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    Titan in the Playground
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    Feb 2009
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Incoming judgments! I respectfully ask that you wait until I post the all-clear so that I can lump these all together.

    This is going to take a few posts. I tried to keep the formatting consistent between entries, but I may have slipped up here and there, and I'm a little too burned out to care right now. I'm like 99% certain that the number of line breaks between categories (and between category title and actual words) is inconsistent. You can all just deal.

    Hae Wyre: 12.5
    Spoiler
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    I spent a good amount of time fiddling with a way to gain cheap access to Portable Holes and/or Enveloping Pits and then weaponizing Deep Pockets. I gave up before you did. Let's see if you succeed where I failed!

    Originality: 5

    Just—just take your damn points and leave me alone. I'm not waxing poetic about this one. You had your desired effect. Take your points already.

    Power: 3
    Man, you're going to make me work for this one, aren'tcha? That's on me, I suppose. I tend to stay the hell away from explicit portal-based stuff because I've never had a GM who's willing to put up with a character who can casually plane-hop to arbitrary (or, just as bad, random) planes, and I've definitely never been such a GM, so I kind of soft-ban those abilities in my own head. Doesn't mean they don't exist, I s'pose, so like I said, this is on me. Gonna do my best for ya.

    That Portal Dissonance ability seems absolutely murderous towards your GM. It is weapons-grade shenanigans. The intended effect is shenanigans. I'm kind of in awe of how obnoxious it is. I'm not saying that this is, per se, a bad thing for this build, especially while grading Power, but I'm a little staggered with just how much chaos this can impose. Hell of a thing to build around, I suppose; may as well go big or go home.

    You've made enough of an argument that you're going to make portals very annoying for everyone who isn't you that I'm fairly convinced that you'll pull something off. I guess I'm struggling with trying to figure out what you're actually accomplishing. I'm fairly certain that it's something. But I'm really not comprehending exactly what. I don't mean that I don't understand how your abilities work—I'm pretty sure I've got a handle on that. I mean I can't figure out exactly what your playstyle actually looks like. You are, to use your phrase, "really weird."

    I'm a little unsure of if Cataclysm of Flesh will work with Portal Dissonance just because nothing is actually going through a portal after the initial bang. To use 4e terminology, it's clearly a burst, but it's not a zone: a critter who wasn't in the area of the initial use of the ability but who then wanders towards where you invoked the power won't be affected by it. You may have torn "a hole in the fabric of the planes," but the ability doesn't say that you can then stick your hand through that hole and waggle it around in Xoriat. It's like Slow, not like Sleet Storm. So I'm not sure that you can then target it with PD, and I'm not sure that it would do anything if you did. Now, make no mistake, it's still a truly horrifying save-or-lose ability, especially because I've read through it multiple times and cannot seem to find a use limit on it, meaning that, portal BS or no, you can apparently just spam this sucker. So it's not exactly useless or anything. (Also, they totally used the wrong word in the middle: "affect" can be a noun, but in this specific case, they wanted "effect." C'mon, WotC!)

    I would be extremely wary of treating Rope Trick + BoH/equivalent as the same as Portable Hole + BoH. The spell doesn't actually say what happens. All it says is "it is hazardous" to mix extradimensional spaces, but it doesn't say what actual hazards you might be facing. Meaning that it's entirely up to the whims of the GM. When you're already based around weapons-grade shenanigans with extradimensional spaces and portals and stuff, inviting the GM to start ruling that problems occur with extradimensional spaces seems like tempting fate, and not in a good way. I don't think that would end well for the player in the long term.

    Shadow Well and Precipitate Breach, while a little late coming online, are both very solid choices here. They both do seem to be good candidates for using Portal Dissonance to force unwilling things into your Deep Pockets, and using Transdimensional Spell to then poke at them is clever. I don't like that it takes until ECL 18 for you to be able to actually have the ability to apply Transdimensional Spell to anything damaging other than Sound Burst (or maybe Shadow Conjuration? Maybe?), but it's still reasonably clever.

    How well do you hold up outside of using your planar meddling? I have no major complaints about your choices for Bard spells, so you've at least got a little bit of that as a baseline. I would have liked to have seen the Three Core Gs (Grease, Glitterdust, and Glibness) just to buoy up the baseline a little more, but you can probably find uses for much of what you did pick, so that's good. You're right that you're very squishy early on, but at least you have some marginal utility from your baseline abilities. Not the most skillful bard I've ever seen, of course (you're pretty much spending your whole allotment of skills on long-term prereqs rather than on a strong foundation of "typical" Bard skills), unfortunately.

    I think you've basically beaten me here. I genuinely do not know how to judge this dish that is in front of me. I have spent far longer staring at this than I care to admit, and I cannot convince myself that I have a good understanding of what this character looks like in actual play. That is not typical for my Iron Chef experiences. I usually feel pretty confident about that, but that is just not happening here. I give up. This is getting a 3. You have an acceptable, though not bulletproof, selection of spells even if your portal stuff isn't immediately relevant, you have some late-game ability to force your portal stuff to the fore no matter what, and you have an obnoxiously spammable save-or-suck in that Cataclysm of Flesh ability, even if it doesn't do what you said it might. You'd have scored higher if I were less bewildered by what you're trying to accomplish, if you had more skill-based utility, and if you had more resilience early on and more slots in the late game.

    Elegance: 1

    I am not convinced that Widen does what you say it does. I don't think "volume held" is exactly the same thing as "area of a supernatural effect." It's a staple feat (alongside its sister feat Extend Supernatural Ability) when optimizing bizarre and unique or semi-unique abilities that these secret ingredients offer, but I'm not buying the explanation this time. Not the biggest black mark I've ever made, but I don't think this works as advertised.

    Something something Extra Spell probably doesn't work that way and even if it does it's questionable something something.

    Basic legality check: You're roughly a million points over budget at level 1 (you spend 48, when you correctly point out that you have 36 available), which I think is perhaps the single most egregious skill point accounting error I've personally witnessed in Iron Chef. (Did an early draft have, um, 22 INT somehow? Venerable gray elf with Nymph's Kiss?). Since many of the points you spend at this level are used as prereqs later on, this has bad implications for your long-term legality. You fail to call out Open Lock as cc at level 4, but that's trivial and I'm not actually penalizing for that alone. (Backing up to add that apparently you get fairly lackadaisical with calling out what is and isn't cc, but that's not your gravest sin in this category; I'm not penalizing for it, but I am requesting that you be aware of that in the future. Moving on.)

    (Still on legality; line break for sanity): Level 6 is problematic for a pile of reasons. Search and Disable are not class skills for you at that level. First, you spend skill points before choosing your feat, so you don't have the Kobold domain when you dump those 9 points. Second, even if we gloss over that (I've said that I do hate that rule with its specific interaction with exactly this, and you'll notice that it's about the only explicit houserule I've added to the E6 competition that's different from the houserules Helio adds to this one—that said, Helio has not imposed such a houserule here, and it is RAW), the Kobold domain makes Search and Disable in-class for your Cleric levels. Which you aren't taking at this level. You're taking Bard. Not Cleric. There isn't a general-purpose rule that I can find that says that a non-Cleric who gains a domain gets to shuffle any effects of that domain that key off of Cleric levels onto whatever arbitrary levels they choose. Your attempt is clever, but unfortunately, I think it's too clever by half, and I think you outsmarted yourself. So you're over budget on your skill points once more (you spend 9 points in-class that should have been spent cross-class; that's an overage of 9). And now you have more ranks in Search than is legal for your HD, which makes your qualification for Hoardstealer seriously problematic (your max ranks in Search at 9 HD should be 6, which is short of the required 8).

    (Still on legality.) You also don't qualify for Cataclysm Mage. Bard 6 is not sufficient to cast 3rd level spells; you need Bard 7 for that. That's also highly troubling. Back to skill points for a minute: You're over budget by 1 at level 7 (you even admit that DD is cc for you at that level, so I don't think we can chalk that up to you thinking that the Kobold domain turns Cataclysm Mage levels into Cleric levels). At level 8, you have 9 ranks in Perform (but didn't mark it in red), and then you're "up" to 8.5 points at level 10. I'll chalk the extra rank at level 8 up to an editing error, I suppose.

    (Still on legality.) You underspend by 2 points at 13. Underspending is significantly less bad than overspending, but it still happened. You then overspend by 2 at level 15 (Perform isn't a class skill!) Your feats appear to be legal.

    Okay, I think we're done combing through legality for new data, but that's still a lot of illegality. There's part of me that wants to hit you with FTQ for the Secret Ingredient, but I think we'll assess this in Elegance rather than UoSI. In short, there's too much that's illegal about this character for me to award any points in Elegance. I'll judge the other categories as though your class structure is legal, but you're really not legal, and that's super inelegant. Sorry mate. Not much sense in me continuing to look at this category, to be honest.


    Use of Secret Ingredient: 3.5

    It's a Deep Pockets build. I think. I think? I think. The build stub of my own I spent the longest working on was attempting to weaponize Deep Pockets by forcing enemies into a Portable Hole or Enveloping Pit and then using Deep Pockets on their pockets to invoke the BoH + PH clause, and this seems vaguely similar. Very different, but I believe they spring from a similar source. So that's a mark in your favor. The star of the show is Portal Dissonance (and, like, Sublime Chord), but I guess I didn't expect Hoardstealer spells to qualify anyone for Ultimate freaking Magus, so I guess that's something.

    We can stop pretending that you care about literally anything else in the class, though, can't we? I think we can. Five levels. Oof. That's a small number of levels. Would more levels have helped? Not necessarily; you're already lunging straight for shenanigans, and you don't bother to deny it. There's some refreshing honesty there, I suppose. It's not necessarily correct to say that you'd be more Hoardstealery (or better at your primary goal) with more Hoardstealer. But that is a painfully low number of levels. You technically advance the spellcasting to the end, which would matter a lot more if you told me more about why you care about your Hoardstealer spells or even if you had meaningful ways to spend the slots on something. I see Bard and SC spells doing your heavy lifting. (I mean, let's be honest, Bard spells and SC spells are straight up better than HS spells, and we can't deny that. But the fact remains that your HS spells do not seem to form an important part of your strategy, at least according to your write-up.)

    I do want to acknowledge that this build seems to rely on Deep Pockets. I think it relies less completely on Deep Pockets than the other intense Deep Pockets builds this round (namely Gordon and Paulie); you've got enough other insane portal-based crap in here that Deep Pockets seems like one trick among many rather than an immovable and load-bearing part of the build. Still, Deep Pockets does give you a nice expendable place to stick folks if you can coax them or force them through some other random portal.

    I appreciate that the reason that Hoardstealer is here is its one really unique ability. That's good. You did actually manage to use Hoardstealer to qualify for something else, which is also good. But you didn't really go as far as I expected with Ultimate Magus, especially with Sublime Chord on the table; why is UM actually more interesting than just more Sublime Chord? You get Persist at 20 if you burn one or more of your highest-level slots, but what are you Persisting that's worth the cost at 20? You have so few legal targets for Persist! Using the SI to qualify for stuff is only especially meaningful if that stuff is cool. UM is cool, but it's not the star of the show today. So I can only give partial credit for using HS to qualify for it.

    My gut says this is a 3.5. It feels goddamn crazy to give above midline to a build with just five levels in the SI, but you actually do rely on the class's only unique feature, which means that the build wouldn't be the same with just more of its non-HS classes. That's the most important part of UoSI to me, and that pushes you above baseline. You'd have scored higher if you explained why the HS spells matter for reasons other than simply existing as prepared spells, if the skills associated with HS (both in terms of prereqs and in terms of skills that are in-class for HS) mattered more to you, or if you had done anything at all with the other class features.

    Final Thoughts:

    I love this build so much. I also hate this build so much. It is extraordinarily difficult to judge. It's diabolically clever, but it's so shenanigans-y that I can't wrap my brain around what it actually looks like in play. Like, at all. This may be the build that broke me the most. Yer a mad genius of some stripe, but this may have gone too deep into crazytown.



    Splash Gordon: 15
    Spoiler
    Show

    The second I saw 11 levels in Truenamer, I knew that Rebuild Item shenanigans would be on the table. Let's be honest, there's basically exactly one reason to take exactly that many levels of Truenamer. Let's see how you do with your item rebuilding.

    Originality: 4.5
    I love flask-hurlers. It's an archetype that's always appealed to me on an instinctual level. I must give you kudos for pointing out to me that PMC can arguably be used to make acid. That's a pretty nice trick for a low-level flask-hurler if you can deal with the casting time and the duration, and I like you pointing out things like greensickness as another way for a low-level flask-hurler to get something nasty bottled up on the cheap.

    From me, at least, you're not getting Originality points solely for bringing in a Truenamer. I mean, I kind of feel like that should be obvious (they're not new to me in, like, any sense, including in Iron Chef builds), and given that what you do with it is pretty much an extension of my discussions of Rebuild Item, well, you know where we're going here. But that said, I want to applaud the line "[m]ost notably, Hoardstealer doesn't have Craft as a class skill, and Truenamer does." That exemplifies how incredibly haphazard the skill list on Hoardstealer is, and it actually make me laugh out loud. Using Truenamer as a way to get around a skill limitation on the SI is sufficiently novel that I'm going to consider it original.

    And I suppose I will mention here that I had toyed around with the idea of using Rebuild Item in conjunction with a weaponized Deep Pockets, but I gave it up for taking too many levels (I was basically planning to rebuild Enveloping Pits), so that's cool. I like seeing people go all the way with ideas that I gave up. I'm willing to call this a 4.5. I wasn't totally blindsided or blown away, but there were enough clever and unique elements that I'm willing to reward you.


    Power: 3
    Okay, so I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that your "glass cannon" trick is really clever. I mean that sincerely. I might even be willing to buy that some parts of it work. I'm not buying that it does three or more digits of d6s (if complete immersion in acid only does 10d6—see DMG pg. 202—you ain't getting 300d6 with the equivalent of 300 flasks of acid unless you somehow have the ability to make 300 attack rolls at once, which you don't), but it's still clever and I want to acknowledge that. Even if it's not an instant kill against anything not immune to acid, which it shouldn't be, I'm willing to buy that it at least hurts like total immersion to acid, and I like what you came up with. (Read the rest of pg. 202 of the DMG and you'll see that you might also force a DC 13 Fort save vs. taking 1 CON damage and then 1d4 secondary CON damage, too! But you'll probably also have to make the same save when you're setting up.) The poison is a little bit sketchier when talking about massive exposure to many doses at once. I genuinely don't know how to rule that. I don't think I can take "splash weapon of 300 doses of BLE = 300 separate full-strength exposures to BLE, so roll 300 Fort saves and take damage for each one you failed" on its face, but I don't have a handy RAW reference like the rules for total immersion to acid, so that's asking me to move away from judging and towards GMing. Thankfully, I don't have to make a final ruling for an actual game, so I'll leave it at "somewhere that's likely deadlier than a single dose but less deadly than 300 doses" and accept that it's pretty nasty (and clever) but not that it's an instant win bomb 1/day.

    I will say that you are impressively optimistic about your chances to muscle past the Law of Resistance when using 300 instances of Rebuild Item per hour. I've personally never built a 'Namer with that much TS oomph. That's getting into "turn into a Garbler" levels of TS. Of course, while that's probably the most amusing nit to pick out of your scheme, it's not the biggest problem you've got. But I think I've covered that enough in the previous paragraph.

    Anyway, we talked about the good news. The bad news is that Rebuild Item has some limitations that you don't seem to have taken into consideration. Namely that you need to touch the item in question, and you only have one round to do it. That does not seem to play nice with the idea of launching a Deep Pocketized acid flask across the map, and you mentioned that there's some splash damage to be aware of, so I think you do indeed want to be pretty far away from the action. So I'm not very cheerful about your chances of actually rebuilding your Deep Pocketized thing. Darn shame, but if there even are any ways to cheese around RI's range and its timing, I don't see any such techniques in this build's write-up.

    Let's talk about your utterances a bit. I won't argue with most of them. They're pretty solid. I feel like there's a teeny-tiny bit of cargo cult following here in your choice of Hidden Truth when you don't have any meaningful ranks in any Knowledge skills (okay, eventually Arcana, but you wait for a while), but even if you're just taking it because I told you to take it as your first level 2 LEM, it's still pretty darn nice on its own, and it does let you count as trained. But what sticks out to me is Silent Caster. Why Silent Caster? That's a truly baffling choice. Most of your other utterance choices are pretty spot-on (well, okay, Vision Sharpened is also a little weaksauce by ECL 13, especially without Quicken, so I probably would have gone with Temporal Spiral instead), but Silent Caster sticks out like a sore cliché. You know it's garbage for stealth without some way to make the act of uttering not be noisy, right? I guess you could technically try to use it to interfere with an enemy caster, but I don't love your chances. (Why yes, you did get the one judge who's going to pick apart which specific utterances you chose. But you probably chose to make a 'Namer after you saw I was judging anyway, so here we are.) The bright side is that most of your utterances are legitimately reasonable picks, and I don't want to obscure that too much. I mean, yeah, there aren't many good utterances in the game so this is pretty much just a matter of sticking to a relatively narrow path, but I'll take what I can get.

    One of the reasons that I say that I don't love your chances is because I'm not super impressed with your TS mod. Ranks and INT aren't even really a minimum. Full ranks and good INT is actually somewhere below what I'd call the minimum. On this build? No Skill Focus. No way to craft items that would help. No Paragnostic Assembly. No Marshal or Naen sigil or luck rerolls or anything like that. Best you can hope for is purchasing an AotST and maybe a custom competence item. I want to assume some level of competence, but let's remember that Truenamer constitutes an outright majority (not even a plurality but an actual majority) of your levels, and you kinda owe some back taxes here.

    You wasted 2 of your Skill Mastery slots. Neither Truespeak nor UMD play nicely with Skill Mastery. They're legal to choose, but it does nothing, because it's a clause in the skill itself rather than stress or distraction preventing taking 10. It hardly matters at ECL 20, but still, you coulda done better. I'm not directly penalizing (I mean, the fact that we're looking at ECL 20 is the biggest factor here), but it isn't helping.

