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.
One of my favourite things about media is the way that just because I don’t like a work or a show or a plot or whatever it doesn’t have to mean I don’t like or won’t have a reason to be interested in something in that. Moments, scenes, characters, dialogue, all sorts of small things can be extracted from their source and appreciated for what they are and what they could be even if they wouldn’t be that way in the work they’re from. I don’t have to like Rent to think that Out Tonight is a banger, that kind of thing.
So to with She-Ra and the Princess of Power. I didn’t like the show that much and I stopped watching it and that’s entirely okay, but while I watched it I did meet a character I liked, and it seems that lots of other people like. Let’s examine then how we’d go about making the good-natured princess himbo, Scorpia.
Scorpia is a big strong tough himbo who can grab people, control them, paralyse things with poisons, and get punched in the face pretty well. She lacks subtlety and fingers, and she’s very emotionally stable. We don’t see her wearing armour proper, but we do see her picking up lightning powers later in the series. Not a super complicated build option here.
There are things that must be the way they are for the character to feel right, and there are things that can’t be a particular way for the character to feel right. It’s one thing for Scorpia to do things she didn’t do in the show, it’s another for her to do things she couldn’t do in the show.
I’m circling around this because it’s kinda clear that Scorpia isn’t a character who relies on her intelligence or wisdom a lot. That’s important, at least to me, because one thing you could do with a Scorpia is a druid. Druids get to do melee damage, they can control people with their presence, and they get monstery traits and can be tough, which would be great for Scorpia… but Druids use wisdom, and Scorpia is probably not a high wisdom build.
Or is she?
Because you might see Scorpia’s insight into Catra’s personality as a sort of long-form hopeful wisdom; that she could see the good person Catra could become, but that wisdom was not tempered by an intelligence recognising who she was now. Maybe Scorpia could be a high-wisdom build… but a low intelligence one.
Or maybe she’s a big nice dumb dumb in both stats, I don’t know.
Looking at all the things that go into Scorpia then, what we have is:
- Physically capable melee combatant
- No necessary reliance on weapons
- Potentially lightning powers
- Potentially poison powers
That gives us some easy choices. Turns out there are a lot of options for a big physical punchlady.
The Essential Scorpia
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.
Scorpia is a physical combatant. While she can obviously use types of weapons, the way she looks and behaves clearly indicates someone who doesn’t need a weapon to attack you. Those big ole scorpion claws are pretty dangerous things. What that means is that for all possible permutations of Scorpia, we need her to have some way to fight things with just her hands.
Fortunately, we have an easy option there: the Master of the Fist multiclass feat. It doesn’t have odd stat requirements, it makes you a monk (technically), and it means you have access to monk melee combat. The monk unarmed weapon isn’t bad – it’s a 1d8 weapon with a +3 proficiency bonus, and a buckler or shield could easily be a great theme for the claws. If you want to rely on a great big two-handed weapon like an Execution Axe or something, then you’re missing out… which means our builds are going to rely on not that kind of heavy weapon.
The good news is that if you use the monk fist-fight option, you can use ki focuses, which opens up a very different set of punch effects.
- Cobra Strike Ki Focus lets you add poison damage to one attack a day. Not a good power, but definitely fits in the space of the ‘scorpion power’ set.
- Devastating Ki Focus turns your weapon from 1-8 (average 4.5 damage) to a 3-8 (5.5 damage). Not a huge power upgrade but not rolling 1s can feel a lot better.
- Abduction Ki Focus lets you slide on every hit. We’ve talked about how slides can be used, and how powerful that can be. It also builds to the ‘beefy’ feeling of the character, where she swats people around.
It can be difficult to get lightning powers like this. There are paragon paths that get you there, but the basic structure, of just ‘big lady whom hit things with her armoured hands’ is easy. We don’t need a specific heritage for her, but I’m going to recommend one of the ones which gets a bonus to strength, dex, or con — probably the Goliath.
Build 1 — Fighter
If you want to build a defender, easy. Fighter doesn’t need wisdom, if you swap Combat Agility for Combat Superiority, and that lets you play with the big physicality. If you’re focusing on Strength and Dexterity (with a li’l bit of constitution), the Fighter works out of the box.
Easy, simple and efficient.
Build 2 — Ranger
If you need a strength-based melee striker, your options get surprisingly limited. The Barbarian really benefits from a single big weapon, and there’s a mysticality to its rages that let you channel some magical special effects.
The Ranger on the other hand, is well fitted with strength-or-dex based attacks. The biggest problem with a Ranger build is that a lot of your utility powers care about having a good wisdom. Not all of them, but some. If your take on Scorpia’s mindset is good wisdom, low intelligence, then you should be fine.
Build 3 — Warlord
But that’s defender and striker – what if your party needs support? Well, good news, because everyone loves Warlords, and everyone loves Scorpia (eventually). I wouldn’t aim for a lazy Warlord build. Your build for preference should be the Bravura Warlord, who focuses on putting themselves in danger, to trigger enemy attacks.
The Bravura Warlord is one of my favourites because it’s the opposite end of the Lazy Warlord end. You put yourself in harm’s way to massively increase the damage your party gets to deal, granting multiple attacks around – the ones you do, and the ones your allies get to do.
Oh, sure, you may get kicked in the face, but, come onnnnnn.
I wasn’t joking when I toyed with the druid, because there’s a paragon path that lets you stick poison on every attack and immobilie people by poisoning them (Coiled Serpent). Problem with that is the reliance on Wisdom, and the way the druid shapeshifts, as opposed to just Is Big. Of course, you could rely on a multiclass to get into the druid, but to do two multiclasses, you need to be a bard, or you could be a hybrid druid/monk, or –
Look, it’s complicated and I will always find a way to involve the druid, y’know?
This time, the consideration was the question of what is this character definitely not, and what kind of boundaries that caused.