Snaaaake, it's a snaaaaake, ooh, it's a snaaaake

Quote Originally Posted by Gripp
Hssssss~

snek snek snek snek

"..Sir, must you truly insist that this thing is to be kept here?"

Master Trevlemere looked up from his studies. Before him laid tomes upon tomes, each detailing a different procedure, all in aid towards his goal. A goal that would shake the magical community to its knees, of that he was sure - as soon as he had the materials and knowledge at hand to do so.

He had already finished his studies. Thankfully, his assistant Grigory would help provide the final components.

"Yes. Yes, I do insist. Why? Does it bother you?"

As if to punctuate the point, Trevlemere's subject hissed sharply, baring its fangs. Grigory jumped. It wasn't the fangs that scared him; the beast was, after all, of a non-venomous variety. It was its sheer size and strength that troubled him.

"W-Well, yes, sir. It does! It could eat either of us whole, sir!"

"Well too bad. You're going to help me, and we're going to do it right this time. We need to use something wild, and this is it. No domestics."

"Sir-"

"Shut it," the master snapped, pulling a rod from his vest. "Stop talking and make yourself useful instead," he said, "put it to sleep. I'll need it placid if this is to work."

He tossed the rod to Grigory. The boy caught it deftly, but he hesitated.

Then he steeled himself.

"Yes, sir."


Spoiler: The Build
Show
Gripp, the Giant Constrictor Snake
Huge Animal
Hit Dice: 11d8+14 (63 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20ft. (4 squares), climb 20ft., swim 20ft.
Armour Class: 15 (-2 size, +3 Dex, +4 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/+23
Attack: Bite +13 melee (1d8+10)
Full Attack: Bite +13 melee (1d8+10)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Constrict 1d8+10, Improved Grab
Special Qualities: Scent
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +10, Will +4
Abilities: Str 25, Dex, 17, Con 13, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 2
Skills: Balance +11, Climb +17, Hide +10, Listen +9, Spot +9, Swim +16
Feats: Midnight Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Toughness
Environment: Warm forests, cages
Organisation: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 6
Advancement: Anthropomorphic

Spoiler: Dig Deeper
Show
Spoiler: Plans Gone Awry
Show

Not all creatures are born equal.

Gripp, for one, began his life as a mere serpent. He slept well, he ate smaller critters, and occasionally defended himself from larger predators. Life was simple. Life was good.

Then he got caught by a wizard. And then that wizard stuck him in a cage, and then that wizard doused him with alchemical substances and magical spells until up was down and right was wrong. It hurt. It made him angry. And so when the wizard cast his final spell, turning him from snake-thing to man-snake-thing, he wanted to return the favour. He wanted to show the wizard what it had felt like to be experimented on. Wanted him to know the pain that he had felt for so long.

Unfortunately, the wizard did not survive the process. The world would, sadly, not learn of his marvellous creation. A true shame. On the upside, though, this left Gripp free to do pretty much whatever he wanted. It was a welcome freedom after his lengthy imprisonment, although he would soon learn to carve his innate magic into a weapon. It turned out that most humanoids didn't like having a giant, serpentine creature slithering amongst them, and so he often found himself either fighting for his life or living on the fringes of society. Either way, he was left to fend for himself.

Not everyone hated him, though. By comparison, adventurer-ilk were no strangers to strange things, and often treated him with a modicum of respect. Eventually, he encountered a group which was more than happy to take him along, providing food and shelter so long as he pulled his weight. Which he did, naturally.

Years passed like this. Decades, even. Not with the same group, of course - adventurers rarely partied for long, and his skills were always demanded elsewhere - but in essence, this was certainly true. He built quite a name for himself, even, with his incredible speed and massive size making him a force to be reckoned with in battles and taverns alike. His skills as a scout were, likewise, treasured even by the best. It wasn't good enough for him, though, that life of sheer excess and battle. Not quite.

He wanted something with just a little more bite than that.

And so, he advanced his powers. He worked hard to better himself. He trained hard to go farther, faster, through means both mundane and magical. He learned to teleport, individually or in groups, and learned how to move between the planes themselves. At the behest of a dare, and with little concern for his own safety, he pushed himself to depart alone - and depart he did. For eight years.

He came back one day, yes, but changed. Irrevocably. Not just in mind, for he had grown far more unstable in his time away, but in body, too. His scales had darkened, his eyes had turned to pits, and his very body had been kissed by the plane of shadow upon which he had been forced to reside in servitude to some dark race. He never spoke of it, and he never drank a drop again. Instead, he hid. He brooded.

