War Child

"I am the child of war. And all war is fought with deception."

Spoiler: Prequel
“I was born of war. I don’t refer to my Father, master strategist and tactician that he is. No, my war was far more personal, far more… pure, if you will. One mortal soul, pitted against the corruptive power of the Nine Hells. Needless to say, the latter’s conquest of the former was rather absolute, and so I was born for the first time. I don’t remember much of that life, to be honest, though I get the distinct impression I did things rather differently back then.”

The Nine Hells had a new Black Knight. Clad in darkness, armed with fear, he strode through Creation with destruction as his wake. Though a natural leader in his own right, he found purpose in his devotion to his Father, Bel the Strategist. Wherever Bel commanded, the Black Knight led the charge. Without hesitation, he headed legions of devils against hordes of demons. Without hesitation, he led quests to retrieve artifacts of power from other planes. Without hesitation, he executed anyone or anything his Father declared a threat.

“I do remember what laid me low. It was Love, of course. One of the only forces in Creation that cares not for creed, ethos, or even power. Call it cruel, call it brutal, call it unfair; it’s undeniable that Creation would be less worth living in without it.”

It was on a quest to the Material Plane that the Black Knight first met him. The White Knight was defending a city that the Black had besieged, but by chance or twist of Fate was rendered unconscious rather than mortally wounded when the walls fell. More, he was the only surviving captive of sufficient rank to possess the knowledge Bel desired. Normally, the Black Knight would rely on fear to extract useful information from such a prisoner, but stymied by his counterpart’s divine courage, he instead agreed to an exchange of questions and the paladin’s freedom as balance for the information he sought. Confident that his counterpart lacked the knowledge to even ask harmful questions, the Black Knight had been sure that he had the best of the deal, but the White Knight’s questions centered not about tactics or strategy, but philosophy and meaning, and he was intrigued despite himself. Unlike his Father and his ilk, the Black Knight was not bound by his nature to honor deals or oaths, though he generally found the structure of Law superior to the anarchy of Chaos. He knew that he could, and probably should, renege on his deal and execute the captive White Knight. Nonetheless, for reasons he didn’t fully understand, he kept his word and freed him instead.

“My memories of how it all unfolded are, of course, vague at best – but it’s not too tricky to guess at the shape of things. I spared him, so later he spared me, and over the years Fate kept throwing us together, mostly on opposite sides, but occasionally forced to work together. Over time, I doubtless developed respect for him, which grew into admiration, which in turn grew into something more. I’d like to think I was unaware of these feelings, because that would make the incident that brought it all crashing down on our heads, the incident that to this day remains burned into my memory as though by a brand… if not forgivable, at least a little more understandable.”

The White Knight stood, beaten and bloody, his armor a useless raiment of scraps, but defiant still. The last defense between the fiendish army and the power they sought. The Black Knight strode forward to meet him; a picture of health and strength, his armor barely even scratched by the fighting so far.

“Come to tender your surrender?” the White Knight asked, wheezing. “I’ll give you the usual terms.”

The Black Knight laughed, genuinely amused. “No offense, but you look like Death warmed over. Come now, we both know how this goes; your army is routed, your allies fled, and you yourself are on your last legs. Might as well give up now, and save the embarrassment of losing to me again.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“Very well,” the Black Knight replied, unwilling to admit how much he admired his counterpart’s unwavering devotion. A flick of his great sword disarmed his rival, another to the side of his head disoriented him, and in a matter of seconds the White Knight was on the ground with the Black’s boot upon his chest. “This round goes to me. I’ll have your usual cell prepared; I don’t know what the chefs have planned for tonight, but I can check if you like once I’ve retrieved that gauntlet –”

What are you doing? his Father’s voice had boomed inside his head.

“Just wrapping things up here, sir. The forces of Good have been bested; the prize is ours. As for the paladin… he has answers, and I have questions. He’s too honorable to go back on the terms of a surrender, once given and accepted, so there is little risk in holding him –”

No. Our campaign in the Material realm is complete; we have no further need for tactical intelligence. Execute him.

The Black Knight blinked. And without hesitation, he cleaved the White Knight’s head from his shoulders.

