Zaq's Iron Chef Stuff
Award count: 5 HM, 6 gold, 2 bronze, 2 also-ran, 1 successful joke build.
- Round XVII—Ardent Dilettante: Aesc Duan Dee   (Honorable Mention)
My very first entry, and it took Honorable Mention, which is still quite often my goal. Ardent Dilettante is all about trying all the things, so I made a build that had one level each in ten different classes (and ten levels in the SI). I also had no levels in Bard or Factotum, and no levels in any base classes that grant casting, despite the SI requiring both arcane and divine casting in order to finish it. I made a couple errors, but honestly, if I were to do it again for some reason, I'd keep the fundamentals in place.
- Round XVIII—Unseelie Dark Hunter: Ogar (Bronze)
When I refer to a build as being "dense," this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. I have a very strong memory of needing two people and a spreadsheet to make sure that I could fit in all of the prereqs for all the many different build elements I had in here, and I have a similarly strong memory of having a grand total of two skill points "free" (meaning that I could change them without breaking something) within the first eight or so levels. Anyway, this is a build that culminated in my beloved "tower of bears" trick: the character could turn into a bear and simultaneously turn her mount into a bear, and the two bears then got free (stacking) Intimidate checks, which could make something Frightened. So not only is it a tower of bears, it's a tower of bears that you're mechanically compelled to run away screaming from. You know, in case you were thinking of not running screaming from an unexpected bear tower.
- Round XXIV—Tactical Soldier: Char Sorrel (Also-ran)
My first also-ran build, and I'm not going to argue that it deserved better. Tactical Soldier is a catastrophe of a PrC. I threw out at least two or three builds getting to the final entry, and the final entry was basically an extended lament about how bad the class is and how everything it does is done better and cheaper by ToB. The fluff (an illiterate warforged who couldn't read his copy of ToB and who therefore had to learn other, substandard tricks) was likely the best part, but that's not saying much, especially since this was basically a protest build. This build didn't deserve anything more than it got.
- Round LX—Acolyte of the Ego: Benjamin Nutt (Gold)
Yeah, 36 whole rounds went by between Char and Benjamin, but my real-life job at that point left me way the hell less free time than I needed. Still, packs of wild dogs couldn't keep me away from entering a round with a Truespeak-based SI. I think my story here may just be the best thing I've ever written. I know it's not tasteful to laugh at one's own jokes, but I honestly still sometimes get a chuckle out of the idea of a "band of marauding Truenamers" terrorizing poor Commoners. I don't want to brag too terribly much about taking my first gold here, but I'm pretty sure that if I entered the Truespeak-based Iron Chef round and didn't win gold, I'd have to commit seppuku or something.
- Rougnd LXVII—Gnome Giant-Slayer: Jagt (Also-ran)
Another one of my also-rans, and once again, I don't think I deserved much better than I got. I don't really recall why I thought this particular build was entertaining enough to submit, but sometimes you've just gotta do something. The basic idea was to focus on the skill bonus parts of Favored Enemy to make a gnome who disguised herself as a very small giant and infiltrated giant society to bring it down from within. Yeah, I don't know what's so great about that either. The only particularly noteworthy bit was finding a way to mimic Rock Catching as a Small critter.
- Round LXX—Order of the Bow Initiate: Li'l Brudder (Bronze)
Sometimes it's possible to make a protest/joke build that's intended to win Honorable Mention but ends up taking a proper medal. Li'l Brudder is an example of such a build. OotBI is a famously bad PrC whose prereqs mean that you can make a minimum of three shots on a full attack by the time you enter—and then the signature ability requires you to spend a standard action making a single attack for some reason. Desperate to find a reason why anyone with those prereqs would ever bother using Ranged Precision (the signature ability in question), I came up with the idea of a character who had 0 max HP. At 0 HP, you see, one is staggered, and staggered characters cannot take full-round actions like making full attacks. Therefore, Ranged Precision will be the best thing that such a character could do to attack, and therefore I'm properly using the SI! Yes, this is completely absurd on its face. It's every bit as stupid as it sounds. As I said, this was totally a protest build that was intended to get some laughs and hopefully get Honorable Mention, but somehow I managed to accidentally do well enough to squeak out third place in a hella crowded field of sixteen entries! Also, somehow I only tied for having the lowest Power score that round? With 0 HP? I don't understand how that works. (And yes, the name is indeed a reference to that Li'l Brudder. He can make it on his own!)