    To take a look at how you're filling your Glass Cannon and your other flasks, I think Hidden Talent is an excellent start but an uninspiring finish. I've never seen an encounter where you can manifest something like that in combat (a 1 minute casting time means that you aren't a character, you're a flag to be captured) without some kind of speed reduction. Out of combat, it's only 2/day, only lasts for 1 hour per casting, and you only get 1 cubic foot. You can cause a lot of havoc with 1 cubic foot of greensickness (let alone BLE), make no mistake, but it won't last all day, can't be stockpiled, doesn't scale, and basically shouldn't be your only source of juice (which in this case is closer than usual to being literal juice). You invest in Craft skills, but the downside is that mundane crafting takes for-bleeding-ever. I'm not seeing much of a way of mitigating this in the text of your write-up. I like Treasure Dowsing as a way to help find raw materials, but the crafting time is still truly punishing if you're doing this sort of thing by hand. I did see a mention of Water to Acid, which I suppose you can UMD if you can get your hands on the right sort of item. (You can't put WtA in a skull talisman because it doesn't target one or more creatures.) Where I'm at is that I think you've put together a decent start when it comes to identifying some of the problems you're facing, but I'm not convinced that you've presented an actual solution to many of the problems you're facing. (This is kind of similar to how I feel about your Glass Cannon in general, for what that's worth.)

    Overall, I think that if this build were being played at an actual table with an involved GM who's at least partially receptive to what you're trying to pull, you'd be able to make some, but not necessarily all, of what you're presenting work. I don't think that everything you've presented to me works all at once, and I don't think that much of it works quite as effectively as you're claiming. That said, I like that you're reaching for the stars, even if I don't think that you fully succeed. I'll allow at least partial leveraging of your weird goals and a semi-solid baseline of utterances to get you up to the midpoint of 3. You'd have scored higher with more reliability (higher TS, scaling tricks less dubious than your Glass Cannon, etc.), slightly better utterance choice (dat Silent Caster is just so awful), and a clearer discussion of how you're leveraging the spell slots (especially the lower-level ones) and the other nominal tricks from Hoardstealer.


    Elegance: 2.5

    Baseline legality check: Skills are almost legal, but technically you pick skills before picking feats, so Hide and MS cost you the full cross-class amount at level 3. This is dumb, and it's one of the things I explicitly houserule away in the E6 Appetizer competition, but it's still a thing. You don't meet the prereqs for Quick Draw (BAB +1) when you take it, so that's going to cost you a bit. (The fact that you don't seem to have any other Fighter-legal feats in your build with easier prereqs—which could theoretically be shuffled in—is not helping. EWP wouldn't work for the same reason.) Your other feats and classes seem to be legal (you meet the CL prereq on Craft Skull Talisman from Truenamer, though technically you advance feats before advancing class features, so you don't have CL 6 on Hoardstealer before you pick CST).

    Why +6 ranks in UMD at ECL 7 when UMD has been a class skill for literally your entire career? Confusing. It's almost a one-off for your "giant lumpy investments" (plus or minus a few Truespeak binges and a weird sudden renewed interest in Hide/MS at the tail end of your career), so I'm not going to directly penalize for it, but I will call it out as weird. I could understand it if Truenamer didn't give UMD, but it does. It's, like, the one decent skill 'Namers get other than TS and Knowledges. Huh. Anyway. Moving on.

    Choosing Recitation of the Sanguine State is a nice touch for someone trafficking in poison. It's the little things, sometimes. Might make a difference with the inhaled poison effect of being sufficiently close to a giant pile of acid, right?

    You basically don't have any game elements with feats as prereqs, which is actually pretty surprising. But that means that by definition you don't have prereq feats clogging up space for half your career, so that's nice!

    Your class progression mostly makes sense, and I don't really have too many interesting things to say about that.

    I will never understand why half-drow is so bloody common in Iron Chef (you'll notice that this is Elegance, so I'm obviously not taking off points in Originality or anything). It doesn't hurt you at all, but I fail to see it helping you much. I guess an effectively blank race at least has no penalties. I understand that some folks might limit the ACFs in DotU to drow only, but I say that's bunk (they're just ACFs, not racial sub levels), so your choice of race hasn't affected this particular judgment much at all. You did fail to tell me what book it's from, which isn't the best look on you, but I don't feel like crucifying you for it, especially because you do mention "the DotU update," which is almost an in-line citation, even if it's an almost unintentional one.

    Even if I don't think you address the critical "must be touched" flaw, pairing Rebuild Item with an intentionally destroyed Deep Pocket is clever enough to be at least a little bit elegant. (I'm perhaps biased because I had a similar idea, but still.)

    Using Guerilla Warrior is a clever way of solving Hoardstealer's stealth problem on a race that doesn't qualify for Able Learner. Taking Truename Training at ECL 15 is honestly weird (I've never seen it that late before, and I think I'm unlikely to see it that late again anytime soon), but I guess it saves you 5 skill points in the ECL 16-20 bracket. Not the strongest return on investment I've ever seen in my life, but I guess I've seen worse choices. GW matters a lot more for you than TT. Especially given that you get a bump to your INT mod right when TT starts mattering, so you could have saved the feat and basically just kept on as you did. But at least I like GW.

    Overall, I think the nice little touches you have mostly cancel out the quibbles I have other than the ones based on legality, but I have to penalize for the illegal choice of Quick Draw, especially since that's not something we can fix by just changing the order of your feats. Call it 2.5. Would have been about 3 or maybe even 3.25 without the Quick Draw incident, but it's 2.5.


    Use of Secret Ingredient: 5

    You zeroed in on Deep Pockets, just like I did. I like that. Using the SI's unique abilities is one of the things I like to see the most, so that's good. And even if I don't agree with everything you're presenting (I don't accept that dumping the equivalent of a zillion flasks of acid on someone does more than immersing them in acid, and I don't think you're likely to be in position to fire off Rebuild Item after launching it across the field), that's more a question for Power, and the amount of effort you spend on making your Glass Cannon a sight to behold shows me that you're really putting your heart into optimizing Hoardstealer's one really unique feature. It would have been nicer if I bought all of your arguments, but I cannot and do not accuse you of failing to try. While your arguments about Shrink Item and about using veins of sulfur for raw materials have some downsides that I addressed in Power, once again, you seem to be genuinely trying. Everything points at optimizing something that only Hoardstealer gives you, and removing Hoardstealer from the build kind of causes it to collapse (well, okay, at least to turn into something entirely unrelated). Even if effort without full results doesn't net you perfect marks in Power, I'm willing to give you an actual A for effort in UoSI. Have 5 points, Gordon.


    Final Thoughts:

    When I said in my criteria that it's sometimes okay to fall short of the ideal as long as I saw you reaching for it, this is the kind of build I was talking about. I don't think your tricks work the way you say they do, but dammit, you're really making an effort, and what you came up with was entertaining enough that I think the partial results are sufficient to have earned a solid score. Well done.



    Buckethead: 13.75
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    No bonus or penalty for this: I didn't quite understand where you were going with your fluff. It felt, um, fragmentary? I felt like I was missing the context for who we're talking about or what was implied. But I meant it when I said that I wouldn't penalize for fluff. Let's move on to what we came here for.

    Originality: 3.75
    I almost never expect to see Druid in Iron Chef. This is in no small part because bringing Druid into a build is extremely dangerous (the chef generally has to contend with the implicit or explicit question of "so, why did you bother bringing the SI into a perfectly fine Druid build?"), but still, I didn't see it coming, so that looks good for you. Arcane Hierophant is way out there, too, pretty much for a similar reason. You don't do too terribly much that's unusual for an Arcane Hierophant, but the fact that you brought in the class at all is noteworthy. You managed to make it have a reasonably intuitive fit with the SI (which I did not expect), so we'll call this above average. Maybe 3.75? That seems about right.

    Power: 4
    So that's what, about 11 effective Druid levels? Not shabby. I mean, yes, that's probably (read: 100% definitely) weaker than 20 effective Druid levels, but that's still an awful lot of Druid oomph. I can't complain too much about many of your feats, though I wonder if it would have been possible to save the feat on Nightbringer Initiate by taking the first Halfling Druid level and just carefully timing when and how you invested in Hide/MS? The loss of SNA isn't trivial, but you do get a trick or two to make up for it, and a feat is a nice benefit to save. Maybe you ran those numbers and didn't like the results, and maybe you didn't run them at all. I just wonder. Anyway, KD is kind of trivial by ECL 18, but as I said in my criteria, most things are pretty trivial by that level.

    FYI: I am indeed ignoring your proposed progression of Hoardstealer spells beyond 10 effective HS levels (CL still applies, like you said), but to be honest, that doesn't really affect your power terribly much.

    Hoardstealer basically adds the arcane keyword to you, which I suppose is something. You make some arguments about Treasure Dowsing being useful; I'm not sure if RAW supports how burrowing works with intentional excavation of minerals, but you know what, it's clever enough that I'll call it somewhat interesting and recognize the effort. The stifled Druid progression in the middle of the build is necessarily disappointing, but enabling entry into AH and therefore ending up with a much more tricked-out companion than you'd otherwise get is definitely clever.

    I'm a little confused by your skills. I don't quite get the maxed Move Silently with the near-minimum Hide. I can see a bit of ground being made up from being very little, but nowhere near the level I'd expect if I wanted to be primarily stealthy. You mention scouting quite a few times. Druids, especially halfling Druids with Undersized WS, are pretty good at that, but I do note with some sadness that you have very little meaningful investment in the perceptive skills, which is definitely a downer. You have some moderate investment in some face skills, I suppose, and eventually enough UMD to matter, but I'm not seeing much of an actual focus for your skills. I'm still seeing the utility from your WS, but I think it would be more impressive with more solidly defined skills. That would have really sold me that Hoardstealer is harmonizing with the rest of the build. You're still more harmonious than some of your competitors, but not quite what I was hoping for.

    Hoardstealer slows you down, but at least Arcane Hierophant tacks on an inherent consolation prize to every Hoardstealer level, making it so that it's not a complete lack of progression. Now, advancing the familiar-style abilities of your companion is still a far cry from, you know, advancing your Druid spells or your Wild Shape, but the fact remains that you brought in a very different base class and managed to make it at least be advanced a tiny bit by Hoardstealer, which is more than we can say for every dish this round.

    Overall, I still think I have to respect this build's power level. Druid spells are hella strong (I may be a minority here, but I like the Druid list way more than the Cleric list, especially at low levels and the mid-game), you have a very interesting pet, you have crazy utility from WS, and the SI levels slow you down more than sandbag you entirely. That's a 4 to me. You might have scored higher with a clearer focus on your skills and perhaps a little bit more discussion of the utility of Hoardstealer spells beyond Dim Door.

    Elegance: 3

    Basic legality check: You underspent your skill points during your Druid levels because you seem to have forgotten that Education made K: Arcana a permanent class skill for you, and you underspend during Hoardstealer when you take K: Nature as cross-class as well. Better to underspend than overspend, I suppose. Unfortunately, you seem to overspend at level 7 with no obvious explanation or mitigating factor. You seem to otherwise be legal. To be so close to being legal but to fall just short is really heartbreaking, and your underspending was consistent enough that it worked against you overall.

    That one level of Concentration at 12 kind of drives me crazy. Why wait for so long? Why bother with a single rank? Why stop there? Similarly, the cowlick token investment into Spot/Listen at ECL 18+ is kind of weird as well. Why bother? Those are some hardcore cowlick ranks. All I want is a token line or two in your write-up telling me why you threw in those weird and otherwise lonely ranks when you did, but I didn't get that.

    Taking Antiquarian and Education and then not taking any ranks in K: Religion is a little disappointing. I almost wonder if you'd have gotten more mileage out of being able to find traps prior to ECL 8 than you're going to get from an occasional +1 on Appraise checks and the ability to roll a special K: Religion check that you aren't allowed to succeed on because Antiquarian doesn't have an exception to the DC cap for untrained Knowledge checks. Okay, actually, that's a lie. I don't wonder. I'm pretty sure I know exactly which would have been more favorable to you, and it's not the one you chose. (Yes, this all matters. Every single choice you make should matter.) This is especially true considering how little you advance as a trapmonkey after entering Hoardstealer; the bulk of your actual investment in trap-related stuff comes at the beginning (so if your goal was to "maximize the use of the SI's features," I don't think you really succeeded there). Don't bring in stuff that doesn't matter, especially if you're trading something away for it. Levels 1-7 still do exist. (Iron Constitution is inoffensive, but that's mostly because both Iron Constitution and Resist Nature's Lure are pretty trivial in the first place. But even so, I can see you getting use out of Iron Constitution that I don't see you getting out of Antiquarian.)

    I will be entirely honest with you: I tried three separate times to read through your "wild shape overview" spoiler, and my eyes kept glazing over in the middle. I respect trying to do the legwork for me and show me the stats of what you plan to turn into, but to be honest, that was too much info in way too dense a format for me to really get a full understanding of exactly what you wanted me to glean from it. I still understand that you've got some dynamite utility from WS and especially Dragon WS, but I don't get what you're saying in that specific block of text. Make it a table or something. What you presented is kind of like reading a phone book.

    I liked the level-by-level breakdown of "here's what new at this level and why you care." That's good stuff.

    The overall class structure more or less makes sense. Rogue at 1 for skills, Druid until you qualify for the SI, Hoardstealer until you qualify for AH, AH until you get (Medium) Dragon Wild Shape, more HS until you stop gaining unique features, then finish with AH. Clean, smooth, logical.

    Nightbringer Initiate is a little weak. You use it to save a total of 4 skill points over your entire career (1 at ECL 5, irrelevant because of the sub level at ECL 6, and then 3 at ECL 7). It would have made more sense if you hadn't had the Rogue level already increasing your cap. I mentioned this in Power, but it didn't really ultimately affect your Power score, so please don't accuse me of double-dinging you. It's a little less than elegant, though, don't you think? I'm not saying that you should have taken Open-Minded instead (I know that spreading out when points are spent is very relevant at the level/s in question), but Open-Minded would have technically netted you more skill points. That seems a little bit of a low return on investment. You do mention Enervation, but it's not like Druids are low on excellent level 4 spells. I think you could have chosen something slightly more elegant.

    Overall, I'm willing to put this smack dab in the middle. The quibbles I have are pretty minor, and I'm willing to let the very clean class structure and mostly very readable layout cancel out the single (heartbreaking) illegal skill rank and the weird cowlick skill investment.

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 3

    Let's start with a feature-by-feature breakdown.

    You trade away Trapfinding from your Rogue level with the clear intention of picking it up with Hoardstealer, but since you only get minimally better at dealing with traps (4 more Search ranks over 8 class levels / 10 character levels? Sorry, not impressed) after entering Hoardstealer, that isn't much and you really don't show it off. I don't think I'd have even called it out if you kept Trapfinding from Rogue, but the fact that you clearly altered your build specifically to have HS be your source of Trapfinding adds it to the conversation, and you didn't follow through.

    You mention that darkvision applies in WS, which might matter. It's not much, but I suppose it's something.

    You ignore Trap Sense.

    You mention Deep Pockets once or twice but don't do anything new or interesting with it, basically all but ignoring it.

    You argue that Treasure Dowsing combines well with a burrowing WS form for extra loot; that's goofy and may or may not work, but points for trying. (Sincerely.)

    You barely mention the spells at all, but you use the fact that Hoardstealer is an arcane casting class to enable AH and to make your big burly pet smarter/more interesting, which is not nothing. The fact that Hoardstealer was only partially dead weight instead of entirely dead weight compared to your T1 casting baseline is something of a rarity.

    You get a little bit of utility out of Hoardstealer's skill list, but you mostly pick skills without super-high bonuses for Skill Mastery, so I'm not convinced that it's something that's really critical to you.

    What you care about the most out of the SI seems to be basically having something to advance with AH, which I suppose isn't the worst avenue of optimization I've seen. I do appreciate that you make an argument about doing something with Treasure Dowsing that most folks can't/don't, and I still do have to admit that it's clever to get AH involved. Still, I feel like you kind of dropped the ball in the skill department, you really only mention AH's actual spells by name once, and you don't do anything with Deep Pockets. I'll plop this in the middle and give it a 3. You would have scored higher if you had made a cogent argument about Hoardstealer's skills letting you do things (perhaps especially in Wild Shape) that you couldn't have with just Druid and if you'd done more with the spells and Deep Pockets.


    Final Thoughts:
    There was a lot to like here! Your biggest stumbling block was likely the skills, since I really can't figure out exactly why you made all the choices that you made in that department, and that made the SI a bit less of a good match with the rest of the build. But you managed to bring in a T1 caster that didn't entirely fight with the SI, and that's noteworthy.

    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

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  2. - Top - End - #152
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Part two of my judgments.

    Paulie Pocket: 16.25
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    Isn't it just a crying shame that Hoardstealer doesn't get Baleful Polymorph (or another way to forcibly reduce an unwilling target's size) as a spell? That would have been perfect. Not your fault that it's not on the table, but still.

    Originality: 5

    I'll be honest: I didn't expect this. There's some really clever stuff here. That is a genuinely novel way to use Deep Pockets. I had forgotten that Body Pouch and Barbed Stinger even exist, and I don't think I've ever seen the Wormtail Belt used as a main attack method before, given that it's got such awful limitations. Well done. It's mostly a build with one specific gimmick, but it is a hell of a gimmick, and the amount of effort you spend building around this gimmick is impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that I'm willing to buy that this probably works. It's kind of the opposite of foolproof, but I don't think there are any fundamental rules conflicts that would prevent you from at least trying to do this insane thing you want to do. Yeah, I think you've earned a maximum score in Originality today.

    Power: 3.75

    I love your use of Deep Pockets. The pieces come together in a surprisingly logical way, and I agree that the "irretrievably lost" clause is your horrifying ace in the hole if they try to cut their way out.

