Entry number 6:
Originally Posted by Ferdinand Aloysius Sebastian ThennibyneFerdinand Aloysius Sebastian Thennibyne
(mostly known as F. A. S. T.)
The Word On The Move
Illumian, uurnaen, lawful goodOriginally Posted by John Mcwhorter, Words on the MoveOne of the hardest notions for a human being to shake is that a language is something that is, when it is actually something always becoming. They tell you a word is a thing, when it's actually something going on. (pg. 3)
[. . .]
That term may seem like a bit of a stunt. Yet it represents a perfectly normal phenomenon: the meanings of words are ever on the move. (pg. 56)
[. . .]
But beyond a few words like these, change is the default; it's stasis that is weird. (pg. 60)
[. . .]
Since words can't sit still [. . .] a word is a thing on the move. (pg. 99)
Monk 2 / truenamer 6 / fighter 1 / swordsage 1 / swiftblade 10
6 pts: 14 STR
10 pts: 16 DEX (increase at 4th. 8th, 12, 16th, 20th)
4 pts: 12 CON
10 pts: 16 INT
2 pts: 10 WIS
0 pts: 8 CHA
Level Class Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Feats Class Features Skill Points Tumble Truespeak Hide Concentration Spellcraft Move Silently Balance Knowledge (arcana) 1 Monk 1 0 +2 +2 +2 IUS (B), Dodge (B), Combat Expertise Cobra Strike bonus feats [UA], decisive strike [PHB2], unarmed strike 28 4 2 4 4 2 4 4 2 Monk 2 1 +3 +3 +3 Mobility (B) Cobra Strike bonus feats [UA], invisible fist [EoE] 7 5 (+1) 5 (+1) 5 (+1) 2.5 (+0.5 cc) 5 (+1) 5 (+1) 1 (+1) 3 Truenamer 1 1 +3 +3 +5 Ancestral Relic [BoED] Known personal truename, utterances 7 6 (+1 cc) 6 (+4) 6 (+1, prereq for swiftblade met) 4 Truenamer 2 2 +3 +3 +6 - Knowledge focus (Arcana) 7 7 (+1 cc) 7 (+1) 7 (+2 cc) 5 Truenamer 3 3 +4 +4 +6 - 7 8 (+1 cc) 8 (+1) 8 (+1 cc) 3.5 (+1 cc) 6 Truenamer 4 4 +4 +4 +7 Combat Reflexes 7 9 (+1 cc) 9 (+1) 9 (+1 cc, prereq for Gloom Razor met) 4.5 (+1 cc) 7 Truenamer 5 4 +4 +4 +7 - 7 10 (+1 cc) 10 (+1) 10 (+1 cc) 5 (+0.5 cc) 2 (+1) 8 Truenamer 6 5 +5 +5 +8 Truename Research (B) [ToM] 7 11 (+1 cc) 11 (+1) 11 (+1 cc) 5.5 (+0.5 cc) 3 (+1) 9 Fighter 1 6 +7 +5 +8 Spectral Skirmisher (B) [PHB2], Sidestep [MinH] Skilled City Dweller [Cityscape web], Bonus Feat, Hit-And-Run Tactics [DotU] 5 12 (+1, prereq for Word Given Form met) 12 (+1 cc, prereq for Word Given Form met) 6 (+0.5 cc, prereq for swiftblade met) 6 (+1) 10 Swiftblade 1 7 +7 +7 +10 Spring Attack (B) Swift surge +1/+0 ft 7 13 (+1) 13 (+1 cc) 13 (+1 cc) 11 Swiftblade 2 8 +7 +8 +11 - Blurred alacrity 7 14 (+1) 14 (+1 cc) 14 (+1 cc) 6 (+2 cc) 12 Swordsage 1 8 +7 +10 +13 Shadow Blade [ToB], Weapon Focus (Shadow Hand weapons) (B) Quick to Act +1, Discipline Focus (Weapon Focus), 6 maneuvers, 1 stance 9 15 (+1) 15 (+1 cc) 15 (+1) 11 (+5) 13 Swiftblade 3 9 +8 +10 +13 - Sudden casting 7 16 (+1 cc) 16 (+1 cc) 9 (+3) 14 Swiftblade 4 10 +8 +11 +14 - Arcane reflexes, swift surge +1/+10 ft 7 17 (+1 cc) 17 (+1 cc) 12 (+3) 15 Swiftblade 5 11 +8 +11 +14 Gloom Razor [ToB] Evasive celerity 7 18 (+1 cc) 18 (+1 cc) 15 (+3) 16 Swiftblade 6 12 +9 +12 +15 - Fortified hustle 7 19 (+1 cc) 19 (+1 cc) 18 (+3) 17 Swiftblade 7 13 +9 +12 +15 Bounding Assault (PHB2) (B) Swift surge +2/+10 ft 7 20 (+1 cc) 20 (+1 cc) 20 (+2) 7 (+1) 18 Swiftblade 8 14 +9 +13 +16 Karmic Strike [CWar] Diligent rapidity 7 21 (+1 cc) 21 (+1 cc) 21 (+1) 12 (+1 cc) 19 Swiftblade 9 15 +10 +13 +16 - Perpetual options 7 22 (+1 cc) 22 (+1 cc) 22 (+1) 13 (+1 cc) 20 Swiftblade 10 16 +10 +14 +17 - Innervated speed, swift surge +2/+20 ft 7 23 (+1 cc) 23 (+1 cc) 23 (+1) 14 (+1 cc)
