Part four.

Ser Iaijutsu Tonneu de Chartres: 12
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Originality: 4

I've never seen Celestial-Attended Birth used before, so that was neat! I like learning new tricks like that. The rest of the build did use some well-known bits and pieces of optimization lore, but I think that you knew that already (on the shoulders of giants, right?), and this didn't feel totally cookie-cutter, so that's nice. I didn't see anything coming together in a new and unusually harmonious way, but it didn't just feel like I'd seen this movie a hundred times before, so that's a good feeling. Even if, as you'll see in Power, I don't think you pulled off everything you were trying to do, the fact that you were indeed trying to do a handful of things that don't automatically flow out of Hoardstealer is a good thing, and if we gloss over the RAW quibbles I'm going to discuss in Power (One Mistake, One Penalty), the whole does feel greater than the sum of the parts. This has earned about a 4.

Power: 2

I'm seeing a lot of tricks that rely upon limited resources. Polymorphing into an arrow demon is clever (but see below). It's a lot of resources expended for something that, from your build table, seems to work about twice per day, but it's clever.

I'm a little bit less than thrilled with your ability to make things flat-footed. Unfortunately, denying DEX is not quite the same thing as being flat-footed. A target that can't see you but that has taken their first action in a given combat is denied DEX but is not flat-footed (absent a separate effect forcing flat-footedness on them, like forcing them to balance without 5 ranks in Balance or using Surprising Riposte on them). This means that Iaijutsu won't work as often as you seem to think it will, and neither will Hit-and-Run Tactics. Or Oxyrhynicus ("just accept that you don't have a word and pass your turn, Bruce." "Never! I WILL get that triple word score!"), for that matter. They'll all work beautifully on round 1 if you win initiative (so I hope that you're scout-tastic enough to pre-buff with Polymorph before engaging; this will often be true based on your write-up, but it won't always be true), but I'm not very convinced that they'll work after round 1. Oxyrhynicus ("if you suffer from moderate to severe mephitic ocular ryoma, talk to your doctor about Oxyrhynicus") is loosely worded enough (though I will point out that i.e. is significantly more restrictive than e.g., and no, they are not the same bloody thing) that you might be able to make an argument that it works on denying DEX and not just on flat-footedness, but don't bother disputing on that front; the loss of Iaijutsu and Hit-and-Run Tactics is big enough that arguing against the loss of Oxyrhynicus ("O. oxyrhynicus, being one of the shortest-lived but fastest-breeding members of the genus, was used in lab testing until Patient Zero broke free") won't really change my overall score here.

Let's look at sort of a best-case scenario. You've got Darkstalker, decent stealth, and eventually a few tricks—like long darkvision and the actual Invisibility spell—that do offer some indication that you might sneak up on things now and again. (Lack of major investment in Spot/Listen is a minor mark against you here, but there's no such thing as enough skill points. I get it.) If that happens, you'll get a surprise round. You'll get one attack with IF and HaRT in that surprise round —more at 15th and then more again at 18th with Oxyrhynicus ("Iä! Iä! Oxyrhynicus! The Cyclopean Pyramid In The Cursed Desert Who Spawned A Thousand Optimizers!") if all goes well—that's going to be meaningful, but it's not likely to end the battle against something level-appropriate. You'll then roll init; you've got about a +5 to your init score altogether, which is reasonable but not enough by a long shot to guarantee that you'll go first. If you do manage to go first, you'll get basically a repeat of your surprise round. After that, though, your only real source of bonus damage is KD. KD is okay, but I feel like any time you've got to attack something that's already acted, you're going to be a bit disappointed.

I'm torn about choosing Far Shot over Precise Shot. I personally think that Precise Shot is an obnoxious feat tax that nonetheless must be paid. Eating a -4 on basically every round after your melee guys (let's be honest, it's a rare party that has zero melee capability, even if it's just summons and/or pets) close the distance is, well, dumb. So I basically think of any ranged-primary build without PS as being the equivalent of waving around a nonproficient weapon unless you get lucky. (This just amplifies the "round 1 is awesome, round 2 is disappointing" problem I've outlined here.) On the other hand, I do understand that you're trying to stay out of the range of your targets, so Far Shot isn't worthless. 'Course, the range increment on a longbow is 100', so if you're trying to rely on your darkvision, it's ECL 10 before you even have the chance to hit the second range increment on a non-Far-Shot longbow, and I don't know about you, but I feel like it's not exactly a guarantee that you'll often be fighting things at a distance within the weirdly specific range of more than 100' away but less than 120' away. I think Far Shot may not have been the best choice here.

