 13 Resonance, painful release 11th Serene Guardian 2 +8 +11 +5 +8 Intimidate 14, Concentration 14, Tumble 2 Damaging release 12th Serene Guardian 3 +9 +11 +5 +9 Intimidate 15, Concentration 15, Tumble 4 Martial Study (Vanguard Strike) [ToB], Serene Guardian bonus: Martial Stance (Iron Guard's Glare) [ToB] 13th Serene Guardian 4 +10 +12 +6 +9 Intimidate 16, Concentration 16, Tumble 6 Staggering release 14th Serene Guardian 5 +11 +12 +6 +9 Intimidate 17, Concentration 17, Tumble 8 Greater resonance 15th Serene Guardian 6 +12 +13 +7 +10 Intimidate 18, Concentration 18, Tumble 10 Martial Study (Entangling Blade) [ToB] Traumatic release 16th Serene Guardian 7 +13 +13 +7 +10 Intimidate 19, Concentration 19, Tumble 12 Immune to fear 17th Serene Guardian 8 +14 +14 +8 +10 Intimidate 20, Concentration 20, Tumble 14 Confounding release 18th Serene Guardian 9 +15 +14 +8 +11 Intimidate 21, Concentration 21, Tumble 16 Piercing Gaze [SS] Unclouded mind 19th Serene Guardian 10 +16 +15 +9 +11 Intimidate 22, Concentration 22, Tumble 18 Soul release 20th Swordsage 1 [ToB] +16 +15 +11 +13 Intimidate 23, Concentration 23, Tumble 23, Craft: Basketweaving 1 Discipline focus (Diamond Mind), Quick to act +1, Maneuvers (Moment of Perfect Mind, Action Before Thought, Mind Over Body, Insightful Strike, Ruby Nightmare Blade, Disrupting Blow, Stance of Clarity)
STR: 12 (4 pts)
DEX: 12 (10 after transformation) (4 pts)
CON: 14 (16 after transformation) (6 pts)
INT: 14 (6 pts)
WIS: 10 (2 pts)
CHA: 16 (10 pts)
Level-up points go into CHA.
Change at 6 HD: Opsablepsia becomes a Dragonborn of Bahamut at 6 HD. Per the sidebar on pg. 20 of Races of the Dragon, she must lose her dragonmark, as well as any feats for which her dragonmark was a prereq, replacing them with other feats. (In this case, we lose Least Dragonmark and Breath of Siberys.) Per the sidebar on pg. 10 of the same book, she may turn a feat into a 1st-level-only feat, in this case Dragon Wings. From the same sidebar, bonus feats granted by one's race are also lost upon transformation, but when that bonus feat is not a specific feat (as is the case here), "any feat may be lost," so Opsablepsia loses the Dragontouched feat granted by her level in Dragonfire Adept. In short, when she becomes a Dragonborn at 6 HD, Opsablepsia sacrifices Dragontouched, she turns Least Dragonmark into Dragon Wings, and she turns Breath of Siberys into Improved Dragon Wings. (She qualifies for Improved Dragon Wings at 6 HD when the transformation happens, and there is no rule saying that she had to qualify for it when she took the feat that she is forced to replace.)
Backstory: Once a scion of House Orien, the woman who would eventually take the name of Opsablepsia knew early on that she had an energy inside of her, and that energy was just waiting for the right conduit to release itself. Her adventures through the Valley of Obelisks (in and around the Slaughtergarde laboratory, eventually destroying the Shattered Gate itself) gave her lots of chances to experiment with different ways of channeling power through herself—from nurturing a spark of dragonfire in her heart (which eventually blossomed into taking the form of one pledged to the service of the Platinum Dragon), to experimenting with the vestiges of those banished from this reality, to replacing her own eyes with those of a fire elemental after an incident involving some wererats, and so on. She climbed the ranks of the Luminous Order until she realized that the energy inside her could be allowed to burst forth through her eyes, and she also realized that that same energy could sync up with the energy inside other folks in a way that she could control. The rest, of course, is history.
Strategy: Opsablepsia starts out as a basic Dragonfire Adept—Entangling Exhalation is a great strategy from level 1 on, and truthfully, it stays her bread and butter for a long time. Endure Exposure is used to make the breath weapon ally-friendly. Breath of Siberys isn't something we keep forever, but it does make our breath weapon stay marginally more relevant damage-wise for a little while longer. Binder is never a bad choice early in the game (Aym is great defensively because most low-level things don't want to hit someone who's on fire, Malphas's scouting ability is legendary, Focalor is useful right out of the box as soon as he is available, and so on), and of course, a Binder's strength is their versatility, so we can adapt to the order of the day.
We do want to use the Duel of Wills [ToB pg. 27] rules whenever possible, since if the target accepts the challenge and loses, we get a +1 bonus to damage rolls against it. Every +1 adds up.
Things start to shift a bit around 6th or 7th level, when we take Elemental Grafter (the caster level prereq for which is handled by virtue of the supernatural abilities of Binder) and gain the ability to implant the Scorching Gaze graft [MoE pg. 133]. If we can't find a friendly spellcaster willing to help us with the Scorching Ray prereq, we can bind Karsus and just use a wand of Scorching Ray for the same purpose. But the upshot is that this gives us a gaze attack that deals fire damage. We also undergo the Rite of Rebirth around this level, transforming from a Silverbrow Human into a Dragonborn of Bahamut. (The reason that we're a Silverbrow instead of a regular Human is twofold. First, this prevents us from needing to recalculate skill points, and second, since Silverbrow Humans have the Dragonblood subtype from the get-go, Dragontouched is not needed to serve as a prereq for Entangling Exhalation, so there's absolutely no ambiguity about whether or not it can be the feat that we sacrifice in the transformation.) This gives us a nice scaling breath weapon to use—again, it's not going to be a damage powerhouse, but it's noticeably better than the one we get from a single level of DFA (even if it is on a recharge timer). We still have the DFA one, and even though it's going to do a negligible amount of damage, it's still going to entangle just as well. We're forced to lose our dragonmark (and, with it, Breath of Syberis), but we get Dragon Wings/Improved Dragon Wings in return, which can certainly make aiming breath weapons easier.