- TN 1 (ECL 3): universal aptitude
- TN 2 (ECL 4) inertia surge
- TN 3 (ECL 5) strike of might
- TN 4 (ECL 6) lesser word of nurturing, keen weapon
- TN 5 (ECL 7) silent caster
- TN 6 (ECL 8) greater speed of the zephyr
- island of blades
- shadow jaunt
- cloak of deception
- insightful strike
- emerald razor
- ruby nightmare blade
- burning blade
On Your Mark (1-2)
SpoilerShowEarly play sees a bit of setup, but F. A. S. T. is still likely to survive. Monk's defensive abilities are put to good use; in particular, invisible fist adds both offense and defense in a single package. F. A. S. T.'s monk features are carefully chosen to not go away when using light armor, so once level 3 rolls around and he picks up proficiency, wearing light armor is a smart choice. Overall, though, monk's job is to get prereqs and get them right away, and boy does that ever happen. Say what you will, it's efficient.
Get Set (3-9)
SpoilerShowIllumians, born of the Ritual of Word Made Flesh, have a natural affinity for Truespeak, both mechanically and by fluff. F. A. S. T.'s grandmother left him a precious amulet, which he'll enchant via Ancestral Relic to be an amulet of the silver tongue (and, eventually, a +competence item)—it's about the most efficient method in the system to ensure that you've got a halfway decent bonus to Truespeak. Some utterances are stock-standard: everyone loves universal aptitude and inertia surge as general-purpose utility, for instance. Some are a bit out of the ordinary: strike of might is appropriate for F. A. S. T.'s vaguely gishy nature (and, if he happens to be in perfect position, it aligns nicely with decisive strike), and silent caster will make thematic sense in a bit. (There's gonna be some hiding later on.)
The real joy, though, comes with greater speed of the zephyr. But perhaps that is its own story.
For some incredibly stupid reason, truenamer doesn't get Spellcraft as a class skill, so F. A. S. T. handles the HD limitation with a level of fighter, since he needs a martial weapon for swiftblade, a bonus feat to get his fun tricks online, and a point of BAB to make that bonus feat the one he really wants, so fighter it is. Skilled city dweller turns Ride into Tumble.
At 9th level, F. A. S. T. is very careful to make sure that he uses all 0 of his 3rd level spell slots to cast haste. Every single none of them. There are no spell slots that F. A. S. T. uses this level to cast any spells other than haste. This is very important.
And We're Off! (10-15)
SpoilerShowSo much comes together now! F. A. S. T. dives into swiftblade as quickly as a truenamer can.
Let's dive deeper into the secret ingredient! As noted above, F. A. S. T. used all 0 of his 0 3rd level slots casting haste. Quick rules citation from Complete Arcane:
Since greater speed of the zephyr generates the effect of haste, we're golden for the prereqs. So let's keep uttering that bad boy and see what happens!Originally Posted by Complete Arcane, pg. 72Specific Spell Requirements: A requirement based on a specific spell measures whether the character or creature in question is capable of producing the necessary effect, and as such, invocations and spell-like abilities that generate the relevant effect meet the requirements for specific spell knowledge.