Ugh, I just noticed something really bad. Polymorph, I am sad to say, is not a legal choice for your Spell Knowledge. It's a 4th level spell, and Wyrm Wizard specifies that you need to learn a spell up to one level lower than the highest level arcane spell you can prepare and cast (and you cap out at 4th level spells). This is a big, big problem for you. (Don't bother going dumpster-diving for a weird list that has Polymorph as a 3rd level spell; the time to do that was before the judgment, and you didn't tell me in your build write-up that you were going dumpster-diving at all.) Honestly, that's kind of killer for you, given that it informed an awful lot of your build choices and seems to be the centerpiece of your high-level strategy. I don't think your Polymorph tricks are legal at all because I don't think you have access to Polymorph. That kind of torpedoes a lot of your high-level power, or at least the biggest increase in power you purport to have late in the game. (Greater Manyshot is still a good trick but still only really works on round 1; same with Oxyrhynicus ["Breaking news: Florida man found dead after combatants in illegal koala-fighting ring turned on him; the autopsy revealed traces of the new synthetic drug 'Oxyrhynicus' in his system"].) So I basically can't give you any points for using Polymorph.

You use Knowledge Devotion reasonably well. The biggest bonuses do wait a while to come online, but it works. I feel like you didn't remember that Collector of Stories only works 1/enc, but that's small enough that I'm not going to directly penalize for it.

I'm a little surprised you didn't trade out Wild Empathy for anything, since it's kind of worthless with just two levels in Ranger and a +1 CHA backing it up. My go-to is CChamp's Spiritual Connection. A minor loss, I suppose. Similarly, because you didn't use Track for anything and only put 4 ranks in Survival, I wonder if it would have been possible to have traded that out as well? To be fair, most of the things that I know offhand that you can trade Track for require investment in other skills (like Gather Info or Search/Disable), so maybe that was a lost cause. (The 4 ranks in Survival are a tiny bit confusing, though. It might have been more interesting to pay a little more attention to them or else to just state flat out that Track isn't why you started with Ranger.)

You have a smattering of skills, but most of them other than pure stealth seem to be related to solving problems in combat rather than contributing utility out of combat. Knowledges do go a reasonably long way and it is indeed useful to have a Knowledge-monkey in the party (thus says The Truenamer Guy), but you're not the craziest Knowledge-monkey I've ever seen, and I think the expected baseline here (i.e., what would a "normal" Hoardstealer with a Ranger/Human Paragon base have as a skillset?) is probably a little bit broader than what you've got here.

Overall, I think that you've got an interesting premise, but the devil is in the details, and the details really don't work in your favor. I don't see an easy fix that would allow your IF or HaRT to work more than once per encounter most of the time, leaving you with pretty much just KD as a source of damage. That isn't much, especially with the loss of Polymorph. That's not something we can easily and reliably fix with tactics or items or anything, so I don't think we can really salvage what you've got written here. Since the majority of your build seems to be tied up in making your iaijutsu archery (and your archery in general) work, I don't think I can give you a very good Power. This seems like about a 2 at best. You'd have scored higher if you had a way to make things actually flat-footed and if your use of Wyrm Wizard to get Polymorph were legal. (Taking Precise Shot instead of Far Shot might not have changed the actual score alone but might have contributed if you had a few other little improvements as well.)

Elegance: 3

Basic legality check: You don't have 5 ranks in any Knowledge skill when you take Collector of Stories. You seem to have an error in your table at ECL 9 when it comes to your ranks in K: Arcana, K: Planes, and K: Religion, but if we assume that you put one point into each of those skills at that level, the math checks out on your skill points; however, if that's true, you then underspent at 10th. Or maybe at 11th. There's an error somewhere, but at least it seems to be underspending rather than overspending. Neither is good, but overspending is much worse. You then seem to only spend 6 points at 12th and 13th, but then you spend the normal 8 at 14th. At 15th, you highlight K: Planes and K: Religion like you spent points there, but the number doesn't change, and it can't change or else 16th gets weird. This happens again at 19th and again at 20th. So as far as your skill points go, you seem to have underspent several times over. (Let me guess: you changed your class order at the last minute after you'd already built one [choice term deleted] table, right?) I'm very happy that you never overspent, but underspending is still not ideal. And of course your skill trick is mistimed.

Still on the legality check but inserting a line break for legibility's sake: Knowledge Devotion also requires 5 ranks in a Knowledge skill, so you've actually got two illegal choices at 6th that happen to be illegal for the exact same reason. That's kind of fascinating. But it's not good. You don't explicitly say that you have Draconic as a language, but your INT is decent enough that I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Other than Collector of Stories and Knowledge Devotion, you do meet all your prereqs, but those two illegal choices are not going to reflect well on you.

Moving on from basic legality. So, you needed human for Able Learner (to fix Hoardstealer's weird skills and deal with the obnoxious prereqs) and Human Paragon (for IF and a few others as class skills) but wanted to be an outsider for Polymorph shenanigans, so you used an obscure "background" option to allow you to take Otherworldly? That's . . . that's actually brilliant and I love it. That's the sort of thing I love to see on a build like this. It might have been a tiny bit more interesting if you didn't get martial weapon proficiency from your class structure, thereby having the outsider type give you a little more than just darkvision in the early game, but still, I love seeing a large number of interrelated choices that all really matter. Good job.

