How To Be: Edelgard von Hresvelg (In 4E D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritive but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Now this month, we’re going to return to How To Be’s roots, and once more we’re looking at a character from Fire Emblem: Some Number Of Houses. Yes, it’s the gal who’s Horny For Priest Murder (And For Other Reasons), the Look Up Other Reasons People Like Her, the One, the Only: Edelgard von Not Pronouncing That!

Examining Edelgard

I’ve been a tiny bit worried about examining Edelgard for this feature. See, I started off with Hilda who at the time, I regarded as ‘Edelgard At Home’ – an analysis of the character could be simpler and I’d be less likely to be rolling over the toes of anyone’s headcanons about how Edelgard was an excellent dancer –

Oh, she is an excellent dancer?

And that’s gameplay relevant you say?

Well, anyway, as I was saying. Edelgard is a character who’s Very Important to my friends, and that means they’re more likely to click on this article title even if it has no immediate application to their lives. For that reason I should do what I can to make sure that the non-mechanical parts of the article are meaningfully interesting. But these are also the turboest of turbonerds, meaning that I am guaranteed to hear words if my examination of the character fails to pay proper obeisance.

Nonetheless, as with many Fire Emblem characters, there is a powerful, well-researched Wiki which is also kinda indecipherable from the outside. This means that I can go and look at Edelgard’s history, her abilities, the different choices you can make with her (did you know you can date her with a boy?) and use that to extrapolate some reasonably consistent information across all routes.

  • Edelgard’s depictions typically show her with headwear, heavy armour, and shield
  • Edelgard is typically shown with an axe, usually one handed, but it is pretty ridiculous
  • Edelgard is blessed in the form of a Crest that a literal actual goddess empowers
  • Edelgard’s name literally means ‘noble protector’
  • Edelgard is comparatively slow
  • Edelgard definitely regards intelligence as important
  • Edelgard is not strictly material the way that Hilda is. She has some smack of ‘the divine’ about her – some magic nonsense.

Alright, with that collected, we have some mechanical direction.

One of the strangest things about this experience is finding how little of the Edelgard that matters to people is here. I mean, okay, Girl Hot, I get it, you have two different varieties of silver-haired murderblondes, but it’s interesting how in this research I got very little information, accorded by the wiki, about why people might attach to Edelgard so intensely. I didn’t even see much mention in there about the whole fuck the pope sentiment – it’s all links to other things, or veiled language to avoid spoilers.

Now, onwards!

The Essential Edelgard

With our bullet points, we know we’re going to look at shields, heavy armour, and axes. Now, Hilda (Hil-Da, Hil-Da) was a build that wanted a big, single, impressive axe for meaty king hits – an axe specialisation that built around what we traditionally call alpha strikes or nova turns.

Because she has a shield, Edelgard is automatically giving up a lot of damage – one-handed weapons are less damaging than two-handed weapons. What’s more a lot of one-handed weapons exist that are just a way to give smaller characters access to two-handed weapons with the versatile function.

Still, we do have two options, and they’re notable for how they are both things that can be meaningfully compared to one another, and how I think they come to a point of preference. For one-handed axes, your two options are Battleaxe and the Carrikal. There’s a third option, the Khopesh, in the third slot, but the Khopesh is only useful if you want to pick up the Heavy Blade element of the axe and use that – and absolutely, there’s value to doing that! But that’s asking you to pick up something that gets exciting around the Paragon Tier, so we’re going to set that aside.

Okay, so Battleaxe, your vital statistics: it deals 1d10 damage, so on average, it does 5.5 damage. A Carrikal deals 1d8 damage, but it has brutal 2, which means it does, on average, 5.5 damage. Over time, these two axes’ damage range is basically the same, so you have to ask yourself if you want the chance to roll higher, or you hate rolling low. Pick which you prefer, and go with it.

Other than that, heavy armour deserves its own special mention. I wouldn’t ever bother spending two feats on supporting a heavier kind of armour, but one is often a pretty big jump. The tight, snug armour that Edelgard is wearing doesn’t look like ‘real’ armour, but it definitely looks like it’s made up of sections of armour, not like, chains, so my default place to look is for characters who have access to chain mail as a baseline, so they can take a single feat to get to scale mail. There’s an exception – we’ll get there – but for now, we’re looking at chainmail classes.

Also, if we’re looking at a heavily armoured, shield-wearing character, we need to make sure being tough is important to the character. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean we’re just going to look at defenders – there are ways to make being tough at people into something that demands a response.

Oh also, there’s the helmet. That thing looks to me like a great option for the item horned helm, which tends to be cheap and adds damage on all your charges. There’s no reason to go too into that, because charging is something you often do to get around the battlefield and there are few head slot items that really compete with the helm for melee characters.

Essentially, what we’re talking about with Edelgard is that she isn’t a character with different permutations off a single important mechanic. Instead, we have a general feeling and then we need to find ways to achieve that.

Option 1 – Paladin

This is one of my favourite all-purpose classes for building almost any character who wants to be tough. By the original rulebooks, the Paladin’s big weakness is punishing people who violate their mark – which can make Paladins feel a little less toothy. There are ways around it, especially if you spend your time actively pursuing people, and buying items that can amplify your punishment.