He still got work, of course. He always had, and always would; such was the life of a supermassive constrictor-kin. Many noticed the changes in his will and ways, but did nothing, believing it to be mere age. He still fought well, after all, if a bit more viciously than before. He could take care of himself, they reasoned. He had to be strong enough to do that.

And so he died, on the inside out, until the day he died.

A walking husk.


Spoiler: Build Basics
Show
Gripp, the Husk That Was
Race: Anthropomorphic Giant Constrictor Snake (3 RHD, LA 1)
Classes: RHD 3/Psychic Warrior 5/Elocater 10/LA +2
Alignment: True Neutral (becoming Chaotic Neutral at ECL 15).
Psychic Warrior ACF: Mantled warrior (replaces 2nd level bonus feat with a Mantle).

Ability Scores: 32 Point Buy
Base: 17 Str, 8 Dex, 16 Con, 10 Int, 13 Wis, 10 Cha
Racial: +6 Str, +8 Dex, -2 Con, +4 Wis, -4 Cha
Levels: +1 Wis, +3 Str
Total: 26 Str, 16 Dex, 14 Con, 10 Int, 18 Wis, 6 Cha


Spoiler: Build Table, Mark II
Show
ECL Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
4th Monstrous Humanoid 3/LA 1 +3 +1 +3 +3 6 Hide, 6 Spot Midnight Dodge, Mobility +4 Natural Armour, 20ft Land/Swim/Climb Speed, Bite (1d6), Improved Grab (Bite), Constrict (1d6), Scent, Darkvision 60ft, Alignment: True Neutral
5th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 1/LA 1 +3 +3 +3 +3 6 Hide, 6 Spot, 2 Concentration Speed of Thought (Bonus Feat)
6th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 2/LA 1 +4 +4 +3 +3 6 Hide, 6 Spot, 4 Concentration Mantled Warrior: Freedom
7th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 3/LA 1 +5 +4 +4 +4 6 Hide, 6 Spot, 6 Concentration Spring Attack
8th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/LA 1 +6 +5 +4 +4 6 Hide, 6 Spot, 8 Concentration
9th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 1/LA 1 +6/+1 +5 +6 +6 6 Hide, 6 Spot, 8 Concentration, 6 Move Silently Sidestep Charge (Bonus Feat) Scorn Earth
10th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 2/LA 1 +7/+2 +5 +7 +7 9 Hide, 6 Spot, 8 Concentration, 9 Move Silently Elusive Target Opportunistic Strike +2
11th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 3/LA 1 +8/+3 +6 +7 +7 12 Hide, 6 Spot, 8 Concentration, 12 Move Silently Dimension Step
12th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 4/LA 1 +9/+4 +6 +8 +8 14 Hide, 6 Spot, 8 Concentration, 14 Move Silently, 2 Listen Flanker
13th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 5/LA 1 +9/+4 +6 +8 +8 15 Hide, 6 Spot, 8 Concentration, 15 Move Silently, 6 Listen Darkstalker Opportunistic Strike +4
14th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 6/LA 1 +10/+5 +7 +9 +9 16 Hide, 8 Spot, 8 Concentration, 16 Move Silently, 8 Listen Transporter
15th Dark Creature Template +1 LA N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Hide in Plain Sight, Resistance to Cold 10, Superior Low-Light Vision, Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
16th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 7/LA 2 +11/+6/+1 +7 +9 +9 17 Hide, 10 Spot, 8 Concentration, 17 Move Silently, 10 Listen Capricious Step
17th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 8/LA 2 +12/+7/+2 +7 +10 +10 18 Hide, 12 Spot, 8 Concentration, 18 Move Silently, 12 Listen Shape Soulmeld (Kraken Mantle) Opportunistic Strike +6
18th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 9/LA 2 +12/+7/+2 +8 +10 +10 19 Hide, 14 Spot, 8 Concentration, 19 Move Silently, 14 Listen Dimension Spring Attack
19th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 10/LA 2 +13/+8/+3 +8 +11 +11 20 Hide, 16 Spot, 8 Concentration, 20 Move Silently, 16 Listen Accelerated Action
20th Monstrous Humanoid 3/Psychic Warrior 5/Elocater 10/LA 2 +13/+8/+3 +8 +11 +11 20 Hide, 16 Spot, 10 Concentration, 20 Move Silently, 16 Listen Open Lesser Chakra (Arms), Bounding Assault (Bonus Feat)