The sudden revival of interest in Spot at level 19 is a bit of a skill cowlick, but I suppose it's never bad to have Spot around.

The distance between Manyshot (which, let's face it, kind of bites) and Greater Manyshot is longer than ideal, but I understand that you needed other stuff. Still, it would have been nice to see GMS earlier. Other than that, though, the only prereq feat you have lying around for very long is PBS, and that's kind of a gimme on anything even vaguely related to ranged attacks.

You wring some good mileage out of Human Paragon. Each of the three levels has a very distinct purpose in the build at the time that they are taken, which is a good thing to see. Thumbs up for that.

Overall, I want to score this build pretty well in Elegance (I love that racial choice and I love the extremely careful judicious timing on your Human Paragon levels), but the unforced errors with illegally taking Knowledge Devotion and Collector of Stories are holding you back. I'll call this a 3. It would have been higher with cleaner skills and with no illegal choices.

Use of Secret Ingredient: 3

Hacking an extra spell onto a tiny spell list is a reasonably good use of slots from a PrC with unique casting. The fact that your chosen spell happens to be illegal was addressed in Power, and in the interest of One Mistake, One Penalty, I'm going to give you credit in UoSI for trying and won't penalize you just because you never actually get Polymorph. The only lower-level spell you mention at all is (quickened) Invisibility, so I would have liked to have seen the class's spells play a role in your write-up before Wyrm Wizard comes online, but at least what you seem to think is the centerpiece of the build is directly related to the spells. You do spend a reasonable amount of effort trying to get Polymorph to work, at least, which speaks well of how important it is to you.

You fail to do anything interesting with Deep Pockets, which is one of the only unique abilities that the class gets, and that makes me very sad.

You talk about darkvision enough that I'll accept that you care about it. Hide from Dragons at least got a throwaway mention; I understand that it's situational, but it would be nice to see a bit more attention paid to it. Basically no one really did that properly, though, so this isn't unique to you. It's basically impossible to optimize that one in a vacuum.

You make reasonable use of Skill Mastery. Taking the last level of Human Paragon right before Hoardstealer 8 is a nice touch, even if it did delay you a bit. All of the skills you pick are combat skills for you, so you do seem to be using Skill Mastery in an effort to boost your effectiveness at fighting. (How meaningful that is at ECL 18+ is another matter, but it's something.)

You ignore the trap-related class features. You ignore Treasure Dowsing, which is another semi-unique (if frustratingly hard to use) feature.

I'm not directly penalizing for this, but I do find it humorous that at the majority of your levels in Hoardstealer, you don't take a single skill that is a class skill for Hoardstealer.

What you really seem to care about seems to be 4th level spell slots (which come online at around ECL 12, though never many times per day), the occasional 2nd level spell slot, maybe some darkvision, and (at ECL 18+, which is awfully high) Skill Mastery. That's more than can be said for a few of your fellow chefs, but since the features that you care about are mostly very high-level and relatively limited and since you don't really mention any of the unique abilities offered by the class, I'm not absolutely convinced that this build needs Hoardstealer. I can see the effort you put into getting Polymorph to do what you want, though, so I'll give you a 3 for trying. You'd have scored better if you used Deep Pockets in a meaningful way, if you paid more attention to your lower-level spells, and if you got more use out of the SI's abilities prior to the endgame.

Final Thoughts:

I love the Isaac Newton references. I don't quite get exactly why they're entirely relevant to the build (unless you're nodding to the fact that Arrow Demon is kind of a well-trodden path for a Polymorph target?), but I respect that source material there. As for the build itself, I feel like this was mostly a case where you successfully found a way that it didn’t work. You had some neat ideas, but the devil was in the details (and the arrow demon wasn't).



Gunnar von Sacher: 9.75
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I'm fairly certain that punching someone in the butt cheek to paralyze them requires being a ninja (or a doctor), and you're very clearly a pirate. Such is life.

Originality: 3.5

Okay, I didn't know that Thayan Slaver even existed, so, y'know, credit there!

Incarnate makes sense in the context of a skill-heavy class; no penalty, but it's not really surprising. Don't see Dragon Tail every day, I suppose.

I absolutely love your take on the "hoard worth 5,000 gp or more." That's clever as hell. Doesn't have as big an effect on the build as the real crunchy stuff, but it's still clever as hell. Also super dark, but you're an Evil Incarnate, so dark is appropriate. Thumbs up.

I think we'll go a little north of average and call this a 3.5. You brought in at least one game element that was new to me and made me laugh at a semi-fluff way of meeting a prereq, but I'm not seeing any really remarkable new combos or spellbinding twists on old combos. I see old combos used pretty well and pretty appropriately, but as I said, no real twists and no overall sense that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Power: 2

Hmm. Reasonably acceptable early game, especially around level 3 or so. Human Paragon, as you say, is a class for the long game, but Incarnate is a beast early on.