    As absolutely hilarious as your Body Pouch trick is, let's be realistic that it's likely to only work a very limited number of times per day simply because you don't have enough PP to manifest a 7 PP (+2 size) Expansion very often. I calculate you as having 14 PP per day at your apex (ECL 9+), so let's be honest here: this is a big ol' nova. [Side note: next time, please throw in a table or something showing your PP progression, okay?] A really weird and different nova than what we might normally see from a user of psionics, but still not something that works over and over. That said, you put enough effort into this crazy combo that I'm willing to accept that you're probably going to pull it off now and again, and as I indicated in the first sentence of this paragraph, it truly is hilarious.

    I'm not sure that you can both spear someone with your stinger and maneuver them into the pouch in the same round. The Wormtail Belt is very clear that it cannot be used as a secondary natural attack. If it's a primary natural attack (and it can't be a secondary), then you don't get iteratives with it, and you don't have an "attack" left to use to force a grabbed critter into the bag. So you're a little slower than advertised. I do feel like there's a fair bit of prep necessary to really get your primary pouch trick working (you have to spend an action to Expand, too; you'll PROBABLY already have Deep Pockets active when combat starts, but that might not be true right when you first get it). I'm still willing to forgive that because it's just that amusing to me, but we do need to be clear-eyed about the fact that it really does involve an awful lot of moving parts.

    How interesting are you when your main trick is recharging or irrelevant? You're vaguely Totemist-shaped, but you've got the majority of your melds (including the all-important totem bind) tied up in your body bag trick until you leave Hoardstealer. You mention getting claws from the Claws of the Wyrm, though that's not going to work very well at 12+ if you're actually shaping the Mauling Gauntlets (with the MG in your Hands slot and your Girallon Arms necessarily in the Arms slot, you can't put the CotW anywhere). You do mention the Dragon Tail, but considering how janky it is compared to every other natural-attack-granting meld in the game, I'm not sure that's a good thing. But overall you've got maybe one meld free (if that; that's assuming that at least the Wormtail Belt and Girallon Arms are locked in place) for the vast majority of your career, and one single meld isn't worth that much versatility. (You also seem to overload your Hands slot in the late game, if your mention of "pounce" means the Sphinx Claws.)

    Psychic Rogue does offer some interesting utility early on, though it's debatable if you'll ever use it later: you have, as mentioned, exactly enough PP to become Huge twice per day. If you use your PP on literally anything else, you're down to 1/day for your biggest boost. You didn't really indicate to me whether that's something you plan on relying on. Sure, there's some flexibility and you don't really have to choose in advance, but at the same time, if you don't tell me just how much you're prioritizing your backup options at the expense of your main trick, how am I supposed to know just how aware you are of your own limitations? I will give you some credit for the early game (no sense in binding the Wormtail Belt until ECL 6, so at least your 3-5 range is workable), though I'm not totally blown away.

    I suppose that the shockingly broad wording on Barbed Stinger does mean that you can at least attempt to grapple things, even big things, even when you aren't trying to shove them into your pouch. That's fairly unusual, to be honest. I'm not sure if you've got quite enough juice to always win said grapple checks if you aren't fully enlarged (I don't need to tell you how hard it is to grapple ginormous things, do I?), especially since you've got really low essentia until post-Hoardstealer, but even if the Wormtail Belt is usually not a great main attack, Barbed Stinger at least makes you really, really annoying with it. If that's your actual strategy, you'll have weirdly low damage for a STR-primary brawler, but it's probably more effective than it looks. It'd be nice if you could have forced the actual Improved Grapple feat in there somewhere; Barbed Stinger prevents the AoO, but getting a nice +4 on every grapple check you make would have been meaningful.

    Your skills aren't bad. It's fairly shocking how few of your competitors actually prioritize both Search and Disable, but you've actually got the ability to deal with some degree of traps, which is niche but not useless. You get enough Tumble to have some basic mobility, you have some late investment in the perceptive skills (would have been nice to see it earlier, but I know why that didn't really happen), you pay the necessary attention to Concentration, and you've got enough UMD to have a wand or two lying around. Okay. I've seen worse. You're not really a primary skillmonkey (you don't have enough incarnum mojo to rely on that for your skill bonuses until very late in the game, and you don't have QUITE as much depth as a pure Rogue or another traditional skillmonkey might), but you do have a few things that you care about, and I'm willing to bet that you can solve a few problems with them. You did waste a Skill Mastery slot on UMD; it's not stress or distraction that prevents you from taking 10 on UMD, after all. It's a clause in the skill itself, like Truespeak. At least your other SM choices make sense, though I would have liked to have seen Tumble in there. Can't have everything, I guess.

    I've said enough. Let's put a number on here. I think you've nailed about a 3.75. You're above average because your big flashy trick is probably workable now and again, you've got a reasonable skill baseline, and you might occasionally pull off grappling even if you aren't firing on every single one of your cylinders. You'd have scored higher if your main trick was less use-limited, if you had made it more explicit what you're doing when you're not trying to grapple, and if you had less of a traffic jam among your soulmelds.

    Elegance: 2.5

    Basic legality check: You underspent by 1 skill point at 9th. You overspend by 2 points at level 19 and again at level 20, which is honestly fairly confusing. You had been doing so well! Your feats and class choices are legal, at least. What happened at the very end there? Must have been a late revision or something. Still heartbreaking to go off the rails at the last second, though. I think we can truly say that you just didn't stick the landing.

    Shape Soulmeld was kind of a wasted feat. I don't believe that the bonus to Strength checks applies to grapple checks. (Other combat maneuvers like bull rush call out that you specifically make Strength checks, while grapple calls for grapple checks. Grapple checks involve STR, but so do typical melee attack rolls, and I don't think the Mauling Gauntlets apply to basic melee attacks.) This is in Elegance rather than in Power because, oddly enough, I don't think this has a major effect on your ability to grapple; you're well into the highest levels of play before you have anywhere near enough essentia to simultaneously max out your Girallon Arms and put anything into your Mauling Gauntlets, so really you're at worst losing about a +2 from the shape. That's not gonna make or break you and doesn't fundamentally change how I'm scoring your Power, so I'm going to instead mark it against your Elegance for wasting a feat and for trying to misapply a bonus. (One Mistake, One Penalty. We're keeping this firmly in one category.) It would have made more sense to take Bonus Essentia or maybe a more general-purpose soulmeld there. I mean, this feels weird to rag on you for taking Shape Soulmeld for the Mauling Gauntlets, because SS: MG is one of my favorite tricks. I just don't think that you can use the MG for what you say you can use 'em for.

    Class structure is fairly logical. Skill-heavy dip at 1st, get the Totem Bind online ASAP, go back to a skill-heavy class to finish the SI's prereqs and to set yourself up to have exactly enough ML after Practiced Manifester to become Huge, take 10 levels of the SI at the earliest opportunity, then finish with Totemist. Makes perfect sense to me if we accept the premise that the last handful of levels of Hoardstealer matter, which is a useful fiction we're just going to have to deal with.

    Other than the hard stumble on Shape Soulmeld, your feats make sense. Your first four are all geared directly towards making your body bag trick work, and it's never a bad choice for a Totemist-based build to finish off with a few Open Chakras. (Shame you didn't have the CON to get Open Greater at 18th, but eh, it's 18th, and you didn't call out any Throat or Waist-based melds as being something that would be especially interesting with a non-Totem bind.) The only thing that kind of feels like a prereq waiting around is Body Pouch, which isn't going to play its main role for at least 6ish levels until the whole trick comes online, but I don't see a way that such a fate could have been readily avoided.

    You made some good choices with your race. A -4 to DEX is a little painful, but skarn provides much-needed STR and the all-important [reptilian] subtype, while dragonborn provides nice wings, a bonus to CON to help with meldshaping prereqs, and access to a source of natural weapons without using your totem bind. (I mean, you lost skarn's natural weapons when you went dragonborn, so it's good that you got more than just the Claws of the Wyrm out of the deal, but still, good choices overall.)

    This feels like about a 2.5. The clean class structure and good choice of race cancel out your small but still illegal screw-up with your skill points at the very end, and that poor choice with Shape Soulmeld brought you a bit below average.

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 5

    You've built around basically the class's only unique feature, so that looks good on you. You can't swap in something that isn't Hoardstealer without losing your crown jewel. The later levels are probably kind of suboptimal on you compared to, say, more PsyRogue or more Totemist, but that Deep Pockets trick goes a long way. You even align your skills with the class's trap focus.

    I gave Splash Gordon an A for effort, and I think this build deserves the same. You have one big trick, and that trick cannot function without Hoardstealer. The vast majority of your build resources are designed to support this trick. You even enter the SI ASAP and finish it out. Even if you don't get as much benefit from all of the later features as you do from Deep Pockets, this is still a build in which Hoardstealer is a load-bearing central column, and that's worth recognizing. Congratulations.

    Final Thoughts: This is a very impressive build overall. It's wild enough to really feel new without overreaching into something that doesn't play nice with the rules, and its reliance on something only Hoardstealer has means that you have a legitimate reason to bother with the secret ingredient. Nicely done!



    Shellie Caleesye: 11
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    This seems relevant.

    Originality: 3

    Hmm. I'm seeing a lot of nice pieces put together, but I'm not seeing anything terribly unconventional. This is a completely solid skillmonkey of the "heavy on skill ranks, light/moderate on incarnum" style, but I'm not seeing what makes it different from the next skillmonkey in that style. It does seem to flow together pretty cohesively, though, and it's been a while since I've seen a build with quite so many picks for Skill Mastery, so I suppose that's something that's good for you. I'm willing to give this a midline score of 3. It holds together and does feel like a build rather than like a clustering of fragments or like something copied out of the example section of a handbook, but I was hoping for just a little more explanation of why you're cooler than the skillful guy next to you. Your write-up was a start and got you this far, but I think there could have been more.

    Power: 2.75

    That's a fairly impressive amount of skill mastery. I applaud you for not wasting a slot on UMD, so that's good. You did, however, seem to waste a slot on Sleight of Hand. It's legal to choose a skill in which you have no ranks (for some reason), but since Sleight of Hand can't be used untrained, you're a "master" in a skill you aren't allowed to attempt. So that's weird. I guess the Theft Gloves let you use it untrained, but then you're locking in one of your (actually rather small number of) melds, which seems less than ideal on this particular character, even if the Theft Gloves are a pretty natural choice for you overall. I'd have liked to have seen at least one "I'm trained, really!" rank. You can't tell me you never had a single rank to spare. This is far from a dealbreaker, but it is nonetheless worthy of comment.

    You are a little coy about what benefit you get out of Wyrmgrafter. I understand that you're saying that you're using it to recycle the tissues of improperly hatched wyrmlings, which is relatively clever, but you didn't actually tell me what you're doing with it or why it makes you more powerful (we are, after all, currently grading Power). Don't forget that you still need specific spells to make specific grafts; UMD is a thing and so are cooperative spellcasters, but I would have liked to have seen you mention that so that I know that you're aware of it and considering it. But even if that's covered, why do you care about making draconic grafts? What ones do you want? Why is that worth the space in your build?

    Quick Reconnoiter is a classy feat that I've always liked, but I'm not sure how critical it is on a character who's not really trying to make attacks. If you're waving weapons around and trying to spend your actions killin' dudes, then being able to try to detect hidden things without wasting actions is fairly meaningful! But you aren't really spending your actions killin' dudes. Does it even matter to you if you have to spend a move action looking for something? Action economy is much squishier and more easily managed when not in combat, and you don't really seem to worry too much about what happens in combat.

    I admit to being completely baffled by your choice to take Mounted Combat and Trample with a single rank in Ride. What exactly are you riding, and why are you so confident in your ability to do anything meaningful with the skill in which you invest the fewest ranks? You aren't planning on riding a dragon you raised, are you? Seriously? That takes five years, per Draconomicon pg. 13. (And then you have to wait for the dragon to get big enough to accommodate a Medium rider, which takes longer. Most dragons other than red and gold need to be a minimum of juvenile—26 years, according to MM1 pg. 68—before they become Large. Even red and gold take 6 years.) That's, like, as long as it takes to research a personal truename. Or to craft any of the trophies for Trophy Collector. (It's actually worse than that. Like, way worse. I'm trying to comically gesture to things that already take so long as to be functionally unusable, and this is worse. That's how impractical rearing a dragon really is.) I mean, sure, downtime is downtime and it's unrealistic to be going 24/7, but if you're actually having four level-appropriate encounters per day, you go from 1 to 20 in something stupid like 2 or 3 months. Even taking a week or two off between each level, that's nowhere near enough time to raise a dragon. Even taking six weeks off between levels doesn't do that much on this time scale. So I'm not really sure why you spent those feats the way you did. I love the fluff on stealing dragon eggs and using the obscure rules from Draconomicon to raise them, but those feats seem way out of place to me. The scheme is amusing enough that I applaud spelling out that your skill bonuses are technically high enough, but I don't think it's sufficiently feasible to assume that you're actually going to, over the course of this character's time in actual play, end up riding any dragon you've hatched from an egg unless you're doing some hardcore timeskips. Sufficiently hardcore that we may need to worry about your character advancing an age category.

    Judging noncombatant characters like this is always hard. You've got good utility; no one's gonna deny that. If a skill check can solve a problem, there's a good chance that you can be the one to do it. You combine Rogue-style skillmonkeying with Incarnate-style skillmonkeying (kinda low essentia, but your actual ranks are about a hundred times better than a normal Incarnate's, so that's not to be ignored), and you play it to the hilt. I very much like you calling out what those skills let you do; that's an excellent help when it comes to gauging what your Power should be. You have less non-skill utility than someone with early-game access (or even mid-game access) to actual chakra binds, but you do indeed have skills.

    We also have to be honest about the fact that you have basically no ability to contribute to a fight that has actually started, and I'm not getting a full Kole Naerrin-style explanation of why you're confident that you'll basically never roll init. That's a headache, and it's a drag on your power.

    To your credit, you're very clear about the fact that you're not trying to be a combatant (well, aside from the baffling choices of Mounted Combat and Trample), but that doesn't mean that you aren't kind of deficient in dealing with a meaningful chunk of the game, even if you're remarkably cool when not in a struggle to the death.

    It's almost trivial by level 18, but why bother with Nimble Charge, especially if you're making it a favored trick? When are you ever charging? You don't seem to care about attacking at all, let alone attacking in a manner that puts you in harm's way. I guess it works on running as well as charging, but still, kinda out there; the actual Run action is hard to use, especially in a dungeon-type scenario. As a trick, I can see it; as a favored trick, I'm less convinced. Still pretty trivial at the level bracket in question, but as I keep saying, every choice should matter.

    I'm not convinced that Antiquarian is useful to you. Traps don't only become a problem after you enter Hoardstealer, and you're one of the few chefs with enough trap-related juice (full ranks and the Theft Gloves? That's nontrivial) that you might have a fighting chance against traps in the pre-ECL-6 bracket. It's cute that you come full circle at the very end and lay out in your final level bracket that you can autosucceed on the Antiquarian check after all your late-game investment, but I'm not sure that it's relevant in the late game, while Trapfinding may have been relevant in the early game. I know that conventional wisdom says to trade away any possible features from your pre-SI classes if those features would then be granted by the SI (because then you're "using the SI to the fullest"), but I don't think you're coming out ahead in Power.

    Enough words. Time for action! And by action I mean a damned number. I'mma call this 2.75. You've got killer skills, but you can't contribute basically anything when there's a d20 roll called for that isn't a skill check, and you've got enough questionable choices to keep you below the midline. You'd have scored higher with more focus to your feats, with a cleaner early game, and with (of course) some meaningful offense or else with a really compelling argument that you'd never actually need to fight anything.

    Elegance: 2.75

    Basic legality check: You fell prey to a classic mistake, I'm afraid. Able Learner makes cross-class skills cost the same as in-class skills. It does not, however, actually make all skills class skills for you, so it does not raise the cap for how many ranks you can have in a cross-class skill that has never been a class skill for any of your classes. Heal, unfortunately, is not a class skill for any of your classes until Exemplar. You exceed your max ranks at ECL 8 (max should be 5.5, but you have 6), and it gets worse from there. To compound this, you can't have 10 ranks in Heal by ECL 12 (your max would be 7.5), making Wyrmgrafter an illegal choice for you. You otherwise seem to be legal, but that's a pretty hard stumble, unfortunately.

    You've got the synergy direction on Concentration wrong. 5 ranks in Conc gives you a +2 to Autohypnosis, but 5 ranks in Autohypnosis has nothing to do with your bonus to Conc. At least that doesn't stop you from getting your DC 15. Minor, but again, I want everything you're presenting me to matter and to be correct. This would have been bad if you had been really relying on it, but if nothing else, it is worthy of comment even if it doesn't quite rise to the level of a penalty.

    I can't remember the last time I saw a character take exactly one level of Totemist. That honestly surprised me, and I found it a little jarring. I understand that you're specifically interested in just shaping melds for skill bonuses rather than getting all the cool Totem bind effects, but, you know, cool Totem bind effects! This part, at least, failed my "does the build make sense one level at a time" test, because I kept anticipating the second level of Totemist and never got it. The rest of the level progression is reasonable enough if we assume (for some reason) that it's a priority to enter and exit Hoardstealer as quickly as possible.

    Your skill progression is remarkably smooth. Almost disturbingly so. I suppose it makes sense that someone with that many skill points and Able Learner would rarely need to play catchup, so that's pretty nice.

    I genuinely like the way you laid out "here's what I can accomplish with X skill at character level Y." That's the kind of thing I was looking for when I asked you to hold my hand and spell out what makes your character cool. Thumbs up there.

    I think that this is about another 2.75. The way you spelled out your skill baseline is excellent and would have brought you above the midline if you'd been legal, but there's nothing else particularly elegant about your build, and I can't reward that big illegal mess with Heal and Wyrmgrafter.

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 2.5

    Hmmm. You use Skill Mastery pretty well. You use the caster level to qualify for Obtain Familiar and you mention that the spells exist, but you don't tell me which ones you care about or why (aside from an offhand reference to FoM that I only noticed after the fact). You name-drop Hide from Dragons, and I'm willing to believe that it might come up on you once or twice, given your playstyle. You pretty much don't mention anything else about Hoardstealer, though, and since you've got 3 levels of Rogue already, a slightly smaller level investment (7 more, versus 8 levels of HS) could have gotten you Skill Mastery from Rogue, plus more skill points, more bonus feats, and the ability to qualify for Savvy Rogue, which is all kinds of awesome, losing only the familiar. So I'm not super convinced that you need or even particularly love Hoardstealer. Familiars are great, but if that's your primary thing to show off for your investment, I'm less than impressed.

