Thursday, March 11, 2010

[DND] Character Concept - WAR D&D: Witch Elf

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog article about building a character for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons based on Robert E. Howard's character, Solomon Kane.  As I built the character, I realized that it could also pretty closely simulate a Witch Hunter from EA Mythic's Warhammer Online (WAR).  I had so much fun doing that article that I decided I'd try doing a character concept article for all 24 classes in WAR.

A little background info first: WAR really only has 12 different classes, but the opposing faction mirrors those 12 classes for a total of 24.  In this article, I intend to build a D&D4e character that could feasibly stand in for the Witch Hunter's mirror class: the dark elves' Witch Elf.

From the Witch Elf description page:
A Witch Elf can be an unstoppable force of death and destruction under the proper circumstances. By picking their targets carefully, the Witch Elf can win a fight in a short amount of time. A Witch Elf prefers to rapidly close with lightly armored targets, where their wicked poisons can find exposed flesh. Using a combination of rapid attacks, the Witch Elf works herself up into a Frenzy to execute powerful attacks that will stop most opponents dead in their tracks. When facing a heavily armored foe, the Witch Elf relies on her agility to survive long enough to pick apart her opponent's defenses and opening him up to a savage death blow.
  • Lightly armored and agile, capable of closing long distances rapidly
  • Wields long sacrificial daggers coated in deadly poisons
  • Armor is adorned with razor sharp hooks, and wickedly barbed metal plates
With this in mind, I decided to focus on these main themes:
  • lightly armored
  • long, deadly daggers
  • speed and agility
  • strong bursts of damage
  • poison attacks
Thanks to a little help from Dragon Magazine issue 373, I think my Witch Elf turned out pretty well.  Read on for all the bloody, eviscerated details.

To start out, the race and class combination pretty much chose itself: Drow Rogue. Not much argument there. One little caveat to the Witch Elves though: every single one of them belongs to the female gender.  There are no male Witch Elves.  The "Brides of Khaine", as some call them, just roll that way.  While the D&D dark elf society typically gets depicted as matriarchal, the Warhammer dark elves serve an evil king.  However, this king surrounds himself with female warriors and sorceresses because of a prophecy that foretold that he would meet his end at the hands of a sorcerer, implying a male assassin.

From the Rogue class features, I took Artful Dodger and Rogue Weapon Talent to represent the "lightly armored", "deadly daggers", "speed and agility", and "strong bursts of damage" themes.

For the background, I chose Drow - Orphan and took the Dungeoneering skill bonus.  I did this mainly to synergize with the skill training choices made below, though anything that provides bonuses to Stealth, Thievery, Acrobatics, Athletics, Perception, or even Intimidate or Bluff would do just as well here.

When it came to ability scores, it's a pretty standard Artful Dodger Rogue array:
STR 11
CON 13
DEX 16 (18)
INT 10
WIS 12
CHA 14 (16)
I intended to keep DEX and CHA on the treadmill as the character progressed, increasing them at levels 4 and 8.  I didn't really have a true "dump" stat here, since I brought them all up into at least the double digits.  If you really wanted to milk it, I'd suggest dropping INT to 8 and boosting CON to 14 for the extra hit points,  healing surge, and bonus to Fortitude.  If you wanted a bit more non-combat utility from your Witch Elf with slightly better scores in Perception, Insight, and Dungeoneering, you could drop INT to 8, STR to 10, and boost WIS to 14 for an extra modifier bonus there.  If you want to set up for the Master of Poisons paragon path, you could drop WIS to 8 and STR to 10 (or vice versa) to get INT to 14.

As for skills training themselves, we start out with Stealth and Thievery from being a Rogue.  In addition to these, I went with:

Acrobatics, Athletics, Dungeoneering (I'll explain below), Intimidate
Acrobatics and Athletics explain themselves: for vaulting and somersaulting, running and jumping, and generally fitting in with the "speed and agility" theme.  I took Intimidate because I have the CHA and the knives to back it up.  Dungeoneering, however, made the list so I could qualify for a specific feat.

Speaking of feats, I had a real hard time choosing these.  I had to make some tough calls between getting all I could out of the game mechanics, and creating a flavorful character that didn't turn out to be "just another rogue".  As a result, the Witch Elf concept requires all of these feats in order to work as intended, but right off the bat we need to set precedent with:
  • Weapon Proficiency (Kukri)
This sets up the "long, deadly daggers" theme right from the get-go.  Although it gives up both accuracy and ranged versatility, the kukri's d6 damage die outclasses the dagger's d4.  Plus, the kukri's Brutal property fits the Witch Elf both mechanically and thematically.

