Build number 4:

Quote Originally Posted by Natasha
Natasha: the overshadowed
Spoiler: backstory

Spoiler: Obscurity

Natasha set up in the office. She’d shown up early for her interview. Everyone knew it made a good impression. Pretend your time was so plentiful it didn’t matter if you frittered away a few minutes getting to places before you were needed.

She smoothed her skirt over her knee for the hundredth time and switched her purse from one hand to the other, ever so careful with the contents inside.

“Mr. d’Cannith will see you now, miss,” the receptionist chimed with a nod of his warforged head. Natasha could hear him tick from where she was sitting. She considered offering a tune-up, but wasn’t sure if that was racist, so kept it to herself. Instead, she settled for saying thank you and showed herself in.

She went through the normal motions for being one of Cannith’s engineers: what got her interested in building things, where she saw herself a few years from now, and so on. Natasha just wanted to get it over with. She knew what was coming.

“Thanks for your time, we’ll definitely let you know if we have anything suitable for you. But while I have you here, I was wondering if I could ask you to help me with something,” he said.

Her interviewer reached into his desk and set a small walnut box on the table. Natasha opened it and pretended to be surprised when she saw a pocketwatch inside.

She pretended to be surprised when she saw it, like this was just a question he was asking her, one person to another. Natasha unpacked the watch and unclipped the fob. She lifted the crushed velvet lid from beneath it, tools for repair conveniently underneath.

“I’m afraid these little things get away from me sometimes, you understand,” he said, as if she had watches she could just leave lying around in boxes unused. The one she’d been practicing on lay ticking what she hoped was quietly enough not to be heard in her purse. Even if she got the job, she’d need to deposit it back in the pawn shop soon to keep her finances in order.

She unscrewed the casing when the tiny screwdriver in her hand let out a distressingly unexpected crack.

Her interviewer let something like genuine concern cross his brow. Did he use his own watch for this little game? Maybe the two of them weren’t so different.

“Blunted thing. Don’t worry about it, I’ll just,” Natasha flipped on his desk lamp and put the screwdriver under the bulb. She reached into its shadow with her hand and massaged the tip into the right shape. Soon enough the screws were back in place, and the timepiece was in proper working order again.

Her interviewer, with what was probably too much zeal, snatched it back and held it up to his ear.

“You’re a Karrn, eh? I’m supposed to be skiing there next weekend. Hear it’s lovely this time of year,” he said.

Natasha bit her tongue. She thought she’d been hiding her accent well enough, but some things were harder to hide. “Yes. I trust that won’t be a problem.”

“Oh, no, no, nothing like that. Just making conversation.” He stood to shake her hand. “What’s that you have in your hand?” He indicated the shadow of the screwdriver.

“Just a trick from school,” Natasha said with a wave of her hand. “I’ve got some designs for the damn I hear Cannith is building next year…” she began, but didn’t get to finish.

“I’d love to see it,” he said.

“Prepare to be disappointed.” Natasha handed it over, and after he’d looked it over for a second or two, it vanished.

“Ha! That’s delightful. And that’s something you can just do?” he asked.

“Well, yes, but—“

He waved her out the door. “I’m afraid that’s all the time we have right now, just wait to hear from us, and I assure you, you will hear from us. Good day, miss.”

Natasha stood outside in the shadow of Cannith’s offices. A storm cloud boomed overhead. She reached into the shade and pulled out an umbrella.

Spoiler: Chirascuro

Natasha fiddled with compact and spun her finger around its edge, experimenting with the shade of eyeliner her reflection wore. The startup cost was high, but in the long run, she was much happier with an illusory makeup kit. For one thing, it didn’t run. A figure approached her from behind. She muscled down her compulsory military training and remained seated.

Her date greeted her with a polite peck on the cheek. His shaman had consulted Natasha’s oracle and they’d found the two of their star charts aligned acceptably enough for dinner in the city. It was what she needed to get her mind off work, or the lack of it.

She listened to him talk about his own job, something glamorous, an acrobat for Phiarlan. She could scarcely believe it.

Their waiter dropped off their respective bowls of noodles without a word, picking up on their conversation as it moved from mild to moderate. They weren’t at the stage where they ate together off one plate yet.

Her date poked at his with a fork. Natasha’s place setting was bare, and a large party getting out from a production of “Silk and Steel” just arrived, so their waiter was nowhere to be found.

“Yeah, I figure in a few more months, they’ll move me to the evening show instead of just matinee. Gotta pay your dues though, right,” her date said. He reached a hand across the table to hold hers.

Natasha held his hand in hers and reached into his shadow for a pair of chopsticks with her other. She began to eat her dinner.

“That must be interesting, working in the theater. Do you get to travel a lot doing that kind of work?” she asked once her mouth was no longer full of noodles.

“Uh, yeah, I guess so. Sorry, but how did you do that?”