Spoiler: Psychic Warrior Manifesting
Show
Daily Power Points and Manifester Level by ECL:
(Includes bonus PP according to base wisdom at each level. Magic items and other methods of improvement are not calculated here.)
5th: 2 PP, ML 1
6th: 5 PP, ML 2
7th: 9 PP, ML 3
8th-9th: 13 PP, ML 4
10th: 17 PP, ML 5
11th-12th: 23 PP, ML 6
13th: 29 PP, ML 7
14th-16th: 35 PP, ML 8
17th: 41 PP, ML 9
18th: 47 PP, ML 10
19th: 57 PP, ML 11
20th: 67 PP, ML 12

Powers Known by ECL:
5th: Grip of Iron
6th: Expansion
7th: Call Item
8th-9th: Prowess
10th: Detect Hostile Intent
11th-12th: Damp Power
13th: Greater Concealing Amorpha
14th-16th: Dimension Hop, Psionic Teleport, Psionic Plane Shift
17th: Strength of My Enemy
18th: Steadfast Perception
19th: Psychokinetic Weapon
20th: Power Claws

Spoiler: ECL Breakdowns
Show
ECL 5: RHD 3/LA 1/Psychic Warrior 1
Spoiler
Show
Gripp begins his life as an Anthropomorphic Constrictor Snake with a single level in Psychic Warrior. I'll explain both.

Anthropomorphic Constrictor Snakes are an interesting base. Natural Large size gives him advantages in grapple checks, and he retains the Improved Grab (Bite) and Constrict abilities of his animal cousin. At this stage, his plan for combat encounters is simple; find the most vulnerable target, and then grapple it to death. Although his 20ft movement speed is something of a weakness, he does possess both a swim speed and a climb speed (both 20ft), giving him a reasonable amount of maneuverability despite his sub-par speed.

Then, at level 4, he becomes a Psychic Warrior. It would be an overstatement to say that everything changes, but it does give him a lot of new tools to work with. For starters, it gives us access to the Speed of Thought feat, boosting all of our modes of movement (land, climb, and swim) by +10ft. We also learn a single psionic power, which will be Grip of Iron, because at this level Expansion only lasts for a single round (though feel free to purchase a Dorje with a higher manifester level). Grip of Iron gives us a +4 enhancement bonus to grapple checks for 1 round/level and we can activate it as an immediate action, making it a fairly reasonable tool for a semi-dedicated grappler like ourselves. Our 18 Wisdom gives us a grand total of 2 power points, so make those two manifestations count.

We also have some other tidbits. Midnight Dodge isn't too important for now, but will be useful later and allows us to qualify for the Spring Attack line (which we need for Elocater). Mobility is a nice bonus, though we don't really optimise around it. We also have 5 ranks in Balance, for reasons you're likely already aware of. Our ranks in Hide will come into play soon, but not yet.

On a final note is our equipment. As a psychic warrior, we can (and should) be using medium armour (breastplate, ideally), because we have a decent dexterity bonus and because Spring Attack can't be used in heavy armour. This medium armour is ideally enchanted, and should almost definitely have armour spikes, because getting free damage on a successful grapple at the cost of a few gold pieces is just plain good. Consider getting a Glaive for attacks of opportunity, as it has reach (30ft for a Large creature) and a high base damage (2d8 for a Large creature), but try to stick to your bite and armour spikes for full attacks. Your aim should be to initiate a free grapple using a bite, followed by free constrict damage on a successful grapple check (with armour spikes providing bonus damage on future rounds, if I have the right reading here).
Spoiler: Grapples
Show
Let's do some maths, since maths is a) fun and b) illustrative.
  • At ECL 5, we have 4 hit dice and a BAB of +3.
  • At this level, Gripp has a base Strength score of 23, for a +6 modifier as a bonus to grapple checks.
  • Since we're Large, we have a +4 size bonus to grapple checks.
  • Finally, Grip of Iron gives us a +4 enhancement bonus to grapple checks.

This is a total bonus of +17, which, like all things in dnd 3.5e, is miles stronger than the capabilities of a character who hasn't optimised their grappling capabilities.
In other words, it should be more than enough for our needs at ECL 4.


ECL 10: RHD 3/LA 1/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 2
Spoiler
Show
Gripp develops his psychic powers and applies his growing mobility to the Elocater class.

