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After seeing her in action in the movie, it looked like a fun character to try and make. Though, despite being called the sorcerer supreme, she feels like a variant of monk (with the magister template from Faerûn) while Strange himself is more of a wizard.

So, what would be the best direction to start for a melee/conjured weapon character that can port around on this plane and others, as her situations require? Sorry to be a nuisance if this or similar post has been asked already

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Purple Monkey, Miniman, Oblivious Sage, V2Blast, BESW May 3 '18 at 3:56

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Extremely relevant: Character build for Gandalf in D&D 3.5? Much of the advice there for how to go about that (and warnings about the problems with trying) will absolutely apply here as well. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 3 '18 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MaesterNatus I've edited your question slightly to have clearer criteria for what constitutes a good answer (I'm guessing this is why the question was closed). It looks like you've already received one excellent answer, but if you'd like the question unlocked to open the field up for more, you might consider editing in some additional details about what you're looking for in a build. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 May 3 '18 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 I've rolled back the edit, since adding a bunch of criteria to someone else's question that they haven't specified themselves doesn't seem appropriate, and it prompted concerned flags. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 3 '18 at 18:54
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First and foremost, as we often say with such requests, you have to keep in mind the differences between the RPG you’re playing, and the source material’s setting. D&D is not the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It operates under entirely different rules, and has entirely different expectations. The Ancient One would probably do better in D&D than a lot of characters might,1 being heavily magical and ready to handle magical foes, but nonetheless the things that make her special are kind of... not special in D&D. D&D is extremely high-magic; it’s everywhere and dominates everything.

The solution to this is to play a character inspired by the Ancient One, but made appropriate for the world of D&D. The Ancient One as she might be if she grew up in Faerûn instead of Earth-199999.

Second, monk is one of the weakest characters in the game. A couple of levels of monk can be useful, mostly for the bonus feats, but by 2nd level you have already gotten just about everything valuable in the monk class.2

However, common classes used by players who wish to play a “monk” while avoiding the problems with the monk class can work very well for the Ancient One. For example, both the psychic warrior from Expanded Psionics Handbook and the swordsage from Tome of Battle fit her pretty well. The two could even be mixed, or the war mind could be used on top of a swordsage base instead of the psychic warrior. The ardent from Complete Psionic is pretty good too, and fits her character like a glove (the ardent is kind of like a philosopher to the cleric’s priest).

If you look at the other psionic classes, the soulknife might also look tempting—after all, the soulknife is all about her mind blade. Unfortunately, the soulknife is one of the few classes that is even weaker than the monk. However, the ardent and the psychic warrior each get access to call weaponry, which is even closer to the Ancient One than the soulknife, and there is even a soulbound weapon alternate feature for psychic warriors in this Mind’s Eye article that revolves around call weaponry.3

The other nice thing about psionics is that psionics naturally excels at time manipulation, which is obviously extremely fitting for any character inspired by the Ancient One. Both the ardent and the psychic warrior get a number of these, such as time hop, temporal acceleration, or in the ardent’s case, at high level, the incredible time regression (which we know well is among the Eye of Agamotto’s greatest powers).

Unfortunately, even with soulbound weapon, call weaponry is kind of mediocre at higher levels. It takes a long time to manifest, and it will be weaker than a magic weapon you could just buy. This is where I favor the swordsage: the martial disciplines in Tome of Battle are very good at sort of “solving” a lot of difficulties, allowing you to just rely on the maneuvers and not have to worry so much about maximizing your weapons and your feats and so on. And the Diamond Mind discipline is fantastic for the Ancient One: it is all about perfect timing, perfect motion, absolute efficiency and grace. The discipline’s ultimate maneuver is even called time stands still.

And the swordsage’s Shadow Hand discipline is perfect for emulating the fact that the Ancient One has been abusing the power of the Dungeon Dimensions.

Some homebrew can even get us a more psionic swordsage: the well-regarded Sleeping Goddess discipline includes a number of swift-action boosts that generate weapons for you: in a lot of ways, these are even better than call weaponry, and they’re right there in the swordsage. If homebrew is allowed, and this is a pretty high-quality one, a swordsage specializing in Diamond Mind, Shadow Hand, and Sleeping Goddess is almost-certainly the best approach to the Ancient One.