The important thing to remember for a Paladinelgard is that she’s going to have a lot of basic toughness, and the punishment she has, by default, takes no action – if you use powers that Sanction people and if you Challenge them, you still have Opportunity actions and Immediate Reactions to attack people – so try and force people into difficult terrain, where they can’t shift away from you, where they have to pick fights.

Similarly, though, when you’re using that axe and heavy armour, you can add another layer of defense on top of it. The particular heroic tier combo I like for Paladins is the combination of Virtue and Amulet of Life. This means up front in an encounter, you can fire Virtue as a minor action, then use the Amulet on the Vigor – meaning you gain temporary hit points equal to double your healing surge value – aka, ‘your bloody value.’ This means that all those defenses you have are protecting an even bigger pad of hit points, and the first third of them don’t matter.

You also want to look at Strikebacks, which improve your attacks of opportunity and let you attack enemies who attack you. This makes your toughness into a problem for enemies to deal with – if they try to punch through your defenses, after you’ve challenged them, then they’re going to have to spend more time doing that. Time enemies spend throwing themselves at your defenses is time they waste, and that’s time your other units can move around into dealing with those enemies.

Another good option to use here is the theme of Guardian. Guardians are a design I have beef with because they’re just very all-round strong. Guardians have the ability, though, to designate someone as their ‘charge’ and they can grant them bonuses, and get bonuses protecting them.

Finally, if it’s available in your setting, the Mark of Warding is a very desireable feat for Paladins, especially Guardians. Paladins have a lot of utility powers that add to your defenses and the defenses of your allies, and the Mark of Warding improves all of them and gives you an improved mark penalty. An absolute corker if you want to make a big, tough, shield-carrying hard-to-kill Paladin killslab.

Option 2 – Warlord

The Warlord is literally a leader. It’s the less ‘magical’ option here, but maybe what draws you to Edelgard is her intensity as a commander, the way she’s able to demand the attention of others, bringing them to listen to her, to obey her, and to trust her judgment and respect what she is trying to do. Maybe what you want out of your Edelgard is a tall, threatening, bossy lady who can direct the battlefield, and even shove people around to enable alpha strikes. Maybe you want the control to keep other people up off the floor. That’s good too.

Warlords are a chainmail class, so you can upgrade to scale easily. They get shields, they get military weapons, so you can start out with the Carrikal or Battleaxe, no problem. That means the rest of your Edelgardiness is going to want to come out in power choices.

It’s entirely possible if you only know 4th edition from this blog, you might know of Warlords as ‘lazy’ builds – that is, Warlords can be built so their primary interest in any given turn is giving up their actions to give other people in better positions actions. That’s a true option, but there’s another available Warlord build – the spongy Warlord. What you want to build around is the at-will power Brash Assault and powers like it, where you do something, enticing enemies to attack you, then punish them for it. This can work really well if you position a solid tank with your other powers – suddenly, you have a reason to have that… creepy lizard-foreheaded dude who looks like he sings love songs to knives.

Option 3 – Cleric

The cleric may give you a sort of ‘don’t they cast spells?’ vibe, but that’s only half of what’s available for a cleric. Clerics have a full, developed and quite good stream of effects that care about you attacking people with a weapon and doing damage to them. What’s more, it’s a build with a lot of support. You can easily pick up solid weapon powers at every level, and your utility powers can still be all the best powers available to a cleric.

Again, clerics get chain to start, so when you pick up an armour feat, you get your scale armour. Easy. A cleric doesn’t need strong intelligence, but wisdom does the job, and opens up for some more utility powers.

The Cleric is definitely the most spelly of your options for this Edelgard, but you still get to swing an axe, you still get to hit people real hard with it. Righteous Brand forms the foundation of this build, where you’ll be looking for powers that let you, effectively, ‘light up’ a target – you hit them, and that encourages other people to make followup attacks.

The cleric also has some options in the late game for real ‘area controlling’ paragon paths, with the famously powerful Radiant Mafia build present for you if you take Morninglord in Paragon. But the core of the build is simple: You have a support need, and you can wrap it in armour, with a shield, and use your toughness as a way to stand between enemies and friends when they need you to reinvigorate them.

Junk Drawer Options

There’s a whole set of options available if you’re going Paragon and look at the Khopesh more seriously. Specifically, there’s a feat, Heavy Blade Opportunity that means all your opportunity attacks can use one of your at-will powers, instead of your melee basic, and that can really work well for characters like Cavaliers and Battleminds. The Battlemind also can get a lot out of a charge-happy build, with its power Lightning Rush putting it around the battlefield in a lot of ping-ponging ways.

Ultimately, though, what’s going to drive this build is deciding what about the character clicks for you. Obviously, no matter how much I read a wiki, I’m not going to grasp the true and pure essence of why you like Edelgard. And really, when you look at articles like this, you may find yourself wondering: Do I want to play an Edelgard? Do I want to use those pictures for my campaign full of warriors clashing against unrighteous forces?

Or do I want to hand the pictures to the DM with a request ‘one, please, for smooching?’

Because that’s okay!