April 18, 2011 by Jeff
At the request of b_s_lynn on Twitter, it’s time for another RP Builds article. I had two requests for what to build, one being a powerful character who has communication problems (perhaps to the point of being unable to speak) from EDuty and the other being the D&D equivalent to Dexter. While I’m generally familiar with Dexter, it’s not actually a show that I watch. So I’m going to focus on EDuty’s request and go from there.
Let’s fire up the Character Builder, select Home Campaign at 1st level, and dig into this thing.
I’ve actually played a similar sort of character concept before back in my 3rd edition days. He was a sorcerer who could only channel the words of magic, but was otherwise mute. He also wore a mask and died at level 1 in his first encounter before he was able to take a single action. This original character was a sorcerer and I could see an argument that I could make a 4e character a sorcerer as well. I could also envision the character as a warlock, where he doesn’t speak his magic at all, but channels the magic of his patron…the patron’s words flowing through him, so to speak. I am, clearly, inclined to go with some sort of arcane class, though. Incredible potential power just speaks to the arcane. While it’s not true in mechanics in 4e like it was in previous editions, it still fits in story.
Alternatively, psionics could do the trick nicely…wouldn’t even have to do any tweaking to the story to allow him to cast spells but not be able to speak. In fact, that’s what I’ll do, Psion it is. All the powers are mental, no need to be able to speak and maintain power.
For Focus I’m going to go with Shaper…the idea to be able to create stuff out of nothing is a sure sign of a person’s power and to create an fragment of yourself to go deliver messages and send your spells from, that sounds like a good fit as well. I also generally like the idea of summoning a small army of your own consciousness. That seems like something someone of power could do.
Time for race, now that I’ve set my class information it’s time to go into race. Here’s the first time this build is going to be tricky for me. In order to have a character with power I have to be a power-gamer, something I’m not particularly good at. Choosing a race is the first time that I need to consider all that. The class build description tells me that I want intelligence and charisma as my top stats. That said, extra feats can be useful too.
So my first thought is to go human, but let’s look and see if something else fits the stat combo that we need as well. Let’s make a list: changeling, eladrin, gnome, shardmind, and tiefling.
As I narrow the list down I think I can eliminate the shardmind for not quite having the nondescript concept I have in mind, and likely I can get rid of tiefling and eladrin for the same reasons. I want this character to seem like one of the weak, but have a hidden inner strength. That can be done as a human or a changeling, and almost too easily a gnome. I mean, who would ever suspect the mute gnome of being the most powerful person around?
While the other options both have a lot of appeal, if I’m going to try and make a character with power, I want options…as such, I want more feats and for that I’ll go human. Besides, the classic unassuming character is very much human and I’m more worried about the bonus to INT than I am the secondary bonus to CHA…I may regret that later as I get into my powers, but we’ll see when we get there.
As for my other options, I’m going to go with the bonus At-Will power rather than the bonus to saves. Both have appeal: sometimes being powerful is your ability to survive unexpectedly and sometimes it’s your ability to always have the right tool for the right situation. Given that I’ve heard complaints about the psion being less fun due to fewer power options I’m going to take the bonus at-will power to give me that one extra option.
While language choices don’t seem like they would be important to a guy who can’t talk, they will tell us what he can understand and it gives us a chance to inject some extra story. I’m going to go with Priomordial, perhaps there is a connection to the ancient power of the elements and the creatures that embody them and the undercover power of our PC.
Random name generator names the character Mari after I selected female and good. Female because I like the idea of a strong unsuspecting female character. People expect the damsel in distress and it turns out, she has the secret power to blow you all away. Good because I want her to have the potential to be a surprise-savior later in the campaign.
Background will be Psionic Descendant, some ancestor was a huge psionic power…perhaps saving the world at the behest of the primordials who created it from the first incursion of the Far Realm. Perhaps that descendant is now (or will be in the future) riding shot-gun in our girl’s mind. There is a lot of potential here. Given all that getting a +2 to Arcana or History would make sense, Arcana helps boost the power-level. So there it is.
Ability Scores and Skills
I want to super-focus, so the array I’m going with is the one with 18 and 14. 18 for INT, 14 for CHA and stick the racial bonus on INT. I’ll have to keep this in mind when it comes to power selection, focus on INT and avoid CHA unless the power is really cool.
I get to pick five skills now. Given our building story, I think Arcana and History are easy. Now I have more skills than I need and I want to remember that the power-level of the character should be subtle. I’m going to say that Diplomacy can fit the soft-spoken, easy to like character, and while it’s not ideal for her stats Insight and Perception are always useful.
As a psion human, I have arranged things so that I get 3 At-Will powers and one Daily. That’s actually extra awesome. One of the things you give up as a psion is the ability to have a variety of powers (no encounter powers), being a human fixes some of that and is awesome.
I super-focused my INT, so I want to look for powers that highlight that stat as much as possible. My first choice is Static Mote (creating a little shocking servant on the map), which goes along with Shaper build and is all INT based. If I continue to focus on INT-only powers my choices are: Dimensional Scramble, which I like for the ability to teleport your enemies, Memory Hole which is nice for making you invisible, and Mind Lock which slows your targets. Of those, slowing is the least appealing…why slow when I can just move them where I want them.
On to daily powers, then, and I only get one choice. I don’t need to focus too much on blasting multiple enemies, since the at-wills can be augmented to blast easily. Summon Thought Servant is ideal for our build…but doesn’t strike me as that good, especially considering that we’re not Heal-trained.
Living Missile seems good, but it focuses on one creature and is dependent on it failing saves…bad deal if there are any elites or solos involved with the bonuses they get to saves. Many of the other options are similar…but Telepathic Projection is a good choice since it has some effects even if the save is made quickly and is generally pretty cool.
Feats and Gear
There are two feat choices, lets see if we can find a way to crank up the power. Getting to use cool powers more often is always good for cranking up power-options, so Discipline Adept is appealing, giving me two uses per encounter of my special build power.
As I look for my second feat, suddenly my choice not to take Mind Lock comes off poorer. With the combo of that and World Serpent’s Grasp I’m able to not just do damage and slow, but if I hit a slowed creature they then go prone. I’m not sure this is good enough for me to do, although it would be something to consider if I were talking to the rest of my party and if a few of them took World Serpent’s Grasp then I would certainly switch out my powers.
I think instead I’m going to go with the easy to use and remember, but always needed Implement Expertise, to be later enhanced by Implement Focus.
As for gear…we’re first level, so I hit the “add for me” button and then fix the wrong bits (implements not matching feats, etc.). Hit save…and she’s done.
So there it is, she can’t speak but maintains useful power in a fight. She’s unassuming but likable. And she’s good natured and has a history with the world and a lot of interesting possible future storylines.
As I look back at Mari, here, I do think that she’d be a great choice for someone perhaps not as good with the choices that 4e gives you (and sometimes slows down combats) and doesn’t want to dive into the role-playing aspects of the game too much. Or, alternatively, the opposite…she might be the perfect challenge for your powergamer who wants to tweak her out or your role-player who wants to use the silence as an excuse to go into detailed descriptions about facial expression and hand gestures. Here’s her sheets (Character Builder and PDF), let me know if you or anyone you knows plays her.
How could I have made her stronger? What story elements did I miss? Leave me a comment below…