Spring Attack is the last piece of the puzzle to get F. A. S. T.'s martial arts mastery online. As a reminder, martial arts styles are not feats; they are benefits that are received automatically upon meeting the onerous prereqs. Ritual of Word Made Flesh, meet Word Given Form:
As John McWhorter will tell you, nothing is more changeable than words. They're incredibly slippery and mobile, so to me, this makes perfect sense from a fluff standpoint. You can't look directly at a word; at best you can observe its effects on the environment. They're just moving too fast.Originally Posted by Tome of Magic, pg. 218Prerequisites: Truespeak 12 ranks, Tumble 12 ranks, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike, Mobility, Spring Attack
Benefit: When using the Dodge feat against an opponent, in addition to the +1 dodge bonus to AC, you also gain total concealment (50% miss chance) from that opponent as your form blurs and shifts.
Here's another relevant rules quote:
Total concealment allows for hiding. Hiding is treated as invisibility. Invisibility allows F. A. S. T. to trigger the benefits of Spectral Skirmisher. Oh, and since the Rules Compendium also indicates that the target is "flat-footed" with respect to you, F. A. S. T. can use hit-and-run tactics for a little extra oomph, because why not?Originally Posted by Rules Compendium, pg. 92If you're successfully hidden with respect to another creature, that creature is flat-footed with respect to you. That creature treats you as if you were invisible.
So to spell this out a bit more, F. A. S. T. can turn invisible from invisible fist (against everyone, 1/3 rounds) and can constantly get total concealment (enabling hiding, which is treated as invisibility per the Rules Compendium) against one opponent at a time from Word Given Form. When an opponent attacks him while he's invisible, Spectral Skirmisher allows him to hit back, and Sidestep allows him to then shift away (often out of range). Since Sidestep is movement, that can enable another Hide check. If he happened to have set up decisive strike (which is sometimes, but not always, wise), all AoOs will deal double damage. Combat Reflexes allows him to make lots of AoOs (you're full-attacking me while invisible? I'ma full attack you right back!). Hit-and-run tactics adds a small but meaningful amount of extra damage.
(Optional side piece: If you happen to have access to a sparring dummy of the master, F. A. S. T. has levels in monk and therefore can train with it to turn Sidestep into a 10-ft step, which is truly awesome. Alternatively, if you can freely add other +competence bonuses to your Ancestral Relic, getting a big enough bonus to Tumble to reliably hit DC 40 and therefore turn a 5-ft step into a 10-ft step can serve much the same purpose, and skill bonuses are very cheap to put into an Ancestral Relic. The build functions just fine without invoking either option, but the benefits are prodigious enough to be worth mentioning, and Ancestral Relic really does go a hell of a long way.)
Spring Attack, in addition to being a prereq for Word Given Form, is useful when doing a long dodgy battle.
Swift surge is passive, but numbers are useful. Never going to turn down AC, bonus damage, accuracy, or movement.
Blurred alacrity, on the other hand, is the good stuff. It's thematic as hell. Indeed, it's the guiding inspiration for this entire build. To misquote the great poet Muhammad Ali, "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; his hands cannot hit what is too fast to see!" F. A. S. T. leans into being too fast to see, just like the word (flesh and form) that he is. This is a critical defense as well; after all, sometimes invisible fist is recharging and there's more than one opponent to be Dodging against. Also, stick around for how we're going to bring this back in. The fun doesn't stop here.
A quick jaunt into swordsage in time to pick up some prereqs is in order. Shadow Blade is well-known and well-loved; +DEX to damage adds up! Island of blades is chosen as the stance because child of shadow is redundant with blurred alacrity. (If your GM allows a character who multiclasses into swordsage to start with a stance that is not level 1, take assassin's stance instead; the build is presented with the uncontroversial option instead.) For maneuvers, shadow jaunt is mostly left unreadied and is primarily used out of combat; in combat, cloak of deception adds more invisibility, ruby nightmare blade and insightful strike are a lot of fun in general (especially once perpetual options hits the field), and burning blade is nice when you've got a ton of attacks going off at once. Emerald razor is mostly left unreadied but can be useful in certain contexts.
Back into the SI: sudden casting is like Quicken Utterance for your best utterance only without the stupid +20 to the DC. That's amazing and stands on its own merits! F. A. S. T. uses this with no trouble.