    The build isn't very reliant upon the Secret Ingredient and doesn't really have any unique synergy with it. You aren't actively fighting against it, but you haven't made a strong case that it's very important to you. You even explicitly say that your life is pretty similar before it and after it, which doesn't speak well to your UoSI.

    You do enter the SI at the earliest level and then take 10 uninterrupted levels of it, but I really wish that you'd made a stronger case for why you bothered doing so. I'm left with the impression that you're just doing this because it's the SI rather than because it's the right choice for the build.

    I do acknowledge that Skill Mastery is very important to this character. But since you do get an almost equal amount of SM from another source and you could get just as much SM (plus other goodies, including 16 extra skill points and a pile of feats) from advancing your base class the almost the same number of levels (technically fewer), that's only so impressive when you don't use much else from the SI.

    This feels about like a 2.5. You don't get anything unique out of the class and can replicate almost everything you care about just by advancing what you've already laid out, but you do use the class to at least somewhat advance your primary goal, and it's less actively anti-synergistic with you than with some of the worst examples this round. You'd have scored higher with more focus on the early features, with a deeper discussion of the spells, and with simply more explanation given about why you should bother at all.

    Final Thoughts:

    This is a respectable build that's honestly fairly sandbagged by the SI. If you hadn't felt compelled to put a bunch of Hoardstealer in here, I think you would have had even more skills and probably even a bit of offensive oomph. Your fluff (and your skill-calculating crunch) about stealing dragon eggs is amusing, if somewhat impractical. The purpose of the build was clear, which is not something all of your competitors can say. Where I struggled was sometimes figuring out whether your purpose was level-appropriate when your limitations are taken into account.



    Mellon: 8
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    I do appreciate naming a follower of a goddess of wealth after a robber baron. Classy touch.

    Originality: 3.5

    It's been a while since I've seen any of the draconic Initiate of XYZ feats used, and it's not every day that I see a "skill Cleric" who doesn't use the Kobold and Trickery domains. Using the Wealth domain to get Appraise as a class skill is reasonably clever, given that Appraise is actually kind of difficult to find. So those are good things.

    I didn't expect to see a Cleric entry into Hoardstealer at all, to be honest. My problem is that the build failed to sell me on Cleric making any sense with Hoardstealer. Like, at all. So while it's not so much of a shameless grab that I'm going to directly penalize for it, it's close enough to a shameless grab that I'm not inclined to reward just from the juxtaposition alone.

    You don't really have any unique or interesting tricks/strategies/combos. Sovereign Speaker has the potential to be interesting, but it wasn't given any focus. It's not entirely fair to call this build completely generic, but I also don't think it succeeds at bringing anything new to the table. I'm gauging my own emotions as I read these builds, and I'm looking for "ooh, that's neat!" or "wow, I wish I'd thought of that!" or something similar. Reading this build, I mostly got "okay, so what?"

    I'll focus on the good rather than the bad and give you a 3.5, mostly for the reasons in my first paragraph. You'd have scored higher if you made the whole greater than the sum of the parts or if you had any sort of remarkable tactics up your sleeve.

    Power: 2

    So, um, you're a Cloistered Cleric with some weird feats for about five levels. That's an acceptable baseline for the early game given that, y'know, spells are fun. You then stop advancing your Cleric spells for most of the rest of the build, minus a few levels here and there fairly late on, in favor of, well, what, exactly? Hoardstealer offers excruciatingly slow arcane spell advancement, the same number of skill points as your foundation class, and very few abilities that get much attention in your write-up. You have that name-dropping section at the end, but you mostly gripe about how underwhelming the SI's features are. It's true that they're not necessarily very strong in a vacuum, but that's why it's extremely important for you to sell me on why you bothered interrupting your full divine caster with 10 levels of Hoardstealer. You, um, don't really do this. When you start as a T1 full caster and then dive into a Secret Ingredient, I'm expecting you to tell me what your character really does that's so cool that it's worth interrupting your casting for, or else I'm expecting you to show me some unique and interesting combination of your full-casting abilities and what the SI offers. I didn't get that out of this build.

    If we accept that you can get into SS at all (which, as you'll see in Elegance, I have problems with—but I will follow One Mistake, One Penalty and score your Power as though your illegal class levels are legal), you don't choose especially poor domains, but you don't point out to me why they're unusually good or interesting on you. They're perfectly fine generic domains, but they don't seem to have anything to do with the character, the character's focus, or anything like that. But I guess they are decent in a vacuum. It's just a shame that you basically presented them in a vacuum.

    Your skills are bizarre. You have way more Disable Device than you do Search. Why is that? Both skills are important if you want to be a trapmonkey, but you can't disable what you don't know about. (Sure, SOME traps will just fire a bolt or two at you and then let you try to disable them, but what about traps that alert the dungeon's denizens of intruders, or ones that flood the chamber in some way, or or or or . . . Why risk it?)

    Knowledge Devotion confuses me. I'll choose to gloss over the contradiction inherent in a Cloistered Cleric who's devoted to a deity without the Knowledge domain trading out the domain for the feat, since CChamp semi-directly contradicts itself there. But let's assume that it's legal and then focus on whether you make it worthwhile. You only have meaningful investment in 2 knowledge skills (and, really, only in Arcana long-term), and you don't seem to be making too many attacks or investing in too many damaging spells that aren't summons/conjurations (which won't be affected by KD). Why is that more useful than a bonus to CL on Divination spells and access to at least two or three spells that you wouldn't otherwise have? KD is a potentially very useful feat, but even if we accept that a few levels with Lore is enough to fuel the bonus (that's fairly questionable; separately, don't forget that you don't add Lore to your ranks, but you instead choose which one to use when making a check), you don't seem to have anything that you care about spending the bonus on, which is the bigger problem. That doesn't look good on you.

    You seem to care an awful lot about your darkvision and your low-light vision. As a result, I'm a little confused as to you seem to have a total of 1 rank in Spot. The darkvision I'll buy as being somewhat useful even without Spot, but you spent an extra level on doubling up on just how far away you can see in low-light conditions; why is that good without Spot? Just kind of weird overall, honestly. I know that there's no such thing as enough skill points, that Hoardstealer is very demanding with its prereqs, and that being a dungeon-monkey is expensive, but still.

    You mention casting the Silence spell often enough that it's worth discussing that a bit. I agree that in certain circumstances, the Silence spell is a clever way to avoid detection, and it's more readily available to Clerics than to those with a more Wizardly bent. So that's cool. I will say, though, that I have no idea what you're referring to as your "near permanent silence field." You don't have an especially high number of 2nd level slots or any way of making it last longer than normal, which is far from permanent. It's a nice trick, but it's a profoundly use-limited one that I don't think will be as universal as you seem to think it will be.

    I guess I just don't see where this character is trying to go. You're kind of a nontraditional skill-user, but you don't highlight too many spells (other than Silence) that really bolster that particular role, and you lose an awful lot of spellcasting ability in favor of Hoardstealer, which doesn't really contribute to what few stated goals you have outside of getting Trapfinding and, I suppose, getting MOAR DARKVISION for some reason. Your list of favored spells doesn't seem to be geared towards solving any particular kind of problem in really impressive ways; sure, you might pick something different, but as I said in my criteria, it's on you to tell me what you're doing and I'm not just going to assume the absolute best choices in the absence of text telling me about that. So really, I can't avoid this any longer: it's very nice, but what does it DO? You mention being a "support character/backup rogue." which is kind of a starting point, but you really failed to sell me both on how that's interesting and on why you're sufficiently good at it for anyone else to care. Cleric spells are potentially strong, but you don't seem to be doing anything particularly strong with them, and Hoardstealer offers truly minimal improvements to your ability to solve problems. You spend the majority of your feats trying to make yourself more skillful, with somewhat questionable results. Sovereign Speaker doesn't have any particular synergy with the character other than being a generically useful Cleric PrC, but you don't explain why you take it when you do or what it does for you that's really noteworthy. The build just kind of putters around and doesn't seem to have a consistent focus or a strong party role.

    I'm feeling somewhere around a 2 for your Power. The fact that you do have some reasonable access to the Cleric list early on and the fact that you pick some generically acceptable domains with SS prevent me from tanking you to the bottom, but you'd have scored much higher if you really spelled out why I'm supposed to care about any of your build choices or what synergy you have between Hoardstealer and Cleric. I'm tempted to drop it more, but I will respect the foundation of spells you've got.


    Elegance: 1

    I really don't like seeing custom Apprentice feats in Iron Chef. Not one bit. Stick with what WotC gave you before lunging straight for the homebrew. That's going to cost you.

    I'm also not super willing to buy your explanation about Initiate of Astilabor and having the Sovereign Host as your patron deity. Yeah, there's the pantheon clause, but the Sovereign Host is already a pantheon, and it doesn't traditionally include Astilabor. There's also a difference between casually venerating multiple deities (which is how I read that text from the PHB) and going deep enough into the service of one deity that you become an "initiate" of that deity while allegedly having another pantheon as your patron. I don't think I really buy your explanation. I'd have been more lenient (though still unhappy about this) without Initiate in the mix, but DrM pg. 15 points out that you have "achieved distinction with [your] deity" and that an initiate feat "presumes a deep level of commitment to a single deity."

    You put in enough indirect evidence that you took the Wealth domain at level 1 that I was able to piece that together, but I can't quite tell what your third domain is at level 1. Is it Cavern just because you listed that first? C'mon, man, literally the first thing I put in my criteria was to make this easy for me. Just say what your domains are when you get them. This shouldn't be difficult.

    Losing SF: Appraise to dragonborn is reasonably elegant, I suppose.

    Basic legality check: (Note: I'm going to be checking your skill points based on the dubious argument that your homebrew Apprentice feat is in play.) You overspent by 1 point at ECL 7. You listed Hide 13 at ECL 10 and ECL 11; this seems to have caused you to underspend by 1 point at 11.

    I need to come back to Worldly Focus and Sovereign Speaker. If we assume that Astilabor exists in Eberron (yeah, I know, I know, "if it exists in D&D, it has a place in Eberron," but I still don't find it elegant to mix in mechanically-beneficial devotion to deities in different cosmologies), I might be willing to turn a blind eye to Worldly Focus by accepting that your primary deity is Astilabor but that you pay enough general respect to the SH that you can qualify for WF, because WF's prereq is a little bit looser than Initiate's prereq is, as I read it. But I'm really getting stuck on your ability to qualify for Sovereign Speaker. I straight up don't think that that's compatible with Initiate of Astilabor. Your primary Cleric levels are devoted to Astilabor. Astilabor offers you her unusual domains (which is fine!). You aren't worshiping a vague pantheon of draconic deities or a specific pantheon of the Sovereign Host; you're even more devoted to Astilabor than the average Cleric is, as evidenced by your Initiate feat. I don't think you qualify as "worship[ing] the Sovereign Host without venerating one god above the others." Initiate of Astilabor says that you venerate Astilabor above the others. If you want to make the argument that the prereqs for SS should read "must worship the Sovereign Host without venerating one god in the Sovereign Host above the others in the Sovereign Host," then I think that you don't qualify for Initiate of Astilabor anymore, and you arguably shouldn't even have Astilabor as your patron deity anymore. This just doesn't work, and it's just plain not elegant.

    Ruathar seems to come out of nowhere. Ruathar is usually what you use to either quickly get a new skill as a class skill or else just to fill some time while waiting to qualify for something else you care about, but neither of those things seems to apply to this build. Taking two levels of Ruathar (advancing Cleric for some reason?) in the middle of eight levels of Hoardstealer is, to say the least, confusing. I guess guaranteeing that you get some Boots of Elvenkind isn't entirely nonsensical, but the second level is bizarre. Even going back to Cloistered Cleric for a level would have gotten you the same BAB, 2 more skill points, the same spellcasting advancement, and a +1 to all of your saves instead of just to Ref and Will. I don't see the cost-benefit analysis working out here. (Elfwise isn't a bad ability, but why take it when you took it? Why interrupt Hoardstealer like that?)

    I don't see where you "spelled out" what you're using your familiar for, to be honest. It's not worthless (familiars are useful), but you didn't actually really tell me what you're doing with it. A statblock and a quick list of the basic features inherent to familiars don't mean much.

    You have cowlick ranks all over the place. UMD is emblematic of this: one rank at level 1 (why?), some semi-normal investment at levels 5-7 (but still not heavy investment that convinces me that it's reliable for you), then it's forgotten for seven levels until you put in a single rank at 14th and a single rank at 18th. Like, what? What does that even indicate? What is that for? Why bother? What's up with the late-game interest in Sleight of Hand? All I want is a few lines explaining where the cowlicks come from, but you didn't give me that.

    I don't really see anything elegant about this build. I hate your homebrew Apprentice feat, I'm disturbed by your deity mishmash, and I don't see any mitigating factors to buoy up your score. Let's move on.

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 1.5

    Why bother, sir? Why bother? You spent at least three feats on getting your skills up to snuff to be able to qualify for Hoardstealer at all on a Cloistered Cleric chassis. The fact that you spent so much effort on sticking with Cleric instead of, you know, just dipping a level in Rogue or Factotum or something indicates that being a Cleric is really important to you. But then you stop being a Cleric for, like, a long time, and you don't explain why Hoardstealer makes the character better.

    I suppose we should look at the class features. You get some mileage out of Trapfinding, though not as much as if you had both high Disable and high Search.

    You mention darkvision several times and do end up with a very large pile of it. It's not really firmly clear to me what exactly you're doing with such intense darkvision, but you do have it and you do seem to care about it at least a bit.

    You dismiss Trap Sense (which is, admittedly, hard to show off, and you're not unique here). Not your biggest problem by a long shot, of course.

    You briefly mention Deep Pockets but then spend a paragraph talking about how a spell you get from your Cleric levels is better; since Deep Pockets is one of the SI's few unique abilities, this is not a way to make me happy when I'm judging your UoSI.

    You make no special effort to optimize Hide from Dragons. The same comments about Trap Sense apply here; it's very hard to show off, you weren't alone in not making it sparkle, and it's not your biggest problem, but we're still going down the list.

    You explicitly say that you don't try to optimize Treasure Dowsing.

    You use the arcane caster level to get a familiar, which is fine as far as it goes, but you hardly mention the spells at all.

    You have acceptable choices for Skill Mastery. You don't do anything unusual or special with it, but your choices are reasonable.

    So, um, I'm seeing Trapfinding, maybe some darkvision, a little tiny bit of attention to the arcane caster level, and then generic Skill Mastery. But I'm not in any way convinced that the character really cares about being a Hoardstealer. I think they really just want to be a Cleric. A straight Cleric with a quick dip into something for Trapfinding (assuming that you don't want to use the Kobold domain for thematic reasons) would make far more sense here. Honestly, even starting as a Cleric and then moving into actual Rogue for several levels instead of taking Hoardstealer would make slightly more sense. You spend a lot of time and effort getting a Cleric to qualify, but you don't bother showing why a Cleric would ever bother, and the build is clearly suffering as a direct result of having Hoardstealer taking up so much space. I'll give you a 1.5, with the fact that you take all the levels (for some reason) and the fact that you at least parlay the arcane caster level into a nominally potentially useful familiar serving as mitigating factors for why you don't deserve rock bottom. You'd have scored higher if you used the class features instead of just griping about them, if you bothered to show off the spells at all, or if you demonstrated how Cleric makes you better at being a Hoardstealer in a novel or interesting way.

    Final Thoughts:

    There's not really anything to this build. It's a very bad case of "unrelated build with the SI plopped in the middle," and I can't figure out what you're even really trying to do. I've learned over the years that if your build is mostly spent complaining about the SI rather than trying to use the SI, the only way you're going to pull a good score is if you have at least one really phenomenally interesting trick that the SI lets you do. Build around your beautiful jewel of a trick and, if you must, complain about the SI's other garbage features while you're laying the groundwork for why you really care, but do your best to make it amusing. If you can't think of a single thing to do with the class, then maybe your efforts are better spent judging or prepping for the next round? I mean no offense, but I just didn't see any joy in this build. You didn't communicate to me that you were having fun with what you were doing, and that really came through in the final product. Maybe I'm wrong and you had a blast (and if that's so, I sincerely apologize for stating otherwise), but I really didn't get that sense from you. I sincerely hope that your next build is more fun for you!

    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

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    Gentlefolk, learn from Zaq's example, and his suffering. Remember, seven out of eleven players who use truenamer lose their ability to taste ice cream.
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  3. - Top - End - #153
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    Part three! We're not done. Why would we be done?

    The Professor: 14.25
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    This isn't going to be a penalty or anything, but when I read the line "That… box. Was that always there?" and then the build wasn't a Solid Snake joke, I got a little bit disappointed. Just a little. (Also, please be advised that I know very little about Doctor Who, but I've picked up a few of the basic ideas from cultural osmosis.)

    Originality: 5

    I can safely say that I didn't expect, like, any of this. I haven't cracked the SBG in so long that I forgot where my copy is, and I didn't expect a Persistificer. I didn't even expect a warforged scout (partly because they're usually pretty suboptimal, but such is life). You make a shaky but real argument that Hoardstealer at least partially contributes to your shtick that Artificer started, which, again, is not something I saw coming. Your Artificerness is mostly pretty much textbook, but this still feels like a fairly fresh take on it. This is pretty much exactly what I was talking about when I said that it's okay to use well-known optimization tactics if you've got a way to put a new spin on them, and I think this qualifies. I'm willing to give you a perfect score here. I genuinely didn't think that I'd see anything like this, but it's still relevant to the ingredient in question. Good show!

