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See here for v2 of this class

I would like a review of this Tome of Battle-based prestige class I wrote. I decided to go ham on the write-up and do the full entry as Wizards themselves did (I even played around with Google Docs to mimic the formatting in Tome of Battle), so I’m not going to offer much commentary—the idea is for it to be standalone, as if you just came across it in a book. The aim is to be roughly balanced with Tome of Battle in general, and to feel as though it could have been included in Chapter 5. Review of all material—crunch, fluff, writing, formatting—is welcome. Familiarity with Tome of Battle is generally assumed.

A warning to anyone getting into this: the full write-up is 4 pages of two-column text in Google Docs. The mechanics fit on a page, but like I said, I did the full write-up.

The only things I want to discuss here, outside the class, are other supplemental material, which if this actually appeared in Chapter 5 of Tome of Battle, would probably just be reprinted in a sidebar.

Aside from core and Tome of Battle itself, the class alludes to (but doesn’t use any mechanics from) Tome of Magic, specifically the vestige Ronove, the Iron Maiden. The only thing you’d need to know about her is that she was a monk long ago, before monks were really a thing, and may have even inspired the original martial arts of various monasteries, but had been forgotten by history and only recently was a record of her life rediscovered. She also continues to exist (sorta) as a vestige, which the Tome of Magic binder class can make pacts with to get boons, in her case various monk-like abilities (and some random telekinesis because why not?)—but iron maidens don’t generally interact with Ronove-as-vestige so none of that is relevant.

The class also requires, and leverages, the Lady’s Gambit feat from Dragon vol. 317. Reproducing that here, for this purpose, feels iffy on Fair Use, so I’ll just have to leave it at it being a feat kinda like Power Attack, except instead of taking attack penalties, you sacrifice hp, 2 hp for +1 attack and +1 damage, no more hp sacrificed per turn than your HD.

Some other supplemental material gets mentioned, but none of that is crucial to understanding anything, they’re just suggestions for other material that might work well with the class, and they’re all sourced within the text. Those probably wouldn’t be reprinted with the class in a Wizards publication.

Google Docs version (perma-link to the version as of this writing) Note you’ll need to be in Print View (View → Print View) to see the class table, since I abused the doc’s footer to achieve a full-width, hugging-the-bottom-of-the-page table in a two-column layout because Google Docs is dumb.

Iron Maiden

“I cannot die. I cannot tire. Fools try what the wise do not. A title I accept. Gladly.”
—Rook, iron maiden

In an attempt to recreate the techniques of Ronove, the Iron Maiden, the warriors now known by her epithet have developed something wholly new, quite unlike that prototypical monk. Taking her philosophy of denial in an unexpected direction, iron maidens weaponize their own mortality.

Becoming an Iron Maiden

Iron maidens always train as crusaders, usually exclusively. While they follow a philosophy inspired by the former monk and current vestige Ronove, few bother becoming monks or binders—though it’s not unheard of.

Despite the class’s name, iron maidens are in no way required to be female, and derogatory comments on the subject are among the fastest ways to earn their ire.

Entry Requirements

Base Attack Bonus: +6.
Feats: Lady’s Gambit,¹ Stone Power.²
Special: Furious counterstrike and steely resolve 10 class features.

  1. Dragon vol. 317, pg. 82
  2. Tome of Battle, pg. 32

Class Features

The iron maiden class focuses on the steely resolve delayed damage pool to a degree that goes well beyond that of a typical crusader. This focus does come at the cost of some of their divine and sublime abilities.

Table: The Iron Maiden; Hit Die d12

Level Base
Attack
Bonus
Fort
Save
Ref
Save
Will
Save
Man.
Known
Special
1st +1 +2 +0 +2 +1/−1 Improved stone power, lady’s resolve, steely resolve +5
2nd +2 +3 +0 +3 0 Hell hath no fury like, steely resolve +10
3rd +3 +3 +1 +3 +1/−1 Steely resolve +15
4th +4 +4 +1 +4 0 Greater stone power, steely resolve +20
5th +5 +4 +1 +4 +1/–1 Not while I draw breath, steely resolve +30

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level): Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Heal, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Martial Lore, Profession, Ride, Sense Motive, Spot, Swim, Tumble.

Maneuvers: At 1st, 3rd, and 5th level, you can choose a new Devoted Spirit, Iron Heart, or Stone Dragon maneuver in place of a maneuver (of any discipline) you already know. In effect, you lose the old maneuver in exchange for the new one. You can choose a new maneuver of any level you like, as long as you observe your restriction on the highest-level maneuvers you know; you need not replace the old maneuver with another maneuver of the same level. You must meet a maneuver’s prerequisite to learn it. You add your full iron maiden class level to your initiator level to determine your total initiator level and your highest-level maneuvers known.

Improved Stone Power (Ex): You choose to use Stone Power (and choose how large a penalty to accept) on your turn before attacking, rather than choosing only when you use an attack action or a full attack action, or initiate a Stone Dragon strike in melee. This allows you to use Stone Power with other forms of attack, such as strikes from other disciplines.

Lady’s Resolve (Ex): When using the Lady’s Gambit feat, you may choose to add points to your steely resolve delayed damage pool, up to a maximum equal to your character level. Your Lady’s Gambit bonuses are based on the hit points you choose to sacrifice, as normal, plus the points you choose to add to steely resolve. Since the limit on steely resolve points is separate from the limit on sacrificed hit points, using both effectively doubles how much bonus you can receive from Lady’s Gambit.

Steely Resolve (Ex): The size of your steely resolve delayed damage pool increases each level. At each level except 5th, this increase is by +5 points; the increase for 5th level is by +10 points. Thus the total maximum increase at 5th level is +30 points.

Hell Hath No Fury Like (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, your furious counterstrike has no strict maximum on the size of the attack and damage bonus it grants. As long as you can get points into steely resolve, you can get higher bonuses.

Greater Stone Power (Ex): At 4th level, you are no longer subject to the −5 limitation on the penalty you may choose with Stone Power, nor to the +10 maximum on the number of temporary hit points you may receive. The number you choose for the penalty still cannot exceed your base attack bonus.

Not While I Draw Breath (Ex): At 5th level, you can exceed the limits of your mortal frame to lend your reality-defying durability to your comrades. As an immediate action when an ally within 30 feet takes damage, you can expend a granted maneuver to take half of that damage (rounded down) instead of that ally. All of the damage you take goes into your steely resolve delayed damage pool, even if that would exceed the pool’s usual limit. If the source of the damage also inflicted an additional effect (such as stunning or a similar condition), you suffer the effect instead of your ally, making any relevant saves and checks as if the effect had targeted you, even if it would be physically impossible to do so.

Playing an Iron Maiden

You choose to push yourself harder than almost any foe you face—to push yourself to the very limits of your lifeforce. And you do so primarily for the challenge of it, the sheer appreciation that it works—there is no deity forcing you to do this, no devil promising profane rewards. It is for its own sake. That takes a very particular kind of person.

Many see iron maidens as masochistic, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The Lady’s Gambit does not cause pain; it is a sacrifice more fundamental than firing nerves. Moreover, iron maidens don’t just specialize in sacrifice—they also specialize in being able to endure their sacrifices. That lends itself to being able to endure a whole lot else, besides.

Combat

You use steely resolve and Stone Power to survive your use of Lady’s Gambit and use Lady’s Gambit and furious counterstrike to overcome the attack penalties you take using Stone Power. While the numbers appear absolutely in your favor on paper, keep in mind that your foes will try to push you off-balance.

Advancement

Iron maiden techniques are not secret, but they are obscure. The first iron maidens were academics, oddly enough, inspired by a paper to begin training as crusaders and then iron maidens. Since then, a few have founded dojos and the like, so the information is out there. But the path is new and as yet little known.

All iron maidens are crusaders, but many are rather unusual as far as crusaders go: rather than being dedicated to a cause or deity, they are simply inspired by the way of the iron maidens, itself, and train as crusaders in order to become one. Some, of course, are more traditional crusaders. Either way, most likely, you’ll be a single-classed crusader before you start training as an iron maiden, and most likely you’ll go right back to that class after. But you should consider at least a level or two of barbarian, since rage will make you that much tougher in combat. Another option might be binder—Ronove is a vestige after all—in which case you will probably want to pursue the knight of the sacred seal prestige class as well.³ If you’d rather emulate Ronove than make a pact with her, the fist of the forest prestige class offers monk-like abilities that allow you to forsake the trappings of the civilized world to become even tougher.⁴

Iron maiden abilities are all about using your hit points as a resource, balancing risk and reward. Feats that allow you to punish those who try to throw off your balance, such as Karmic Strike⁵ or Robilar’s Gambit,⁶ are strong choices. On the other hand, the best defense may well be a strong offense—consider Power Attack and similar feats that allow you to kill foes before they can turn your sacrifices against you. If you choose to multiclass with barbarian, Extra Rage and Instantaneous Rage are excellent feats for you.⁵ Fist of the forest and knight of the sacred seal also have their own requirements to keep in mind if you have an interest in those classes.

  1. Tome of Magic, pg. 9, 54
  2. Complete Champion, pg. 80
  3. Complete Warrior, pg. 98, 102
  4. Player’s Handbook II, pg. 82

Resources

You might belong to an iron maiden dojo, but these are often small affairs, with limited resources. Lodging is about the most you can usually hope for from these. With the emphasis that iron maidens place on endurance, most tend towards the self-sufficient and aloof.

Iron Maidens in the world

“Someone trying to figure out something old made so many mistakes that by sheer dumb luck they invented something new. It’s not hard to see why some might call that providence.”
—Tamsin Cutterbuck, Theurgian archaeologist

Nothing about being an iron maiden has much influence on what an iron maiden does with their skills. For some, it’s a largely-theoretical practice and exercise regimen that just happens to be extremely demanding. For others, it’s just an approach to combat that works. And for a few, it is a reflection of their history or philosophy: that power comes at a cost, and the higher the prices you can pay, the more power you can have.

So an iron maiden might be anywhere, doing anything. For an amusing, unusual encounter, consider an iron maiden scholar, studying the techniques to put theory to the test more than for any real ends. For a more serious, even tragic, encounter, an iron maiden may have pursued the route out of a belief that sacrifices must be made—and a dedication to making all such necessary sacrifices themselves, to spare others that suffering.

Organization

Iron maiden dojos are fairly casual, with those interested coming and going at will. Iron maidens often leave to train by themselves and return months later much improved—or just as they were. No one’s progress or lack thereof is considered to be anyone else’s concern. The ethos among iron maidens tends to be that it is a path for those who are invigorated by its challenges, and that demands a price for every step that each practitioner has to decide to pay themselves.

Some iron maidens can also be found among the knightly orders of certain deities, particularly those of sacrifice like Dol Arrah or Ilmater. While being an iron maiden does not make any requirements of one’s faith, it certainly is very compatible with such deities, and iron maidens fit in very well among their crusaders and paladins.

NPC Reactions

Iron maidens are little-known, and little-considered by most. Those who get to know how their arts function might find it somewhat dark or off-putting, but ultimately the Lady’s Gambit is a subtle thing that’s unlikely to offend anyone. Most simply appreciate the lengths to which an iron maiden goes to be the greatest ally or foe they can be.

Generally speaking, iron maidens have none of the problems with established religions that binders do. The few inquisitors who know of the connection tend to be those who know all the details, and therefore also know the iron maidens have no contact with Ronove as a vestige. The overwhelming majority, of course, know nothing about binding, Ronove, or the origins of the martial discipline, and just regard iron maidens as an unusual form of crusader.

The Theurgian Society is unusually aware of iron maidens, considering it was a Theurgian Society journal in which the discipline was first hypothesized. Since it has become clear that the discipline bears little actual resemblance to anything of Ronove’s, however, they have little continued interest in the iron maidens.

Iron Maiden Lore

Characters with ranks in Martial Lore can research iron maidens to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs.

DC 10: These crusaders can take an incredible amount of punishment.
DC 15: Iron maidens actually get more dangerous the closer they are to death.
DC 20: Iron maidens are masters of their own lifeforce, which they can and will put into their attacks. They can push themselves to the edge of death and then live there.
DC 30: Characters who achieve this level of success can learn important details about a specific notable iron maiden, the areas where she operates, and the kinds of activities she undertakes.

A character with the Gather Information skill can attempt a DC 25 check to locate an iron maiden, provided one is in the region.

A character aware of the vestige Ronove⁷ can learn of the historical connection between iron maidens and the Iron Maiden with a Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), Martial Lore, or bardic knowledge check against DC 30.

  1. Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), or bardic knowledge, DC 28; Tome of Magic, pg. 15

Iron Maidens in the game

Any game that includes binders and crusaders can easily include iron maidens, since they’re specialty crusaders inspired by a vestige’s history. Even without binders in the game, it’s easy enough to include the historical Ronove without bringing in the vestige, and it won’t change things much for iron maidens.

And introducing an iron maiden character can be quite easy, simply because they really can be just about anyone. They might be a traditional sort of crusader on a grand quest, but often their crusade is more personal, about their quest to push themselves harder. Perhaps the most natural role for an iron maiden, then, is as an itinerant swordswoman (or what have you), someone who travels in the search of foes, glory, and adventure. In short, though an iron maiden is a crusader, they may play a role in the story more like that of a warblade.

The player of an iron maiden is probably looking to push the envelope, at least in combat, by sacrificing their hit points and relying on steely resolve and Stone Power, and possibly Devoted Spirit maneuvers, to stay alive doing it. The character could be reckless and daring, or dour and brooding, and both would be quite fitting to what an iron maiden is. Either way, challenges that will push the character to the edge—and reward them for going there—are likely to appeal.

Adaptation

As mentioned, iron maidens can easily be disconnected from binding, since Ronove’s influence over the class is minimal and historical—most iron maidens don’t even know that history. You could go a step further and make the iron maidens the special crusaders of a particular deity or faith—Dol Arrah is a good choice in Eberron, and Ilmater is a good choice in the Forgotten Realms. Evil deities can also get in on iron maidens, though: the Mockery might thrill at profaning the notion of sacrifice, and Hextor has always appreciated that power comes at a cost.

Sample Encounter

Iron maidens love a challenge, and often wander in search of more. Good iron maidens are more than willing to sacrifice for the sake of others, while evil iron maidens will pay any price for power.

EL 10: The iron maiden Rook has some extremely strong ideas on what it means to be good. She has even forsaken her deity, who she felt was insufficiently willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.

Rook, siege engine and deserter; CR 10

Female (“as a ship”) warforged crusader 6/iron maiden 4
CG Medium construct (living construct)
Init +0; Senses Listen −1, Spot −1
Languages Common, Abyssal, Draconic, Infernal, Terran, Undercommon


AC 21, touch 10, flat-footed 21 (+8 armor, +3 shield)
hp 94 (10 HD)
Fort +12, Ref +3, Will +8; zealous surge


Speed 20 ft. (4 squares), base speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 vicious greataxe +14 (1d12+4+2d6; 1d6 self-damage per attack)
Base Atk +10; Grp +13
Atk Options furious counterstrike, Lady’s Gambit, smite 1/day, steely resolve 30, Stone Power


Maneuvers and Stances Known (IL 10th):

Stances—iron guard’s glare (1st), martial spirit (1st)

Strikes—crusader’s strike (1st), divine surge† (4th), douse the flames (1st), elder mountain hammer† (5th), foehammer (2nd), mountain hammer† (2nd), revitalizing strike† (3rd), white raven tactics† (3rd)

Disciplines: Devoted Spirit, Stone Dragon, White Raven

† Readied maneuver


Abilities Str 16, Dex 10, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 12
SQ living construct traits, DR 2/adamantine, immunity to critical hits and sneak attacks
Feats Adamantine Body, Stone Power, Lady’s Gambit, Improved Fortification
Skills Diplomacy +14, Intimidate +14, Knowledge (history) +9, Knowledge (religion) +14, Knowledge (the planes) +9
Possessions +1 vicious greataxe, +1 animated heavy shield

(I will note that “Not while I draw breath” is Extraordinary as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek homage to the Extraordinary healing and teleportation found in Tome of Battle; that particular point I’m not terribly interested in feedback on.)

With thanks to a fellow player, whose character Rook inspired this class, and provided the class quote as well as some of the basis for the example character. (The actual Rook does not have levels in this prestige class—yet?)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So far, the only comment I have is that perhaps you should clarify that the full initiator level added by this PrC is in place of the half initiator level that it would normally provide. It's possible to read the current way it's written as adding both the full and the half levels. And if that's intended, perhaps call that out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Apr 13 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus The wording is exactly the same as what’s in Tome of Battle. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 13 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Understood, though improved clarity, in my view, is more important than following the published convention. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Apr 13 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ You'll take my life, but I'll take yours too/You'll fire your musket, but I'll run you through... \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 16 at 10:47

2 Answers 2

2
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TL;DR I can imagine this class in Chapter 5 of Tome of Battle, but, as the prestige class's features almost all concern doing better what the character can already do, I don't find its class feature as evocative as other Tome of Battle prestige classes's, the iron maiden's excellent flavor text notwithstanding.

This isn't the kind of prestige class I'd play, but it might be perfect for another player

You already know that the writing is good and tight. I don't have to compliment you on that, but, still: Thank you for a pleasant reading experience.

So the crux of this prestige class is the interaction between all its moving parts. I had to write this down so as to determine what was happening. (I know that the author already knows this; this is for my benefit and the reader's.)

  • The feat Stone Power normally allows a creature to suffer until the beginning of the creature's next turn up to a -5 penalty (up to the creature's base attack bonus) on attack rolls to gain up to +10 temporary hp (each -1 yields 2). The feat can normally only be used with the standard attack action or the full attack action or when the creature uses a Stone Dragon maneuver.
  • The feat Lady's Gambit normally allows a creature to take a free action once on the creature's turn to suffer at least 1 hp of damage (up to the creature's character level) to gain for 1 round a +1 bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls per 2 hp of damage the creature suffered this way.
  • The class feature steely resolve delays (i.e. puts into a damage pool) each turn until the end of the next turn the listed amount of damage that's dealt to the creature. For comparison, a crusader sees this ability increase from 5 to 10 at level 4, then to 15 at 8, 20 at 12, 25 at 16, and finally to 30 at 20. Instead, a hypothetical crusader 6/iron maiden 5 has steely resolve 40, a crusader 8/iron maiden 5 has 45, crusader 12/iron maiden 5 has 50.
  • The class feature furious counterstrike normally grants the creature a bonus on attack and damage rolls for the turn depending on the amount of damage in the creature's delayed damage pool (see above), usually capping at +6 (i.e. (damage in pool)/5, rounded down as always).

Without any iron maiden prestige class features, a crusader 6, for example, could probably declare that she's employing the feat Stone Power to suffer a -5 penalty on attack rolls to gain 10 temporary hp then declare that she's employing the feat Lady's Gambit to be dealt 6 hp of damage and gain for 1 round a +3 bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls. (Possible timing issues could arise at a super-strict table, but I think it'd take an IRL specialist in contract law to untangle them, and, really, I think everyone gets what's being aimed for.) That damage from the crusader's Lady's Gambit feat goes into the delayed damage pool as per the steely resolve class feature and grants the crusader another +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls from the furious counterstrike class feature. All told, a crusader 6 this round suffers a -1 penalty on attack rolls, gains this round a +4 bonus on damage rolls, and this round has 4 temporary hp and will be dealt 6 hp of damage at the end of her next turn.

Almost every class feature of the prestige class iron maiden just changes the above numbers. Sure, they become big, sexy numbers—steely resolve 50!—, but they're just for hitting folks. I mean, if you don't want an attack of opportunity or trip warrior or a charging warrior, this is a fine third choice for a player who wants to figure how to best manage these resources. (Interestingly,—and don't hold me to this—I think this all works at range, so maybe archery's an option, too?)

I'd expect any player taking this class to determine at each character level an optimal ratio then use that until determining the best ratio again upon leveling up. It's not as though the player should opt for less than the best when the best is quantifiable, despite determining best requiring juggling 3–5 variables.

In other words, for all its big, sexy numbers, for a level at a time, those big, sexy numbers will be the same big, sexy numbers. For that reason, I'd not take this class. The class is a math problem that, once solved, doesn't need to be solved for another level.

Other Stuff

  • The prestige class's requirement of base attack bonus +6 is superfluous in light of the Lady's Gambit feat's prerequisite. (So far as I'm aware, there's no absolutely-everybody-agrees-it's-legit way to get the feat Lady's Gambit early.) Similarly, the requirement that the adept possess the steel resolve 10 class feature limits this already to only level 4 or higher crusaders; requiring also the furious counterstrike class feature that's gained only as a level 1 crusader is superfluous. (If your campaign's house rules necessitate including these requirements, that's cool. I'm also not an editor paying you by the word, and including these doesn't hurt anything, so whatever.)
  • The class feature improved stone power doesn't place a use limit on the Stone Power feat, and probably doesn't need to, but if your campaign allows ways to take additional turns or actions (e.g. the belt of battle (Magic Item Compendium 73) (12,000 gp; 0 lbs.)), it may be necessary to note that using Stone Power that new way (before instead of when making a standard attack, full attack, or initiating an appropriate maneuver) is only usable once per turn. If that's what you want, of course.
  • The class feature not while I draw breath is by far the most interesting part of the class. That said, I don't know if it intentionally omits as a requirement line of sight or line of effect, so I guess it would default to needing both to affect the ally, but it would be useful to know. Even if it is so limited, I would be much more inclined to have a crusader enter this prestige class were a version of this class feature made available at prestige class level 1 or 2 and improved thereafter.

Note: I've found that even relatively routine optimization can turn warriors into killing machines that can end any foe that's subject to hp damage in 1 round. For this reason, a prestige class that has as its primary features bigger numbers isn't all that attractive to me; that's already my expectation for any warrior. (So you know, my typical go-to for warrior prestige class comparisons is the war mind from the Expanded Psionics Handbook (155—6).) Also, I apologize if this critique comes off as harsh; it's only because when you Kickstarter the KRyan Tome of Battle prestige classes book, I'm on board in an instant, and I want all of those prestige classes in my wheelhouse.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Big misread on my part: I read “sacrifice” as distinct from “damage” and thus bypassing both temporary hit points and steely resolve. But Lady’s Gambit explicitly states “as if you had lost them to damage,” so that’s incorrect. I will need to revise lady’s resolve considerably. Thanks for pointing that out. And yes, that’s a very good point about the numbers—I’d originally planned on some “as long as you have X points in steely resolve, you...” features that I might try to make room for. I’ll add in a per-turn limit on improved stone power and requirements for not while I draw breath. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 14 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan RE: Lady's Gambit. Yeah, I was trying to wrap my head around what you were doing and figured you'd explain it to me if I got it wrong. Now I'm kind of sorry I didn't get it wrong. I look forward to an update, and I'm glad to've helped. (Also, for further comparison, my other go-to for is often the Fiendish Codex II prestige class hellreaver (92–3).) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for your last point. Capstone feature is maybe a little too good, and I think, everybody will want it ASAP. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp NWIDB is mitigated by it being limited to one target and—more importantly—it occupying the crusader's precious, precious immediate action, which together I think makes it okay. Were either limit removed, that'd be a problem, but sucking 150 points of damage into your delayed damage pool because the dragon used its maximized breath weapon on the wizard then making a full attack in revenge with a +30 bonus? Only to have the cleric slap a heal on you? That's kind of what I want a crusader to be able to do, y'know? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ “That's kind of what I want a crusader to be able to do, y'know?” Exactly—this exists because steely resolve/furious counterstrike always felt much too small to produce that kind of result. Anyway, a question: improved stone power uses the exact same wording as Power Attack—what interaction with e.g. belt of battle are we concerned about here? Does Power Attack have the same problem, and this is just a question of improving on the official wording (which is fair, Power Attack’s wording is weird), or is there something I’m missing? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 16 at 23:12
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I won't be addressing fluff, since that's entirely subjective. Formatting and wording are also an editorial matter, which I will also skip apart from where it relates to crunch.

First, context for my design sensibilities: I like high-power mechanics and games, I like giving martials nice things and I favor a holistic approach (more on that later). I beg, borrow and steal from everywhere. An example of these tenets, applied to a class very similar to this one, can be found here.

So let's go through the mechanics one by one.

  1. Base stats: a) d12 over the Crusader's d10: perfectly reasonable given the point of this class. b) high Will save over the Crusader: no particular comments, but I am curious what it's trying to address?
  2. Why the weird maneuver progression? Are you compensating for the other things you are giving to this class? Like access to Iron Heart or other features?
  3. Improved stone power: I like the idea. It grants a unique new ability to the class. That's what we wanna see.
  4. Lady's resolve: This ability is severely confusing to me. To the point where it's unclear what it even does. Are you just telling us how the class combo works? Is it a convoluted way to say you get double the bonus from Lady's Gambit? I can't make heads or tails...
  5. Steely resolve: I understand playing with this is the main goal of the class, but the numbers put it at like 5x the base progression. Having to go x5 is an indication that something, somewhere is broken. Are you overcompensating for what you feel is the slow progression of the base class? Because the damage numbers of the game get too high too fast? I mentioned a holistic approach above and this is what I mean - this issue should be solved by modifying the base class or addressing damage numbers globally.
  6. Hell Hath No Fury Like: A necessary stipulation given the increased pool size. Which makes me question its existence as a separate ability. Not to mention mildly dysfunctional, coming 1 level after the 1st pool increase.
  7. Greater Stone Power: Good improvement and in line with other similar PrCs (like the the Frenzied berserker and Power Attack). The wording could be better. Something to the tune of A instead of B.
  8. Not While I Draw Breath: Presumably the capstone. A use for the crusader's immediate action (competing with a ton of other stuff). The damage share is nothing new, mechanic wise, but the condition redirect is certainly enough to qualify it as a capstone (not to mention its amusingly Ex status). It does have numerous issues however, stemming from 2 places: a) Keep in mind that "Dead" is also an explicitly defined condition (Dying too). What happens when you attempt to redirect those? Things get extremely hairy extremely fast. b) I'm not a fan of the "All of the damage you take goes into your steely resolve delayed damage pool, even if that would exceed the pool’s usual limit." What happens to that damage the next round? Do you take all of it, including that which is excess over the damage pool, or just your normal pool size? Does it actually override the damage pool cap? (Some of these you might say, have reasonable interpretations, but I'm sure you're well aware how the game is played and this ability is rife for RAI vs RAW debates.)

Overall, I'm not a fan of this current iteration, but there's potential here.

The good

Compelling features: I know of no other thing that can improve Steely resolve apart from more crusader levels. Stone power is a quintessential Crusader combo and targeting that is a good idea for a class.
Interesting combo: Lady's Gambit is a good find and a perfect fit for a crusader.
Distinct playstyle: The class certainly evokes a very unique combat style.

The bad

The class seems to be entirely focused on improving numbers. Which is quite in line with 3.5e, but is IMO bad design (Weapon focus is a bad feat and I will die on that hill). I feel like anything new we make should try to do better.

The ugly

Lady's resolve is a confusing mess.
Things can get awfully murky with Not While I Draw Breath's condition redirect and non-instantaneous conditions. Lawyer up!

My take

The reason I'm even writing all of this is because I was inspired. So here's my take.

  1. Don't require Lady's Gambit.
    Why: I know you were trying to do something with that feat in the class, but I can't understand what, so I'm completely dispensing with that requirement.
  2. Have some kind of normal maneuver progression. With one of the primary features of this class being, however hidden it may appear to be, granting access to Iron Heart.
    Why: Breaking as few established precedents is a good thing. It allows existing player knowledge to go further. Also see #6.
  3. Steely resolve progresses at 1/3/5 by +5 (total +15, 2.4x base - better but not unreasonably so). Alternatively at 2/4 by +5 (total +10, 1.6x base). And if you are running a high damage game just double the numbers of both base crusader and this class.
    Why: Keeps numbers more in line with the base class (but still higher). Besides, see #6.
  4. Remove the like from your Hell Hath No Fury Like. Then remove the entire ability. Just say that steely resolve grants bonuses commensurate to the increased cap. Or call it Improved steely resolve or call this Lady's resolve. (I know, this is perhaps the most fun ability name, but I'm not married to it.)
    Why: Preventing a mechanic from being dysfunctional is not a sufficient reason to introduce an entirely new ability. Also, the reference itself is better worded as just "Hell hath no fury".
  5. Grant Lady's Gambit as a bonus feat.
    Why: It fits the class and synergizes seamlessly with with both stone power and steely resolve.
  6. Lady's Resolve or Greater steely resolve or whatever: The Iron Maiden can "sequester" Maneuvers known in order to gain extra steely resolve. They lose access to a known maneuver for the day, but gain extra steely resolve.
    Why: As I said - I beg, borrow and steal from everywhere, in this case from the Pathfinder variant of the Metamind prestige class, which allows psions to sequester known powers in order to get extra PP for the day. Many builds have dead maneuvers, kept as a merely a prereq for more powerful ones, or just ones you know are not gonna be useful a specific day. So this ability is a godsend (get it?) for those kinds of builds. It is also an additional source of steely resolve. Exact details are subject to balance - +5 per maneuver? +5 per level of maneuver? Max maneuvers/levels sequestered?
  7. Not While I Draw Breath: Better wording - they take half damage, you take whatever is left. Avoids rounding issues. Redirect additional effects, but explicitly steer clear of the word "condition". No special rules for the damage pool.
    Why: We absolutely wanna avoid invoking the game term "condition" here due to the host of issues it brings. Redirect just effects, effects can cause conditions, but that's resolved using the normal rules for that. Meanwhile the extra interaction with steely resolve is plain confusing.
  8. Possibly some kind of "max damage cap" ability inspired by the ambiguous wording of the above.
    Why: I don't want to give this class more +atk/+dmg by exceeding the steely pool cap arbitrarily. Pumping numbers generally has a destabilizing effect on the game, and is exactly what we want to avoid. OTOH, the ability to mitigate extreme blunders is perhaps the exact opposite - having a safety net like that can prevent a lot of player frustration from walking into something nasty due to a misunderstanding of some kind or a string of bad rolls and that strikes me as a positively healthy effect for the game. Like for example, negate all damage higher than your max steely cap. Plus, it's a self-balancing factor with respect to steely resolve and damage values. If the game is too high damage, having a low steely pool is more beneficial due to this ability. I'm not saying it's a complete fix, but it absolutely helps.

I'll have to tinker with the exact numbers and levels and probably do a full write-up later.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My apologies, but there is already a v2 of this class. Some of your comments have been addressed already, though many of your suggestions don’t work for me. Thank you for making the effort, and I’ll edit this question to make it clearer that there is a newer version. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 26 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, completely missed it. Anyway, whatever floats your boat. Everyone has their own preferences. But many of the criticisms still stand and and there are even a few new ones. Should I just delete this answer and make an updated version in that question? \$\endgroup\$
    – martixy
    Apr 26 at 2:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are most welcome to write an updated answer there, though you do not have to delete this answer if you do not wish to. That’s entirely up to you. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 26 at 2:48

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