Long-term, Thayan Slaver is weird and fascinating. I love tacking rider effects onto skill checks and similar rolls. Wish you'd mentioned Duel of Wills as a way to get a potential Intimidate check on the field without spending an action. Still, what you do have is pretty neat. It'd be neater earlier on, but here we are.

You've got pretty impressive skills. You seem pretty deliberate with what you're doing, and it comes off as less of a mishmash than some of your competitors. So that's good. Your ability to actually damage things or otherwise remove them from combat is, shall we say, secondary at best (not to say tertiary), but it's not ignored outright. 3d6 SA, I suppose, isn't nothing. It's not a game-breaker (or even terribly impressive) by ECL 16, but it at least means that you aren't building a pure noncombatant, which is more than some other Hoardstealers can say. There's definitely a donut hole between around ECL 3 and around ECL 12 or so where you don't really get much better at hitting folks, but Hoardstealer isn't intended to be Eternal Blade, I guess. Master Pickpocket is potentially useful to let you harass people even if you aren't reducing their HP totals by much. (We can't go all the way with the cheesy RAW that failure on a Sleight of Hand check only means that you are detected and not that you fail to grab what you wanted to grab and therefore an arbitrarily large number of free actions can be used to strip someone naked in a single round, rolls be damned. We're just not going there. I'm going to assume that you at least have to succeed on the check. Master Pickpocket is still very useful, though.)

You went pretty far out of your way to not use Rogue. Like, that's an awful lot of effort you went to there. You got your skill list from Human Paragon (which notably offers significantly fewer skill points than Rogue would), and tellingly, you didn't take any skills from HP that Rogue doesn't offer. You spend at least two feats getting enough Sneak Attack to qualify for Thayan Slaver, which more than cancels out the bonus feat that level 2 of Human Paragon gives you. Taking 3 levels of Rogue early on in place of 3 levels of Human Paragon would have gotten you more early skill points and one extra feat, and it would have made the early levels more level-appropriate (2d6 SA is far more meaningful around ECL 5 than around ECL 12) and less focused only on setting up, while really only losing 2 INT. 2 INT isn't nothing on so skill-heavy a character, but I'm not sure that you've necessarily come out ahead here. I understand that not all skill points are equal and that timing does matter, but you lost 24 skill points by taking HP instead of Rogue, and you gained 15 skill points from the INT bump that HP offered, so that's a net loss of 9 skill points in addition to the feat and the early-game offense. Your early game would have been a lot stronger, and you probably could have entered Thayan Slaver (which, when we're judging Power, does a lot more for you than Hoardstealer ever does) much earlier. I can understand feeling resistance to the idea of entering the SI (or Thayan Slaver, for that matter) the way WotC expected the SI to be entered, but still, that's an awful lot of build resources spent taking the roundabout path without really gaining anything unique out of it. It'd be different if you needed an unusually timed bonus feat after you met some odd prereqs, if you nabbed some unusual skills with HP that Rogue wouldn't have given you, or if the INT bump would have specifically let you qualify for something you otherwise wouldn't have (INT is inherently useful, especially on this class structure, but this specific character doesn't suddenly become able to cast spells they otherwise couldn't or anything like that), but none of that is on display today. I don't think this improved your overall Power. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

I'm going to trust my heart and call this a 2. You have an acceptable skill baseline, you get some sideways utility from Master Pickpocket, and you have at least a little bit of interesting utility from Slaver, but you don't come together as much of a cohesive whole, and you have relatively low "standard" offense. You'd have scored higher with a tighter focus, with a little more early combat oomph, and with a better explanation of how Hoardstealer levels make you stronger.

Elegance: 2.25

Technically silverbrow human is in DrM rather than RotD, but I don't feel like being picky about that.

Basic legality check: (I love judging builds with Able Learner. Makes the skill check so much easier.) You seem to have underspent your skill points at level 12. Heartbreakingly, you overspend by one single point at level 17, and you seem to overspend by 2 points at level 20. Your feats and classes are legal. Sad to see you stumble at the very end with those skills.

Your ranks in Forgery don't line up with how many points you spend. At level 17, I'm pretty sure that it would take more than 1 point to go from 16 to 20. Since 17 is one of the levels where you overspend anyway, it's obvious that something got pretty darn messed up there.

I didn't check every single level, but I'm pretty sure that you shortchanged yourself out of at least one point of BAB during your stint as a Thayan Slaver. No normal class (something something War Hulk Survivor something) fails to advance BAB for 3 levels in a row. Better to shortchange yourself than to claim a benefit you don't deserve, but neither is ideal.

You seem to have forgotten to put in a spell table for Hoardstealer, so I had to do a bit more legwork on my end to figure out when you get access to various spell levels. To the extent that you care, at least.

You're smart enough to know better than to waste a Skill Mastery slot on UMD. It's not stress or distraction that prevents you from taking 10; it's a clause in the skill itself. It's legal to pick, but it doesn't really do anything. A minor detail considering how late SM comes online (and your other choices are entirely respectable), but worth mentioning.