- Round LXXII—Spellfire Channeler: Harror (Gold)
This was a seriously fun round with some really good entries across the board. Spellfire Channeler gains charges of spellfire by draining magic items or by absorbing spell effects. This build had summons that could cast absorbable magic at her and also had infinite mind blades to drain for semi-infinite spellfire charges, which I maintain is pretty clever. Also, let this be an object lesson to aspiring chefs: sometimes the smallest details, even fluffy ones, can push you over the edge to victory. After deciding that the build would involve charging up off of disposable mind blades, I decided that it would be hilarious to invest as many ranks as possible in Perform: Sword-Swallowing, at least partly so I could include the line "she just smiled [. . .] and took another bite of her sword" in the story. The scores in this round were really tight. The final judge's Originality entry for Harror simply read, in its entirety, "Originality: 5. Sword-swallowing. (+2)." That happened to be just the margin I needed to edge into first place and stay there! Lesson learned: those cross-class ranks in Perform were super well spent.
- Round LXXV—Thief of Life: Cocus Ferrea (Honorable Mention)
Sometimes we succeed simply by making the build at all. This is such a time. The signature ability of ToL is the ability to basically kill something and absorb its life force into you (hence the name). I realized that it was actually possible to enter the SI as early as level 2, and then I realized that I absolutely needed to make a story about hunting down other previous Iron Chef winners and eating their souls. So I submitted another "1×10 + 10×1" build where I had one level in Rogue, ten levels in the SI, and then one level each in nine previous ingredients, with the idea being that I took the level in each other SI after eating that SI's gold medalist. Have you ever tried qualifying for a secret ingredient? It's never easy. They always have horrible prereqs. Have you ever tried qualifying for ten secret ingredients? With zero bonus feats and 10 INT? I have. Even if you don't win after doing something like that, you feel like a damn monarch. Go ahead, break that record. I dare you. Your Latin is probably better, though.
- Round LXXXI—Serene Guardian: Opsablepsia (Honorable Mention)
This was a weird build that really got away from me, but I'm very happy that I got it in, because I'd had the stub in my head for years. According to the board game Balderdash, the word "opsablepsia" means "the inability to look someone in the eye." After learning that word, I had the idea to make a character of the same name whose basic concept was to see how many gaze attacks I could shove into one LA 0 PC. Unfortunately, my real-life games never ended up being at an appropriate level to make this particular build idea work, and gaze attacks are finicky anyway, so I shelved the idea for a long time. When I realized that Serene Guardian rewards you for doing lots of individual pings of damage every round (ideally to as many enemies as possible, as long as each enemy you care about receives at least two or three separate damage packets per round), I knew that I finally would have a chance to bring this character to life, so I did. The prereqs for a lot of things I cared about were really ugly in the middle, so I basically had to rewrite large parts of it with a machete at the last minute, but I still took HM, which I consider to be a win. I mean, it's not often that you see someone based around a definition to a crazy obscure word, right?
- Round LXXXIX—Thrall of Demogorgon (build 1): Fra'alstog the Bold (Honorable Mention)
Iron Chef is all about making gold out of crap, and sometimes that works better than others. We always have to put on our game faces and tell the judges that our builds are strong and viable and not dead weight in a party facing level-appropriate challenges, but that isn't always true. That said, somehow I managed to convince myself that this build would be remarkably playable. ToD is a weird class to optimize because its abilities are so scattered, but I cobbled together something that I think holds up on its own. It uses a few tricks that I've liked using in the past (applying damage bonuses to ability damage, combining the Mauling Gauntlets with the harpoon to get a weird form of BfC on a non-caster, using Ordered Chaos on an Incarnate to double-dip on bonuses, etc.), and I think it might have gotten a medal other than HM if Elder Evils hadn't changed the prereqs on Thrall to Demon, which is the most transparently "we just want you to light a feat on fire" tax feat this side of, well, Willing Deformity.