The question I’m sure all of my fellow crafters have run into: what does Unholy Scion do that Half-Fiend doesn’t do for one less LA? Slightly better ability scores; always nice. Familial Bond and the fact that the baby is fully intelligent inside its mother; I came up with what I think is a fairly clever use for the former, but making use of the second would leave me rather pigeonholed for available builds. So we turn to the fluff. And we find that despite their status as Outsiders, Unholy Scions explicitly have a mortal soul buried under all that corruption. Now that has potential, oh yes indeed. And so War Child is built around a story, a story that simply wouldn’t be the same with anything other than Unholy Scion.

Spoiler: Rebirth
“I struck down my Love for no better reason than blind obedience. For this Sin alone I felt true repentance, and though I cannot recall the trial, I know that for this Sin alone I was granted a second chance. Who says Good is incapable of cruelty?”

The Black Knight was in agony. A pain beyond his powers to ignore, a pain he could not quench with might divine or arcane, a pain that time refused to dull, instead growing more sharp and vicious with every passing hour. Having lived a life of Evil, he had no context for this agony, no experience to help him cope with the Death of his Love. And so when the White Knight’s allies and friends found him, bent on vengeance, he did not even fight back, instead embracing the only surcease he could imagine. Death came.

The dark and twisted soul of the Black Knight was bound for the Nine Hells when it was intercepted.

“Even in Death, shall I find no peace? What do you
want, Angels?” He sneered. “Come to jeer?”

A valid question. Why are we here, brothers? Surely this soul is beyond redemption, and to destroy it before it is reforged into a fresh devil would violate the Order of things. The first of the three Angels looked upon the entirety of the Black Knight, and was not impressed.

The blinding light that was the second Angel turned to the first, chiding it. Suffused with the essence of Evil as it is, his soul is yet mortal, and a mortal soul is never beyond redemption.

The third Angel, the strongest of the three lights, ignored its brethren, moving forward to shine before the Black Knight. You are asking the wrong question, lost soul. For what transpires here, our desires depend on yours. What is it that
you want?

In the face of that scouring light, his defiance collapsed, leaving only the misery again. He sighed, a bitter sound, and his voice turned wistful. “What do I want? I
wish I could have done things differently. I wish I could make things right. But those paths are barred to me, so I will settle for mere oblivion. That is as close to making amends with him as I can come.”

The first Angel spoke. That is extremely weak repentance, and only for one of his sins. The rest are innumerable, and demand RETRIBUTION.

The second responded. But it
is repentance, and deserving of a chance to grow. We should show MERCY.

Both turned to the third. The Black Knight stirred. “Wait, what are you –”

I have heard and weighed your arguments. As for my own, this soul has been denied choice by the machinations of the Nine Hells. It is meet that we should restore that right. Hear now my ruling! As punishment for his Sin we will brand his soul with its memory. In honor of his repentance we will bestow upon him a second chance. In the name of FAIRNESS we will grant him rebirth. This is our will. This is

And the individual that used to be the Black Knight
screamed as his soul once more became a battleground.

“And so once more I was born of war. And once more the darkness within me triumphed. But this time… oh, this time its victory was not so complete. Evil I remain, but I will have my redemption, I will have the choice I was denied, even if I have to trick the whole of my Father’s court, even if I have to pry it from his cold, dead chest, even if I have to deceive and outmaneuver the entirety of the Nine Hells!

“And you, Mother Dearest, are going to help me do it.”