Natasha sighed, handed over the sticks, and surreptitiously prepared another pair before her food got cold

Spoiler: Penumbra

Natasha opened a letter from Cannith with a shadowed letter opener. She could never find her real one when she needed it.

Inside, the seal was from the man who’d interviewed her. He said he’d run the idea of shadowed tools up the flagpole at Cannith, but there just wasn’t enough demand in the current market. He hoped she understood, and that it wouldn’t affect her relationship with the company in her future endeavors. Not one word about the engineering position.

It was a form letter.

She tossed it in the furnace.

Later that evening, she took in a matinee of “Silk and Steel” to get her mind off things. The feats on display were dazzling. The fire eaters blew flames high enough in the air, even the seats on the second story could feel their heat.

Her date from the night before climbed the boards next and began his high wire act. She hardly recognized him with his makeup on. He gleamed like he was carved from alabaster in the limelight of the stage.

Every time he made the jump from one cord to the next or grabbed onto the trapeze with his hand, his teeth, or even his ankle, Natasha couldn’t help but feel concern. Old habits.

When one of his ropes gave way, she felt something else.

The emcee’s voice boomed telepathically in the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is not part of the show. If any of you have any way to offer assistance, please do so now. Otherwise, please remain calm. Help is on the way.”

Natasha looked around the auditorium. No one stood up.

She got out of her seat and got onto the stage, shielding her eyes from the lights.

“Close the curtain,” she said in a normal voice. It didn’t carry much.


“Close the damned curtain!”

The hands above on the catwalk obliged, casting her in shadow.

She reached into it and propped a ladder against the wall. Once it was in position, the acrobat slid down it easily enough. The curtain parted and the crowd even gave her a round of applause.

The emcee patted her gamely on the back before suggesting she take her seat for the rest of the show.

“Tell me, miss, have you ever considered running away and joining the circus? We’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Natasha couldn’t help but smile.

“I’ll get back to you.”

Spoiler: stub

human warblade 5/shadowsmith 5/exemplar 5/shadowsmith 10

Spoiler: abilities

str 12
dex 16
con 14
int 16 (increases here)
wis 10
cha 8

Spoiler: table

Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
1st Warblade 1 +1 +2 +0 +0 balance 4, craft (armorsmithing) 4, craft (weaponsmithing) 4, diplo 4, intimidate 4, k (arcana) 4 (2), k (planes) 4 (2), tumble 4 criminal background, darkstalker Battle clarity (reflex saves), weapon aptitude
2nd Warblade 2 +2 +3 +0 +0 balance 1 (5), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (5), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (5), diplo 1 (5), intimidate 1 (5), k (arcana) 1 (2.5), k (planes) 1 (2.5), tumble 1 (5) uncanny dodge
3rd Warblade 3 +3 +3 +1 +1 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (6), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (6), diplo 1 (6), intimidate 1 (6), k (arcana) 1 (3), k (planes) 1 (3), sleight of hand 1, tumble 1 (3) skill focus (craft: weaponsmithing) Battle ardor (critical confirmation)
4th Warblade 4 +4 +4 +1 +1 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (7), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (7), diplo 1 (7), intimidate 1 (7), sleight of hand 3 (4), tumble 1 (7)
5th Warblade 5 +5 +4 +1 +1 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (8), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (8), intimidate 1 (8), sleight of hand 4 (8), tumble 1 (8) Bonus feat (Iron Will)
6th Shadowsmith 1 +6/+1 +4 +3 +1 bluff 5, craft (armorsmithing) 1 (9), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (9), sleight of hand 1 (1) 9, never outnumbered master pickpocket Touch of shadow
7th Shadowsmith 2 +7/+2 +4 +4 +1 bluff 5 (10), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (10), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (10), sleight of hand 1 (10), social recovery Shroud of shadow
8th Shadowsmith 3 +8/+3 +5 +4 +2 bluff 1 (11), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (11), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (11), hide 7, sleight of hand 1 (11), Shadow craft (basic)
9th Shadowsmith 4 +9/+4 +5 +5 +2 bluff 1 (12), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (12), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (12), hide 5 (12), ms 2, sleight 1 (12) shape soulmeld (shadow mantle) Armor of shadow +2
10th Shadowsmith 5 +10/+5 +5 +5 +2 bluff 1 (13), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (13), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (13), hide 1 (13), ms 6 (8), sleight of hand 1 (13) Widen shroud
11th Exemplar 1 +10/+5 +5 +5 +4 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (14), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (14), sleight of hand 1 (14), umd 10 Skill artistry (craft: weaponsmithing), skill mastery(hide, ms, sleight of hand, umd)
12th Exemplar 2 +11/+6/+1 +5 +5 +5 autohypnosis 5, craft (armorsmithing) 1 (15), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (15), forgery 1, sleight of hand 1 (15), umd 4 (15) open lesser chakra (shoulder) Lend talent (one-half penalty), skill mastery (bluff)
13th Exemplar 3 +12/+7/+2 +6 +6 +5 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (16), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (16), iaijutsu focus 9, sleight of hand 1 (16), umd 1 (16) Bonus feat (improved initiative), skill mastery (tumble)
14th Exemplar 4 +13/+8/+3 +6 +6 +6 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (17), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (17), iaijutsu focus 8 (17), sleight of hand 1 (17), umd 1 (17), tumble 1 (9) Skill artistry (sleight of hand), sustaining presence, skill mastery (climb)
15th Exemplar 5 +13/+8/+3 +6 +6 +6 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (18), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (18), hide 5 (18) iaijutsu focus 1 (18), sleight of hand 1 (18), umd 1 (18), mosquito’s bite combat reflexes Persuasive performance, skill mastery (iaijutsu focus)
16th Shadowsmith 6 +14/+9/+4 +7 +7 +7 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (19), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (19), hide 1 (19), ms 6 (14), sleight of hand 1 (19) nimble stand Shadow craft (enchanted)
17th Shadowsmith 7 +15/+10/+5 +7 +7 +7 craft (armorsmithing) 1 (20), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (20), hide 1 (20), ms 6 (20), sleight of hand 1 (20) acrobatic backstab Armor of shadow +4
18th Shadowsmith 8 +16/+11/+6/+1 +7 +8 +7 climb 5, craft (armorsmithing) 1 (21), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (21), hide 1 (21), ms 1 (21), sleight of hand 1 (21), twisted charge shape soulmeld (phase cloak) Shadow craft (armor)
19th Shadowsmith 9 +17/+12/+7/+2 +8 +8 +8 climb 5 (10), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (22), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (22), hide 1 (22), ms 1(22), sleight of hand 1 (22) corner perch Shadow craft (quickened)
20th Shadowsmith 10 +18/+13/+8/+3 +8 +9 +8 climb 7 (17), craft (armorsmithing) 1 (23), craft (weaponsmithing) 1 (23), hide 1 (23), ms 1(23), sleight of hand 1 (23) Shadow craft (shadow striking), armor of shadow (quickened)