Psychic Warrior gives us more powers, more power points, and a trick or two. With the Mantled Warrior ACF, we get a mantle of our choice instead of our 2nd level bonus feat, and we're going to go with the Freedom Mantle. This gives us the mantle's granted ability - in this case, +10ft/round to our speed (all modes, again, since it doesn't specify otherwise) for a total of 40ft/round, and the vaguely useful ability to expend our focus to resist or escape a grapple (why would we want to?) - as well as access to its powers, if we want them. By ECL 10, we end up picking the following powers:
  • Expansion, for the benefits of Huge size; for us, that's damage dice, extra Strength, and a bigger bonus to Grapple checks. Lasts either 5 rounds or, with an augment, a whopping 50 minutes. And it gets better once we hit ML 7, with either a swift-action manifest or the effect of Gargantuan size.
  • Call Item, because having the ability to summon almost any mundane item - up to a price of 1000gp, using the power's augments - is an absurdly powerful ability to have. Even if we presume that we have to be able to hold the item in question in our hands in order to successfully manifest this power, our ability to turn Gargantuan size muddies even those waters. I'll talk more about it elsewhere, though, so as not to clutter the list itself.
  • Prowess gives us another chance at landing an attack of opportunity against an enemy, particularly one who triggers Sidestep Charge. The ability to disrupt an opponent's entire turn, especially after they've used all of their actions, with an unexpected grapple should not be underestimated.
  • Detect Hostile Intent makes for an excellent way to scout out enemies, even through walls, despite our poor detection skills. Its long duration is an added bonus.

Spoiler: Call Item
Show
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things we could summon with this power.
  • Basic items, as referred to by the power and in Table 7-8 of the Player's Handbook. A flask of acid, a 10-foot ladder, chains and ropes and bindings of any size or quality, chalk, crowbars, even a portable ram. Food might be pushing it, but could be theoretically useful. Summoning an everburning torch is a neat party trick.
  • On the note of acid, most alchemical items and poisons fall under the limits of this power. Torchbug Paste is good for revealing creatures you've detected, but haven't pinpointed, via Detect Hostile Intent. Sleep-Smoke can be used to brute-force enemies into unconsciousness, for grappling or otherwise. Stonebreaker Acid can be used to break through stone walls with little effort.
  • Freestanding Walls, as described in the Stronghold Builder's Guide. A 10x10x6 block of hewn stone is impractically difficult for most creatures to destroy, could theoretically be held in a Huge- or Gargantuan-sized creature's hands, and could be used for short-term battlefield manipulation.
  • Thanks to Scorn Earth, we can have all sorts of fun using Marbles and Caltrops. Marbles are fun for creatures that can't make balance checks or who don't have the 5 ranks needed to retain their dexterity bonus to AC. Caltrops can be used to hinder the movement of nearby, ground-walking creatures, and Crystal Caltrops can brute-force a creature to sleep. This is our alternative to Freestanding Walls for a source of "mundane," short-term battlefield control.
  • Shapesand and Chaos Flasks are infamously versatile items which can be generated with this power. With a successful wisdom check - something which Gripp should be fairly competent at - nearly any item, or even diminuitive creature, can be created with a mere handful of rounds (and without the restrictions applied to Call Item). There are too many uses for me to realistically list here.
  • Really, just use your imagination.

For many of these items, the logic of RAW would be that they are expended after use, and that their effects afterwords would technically remain after the expiry of the Call Item power under any other circumstances. A more RAI approach limits the usability of many of these options, but not by much; many of these expendable items only require one round to be useful.

We should also consider getting a dorje of Chameleon, if possible, to help offset the size penalties to hide that we're quickly beginning to amass.

We also get some levels in Elocater, which gives us two abilities of note: Scorn Earth, and Opportunistic Strike. Sidestep Charge is just icing right now, being an extra +4 AC and an opportunity attack (if we haven't already used it) against chargers, but we'll be talking more about it later on. Scorn Earth is a really neat ability that lets us just ignore difficult terrain, practically ensuring that we'll be the most mobile character in any combat encounter. Its uses outside combat shouldn't be ignored, either; it lets us levitate at will (either at 10ft/round or with our various +10ft bonuses, it's not entirely clear), and we should even be capable of moving along walls or ceilings using it. It is, for all intents and purposes, a straight improvement to all our modes of movement. Opportunistic Strike is "less useful" in that it doesn't do anything on its own, but in a team environment (i.e. most combats, since we're likely in an adventuring party) gives us a nice attack and damage bonus that's practically free. It's also a reward for sticking close to our teammates.

There's another reason for us to stay close to our party, though, and that's Spring Attack. Spring Attack gives us a way to make use of our high movement speed, ability to ignore difficult terrain, and also our grapple modifier. Thanks to the wording on Spring Attack, Gripp can choose to use his bite instead of a more standard weapon, and therefore get an opportunity to make a grapple check on the run - similar to a pouncing tiger, but with some very interesting caveats. Let's say that we make the attack roll and initiate the grapple successfully. But what then? Spring Attack says that we interrupted a single move action with a standard attack, and that we would normally continue our move action to our intended destination. However, the Grapple rules say that we have to spend a standard action to move while grappling, and only on a successful check, but we've already spent our standard action this round to initiate the grapple.