    Power: 4

    I confess to being suspect of any build that relies too heavily upon an ability that costs XP (namely Spell-Storing Item) as what appears to be a primary strategy. I know, I know, XP is a river, and you're likely to gain more XP from any given challenge that a Spell-Storing Item let you overcome than you spent powering the SSI itself. I know. It still just kind of triggers a deep-set gag reflex I have, though. I hate the concept of being behind on XP. I'm trying not to let this color my judgment too much, but it's there. (Speaking of losing XP, "upgrading" from Kitt to Kaynein involves dismissing Kitt, which still costs XP. And there's no exception to the rule about needing to wait a year and a day, either. You'd have been better off here not mentioning Kitt at all and just waiting for Kaynein.)

    Reservations aside, though, you've brought an awful lot of magical utility here. Like, an awful lot. I do wonder if you've got quite as much staying power as you seem to assume (daily infusions aren't exactly unlimited), but a few well-chosen Persists do go a long way, and it's true that SSI provides Spellpool-esque levels of flexibility with a minute or two of prep time, and that's pretty impressive. I believe that you might be somewhat more limited than average if you happen to get caught with your metaphorical pants down, but you do seem to have poured a bit of effort into minimizing how often that might happen. It's been a while since I really looked at Artificer. I forgot how disgustingly powerful it is just with its base features, honestly.

    The other thing that gives me pause about you is that you don't seem to have much to do with your actions once initiative is rolled. You're pretty much a pure support character, but you didn't go full Kole Naerrin and present an argument about how you're so good at your chosen tasks that you can expect to basically never need to fight anything. I'm not saying that you'll have no effect on a combat, of course, since you can prebuff like a boss. (It'll be tricky for you to Persist spells on your allies—you've read the handbook, so you know what limits there are on spells that can and can't be Persisted, and only you can prevent forest fires activate the SSIs you make—but you might be able to load them up with a few non-Persisted buffs if you're lucky.) But regardless of whether you've prebuffed or not, you don't seem to really have much use for a standard action once combat actually starts. You're still a very useful support character in general, but I don't feel like you made a strong argument for your usefulness in an actual fight scene, at least not before very high levels when you start talking about crap like Planar Binding and Summon Giants. The fact that you do seem to need a party doesn't play 100% nicely with you using personal-range teleportation to get into and out of your force-enclosed (implied to be doorless) stronghold at high levels, but that's a relatively minor oversight.

    Having high Search without high Disable is awkward, but if you have to pick just one, it's better to find a trap and then have to creatively think of a solution to it than it is to be able to get rid of traps that you only found by setting them off the first time. Also, calling yourself a scout (racial names notwithstanding) with no Spot/Listen is, well, a bit questionable. Not unworkable, but less than ideal.

    Overall, this seems like a solid 4 to me. You've got strong self-Persistomancy, above-average (for a Hoardstealer, at least) party buffing, obnoxiously versatile spontaneity with about a minute or two of preparation, and an impressively outfitted base of operations. You'd have scored higher if you had convinced me that you have meaningful on-the-spot contributions to a fight you hadn't exhaustively prepared for in advance, if you'd have laid out more clearly how your ability to buff your allies is more than a tiny fraction of your ability to self-buff, and if you hadn't had the stumble with the familiar swap.

    Elegance: 2.25

    Basic legality check: I really wish you would have called out which skills are cross-class like I asked you to in my guidelines. Checking your skills was harder as a result. That said, your skills appear to be legal, as do your feats and your PrC. Well done. This is far, far rarer than it has any right to be.

    I will say that your choice to bring in Landlord and the SBG in general is definitely testing my commitment to my "no penalty for obscure sources" rule. It's a lot of work checking to figure out exactly what the hell you're doing with that stronghold of yours! I'm not saying that you shouldn't have done it, because it's reasonably clever, and I will adhere to my guidelines of not penalizing just for legal sources used, but man, you're definitely making me work for this judgment! Still, you've laid out your intended upgrades in a surprisingly easy-to-read manner, so I can't complain too much. I'll actually commend you for it; failure to provide that upgrade table actually would have gone much worse for you.

    I will say that relying on a constantly upgrading stronghold is rather at odds with your assertion that you don't need or want much downtime. SBG pg. 9 specifies that building a stronghold takes 1 week per 10,000 gp. That's some noticeable downtime, especially once you get to higher levels and start gaining 50k or 100k at each step. Your stronghold is still an excellent source of power, but you're not as elegantly independent of downtime as you advertise.

    My biggest quibble, honestly, is the fact that you state repeatedly that you're relying on SSI rather than on crafted wands (fine so far) and that you also say that you're using Hoardstealer spells to power Wand Bonding. I've read your description pretty carefully, and I get the strong impression that you're trying to use the "effectively a wand" clause of SSI to funnel Hoardstealer spells into your SSIs. I've graded in the other three categories as though that were legal and functional (so think carefully before disputing this and claiming that you aren't doing this, because it may affect your other scores, and not in the way that you like), but it's more of a questionable rules interpretation than I like to make, and I think it's somewhat less than elegant. Even if we accept it as legal, I don't think it's elegant.

    The amount of skill points you spend cross-class is actually fairly breathtaking. By my count, you spend 126 skill points cross-class (or, by another measure, 63 skill points that you didn't need to spend—you could have almost maxed three more skills if you'd hypothetically been in-class the whole time, impossible as that would have been on this build)! I suppose I should admire your bloody-minded determination to stay stealthy even though Hide/MS are class skills for exactly one of your twenty levels. You seem to have turned razor smarts into a blunt implement and just kept your skills up with brute force. Your dedication to alchemy, though, seems a bit perverse, given your stated aversion to downtime. (Armorsmithing I can forgive as a self-healing option for a 'forged.) It's not a completely useless skill, but I'm not sure why it's worth so many cross-class points when you don't seem to be doing anything unusual or interesting with it. I don't see any mention of it at all in your write-up, just in your build, so I'm left wondering why you bothered. If it had been in-class for you most of the time, that'd be one thing, but you sacrificed quite a lot and never told me why that was a cool thing to do.

    Your class structure comes close to making perfect sense. Since you didn't enter the SI as soon as you qualified anyway, there's part of me that feels like it would have made more sense to take one more level in Artificer first just to get 3rd level SSIs on the table before taking your great jaunt into the stealing of hoards. Artificer 5 is still a reasonable breakpoint (3rd level infusions and a weapon familiar), I guess. You don't have any class choices that come completely out of nowhere, though, which is refreshing. You know, assuming that the SI makes sense in the first place, which is a game we mostly have to play anyway.

    Almost all of your feat choices matter, so that's nice.

    I wish you'd mentioned what's up with those cowlick ranks in Spellcraft and Autohypnosis at 19 and 20. I understand that you sometimes don't really have a place to put a spare rank (you've basically caught up your primary skills by then; I get it), but I still wish you'd given me at least a token explanation of what you were trying to do. I want every choice you make to matter.

    You appear to have swapped on your table when Artificer grants Craft Wand and Metamagic Spell Trigger, but that doesn't seem to be affecting your legality or your choices much, so that's minor.

    I don't see what rules you used to make up new powers to give your weapon familiar. Intelligent items can be enchanted, but the DMG rules seem to imply that intelligent item powers (which the items activate on their action) aren't exactly the same thing as normal item powers? It's unclear. I'll mostly give you the benefit of the doubt, but I would recommend calling out exactly where you got those rules from and how you calculated your costs. They seem to be the standard "add a spell to an item" rules, but my concern is that intelligent items are weird, and the intelligent item powers listed in the DMG don't seem to quite match the prices for spell effects that the user (rather than the item) activates. So I'm not actually convinced that your weapon familiar can be the one to spend actions on No Light and whatever. The odd saving grace here is that since you don't really have much in the way of ways to spend your own standard actions (plenty of ways to spend a minute or two, but few ways to spend a single action each round), you don't lose that much functionality from not outsourcing the action to your item. Which is honestly pretty weird, but this is kind of a weird build. (Mostly weird in a good way.) That's why I'm sticking this in Elegance rather than Power. It doesn't affect your Power all that much, but the fact that the rules don't seem to work exactly the way you want them to doesn't strike me as perfectly elegant.

    I'm going to give this build about a 2.25 in Elegance. I don't have to take off points for being illegal, which is good, but I also don't want to give out a bonus just for, you know, not cheating. The clean class structure and clean feat structure buoy you up a bit, but the massive inefficiency in skill points (especially C: Alchemy) and the squishy rules you have to get involved with lower your score below average.

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 3

    Let's just go down the list, I suppose.

    Getting No Light is a good way to use darkvision. If anyone gets credit for using some kind of custom magic item, it's a bloody Artificer. Doesn't help with other things that have darkvision (like, say, most things that live in the dark), but it's better than nothing, so I applaud the effort. It'd mean more if you had meaningful offensive options and strong ways to harm the darkvisionless creatures you include in the area of your cantrip (and let's not kid ourselves; it is, in fact, a bloody cantrip), but still, it's something.

    You pay a little lip service to Trap Sense, but I disagree with your glib assertion that you "disable things as you go" with your whopping 5 whole ranks in DD.

    Deep Pockets is not useless on you, but if you look at some of your competitors, you can see why I don't feel like you went especially above and beyond with it. Not needing to breathe (and being Small) and therefore being able to hide inside it is cute, but you didn't say what you really do with such a trick.

    You completely fail to mention Hide from Dragons. Even if it's situational as hell, the fact that you didn't even acknowledge its existence isn't exciting. This is far from the worst thing about your build and you are far from alone here, but it's still there. Or not there, as the case may be.

    You make a brave argument about Treasure Dowsing being a good way to sense outside your stronghold. I guess if you've really carefully removed all of the, to use your example, steel from your stronghold (so you aren't just pinging on yourself), it might conceivably be useful, but if it's your primary way of sensing things outside of your rapidly moving box, I can see a lot going wrong there. Partial credit for effort, I guess.

    I admit to being fairly unimpressed with your use of Skill Mastery. You know better than to pick UMD as a Skill Mastery option. It's legal to pick, but it doesn't do anything. Stress or distraction aren't what prevent taking 10 on UMD; it's a clause in the skill itself, just like Truespeak. In general, I actually kind of question your SM picks. UMD has been covered. Search is a little questionable (how often are you searching in an environment where you can't take 10, especially with no ranks in Concentration?), but I can see it coming up now and again. Hide/MS are rock solid, so no complaints there. DD and OL confuse me because you really only seem to have very bare-bones ranks in them. You don't seem to need to use them often in a stressful environment, and your total bonus is low enough that I'd usually expect you to take 20 rather than 10. Appraise, once again, isn't usually used in a time-crunch environment, and you already called out when discussing Gold Finder that you can succeed on a common DC without rolling. You have one token "I'm trained, really!" rank in Forgery, and even with your very high INT, I don't see you wanting to quickly dash off a forged note in a time-limited situation; if you're trying at all, I think you'd probably take 20, or at least be under sufficient non-stress that you could probably take 10 already. (I guess it makes you slightly more reliable at detecting forgeries, but you didn't call that out as being a particularly meaningful choice.) Now, granted, since Craft is already something you can take 10 on basically all the time, those are pretty much the majority of your skills that you have ranks in at all, but the fact remains, I'm not sure that you're really getting a ton of benefit out of the feature. Honestly, if you'd even thrown ranks into Concentration, you could potentially argue that you might occasionally be using some of the longer-activation skills in stressful situations now and again, but that doesn't seem to be on the table today.

    You don't actually gain a single bit of benefit from HS's skill list. You never take a single rank in a skill that's in-class for HS but that isn't in-class for Artificer, and you often do the opposite. You aren't the only chef with this kind of issue, but it seems especially bad on you, given that there are a handful of potentially useful skills that HS gets but Artificer doesn't, and you don't have any way of mitigating the cost of cross-class skills the way many of your fellow Hoardstealers do.

    And that leaves the spells. You tie up one of your highest slots with Dimensional Jaunt, but DJ is a good utility feat, and I honestly didn't expect anyone to use HS spells to power a reserve feat, so that's something, I suppose. (We may need to gloss over the fact that Shape Soulmeld: Blink Shirt exists; it has lower range, but it doesn't tie up your highest level spell slot and is available much earlier on for nearly the same effect.) More meaningfully, you use Wand Bonding to get off-list utility from the slots (maybe even with SSI?), which is pretty nice. You actually tell me how a few of the specific spells HS gets are useful to you (even mentioning at least one spell from each level!), which is, sadly, more than I can say for some of your competitors, so that looks good on you.

    I will say that among the competitors who include T1 casting or some equivalent in the build, you're in the upper half when it comes to integrating Hoardstealer with your powerful baseline. There's still a disconnect between the HS part of the build and the Artificer part of the build (I mean, I don't think anyone is even pretending that the build wouldn't be stronger with more Artificer and less non-Artificer, right?), and removing HS from the build doesn't cause it to collapse or to have to radically reinvent itself. You've found an acceptable trick or two that lets you partner up with HS, but you aren't relying on it as fully as some of your competitors. It's definitely not pure dead weight, but you aren't getting any particularly unique benefit out of it. We'll stick you in the middle and call it a 3. You'd have gotten more points if you'd taken more advantage of HS's skill base (and Skill Mastery) and if you'd have made a stronger argument that your main takeaways from HS couldn't really be easily done in another way.


    Final Thoughts:

    I liked an awful lot about this build. I really didn't see any of it coming, and you have a fairly remarkable power baseline. It still didn't need Hoardstealer, but it's definitely a tidy piece of optimization. Well done.



    Paityr: 7.5
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    I may or may not be stealing a couple of your fluff elements (like a thief who uses their loot to buy books because the thought of stealing books is anathema to them, and also the part about a necromancer naming all of their undead minions the same name) wholesale for future characters of my own. Those were clever!

    Originality: 2

    Okay, so, you know how I said in my criteria that it's fine to use known optimization tricks if you make them interesting and clarify what makes your character different? I'm not seeing that second part. I guess I wasn't expecting Uncanny Trickster advancing Dread Necro? I'm not 100% sure why that's in the build at all, mind you, but I wasn't expecting it. (The fact that you appear to have met the skill requirements for the SI before actually going into Uncanny Trickster just adds to the confusion.)

    But really, the elephant in the room (not the last time this phrase will appear in this judgment) is the fact that this is just a Rainbow Deathsnake. It's a very Rainbow Deathsnake build (yeah, that's an adjective now). There are very few other flourishes to the build aside from the SI getting bolted to the back end for some reason, and those flourishes were not sufficiently explained to make me think of this as a particularly interesting or unique early entry Rainbow Deathsnake.

    I admit that I didn't expect anyone to lunge for, y'know, Dread Necro in a Hoardstealer build. Or Rainbow Servant, for that matter. So I guess that's a mark in your favor. Call it a 2? That seems like a 2. It's an old op trick that I didn't expect in this specific context, but it's still an old op trick with no new spin put on it, and it wasn't meaningfully integrated into the whole.

    Power: 3.5

    So your early game is almost entirely a full caster. A full caster with early entry cheese, for that matter. And eventually DMM Persist, even. I'm fine with an almost-full-caster taking a skillful class at level 1 just to establish some baseline skills, and then you're basically all spells all the time for almost 13 more levels. That's a mark in your favor. Spells are spells.

    Your stats are spread weirdly. That's an awful lot of INT for someone who casts off of CHA and spellstitches off of WIS. In fact, you seem kind of desperate to get more WIS at the end, to the point that you basically admit that you won't have enough without items or other sources of bonuses. It's almost like you were trying to get into a skill-heavy class without a skill-heavy base or something. Hmm. How curious. Your physicals suffer as a result—you're squishy as heck before (and even somewhat after) your undeadification. I mean, -1 CON on d6 and d4 HD? A stray crossbow bolt can kill you early on. (You've got what, an average of 5 + 2.5 + 1.5 + 1.5 = 10.5 HP at level 4? I can forgive low HP at level 1, but that's awfully low for level 4.) To your credit, you do call this out and recognize it, but that doesn't mean that it's not a problem.

    Of course, your progression kind of jumps off a cliff at ECL 15. Ending with 6ths (yer table's borked, by the way: DNs don't get 0ths, so it looks like you've got a lower cap than you should) isn't nothing when you've got a million spells spontaneously at your fingertips, but you don't really get any better after that. Why go all the way to 6ths and then stop for 6 levels of an ingredient you ignore? Hoardstealer is actively interfering with your progression.

    If we accept that ADW works like you say it does, you've got strong minionmancy, I s'pose. Your lower-level minionmancy is a bit weakened by the lack of actual rebuking power, but you do point out that spells go a long way.

    I think this build gets a middling score of about 3.5 in Power. Your raw spellpower bumps you above average, but you'd have earned more if you were less horrifyingly squishy and if you didn't have six levels of actively antisynergistic dead weight sandbagging you at the end of your build. You have an awful lot of very nice spells, but your beginning and your end are fairly terrible.

    Elegance: 1

    DMM kinda works for you, given that your Cleric spells are cast as divine spells if and only if they don't appear on the Sor/Wiz or Bard spell lists. So I guess that's sort of useful. Not unbridled utility, but it's still DMM Persist.

    Your choice to learn Swift Concentration and Magical Appraisal at level 9 is not legal. One skill trick per level (outside of feats and bonus tricks). CSc pg. 82. C'mon, man. This is basic.

    Why add the extra hoop of taking Planar Touchstone (a feat with, I will remind you, a bloody quest attached—fluff is generally mutable, but Planar Touchstone is not a feat with trivial fluff prereqs. Oh, and don't forget the expenditure of XP to attune to your touchstone object! And I'd say don't forget the 8 ranks in K: Planes, except you forgot the 8 ranks in K: Planes!) for the Undeath domain to get Extra Turning instead of just freaking taking Extra Turning?! That's the kind of thing Nale would come up with. Sure, your writeup kind of offhandedly mentioned a few other domains you could look at instead of Undeath, but Planar Touchstone isn't a feat that you can change once it's on your sheet. When I'm judging, I only allow wildcards if they're something you can actually swap out, like prepped spells or shaped soulmelds, and not if they're something you can't, like feats. You don't get to make me do the work of picking the best choice for you. I'm going with what's in your table. So yeah. That feat is not only way more complex than it needs to be, but it's also ILLEGAL for the lack of ranks in K: Planes. It's not just a Nale feat, it's an ILLEGAL NALE FEAT. This is gonna cost you.

