I won't directly make the joke, but yes, it is indeed stuck in my head right now.

Quote Originally Posted by Dorcas Thistlethwaite
Dorcas Thistlethwaite, Badger Lady

Chaotic Good Venerable Stonehunter Gnome
Savage Bard 2/Marshall 1/Gnome Paragon 3

Spoiler: Ability Scores
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Ability Score Racial Lvl 4 (Middle Age) Lvl 5 (Old Age) Lvl 6 (Venerable)
Strength 10 8 7 5 2
Dexterity 14 14 13 11 8
Constitution 10 12 11 9 6
Intelligence 12 12 13 14 15
Wisdom 10 10 11 12 13
Charisma 18 18 20 (Inherent) 21 24 (Class Bonus)
Level 4 Inherent Bonus added to CHA
Gnome Paragon Level 3 Ability Boost added to CHA


Spoiler: Build Progression
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Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
1st Savage Gnome Bard +0 +2 +0 +2 Balance 4, Bluff 4, Diplomacy 4, Handle Animal 2cc(4), Perform (Vocal) 3, Perform (Wind) 3, Sense Motive 4, Use Magic Device 2 Extra Music Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Gnome Cantrips, Counter Fear, Fascinate, Inspire Courage +1, Illiteracy, Spellcasting
2nd Savage Bard +1 +3 +0 +3 Balance 1(5), Bluff 1(5), Diplomacy 1(5), Handle Animal 2, Perform (Vocal) 3, Perform (Wind) 3, Sense Motive 1(5), Use Magic Device 3(5) - -
3rd Marshal +1 +5 +0 +5 Balance 5, Bluff 5, Diplomacy 1(6), Handle Animal 4(6), Perform (Vocal) 3, Perform (Wind) 3, Sense Motive 5, Use Magic Device 5 Dragonfire Inspiration, Skill Focus (Diplomacy) (B) Minor Aura (Motivate Charisma), Skill Focus (Diplomacy)
4th Gnome Paragon +1 +7 +0 +7 Balance 5, Bluff 2(7), Diplomacy 1(7), Handle Animal 1cc(7), Perform (Vocal) 3, Perform (Wind) 3, Sense Motive 5, Use Magic Device 5 - Illusion Aptitude, Keen Senses
5th Gnome Paragon +2 +8 +0 +8 Balance 5, Bluff 1(8), Diplomacy 1(8), Handle Animal 1cc(8), Perform (Vocal) 3, Perform (Wind) 3, Sense Motive 1cc(6), Use Magic Device 5 - Mirror Image
6th Gnome Paragon +3 +8 +1 +8 Balance 5, Bluff 1(9), Diplomacy 1(9), Handle Animal 1cc(9), Perform (Vocal) 3, Perform (Wind) 3, Sense Motive 1cc(7), Use Magic Device 5 Words of Creation Ability Boost (+2 CHA)

Epic Feats:
1: Burrow Friend
2-10: 9x Animal Friends

Spells Known/Spells per Day(Bonus)
Level 0th 1st 2nd
1st 5/2 - -
2nd 6/3 2/0(1) -
3rd 6/3 2/0(1) -
4th 6/3 2/0(1) -
5th 7/3 3/1(2) -
6th 7/3 3/2(2) 2/0(2)

Spells Known:
@lvl1: Cantrips: Prestidigitation, Ghost Sound, Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Message
@lvl2: Cantrips: Mage Hand Lvl1: Inspirational Boost, Summon Nature's Ally I
@lvl5: Cantrips: Lvl1: Silent Image
@lvl6: Lvl2: Summon Nature's Ally II, Elation