Also intrinsic to the concept of this character build: the multiclass feats.  Now, we finally get to address the "poison attacks" theme:
  • Poisoner
  • Poisoner Novice (level 4)
  • Poisoner Specialist (level 10)
The Poisoner multiclass feat lets our Witch Elf start to penetrate poison resistance, and the prerequisites for this feat include training in the Dungeoneering skill (or Nature, which is not available to Rogues).  The Poisoner Novice power swap feat gives the Witch Elf the ability to add the Poison keyword and ongoing 5 poison damage to an at-will attack once per encounter.  The Poisoner Specialist power swap feat introduces a daily power with a debilitating poison attack that inflicts ongoing damage and attack penalties on the target, and then blinds them, and then weakens them as long as they continue failing their saving throws.

Unfortunately, poison counts among the most common resistances and immunities that I have seen in D&D4e.  The Poisoner feat's ability to overcome resistance should help, but we shouldn't rely on it.  That's where the rest of our Heroic tier feats come in:
  • Backstabber
  • Slaying Action
Backstabber has become the de facto no-brainer must-have Rogue feat.  Character optimizers will likely chastize you if you try to play a Rogue for any amount of time with the default d6 Sneak Attack dice.  Lucky for us, in a concept character build, we don't have to worry about that.

Absolutely key to the "strong bursts of damage" theme, and of paramount importance to this build because of it, Slaying Action lets us deal our Sneak Attack damage twice in the same turn.  The feats past level 1 don't necessarily have to be taken in any particular order, except for the level requirements on the multiclass power swap feats, but I would take Slaying Action even before Backstabber in this build.  For the Witch Elf concept, the ability to hit with two Sneak Attacks for that extra single-round "burst" damage has higher priority than the larger Sneak Attack dice.

When it came time to choose powers for this character concept build, I had just as much trouble as I did with the feats.  Since I had the power swap feats looming on the horizon, I knew I couldn't get too attached to any of the powers I picked because half of them would get replaced soon.  I wanted to focus on the themes, though, so I tried to select powers that included extra mobility effects to fit the "speed and agility" theme.  I also tried to favor multi-[W] damage attacks to enhance the "deadly daggers" and "strong bursts of damage" themes.  The powers I ended up with:
  • (L1, At-Will) Sly Flourish - The bread-and-butter attack of any Artful Dodger Rogue.
  • (L1, At-Will) Piercing Strike - Rogues have a lot of great at-wills now, but I can't overlook the ability to target a non-AC defense whenever necessary.
I strongly considered Duelist's Flurry for the extra chances to deal Sneak Attack damage even without combat advantage, but it targets AC just like Sly Flourish and I wanted something that reflected the "pick apart her opponent's defenses" quote from the Witch Elf description.  I briefly looked at Riposte Strike, but it won't work in this build due to the fact that the secondary attack keys off of STR, which this build lacks.

  • (L1, Encounter) Positioning Strike - Though only 1[W], this could prove invaluable for its ability to get into a flanking position.
  • (L1, Daily) Handspring Assault - Clocking in at 3[W], this power addresses the "strong bursts of damage" theme, and being able to use it on a charge attack plays to the "speed and agility" theme.
  • (L2, At-Will) Fast Hands - This at-will utility power turns retrieving items into a free action, super useful for employing poison or other alchemical agents during combat.
  • (L3, Encounter) Jumping Blade Assault - Decent damage AND knocks the target prone before the hit?  Useable in place of a melee basic attack at the end of a charge AND targets Reflex instead of AC?  Where do I sign?
  • (L3, Encounter, retraining) Improvised Poison - Directly addressing the "poison attacks" theme at the cost of another cool encounter power.  Suggestion: take the power swap feat at 6, then pick up JBA again at 7.
  • (L5, Daily) Duelist's Demand - I wanted a daily attack that had a longer-lasting effect, and this one looked promising.  Free combat advantage as long as you keep the immobilized enemy adjacent to you.
  • (L6, Encounter) Vexing Flanker - The name of the game: Combat Advantage. This power: key to winning.  Also plays to the "speed and agility" theme of the Witch Elf character.
  • (L7, Encounter) Jumping Blade Assault - We covered this one at level 3, and it makes it reappearance after getting swapped out for Improvised Poison.
  • (L9, Daily) One Hundred Knives - Multiple attacks makes the Reliable portion of this power a bit less so, but I knew this one was getting retrained soon and looked like fun in the meantime.
  • (L9, Daily, retraining) Progressive Toxin - This power looks like fun, assuming you can get the target to fail enough of its saves for the toxin to fully progress.  Look for party synergy with effects that apply saving throw penalties and then let this one rip.
  • (L10, Encounter) Sneak in the Attack - As a level 2 utility, this power could fit in anywhere along this build, but I felt that the other utility powers fit the concept better so I chose them first.  Granting extra damage to allies usually falls within the Leader's realm of responsibility, but strikers can have a little fun with it too.
Magic items for the Witch Elf are plentiful.  Wielding a pair of magical kukris, which have the off-hand property, can provide a lot of combat flexibility because you can choose to use either weapon for any given attack.  For example, you could equip a Subtle Weapon in one hand and a Vanguard Weapon in the other hand, using one for attacking when you have combat advantage and the other for making charge attacks.