    Okay, elephant in the room time: I'm not fond of early entry (either into Rainbow Servant or into Master Spellthief). I'm not going to call it illegal. It's technically legal. But extraordinary tricks demand extraordinary payoff. And this seems like a fairly generic Rainbow Deathsnake build. This isn't using Rainbow Deathsnake to take you to new and fascinating places. It's kind of just a generic Rainbow Deathsnake. So you brought in cheese to bump up your power, but you didn't really make it interesting. It's just cheese. I forgive cheese if it's interesting cheese, but this is boring cheese.

    I could talk about the fact that I don't really agree with your interpretation of Extra Spell, or the fact that you didn't choose your level 18 feat, or the fact that spellstitching yourself is a little questionable (especially without knowing the spell in question), or the fact that your alignment is technically legal but that a GM could be justified in questioning exactly what's going on there, or the fact that your save progression doesn't seem to make ANY sense even if we accept that you're applying your stat mods in addition to your base saves, but I don't think I need to say more than I already have. I think the ILLEGAL NALE FEAT and the cheesy entry without interesting cheesy payoff are enough to decide this build's Elegance score. The rest doesn't help at all.


    Use of Secret Ingredient: 1

    Sigh. Bro, you told me that your first sweet spot is before you take your first level of the SI. And then you told me that your second sweet spot is when you take your very first level of the SI, but you didn't exactly make an argument that the class features from Hoardstealer 1 (darkvision, trapfinding, and perhaps a single 1st level spell per day) are what kick you into "sweet spot" territory, so I somehow think that this was more a function of hitting ECL 15 rather than Hoardstealer 1. I level this charge at you: you don't care about the Secret Ingredient. You have a super frontloaded almost-full-casting build complete with early entry into Rainbow Servant for Rainbow Deathsnake cheese, which is a reasonable choice if you're gunning for Power, but you have basically zero synergy with Hoardstealer. You even say that "16 to 20 plays out a lot like upper levels." You . . . really don't mention a single thing about Hoardstealer in your writeup during the level range at which you have Hoardstealer levels (half-heartedly name-dropping your divining ability does not impress me). I'm sorry, but this is clearly a non-Hoardstealer build that tacks on 6 levels of Hoardstealer at the very end simply because it's the SI. I guess I can see a tiny bit of token effort put in with Master Spellthief, but that doesn't change the fact that this is clearly just Hoardstealer stapled on for some reason. You have earned no points. I award you a 1.

    Final Thoughts: I don't know why this build is in Hoardstealer. I might—might—have been more open to it if you were going for a "hordestealer" joke, plundering dragon graveyards and stealing minions from dracoliches and stuff, but even then. This build was both trying to do too much (like qualify for Hoardstealer and get high WIS for spellstitching on a CHA-caster chassis) and not trying to do enough (like, you know, making the character unique enough to justify raw cheese).



    Master Overmound: 7.75
    Spoiler
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    This build is so aggressively halfling-y that I'm almost surprised you didn't jam Halfling Paragon in there. I mean, this isn't a complaint (Halfling Paragon isn't actually good). Just an observation.

    Originality: 2.25

    Um, you're pretty much just a basic halfling Rogue with some Whisperknife in there. And Hoardstealer for some undefined reason. Swordsage is used acceptably well, but it's about the exact opposite of novel or surprising; you are in no way weaker (or even less Original) for it, but you're definitely not more Original for it. Luckstealer is potentially neat, but it feels like an afterthought and doesn't feel meaningful in this build. No new tricks, no new spins on old tricks, no integration of disparate parts into a cohesive whole.

    I'm going to rate this as around a 2.25. I'm not going lower than that because I'd rather see a simple baseline build like this than a build that clumsily tries to bring in some old optimization combo but does it poorly and doesn't own anything about it, but you'd have scored higher if there were anything in here that didn't feel generic.

    Power: 2.5

    Penetrating Strike is weird on a halfling Rogue taking the halfling racial sub levels to be better at ranged SA than at melee SA. I mean, it's still probably more useful than Trap Sense (close to something-for-nothing, so that's good for you), but still, don't you agree that it's a little odd? You do presumably bother with melee attacks, so don't think that I don't see that, but I still find it odd.

    Luckstealer without any luck feats makes me sad. I understand that the majority of your feats were spent getting into Whisperknife (is that ever a feat-greedy class or what?!), but that still seems like a heck of a missed opportunity.

    Speaking of Whisperknife, just how much return on investment do you get for those feats? Sure, you probably would have taken at least Weapon Finesse (maybe even one or more of the others) alone, but even so, that's a lot of feat investment. You honestly talk a lot more about qualifying for Whisperknife than you do about actually using Whisperknife. The only mention I can really see about actually using Whisperknife's abilities is an oblique reference to it letting you function both in and out of melee. You've left it up to me to determine why you care about the class, I suppose, so I guess I need to assess that for you. Rapid Shot is acceptable but it's kind of just a refund on feats you had to spend. IUD is acceptable, though it is passive. Defensive Throw isn't terrible, though it's kind of optimizing for losing (it's rare for you to both want to throw things and to be able to get SA, since a flat-footed target or one that can't see you is vulnerable to SA, and you can't flank at range). Still, covering your bases is okay. Improved Catch is weird and situational (and it precludes a full attack), so I'm not impressed. Close Attack is, at best, +2 AC; is that all? SA is SA, though that's still kinda expensive SA. It's not the worst class you could have taken (the BAB, if nothing else, matters a little bit), but I'm not convinced that you need it so much that it's worth tying up the majority of your feats for it. I think I could potentially have been convinced with a more in-depth write-up, but I didn't get that.

    Darkstalker comes online at ECL 18. A guard dog (whose Scent ability pierces your Hide/MS attempt) is CR 1/3. You have failed to present me with a successfully stealthy character. You attempted to be stealthy, but you paid your taxes far too late, so much of your investment (what's up with that mismatch between Hide/MS, anyway?) is significantly less useful than it should be for the amount of build currency you spend on it. I honestly wouldn't have even said anything at ECL 6 or maybe even ECL 9 (I would have had some comments at 9, but 6 woulda been fine), but this is too little, too late.

    8 CON is pretty painful. You've spread yourself hella thin. I mean, I understand that you've got some kind of ability that relies on each of your three mental stats, you're obviously DEX-primary, and you've got a racial penalty to STR, but still, voluntarily accepting fewer HP? That's a cost I'm not usually happy to pay.

    Let's try to find a few bright spots. You have fairly meaningful SA, though your table is hard to read and hard to figure out exactly how much you have. Are you actually combining TWF and Rapid Shot with thrown weapons? If so, that's a fair number of attacks; something like 3 for BAB 15 (see Elegance), +1 for TWF, +1 for Rapid Shot? I've seen worse. You do at least pay a modicum of attention to your offensive power. Ranged SA is hard to get off reliably, but I guess at least Cloak of Deception lets it work once per encounter most of the time. Your maneuvers are mostly chosen well, though Flesh Ripper is a real head-scratcher (you have a penalty to STR! It's a DC 12 saving throw, and it does nothing but a single attack's worth of damage if they—when they—succeed on their saving throw! Why not Soaring Raptor Strike or Death Mark or even the good old usable-out-of-combat Mountain Hammer?).

    You get no credit for your stealth, but you have reasonable mobility skills, Appraise, and dungeon manipulation. Even slightly more than a token investment in Spot/Listen. You pay dearly for a lot of those skills, but your skills are overall not bad.

    I've said about as many words as you did by now, so I should probably just give you a number and be done. I'm going to call this about 2.5. You're close enough to a vanilla Rogue (with a sprinkle of Swordsage) that I accept that you've got some basic usefulness, and you probably pack a little more punch on a full round of SA (when such a thing is possible) than some of your competitors do, but you'd have scored higher without the nearly-wasted points in stealth, the bizarrely poor choice of Flesh Ripper, the godawful CON, or the odd feat structure. You'd also have scored higher if you had enough ability to actually benefit from Luckstealer's abilities that it justified the cost of investment.

    Elegance: 1.5

    Okay, bro, this thing with your skills? You know, that thing where you list all of your total ranks (current and prior) at every level on the table but then you don't make it super easy to see which skills increased from level X to level X +1? That's literally exactly what I told you not to do. This is extremely obnoxious to read and makes it really hard to check your legality. If you want an example of how to do it better, look at literally any other build in this current round. There are all kinds of ways to do this right.

    • Hae Wyre highlights updated skills in red.
    • Splash Gordon goes above and beyond by both highlighting updated skills in boldface and by spelling out how many points are being spent on each skill. (Best in show in this department, Gordon! Keep doing what you're doing!)
    • Buckethead only lists updated skills and also spells out how many points are being spent on each one.
    • Paulie Pocket's choice to only list updated skills without spelling out points spent (except for cross-class ranks) is less good than what Buckethead does, but it's still acceptably easy to read. It's the bare minimum of acceptability, but it does, in fact, pass muster.
    • Shellie Caleesye would be better by highlighting the updated skills in some way, but at least they tell me how many skill points are being spent on each skill at each level.
    • Mellon, like Paulie Pocket, doesn't list skills that aren't being updated.
    • The Professor is like Buckethead, listing only updated skills and telling me how much each one went up.
    • Paityr highlights updated skills in boldface.
    • Ser Iaijutsu also highlights updated skills in boldface.
    • Gunnar von Sacher, like Buckethead and The Professor, only lists updated skills and tells me how big each increase is.
    • Tag Baggit subscribes to the same school as Paityr and Ser Iaijutsu, highlighting updated skills in boldface.


    You, and only you, do nothing to tell me which of your skills are changing and which of your skills aren't changing. Your skills are uniquely awful to read. Can you see how much harder your skills are to read than everyone else's? Really? I know that making a skill table is miserable toil. I'm not being patronizing or sarcastic here. It is, hands down, my least favorite part of putting together a build. It truly sucks, especially if you change anything at all about your level order or about which skills you take when. But I feel like I'm playing nineteen separate games of spot-the-six-differences looking at your build table. That makes it hard to keep in my head which skills are and aren't class skills for your current class, adding to the complexity of my task. I don't care which stats go with which skills. I know that Escape Artist requires DEX and Climb requires STR. If you're putting in parenthetical text, I say use that parenthetical text to tell me how many points on each skill this level! Putting every skill on a separate line is a baby step in the right direction, but it's really, truly, genuinely not enough on its own.

    I think I can be done ranting now, but this is definitely not going to help your score. This is one of the only two formatting sins that could directly affect your score this time around (the other one being failure to cite sources), but I truly did warn you about this. I said in black and white that this is wrong and I don't want you to do it. What kind of judge would I be if I were to ignore that warning the way you did? Exactly.

    I work for an insurer. When we can't verify some aspect of the risk an insured is presenting to us (if we have no proof of prior coverage, for example, or if there's a loss in the household and they refuse to respond to our requests for information about the previously undisclosed driver involved), we tend to assume the worst. I'm sorely tempted to just assume that you've got a few random illegal skill points somewhere in that nightmare of a skill table. I'm not going to assume that you're illegal from start to finish, but I can't read your table well enough to prove that you're aboveboard. Considering that I specifically told you to not do this, I'm just going to count it against you.

    Your BAB is not 16. I'm not sure exactly at which level you increment it when you shouldn't (the fact that you didn't include which level of each class you were taking at each character level interfered there; not classy on an already challenging table, my friend), but 4 levels of Rogue gives +3, 2 levels of Swordsage gives +1 (4), 8 levels of Hoardstealer gives +6 (10), 1 level of Luckstealer gives 0 (still 10), and 5 levels of Whisperknife gives +5 (15). Fifteen is not sixteen. You do not, in fact, get your fourth attack. So not only are you illegal in your table somewhere, you're also claiming a nontrivial benefit that you didn't earn. The difference between claiming +15 when you've earned +14 and claiming +16 when you've earned +15 is actually fairly major, for reasons that should be obvious. This doesn't look good on you. Not one bit.

    Luckstealer kind of comes out of nowhere, to be honest. I appreciate using the SI's minor casting ability to qualify for a new class, but you only take one level in it (your save DC is all of what, 13? At ECL 16+? A Fighter with 10 WIS and no items beats that 65% of the time. Do you often fight Fighters with 10 WIS and no items at ECL 16+? That failure rate is some 5e BS right there. It's like you're playing 5e, but unfortunately, your enemies are not) and barely mention why it's cool for you. I like the thematics of the class, but I didn't see you actually bringing enough of the class's abilities to bear to actually have those thematics show up in a game. It would honestly be fairly easy to miss that you even have that class, so I don't think of that level as being very elegant.

    I'm not impressed with anything you did regarding prereqs. You have three different PrCs, and other than a racial prereq, the only prereq overlap you have is a few ranks in Hide and MS. Not nothing, but only barely. This isn't a direct penalty or anything, but I don't see you going out of your way to deserve a bonus.

    Your feats are, at a minimum, legal, and so are your PrCs.

    I'm going to call this about a 1.5. You flagrantly flouted my instructions about your skill table, you tried to claim a bonus you didn't earn, your Luckstealer level is kind of out of left field, and you have very little making you actually look better aside from reasonably judiciously timed Swordsage levels, which you did do fairly well. You'd have scored higher if, well, the problems that I'm complaining about weren't in place.

    Use of Secret Ingredient: 1.5

    You carefully trade away Trapfinding in order to pick it up with HS, but you actually do have a reasonable score both in Search and in Disable, so I'll give you a little credit for caring about trappiness. You don't mention Trap Sense much, but it's passive and hard to show off.

    You indicate that Skill Mastery is your "capstone," which is not unwarranted. You know what you didn't indicate? What skills you're choosing. So that's not much evidence in favor of you caring all that much.

    You basically don't mention Hoardstealer's abilities much at all. The class's actual features are entirely absent from your 6-18 bracket. You mention that the darkvision and the spells exist, but you don't tell me why you care about any of them. I have no clue which spells you're prepping regularly or why those spells make you more awesome. You don't even mention Deep Pockets or Treasure Dowsing, and we won't bother with Hide from Dragons.

    So would this build make more sense without Hoardstealer? I think it would. You'd have more room for Rogue, Swordsage, and/or Whisperknife, all of which you clearly care about more than Hoardstealer. You technically wouldn't qualify for Luckstealer, but since you don't really get any meaningful use out of Luckstealer, I'm not counting that as a major loss. Hoardstealer does very little for you, and you make no effort to optimize what it offers aside from technically using the spells to qualify for something you barely use.

    I'm awarding you a 1.5. You avoid a rock-bottom score because you do in fact use the spells to qualify for something and because you keep paying at least moderate attention to the prereq skills, but you'd have scored much, much higher if you had actually told me why you care about, like, any of the features.


    Final Thoughts:

    This build basically just disobeyed my guidelines right and left. You made your skills impossible to read, and more importantly, you didn't spell out for me why you care about most of the choices you made. Your basic concept ("Rogue") is clear enough that I didn't have to deploy The Line on you, but I still feel like the build has all the depth of a cardboard cutout. I apologize for being harsh, but every time I tried to come up with something nice to say, I noticed something standing in the way of me being as nice as I wanted to be.

    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Gentlefolk, learn from Zaq's example, and his suffering. Remember, seven out of eleven players who use truenamer lose their ability to taste ice cream.
    Come join the Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground E6 Appetizer Edition! We're currently cooking for round 29. Everyone is welcome!

    My compiled Iron Chef stuff!

    Queer pride isn't limited to one month!

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    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):
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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.
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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.

    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Gentlefolk, learn from Zaq's example, and his suffering. Remember, seven out of eleven players who use truenamer lose their ability to taste ice cream.
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    Okay. I think that's everything. Something like 31,872 words. ("So, what do you do in your spare time?" "Um, nothing much. I play the drums and I like video games? I definitely don't write Russian-novel-length treatises on other people's attempts to optimize absolutely unoptimizable aspects of a game that hasn't been new for over a decade. Not me, no sir. Boy, that sure would be weird.")

    For a "skillful" class with a big list (regardless of what hilariously awful gaps there are in it), we had an awful lot of people brute-forcing their way through the skills during their Hoardstealer levels. Craft, Perform, K: Arcana, the obvious Hide and MS, Spellcraft, Perform, Listen—we had a LOT of cross-classing going on, and I find that amusing. It's like the skill list is perfectly wrong. I think almost every chef who didn't have Able Learner ended up cross-classing during their Hoardstealer tenure. Often severely.

    Not a single chef took Craven as a way to keep early sneak attack semi-relevant through ten levels of a class that wants you to be a Rogue but that doesn't make you better at being a Rogue! That's fascinating, especially after things like Thrall of Demogorgon and Eye of the Xanathar.

    Very few chefs were actually legal from start to finish. It's hard. It's real hard. Shout-out to The Professor for this.