My interpretation of these rules is that, despite being in a Spring Attack, we stop moving because we're in a grapple; it seems to be the more reasonable option of the two. More importantly, we have ways to get around this restriction. Since ECL 5, we've gotten access to the Expansion power (Huge size, for an extra +5) and the augmentation of Grip of Iron (for another +2). We also have a higher base Strength (24, for an extra +1) and BAB (another +3). We probably also have some relevant magic items and grafts, mentioned in a later section, but we don't expressly need them to achieve our goal here. At ECL 10, we have a baseline grapple modifier of +28, which should prove more than enough against most enemies. Since we use the Improved Grab ability to enter into grapples, we have the option of taking a -20 penalty to our check to remain uninhibited by the grapple, and our baseline grapple modifier is probably high enough to do so without comprimising the grapple. If we do, then we should be able to continue our Spring Attack movement unhindered, bringing the enemy creature with us. This has uses both alone and in groups; alone, we can levitate or hover-climb our way into dropping an enemy from a deadly height or into an otherwise dangerous area; in groups, we can drag them back to our teammates to clobber with impunity. If we want, we can even repeat the process in future rounds - even if we have an opponent already in tow!

I'd also like to give a brief mention to Sidestep Charge, which we get for free just for being an Elocater. This little, do-nothing feat is even less useful for us in most contexts, since our massive size lends itself well to getting an attack of opportunity off before the target is even in melee range. The +4 bonus to AC is nice, sure, but hardly worth considering. There's a slight interaction between this feat and the Elusive Target feat worth mentioning, and for simplicity's sake, I'm going to presume that you're already familiar with the Shock Trooper feat and its common CharOp applications. I'm going to list it as a sequence of events, since that'll be easy to explain.
  • Someone is going to charge Gripp, or otherwise looks like the charging type.
  • Gripp allocates that creature as their Dodge target.
  • That creature uses the Heedless Charge maneuver from the Shock Trooper feat, pumping their power attack damage at the cost of AC.
  • Gripp's Elusive Target feat triggers, and the enemy gets no power attack damage. They still take the penalties though.
  • Sidestep Charge also triggers, and he gets a +4 bonus to his AC against the charge. This punishes the enemy if they left any power attack penalties on their attack roll.
  • Even if the enemy makes it past Gripp's threatened area without provoking an attack of opportunity, he gets one anyway if they miss, which punishes them for either penalising their attack roll or for penalising their AC.

In other words, it's a nice bonus that's nice to have. Gripp, having Improved Grab (Bite), can also just use this as an opportunity to make a grapple check and ruin the opponent's day, so that's handy. If we use Prowess, we can even get a second attack of opportunity per turn (and change our dodge target to the charging enemy at the same time), reactively allowing us to make even greater use of these abilities.


ECL 15: RHD 3/LA 2/Psychic Warrior 4/Elocater 6 (Sweet Spot)
Spoiler
Show
Gripp furthers his skills as a dimension-skating Elocater, and aquires the Dark template after a plane shift gone wrong.

More levels of Elocater mean more fancy tricks. Opportunistic Strike increases to +4, and Flanker should allow us to receive the bonuses for flanking a grappled target even though we're sharing the same space during a grapple, making for some nice teamwork opportunities. Though the RAW on what happens when a grappled character makes use of the Flanker ability is a little fuzzy, since we'll ideally be considered ungrappled it shouldn't prove that much of an issue. Dimension Step lets us get almost anywhere we want, but faster than if we'd just levitated there via Scorn Earth; for situations with time constraints, it's a clear improvement. Transporter, meanwhile, gives us access to Psionic Teleport and Psionic Plane Shift, for long-distance travel at a discount. This makes you, for all intents and purposes, the party caravan; capable of teleporting virtually anywhere, on virtually any plane of existence, at the cost of a mere 5 power points. Unfortunately, Psionic Plane Shift can't be used on an unwilling target like the standard spell version, even if both it and Psionic Teleport can still be freely used on unconscious targets. These abilities also give Gripp the perfect opportunity to aquire some highly useful grafts from throughout the cosmos, which I'll explore more in the Tools of the Trade section.

