Thursday, February 18, 2010

[DND] Character Concept - Solomon Kane

Honestly, I didn't know anything about Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane until last summer at San Diego Comic-Con. I happened to catch the tail end of the Solomon Kane movie preview panel because I wanted to see some other programming happening later on in the same room. When they played the trailer for the film (which apparently never got a distributor for a U.S. release), it enthralled me instantly.

You see, back then, I played more than my fair share of Warhammer Online. The imagery of Solomon Kane in the movie reminded me very much of the Witch Hunters in that world, which I also found fascinating.  Naturally, I immediately want to put such imagery into game terms, so I decided to translate this idea into a D&D character.

To start off, I wanted to identify a few core themes and characteristics that I deemed most vital to the character:
  • devout piety
  • singular focus on seeking out and punishing evil
  • expert swordsmanship
  • flintlock pistols
  • pimp hats
In D&D4e terms, the religious aspect of the character led me to the Divine power source, while the swordsmanship and pistol aspects sounded more like a Martial discipline. To get as close to the source character as possible, I decided I would have to build the concept character as either a Multiclass or a Hybrid. I built one of each, and I go into excruciating detail about them below. So let's get down to it.

For both builds, I started with a Human, because both Solomon Kane and the Witch Hunters of Warhammer came from human societies.

I also began both builds with an Avenger.  The Avenger class can capably represent both the "devout piety" and the "punisher of evil" themes that Solomon Kane and the Witch Hunters embody.  For the Multiclass build, I chose the Censure of Pursuit class feature because I felt that it best represented the source characters' "singular focus" in hunting down and destroying evil.  As for the Martial piece of the puzzle, I think that Rogue fits the bill for both Kane and the Witch Hunters as well, and it dovetails nicely into the Pursuing Avenger build.

I prefer to leave character background up to personal preference, or something appropriate to the campaign where you want to play this character, but for these builds I chose Divinely Inspired and selected the Insight bonus.  The source characters will both say that they do their gods' work in the world, and they both have a keen sense for the truth.

When it comes to ability scores, I always struggle with keeping the character first and the stats second.  After all, combat in D&D more or less boils down to a game of math, and this character still has its role to fill as a damage dealer.  I laid out my starting points as follows:
STR 11
CON 12
DEX 15 (17)
INT 9
WIS 17
CHA 10
I put the +2 points from Human into DEX to bring the starting 15 up to a 17.  I intended to keep my DEX and WIS equal as the character progressed.  I chose INT as the dump stat because I felt that skills like Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Streetwise represented the glib, menacing, and resourceful man-hunter character concept more faithfully than Arcana, History, and Religion. 

Speaking of skills, I chose different training between the two builds.
  • Multiclass: Endurance, Perception, Religion, Stealth, Streetwise, Thievery
  • Hybrid: Endurance, Insight, Intimidate, Perception, Stealth, Streetwise
Both builds included Endurance training to reflect the tenacity that the source characters display when hunting their quarry to the ends of the earth.  Perception and Stealth allow the character to track and sneak up on their prey when they close in for the kill.  Religion and Thievery skill training in the Multiclass build come from the Avenger and Rogue classes, respectively, but can easily fit to match the character concept.  In the Hybrid build, I chose Insight so that it could play into the background benefit that I chose earlier, and Intimidate for that menacing feel.

When it came to feats, a few of them keyed directly into the concept build, while the rest fleshed out the character's combat ability.  I took the key concept feats at level 1 to set the tone of the character right from the start.
  • Weapon Proficiency (Rapier)
  • Sneak of Shadows OR Two-Fisted Shooter
D&D4e classifies the rapier, the signature blade of both Solomon Kane and the Witch Hunters, as a "superior melee" weapon, and neither the Avenger nor the Rogue get this proficiency for free, so I had to burn a feat to equip it without penalty.  I can hear the character optimizers groan even as I type this.

When Multiclassing, Sneak of Shadows at first level will open up the skill training you need right out of the gate, and unlock all the other Rogue feats for second level and beyond.  In the Hybrid build, you already have access to all the Rogue and Avenger feats, so you can skip straight to Two-Fisted ShooterFinally, we can address the flintlock pistol characteristic of the character concept! Since we don't have actual pistols in D&D4e, the hand crossbow will suffice in a pinch, and this feat makes hand crossbows awesome!  Two-Fisted Shooter not only lets you wield the hand crossbow as an off-hand weapon, it also lets you reload it as a free action in one hand! Oh, it doesn't end there. As long as you hold the hand crossbow in your off-hand, you get a free ranged basic attack whenever you score a critical hit. Yeah. Awesome. Especially for "crit fisherman" Avengers who roll two dice when attacking their Oath of Enmity target!