- Round LXXXIX—Thrall of Demogorgon (build 2): Speeloxhuu (Gold)
That said, Speeloxhuu is almost certainly my favorite Iron Chef build I've made to date. It was almost definitely the most fun to construct. It's relatively rare for me to go balls-to-the-wall silly (Li'l Brudder notwithstanding), but with Speeloxhuu I decided to go big or go home, and it somehow worked. The esteemed Venger referred to the ToD entries as “high camp,” which I think is perfect for Speeloxhuu. For the duration of the whole weekend I spent on the build, I couldn't stop giggling like a madman over it. It's a tiny-sized muckdweller who has levels in Soulborn and Truenamer, slaps on the standard ubercharge package to ping-pong around nonlethally murdalizing people, then abuses the extremely abuse-friendly sacrifice rules to summon demons to graft raw chaos onto his flesh, all while his muckdweller familiar does the same sacrifices. I kept giving him more and more over-the-top titles, kept making the build stupider and stupider, and kept just pushing the envelope farther and farther, and apparently I did it right. I submitted two builds to the same round (which I basically never do) and I was using a Truenamer-based build with tricks straight out of the Naughty Words section of my own Truenamer guide, so I wanted to take precautions to disguise my style, hence the disdain for capital letters and the inconsistent affectation of non-American spellings. Also, Speeloxhuu has twenty feats (nineteen of which are selectable), which I feel like has to be some kind of record for a character not using the Dark Chaos Shuffle or other methods of arbitrary feat-generation.
- Round XCI—Fatemaker: Memyadu, the Spell Embezzler (Gold)
I really didn't expect to walk away with a medal after this round. Fatemaker is a really, really bland PrC that feels like a janky Dragon Magazine base class that you have to wait until you're ECL 6+ to enter for some reason. The chassis is very similar to a Spellthief (Sneak Attack, 6+INT skills, and CHA-based casting of arcane spells up to 4th level, though Fatemaker's list is awful), so I decided to use Master Spellthief to basically turn it into a real Spellthief with slightly better slots per day. I used Mage of the Arcane Order to gain access to spells that aren't terrible and used stolen spells to pay back the spell debt. I have an unnatural fondness for potions, so I made Quick Potion and Delay Potion a cornerstone of the build, which seemed to work. Perhaps most surprising about this entry is the fact that I broke two of my cardinal Iron Chef rules ("don't use LA" and "finish the damned ingredient"), but I still pulled ahead of the competition. The whole round is worth reading, though—we had some great entries!
- Round XCII—Eye of the Xanathar (build 1): Lurinella d'Jorasco (Gold)
EotX is a class that looks like it does a lot but actually offers very little. The restrictions on its abilities are baffling. One of its only unique abilities is Perfect Sneak Attack, which lets you make a single melee attack as a standard action, but that single attack is guaranteed to be a sneak attack (against a non-immune foe), no flanking or denial of DEX necessary. We already went through hell in the Order of the Bow Initiate round to deal with "precision damage on a single swing as a standard action," so I didn't want to do the same joke again. I realized that PSA could be used to trigger both sneak attack and skirmish, which is usually difficult on a non-invisible character, so I threw together a Swift Ambusher chassis and bolted on EotX. Snap Kick makes the single attack slightly less single, but I needed a way to make the kick count as a sneak attack. I'd been looking for an excuse to play with the unarmed attack feats from Oriental Adventures for a while, and this seemed to work! I'm genuinely surprised that no one else did the same trick, but I'll take it. EotX's other allegedly big feature is a pile of really weak and janky fake "eye rays" that are underleveled and interfere with PSA, but they count as spell-like abilities, so I just dipped into Nosomatic Chirurgeon and burned them for Inflicts instead, which our one judge approved of. It was a risk, but it paid off.