Spoiler: maneuvers

1: leading the attack (raven) , douse the flames (raven), wolf fang strike (tiger)
2: steely strike (iron)
3: wall of blades (iron)
4: nothing (replace steely strike with mountain hammer)
5: iron heart surge (iron)

hunter’s stance, leading the charge

Spoiler: playtips

Spoiler: lvl 5

You function like a normal warblade here, so beat up the bad guys and enjoy your enhanced mobility and defensive punch from your maneuvers. Invest your skill points wisely, and you’ll be making your own goodies in shadowsmith in no time

Spoiler: lvl 10

As far as mysteries go, if you can pick all three from an apprentice path, then fill out ebon whispers. While its first two are pretty disappointing, the defensive punch of flicker cannot be overstated: an abrupt jaunt for the rest of us schmucks. If you need two 1s and one 2, then grab bend perspective for scouting, quicker than the eye to beef up your sleight of hand, and piercing sight to see invisible foes more easily.

As for the rest of the class, it greatly boosts your affinity for stealth. Enjoy entertaining crowds by making your creations disappear and by astounding them by the mere act of pulling something from nothing. As time progresses, their reactions will only become more extreme.

You’re making shadow weapons by now. Your go-to is probably the duom, since it allows you to make attacks both adjacent and within 10 feet, handy for aoos later on, especially once you flip on your aura of darkness and can catch enemies flat-footed by tumbling through their squares thanks to all your skill tricks.

Spoiler: lvl 15

Exemplar’s online now, and persuasive performance is doing its thing. Now people are utterly enraptured watching you craft things from shadow. Enjoy it, and while they’re watching your left hand, feel free to take a tip or two with your right. Your sleight of hand modifier is fairly huge by now, and you can act with more or less total impunity. The shadow mantle is handy when you need to blot out others’ line of sight and make a quick getaway, and also allows you to see in your own darkness.

Exemplar grants all skills, including umd and iaijutsu focus. Since shadowsmith allows you to craft any weapon, this includes standbys such as the gnomish quickrazor if you should so choose. A cheap wand of scholar’s touch obviates the need for EWP if you choose to go down this route, granting proficiency with whatever you can imagine as long as it fits the parameters of the class

Master pickpocket allows you to strip enemies bare in no time at all, and with your bonus, you ought to be able to take anything that isn’t nailed down.

Spoiler: lvl 20

You can make much nicer shadow stuff now, and share your goodies with your friends. Your skill bonuses are all high enough to do anything you put your mind to, so cover weaknesses with the magic item abilities of your crafted weapons and armor as the situation calls for. The phase cloak boosts climb further and allows you to turn ethereal when you move for more stealth and mobility related fun.

Spoiler: sources

criminal background, master pickpocket: city of stormreach
open chakra (lesser), shape soulmeld: magic of incarnum
warblade: tome of battle
exemplar: complete adventurer
shadowsmith: tome of magic
darkstalker: lords of madness
combat reflexes, skill focus: srd