Entry number 3:

Quote Originally Posted by Hank
Hank, the Highly Endangered Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus

Amphibious Anthropomorphic Giant Octopus Barbarian 2/Totemist 6/Aerial Avenger 10
STR 17 (19) CON 16 (14) DEX 12 (16) INT 12 WIS 8 (12) CHA 9 (5)

The highly endangered northwest pacific tree octopodes (or octopi or octopuses if you prefer) are notoriously elusive. The typical explanation for this is that they are in fact a hoax, or perhaps that they have excellent camouflage. While these are both true, the primary reason is that they are no mere octopodes: they are sentient, anthropomorphic octopodes!

A typical highly endangered northwest pacific tree octopus learns to navigate the temperate rainforests of their home via the Brachiation feat, swinging between trees and branches that are close enough together. Hank is different. He dreams of flying, of soaring between the trees and even over the rest of the world. To this end, he studies and learns from other animals, first the mundane animals through the path of the totem barbarian, then the magical animals that totemists channel for their soul-based powers. He balances his own obsession with flight with his people’s need for capable warriors to fight off their natural predators (eagles and sasquatches).

Hank is a terrifying opponent to face even before you take into account his terrifying shriek. With seven natural attacks and pounce, he charges into battle no matter the terrain. Heart of fire and dread carapace give each attack enough bonus damage to activate Knock Down, which grants a free trip attack at +4 (+8 to resist being tripped in turn), which grants a free additional attack. All of these attacks also grant a free grapple check, which activates your Constrict ability (2d8+6? 2d8+1+Str?) and any opponent grappled at the end of the turn takes heart of fire damage again. Against opponents susceptible to fear the swoop attack is capable of hitting several enemies – especially in corridors and similarly confined spaces – by flying over them so he is out of their range but they are within his.

Levels 1-5:

Hank dreams of flying, but for now he’ll settle for 7 natural attacks (6 of which have reach), pounce, and improved trip. The mobility feat allows him to more easily charge into the heart of an enemy group so he can reach as many foes as possible, using Improved Trip and his natural Improved Improved Grab/Constrict to leave his foes both flat on the ground and wrapped in his crushing grip. His first level of totemist grants him the Pegasus cloak to let him feather fall to the forest floor (which can be used to escape or to ambush) and the dread carapace improves his damage, though he can bind neither. Of course, if he knows what he’ll be up against later in the day he can specialize his meldshapings to deal with it.

Levels 6-10:

His brothers and sisters laughed at him for refusing to learn brachiation as a poor substitute for flying, but now that he can bind Pegasus cloak… they still chuckle, because feathered wings look pretty silly on a humanoid octopus. Their effectiveness is undeniable, though, the short bursts of flight allowing him to flit easily between the trees of his forest home. Even in excursions to different terrains, they grant him greatly enhanced mobility. This is further improved by binding the dread carapace to his feet, giving him a truly massive speed boost once per minute, whether he’s running, climbing, swimming, or flying. Shaping the behir gorget protects him in case a foe beats his trip attempt and tries to counter-trip him. His typical strategy works best against large numbers of relatively weak enemies, but against a small number of stronger enemies Elusive Target gives him more options.

Levels 11-15:

Hank is living the dream, becoming the world’s most terrifying (and only) para-octopus. Even as he specializes in flying, gaining bonuses to attack/damage and the ability to attack and withdraw in the same turn, he continues to unlock his chakras, allowing him true permanent flight. Even better, this frees up his totem chakra for binding heart of fire. While this costs him the speed boost from binding dread carapace, it massively increases his damage, and what could be scarier than a flying octopus man that is also on fire? This also makes Knock-Down far more viable, potentially giving him an additional attack with each natural weapon. At this point, Hank’s main weakness is enemies large enough to shrug off his trips and grapples, but he should be able to easily outmaneuver most enemies this size in the air. He is also incredibly stealthy, making drop-down ambushes very viable, and has enough ranks in Tumble to easily maneuver around and through foes to reach advantageous positions. If I had to choose a sweet spot for the build, it would be level 15.