Perhaps more importantly, what made Lurinella fun for me was that I was explicitly and intentionally trying to copy the style and format favored by Darrin, another Iron Chef regular (and a darn good builder). I didn't have a reason for it other than trying to see if I could do it. Everyone was fooled, though, so I seemed to have succeeded!
- Round XCII—Eye of the Xanathar (build 2): Thack O'Grugnord (Joke build)
I've submitted joke builds before. You probably just got done reading about some of them. Thack is the most hardcore joke character I've ever sent in. I recommend you go read the build for yourself if you haven't, because I think I lay out the insanity pretty well there. Go ahead, I'll wait. You're still here? You really want me to explain the joke? Very well. EotX gets "Know Alignment" as a spell-like ability. I couldn't find Know Alignment in the 3.5 PHB. Or the Spell Compendium. Or the 3.0 PHB. Long story short, it appears to be a 2e spell rather than a 3e spell (the 3.x versions being Detect Evil and the equivalents, most likely). The class is so janky that it gives you a spell that no longer exists! So I knew I had to have some fun with that. SLAs can be used for crafting, so I tried to think of an interesting item that could be made with an ancient spell, but since most printed 3.5 items require 3.5 spells, I was only able to come up with stuff like scrolls. But scrolls can be scribed into books, and Archivists can learn any divine spell they can get in their book, right? So we can have an Archivist learn it as an actual spell. Okay, that's great and all, but why do we care? Here's where I went totally insane. Shaper of Form has a delightfully abusable ability called Like Begets Like that lets you turn a nonmagical item into another nonmagical item of approximately the same material and size/weight. It's like a diet PAO. I laid out the (insane and probably not RAW) argument that you can use LBL to turn a prayerbook with one 2e spell into a prayerbook with a different 2e spell. (I mean, honestly, a 2e spell isn't a "material," so a GM who buys that might buy that you don't need to get Know Alignment in there in the first place, but this isn't a serious build or a terribly serious argument.) Once we get books full of 2e spells, we then need people to cast them, so I used the Charm Person ability of EotX to qualify for Mindbender in order to get enchantment tricks to convince other Archivists to learn these insane old 2e spells. There's no real point to this except to make people laugh, but it DID make people laugh, so that's a win in my book. Our beloved Chair Heliomance declined to post witty commentary along with the builds this round, but she couldn't stop herself from adding "WHAT THE HELL EVEN IS THIS" to Thack's post. To quote georgie_leech's reaction, "I vote it at least gets an honorary mention in Dysfunctional Rules thread. Maybe a statue. A book crying in the corner or something." I don't think there was an official award of HM this round, but the reactions were positive, so I say mission accomplished!
- Round XCVI—Oozemaster (build 1): Cindy Yoht (Honorable Mention)
What can we say about Oozemaster? It's a class that you simply cannot play straight. So I basically didn't try to. I was inspired by the Amulet of Ooze Riding in AEG, which does exactly what it sounds like. Oozemaster lets you become immune to oozes, but that honestly didn't pan out. What did pan out was using its ability to arbitrarily squeeze into teeny-tiny spaces to dive into an ally's guts and heal and buff them from the inside out, all while using Mounted Combat to make Ride checks to negate attacks on the ally you're riding around in. The squeezing ability explicitly bans expanding while in a constrained area, but it doesn't ban chillaxing in a constrained area without trying to expand. Yes, this is as stupid as it sounds. Also, Oozemaster has a bizarrely large number of nonlethal options for its signature "oozy touch" ability, so I made Cindy an Apostle of Peace and eked out 9th level spells. You know, because being symbiotic incandescent hippie jelly is definitely a normal build concept.
