How To Be: Power (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 authoritative 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.

I suppose, in addition to any of the other standard comments you see from me in a How To Be post, I’m going to be mentioning some details from late in the story of Part 1 of Chainsaw Man. To that end, consider a spoiler warning in effect. You’re going to learn some stuff about how Power’s story goes, in general. No point by point, and I will keep the details broad, and if you’re interested in Chainsaw Man I do recommend you check it out. You know, if you don’t mind an action horror manga where discussing the character requires a mandatory Spoiler Warning I suppose.

A How To Be cover title graphic. It shows a 4th edition book cover with Power on it. The top title is 'All That Power', the bottom title is 'wait there needs to be wo' spilling off the side of the book. Power is mispositioned in the page so the text covers her eyes. In the background is the Chainsaw Man logo.

I gave that spoiler warning out of an abundance of caution. I don’t think it’s necessary: You don’t need to know exactly what happens to Power to recognise her based on promotional material and know that she’s from a gory action-horror manga. I don’t think you’re under any illusions that Power’s life is a happy one.

Examining Power

Power’s story is not actually that important to properly projecting her vibe. Chainsaw Man is a story that doesn’t necessarily want to delve into her inner life in an intense way – we get to see her have conversations and make choices when dealing with other people, but what happens inside Power’s head, her exact motivation, these are always ambiguated through a layer of Power trying to communicate with someone. You can see Power’s story as having a few different interpretations, but you don’t need to know about whether or not your character flushes to have a toolkit to properly represent Power, as a person, in a party environment.

To put it simpler: It’s about the vibes.

And Power’s vibes are rancid.

Still, there are essentially three layers to consider Power in this. There’s the surface level Power, where someone tells you just what Power is in a broad sense, and you look at the way Power is presented in promotional materials. This is what I’d consider a sort of First Impression Power: the character you can play with just the barest information about her and her visual aesthetic. Then, a layer down there’s the Power that requires a more in-depth awareness of how Power works in her story; stuff like how her powers work, the kinds of things you know she can do or won’t do because of who she is. Finally there’s a layer deeper when you know the whole of her story and have a good handle on all the elements of her that you may want to include. Here’s where things get icky because of course Bad Things happen to Power, and we learn a bit about what she can’t do and what she can’t survive.

Universal across all of them, the things that need to be true for all versions of Power, then are the following:

  • Power is inhuman. She is a devil, a demon animating a human body.
  • Power is bloody. Her powers relate to blood and ways to use blood.
  • Power is neither commanding, nor supportive.

And if we’re not just using promotional art to build the character:

  • Power is dumb as bricks.
A screencap from the anime Chainsaw Man, showing Power. She's looking off to the right.

The Essentials Of Power

Glossary Note: Conventionally, the term used in D&D for this mechanical package is race. This is the typical term, and in most conversations about this game system, the term you’re going to wind up using is race. For backwards compatibility and searchability, I am including this passage here. The term I use for this player option is heritage.

There’s not a strong basis for what Power is in existing 4e heritage options. You might say hey, wait, hang on, Power is a devil girl, clearly there’s probably something to build out of her being a Tiefling, right?

To that I would respond that Tieflings get a bonus to Charisma, and then either Constitution, or Intelligence. Power is not someone with an abundance of intelligence or an abundance of Charisma. Oh sure, she’s cute and she’s charming but her ability to get people to do what she wants is pretty limited as indicated by uh, every appearance she has. She can lie to Denji pretty convincingly but layered counterpoint, Denji’s an idiot.

To find a heritage with what Power’s got going on, I first pulled up the compendium and just searched for all Constitution-based heritages. Of that range, we got the Dwarf (Con/Str), the Goliath (Str/Con), the Half Elf (Con/…Wis? Maybe? Kinda?), Half-Orc (Dex/Con or Dex/Str), Minotaur (and that has problems all its own), Mul (Con/Str or Con/Wis), and Warforged (Con/Str).

Comically, and I know you may think I’m taking the piss but I’m not, I genuinely think of this assortment, the best option for Power is the Warforged. It doesn’t pull her mechanically into a direction that works against her flavour, it’s explicitly inhuman and has a weird relationship to its body – Power being a demon stuck in a meat puppet. Plus, I mean it’s not like the setting has to have Warforged in it at base, right? Like, you only ever play Warforged in sanctioned, official games in the Eberron setting?

A screencap from the anime Chainsaw Man, showing Power. She's falling, and grinning with her fangs visible.

Layer 1 — Promo Art Power

What you get when you look at the Promo art of Power is a girl with long hair, in a suit, with horns and weird eyes – so obviously not human – and usually, some variety of huge weapon.

How do we fit this, with the Warforged as our baseline?

Well, we have a body of parts with a demon driving the engine. She uses weapons, big ones she summons herself out of blood, and doesn’t wear heavy armour but also she can clearly take being hit very hard. She has some ranged stuff, but largely does melee damage. Class-wise, I think that it comes down to where you want to stand in the possibility space. Like, I wouldn’t make Power a defender, but I can imagine starting from ‘Power, but a defender,’ and winding up on Fighter, or Warden.

By default though, to replicate Power as a character, you’re pushed heavily towards melee damage dealers that can be reckless – so, Barbarians, Rogues, and Monks. At an absolute push, I could imagine making an Ardent with her vibes. The Barbarian is the top of my list for the simplest ‘Power-like’ character; big single weapons, less heavily armoured, focused on aggression, all that jazz.

Warforged, Barbarian, Constitution-based, Rageblood Vigor, and a big weapon. There’s the start.

Layer 2 — Everyday Power

When you know Power more, you learn that there’s weird stuff she does with blood – her own and other people’s. It’s not stuff that D&D normally files as ‘in combat’ stuff – it’s things you need some planning ahead, some specific behaviours and safety to do.

Y’know, like rituals.

Yeah, Power: Idiot Barbarian and Ritual Caster. Ritual Caster is an amazing feat, with a huge amount of options for things you can do with it – like, you can use it to produce weapons (forge weapon ritual), create poisons (bloodstinger poison ritual), make traps (blastpatch ritual) and restore the dead (raise dead ritual). These are all things that Power can do or hints at being able to do — which means that as you level to pick up more Powerness, you can pick up Ritual Caster.

Layer 3 — The Depths Of Her Power

Y’know, this isn’t where this stuff normally shows up.

Anyway, Power kinda? is a werewolf? Or a werecat? It’s hard to put a finger on it. You see a bit of it at her first appearances, hints of the shape, but it’s not until right near the end of her story you get to see Power, Power in her true form, without the body of the girl she spends time in. You see the Blood Devil, which is an animalian form with a big fangy maw and – it’s a beast. It’s a beast form.

And if you’re at that level of detail, and if you want to prepare for Paragon or you just want something useful early on, then you want to pick as your theme the Werewolf (and plan on picking up Claw Gloves later). That’s especially funny because uh, like, the Pack Outcast would be better? But it can only be applied to Humans and Shifters, and we know this much: Power ain’t human!

A screencap from the anime Chainsaw Man, showing Power. She's pointing a sword at you.

Junk drawer

There are a lot of other directions to take Power. You could focus on the blood theme and make her a thing like a Melee Shaman, with her construct being a pile of blood. I do like the idea of making her as a defender, because I like playing defenders, and I could see a version of her who feeds her allies her blood and powers them up that way, and use the Ardent. These takes would necessarily involve changing her stat split though – and I mean, ‘Power, but smart’ no doubt can run the risk of losing something about how Power feels to you.