After we take our eighth level of Binder, we gain access to several breakpoints all at once. We hit BAB +6 (qualifying for Serene Guardian), we gain the ability to bind two vestiges at once, and (thanks to Improved Binding) we gain the ability to access 5th level vestiges, the relevant ones of which are Balam and Geryon. Balam gives a gaze attack that deals cold damage, and Geryon gives a gaze attack that deals acid damage. From here on out, our vestiges are pretty consistent—unless there's something weird going on, we want Balam and Geryon in action together. (Those two vestiges have a few other abilities as well, like Balam's instant reroll of a d20 and Geryon's all-around vision—which nicely cancels out the penalty we take from Scorching Gaze—but the gaze attacks are the important pieces.) After that, we dive into Serene Guardian headfirst.
Gaze attacks, of course, do automatic damage with no action required on the part of the user. (Yes, there's a saving throw allowed, but still, no action required, and Irresistible Gaze helps with the saving throw, considering that it uses the word "all.") We have three separate gaze attacks, so we can conceivably do three pings of damage to each foe anywhere near us every single round, and that's before we spend any actions at all. We can also trigger pings of damage by means of our breath weapons—the initial hit is a ping, and the residual damage from entangling is also a ping, so it's pretty easy for us to set up resonance in lots of enemies at once. It should also be mentioned that our Binder levels give us two Pact Augmentations, which we choose to use for a net +2 insight bonus on (all!) damage rolls, including gaze attacks, residual entangle damage, and so on. +2 might not sound like a lot on its own, but when you consider how many separate sources of damage we're adding it to, it's definitely not nothing. (It also means that even our timid little 1d6 from the DFA breath weapon is likely to do at least one point of damage, even with half damage for Entangling Exhalation and half damage from a successful saving throw—it's not that hard to roll 2 or better on a d6.) Our goal, as always, is less striker and more controller, to put it in 4e parlance. Entangle honestly still messes folks up even through mid-high levels, but when we add in penalties from Painful Release or speed penalties from Staggering Release, we can be a real thorn in the side of our foes. (Staggering Release's speed penalties combine with the speed penalties from entangled in very nasty ways, and Entangling Blade is icing on that particular cake once per encounter.) Damaging Release isn't going to be a showstopper, but even it benefits from our bonuses to general damage rolls.
At level 12, we pick up Iron Guard's Glare, which, in addition to being thematically appropriate (our eyes have power, and we dare you to look at them), gives us another way to harass enemies. If they try to avert their eyes to avoid the gaze attacks, they'll have a hard time hitting Opsablepsia or her friends. We're proficient with the longspear, so we can threaten a decent area if necessary, and a spiked gauntlet at least lets us fill out the threatened zone, even if the gauntlet itself isn't very dangerous. There's no reason that Opsablepsia's Weapon of the Celestial Host can't be a longspear, after all. While actually attacking with a weapon isn't going to be a primary strategy outside of the handful of piecemeal maneuvers we pick up, we do have tolerable BAB.
Basically, what makes Opsablepsia interesting in comparison to other Serene Guardians is the fact that gaze attacks affect lots of enemies without expending any actions, so we can therefore build up resonance in lots of enemies at once, regardless of who we're focusing the bulk of our attention on. Sure, the class itself caps how much resonance each foe can be given per turn, but even if we release it in one foe per round, the fact that we're passively building it up in many foes at once means that we aren't starting completely over every time we release it. Consider a fight with 3 enemies. If we release 1 round worth resonance in enemy A, then B and C are still accumulating resonance from our passive damage pings. We then release it in B (2 rounds worth), while C is still accumulating more resonance and A is gaining resonance after spending it all last round. When we release it in C (3 rounds word), A and B will still have more resonance (2 rounds worth for A and 1 round worth for B, which will have incremented again by the time we can release next turn). We usually don't have to spend time building up from zero midway through the battle. We want to focus on the control effects (penalties, speed reduction, Confusion), though we're not going to be shy about using the damage effects or the save-or-die, when appropriate. (Unfortunately, the immunity to fear granted by Serene Guardian is redundant with the immunity to fear we get from Binder 6, but if it's useful from the SI, it's more useful when we pick it up early, right?)
Optional material and adapations: We have Elemental Grafter, so we can slap on other elemental grafts, if desired. If you can crowbar in some skill points somewhere, Knowledge Devotion is another bonus to arbitrary damage rolls, and while the Draconic Knowledge invocation will help, it will be difficult to get the bonus (which doesn't stack with the pact augmentation bonus) to be higher than the bonus we get from pact augmentation. Useful items include magical armor (ideally a mithril breastplate), bonuses to CHA/CON, bonuses to saves, and so on.
Source list: Player's Handbook (PHB), Races of the Dragon (RotD), Dragon Magic (DrM), Dragonmarked (DMk), Eberron Campaign Setting (ECS), Tome of Magic (ToM), Tome of Battle (ToB), Magic of Eberron (MoE), Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde (SgoSG)