Spoiler: Level 1-3: Adventure!, or “I Remember When…”
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When Dorcas Thistelthwaite was a young Gnome lass, she ran wild through the countryside around the Stonehunter Gnome town of Deephollow. A precocious lass quick with a laugh and a song, her charming nature allowed for many an indulgence from her elders. As she grew, wanderlust rose in her veins so strong that when a passing group of adventurers stopped in the town for resupply Dorcas stole herself away and joined the group in search of adventure and glory. Years passed in happy abandon, following wherever the road took the group. Over time membership changed as adventurers died or moved on, till one day Dorcas found herself the most senior of the party remaining. Dubbed by her compatriots ‘Captain Thistle,’ Dorcas lead her adventures with a deft hand, motivating them to feats many would have thought impossible
Spoiler: Non-Fluff
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Dorcas’ first two levels are as a Savage Gnome Bard, which is both a Racial Substitution and a Variant class. The Gnome Bard Substitution level (at 1) limits the number of Cantrips known to two, and gives Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, and Prestidigitation as known Cantrips in exchange. Since we are likely to take those three anyways, this is great. Additionally, Dorcas loses the Countersong ability and gains Counter Fear, which allows allies to use Dorca’s Perform checks in place of Will saves vs fear. The Savage Bard variant trades away Decipher Script and Speak Language for Survival, has good Fort and Will saves, makes Dorcas illiterate, and makes some changes to the spell list including adding Summon Nature’s Ally (I-IV). Normally a Savage Bard loses Prestidigitation among other things, but luckily Gnome Bard brings it back. Dorcas picks up Extra Music at level 1 because it’s nice to be able to use your class features occasionally. At Skill-wise, Dorcas is maxing out Diplomacy and Bluff (save for a small blip at level 3), picking up the bare minimum to perform Inspire Courage and Counter Fear with both her voice and wind instruments, and getting somewhat handy at using magic items. Her fondness for animals comes online in a major way at level 3 where she tops off Handle Animal, which will stay maxed for the rest of her career.
At level three Dorcas takes a level in Marshal. This give access to a Minor Aura, which is chosen to be motivate charisma, which allows Dorcas and all allies to add her CHA modifier to all Charisma based checks and skills. Since her CHA is massive and about to spike harder, this is a rather huge buff. At this point Dorcas gets in touch with her Draconic heritage and picks up Dragonfire Inspiration to turn her Inspire Courage bonus into d6s of fire damage.

In these levels Dorcas is a combat support character with Inspire Courage/Dragonfire Inspiration and a limited number of spells, of which in combat she might use Summon Nature’s Ally I and Inspirational Boost for better IC/DI. Out of combat, she is a very capable party face, with at level 3 CHA to charisma based skills twice, maxed Bluff/Diplomacy, and Skill Focus (Diplomacy) from her level of Marshal. With 5 ranks in UMD and a +8 ability modifier (2xCHA) she has a decent chance to activate wands.



Spoiler: Level 4-6: Retirement the First, or “Back in My Day”
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After many years of adventure Dorcas Thistlethwaite decided to rest on her laurels and retire back to Deephollow. “After all,” she’d say, “I’m not as young as I used to be. It’s time for some younger folk to take over the adventuring game.” Dorcas would spend her days idly enjoying the weather, going on long walks and communing with the creatures, and generally enjoying life as it came. After a while however, idleness began to chafe, and Dorcas found herself beginning to meddle about town, simply for something to occupy her. It didn’t take long, but soon Dorcas found herself deeply involved in the local council, helping advocate for Gnomeish rights and freedoms. For years Dorcas was a fixture of the local establishment, until none could recall a time before the Venerable Gnome had been serving.
Spoiler: Crunch
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Dorcas enters the SI! Gnome Paragon levels couple nicely with Dorcas’ kit. Keen Senses improves on the Racial bonuses to Craft(Alchemy) and Listen, neither of which Dorcas has put any effort into, though free bonuses on listen are always nice. Illusion Aptitude allows Dorcas to add her Paragon Class level to the CL of any illusion spell she can cast as well as racial illusion SLAs, which helps with save DCs and will boost her CL to 7 eventually for such spells. The second level of Gnome Paragon advances Bard spellcasting, allowing knowledge of Silent Image, which takes advantage of Illusion Aptitude. This level also gives Mirror Image 1/day as an SLA with CL equal to Paragon level, which should also benefit from Illusion Aptitude. The third and final level of the SI advances spellcasting to CL4, which gives access to second level spells, and Dorcas picks up Summon Nature’s Ally II and Elation. The capstone +2CHA is also appreciated. The level 6 feat chosen is Words of Creation, which among other things improves on Inspire Courage/Dragonfire Inspiration values. Depending on the DM’s reading of the feat this is either just ok (doubling the base +1 from the class only) or fantastic (if it doubles all bonuses), giving up to a +8/+8d6 bonus if we assume +1 base, +1 Inspirational Boost, +1 Masterwork Horn, and +1 from a Badge of Valor.

It is worth noting that Words of Creation was qualified for (the WIS 15 requirement) due to the advancing age modifiers. Some storytelling liberties were taken here, as it is assumed that Dorcas’ community service spanned centuries, over which she slowly levels up in Gnome Paragon, achieving the Pinnacle of Gnomeishness as she reaches a Venerable Age.

On a skill usage side, at level 6 Dorcas has CHA 24 for a bonus of + 7, which is doubled for all charisma based skills. Therefore she has Bluff and Diplomacy checks of +23 and +28 respectively, as well as a +19UMD, allowing her to activate wands without fail. Her Handle Animal check is a decent +23 as well, which will become relevant as she heads into retirement (Epic Feats).