For armor, the Addergrease property gives the Witch Elf yet another way to deal "poison attacks".  Though I personally prefer items that have constant effect properties, I love the strongly thematic daily power on this one.

The alchemical items list offers lots of helpful goodies for a Witch Elf including, but not limited to: Bloodstinger Poison, Ghoststrike Oil, Slow-Step Oil, Drowsy Dust, Eyesting, Alchemical Silver, and Inferno Oil. Although they add a lot of extra utility and flexibility to the character, these consumables can get expensive. Picking up the Alchemist feat and making your own might help cut costs a bit, as well as providing potential hooks for new adventures or side-quests.

When it comes to paragon paths, the obvious choice for many stops at Daggermaster.  However, for this build, Master of Poisons may actually fit best, though it would require some tweaking to the INT score to make use of the Poison Maven feature. I've found the Death Dealer as another good fit for the Witch Elf, with its -2 to saving throw penalty to adjacent enemies, helpful for keeping that ongoing poison damage flowing. For those who prefer the high-flying charge attacks in our Witch Elf build, Daring Acrobat gives us a lot more to work with in that theme.

So there we have it: my vision of Warhammer Online's Witch Elf translated into the D&D4e rules.  Thanks for checking it out, and please drop me a line here or @Jaron95 on Twitter if this ends up inspiring you to try out a Drow Poisoner Rogue of your own.

Images jacked without permission from and are copyright their respective owners (probably some combination of Games Workshop, Electronic Arts, and EA Mythic).

And now, the Character Builder summary:

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======

Witch Elf, level 10
Drow, Rogue
Build: Aerialist Rogue
Rogue Tactics: Artful Dodger
Rogue: Rogue Weapon Talent
Darkfire: Darkfire Charisma
Background: Drow - Orphan (+2 to Dungeoneering)

Str 11, Con 13, Dex 18, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 16.

Str 11, Con 13, Dex 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14.

AC: 19 Fort: 16 Reflex: 21 Will: 18
HP: 70 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 17

Stealth +16, Thievery +14, Athletics +10, Intimidate +15, Acrobatics +14, Dungeoneering +13

Arcana +5, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Endurance +6, Heal +6, History +5, Insight +6, Nature +6, Perception +6, Religion +5, Streetwise +8

Level 1: Weapon Proficiency (Kukri)
Level 2: Poisoner
Level 4: Slaying Action
Level 6: Poisoner Novice
Level 8: Backstabber
Level 10: Poisoner Specialist

Rogue at-will 1: Piercing Strike
Rogue at-will 1: Sly Flourish
Rogue encounter 1: Positioning Strike
Rogue daily 1: Handspring Assault
Rogue utility 2: Fast Hands
Rogue encounter 3: Jumping Blade Assault (retrained to Improvised Poison at Poisoner Novice)
Rogue daily 5: Duelist's Demand
Rogue utility 6: Vexing Flanker
Rogue encounter 7: Jumping Blade Assault
Rogue daily 9: One Hundred Knives (retrained to Progressive Toxin at Poisoner Specialist)
Rogue utility 10: Sneak in the Attack

Leather Armor, Adventurer's Kit, Kukri (2), Bloodstinger Poison (level 3)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

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