Spoiler: Build

War Child
LE→LN→LG Medium Outsider (Evil, hellbred, native)
Unholy Scion Hellbred (spirit) Mountebank 6/ Marshal 1/ Warlock 1/ Master of Masks 2/ Legacy Champion 5 (Master of Masks +2/ Mountebank +2)
ECL Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skills Feats Features
6th Mountebank 1 +0 +0 +2 +0 Bluff 4, Diplomacy 4, Disguise 4, Gather Information 4, Forgery 4, Intimidate 4, Knowledge (history) 2, Perform (acting) 2, Profession (bureaucrat) 2, Sense Motive 4 Brand of the Nine Hells (Bel), Devil’s Favor (B) Beguiling Stare, Bonus Language (Abyssal), Hellbred (aspect of spirit) traits, Mark of Damnation, Trapfinding, Unholy Scion traits, charm person 3/day
7th Marshal 1 +0 +2 +2 +2 Bluff 5, Diplomacy 5, Disguise 5, Gather Information 4, Forgery 4, Intimidate 4, Knowledge (history) 3, Perform (acting) 4, Profession (bureaucrat) 2, Sense Motive 4, Assume Quirk (ST) Skill Focus (diplomacy) (B) Minor Aura (Motivate Charisma), Skill Focus (diplomacy)
8th Warlock 1 +0 +2 +2 +4 Bluff 6, Diplomacy 6, Disguise 5, Gather Information 4, Forgery 5, Intimidate 4, Knowledge (history) 3, Perform (acting) 5, Profession (bureaucrat) 3, Sense Motive 5, Assume Quirk (ST) Mark of Avernus (greatsword) Eldritch Blast 1d6, Least Invocation (Beguiling Influence), desecrate 1/day
9th Mountebank 2 +1 +2 +3 +4 Bluff 7, Diplomacy 7, Disguise 5, Gather Information 5, Forgery 6, Intimidate 5, Knowledge (history) 4, Perform (acting) 5, Profession (bureaucrat) 4, Sense Motive 6, Assume Quirk (ST) Deceptive Attack +1d6
10th Mountebank 3 +2 +3 +3 +5 Bluff 8, Diplomacy 8, Disguise 7, Gather Information 5, Forgery 7, Intimidate 5, Knowledge (history) 4, Perform (acting) 6, Profession (bureaucrat) 4, Sense Motive 7, Assume Quirk (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Least Legacy (B) Infernal Patron, Mass Beguile, enervation 1/day, protection from good 3.day
11th Mountebank 4 +3 +3 +4 +5 Bluff 9, Diplomacy 9, Disguise 8, Gather Information 5, Forgery 7, Intimidate 5, Knowledge (history) 4, Perform (acting) 7, Profession (bureaucrat) 4, Sense Motive 8, Assume Quirk (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Combat Expertise Infernal Guise
12th Mountebank 5 +3 +3 +4 +5 Bluff 10, Diplomacy 10, Disguise 8, Gather Information 7, Forgery 8, Intimidate 5, Knowledge (history) 4, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 5, Sense Motive 9, Assume Quirk (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Disguise the Souls Aspect, major image 3/day, poison 3/day
13th Mountebank 6 +4 +4 +5 +6 Bluff 11, Diplomacy 11, Disguise 9, Gather Information 9, Forgery 8, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 4, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 6, Sense Motive 11, Assume Quirk (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Deceptive Attack +2d6
14th Master of Masks 1 +4 +4 +7 +8 Bluff 12, Diplomacy 11, Disguise 11, Gather Information 9, Forgery 11, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 4, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 6, Sense Motive 11, Assume Quirk (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Improved Feint Persona Masks (Assassin, Lord), baleful polymorph 1/day, dominate person 1/day, 120ft darkvision
15th Master of Masks 2 +5 +4 +8 +9 Bluff 13, Diplomacy 11, Disguise 12, Gather Information 9, Forgery 12, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 5, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 6, Sense Motive 11, Assume Quirk (ST), Second Impression (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Least Invocation (Hideous Blow), Persona Masks (Angel)
16th Legacy Champion 1 +5 +4 +8 +11 Bluff 14, Diplomacy 13, Disguise 13, Gather Information 10, Forgery 13, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 5, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 6, Sense Motive 13, Assume Quirk (ST), Second Impression (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Lesser Legacy (B) Bond of Lore, Reduced Ritual Cost (lesser), animate dead 1/day, true seeing 3/day
17th Legacy Champion (Master of Masks) 2 +6 +4 +8 +12 Bluff 15, Diplomacy 14, Disguise 14, Gather Information 11, Forgery 14, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 5, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 6, Sense Motive 14, Assume Quirk (ST), Group Fake-Out (ST), Second Impression (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Shape Soulmeld (Silvertongue Mask) Mask Specialist, Persona Masks (High Priest), Replace Legacy Ability (Skill Enhancement +5 (bluff) → Skill Enhancement +5 (disguise)), see in darkness
18th Legacy Champion (Master of Masks) 3 +7 +5 +9 +12 Bluff 16, Diplomacy 15, Disguise 15, Gather Information 12, Forgery 15, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 6, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 7, Sense Motive 15, Assume Quirk (ST), Group Fake-Out (ST), Second Impression (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Eldritch Blast 2d6, Extra Legacy Ability Use (whispering wind), unhallow 1/day, unholy aura 3/day
19th Legacy Champion (Mountebank) 4 +8 +5 +9 +13 Bluff 17, Diplomacy 16, Disguise 16, Gather Information 13, Forgery 16, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 6, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 7, Sense Motive 16, Assume Quirk (ST), Group Fake-Out (ST), Second Impression (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Channel Legacy (Whispering Wind) (B) Bonus Legacy Feat
20th Legacy Champion (Mountebank) 5 +8 +5 +9 +13 Bluff 18, Diplomacy 17, Disguise 17, Gather Information 15, Forgery 17, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (history) 6, Perform (acting) 8, Profession (bureaucrat) 8, Sense Motive 17, Assume Quirk (ST), Group Fake-Out (ST), Second Impression (ST), Social Recovery (ST) Bonus Essentia Replace Legacy Ability (Ability Enhancement +2 (CHA) → Skill Enhancement +5 (sense motive), harm 1/day, 100ft telepathy