Arcane reflexes probably doesn't work, sadly, so instead, F. A. S. T. is designed to have cobbled together a bunch of other initiative bonuses that will serve a very similar purpose: +2 from the Uur sigil, +2 from hit-and-run fighter, and +1 from swordsage. Look, I'm trying here, okay? Same net effect, anyway. I'm bringing the right energy to the table. I'm clearly working with you, so please work with me.
Evasive celerity is, when combined with blurred alacrity, word given form, and F. A. S. T.'s naturally obnoxiously high saving throws, a truly impressive defensive feature. It's passive, as most defensive features are, but F. A. S. T. is still dodgy enough in the aggregate that this really does close off what would otherwise be a key weak point.
Also at 15th level, F. A. S. T. accesses Gloom Razor, which is perfect for the increased miss chance he gets from blurred alacrity by now.
Was this feat just made for swiftblades? It was sure as hell made for F. A. S. T., or at least it looks that way.Originally Posted by Tome of Battle, pg. 35, Gloom RazorLingering Gloom: To use this option, your opponent must miss you due to concealment. On your next turn, you can make a Hide check opposed by your foe's Spot check as a swift action. If this check succeeds, you gain the benefits of an invisibility spell against that foe until the end of your turn.
Moving Shadows: To use this option, you must deal damage to an enemy with a melee attack and move at least 10 feet during your turn. On your next turn, you can treat that enemy as flat-footed against the first melee attach you make in that round.
Shadow Slip: To use this option, you must make a successful melee attack against an opponent you flank. On your next turn, you can make a DC 20 Tumble check if you are adjacent to your foe. If this check succeeds, as a free action you can move to any square adjacent to your opponent without provoking attacks of opportunity from any opponent.
- First, Lingering Gloom. Someone misses F. A. S. T. because of blurred alacrity? Now we're gonna turn that into full invisibility, because F. A. S. T. is just too fast to see. (How else do you actively leverage a passive SI ability like that?) I love this part, to be honest. It's the most thematic bit.
- Next, Moving Shadows: F. A. S. T. fights a mobile battle anyway, and there's that power word "flat-footed" again, so that helps trigger bonus damage from HaRT.
- Finally, Shadow Slip: island of blades makes flanking trivial, and F. A. S. T. can autosucceed on a DC 20 Tumble check (ranks + DEX + Uur is enough on its own). Free movement means free pseudo-skirmish damage from swift surge, so this directly triggers the use of the SI's offensive abilities! Nailed it. This also means F. A. S. T. can often get decisive strike (making his AoOs deadlier) and the swift surge bonus at once, thereby making swift surge even more effective. Yes, I did choose this feat on purpose.
The Long Run (16+)
SpoilerShow6+ is where swiftblade's weird abilities start to lurk.
Fortified hustle is, admittedly, hard to proactively abuse. Goodness knows I tried. That said, the fact that all three of the effects of greater speed of the zephyr, the swiftblade class features, and Word Given Form are technically nonmagical means that F. A. S. T. is somewhat harder to shut down than normal, and that's good stuff.
Bounding Assault is simply a good option when you're not starting where you think you'd like to start. It plays nice with burning blade, swift surge, and similar options.
18th is a fun level! Diligent rapidity is not at all bad for someone who isn't afraid to hide and who's willing to get dirty. Saving an action not needing to cast inertia surge is great action economy! Furthermore, Karmic Strike ups F. A. S. T.'s already formidable AoO game. Like, by a lot. Decisive strike is extra-spicy here, and remember that Spectral Skirmisher is still in place, as is Sidestep. F. A. S. T. is simply too fast to pin down.
Perpetual options just gets goofy, and if you don't love it, you're not creative enough. You want standard action strikes? F. A. S. T. delivers. You want to spend the action buffing? F. A. S. T. delivers. You want to use the super-obscure "start/complete a full-round action" rules (PHB pg. 142)? My friend, F. A. S. T. delivers: decisive strike is an attack that takes a full-round action, but it is not a full attack, so you can use that there and get an extra decisive strike every other round, which is going to make your regular full attack on that round just delectable (especially if you can activate burning blade, swift surge via Shadow Slip, and so on). Alternatively, you want to just move and decisive strike? Say no more. F. A. S. T. got u, fam.