    I am very, very tired now. I understand if no one has any words left to discuss this class with, because I'm pretty sure I used them all. Please be gentle in your disputes. I've already spent enough effort on this. I will engage with any good-faith disputes that arise, but I already spent many hours trying to explain my perspective, both with my unnecessarily long guidelines and with this insanely long judgment, so please do make sure that your disputes aren't just an attempt to run up the score but are, in fact, good faith attempts to point out where I'm flagrantly wrong. I beg of you.
    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Gentlefolk, learn from Zaq's example, and his suffering. Remember, seven out of eleven players who use truenamer lose their ability to taste ice cream.
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Entry Description First Judge Score Total Score
    Paulie Pocket, The Body Bag N Dragonborn (Wings Aspect) Skarn; Psychic Rogue 1/Totemist 2/Psychic Rogue 3/Hoardstealer 10/Totemist 7 16.25 16.25
    Splash Gordon Deepwyrm Half-Drow; Feat Rogue 1/Truenamer 4/Hoardstealer 3/Truenamer +7/Hoardstealer +5 15 15
    The Professor CG Warforged Scout; Rogue 1/Artificer 9/Hoardstealer 10 14.25 14.25
    Buckethead, the Pretender Strongheart Halfling; Rogue 1/Druid 6/Hoardstealer 3/Arcane Hierophant 2/ Hoardstealer +5/Arcane Hierophant +3 13.75 13.75
    Hae Wyre CN Star Elf; Planar Bard 6/Cataclysm Mage 3/Hoardstealer 5/Sublime Chord 1/Ultimate Magus 5 12.5 12.5
    Ser Iaijutsu Tonneu de Chartres CG Otherworldly Human; Ranger 2/Human Paragon 3/Fighter 2/Hoardstealer 10/Wyrm Wizard 3 12 12
    Shellie Caleesye CN Human; Rogue 1/Incarnate 1/Totemist 1/Rogue +2/Hoardstealer 10/Exemplar 1/Uncanny Trickster 3/Exemplar +1 11 11
    Tag Baggit CN Changeling; Rogue 2/Shadowcaster 3/Hoardstealer 10/Recaster 5 10.5 10.5
    Gunnar von Sacher NE Silverbrow Human; Human Paragon 1/Incarnate 2/Human Paragon +2/Hoardstealer 7/Thayan Slaver 5/Hoardstealer +3 9.75 9.75
    Mellon N Dragonborn Human; Cloistered Cleric 5/Hoardstealer 4/Ruathar 2/Hoardstealer +4/Sovereign Speaker 3/Hoardstealer +2 8 8
    Master Overmound Midnighter of the 14 Companions NG Halfling; Rogue 4/Swordsage 2/Hoardstealer 8/Whisperknife 5/Luckstealer 1 7.75 7.75
    Paityr N Spellsticthced Necropolitan Naenhoon Illumian; Spellthief 1/Dread Necromancer 1/Rainbow Servant 10/Uncanny Trickster 2/Hoardstealer 6 7.5 7.5

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Wow, Zaq. That's some intense effort judging the builds. I don't know that anyone else would have noticed the small quirks of the skills in all these builds. Your efforts are very much appreciated, and we are lucky to have someone who takes judging so seriously.

    My HM nomination goes to Hae Wyre for going for maximum portal trickery.
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Zaq, good sir, you'll have no disputes from me. I'll have more to say once the round is complete, mostly about my own weaknesses.
    You wrote a treatise about everything. Holy crap. I feel a duty to read it all. Superlative judging.

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Yeah no disputes from me. I went fluff over crunch with si and used the wrong feat which I didn't even qualify for. Live and learn. Next entry might not be so horrible.

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Quote Originally Posted by The Viscount View Post
    Wow, Zaq. That's some intense effort judging the builds. I don't know that anyone else would have noticed the small quirks of the skills in all these builds. Your efforts are very much appreciated, and we are lucky to have someone who takes judging so seriously.

    My HM nomination goes to Hae Wyre for going for maximum portal trickery.
    Oh, right, HM! Of the builds currently not in medaling place, I think I want to give my HM nom to Ser Iaijutsu, because dammit, that build is trying. It is trying so hard, and I want to recognize that. It overreached in a few places and ended up not working as advertised, but I respect that it's reaching for the stars.

    Quote Originally Posted by PunBlake View Post
    Zaq, good sir, you'll have no disputes from me. I'll have more to say once the round is complete, mostly about my own weaknesses.
    You wrote a treatise about everything. Holy crap. I feel a duty to read it all. Superlative judging.
    I'm honored. I can't do this very often and I have reason to believe that it's probably going to be a very long time before I judge again (I'm starting grad school next month, and it's been rather a few years since my undergrad, so I've gotta get used to doing actual homework again and stuff. You know, while still working like the adult I allegedly am), so I wanted to kind of give back to the community after having so much fun with the last few rounds. (It's probably good that I committed to judge ahead of time, because to be 100% honest, there is absolutely no way I would have volunteered if I had know that I was going to have 12 builds on my plate. That was crazy.) I'm glad that you are (and, I hope, everyone is) getting something out of this!

    Quote Originally Posted by Efrate View Post
    Yeah no disputes from me. I went fluff over crunch with si and used the wrong feat which I didn't even qualify for. Live and learn. Next entry might not be so horrible.
    I know that I'm not always the gentlest judge. You said that this was your first time or close to it, right? I mean this sincerely: no matter how harsh I was while judging, it is truly, genuinely an accomplishment just to get something in. That's not a platitude. This is actually a difficult pastime! No matter how "horrible" you think the results were this time, you'll get better with practice. My early builds definitely weren't taking gold medals. And of course, there's a good chance (though no guarantee!) that the next judge you get will be less picky than I am, so there's always that!
    Last edited by Zaq; 2018-07-24 at 09:04 AM.
    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

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    Gentlefolk, learn from Zaq's example, and his suffering. Remember, seven out of eleven players who use truenamer lose their ability to taste ice cream.
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Thanks for judging, Zaq, and best of luck with grad school. When you judge a round, whether my dish does well or poorly, your judging is always interesting and fun to read. No disputes from me either.

    Efrate, don't get discouraged. It took me four tries before I medaled. Each time we cook, we learn more fun and interesting things and become better chefs.
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Nope not discouraged at all. I admit I messed up and heck I learned. Next time will be better.

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    No disputes, though i do have a complaint <_<
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    Quote Originally Posted by KrimsonNekros View Post
    No disputes, though i do have a complaint <_<
    I sincerely hope that I didn't offend you or treat you unfairly. Please tell me about it after the reveal and we can talk about it, if you like.
    In the Beginning Was the Word, and the Word Was Suck: A Guide to Truenamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Roc View Post
    Gentlefolk, learn from Zaq's example, and his suffering. Remember, seven out of eleven players who use truenamer lose their ability to taste ice cream.
    Come join the Iron Chef Optimization Challenge in the Playground E6 Appetizer Edition! We're currently cooking for round 29. Everyone is welcome!

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    There's one... sort of dispute? It doesn't seem to be pointing out any misjudgements, just discussing the build. I'll post it because it's interesting, but I don't think it's likely to make any difference to the scores. I'll try and do the wrap up this afternoon, unless anything major comes up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Splash Gordon
    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    Splash Gordon: 15
    Power: 3
    The bad news is that Rebuild Item has some limitations that you don't seem to have taken into consideration. Namely that you need to touch the item in question, and you only have one round to do it. That does not seem to play nice with the idea of launching a Deep Pocketized acid flask across the map, and you mentioned that there's some splash damage to be aware of, so I think you do indeed want to be pretty far away from the action.
    In the interests of full disclosure, I didn't start this build until a few days *after* the original submission deadline had passed. I had another vacation-related deadline approaching, so I was very pressed for time to get this build done quickly. When I started to get down into the details of rebuilding the flasks, I realized there were some mechanical issues that I didn't have time to address. So I attempted to present a... perhaps more idealized view of how I thought things should work. Even if disregarding the Law of Resistance, rebuilding 300 non-magical flasks just doesn't work because of the one round limitation. Rather than take the time to fix this, I just mentioned it was possible to rebuild non-magical acid flasks and didn't worry so much about the details.

    As far as the range is concerned, the intention of the gnome calculus was to use that for most of Gordon's non-magical splash weapons, and possibly as a last resort against a particularly tough airborne opponent, such as a dragon. At closer ranged targets, such as those within 50', the larger range increment of the gnome calculus allows Gordon to reduce the misdirection of a missed splash attack to a single 5' square (one square per range increment). Since the size of the splash doesn't change by the number of flasks, a 5' drift and 5' splash means a 10' gap between Gordon and his target allows him to avoid any splash damage. For shattered flasks beyond 30', Gordon can use his unseen servant to bring the pieces back to him. With a 15' fly speed, a well-placed unseen servant can increase Gordon's ability to retrieve his flask with a single move action to 45'. If Gordon adds haste to either himself or his unseen servant, then the range at which he can retrieve his broken flask increases considerably. However, as you are no doubt aware, none of this was discussed in the build.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    Let's talk about your utterances a bit. I won't argue with most of them. They're pretty solid. I feel like there's a teeny-tiny bit of cargo cult following here in your choice of Hidden Truth when you don't have any meaningful ranks in any Knowledge skills (okay, eventually Arcana, but you wait for a while), but even if you're just taking it because I told you to take it as your first level 2 LEM, it's still pretty darn nice on its own, and it does let you count as trained.
    I was hoping to put more ranks into more Knowledge skills earlier, but wound up prioritizing two Craft skills, Hide/Move Silently, Truenaming, and UMD over Knowledge, so I didn't quite get to it until much later in the build. I... uh... really wanted to?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    But what sticks out to me is Silent Caster. Why Silent Caster? That's a truly baffling choice.
    Silent Caster was more of an afterthought. Even though Gordon is primarily a ranged attacker, Archer's Eye and Perceive the Unseen didn't seem to help him all that much, as he doesn't particularly care if he hits his target directly... with 300+ splash damage, concealment or miss chance isn't really much of a concern. I took Silent Caster mostly as a debuff for other spellcasters. Even if the DC to target creatures is a bit high, he can cast it on an object for a flat DC 25 check and throw the object at the caster. In retrospect, Speed of the Zephyr or Strike of Might may have been a better choice. Mostly I was thinking "silence can be a good shutdown for casters". I wasn't aware it was such a dud.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    But you probably chose to make a 'Namer after you saw I was judging anyway, so here we are.
    Nope. I've been meaning to do a Rebuild Item build for awhile now, but the 11 levels of Truenamer makes it very hard to include in Iron Chef. If I had thought about who was judging I would have spent a lot more time digging through your Truenamer guide! As it was... I had to rush some things, and picking utterances was one of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    One of the reasons that I say that I don't love your chances is because I'm not super impressed with your TS mod. Ranks and INT aren't even really a minimum. Full ranks and good INT is actually somewhere below what I'd call the minimum. On this build? No Skill Focus. No way to craft items that would help. No Paragnostic Assembly. No Marshal or Naen sigil or luck rerolls or anything like that. Best you can hope for is purchasing an AotST and maybe a custom competence item. I want to assume some level of competence, but let's remember that Truenamer constitutes an outright majority (not even a plurality but an actual majority) of your levels, and you kinda owe some back taxes here.
    Yeah... I wrestled a bit with whether I had room to fit in Skill Focus in there somewhere, maybe swap it in for EWP: Gnome Calculus. Or trade it in for Truename Training and eat the cross-class skill ranks. This is a legitimate concern, and I didn't address this well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    You wasted 2 of your Skill Mastery slots. Neither Truespeak nor UMD play nicely with Skill Mastery. They're legal to choose, but it does nothing, because it's a clause in the skill itself rather than stress or distraction preventing taking 10.
    Hmm... I hadn't really considered that this would be problematic. I may be seeing more wiggle room than is really there, but I'd argue that "because saying a truename is such an idiosynchratic, exacting task", that this is synonymous with "stress". The UMD description does not specify why exactly you can't take 10 with it, which leaves open the possibility that it could be due to stress or distraction. However, these arguments are not particularly strong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    To take a look at how you're filling your Glass Cannon and your other flasks, I think Hidden Talent is an excellent start but an uninspiring finish. I've never seen an encounter where you can manifest something like that in combat (a 1 minute casting time means that you aren't a character, you're a flag to be captured) without some kind of speed reduction. Out of combat, it's only 2/day, only lasts for 1 hour per casting, and you only get 1 cubic foot. You can cause a lot of havoc with 1 cubic foot of greensickness (let alone BLE), make no mistake, but it won't last all day, can't be stockpiled, doesn't scale, and basically shouldn't be your only source of juice (which in this case is closer than usual to being literal juice). You invest in Craft skills, but the downside is that mundane crafting takes for-bleeding-ever. I'm not seeing much of a way of mitigating this in the text of your write-up.
    I had some thoughts that minor psionic creation could be used to create the more costly *ingredients* for poisons, and thus solving the problem of duration/stockpiling, but it's a grey area of the rules, and I didn't have enough time to really address the issue. A fair criticism. At one point I looked at trying to put access to fabricate into the build, but it didn't look feasible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    I like Treasure Dowsing as a way to help find raw materials, but the crafting time is still truly punishing if you're doing this sort of thing by hand.
    I was planning to use skull talismans of unseen crafters/servant horde to help craft, but hadn't really gotten into the math of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    Elegance: 2.5
    You don't meet the prereqs for Quick Draw (BAB +1) when you take it, so that's going to cost you a bit.
    Ugh. Ok, I thought I had missed something somewhat obvious. I think the only fix would be to take two levels of Truenamer first, then Feat Rogue 1, but that vaporizes 16 skill ranks at 1st level.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    Why +6 ranks in UMD at ECL 7 when UMD has been a class skill for literally your entire career? Confusing.
    Everything else I wanted skill ranks in at that level was either topped off or cross-class. When I got back into Truenamer, I didn't want UMD draining points away from Crafting. So I prioritized on UMD with Hoardstealer... uh... well... kinda? Yeah, it wound up looking a bit lumpy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    I will never understand why half-drow is so bloody common in Iron Chef (you'll notice that this is Elegance, so I'm obviously not taking off points in Originality or anything). It doesn't hurt you at all, but I fail to see it helping you much.
    I had been penalized in a previous competition for using a "Drow" ACF with a non-drow race. So I was worried about that. Deepwyrm half-drow get a +2 racial bonus on Bluff checks, and I thought I might be able to do something with that (Hoardstealers get Bluff as a class skill), but it didn't work out that way. I tried tying the deepwyrm heritage into "researching draconic truenames", but it's not really a strong element. In the end, it seemed slightly more interesting than "oh look, another human".

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    Using Guerilla Warrior is a clever way of solving Hoardstealer's stealth problem on a race that doesn't qualify for Able Learner. Taking Truename Training at ECL 15 is honestly weird (I've never seen it that late before, and I think I'm unlikely to see it that late again anytime soon), but I guess it saves you 5 skill points in the ECL 16-20 bracket.
    Yeah, it did look kinda dumb taking Truename Training so late, but it just felt *WRONG* to spend cross-class ranks on Truenaming. In hindsight, I should have eaten the cross-class ranks and taken Skill Focus: Truenaming instead. Craft/Hide/Move Silently didn't necessarily have to be maxxed out.

    Thank you for such a thorough and comprehensive judging!
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    The only person in the past two pages who has known what (s)he has been talking about is Heliomance.
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    I just don't want to have long romantic conversations or any sort of drama with my computer, okay? It knows what kind of porn I watch. I don't want to mess that up by allowing it to judge any of my choices in romance.

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  16. - Top - End - #166
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Thank you for the table, Thurbane.

    And now, the results!

    Entry Chef Description First Judge Score Total Score
    Paulie Pocket, The Body Bag The Viscount N Dragonborn (Wings Aspect) Skarn; Psychic Rogue 1/Totemist 2/Psychic Rogue 3/Hoardstealer 10/Totemist 7 16.25 16.25
    Splash Gordon Darrin Deepwyrm Half-Drow; Feat Rogue 1/Truenamer 4/Hoardstealer 3/Truenamer +7/Hoardstealer +5 15 15
    The Professor Piggy Knowles CG Warforged Scout; Rogue 1/Artificer 9/Hoardstealer 10 14.25 14.25
    Buckethead, the Pretender PunBlake Strongheart Halfling; Rogue 1/Druid 6/Hoardstealer 3/Arcane Hierophant 2/ Hoardstealer +5/Arcane Hierophant +3 13.75 13.75
    Hae Wyre daremetoidareyo CN Star Elf; Planar Bard 6/Cataclysm Mage 3/Hoardstealer 5/Sublime Chord 1/Ultimate Magus 5 12.5 12.5
    Ser Iaijutsu Tonneu de Chartres WhamBamSam CG Otherworldly Human; Ranger 2/Human Paragon 3/Fighter 2/Hoardstealer 10/Wyrm Wizard 3 12 12
    Shellie Caleesye Macabaret CN Human; Rogue 1/Incarnate 1/Totemist 1/Rogue +2/Hoardstealer 10/Exemplar 1/Uncanny Trickster 3/Exemplar +1 11 11
    Tag Baggit WhamBamSam CN Changeling; Rogue 2/Shadowcaster 3/Hoardstealer 10/Recaster 5 10.5 10.5
    Gunnar von Sacher Venger NE Silverbrow Human; Human Paragon 1/Incarnate 2/Human Paragon +2/Hoardstealer 7/Thayan Slaver 5/Hoardstealer +3 9.75 9.75
    Mellon jdizzlean N Dragonborn Human; Cloistered Cleric 5/Hoardstealer 4/Ruathar 2/Hoardstealer +4/Sovereign Speaker 3/Hoardstealer +2 8 8
    Master Overmound Midnighter of the 14 Companions KrimsonNekros NG Halfling; Rogue 4/Swordsage 2/Hoardstealer 8/Whisperknife 5/Luckstealer 1 7.75 7.75
    Paityr Efrate N Spellsticthced Necropolitan Naenhoon Illumian; Spellthief 1/Dread Necromancer 1/Rainbow Servant 10/Uncanny Trickster 2/Hoardstealer 6 7.5 7.5
    [/QUOTE]

    Congratulations to The Viscount, Darrin, and Piggy Knowles for their places on the podium! Honourable Mention goes to Hae Wyre, for sheer ridiculosity.

    New round probably won't be up until tomorrow.
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    Quote Originally Posted by golentan View Post
    I just don't want to have long romantic conversations or any sort of drama with my computer, okay? It knows what kind of porn I watch. I don't want to mess that up by allowing it to judge any of my choices in romance.

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  17. - Top - End - #167
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Yeah, i crammed that build together in 3 hours, and had to edit skill points multiple times, and i had something like 50 tabs open at the same time.


    Yay honorable mention! I'll add it to my trophy case!

  18. - Top - End - #168
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    This is the line of judging with most impact for me:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    You might have scored higher with a clearer focus on your skills and perhaps a little bit more discussion...
    My weaknesses were primarily in the write-up (I left a LOT unsaid - the majority of Hoardstealer spells are gaps in the Druid list, Hide was no longer ranked-up at high levels because of the mix of Invisibility and size bonus to hide from Wild Shape Diminuitive, the non-table nature of my wild shape forms, other things) and secondarily in skills.

    I underspent on skills because I took the FAQ interpretation of Able Learner and applied it to Education (1st level only vs always). Note: I was right to avoid asking the judge on this; I was the only one who used Education.
    I overspent one rank because I iterated on my skill table at least 10 times, which is also why I have less ranks in visual skills and concentration.