I'll list the rest of the feats I chose to round out the character, but I have no recommended order in which to take them.
  • Avenging Resolution - Because who doesn't love a minimum damage die roll of 3?
  • Backstabber - For obvious reasons (once per encounter if you've Multiclassed, upgrades to must-have in the Hybrid build).
  • Flash of the Blade - Fits the concept perfectly, since the source characters typically get portrayed as loners (same caveat as Backstabber).
  • Hybrid Talent - To squeeze a bit more "Avenger" out of your Hybrid Avenger. If you do take this one, I recommend "Armor of Faith" over the "Censure" feature because without it you leave yourself a bit too vulnerable in mere cloth armor.
  • Improved Armor of Faith - You can't ever have "too much" Armor Class.
  • Melee Training (Wisdom/Dexterity) - In case you find yourself making a lot of melee basic attacks, this feat will mitigate the effects of having such a low Strength score.
Of course, tons of other feats exist that you might find more useful or appropriate for your character or campaign.  Any of those will likely work just as well with this Solomon Kane/Witch Hunters character concept as any of these do, as long as you take the key characteristic feats first to set the tone of the character.

Finally, we come to the power selection stage.  The Multiclass build has far fewer Rogue powers than the Hybrid build, obviously, so the two really start to diverge here.

Solomon Kane and the Witch Hunters both deal with the supernatural on a fairly regular basis, but they do so with malignant reluctance.  With this in mind, I tried to steer clear of the more "magical" or "supernatural" Avenger powers, like the ones that let you teleport or gain phasing.  Even though they really do shine in a Pursuing Avenger build, they just didn't fit this character's theme.

In the Multiclass build, I chose:

  • (L1, At-Will) Bond of Pursuit - This power pretty much defines the Pursuing Avenger.
  • (L1, At-Will) Focused Fury - Good for separating your enemies and keeping them at bay.
  • (L1, At-Will) Overwhelming Strike - Also good for pulling enemies out of position. 
I don't recommend Radiant Vengeance for this build simply because it goes against the character concept of steering clear of magical effects, and because you'll likely have a crossbow handy for making ranged attacks.
  • (L1, Encounter) Relentless Attack - Fits perfectly with the expert swordsmanship theme and avoids any magical effects.
  • (L1, Daily) Aspect of Might - The bonuses here represent the boundless wells of strength that Solomon Kane seems to tap into when he needs them the most.
You can find a good alternative for the Level 1 Daily power in Steelsworn Oath.  It doesn't have the same "power up" effect that Aspect of Might has, but sometimes you need the ability to exchange your Oath of Enmity target.
  • (L2, Encounter) Avenger's Resolve - The resistance gained from this power ties in with the "singular focus" theme, where even the wounds inflicted by your target's allies can't distract you.
Some might scream that only one viable Level 2 Utility power exists: Refocus Enmity.  To those people, I can only say, "I disagree."  My Avenger has done just fine without it.  In fact, I find Resonant Escape much more useful, but it doesn't fit this character concept.
  • (L3, Encounter) Angelic Alacrity - This power comes from the Level 1 list, so you could exchange it with Relentless Attack, but both powers work great with this concept build.
  • (L5, Daily) Executioner's Cloak - Choosing this power skirts the edge of those magical powers that I tried to avoid in this build.  However, you could explain the invisibility as simply darting around the target so quickly that you keep out of its peripheral vision until it succeeds on a saving throw and catches you.
  • (L6, Daily) Oath of the Relentless Hunter - Absolutely critical to this build!  Yes, better powers choices exist, and yes, the primarily non-combat nature of this power make its potential applications limited at best, but how much more perfect for a Solomon Kane/Witch Hunter concept can utility powers get?
  • (L7, Encounter) Chains of Censure - The flavor text on this power talks about spectral chains, but remember: you have a hand crossbow in your off-hand.  You could just as easily reflavor the immobilize effect by saying that you pin down the secondary target with a well-placed crossbow bolt.
  • (L9, Daily) Oath of Pursuit - Not much to say about this one.  Perfect for Pursuing Avengers.
  • (L10, Encounter) Channel Endurance - Same as the Level 2 power, but doesn't require a trigger.
The Hybrid build focuses a lot more strongly on the swordplay aspect and makes judicious use of the Duelist Rogue powers.  For this build's powers, I chose:
  • (L1, At-Will) Bond of Pursuit - This power pretty much defines the Pursuing Avenger.
  • (L1, At-Will) Duelist's Flurry - The slide on this power makes it special, and it ties into the expert swordsmanship theme as well.
  • (L1, At-Will) Overwhelming Strike - Also good for pulling enemies out of position.
I chose not to take Riposte Strike because its secondary attack keys off of Strength, which this build sorely lacks.
  • (L1, Encounter) Relentless Attack - Fits perfectly with the expert swordsmanship theme and avoids any magical effects.
  • (L1, Daily) Duelist's Prowess - If Radio Free Hommlet has taught me anything, they've taught me that anytime you can deal damage on another person's turn, then you've done something right.
  • (L2, At-Will) Fleeting Ghost - Because I hate that I have to slow myself when using Stealth!
  • (L3, Encounter) Dazing Strike - Low damage, but great effect, and doesn't violate the "no magic" clause!
  • (L5, Daily) Executioner's Cloak - Choosing this power skirts the edge of those magical powers that I tried to avoid in this build.  However, you could explain the invisibility as simply darting around the target so quickly that you keep out of its peripheral vision until it succeeds on a saving throw and catches you.
  • (L6, Daily) Oath of the Relentless Hunter - Absolutely critical to this build!  Yes, better powers choices exist, and yes, the primarily non-combat nature of this power make its potential applications limited at best, but how much more perfect for a Solomon Kane/Witch Hunter concept can utility powers get?
  • (L7, Encounter) Snap Shot - Let's not forget that we have that hand crossbow in our off-hand. This power will let us fire it as a minor action! How about if we have two hand crossbows and we use one for a ranged basic attack and the other for a Snap Shot? Uh huh!
If you want more melee attacks, I'd recommend Circling Predator at Level 7.  It doesn't require any reflavoring like Chains of Censure does, and it matches perfectly with the expert swordmanship theme.
  • (L9, Daily) Oath of Pursuit - Not much to say about this one.  Perfect for Pursuing Avengers.
  • (L10, Encounter) Channel Endurance - Same as the Level 2 power, but doesn't require a trigger.
When shopping for magic items for these builds, I would recommend Shimmering Armor so you can make those ranged basic attacks without provoking opportunity attacks.  The Swiftshot Weapon lends a great extra ability to the hand crossbow, especially for Shooty Hybrid builds, because its daily power lets you fire it as a minor action.