Ability Scores
0 15 8 12 12 8 18
6 15 10 10 18 8 24
9 15 10 10 18 8 25
12 15 10 10 18 8 27
13 15 10 10 18 8 28
17 16 10 10 18 8 28
20 16 10 10 18 8 30

Birthright (Weapon of Legacy)
Cold Iron Greatsword/Masquerade Mask
Omen: constantly drips black fluid (ink)
ECL Attack Penalty Skill Check Penalty Hit Point Loss Skill Point Loss Benefits (Menu)
10th Skill Enhancement +5 (bluff) (A)
11th 2 4
12th -1 Ability Enhancement +2 (CHA) (B)
13th -1
14th 2 whispering wind 3/day (B)
15th 2 Creature Compass (Outsider (Evil)) (A)
17th 2 Skill Enhancement +10 (bluff) (E), Skill Enhancement +5 (disguise) (A)
18th -2 Masquerade Mask Morph (D?)
19th 2
20th 2 Ability Enhancement +4 (CHA) (E), Skill Enhancement +5 (sense motive) (A)

Spoiler: ECL 6-10, “Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics”
The first decade was hard for the newly reborn War Child. Nearly powerless, lacking in experience, and having earned the suspicion of Bel thanks to the method of his rebirth, he came very close to an early end on too many occasions to name. He survived thanks to three factors.

First, Bel was paranoid. He suspected everyone, at all times. And because he suspected everyone, killing anyone he was suspicious of was not an option. Even if he had the power for that, he wanted to rule over a realm, not an empty graveyard.

Second, returning as a Hellbred wiped War Child’s memories, and the unholy taint that was his curse kept him genuinely Evil. Combined with a certain willful ignorance as far as putting the pieces together – born of a keen survival instinct – this allowed him to pass all the tests and analyses Bel put him through to prove his devotion.

Thirdly, power is always available for a price in the Nine Hells. His fellow devils assumed his new preference for borrowed power was born of desperation, a mad scramble to regain the power he had previously earned through study and training. They were only half right. War Child traded long-term debt for easy power because he didn’t have
time to grow through hard work. He was too busy learning the system of Hell… and learning to game that system.

The first five levels are going to be rough for any Unholy Scion. Less HP, less class features, lower BAB…. War Child compensates by going the social route instead. The already high Charisma from Unholy Scion is doubled by the Motivate Charisma minor aura, and Warlock gives us an additional +6 to most of them, making our social skills on par with anything of the same ECL but a dedicated diplomancer by just level 3. Mountebank, in addition to being flavorful as Hell, lets us put that to use in combat with Deceitful Strike. Warlock is equally flavorful, and gives us a ranged option. Marshal is the odd-man out as far as flavor, representing his role as a leader as well as his role as a social specialist.