Finally, level 20, the stupidest of all possible class features: innervated speed. Consider this: greater speed of the zephyr creates the effect of haste. The spell level of an utterance can be increased (arbitrarily, even!) by increasing the Truespeak DC by multiples of 4 (ToM pg. 233). Can F. A. S. T. use this rule to get the effects of innervated speed? I think so. It's too damn funny not to try. Depending on just what items and other bonuses you're packing, you can get a long, loooong time stop effect just by being really good at words. Which I think is damned appropriate for an illumian truenamer swiftblade at level 20, and again, it's too funny not to share.
Also, please watch that video. All of it. You will not regret it. You have my word as an Iron Chef.
Notes that have nowhere else to go
SpoilerShowDidja know that the sai and the siangham are both monk weapons (for decisive strike) and Shadow Hand weapons (for Shadow Blade, Gloom Razor, and Discipline Focus)? F. A. S. T. certainly can use an unarmed strike, but if you'd prefer to use something that actually has the potential for magical enhancement, you've got options. (None of F. A. S. T.'s abilities actually require an unarmed strike.) When's the last time you saw a build with a legit use for a siangham? That's what I thought.
As mentioned, starting at level 3, just wear some dang light armor already. Even if you're invisible most of the time, that doesn't mean you need to be flopping around naked all over the place. You're made of words, but you don't need to leave your participles dangling! Have some decency, and by decency I mean a way better AC and the ability to have someplace to put magical enhancements. Neither decisive strike nor invisible fist go away when armored. Heck, you can even use a shield once you take your level of fighter. No meaningful downside to doing so. Not like you've got somatic components or ASF.
Decisive strike is cool when you're getting lots of AoOs. It's absolutely not needed when you're not getting lots of AoOs, so if the extra swings from full attacking (with greater speed of the zephyr) are likely to give you what you need, then by all means, do that! Just because the build uses monk as the intro doesn't mean you have to act like a monk every round.
Although you should be able to bootstrap your Truespeak mod into relevance with your ranks, INT, Naen sigil, and Ancestral Relic, you can get into the lower ranks of the Paragnostic Assembly starting at level 6-7 or so, depending on if you want to really devote yourself to Boccob. Might be worthwhile if you feel like making the effort; doing so does not change the build table as presented and is completely up to you.
Note that in combat, you're not going to be using Move Silently super often. You're making loud unsubtle utterances, after all; you're unseen, not unnoticed. It is, nonetheless, the occasional option. Spectral Skirmisher helps a bit, as does Uur.
Your power sigils, Uur and Naen, are simply chosen to give you a bonus to all DEX checks/skill checks (including Hide, Tumble, and initiative) and all INT checks/skill checks (including Truespeak). The combined word Uurnaen is not used on this character.
Check it out: no multiclass penalty! Favored class: any means truenamer doesn't count, and all my other base classes are within 1 level of each other.
Midnight Dodge (Magic of Incarnum) might be able to be used to get Word Given Form's total concealment against a second target at once. Not very common to take both Dodge and Midnight Dodge, but I'm pretty sure this works. I chose to leave it out of the build to keep things nice and unambiguous, but if you're actually trying to play this character or something similar and the GM is cool with it, that's worth taking a flaw for. (You'd need to shuffle a stat point or an ability score increase into CON, but that's not the end of the world.)
SpoilerShowD&D sourcebooks in build:
Tome of Battle (swordsage, maneuvers, Shadow Blade, Gloom Razor)
Book of Exalted Deeds (Ancestral Relic)
Miniatures Handbook (Sidestep)
Tome of Magic (truenamer, utterances, Word Given Form, Truename Research)
PHB2 (decisive strike ACF, Spectral Skirmisher, Bounding Assault)
Complete Warrior (Karmic Strike)
Races of Destiny (illumian)
Unearthed Arcana (cobra strike monk ACF)
Exemplars of Evil (invisible fist ACF)
Cityscape web enhancement (skilled city dweller ACF)
Drow of the Underdark (hit-and-run fighter ACF)
WotC Web Archive (swiftblade)
PHB/SRD (all others)
D&D sourcebooks used but not in build table:
Complete Arcane (rules)
Rules Compendium (rules)
Complete Champion (optional use of Paragnostic Assembly)
Arms and Equipment Guide (optional use of sparring dummy of the master)
Oriental Adventures (optional use of Tumble rules)
John McWhorter, Words on the Move
Sakeru Gumi commercials
Spoiler: What did Sonic the Hedgehog say to Ferdinand when it was time to leave?Show
"Gotta go, F. A. S. T.!"