You're really excited about binging on skill points. Like, really excited about it. You have two levels where you don't spend at least 4 points on a given skill, and zero levels where you don't spend at least 3. That's actually pretty impressive, honestly. You almost made it into a motif. I don't really know how to approach this. Like, ordinarily I'd call this lumpy as hell, but since you stick with it the whole time, it almost loops around and works out. You are, in a very strange way, consistent. And I guess you always have some distinct new toy to play with rather than just minimally incremental improvement over the last level. I think I need to ruminate on this a bit.

Behold this graph of your skill ranks (spoilered for size):
Spoiler: Fig. A
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Lots of peaks and jumps. It's interesting to see how many skills have multiple big binges, too. Perhaps you'd like to see this graph of your skill points (as opposed to ranks)? If we wanted to get fancy, we could technically call it the derivative of the first graph.
Spoiler: Fig. B
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That's just fascinating. Bluff, in particular, really stands out, but the whole thing is pretty wild. You've given me a fair bit to think about, honestly. There's part of me that feels like you ended up going just far enough to loop around. I'm not going to call it a straight lunge for refuge in audacity, but that's kind of the general mindset, given my criteria. I don't think I'm going to count this against you too much, to be honest. Mostly because you went all the way and always gave each level a sharp focus in terms of skill points. The progression is about as uneven as it's possible to get, but looking at it from the perspective of a player taking this character through their career, I like the idea of every level offering something that I'm noticeably better at than the level before it. I don't think I'd get this impression if you just dabbled in your giant lumpy rank investments now and again, but by going all the way, you've altered my perspective a tiny bit, at least in the confines of this specific build. You crazy rascal.

I genuinely do not see the point of having the Dragon Tail feat and the Dragon Tail soulmeld going at once. The soulmeld, to use the technical term, totally blows, since it very carefully makes it impossible to attack with the soulmeld and with anything else short of Snap Kick (which this build does not boast) at the same time. Thankfully, it's a soulmeld, so it's basically totally optional. This is especially good because you mention more melds early on than you have the ability to shape simultaneously (yes, Brass Mane is a freebie; you still name four other melds and can only shape three, to say nothing of your oblique references to the Dissolving Spittle—which you can't use at the same time as the Brass Mane, by the way—and various necrocarnum things beyond the Circlet), so there's that. Yes, the entire point of meldshaping is crazy flexibility, but still, when you call certain melds out by name, why wouldn't I assume that you're prioritizing them? This is a minor quibble overall, though. I'm still just looking at the level 5 bracket, by the way.

Looking a little beyond level 5, you're still kind of Schroedinger's Incarnate. You simply do not have enough melds or enough binds (or enough essentia, though of course essentia is redistributable; kind of messy with the ES and the BM, though) to have the Elder Spirit (which you need to bind to get a bonus to Intimidate) and the Necrocarnum Touch and the Silvertongue Mask and the Theft Gloves (Brass Mane is still a freebie; pay a feat, get the benefit), all of which you seem to assume you have going at once. Relatively few of the skills you care about are ones that are easily separated from your whole deal, so it's not like we can draw an easy dividing line between "uptime" and "downtime," for instance. This problem could have been solved with more discussion about how you decide which to shape when; by giving them all approximately equal weight, I can't tell that you recognize that this isn't all happening at once. Again, flexibility is part and parcel of meldshaping, and this isn't going to completely torpedo you or anything, but it's still hard to tell from your build if you recognize that you've got some limitations here. I'm not 100% sure you do.

I'm not penalizing for this, but I need to mention it: every single time I see a build with Mosquito's Bite, I hope for a fraction of a second that the build will explain to me why that particular skill trick is not merely a waste of points and space. Every single time, I walk away disappointed. When would you ever, ever care about, once per encounter, making an opponent aware that you attacked them but temporarily unaware that you hit? What is the benefit? I have never seen a benefit. If they didn't think you attacked them, that would be one thing, but just delaying for one round when they think you hit is so pointless that I can't get over it. (I truly mean it when I say that I won't penalize, but still, it's confusing.)

I suppose the fact that the skill prereqs for Thayan Slaver have some overlap with the skill prereqs for Hoardstealer is moderately elegant, though it's really only Appraise. A small mark in your favor, but I guess everything adds up.

Your class structure isn't completely nonsensical, but it's not buttery smooth either. HP for skills at level 1 is reasonable, and then 2 levels of Incarnate is reasonable as well, but you aren't using Incarnate 2 as much of a breakpoint so much as just trying to then jam in a certain number of HP levels prior to Hoardstealer. You then grind through Hoardstealer until you qualify for Slaver, which you take as quickly as possible. Crippling Strike isn't a totally nonsensical breakpoint, but I honestly think it might have made more sense to get Skill Mastery immediately after getting Break Will, because I'm not seeing that you've got enough attacks (or enough ability to reliably trigger SA) to really make Crippling Strike meaningful at the level bracket it comes online. You also don't mention a single one of the abilities at HS 9 or 10, so it's not clear why you took them other than because it's the SI. There's no "um, where the hell did this random level of Hexblade come from?" moments or anything, but I'm not seeing this as being remarkable in its elegance.