Spoiler: Epic Feats: Commence the En-Badgering!, or “Aren’t They Just the Sweetest?
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One day, ancient beyond reckoning, Councilor Thistlethwaite decided to retire once again. While she found the break from responsibilities and daily regimen refreshing, once again she found idleness and loneliness as hard to embrace as she once had years before. Contemplating this sorry state upon a walk one afternoon Dorcas stumbled upon a young badger kit, just striking out on its own. Enticing the young creature with various snacks secreted about her person, the old Gnome soon had a staunch companion, and she found that the rambunctious little creature brought her great joy; its very presence lifted the melancholy she had fallen into since her retreat from society. Shortly the Thistlethwaite residence was a place of startling energy and abandon, as Dorcas sought out and adopted what seemed to be every badger in the area. And there she lives to this day on the fringes of Deephollow proud mother to an ever-growing swarm of badgers
Spoiler: Kibble?
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Dorcas has but two Epic feats: Burrow Friend, which allows her to use her racial ability to talk to burrowing animals a whopping 8 times a day, as well as giving an additional +2 to Handle Animal checks for a total modifier of +25, which will come in handy with training her army of badgers.

Said badgers are acquired through the rest of her Epic feats, all nine of which are Animal Friends, which allows Dorcas to attract 2HD of badgers for each instance of the feat. Dorcas will choose to attract 2HD badgers for a total of nine furry companions. Badger stats can be found on the SRD here (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/badger.htm). She will then apply the Warbeast Template (trivial DC17 and DC 22 Handle Animal checks) to them all, which gives +10ft base speed, +3 STR/CON, +2 WIS, and +1HD. As 3HD creatures the badgers qualify for one additional feat, and will all pick up Swarmfighting, which allows all nine badgers to fit in the same 5’ square and get +1 morale bonus on attack roles per badger threatening the same creature, up to a max of their DEX bonus (+3). Each badger is now a raging, flaming, fighting machine, with a full attack routine of: 2 claws +8 (1d2+1+8d6fire) and bite +3 (1d3+1+8d6fire). At only 3d8+6 hp they are somewhat squishy, but there are quite a few of them. They can be further enhanced with a casting of Elation, which gives a further +2STR/DEX, +5’.

And there you have it folks, Dorcas Thistlethwaite, Badger Lady!



Spoiler: Recommended Items
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As you love sweet little old ladies and small woodland animals, pick up some STR and CON boosters before you take Dorcas out for a spin! Everything else is at your discretion (though the standard Inspire Courage boosters are recommended), but she is basically incapable of going for long walks without magic, much less taking a hit!


Spoiler: Build Variations
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There are two distinct potential stumbling blocks with this build, both contingent upon the feat Animal Friends. The first is that this feat is based on a 3.0 spell (Animal Friendship) that was effectively replaced by the Animal Companion class feature, and Animal Friends may not be allowed at all anymore. Should that be the case, fairly substantial revision would need to be done for the Epic Feats. A start would be to take Obtain Familiar and Improved Familiar as well as Wild Cohort and Natural Bond to get two badgers of varying utility. The latter option was considered for the principle build, but rejected based on the fact that 9x Animal Friends is more entertaining, at least to this chef. That would still leave 5 feats to be replaced, at which point you would probably go the Zen Archery route, as your combat effectiveness can no longer depend entirely upon a horde of flaming badgers.

The second potential issue with the build as presented is that the text of the Animal Friends and the associated spell may make it impossible to advance your badgers beyond 2HD by any means without them scampering off into the sunset. If that’s the case, you can’t get 3HD badgers, and they then can’t all be given Swarmfighting. In fact, if this is the case then you can’t even advance 1HD badgers with Warbeast (the fallback option for this build = more badgers offsets less hp and chance of hitting), which is pretty sad. If this is an issue, then this build become rather less effective, as 2HD badgers aren’t that scary at ECL6 with 10 extra feats and gear, no matter how much they are on fire.


Another option is to not make use of the age category stat boosts which were mostly used for fluff reasons – old cat ladies are more stereotypical than young cat ladies after all. This makes Dorcas significantly less fragile at later levels, but also makes her party face abilities much less potent. To do this and qualify for Words of Creation, swap the initial Dex and Wisdom Scores, and place the 4th level stat bonus in Wisdom.

Some of the spell choices were made for thematic sense (Calm Animals, Summon Nature’s Ally) and could be swapped out for others (e.g. Instant of Power, Glitterdust)


Spoiler: Sources
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Dragon Magic (DrM) – Stonehunter Gnome (p8), Dragonfire Inspiration (p17)
Unearthed Arcana (UA) – Savage Bard (p50), Gnome Paragon (p36)
Miniatures Handbook (MH) – Marshal (p11)
Complete Adventurer (CAd) – Extra Music (p109)
Book of Exalted Deeds (BoED) – Words of Creation (p48), Elation (p98)
Spell Compendium (SpC) – Inspirational Boost (p124)