Regardless, the potential use of these powers is quite useful, and the resulting extraplanar adventures result in Gripp aquiring the Dark Creature template. His skill ranks in Hide and Move Silently come into full bloom thanks to this template, which grants hefty bonuses to both while also giving the Hide in Plain Sight ability. In addition, the template grants a +10ft bonus to speed, increasing Gripp's land, climb, and swim movement modes to a grand total of 50ft/round. We finally acquire the Darkstalker feat, which has been a long time coming (since we've had ranks in Hide since level 1) but has only now become truly relevant thanks to the Dark template and our now-capped ranks in Hide and Move Silently. Gripp should now have little trouble, if any, concealing himself before fights, his enhanced speed allowing him to move at a pace equivalent to most standard party members even while sneaking.

Gripp also gets to further his psionic knowledge, reaching a manifester level of 9 and learning 4 new powers.
  • Damp Power, for an immediate-action "counter" to any numerically-variable powers, spells, PLAs, or SLAs that target us. With the augment, we can even protect our whole party from area spells, presuming we're in the area of effect; who needs Evasion when a 6d6 fireball only does 6 damage?
  • Greater Concealing Amorpha is all the benefits of improved invisibility, but with none of the precise text that allows for easy interaction from opponents. The shorter duration is well worth the benefits of nigh-impregnable total concealment.
  • Dimension Hop comes into its own here, with out enhanced manifester level and power point reserve letting us use this power to greater potential than before. We can use this to quickly cross obstacles that we would otherwise have to levitate over, or to extend our reach for Spring Attacks (by using it before we Spring Attack with the intent to bring back our target back to our team, or to otherwise drop them off somewhere unfortunate).
  • Strength of My Enemy, particularly with its swift-action enhancement, is a fairly decent combat buff that we can apply to our bite. Though the limited lifespan of most enemies and short duration of most combats in 3.5e will often prevent us from getting a particularly high bonus from this power, the associated no-save strength damage will help to further increase our odds of a successful grapple check.


Speaking of grapple checks, let's do a quick checkup on Gripp's grapple modifier at ECL 15, since it's kinda important for him. Expansion now increases our size to Gargantuan, for another +6; Grip of Iron gets us another +2; our BAB has increased, for an extra +3; and we can probably expect a minimum +2 bonus from Strength of My Enemy. This is another +13 atop our previous total of +28, for a baseline of +41. Taking the -20 penalty to remain ungrappled is now a lot less risky for us to do, as we've still got a +18 grapple modifier to swing around.


ECL 20: RHD 3/LA 2/Psychic Warrior 5/Elocater 10
Spoiler
Show
Gripp learns the final talents of an Elocater, and returns to his roots with a final level in Psychic Warrior.

Elocater gets some new tricks; some big, some small, as per usual. Capricious Step is a pretty useful trick for a character of Gargantuan size, since a mere 5ft step is nothing in the eyes of giants. Even if our main tactic is to grapple enemies, in more long-winded and equal-strength battles where we're forced to use only full attacks to resolve things, the ability to take a 10ft step could prove invaluable. Opportunistic Strike gets another increase, resulting in a total bonus of +6, though there's not much else to discuss in regards to it.

Of greater interest are the Dimension Spring Attack and Accelerated Action class features. Dimension Spring Attack, though usable only once per day, further extends our capabilities as a guerilla combatant; though we likely can't bring an opponent back with us, it can be used to better navigate past pits and obstacles, or to flawlessly attack from hiding before disappearing again without a trace. Accelerated Action is an even more interesting ability, giving us an effect equivalent to 3e Haste for up to 5 rounds per day. While the full attack bonus is nice (again, not all combats can be won through Spring Attacks) and the movement bonus mildly useful, the most interesting use of this ability is to manifest a power as what amounts to a free action. This could be from a Dorje - of which there are many useful, powerful effects to choose from - or from Gripp's own power list, such as Strength of My Enemy, Greater Concealing Amorpha, or Psychokinetic Weapon. Ultimately, these are both class features which reward the creative use of Gripp's tools, and are valuable additions to Gripp's arsenal of tricks.

We get some extra powers known and power points, just like usual.
  • Steadfast Perception is basically True Sight lite, giving us immunity to all figments and glamers as well as a hefty +6 to spot and search checks; an excellent tool for the scout we've become.
  • Psychokinetic Weapon lets us animate almost any weapon to fight for us. Though it uses our wisdom modifier instead of our strength modifier, it still seems to make multiple attacks if we have a high BAB (three attacks by ECL 20), and still seems to threaten a space. Though we can't use our Expansion-modified Gargantuan Glaive for this purpose (it reduces in size once it leaves our possession), we can carry around a Colossal+ Glaive to achieve a similar, if not more potent, effect. Either send it off to threaten a 60ft radius, or leave it at home as you use Spring Attack to collect and return enemy creatures for a battering.
  • Power Claws becomes more useful with a higher manifester level and against enemies with greater defenses. The ability to deal force damage with our bite attacks overcomes most forms of damage reduction, and I think it even lets us grapple ethereal creatures thanks to the permissive wording of Improved Grab.