Hanks four ‘standard’ melds for any given day of adventuring are dread carapace (shaped on feet), heart of fire (shaped on waist, bound to totem), Pegasus cloak (shaped on and bound to shoulders), and one flex soulmeld depending on party and expected challenges (by default, behir gorget shaped on throat).

Levels 16-20:

Remember when I rhetorically asked what could be scarier than Hank in the last level bracket? That was a trick question. The real answer is a ninja flying octopus man who is on fire and also screeching like a banshee. The swoop attack on its own is situationally useful, allowing Hank to hit enemies that are too spread out to reach with one full-attack by flying over their heads (most likely out of their reach the whole time, too, but if not that’s why we’ve got Tumble maxed), but the capstone panic effect makes this ability… well, terrifying. The save DC isn’t fantastic, but it doesn’t grant immunity on a failed save, and the panicked condition completely removes an enemy from the fight. Using the Listen to This skill trick, Hank can mimic previously panicked foes to lure their comrades into a trap. Against foes immune to fear, there’s always the classic hit, grapple, constrict, knockdown, bonus attack shebang! to fall back on, more effective now than ever thanks to the increased bonuses from Aerial Avenger. Combat Reflexes makes you even more effective at lock-down. And as your Essentia Capacity increases, the speed bonuses reduce the need to invest your precious essentia in keeping your flight speed up (though should you need to go fast it’s only a swift action away).

Secret Ingredient Breakdown:

BAB – we only get up to +15 BAB, but since we’re using natural weapons anyway (and adding a weapon to the mix would seriously reduce both odds of hitting and total damage, since we’re a totemist with 6 primary natural attacks) we don’t actually lose any attacks because of that one point. This only really impacts ranged attacks and Dread Carapace; more on both later.

Flyby Attack – This one’s situational, but against an opponent dangerous enough that charging for maximum damage is less important than not being next to them at the start of their turn (e.g. when soloing a dragon), this in conjunction with your superior maneuverability in the air will let you stay out of their way while plinking away at their health.

Momentum, Death From Above, & Power Dive – with our plethora of attacks (and pounce) these help us more than just about any other character. 1d6+3 damage is normally small change at high-level, but 7d6+21 is quite respectable – and if we get the free attacks from Improved Trip it can rise up to 14d6+42. It also helps overcome damage resistance (to bludgeoning or fire, for instance) to ensure we get proc Knock Down (10 damage). The bonus to attack helps make up for both our medium BAB and the penalty to our attack from Dread Carapace (essentially Power Attack for natural weapons).

Maneuverability Increase & Speed – These are obviously useful to a flying character. Speed also lets us safely transfer more of our essentia out of Pegasus cloak into heart of fire and dread carapace once we’ve gotten into melee range.

Range Increase – not gonna lie, this one probably won’t see much use. Hank is very much a melee character. That said, there are times when this will come in handy, such as ambushes, fast fleeing enemies, when you don’t want to leave your party undefended, or when you’ve had your movement speed reduced.

Swoop – This one is also surprisingly situational until you unlock Terrifying Shriek. We already get oodles of attacks with movement via pounce. But if the enemies are spread out in a rough line (e.g. a dungeon corridor) this can be a better choice than charging, especially if there are a lot of low AC enemies. Hank is largely a lock-down build, so the more foes hit the better.

Terrifying Shriek – … now Swoop is going to see more use. As discussed above, panic removes enemies from a fight, and because the ability doesn’t confer immunity on a failed save this is totally spam-able. Sure there are a lot of enemies immune to fear, but there are also a lot that aren’t.

Complete Champion – Lion Totem Barbarian ( 46)
Complete Scoundrel – Skill Tricks (85 & 87). Honestly, these are just in here because I had extra skill points in the last two levels.
Dragon Compendium – Secret Ingredient (67)
Magic of Incarnum – Totemist (29), Midnight Dodge (39), Open Lesser Chakra (40), Behir Gorget (60), Dread Carapace (64), Heart of Fire (69), Pegasus Cloak (81).
Player’s Hand Book – Barbarian (24), Improved Trip (96), Mobility
Savage Species – Anthropomorphic Animals (214-215), Anthropomorphic Giant Octopus (216-217)
Stormwrack – Amphibious Creature template (136)
Sword and Fist: A Guidebook to Fighters and Monks – Knock-Down (7)
Unearthed Arcana / d20 SRD – Wolf Totem Barbarian (49 in UA)

Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Class Features
1st Anthropomorphic Giant Octopus 1 +1 +0 +2 +2 Climb 2, Hide 4, Listen 2, Tumble 1 Midnight Dodge 6 tentacles (primary, reach, 1d3), Bite (secondary, 1d6), Amphibious, Constrict, Darkvision 60ft, Improved Grab, Ink Cloud, Jet, +3 nat. armor, +4 to Hide, +8 to Swim
2nd Anthropomorphic Giant Octopus 2 +2 +0 +3 +3 Climb 2, Hide 5, Listen 2, Tumble 2
3rd Barbarian 1 +3 +2 +3 +3 Climb 4, Hide 5, Listen 3, Tumble 3 Mobility Illiteracy, Pounce, Rage 1/day
4th Barbarian 2 +4 +3 +3 +3 Climb 5, Hide 6, Listen 4, Tumble 3.5 Improved Trip (B) Improved Trip
5th Totemist 1 +4 +5 +5 +3 Climb 5, Hide 6, Knowledge (nature) 4, Listen 4, Tumble 4 Meldshaping, Wild Empathy
6th Totemist 2 +5 +6 +6 +3 Climb 5, Hide 7, Knowledge (nature) 5, Listen 6, Tumble 4 Elusive Target Totem Chakra Bind (+1 capacity)
7th Totemist 3 +6 +6 +6 +4 Climb 5, Hide 7, Knowledge (nature) 5, Listen 9, Tumble 5 Totem’s Protection
8th Totemist 4 +7 +7 +7 +4 Climb 5, Hide 8, Knowledge (nature) 6, Listen 11, Tumble 5
9th Totemist 5 +7 +7 +7 +4 Climb 5, Hide 9, Knowledge (nature) 6, Listen 12, Tumble 6 Bonus Essentia Chakra Binds (crown, feet, hands)
10th Totemist 6 +8 +8 +8 +5 Climb 5, Hide 10, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 13, Tumble 6 Totem Chakra Bind (+1 meldshaper level)
11th Aerial Avenger 1 +8 +8 +10 +5 Climb 5, Hide 10, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 13, Tumble 13 Flyby Attack (B) Flyby Attack, Literacy
12th Aerial Avenger 2 +9 +8 +11 +5 Climb 5, Hide 10, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 13, Move Silently 5, Tumble 15 Open Lesser Chakra Momentum +1, Power Dive
13th Aerial Avenger 3 +10 +9 +11 +6 Climb 5, Hide 10, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 13, Move Silently 11, Tumble 16 Maneuverability Increase, Speed +10ft
14th Aerial Avenger 4 +11 +9 +12 +6 Climb 5, Hide 12, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 13, Move Silently 15, Tumble 17 Death From Above +1, Range Increase
15th Aerial Avenger 5 +11 +9 +12 +6 Climb 7, Hide 14, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 15, Move Silently 16, Tumble 18 Knockdown Momentum +2
16th Aerial Avenger 6 +12 +10 +13 +7 Climb 7, Hide 16, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 17, Move Silently 18, Tumble 19 Swoop
17th Aerial Avenger 7 +13x +10 +13 +7 Climb 5, Hide 18, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 19, Move Silently 20, Tumble 20 Maneuverability Increase, Speed +10ft
18th Aerial Avenger 8 +14 +10 +14 +7 Climb 5, Hide 21, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 21, Move Silently 21, Tumble 21 Combat Reflexes Momentum +3
19th Aerial Avenger 9 +14 +11 +14 +8 Climb 5, Escape Artist 1, Hide 22, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 22, Move Silently 22, Tumble 22, Back on Your Feet (skill trick) Death From Above +2
20th Aerial Avenger 10 +15 +11 +15 +8 Climb 5, Escape Artist 2, Hide 23, Knowledge (nature) 7, Listen 23, Move Silently 23, Survival 23, Tumble 23, Back on Your Feet (skill trick), Listen to This (skill trick) Terrifying Shriek