War Child may not be able to boost his army directly like a true support character, but thanks to his skill at logistics they’ll always be properly armed and in the right place at the right time, which is far more important. He can also use his high diplomacy and bluff to improve morale, and both provide a synergy bonus to rally checks (though you may only get one +2 bonus, not one for each; the wording is weird).

Back to individual combat. Beguiling Stare is a nice ability for keeping out of the fray while still helping allies against the opponent. Using bluff to feint also lets you use Deceptive Attack, but doesn’t help out allies. Mass Beguile is even better, but limited uses mean this is best used on the first round only for typical fights. Follow that up with an attack or Eldritch Blast as an immediate action, courtesy of Mark of Avernus. On later rounds, make the best of your single attack by reading an action to attack to get the +4 to attack and damage from Mark of Avernus. As the trigger, you might be able to get as simple as “I ready an action to attack on the next initiative count” (this is essentially very similar to feinting, attacking when the opponent isn’t expecting it), but you might have to make the trigger an ally’s actions (and if you’re part of an army, you’ll have a lot to choose from).

Spoiler: ECL 11-15, “All war is fought with deception”
“Hello, hello. Can you hear me Mother? Testing, testing, one two three.”

Ah, there it was. Now he could hear his voice through his Mother’s ears; apparently it just took a few moments for the whispering wind to deliver the message. Now he just had to decide what to say. After a moment’s hesitation, he decided to stick with the simplest of the messages he had planned.

“First, I’m sorry. I can’t remember much of my first life, but if I treated you anything like my other love you deserve an apology.”

“I’ll try to make it up to you, I swear, but for now I need you to keep this conversation and my existence secret.”

He switched back to his own perspective, wincing, as she started to explain that there was nothing to forgive. Magically compelled forgiveness was no forgiveness at all, and hearing it only made him feel worse.

The novelty of his increased capacity for guilt was rapidly losing its luster.

Getting his hands on a magical atonement had been a tricky bit of improvisation, but it held far less risk of blowing his cover than changing his personality gradually through observable deeds. His patrol had stumbled across a group of adventurers on a particularly ill conceived foray into Avernus. They killed almost all of them, but since he was fighting the cleric, he just knocked her out and told the others she was dead. Dumped the bodies into the flesh-eating tapir caves for disposal, then went back a few days later after setting up a solid alibi for himself. Once he managed to coax her out of her hiding place, it was a simple matter to trade an atonement for a clear route to the nearest portal.

He’d already arranged for the holes in the patrol patterns necessary to make that happen. Some forged orders and one favor called in (well, someone else’s favor, but he was disguised as them so the favor granter was none the wiser) was enough. He’d pulled similar stunts several times already, and so far no one had even noticed. Still, even though forgery went against the strict Lawful nature of devils (while he played with a more flexible definition), it was only a matter of time before someone caught on to one of his schemes and called in an outside expert. Just in case this turned out to be that scheme, he’d left false paper trails leading back to three of his rivals who had weak alibis for the period. And then another, much subtler paper trail connecting those false leads to a fourth rival. He’d also set up a fifth rival to have a suspiciously strong alibi, as if they had been trying to cover something up, just to be on the safe side.

He was distracting himself. He needed his mother to make contact with the forces of Good, to feed them information. Getting her to them undetected should be simple enough; he could direct her to disguise herself and even use his shape altering ability through her to make her almost unrecognizable. Coming up with useful information that wouldn’t cast suspicion on to him – when it inevitably became obvious that those crusaders were getting insider intel – should be equally easy, using his connection to the bureaucracy of Avernus, his web of contacts, and his many fake identities that could take the fall in his place (‘fleeing’ suspiciously rather than being executed, obviously) should things go truly wrong. Convincing anyone that he was being honest about trying to help them… now that was a task he wasn’t looking forward to. Even for a man of his skills, there is only so much one could do when limited to seventy five words a day.