For Paragon Path, I chose Zealous Assassin, but Relentless Slayer, Master Infiltrator, Shadow Assassin, and Watcher of Vengeance all have their own aspects that can fit the theme of the Solomon Kane character concept.

I'll go ahead and stop typing now... finally.  I've had this idea floating around in my head for quite awhile, and I did play a character very similar to the Multiclass build I outlined here up to 8th level, but I love the concept so much I just had to write it up so I could gush over it.  I'll post the Character Builder summaries below so you can copy & import them if that's your cup of tea.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
SolomonKane-multi, level 10
Human, Avenger
Avenger's Censure: Censure of Pursuit
Background: Divinely Inspired (+2 to Insight)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 10, Con 12, Dex 19, Int 9, Wis 19, Cha 10.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 10, Con 12, Dex 15, Int 9, Wis 17, Cha 10.


AC: 23 Fort: 18 Reflex: 21 Will: 21
HP: 80 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 20

TRAINED SKILLS
Endurance +11, Religion +9, Streetwise +10, Stealth +14, Perception +14, Thievery +14

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +9, Arcana +4, Bluff +5, Diplomacy +5, Dungeoneering +9, Heal +9, History +4, Insight +11, Intimidate +5, Nature +9, Athletics +5

FEATS
Human: Weapon Proficiency (Rapier)
Level 1: Sneak of Shadows
Level 2: Two-Fisted Shooter
Level 4: Avenging Resolution
Level 6: Backstabber
Level 8: Flash of the Blade
Level 10: Improved Armor of Faith

POWERS
Avenger at-will 1: Bond of Pursuit
Avenger at-will 1: Focused Fury
Bonus At-Will Power: Overwhelming Strike
Avenger encounter 1: Relentless Attack
Avenger daily 1: Aspect of Might
Avenger utility 2: Avenger's Resolve
Avenger encounter 3: Angelic Alacrity
Avenger daily 5: Executioner's Cloak
Avenger utility 6: Oath of the Relentless Hunter
Avenger encounter 7: Chains of Censure
Avenger daily 9: Oath of Pursuit
Avenger utility 10: Channel Endurance

ITEMS
Rapier, Adventurer's Kit, Hand Crossbow, Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
SolomonKane-hybrid, level 10
Human, Avenger|Rogue
Hybrid Avenger: Hybrid Avenger Fortitude
Hybrid Talent: Armor of Faith
Background: Divinely Inspired (+2 to Insight)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 10, Con 12, Dex 19, Int 9, Wis 19, Cha 10.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 10, Con 12, Dex 15, Int 9, Wis 17, Cha 10.


AC: 23 Fort: 18 Reflex: 21 Will: 20
HP: 70 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 17

TRAINED SKILLS
Intimidate +10, Perception +14, Stealth +14, Endurance +11, Streetwise +10, Insight +16

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +9, Arcana +4, Bluff +5, Diplomacy +5, Dungeoneering +9, Heal +9, History +4, Nature +9, Religion +4, Thievery +9, Athletics +5

FEATS
Human: Weapon Proficiency (Rapier)
Level 1: Two-Fisted Shooter
Level 2: Flash of the Blade
Level 4: Hybrid Talent
Level 6: Backstabber
Level 8: Avenging Resolution
Level 10: Improved Armor of Faith

POWERS
Bonus At-Will Power: Overwhelming Strike
Hybrid at-will 1: Duelist's Flurry
Hybrid at-will 1: Bond of Pursuit
Hybrid encounter 1: Relentless Attack
Hybrid daily 1: Duelist's Prowess
Hybrid utility 2: Fleeting Ghost
Hybrid encounter 3: Dazing Strike
Hybrid daily 5: Executioner's Cloak
Hybrid utility 6: Oath of the Relentless Hunter
Hybrid encounter 7: Snap Shot
Hybrid daily 9: Oath of Pursuit
Hybrid utility 10: Channel Endurance

ITEMS
Rapier, Adventurer's Kit, Hand Crossbow, Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment