How To Be: Tier Halibel (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.

This month, we’re going to dive into the world of the dead and look to the Queen of Hueco Mundo by the most powerful shounen anime right, the right of default, the underboob to Matsumoto’s cleavage well, Tier Harribel.

Now before I go on, this is normally where we just flow into the article, but I need to just make a small disclaimer up front. See, when I make these articles, I try and make sure that rather than spend a lot of time sourcing fanart (like I did with the Squid Maid and Sumeriko articles), I just use official art from the media work in question. That means that it’s either cover art or promotional art from Bleach itself, which largely has not been kind to Harribel, thanks to her appearing during the tired and tapering period of Bleach and clearly not being someone that Tite Kubo was super into drawing over and over, it means my best option is to present her using the high-quality official art from Bleach: Brave Souls, the phone gacha game.

What this means is just that uh

They’re kinda horny?

Harribel’s design is already pretty horny, I mean she’s an underboob shark, who morphs into a girl wearing what we can politely called Spine Pasties, but just, like

This was not my first choice, is what I’m saying.

Examining Harribel

It is a little cruel to describe it this way, but to put it in simple terms, there’s not a lot to Harribel. She has a look that’s full of possibilities, powers that paint an idea of what she can do, but a cool look is not a personality, and her powers present an extremely vague outline. Basically, there’s not a lot of here here, and it means we’re going to have to give a lot of focus to a little to make sure we capture ‘Harribel-ness.’

There is also some stuff that’s kind of just ‘the baseline’ for Bleach. Being able to fly, for example, is pretty meaningless, and it’s one of those signs that the shounen anime engine is overcranking. With that in mind:

  • Every major Bleach character can ‘feel’ the space around them through their reiatsu
  • Every major Bleach character can, by this stage in the story, fly and fight in the air without the problems of momentum
  • Every major Bleach character wears ‘no armour’ and can dodge and parry attacks as the primary form of protection
  • The types of Bleach character Harribel is wear masks

This can be seen as altering the baseline, but I’m also pretty okay with just letting some of this stuff be taken ala carte. If a build can fly, sure, great, we’ll throw it in, and go ‘hey, like Harribel can!” but don’t go chasing these effects.

What we can however draw is:

  • Harribel does not wear particularly prominent armour
  • Harribel uses a sword as a metaphor to channel all other powers she has
  • Harribel’s powers evoke sharks and water
  • Harribel is tough beyond all reasonable explanation
  • Harribel can do some rudimentary teleportation and ranged attacks
  • Harribel’s sword builds up ranged attacks, retaliating against people who hurt her

That is kinda it, and it’s not even super specific. We have got some stuff to work with; a sword but no shield and light armour or weirdo bone armour. It is strange, though, that with all this, we don’t even really have a clear indicator of some places to start exploring the character, like a damage type, or a meaningfully unique movement mode or even a class role. She couldbe a defender but she could also just be an extremely tough striker, and she is literally a leader. There’s also the question of how cheesy do we want to make the survival, because the Revenant is always a thing. Talk to your DM about what kind of setting you’re dealing with.

Heck, I don’t think we even could easily and cleanly guess what Harribel’s most important D&D stat is.

Personality-wise, Harribel is a little more complicated, but not by much. Her overall demeanour is quiet, and she cares about her subordinates, and doesn’t respond well to being betrayed. There isn’t a ton there, beyond some womb stuff, which I do not find interesting to explore.

Alright then, let’s look at what we can find to unify this character.

The Essential Harribel

There isn’t really any single mechanic that needs exploring to make Harribel work. What they do all have in common, though, is a weapon. Weapons in 4th Edition are pretty well structured parts of the game; there’s a limited set of keywords, they’re mostly balanced against one another. You usually need to look at a whole host of choices, and decide if they overlap with something else you’re doing and what you want to do.

We don’t even have a clear push about what her stats are; she’s still waters that, let’s just say, they run. She could be extremely physical or extremely not, and it’s really not very evident what. The setting is one where ‘strength’ doesn’t really get measured in terms of your ability to lift stuff up and put it down again after all.

In this case, we’re going backwards: We know that Harribel uses a big sword that she commonly grips two-handed and no shield, so we need to find a big sword. There’s an option for that, and it’s the Fullblade. That requires an Exotic weapon proficiency, but it’s largely worth it. 1d12 damage is a big damage range, and on average it’s very strong. It’s also High Crit, which won’t come up often, but when it does, it’s very nice.

Fullblades are heavy blade category, which means we can do a quick check and see about anything else that cares about Heavy Blades? Here are some of the feats, features, and items that relate to it, generally speaking, and what you can glean from that:

  • Heavy Blade Expertise gives you bonus to defense against Opportunity attacks. This is usually replicated by a few cheap magical items, so you may want Two-Handed Weapon Expertise, which provides damage when charging. There’s also Mighty Crusader Expertise if you wind up needing a holy symbol.
  • At Paragon, Heavy Blade Opportunity lets you turn your At-Will attacks into opportunity attacks. For some classes, this is extremely spicy with later At-Will attacks.
  • The magical options available to Heavy Blades include Sunblades and Githyanki Silver blades. These let you turn your attacks into radiant damage or psychic damage for other sets of synergy
  •  Finally, if you want to expand on the Fullblade, the build will want for dexterity.