I'm going to call this about a 2.25. The soulmeld traffic jam and the skill foul-ups around 17 and 20 do you no favors, and you have very little to bump you back up other than technically having a prereq overlap of 8 skill points.

Use of Secret Ingredient: 2

I feel like there's a little bit of, if you'll pardon me, sleight of hand in claiming UMD as a "class feature" when you've got Human Paragon's choose-your-own skill list and Able Learner, but that doesn't mean that you didn't try. Wry smile here.

You mention that Hoardstealer grants spells, but you don't tell me what you do with them or why you care. You didn't even include a table of when you get how many slots per day (you have one for Slaver, but not for HS). These two bits of evidence point to you not really paying a whole ton of attention to your HS spells and therefore probably not getting a whole ton of benefit out of them. You don't even use the arcane keyword (for lack of a better term) to qualify for anything.

You give a glancing mention to darkvision and Hide from Dragons. As situational as each are, I'd have liked to have seen a little bit more of that, at least for darkvision. But situational/passive abilities are situational and passive, so this is far from your greatest problem.

You mention Treasure Dowsing, but I'm not seeing it as a centerpiece of your tricks, and I'm not seeing it used in any particularly novel or interesting ways. I guess the trick you laid out in your story is somewhat interesting? Can't see it coming up that much, but I guess it's something to nod to the class's abilities in your fluff piece.

You mention stuffing slaves into Deep Pockets. The opening to said pocket might be more relevant than the inner storage capacity, but at least you mention it. You can see that some of your competitors went a lot farther with this than you did, though, so I'm not exactly blown away with how it showed up here.

You ignore Trap Sense. Again, far from your greatest problem (huzzah for super situational and totally passive abilities that simply make failing potentially less bad!), but it's not making your case stronger.

Your Skill Mastery choices are reasonable, minus UMD. In particular, since Slaver gives you a new way to use Intimidate (or a new benefit to being good at Intimidate, I suppose), it's more useful on you than on the average Hoardstealer. So that's good.

Overall, I'm not seeing that this build wants to be a Hoardstealer. The build would honestly not suffer in any meaningful way by dropping HS altogether and replacing it with, like, Rogue, or for that matter with any other generic skillful class. Looking at what's actually on your build table (you are, very pointedly, not a character with actual levels in Rogue), you'd technically have fewer skill points if you took more levels in Incarnate instead, but you'd probably be a more robust skill-user overall, given Incarnate's somewhat quirky angle on skills. HS doesn't let you qualify for anything in particular, and you only barely make use of its abilities. The one class feature that seems to actively synergize with the rest of your build is Skill Mastery, and as nice as Skill Mastery is, it comes online at ECL 18, so it matters significantly less than something that could have come online earlier.

I don't think I can give this build more than about a 2, and even that's honestly kind of pushing it. You do enter the SI ASAP and you do eventually take 10 levels, but you still seem to be taking the class out of spite rather than because you've found something cool to do with it. You're not flagrantly interrupting an otherwise powerful progression with Hoardstealer the way some of your competitors are, but that's about all I can say in favor of your UoSI. You'd have scored higher if you told me why the spells matter to you, if you'd really put anything other than Skill Mastery to good use, or if you'd really just focused more on why anything about the class holds any appeal to this character.


Final Thoughts:

God, this build is weird. I really didn't know what to do with it. It's not completely aimless or anything, but it's not always clear what your goal is at any given level, and it's not always clear what resources you're expecting to have on hand to be able to devote to any specific task. It took a couple of neat turns (Thayan Slaver has some fascinating potential), but it also took a couple of head-scratching turns. You seemed to spend more time defining yourself by what you're not than you did really highlighting what you are and the lack of focus kept throwing roadblocks in front of you.



Tag Baggit: 10.5
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Originality: 4

Recaster is nothing new and neither is Shivering Touch, but getting both on a Hoardstealer is not something that was exactly guaranteed. I had to go and look up at least three of your feats, which is not something that happens with every build I come across. Changeling Rogue is tired, but I'm trying not to penalize for that because I feel a little guilty about when I did that last time. Shadowcaster, while not a choice that helps you much in Power, is definitely not going to hurt you in Originality; I don't think of it as having any particular connection to Hoardstealer, so it got a raised eyebrow, and that's good. I'm going to call this a 4. You brought in enough unexpected elements that I'm okay with raising this above the midpoint, but you would have scored higher if your tricks had felt more integrated into the whole rather than just picking up tactics from here and there and sticking them together.