Gripp's feats also introduce some changes. Shape Soulmeld (Kraken Mantle) and Open Lesser Chakra (Arms) combine to give us a +3 bonus on grapple checks, as well as a pseudo-constrict that scales to Gargantuan for 4d6 bonus damage. Although we are allocating our single point of essentia here, rather than in Midnight Dodge, this shouldn't effect Elusive Target and its benefits at all; Midnight Dodge still functions at 0 essentia, it just gives a +0 dodge bonus to AC, and Elusive Target only cares that you've chosen a target for your dodge-equivalent. We also get another feat of note, and it's called Bounding Assault. Bounding Assault says that, whenever we use the Spring Attack feat, we designate two targets to ignore AoOs from and get two attacks instead of one, with the second at a -5 penalty. Since this doesn't follow the standard rules for multiple attacks in a round, I haven't been able to find any RAW reason as to why Gripp wouldn't be able to therefore make two bite attacks in a single Spring Attack; naturally, this becomes a rather potent upgrade to our catch-and-retrieve method for dealing with enemies. Go out, grapple up to two enemies, and bring them both back to the rest of the team; the -20 penalty doesn't stack, and we have the free limbs, so why not?

To update our running total on grapple modifiers, here's a quick breakdown. Another +1 bonus from hitting 26 strength, another +3 BAB, another +2 from Grip of Iron, and the +3 bonus from Kraken Mantle and co yield an added bonus of +9, for a total baseline modifier of +50 at ECL 20. That -20 penalty should be no fuss at all by now.

Spoiler: Tools of the Trade
Show
While by no means dependent on items, Gripp - like many characters - benefits greatly from the addition of certain magic items and grafts to his person. Also, I'll talk about his expected bonuses and capabilities (mostly grapple-related) at ECL 15, his sweet spot. This is not an exhaustive guide, but it is broad.

Dorjes: Since the only requirement is to have the power on his spell list, Gripp can use any Dorje containing powers from the Psychic Warrior class list or from the Freedom Mantle.
  • Chameleon: As mentioned earlier, a +10 enhancement bonus to hide checks should help to compensate for the -12 hide modifier for being Gargantuan. Either get a dorje, or find some other magic item that'll lessen the blow.
  • Body Adjustment, Body Purification, and Stygian Erasure: Heals regular damage, ability damage, and negative levels, respectively. Useful when solo, not so much when in a party with characters who can cast such spells and powers for free.
  • Psionic Freedom of Movement: When you need it, it'll save your life. Otherwise, not worth having on our main list. The ring is probably a better investment though.
  • Rage of the Remorhaz and Form of Doom: These are potent combat upgrades which we (unfortunately) don't get through our levels, but we can - and most definitely should - get them through Dorje use. Especially Rage of the Remorhaz, which effectively deals 4d6 pseudo-constrict fire damage.
  • Personal Mind Blank: Because getting yourself dominated is no fun.
  • Adapt Body: Somewhat conditional, but if Gripp's going to be travelling to other planes he's going to want this in his pocket. Only a fool would travel to the plane of fire without something like this.


Grafts: I'll be talking about the "old grafts" here, since the new ones don't offer much for Gripp. They also don't have any restrictions or penalties, save for the corrupting influence of fiendish grafts.
  • Spike Stones: This Maug graft is like armour spikes, but better. They deal 2d4 pseudo-constrict damage when used by a medium-sized creature, and add a bonus 1d4 damage to any natural attacks made. They also seem to stack with armour spikes, so you may as well get both. They only cost a pithy 4,000gp, making them easily affordable.
  • Locking Hand: Another Maug graft, this one grants a +5 bonus to oppose attempte to escape a grapple, and multiple copies of the graft stack. 2,000gp is a pittance, and for two (for a total untyped bonus of +10), very afforable.
  • Added Tail, Replacement Tail: These Yuan-ti grafts give us a few things, but most notably grant a pseudo-constrict effect (which are Constrict in all but name, so check with your DM). 6,000-12,000gp isn't that high of a price, considering you can acquire them on the material plane.
  • Grappling Tentacle: This Fiendish graft, while a possible cause for a descent into evil and depraved acts, also gives us a natural weapon, a +4 strength bonus whenever using it, and a further +4 bonus whenever using it to make most grapple checks. Though 20,000gp is a bit steeper than most grafts, the untyped +8 grapple bonus and theoretical ability to obtain it on the material plane are tantalising benefits.
  • Vampiric Fangs: This Undead graft lets us deal 1d4 constitution damage and gain temporary hit points for pinning a foe in a grapple; something which Gripp is quire adept at. Against tougher enemies, the 25,000gp investment might just be worth it. Matches well with..
  • Poison Fangs: Another Yuan-ti graft, this one inflicting a DC 17 Fortitude poison which deals 1d6 constitution damage when you pin a foe in a grapple. 8,000gp is a lot cheaper, but it does allow a saving throw to resist the effect.