I do really want, if I can, to weave in some form of nature theme to go with it, to get something that relates to sharks. Fortunately, the game does have a couple of things that relate to sharks – the Warden power Form of the Hunting Shark and the Ranger stance Aspect of the Hungry Shark. Both of these are notable for their interest in bloodied enemies. There are a few feats and powers that care about that, but really, the only thing I can see being useful here that doesn’t ask for big, weird concessions from the rest of the build is train in intimidate so you can make a bloodied foe stand down.

With that in mind, let’s look at some lightly armoured weapon wielders.

Option 1 – Cavalier

I have mentioned that in 4th Edition one of the best things is that there’s a lot of stuff where if the mechanics work, it’s up to you how the theme works, well, the Cavalier is a great example. Originally an Essentials class, the Cavalier is a Paladin variant that replaces its Divine Challenge with a knightly defender aura – which means anyone who draws close to you can be overwhelmed by your Reiatsu!

Armour wise, well, you are encouraged to wear heavy armour. That’s a bit of a bummer for our theme, but you could theme it as the thick skin of a shark or uh, those big bony plates Harribel wears in her combat form. There also isn’t any strong pull towards the bloodied opponents in this option, but, the Cavalier has access to the Paladin power Virtue and the item the Amulet Of Life. These two things when used together let you create a temporary pad of hit points twice the size of your healing surge – or, if you’re not familiar with how that works, half your hit point total. This may make your character feel ‘tough’ while people have to push through your force of will. This build even benefits from Heavy Blade Opportunity if you can spare the Dexterity, eventually, because your Cavalier powers let you daze people off-turn if you combine them with a Smite.

The other thing about the Cavalier is that you get the Call Celestial Steed power, if you use the options presented in Dragon 393. The steeds in question can be further improved with feats. You could easily talk to your DM about taking the flying mounts and replacing their visual thematic with a big, floating ghost shark.

Option 2 – The Bard

Look, I wasn’t going to until I saw this picture.

What the hell are they doing in Bleach Brave Souls ey.

Anyway, the Bard gives you a similar shell to work from. The Bard can build itself so it uses nothing but Charisma to make its attacks, and can benefit from the teleportation stuff we talked about back in the Corvo article.

You can still be lightly armoured, you can still be very tough thanks to layers of temporary hitpoints (obviously, you’d go Valorous bard), and you can even weave in a variety of magical feeling things, including ranged attacks. If you take a Gith Silver fullblade, you can even layer onto that feats like Psychic Lock. That way, your Harribel erodes people’s will to fight as you fight.

Option 3 – The Avenger

The Avenger is a lightly-armoured divine melee combatant, and when you take a Fullblade as that, you’re immediately opened to a few other packages of cool stuff. One example is that you get access to the divine channel feat Righteous Wrath of Tempus, which lets you crit.

Once an encounter, you pick a target, you use the feat and… you critically hit them. With a high crit weapon like a Fullblade, this can translate at level 2 to something like 3d12 attacks, and that’s without even magical stuff like Jagged.

The Avenger also gets to roll 2d20 when they make an attack, and pick the better of the two. This means that if you want to build a character who scores critical hits more often, this is one of the best ways to do it.

The Avenger is a good build to go with as well, because with feats like Power of Skill, you can use some of your at-will powers as basic attacks, which can make you work well in a team that wants to grant power.

Junk Drawer Options

The Junk drawer is still full of options on this one; you could always just go fighter, and that would be fine, but you lose the stinging supernatural angle of the character. You could build a Battlemind, which we’ve dealt with in the past, and use your At Will powers as off-turn attacks. You could even do both, and use a Heavy Blade Polearm like the Glaive, and that’s a whole build I’ve talked about (and even played myself). The biggest mark against it is that the Battlemind, in general has a hard time doing its job until level 7 or so, which is pretty bad news for most builds.

The Monk can do some fun stuff too, because monks can treat weapons as implements – you can run around with a whole host of powers that may look like you’re swinging the sword, but you’re really swinging around your soul. Like that’s how things work in Bleach.

There’s a host of multiclass druid options that involve using the Werewolf or Werebear theme to take on furry-themed modes to access power (to explain your shark-mode aesthetic), then take on feats like Fierce Thrasher form. Those can be handy for mode switching, but there are too many possible directions that feel good for Harribel, and it’d be up to you to pick one you like.

In the end, though, Harribel’s blank slate status makes her a particularly rich mine of potential. Find what you want, and go with it.

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