Power: 2

Shadowcaster confuses me. It's an unusual choice, so I had really expected to see more explanation of what you're doing with it. You didn't choose especially bad mysteries or anything (though Piercing Sight is a little bit confusing), but I also didn't get an explanation of why the mysteries really make you significantly cooler. (I mean, there's a little bit there, but since it's so out of the ordinary, I was hoping for a little more.) Since you only get each one (plus or minus the fundamentals) once per day, I was expecting to see a description of why this was worth interrupting your skill progression for. Was it just to get Extend Spell as a bonus feat? Pretty sure Wu Jen 1 could have gotten you that for fewer levels lost. I don't see Shadowcaster as letting you qualify for anything in particular, either. It's not completely useless or anything, don't get me wrong, but it's also kind of confusing overall. I guess what I'm getting at is that it's not something with a real strong argument behind it as presented here.

Quick note: You wasted a Skill Mastery slot on UMD. You are technically allowed to pick UMD for Skill Mastery, but it doesn't do anything. The reason you can't take 10 on UMD has nothing to do with stress or distraction—it's because there's a clause in the skill itself specifically preventing taking 10. (It's like Truespeak in that way.) Since you get an acceptable number of other skills chosen for SM, this isn't a major strike against you, but it is indeed a minor strike against you.

Dutiful Guardian is definitely not something I expected. As you indicated, it's not exactly something that seems like it might come up too often. I can see it being amusing if you are, in fact, actually invisible when it comes up, but it's not clear to me from your writeup how often you can actually count on being invisible in combat. Using [non-Greater] Invisibility only lasts until you attack, after all, but if Dutiful Guardian has come up, presumably you've got your party with you and you're actually engaged in some kind of real fight rather than an elaborate chase scene. If you're not attacking, then, what are you doing? I suppose you don't really have any oomph behind your attacks that aren't Shivering Touch, which on the one hand indicates that you might not be attacking, but that really just trades one problem for another. And you don't seem to have access to Greater Invis at all. So I'm not really sure how often it makes sense to assume that you're going to be around being invisible when an ally is being swung at. Even peeking ahead at the script and looking at Evasive Maneuvers, it'll be hard to use both on the same turn because you only get one immediate action.

Side note I just noticed about Constant Guardian: Used properly, it should never penalize you for on-turn attacks. Free actions can be taken at any time during the turn (like, say, after you make whatever attacks you plan to make), and then the penalty only lasts until the start of your turn. I'm not going to say that this necessarily affects this specific build at all (if for no other reason than that you didn't mention it), but it's interesting, don't you think?

Recaster is, I have to say, a pretty dynamite choice. Getting the quintessential dragon-killing spell is already good stuff, but then freely maximizing it and casting it from across the room? That's noticeable even at the level range we're talking about here. I do wish you had a reliable way to punch through SR: your caster level, while not godawful, isn't exactly on par with that of a full caster, and so the SR for level-appropriate dragons is nontrivial for you. Overall, though, I like what Recaster does for you. I do temper my judgment a little bit with the recognition of the fact that Shivering Touch is about the only actual offense you mentioned and with the recognition of the fact that you have remarkably few spell slots with which to shine, but Recaster definitely helps you wring every drop out of the few spells per day you do get. Mass Invisibility is also pretty slick, though Shivering Touch is the real show-stealer, I think.

I didn't see anything in your writeup to convince me that Spell Focus: Illusion makes any dang sense for you. You didn't mention any illusions with saving throws in your write-up, and you don't have many slots per day to cast illusions out of. I don't see it qualifying you for anything. The feat is 15 is a pretty prime slot; it's not so far at the end that it'll absolutely never see use, but you're expected to be able to qualify for pretty much whatever you want by that point, so it's a pretty bad feat slot to blow on something of totally unclear benefit. I don't love that.

Wait, now I see. SF: Illusion qualifies you for Evasive Maneuvers. That's, um, hmm. I'm starting to see why no one bothers with Evasive Maneuvers very often. I'll buy the argument that it can trigger Mass Invis, but that seems like an awful lot of resources to be spending on something that you can't really count on. Especially since Hoardstealer is a prepped caster rather than a spontaneous caster, so you've gotta know ahead of time that you'll want a Mass Invis more than a Shivering Touch (with your puny number of spell slots per day) or whatever. And Mass Invis is actually kind of weird to use off-turn given that your friends, presuming that you target your friends, have to refrain from attacking or else the whole spell breaks for everyone. (It's not useless entirely to have it only last part of a round, but it's still an awfully high cost for unclear benefit.) I guess you can use a normal Invis spell, but this still feels like an awful lot of effort. I still don't love this, and I don't think it speaks well to your Power.

Your skills are mostly respectable on the surface, I suppose. Your CHA is a little low compared to what is normally expected of a Changeling Rogue, but you've got a good reason for it. Waiting to take UMD actually kind of makes sense considering that level 1 characters can rarely afford magic devices to use. Waiting so long to take Concentration is a little bit less logical; I'd say that you don't seem to be wanting to cast in melee too often, but we all know that Concentration isn't for when things go the way you want them to.