Without homebrew, we probably want to mix swordsage, focusing on Diamond Mind and Shadow Hand, with ardent, psychic warrior, or war mind. Ardent is the most multiclass-friendly of these, so that’s what I favor here. Just a dip of cleric—after all, the Ancient One is a religious leader—to get Knowledge Devotion and Travel Devotion from Complete Champion might fit pretty well, too. Travel Devotion helps a lot with mobility. Or cleric can help a lot with the master of the nine prestige class.

  1. Including both of those asked about in the previously-linked questions.

  2. Barring a wild monk, but that wouldn’t be appropriate to the Ancient One.

  3. You could also argue that a reverse of the mantled warrior option just above soulbound weapon would get an ardent the 2nd-level bonus feat required by soulbound weapon, i.e. that you could swap your 2nd-level mantle for a bonus feat by reversing mantled warrior, and then swap that bonus feat for soulbound weapon. Ask your DM. I would certainly allow it, but it’s not really sanctioned by the rules.


An actual build

I’m thinking something like this:

The Ancient One, female neutral good1 kalashtar2 cloistered cleric/ardent/swordsage/master of nine \begin{array}{l|l} \textbf{Level} & \textbf{Class} & \textbf{Special} & \textbf{Feat} & \textbf{ML}^3 & \textbf{IL}^4 \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Cloistered}^5 & \text{Darkness domain,}^6 & \text{Dodge}^7 & – & \tfrac{1}{2} \\ & \quad\text{cleric} & \quad\text{time domain,}^8 \\ & & \quad\text{knowledge devotion}^9 \\ \hline 2^\text{nd} & \text{Ardent} & \text{Freedom mantle,}^{10} & & 1^\text{st} & 1 \\ & & \quad\text{justice mantle}^{11} \\ 3^\text{rd} & & \text{Physical power mantle}^{12} & \text{Practiced} & 3^\text{rd} & 1\tfrac{1}{2} \\ & & & \quad\text{Manifester}^{13} \\ 4^\text{th} & & & & 4^\text{th} & 2 \\ \hline 5^\text{th} & \text{Unarmed}^{14} & \text{Weapon foci,}^{16} & & 5^\text{th} & 3 \\ & \quad\text{swordsage}^{15} & \quad\text{quick to act +1,} \\ & & \quad\text{unarmed strike} \\ \hline 6^\text{th} & \text{Ardent} & \text{Time mantle}^{17} & \text{Adaptive Style} & 6^\text{th} & 3\tfrac{1}{2} \\ 7^\text{th} & & & & 7^\text{th} & 4 \\ \hline 8^\text{th} & \text{Master of Nine} & & & 8^\text{th} & 5 \\ \hline 9^\text{th} & \text{Ardent} & & & 9^\text{th} & 5\tfrac{1}{2} \\ 10^\text{th} & & & & 10^\text{th} & 6 \\ \hline 11^\text{th} & \text{Master of Nine} & \text{Dual stance} & & 11^\text{th} & 7 \\ \hline 12^\text{th} & \text{Ardent} & & & 12^\text{th} & 7\tfrac{1}{2} \\ 13^\text{th} & & \text{Dominant ideal}^{18} & & 13^\text{th} & 8 \\ \hline 14^\text{th} & \text{Master of Nine} & \text{Perfect form} & & 13^\text{th} & 9 \\ \hline 15^\text{th} & \text{Ardent} & & & 14^\text{th} & 9\tfrac{1}{2} \\ 16^\text{th} & & & & 15^\text{th} & 10 \\ \hline 17^\text{th} & \text{Master of Nine} & \text{Counter stance} & & 15^\text{th} & 11 \\ \hline 18^\text{th} & \text{Ardent} & & & 16^\text{th} & 11\tfrac{1}{2} \\ 19^\text{th} & & & & 17^\text{th} & 12 \\ \hline 20^\text{th} & \text{Master of Nine} & \text{Mastery of Nine} & & 17^\text{th} & 13 \\ \end{array}

  1. Alignment is irrelevant to this build, it’s just my guess for the best fit for the Ancient One. Not worth arguing about: if you disagree, just use something else.