Now things are starting to get interesting. I’ve always wanted to create a character that used a Weapon of Legacy, but the penalties are so harsh… unless you’re going for a skill-based character. A few lost HP, attack bonus, skill points, and even a slight penalty to skill checks isn’t that bad a price to pay for the tricks a custom Legacy Item lets us pull. Right off the bat, we’ve got +5 to bluff checks, followed by a +2 to Cha, followed by the ability to use whispering wind as an SLA 3/day… which we can use through Familial Charm to pass information undetectably to the Material Plane. You can also use it on the battlefield to pass messages quickly. We also get the ability to detect [Evil] outsiders as a standard action, and automatically bypass their damage resistances. The weapon itself is of course the cold iron greatsword we get from Brand of the Nine Hells (Bel), named Birthright because a) it comes from his Father and b) the legacy it’s forging is of his quest for the right to choose his own destiny, which he sees as his true birthright as a mortal(ish). The blade constantly drips a mysterious black fluid, which most assume is some type of blood. In a way, they’re right: it’s ink, the lifeblood of any bureaucracy.

Master of Masks also gives us some cool stuff, but the most important is the Assassin’s Mask, which automatically and without fail fools any attempt to discern War Child’s alignment (makes him appear LE), keeping his shift away from evil secret (Mountebank’s Disguise the Soul’s Aspect is less likely to succeed, but a good fallback option). The other masks provide plausible deniability should he be detected as anything else. “No, it’s this Angel mask that made me seem LG/this Lord mask that made me seem LN; I’m still very evil” combined with his absurd bonuses to bluff should be more than enough to deflect any suspicion. Conveniently, the Assassin’s Mask also works best with our single-strike combat style, which also comes fully online in this level bracket, as Improved Feint lets us feint as a move action and then ready an action to attack for Sneak Attack, Deceptive Attack, +4 to attack and damage from Mark of Avernus, and now Eldritch Blast damage as well from Hideous Blow. Not especially impressive damage, but certainly enough to contribute meaningfully. Don’t forget that Hideous Blow can also be used as an immediate action once per encounter, courtesy of Mark of Avernus.

Finally, let’s talk skills. Diplomacy is well known to be broken; assuming no house rules, this is all you need to win the game. Obviously there are going to be house rules, but I can’t really anticipate what they’ll be, so the advice I can provide here is limited. If we assume a diplomacy nerf, bluff becomes king, and that’s where War Child is investing most heavily. Convince devils your on their side; trick anyone into believing what you want them to as a method of influencing their actions; outmaneuver foes in combat; bluff can do all that and more. We’ve also got quite a few ranks in disguise, with a few skill tricks to improve our odds. In addition to the obvious use of impersonating people/devils, these, along with bluff, can be used to set up false identities as a cover for your actions. Forgeries are spotted with a contested forgery check, but almost all devils lack any ranks in forgery (and thus don’t have it as a class skill), including Bel; Harvester Devils have a decent bonus, and Mammon has a huge one (but what are you doing in his circle anyway?), and there’s a side bar mentioning that secret police devils should have at least 5 ranks. Aside from that, though, you’ve got free reign to deceive almost every devil in Avernus. Lastly, you’ve got several ranks in Profession (bureaucrat) for navigating a literal bureaucracy from hell.

But wait, I hear you ask. How can War Child change away from LE and retain his feats and class features? The second one’s the simplest; Mountebank has no clause for losing your powers if you’re no longer evil. Continuing to take levels in the class would be sketchy, but we bypass that neatly by progressing it with Legacy Champion instead. Likewise Warlock (except progressed with Master of Masks). As for Brand of the Nine Hells, that’s a little more questionable, but War Child has the [Evil] subtype, which means he counts as evil “for all effects”. ‘Effect’ is an undefined term in 3.5 (the closest we get is the infamous FAQ definition of “condition” that is inclusive enough it lets Warblades use Iron Heart Surge to shut off the sun), but I don’t think a feat that represents a literal magical brand is stretching the RAI too far.

Spoiler: ECL 16-20, “What danger is a monster, compared to the right words in the wrong ear?”
I once suggested that ink was the lifeblood of Avernus, through the bureaucracy that governs almost every aspect of its denizens. Taking that analogy one step forward, I am the bloodborne infection within the veins, constantly spreading, growing stronger, and rooting myself ever deeper. And I just reached critical mass. This disease is entering its terminal stage.

Bel’s paranoia, dutifully stoked by yours truly, has finally grown beyond control. Random summary executions of his vassals has pushed them into action (some of the ‘executions’ were actually me. So were some of the devils being ‘executed’. The only thing better for causing fear than random executions is more random executions). The conspiracy dedicated to his overthrow will strike tonight, and they are numerous enough that victory is inevitable (I should know; I’m the one who got most of them organized). A carefully sown web of secret truths, exaggerations, and the occasional outright lie has ensured that the conspiracy will fracture immediately thereafter, its most prominent members turning on each other in an attempt to claim sole power over Avernus. Envoys (read “me in disguise, being my usual manipulative self”) to the movers and shakers of the other Hells should be enough to get several of them involved as well, further complicating the matter. And of course, the Demons will strike the second they smell weakness in the realm that has so long held them at bay.

The plan is to keep the civil war going until there’s nothing left worth fighting over. Even should someone manage to claim Archdevil status, there’s no way they’ll accomplish it without engendering festering hatred in all of their rivals. Another conspiracy, hired assassins, or simply pointing the Demons at crucial locations should be more than enough to ensure any of Bel’s successors share his fate. And with each battle, each coup, each treachery, the hatred and distrust will take root even deeper.

Under my careful hand, Avernus isn’t simply going to fall. It’s going to eat itself alive. It may take a few decades before the work is truly done, but I’ve got nothing but time. And after it’s over? When there’s naught left of one of the Nine Hells’ strongest bastions but rubble, bones, and roving bands of demons and devils scrabbling for scraps among the ashes? Well, I’ve got a specific grave to track down, and a long overdue apology to make.

The only rules sketching thing in this bracket is a custom legacy ability. The book encourages creating your own abilities, so I gave Birthright the ability to transform into a mask. I figured that that’s comparable to both the Steed ability (turn into a horse, lose all other abilities in horse shape, list A) and the Aptitude weapon quality (+1 equivalent, counts as other weapons for feats and such, list D). The former changes shape and grants new capabilities at the expense of the old ones; for the latter, transferring the item to a different item slot seems vaguely similar in terms of broadening applicability. Both take one level slot, so I erred on the side of caution and made it a D list ability. This allows Birthright to benefit from Mask Specialist, granting an extra +2 to all the skill bonuses it grants (at ECL 20 that’s bluff +12, disguise +7, and sense motive +7).

Speaking of Mask Specialist, it also benefits Silvertongue Mask, acquired via Shape Soulmeld and charged with Bonus Essentia (because it’s not bound to the chakra, it can be used alongside other magic masks).

Infernal Defense lets you use displacement; a nice defensive power a couple of times per day.

Legacy Champion, in addition to advancing other classes’ class features, gives us a couple of legacy item related perks. Channel Legacy lets you burn all 4 daily uses of whispering wind for a +2 bonus on attacks, saves, and skill/ability checks that lasts a round. Not great, but a nice option to have in your back pocket, especially since it’s a free feat. More significantly, it lets us swap two of our legacy abilities once we get a superior version of them, giving us +5 to both disguise and sense motive essentially for free. It also gives us an extra use of whispering wind, which makes passing information using that SLA a bit easier.

Spoiler: Sources

Complete Arcane – Warlock. Beguiling Influence, Hideous Blow.
Complete Scoundrel – Master of Masks. Skill tricks.
Dragon Compendium – Mountebank.
Fiend Folio II – Hellbred. Brand of the Nine Hells, Mark of Avernus.
Heroes of Horror – Unholy Scion.
Magic of Incarnum – Bonus Essentia, Shape Soulemeld. Silvertongue Mask.
Miniatures Handbook – Marshal.
SRD – Combat Expertise, Improved Feint.
Weapons of Legacy – Legacy Champion. Channel Legacy, Least Legacy, Lesser Legacy. Custom legacy item creation rules.