Honestly, your skills are mostly notable for what you DON'T have. First, you've got maxed Search but only a token amount of Disable Device. I agree that if you're going to choose one or the other, it's better to find a trap that you have to then cleverly find a way around than it is to be able to disable traps that you can't find, but it still strikes me as an odd choice. You're also pretty stealthy (I'd have loved to have seen HiPS somewhere, but I understand that getting HiPS is sometimes costly), but you don't have enough in the perceptive skills to do as much scouting as one might expect. Your party role is actually a little bit unclear, now that I take a hard look at it. You aren't really a scout; you aren't a full dungeon-monkey with Disable Device and Open Lock and all that weird stuff (yeah, yeah, DD obsoletes OL, but you don't have more than a token amount of either); you've got Social Intuition, but you don't have high CHA and you don't have maxed totals in any of the face skills, leaving your numbers just a little behind the curve (enough that I don't think of you as being a primary face). So, um, what is your role in the party, now that I look at you? It's also worth mentioning that trapfinding is more valuable early on simply because skills have more primacy early on, but I recognize that there's a catch-22 when the SI grants trapfinding.

Overall, you're a semi-handy character with one major ace in the hole when you get Shivering Touch, but you have basically zero offense other than ST, you have enough weird gaps in your skill list that you aren't really any of the traditional stripes of skillmonkey, and you spend an awful lot of feat space building up for tricks that, if they even work at all (which isn't guaranteed), don't work that great until fairly late in the game. You look better on the surface than you do following deep scrutiny. (Which I suppose is slightly thematically appropriate for a Changeling, but that's unlikely to be what you were going for, no?) I think this earns a score of about 2. Not rock-bottom (mostly because Recaster is used really well), but notably below average. You'd have scored higher with more focus on your skills, with more juice per day, or with better basic offense.

Elegance: 1.5

Dutiful Guardian isn't a Fighter bonus feat. Constant Guardian is and that's fine, but Dutiful Guardian isn't. Yes, this is stupid. No, you're still not legal. That's not good. Especially since it doesn't look like we could make you legal but just rearranging the order of things. No bueno.

Legality baseline: Your skills appear to be legal (I love Able Learner). You appear to meet all of your prereqs. I don't see too many questionable rules interpretations. So Dutiful Guardian seems to be the only illegal element.

Shadowcaster is a little out of left field, though it does pair nicely with Rogue. It's mostly that the benefits you get out of it, what few there are, don't seem to stay super-relevant for too long. I won't say that it becomes useless, but it's too limited to count as an early boost in strength and too focused on the early game to really stay relevant later on, so that doesn't speak to your Elegance.

You're super feat-starved, which means that there's often a really long time between investment and payoff. Extend Spell is especially egregious (you literally can't even try to use it before ECL 8, and with your puny number of slots per day, you can't use it with any degree of practicality until Recaster kicks in and gives it to you for free at ECL 16), but it's not alone.

Not seeing any real elegant ways of handling prereqs or making them do double duty. I guess Shadowcaster giving Extend as a bonus feat isn't the worst possible way of getting it, but I'm otherwise unimpressed.

I think we're about at a 1.5 here. The illegal feat cost you heavily, and the lack of anything remarkable to make up for the small inelegances here and there didn't help.

Use of Secret Ingredient: 3

Trap Sensitivity is a reasonably respectable choice for making Trap Sense slightly less useless, so that's cool. One might quibble about how common nonmagical traps are after a certain level, but it's still a clever choice that I don't see every day, so I'm going to reward it. I mean, Trap Sense is terrible, after all, so using it to qualify for something is kind of interesting.

You pay enough lip service to your stealth and your darkvision that I believe that you care about it, but you don't do anything above and beyond with it. It's not useless, but you almost seem to be collecting it for the sake of collecting it rather than for the sake of using it for anything.

You either don't mention or barely mention Hide from Dragons and Treasure Dowsing. Deep Pockets is the closest thing to a unique ability that the class has, so it's disappointing that it gets minimal mention in your write-up.

You use the spell slots the class gives you very well. One or two of them might even be spent on spells from Hoardstealer's list!

Most of your Skill Mastery choices are fine, but I don't see you doing anything unusual or special or even especially interesting with them.

Your foundational classes are shaky enough that Hoardstealer does take up most of the space in your build, for lack of a better term. (This doesn't necessarily refer to actual number of levels.) It's not easy to see what the build would be without Hoardstealer.

I'll give this basically a midline score. You find better-than-average uses for the spell slots and Hoardstealer doesn't seem to be directly competing with or interfering the rest of the build, but you don't go above and beyond for anything but the spells, and you ignore the only really unique feature.

Final Thoughts: I don't want to be too harsh on this build. It's not that bad, and you'll noticed that I avoided deploying The Line on it, though I was tempted to do so. It just doesn't hold up to scrutiny as much as I was really hoping it would.