  2. Kalashtar is a race from Eberron Campaign Setting, humans who long ago made a pact with dream spirits, so that kalashtar are now creatures with two spirits. Being from Eberron may make it ineligible in a Forgotten Realms campaign. If so, elan seems if anything even more perfect for her story (they’re ageless psionic humans), and is pretty good too, but the kalashtar’s +1 power point per level is far greater than the flat +2 power points that elans get, particularly when multiclassing. Human isn’t bad either; bonus feats are nice.

  3. Ardent manifester level. Ardents choose their powers based on their manifester level, rather than class level, which is why they are so multiclass-friendly.

  4. Swordsage initiator level. You add half your non-initiating levels to your initiator level, and you choose your maneuvers based on initiator level much as ardents choose powers based on manifester level, which makes all of Tome of Battle’s initiators quite multiclass-friendly as well.

  5. Cloistered cleric is an Unearthed Arcana variant that trades HD and BAB for far more skills and the knowledge domain as a third domain. Well worth it, particularly when we only get that HD and BAB for one level.

  6. The darkness domain grants Blind-Fight as a bonus feat, which we need for master of nine. Also appropriate considering, well, you know.

  7. Dodge is a terrible feat, and would never be worth taking except that master of nine requires it. There are other feats that count as Dodge, including Desert Wind Dodge from Tome of Battle itself, but since we only get one feat between our first swordsage level and when we want to start master of nine, and it also requires Adaptive Style, we don’t qualify for it. Midnight Dodge from Magic of Incarnum could be a good replacement if you wanted to use your later feats for Shape Soulmeld and Open Chakra, which is certainly thematic enough. Expeditious Dodge from Races of the Wild is the only other I know of, and requires more movement speed than this build offers.

  8. The time domain is obvious, and also grants Improved Initiative as a bonus feat—again, something we need for master of nine.

  9. The knowledge domain from cloistered cleric isn’t so useful to us, but Complete Champion allows clerics to trade their domains for the corresponding domain feat. In this case, Knowledge Devotion—which is a minimum of +1 to attack and damage, and can be more based on your Knowledge check.

  10. “Freedom” itself might be a stretch, but the actual powers on here are too perfect for the Ancient One. A speed bonus while psionically focused, expend focus to escape a grapple, and then dimension hop, hustle, fly, freedom of movement, and teleport are all the kinds of things that the Ancient One was doing all the time.

  11. The justice mantle is the only one that includes the call weaponry power. Otherwise pretty dull, and doesn’t seem particularly appropriate. You may want to ask your DM about substitute powers per this Mind’s Eye article, getting call weaponry on some more-appropriate mantle.

  12. Mostly, vigor is a fantastic power, and worth taking the physical power mantle for that alone.

  13. Feat from Complete Psionic, gives you a +4 bonus to manifester level, but cannot exceed your character level. Helps when multiclassing.

  14. The unarmed variant of the swordsage is listed as an adaptation in that section of Tome of Battle, and trades armor and weapon proficiency for the monk’s unarmed strike feature. Since that feature includes Improved Unarmed Strike as part of its benefits, that allows us to secure that prerequisite for master of nine. You most likely will not actually fight unarmed most of the time, but now you can.

  15. Delaying our 1st level of swordsage until character level 5th allows us to have initiator level 3rd—and thus choose 2nd-level maneuvers and stances—with our large initial manuever selection. This is part of what makes Tome of Battle so multiclass-friendly. We keep this up throughout the character’s progression: two levels of ardent between levels of master of nine means we have a new maneuver level each time we learn new maneuvers, making the most of what we get.

  16. Your discipline focus probably won’t matter: you are only getting Weapon Focus, and since you want to use call weaponry anyway, you won’t even get its mediocre benefit all the time.

  17. Chosen for the obvious reasons. Delayed because we wanted 1st-level powers from freedom, justice, and physical power, while the time mantle’s powers are kinda meh until time hop, and it kind of makes sense since she didn’t have the Eye of Agamotto when she started out.

  18. Dominant ideal is an alternate class feature featured in the same Mind’s Eye article as the substitute powers. Makes the powers of one of your mantles vastly cheaper to augment and apply metapsionic feats to. Very much better than a fifth mantle.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I Love It, and so does my DM. Hes fairly flexible on using homebrew IF the circumstances call for it or we provide enough details that show we arent trying to make ourselves too powerful off the bat. Thank your for the time and effort :) \$\endgroup\$ – Maester Natus May 3 '18 at 7:07

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