    Regardless, I'm happy to be close to the podium in a field of 12 on my first entry into an Iron Chef. I'm sure I'll enter again in the future.

  19. - Top - End - #169
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    frown Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    As a note: Hae Wyre can be reconfigured without any hoardstealer or cataclysm mage levels.

    a sparrow hengeyokai or beguiler/muckdweller/hairy spider planar bard 7/personal space nomad/sublime chord X can do everything that hae wyre can do while saving a buttload of feats and skill points. I don't know what happens when you store yourself in yourself, but uhhhh....something happens, and you can always retrieve yourself by spending your psionic focus.

    One of the more frustrating things about the build was how one sided transdimensional spell is! How does one get to see inside an extradimensional space? Even more frustrating was how does the spell work on creatures on the material plane while your character is inside the extradimensional space. I wanted to be able to attack from total extraplanar cover, and have something like a spider hand spell, or any spell effect that removed a part of the character who could share perceptions which would stay in the real world and drag around the body. I played with malphas's bird eye view vestige ability or the warlocks crazy remove your hand and eye invocations.

    Have another pc carry around your perception with a skull watch spell (get it in a wand!). Heck, even a familiar could do all the perception for you. And then you could target things with your spells on the material plane from a convenient hidey hole that you access through any of the other portal spells.

    Portal well is fun if you manage to get your opponent to chase you, especially paired with melodic casting, as you run towards one of your many portal options, stash yourself in the well as you singsong link the portal to the abyss or some other random place, or to the shadowwell of their now dissappeared comrades. Shadowwell is weird because of the whole duration thing not stipulating whether or not the shadow continues being a portal after it sucks its creature in during its duration. The neat thing about shadow well is that it can be combined with telfirian song and heightened to stay relevant well into the end game.

    Another one of my favorite options that couldn't fit, was the 6th level power of the anarchic initiate class from complete psionic, where 6 times a day you could open a breach to limbo. Its a supernatural ability, so you could take the widen or extend supernatural ability feats if you wanted to give it more juice.

    I just didn't have enough time to write about all the strange and wonderful tactics that this build was capable of. Most of them revolved around unseen servants pulling thimbles full of PCs across otherwise pain in the but obstacles or making entire enemies disappear to other planes.

  20. - Top - End - #170
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Thanks for judging, Zaq. Others already echoed this but seriously, no complaints at all. Your thoroughness and dedication is really appreciated.

    Didn't want to send a dispute as I was more than happy with my score, and try to only send in disputes if I feel like the judge actually gets something wrong rules-wise or outright overlooks something, but you did have some questions about build direction, so I figured I'd give you my thoughts after the round was over:

    1. The ranks in craft (alchemy) were mostly from an earlier write-up of the build, where the Professor made alchemical bombs that he would pack into his Deep Pockets spaces and deliver via his raven or pseudodragon familiar. It was actually the same exact build skeleton, but I found that the build was just doing so many things and the writeup was getting so long that at a certain point I decided I would be better off just focusing on the main tricks. That said, re-working all of the Professor's skills to account for no longer needing alchemy seemed exhausting, and I figured alchemy wasn't exactly a skill that would go amiss, so I kept it. (Speaking of Deep Pockets, though, I do wish I'd gone into more detail on using it for hiding places, as that is something I envisioned as being a big part of how the Professor plays... the mental image of being able to climb into a vase or a shoe or any other small object was one that I had in the back of my head, but never really made it into the writeup.)

    2. Re: the use of treasure dowsing, you mentioned that the Professor would need to avoid using steel in his stronghold to keep from self-pinging, but I'm not sure that's necessary. The ability says that if you specify a specific metal or mineral, it gives you the location of each such deposit within range (rather than merely providing the largest deposit within range).

    3. Re: the question of enchanting a weapon familiar and the weirdness of adding abilities to intelligent items, the racial substitution level actually specifically allows this, and says it follows the normal rules for enchanting any other item. "The warforged artificer must create a magic weapon, paying all the normal costs in gp and XP, after which he must spend an additional 1,000 gp and one more day to further imbue the item with sentience... ...At any time, the warforged artificer can further enhance his weapon familiar (as with any other magic weapon)." As for the weapon actually using its actions to activate no light or mage hand or what not, that's a neat idea, but it wasn't my intention for the build (and actually wasn't anything I'd considered). The Professor most isn't wanting for actions, and anyhow its abilities are not really meant for combat.

    4. I considered prioritizing skills to allow for DD and open lock, but.... well, teleportation, an adamantine weapon and the ability to call up various dispelling effects when necessary can go a long way toward avoiding or getting rid of traps or doors, assuming you know where they are. In cases where he couldn't just disable the trap, his weapon familiar can provide him with a +20 boost to a check via guidance of the avatar, so he can just boost his DD check as needed. Adding ranks in DD and open lock over craft (alchemy) would have been a reasonable option, though, once I decided to remove the focus on alchemical bombs.

    5. The build's UoSI really did hinge heavily on the idea of Skill Mastery applying to UMD (which admittedly requires a reading that most don't accept). Without that, Hoardstealer could have been replaced with any PrC that granted arcane casting and had decent skill points. While the deep pockets were the original inspiration for the build, you could easily rebuild the Professor without them, or just, you know, make a bunch of bags of holding. I mean the build still functions even without it, but guaranteed success on 4th-level spells without having to worry about bad rolls via SSI is pretty clutch.

    6. The original goal of the build's familiar focus was actually a bit more involved. I had planned on getting a familiar, killing it, and using self-made scrolls of Animate Dead Familiar (from the Wizard spellbook archives) and Haunt Shift to have my familiar haunt the stronghold as an actual artificial intelligence. However, because of the restrictions on Haunt Shift, I needed a fair bit of cheese to make that work—the only way the Professor would be able to craft scrolls of those two spells at a low enough level to have his undead familiar still qualify for Haunt Shift (since the spell caps out at 9 HD) would be to make low-CL ur-priest scrolls, which is way cheesier than I was comfortable with. I still liked the idea of a familiar serving as the build's AI, though, and the pseudodragon seemed to fit in well with the Hoardstealer theme and kind of give me a similar effect.

    7. Oh my god I have read Darkstalker a million times and somehow always assumed it made you immune to darkvision as well. That makes the no light trick way less useful. I had been thinking that Darkstalker also made you "immune" to darkvision, giving the Professor a neat position where he had concealment even against foes with darkvision but could see just fine himself. No light is still useful for sneaking, so I wouldn't change things, but I'm a bit disappointed I missed that.

    8. I didn't bother going up to Artificer 6 at ECL 7 because realistically, I couldn't hit the DCs for SSI for third level spells at that point without GotA abuse.

    9. The random ranks in autohypnosis and spellcraft were just because I had some extra ranks to spare once I managed to catch up on other skills, and grabbing a few trained only skills (that I could boost if necessary with my weapon familiar's GotA) seemed handy. I probably should have spelled that out somewhere but... man, this build was already way more complex than I usually like, and I really didn't want to go on forever. As it was, I was dangerously close to requiring two posts to get it all in.

    10. I swear I did mention hide from dragons! In the level by level analysis I mentioned picking up a useful but niche SLA. That's... well, I really didn't feel like shoehorning in some reason why that was actually super useful specifically to the Professor, so I gave it a passing mention in the writeup and moved on. If he's facing dragons it's great, if he's not facing dragons it's useless. I wasn't really interested in trying to justify an ability that is niche by nature. I'm always a fan of focusing on what works well in a build rather than trying to jump through hoops in hopes of proving I'm using every single part of the buffalo. Kudos to any other build that found a more interesting use of the ability.

    Anyhow, those were some of my thoughts. I had a lot of fun with the Professor, and you put in a ton of work judging, so I figured I could spare to write a few more words about my thought process. Thanks again for the judging, and I hope next time we go a bit easier on you.
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  21. - Top - End - #171
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Good round all and congratulations to the winners. Looking forward to the next one.

    I didn't bother disputing it, as I wasn't in medal contention, but Wyrm Wizard Spell Research does allow you to select spells of the highest level you can cast.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dragon Magic
    Spell Research (Ex): One of the greatest advantages that you gain from consulting draconic lore is the ability to unlock magical secrets forbidden to other wizards. Starting at 2nd level, select one spell from any class's spell list (including divine spells), of a level equal to or lower than the highest-level arcane spell you can prepare and cast. You can add this spell to your arcane spellcasting class spell list as a spell of the same level; all other aspects of the spell remain unchanged. At every even-numbered level thereafter, you gain the knowledge and use of one additional spell in this manner.
    Emphasis mine.

    You may have gotten it mixed up with Recaster Expanded Knowledge from my other entry.

    The allusion to Isaac Newton is in reference to a) being able to see further in the dark being a big part of the character's shtick, and b) the character getting his power by way of a leg-up from powerful/elder entities (Celestial-Attended Birth, Wyrm Wizard, Oxyrhynicus) and the legends of old (Collector of Stories+Knowledge Devotion). Also, I was rather amused to discover that the "shoulders of giants" quote was itself a quotation, attributed to a philosopher named Bernard de Chartres who I also referenced in the name.

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  22. - Top - End - #172
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Thanks for judging, Zaq.

    I have a policy not to dispute if I’m not in contention for a medal to expedite the reveal, but there were a few small things about my build I wanted to talk about:

    I’m glad you liked my concept and backstory. Our discussion earlier in the thread about hordestealer/hoardstealer was partially responsible for this. Gunnar steals a horde to get into the si. Plus I wasn’t that excited about writing another story about stealing money, especially not right after Xanathar, since I figured that’s what everyone else would be doing.

    I didn’t overspend at 17, I’ve got 10 points (6 from class, 4 from int, which has been boosted by inherent bonuses by now) and spent 10, but yeah, the chart does jump from 16 to 20. Must’ve been through one of the revisions. Not really sure what happened there. I really hate skillful secret ingredients.

    I did indeed forget to boost ba at 16 (slaver 4) so my bonus from there on is one low, and I finish at 13, not 12. Not real sure how that happened, but there that is.

    As Heliomance helpfully noted, I ran out of room in this entry, and I learned a long time ago that if your dish is longer than 1 post, people will not read it. Since everyone in the round has access to the same hoardstealer spell progression, I left it out for space.

    I can absolutely designate umd as a skill mastery skill and take 10 on it (specific trumps general.) There’s no rule against it. The addendum about taking 10 is about normal use of the skill, not skill mastery. I always designate umd as one of my skill mastery skills since it’s the most important skill in the game, and no one has ever complained about it. If it’s actually against the rules, I’d like to know so I can allocate my resources elsewhere in future rounds when you judge. I know it didn’t get a deduction, but it’d be good info for me to have.

    We’ve discussed our difference in philosophies on skill points before, but I’m impressed with your dedication. Those charts are really something. Lumpiness or swinginess or whatever you want to call it is inevitable in my experience, especially with skillful builds.

    I’m well aware I can’t have all melds shaped all the time, but if I don’t describe some specific abilities imparted by a meld shaping class and take it for granted, in my experience, I will be excoriated by judges for not explaining my build adequately. I don’t describe specific loudouts re: melds for meldshaping characters because there’s no reason to do so, and again, I ran out of room.

    If I say “I’ve got all the incarnate melds, you know what I can do,” I will be criticized for not explaining my abilities enough. If I describe a handful of melds, I will be criticized under the idea that I don’t understand how meldshaping works and that I think I can have all of them up at the same time. How do you suggest I avoid this catch-22 in the future?

    What is this “arcane keyword” you’re referring to?

    I didn’t take rogue because it’d be a gut punch to the originality. But yeah, like everyone else I basically avoided rogue for the sake of avoiding rogue.
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  23. - Top - End - #173
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Great round everyone. Every build brought its own special something to the round, and I was fascinated to see how many directions we ended up taking. I was extremely worried about using psychic rogue for the second time in a row because it seemed it would be fresh on everyone's mind, and that I might be tipping my hand by using the class again, but I just needed too many things it offered.
    Any round I get to break out Serpent Kingdoms is a round I have fun in.

    A big thanks again to Zaq for all of your hard work. If you'd like to know what I was thinking for a few of the odder points, here's a few explanations.

    On PP: I completely forgot to count up my PP (hence not being written anywhere), so didn't realize I was limited to only twice a day. I likely would have done something to fix that had I realized.

    On moving enemies into the Body Pouch: I was operating under the idea that since in a grapple you can take as many actions as you have iteratives, and it isn't a full attack to attack with the wormtail, that I'd have one iterative "used" in making that attack and one "left" to do grappling. The rules as I could find were silent on the issue.

    On melds in slots: I admit I'm guilty of talking about my melds more as a list of options than an itemized loadout, sorry if that made it unclear what I would be doing most days.

    On the absence of improved grapple: I noted to myself when doing my build that I can gain the benefit of improved grapple by binding the Totem Avatar to my arms. I forgot to include this in my writeup, likely because I was writing it late in the night.

    On Mauling Gauntlets: I thought that might be someone's interpretation of the rules, but I decided to take a gamble. Looks like I forgot to shape the lucky dice.

    On skills: I did my skills in more than one session, so the screwups are likely where I started or stopped. at 9 I underspent because I capped out all the skills I was progressing, and met the criteria for all my skills I was investing for prerequisites. Nothing was jumping out at me for the last point, then I likely got distracted or put the document away, then when resuming thought I had finished that level. The last two levels I think I had started again and gotten back into the mindset of having 2 more points from hoardstealer.
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  24. - Top - End - #174
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Quote Originally Posted by WhamBamSam View Post
    Good round all and congratulations to the winners. Looking forward to the next one.

    I didn't bother disputing it, as I wasn't in medal contention, but Wyrm Wizard Spell Research does allow you to select spells of the highest level you can cast. Emphasis mine.

    You may have gotten it mixed up with Recaster Expanded Knowledge from my other entry.

    The allusion to Isaac Newton is in reference to a) being able to see further in the dark being a big part of the character's shtick, and b) the character getting his power by way of a leg-up from powerful/elder entities (Celestial-Attended Birth, Wyrm Wizard, Oxyrhynicus) and the legends of old (Collector of Stories+Knowledge Devotion). Also, I was rather amused to discover that the "shoulders of giants" quote was itself a quotation, attributed to a philosopher named Bernard de Chartres who I also referenced in the name.
    Wha-wha-whaaaaaaaat?! Oh, man am I embarrassed now! I'm so sorry! That woulda been worth at least at least an extra 0.5 or so in Power. Possibly even 0.75 (though it is late in the build and it is firmly limited in how often per day it works). I'm so, so sorry that I missed that! I did indeed check the specific wording (when I said "I just noticed something bad," I did in fact mean that I had just noticed it again when checking the wording on Wyrm Wizard), but I evidently did not read carefully enough. I clearly just read "of a level [at least one level] lower than the highest-level..." That is 100% my bad! I can edit the score if it's not too late and if anyone cares.

    Time is a bit short right now. I'll do my best to engage with everyone else later on (possibly tomorrow). But I did feel the need to apologize immediately for messing up Ser Iaijutsu like that. I will do better in the future!
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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    I'm also not super willing to buy your explanation about Initiate of Astilabor and having the Sovereign Host as your patron deity. Yeah, there's the pantheon clause, but the Sovereign Host is already a pantheon, and it doesn't traditionally include Astilabor.
    This is actually covered in Dragons of Eberron. The dragons of Argonnessen follow a religion known as Thir, which acknowledges three different related pantheons: the progenitors (Eberron, Khyber, and Siberys), the Dragon Gods (the draconic pantheon as described in Draconomicon: Bahamut, Astilabor, Io, Chronepsis, et al.), and the Sovereign Host. The progenitors created the world and are generally believed not to respond to prayers. The Dragon Gods are represented by constellations in the night sky and are said to concern themselves only with the affairs of dragons, ignoring the prayers of lesser creatures. The Sovereign Host are lower-ranking deities who reign over the non-dragons.

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Minor question, and not trying to be inconsiderate, but hae wyre takes a single level of sublime chord at 13, don't you have to finish sublime chord before anything else? Did I miss an update or something? One of my discarded ideas was using that but that limitation stopped me.

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    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Given how dragon-y Hoardstealer is flavor-wise, I'm not surprised I'm not the only one referencing Dragons of Eberron. The reason my fluff didn't make sense is similar: it's based on fighting against one of the factions laid out in more detail in DoE. "The Chamber" is a bunch of dragons who meddle in the world in an effort to change the Dragon Prophecy. I think this is also mentioned in passing in ECS, but Dragons goes into a lot more fluff detail.

    I was also already breaking into my second message without adding more, but for me it was more about time than things I cut. Too many build revisions, not enough write-up revisions.

    Side note: The reason I mentioned the Darkvision enhancement from the SI working in wildshape was because of Dragon Wild Shape granting the supernatural abilities of dragon shapes, which includes their base Darkvision; Buckethead can see further with Darkvision than most dragons.

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Efrate View Post
    Minor question, and not trying to be inconsiderate, but hae wyre takes a single level of sublime chord at 13, don't you have to finish sublime chord before anything else? Did I miss an update or something? One of my discarded ideas was using that but that limitation stopped me.
    I'm not aware of any clause or requirement in Sublime Chord that compels you to finish the PrC or restricts you from prestiging out somewhere else. The only "class" that I'm aware of with such a restriction are the Monster Classes in Savage Species.

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Efrate View Post
    Minor question, and not trying to be inconsiderate, but hae wyre takes a single level of sublime chord at 13, don't you have to finish sublime chord before anything else? Did I miss an update or something? One of my discarded ideas was using that but that limitation stopped me.
    I did some googling and discovered the issue. Therafirm (the top site if you Google sublime chord) has an extra 1st level provision called bardic lock that says you have to take all 10 levels.

    Complete arcane has no such restriction.

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    Default Re: Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground XCIII

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrin View Post
    I'm not aware of any clause or requirement in Sublime Chord that compels you to finish the PrC or restricts you from prestiging out somewhere else. The only "class" that I'm aware of with such a restriction are the Monster Classes in Savage Species.
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