Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Character Building: The Delusional "Half-Dragon"

Continuing the series covering favorite character concepts I've used, today we'll talk about Talon Ebonblade, a shadowdancer with an interesting quirk. Back when the 3rd edition Dungeon Masters Guide was released, I fell in love with a prestige class called the shadowdancer. When Tome and Blood was released, I loved the idea of a half-dragon prestige class (the dragon disciple). Unfortunately, the rules didn't cover either of my favorite dragons (shadow or deep). I usually shy away from adding my own material, so I almost dismissed the idea of a half-shadow-dragon character. But then it hit me... what if a character wasn't a half-dragon at all, but thought he was? It was then that I knew I had struck idea-gold.

Building the Delusional "Half-Dragon"
The Flavor:
This character has some natural characteristics that have caused others to compare him to creatures of shadow in the past. Perhaps he was particularly sneaky as a youth, a naturally stealthy scout, or perhaps his skin tone is just much darker than the norm for his family or race. Regardless of the cause, Talon has been compared to creatures of shadow so often that when he heard a rumor that a shadow dragon lurked somewhere in his family tree, he was immediately convinced that his own affinity for the shadows has been caused by a shadow dragon ancestor. Of course, no one actually believes him because there's nothing supernatural about his shadowy reputation. At least, not at first. When he is ridiculed for actually believing that he has a shadow dragon ancestor, he leaves home to prove his heritage, and returns later in his adventuring career a master of shadowy powers. Is this vindication? Or has his obsession turned him down an even darker path than his heritage?

The Crunch:
  • This character was inspired by 3rd edition mechanics, so I can quickly tell you that Talon was originally a half-elf ranger/shadowdancer. Of course, that was way back in 3E when not too many supplements had been released. If I had to recreate the character now, I think I'd create him as either a half-elf Ranger 6 / Shadowblade 4 / Shadowdancer 10 or Ranger 6 / Shadowdancer 4 / Shadowblade 10, depending on the campaign style. The shadowdancer-heavy build would be better suited to a roleplaying and skill-based campaign, while the shadowblade-heavy build is much better for hack 'n slash games. Shadowblade is a prestige class from Tome of Magic that gives some cool shadow flavored combat abilities.
  • Unfortunately, playing Talon in 4th edition with the mechanics supporting his flavor might be a little difficult. One aspect of 4th edition that was highly touted was the ability to play multiclass characters the way you want from the very beginning, but brainstorming shadow flavored powers is leaving me stuck on dark pact warlocks, and that isn't the direction I would want Talon to go (although realizing that his abilities actually come from an evil being from the Shadowfell instead of his shadow dragon heritage could be a great roleplaying opportunity).
  • First of all, I need a suitable replacement for the shadowdancer prestige class, and after a few quick searches in the D&D Compendium, I think I found my replacement: Shadow Captain from Manual of the Planes*. It keeps the shadow flavor going and several of the paragon path's abilities recreate the feel of the shadowdancer's shadow companion ability. It also forces me down the warlord path, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
  • I want Talon to stick to those "naturally stealthy" roots that I mentioned in the flavor section, so we'll stick with ranger as his base class. But I also need to make sure that he can take the shadow captain paragon path, so he'll need to pick up Student of Battle. I'm not sure if the power swap feats are needed, but because rangers and warlords share strength as a primary stat, it remains a viable option.
  • As for his epic destiny, the Darklord from Drag Mag #372 looks like a great fit, and shadow stride is perfect. I only wish I could have found some other type of shadow flavored teleportation power without having to multiclass into warlock.
For anyone who might consider giving this concept a spin, I can assure you that it is a pleasure. Playing the big dumb warrior with a big heavy weapon definitely has its perks, but playing a reasonably intelligent hero who is somewhat delusional is even more fun, in my humble opinion. You can click on one of these links to check out pdf character sheets of Talon at level one, at level eleven, and at level twenty one.  As I said before, I'd love to hear whether or not the community would like to see more posts like this in the future. All feedback is greatly appreciated!

* I don't actually own Manual of the Planes, but thanks to a D&D Insider subscription, I don't need it to use the class. I'm still convinced that if people realized how little you need books if you have an Insider subscription, book sales would suffer much more than from the circulation of illegal pdf documents.


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