Round XCVI—Oozemaster (build 2): Humperdink d'Kundarak (Gold)
Cindy was the super-Good peace-loving Oozemaster; Humperdink is super-Evil, devoted to an elder evil, and loves making use of corrupt spells. What kinds of corrupt spells? Well, lots of them, because he takes advantage of really, really poor wording to become immune to his own effects by turning into an ooze that he's immune to. Again, yes, this is stupid, but Oozemaster really doesn't give you a lot to work with. He's a Wu Jen, so of course we get some body outside body shenanigans online: not only is it a great thematic fit (oozes split, after all!), but it lets you become a one-man Splatoon throwing green slime grenades around and ruining people's days. Fun stuff! This was another build that took gold not so much because all the judges loved it but more because one judge really hated every other build other than this one, but hey, whatever it takes. That's how relative contests work! But as advice to aspiring chefs or current chefs seeking to improve, you don't ever want to talk yourself out of something fun, but there are indeed times when the best way you can proceed is by making sure that you're not the one who goes into extra-aggressive penalty attraction mode.
- Round XIX—Dread Pirate   
Nine entries is a lot, and it got hard to differentiate them after a while. I was pickier about presentation and language-related elements then than I am now; I still have some opinions about how language works, but I'm no longer as eager to take off points for spelling errors as I was back then. Truth be told, I feel kind of bad about that now; I appreciate it when people write like I do, but unless it seems like I'm being deliberately trolled, a minor error here and there likely shouldn't be the determining factor in your build's score. Either way, this was likely my first time using my worn and trusty phrase "it's very nice, but what does it do?" That's one of the worst feelings I can have while judging a build. Me saying that to a build is kind of the kiss of death for it. Also, this is the round where I learned that high-skill classes are a nightmare to judge because it's so hard to keep everyone's skill points straight.
- Round XX—Incandescent Champion
This round came about as a direct result of me requesting it, so I kinda felt compelled to judge. In retrospect, I'm not 100% certain if that was a good idea. I love the concept of the class, but it's bad enough to be an ingredient and it's really hard to do anything with it. I've certainly never succeeded in doing anything with it, after all. It's bad. But since I like it so much, I think I was a little harsher than is entirely fair.
- Round LXV—Thunder Guide  
It seems that the worse a class is, the more I have to say about the entries. To quote Deadasadoor's immediate response to my judgment, "well that was an essay." Thunder Guide offers basically nothing of value to work with, but it did result in the inimitable Kole Naerrin, which is one of my absolute favorite dishes I've ever seen.
- Round LXXI—Silver Key
One of the only SIs I've ever seen used in a live game, so judging was fun. Incidentally, passive ingredients suck.
- Round LXXIII—Flux Adept   
I'm pretty sure this is my longest judgment to date. I kind of hope it's my longest ever, because it took for freaking ever. [Update after Hoardstealer: Nope. Not the longest ever. Spoiler alert.] I think I basically couldn't figure out what the hell the SI is supposed to do and therefore just kept talking until I had some idea of what I was looking at, but I hope that I was thorough and cogent (or close enough).
- Round LXXXVIII—Arboreal Guardian  
I have a lot of respect for the folks who got something in on this one, because it totally stumped me. Admittedly, none of the builds blew me away either, but they're way better than the non-entity I failed to submit.
- Round XCIII—Hoardstealer     Criteria
Holy hell this was so long. SO LONG. About 31,872 words. How did you come up with TWELVE builds for something as stupid as Hoardstealer?! How did you all do that?! This blew my length record (previously Flux Adept) out of the water. Unlike my last few judgments, I didn't spell out every quarter-point here and there after every sentence; I just said a million words and then gave a single number at the end. It felt pretty weird in places, but this already took me like three weeks anyway, and I know it would have been longer otherwise. The builds here were extremely varied. This is likely to be perhaps my broadest score spread, or close to it. I don't know why I do this to myself. You all had better believe that I love you and I love this damn competition.