Finally, let's talk about grappling, and how these items and effects impact it. At ECL 15, he can probably expect the following benefits.
  • A +41 grapple modifier as baseline, as detailed above.
  • A Grappling Tentacle, for an untyped +8 grapple bonus.
  • Between a Belt of Giant's Strength and/or the effects of Strength of My Enemy, an extra +2 to +5.
  • Two Locking Hands, together giving a +10 untyped bonus to maintaining grapples.
  • In total, he'll probably be walking around with a +53 modifier (more than enough for the -20 penalty) and a +63 modifier to maintain grapples.

When initiating a grapple or maintaining one, the following things happen.
  • Bite damage, for about 2d6+18 (presumming ~34 strength). Spike Stones deals an extra 1d4* damage.
  • Constrict damage, for another 2d6+18.
  • Spike Stones damage, for 2d4*.
  • Armour Spikes damage, for 3d6**.
  • Rage of the Remorhaz damage, for 4d6.
  • On a pin, Vampiric Fangs deals 1d4 con damage.
  • On a pin, Poison Fangs deals 1d6 con damage on a failed DC 17 fort save.
    *The RAW isn't clear on whether the damage of Spike Stones increases with size; if so, 2d4 becomes 4d6, and 1d4 becomes 2d6.
    **This interpretation of Armour Spikes' damage trigger may be incorrect. Also, it might include a strength bonus to damage. Ask your DM.

At ECL 20, the grapple modifier increases to about +62/+72, and Kraken Mantle offers an additional 4d6+12.

What about creatures with Freedom of Movement? We can't grapple those!
  • At ECL 15, a full attack is at BAB +9/+4; at ECL 20, a full attack is at BAB +12/+7/+2.
  • With a strength of 34ish, two-handed weapons or primary natural attacks deal +18 damage, standard weapons +12, and light weapons +6.
  • Our primary weapon is either a Glaive or a Greatclub, dealing 4d8+18 damage per hit.
  • We also get a bite attack at a -5 penalty, for 2d6+1d4+6 damage.
  • In these cases, Form of Doom is preferred to Rage of the Remorhaz. We get +4 Strength (not calculated above), +5 natural armour, DR 5/-, +10ft to our land speed, and four 6d8+6 tentacle attacks.

In short, I feel that Gripp can hold his own even when his primary combat trick has been taken from him. He also remains an incredibly mobile warrior.
There's also the option of toting some form of antimagic field, either cast on you or on an item in your possession, such as a ring. This also happens to shut down Dimension Door, Gripp's other eternal foe. Since most opponents with such effects are unlikely to have a competitive grapple modifier, we can safely disregard many of the grapple-boosting tricks used here while fighting said targets, similar to how a spellslinging dragon within an AMF is still a dragon.


Spoiler: Sources
Show
Complete Scoundrel: Torchbug Paste
Arms and Equipment Guide: Marbles, Stonebreaker Acid
Waterdeep, City of Splendors: Sleep-Smoke
Races of Faerun: Crystal Caltrops
Sandstorm: Shapesand
Planar Handbook: Chaos Flasks
Mind's Eye: Call Item, Mantled Warrior ACF
Expanded Psionics Handbook, Complete Psionic: Psychic Warrior, Elocater, Speed of Thought, various powers.
Fiend Folio: Spike Stones, Locking Hand, Added Tail, Replacement Tail, Grappling Tentacle
Libris Mortis: Vampiric Fangs
Lords of Madness: Darkstalker
Complete Warrior: Elusive Target
Magic of Incarnum: Midnight Dodge, Shape Soulmeld, Open Lesser Chakra, Kraken Mantle.
Savage Species: Anthropomorphic Giant Constrictor Snake
Complete Psionic: Freedom Mantle, some other powers.