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.
Well, we’ve done some odd stuff with this section, some big ideas about maximising specific character quirks and hitting particularly niche interests like a transforming robot dinosaur, but what if your wants are more hey, what can I do with this simple basis? And, it seems that this month is full of references to Ranma 1/2 and twitter voted on it, and so, here we go, a return to Ranma 1/2 as an option: Ukyou Kuonji.
For anyone not familiar with Ukyou Kunoji, hi. Uh
How did you find this blog?
But I digress, Ukyou is from the series Ranma 1/2, where she’s one of the three main ‘love interests’ in the harem. As the harem model was not well solidified at this point, there’s a sort of deliberateness about the characters, and some tropes, like ‘first girl wins’ hadn’t been solidified yet. Ukyou is a sometimes-crossdressing bokukko who is engaged to Ranma. Her overall jam is that if Akane is ‘the default choice,’ Ukyou is the ‘pretty good choice by comparison,’ with Shampoo as ‘the slutty other one.’
Man, it’s wild to think about how primitive the structures are in Ranma 1/2 and how they get refined down over the intervening thirty years.
Anyway, Ukyou is a chef, and her powers are themed around food. She fights with small hand spatulas, her ‘primary weapon’ in most art when she goes out to give people an ass-kicking is a big honking spatula. There’s also a bunch of specialised tools she has that are forms of cooking – she makes flour bombs to escape combat and attack from surprise, she uses sticky noodles and batter to tie people up, and even makes explosive food.
Crucially, Ukyou is a character who is extremely grounded. Her powers don’t tap into ki or secret forces, or ancient magics or secret techniques or Chinese herbs. Even her explosive cooking is explosive because she uses gunpowder.
The Essential Ukyou
Some of this stuff is going to be super easy. For example, Ukyou doesn’t shapeshift – she just wears boys’ clothing sometimes. And even that sentence is weird, because it’s not a boy’s clothing. It’s her clothing. She uses boyish language to refer to herself, but – so what? None of that needs to be explained with special mechanics.
What we’re instead left with is this character who we have general boundaries on. They’re pretty clear – there’s a lot of stuff she doesn’t do – but the stuff she does do can kind of be cooked down to ‘fights, with a weapon.’
There is some challenge about armour. The combat of Ranma 1/2 is fundamentally lacking in armour – aside from Gosunkugi wearing power armour, there are almost no characters shown wearing protective armour. Oh, there are some – Ryouga describes the bakusai tenketsu training as giving him ‘armour’ – but really, the only character with any kind of ‘armour’ on his body is probably Pantyhose Tarou, who has a fancy scaled pair of bracers and vest.
(Fanon holds that they are ‘dragon scale,’ which, you know, if anyone in-setting could have that, probably?)
Anyway, you have two ways to interpret this.
- All these characters have to forgo armour (stupid)
- D&D ‘armour’ needs to make some thematic wiggling to work here.
Your thematics are your own. The mechanical imposition of armour is it makes you worse at some skills at certain weight, and impedes your movement. Ukyou is probably not heavily armoured, but also, you could probably swing some medium armour on her – she doesn’t expose much skin, for example, and all the trunk of her body is protected.
What else do we need her equipment to do? She uses a great big two-handed weapon, which does have a cutting edge, but she does use it to manipulate how people are positioned and block attacks. This suggests that maybe this is an opportunity to explore a character who wields a polearm.
Polearms are one of those things in 4e D&D where there’s this gnarly bush of things that connect to one another. Once, the Character Optimization board suggested that Polearm Momentum, which is the central treasure of this build, is the most stolen feat in 4th edition. There are lots of costs – you have to have a basic attack that can push, pull, or slide, and you need decent wisdom, strength, and dexterity stats, and you need to multiclass fighter, and then you open up a bunch of feats that can have an outsized impact on the game.
The list of feats you want to look at are Polearm Momentum, and then in Paragon tier, Polearm Gamble.
The basic gist is that Polearm feats mean when you hit someone you can throw them several squares away, and knock them prone, and they provoke an attack of opportunity when they get close. This is a pretty dense package of feats, but the good news is you can level up into it and all the parts along the way are perfectly good, if you have the stats.
This means that if we want to maximise polearms on Ukyou, we’re going to want to have:
- A use for Dex and Wis
- A melee basic attack that can push or slide somehow
- Positive interactions with attacks of opportunity
- No reliance on a shield or heavy armour
- Probably a martial origin
What does that leave us? Well, for Ancestry/Race, you’re going to need an option that looks human and maybe gets a bonus to one of strength, wis, or dex. Good news is, humans do that, half-elves do that, and half orcs do it, and all of those are solid.
You’re also going to want a polearm that is also a heavy blade. This is where the build gets kinda demanding if you want to do it all up front. See, Heavy Blades let you use the feat Heavy Blade Opportunity. That means you can use your ordinary at-will attacks as your opportunity attacks, and that means you’ll be able to Glaive whallop people all over the place once you hit Paragon.
That gives us this checklist:
- Polearm Momentum
- Polearm Gamble
- Heavy Blade Expertise
This kind of build can get pretty pinched for stats. You’re going to need a 15 in three stats by level 11, if you want to start doing this cool trick ASAP, but, and this is important, once you know the names of the feats you need, and you know you can’t get it before level 11, there’s no need to worry about it on the way. Play a mobile character with a glaive, and use pushes as you can, picking up items on the way. The build will work fine, you’re not hamstringing yourself by using the reach glaive in the first place.
Okay, so with that, let’s run real quick through some of your non-fancy options:
Option 1 – Fighter
Hey, it’s pretty easy to maximise Polearm Momentum if you don’t have to multiclass fighter. Fighters have tons of support, they handle their role of marking enemies really easily and they have powers that let you do some modest pushes. When you get access to Rushing Cleats, the item, you’re able to consistently shove people two squares, all the time. The fighter is weirdly sparse on this, because their at-will powers don’t tend to have pushes, but they have other options.
Option 2 – The Knight
Again, this is a token one, because Fox is always anti-knight, but the Knight gets a stance that lets them push opponents on every basic attack, you don’t need to pursue the Heavy Blade Opportunity here. This is really a good option for this and starts working very early, but you have to want to play a Knight – which, well, Fox doesn’t like. Like seriously, I bet you when she reads this, she’s going to look over at me and go ‘boooo.’
Option 3 – Warlord
Warlords are martial, tactical, and have powers that push and slide enemies. So far so good. They don’t do anything special and magical, and they can make use of wisdom and dexterity. That’s good too. Also, Warlords let you play with tactical options for giving other players a chance to shine. That’s very Ukyou – she was always one of those characters who paid attention to the abilities and talents of her friends, even if the manga and anime weren’t exactly inclined to show it off.
Junk Drawer Options
The polearm options are nice to have on hand for a host of other builds. If you find yourself with a melee combatant that wants control and has a few feats going free, this is a pretty solid place to start.
When it comes to Ukyou herself, part of what’s going to constrain these builds is the lack of ‘magical’ nonsense she does. Sure, you could take an arcane power source and run around with Warlock attacks (which is very good for polearming) or psionic and Battlemind people (also, again, good with a polearm). But the problem is, those are going to be making a flavour choice about her secondary powers and seeing what about them is, in your mind, an acceptable break from the ‘no magical nonsense’ vibe.
Still, she’s a great character and in 4th edition, a martial melee character can still have a bunch of cool abilities.