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I'm building a Knight Commander. I want him to be a melee support character, passively improving the performance of his party by auras, a fair deal of tankiness and a reasonable damage dealing capability.

To do that I intend to use this homebrew sublime Marshal as my main class. I intend to use his Major and Minor auras for party support (based on Marshal level and Charisma, respectively) and Stances and Maneuvers from White Raven and Devoted Spirit situationally.

I intended to take a 1 level dip in Cleric to gain War and Nobility domains, as well as access to Turn or Rebuke undead. As Turn or Rebuke attempts per day can be used to power a selection of divine feats, where bonuses dependent on Charisma are added, I thought it would be a decent choice for optimisation. For the sake of this question, let's say that my character will have +3 Charisma modifier.

Which Divine Feats that use Turn attempts are worthwhile for a melee support character? Is there another way to use high Charisma bonus to power yourself/your comrades up, other than burning Turn attempts?


Disclaimer: This question pertains to a campaign that is using a mixture of 3ed and 3.5ed rules. Both editions are valid, but please clearly state which edition does your methods apply to.


Disclaimer 2: I'm building this character to see where it ends up. Please do not be offended if I reject your suggestions, it's mainly a feasibility study and some of your perfectly sound and valid arguments simply cannot be used in the scope in which I intend to use the character.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What Third Edition rules are used in this 3.5 game? Partial actions? Old-school haste? The Savage Species type pyramid? (I ask because most folks play 3.5, letting the DM update (if necessary) Third Edition stuff because not a whole lot changed, so discussing both as if different games gets confusing and repetitive.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 29 '15 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately I do not know the answer to that question. I am not yet playing and the GM is pretty vague at this point. I know that the campaign is based on 3.0 rules, but SOME updates are applied (e.g. character creation). I do know that if I want to know about a specific rule I can ask him, but that's as far as it goes. Delivering a comprehensive list is impossible at this point. \$\endgroup\$ – eimyr Jul 29 '15 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added some emphasis to the fact that you are using the homebrew marshal, since I honestly did not notice the link the first time (reddish-brown is really not a good color for links). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 30 '15 at 14:23
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All of this is 3.5. Note that you are going to need a ton of turn undead uses to make this viable, which means taking Extra Turning, and that’s a serious problem because you also need a ton of feats for the divine feats themselves, plus any options you want. You are going to be amazingly feat-starved and none of the usual approaches are going to work for you since none of them are on any significant bonus feat lists. Cleric can get you two of them if you go for devotions (and you should), but not with your chosen domains.


Table of Contents

  • Great Divine and Devotion Feats

    • Travel Devotion, Divine Might, Law Devotion, Divine Shield, Divine Vigor
  • Niche or Conditional Divine Feats

    • Divine Censure, Glorious Weapons, Pious Defiance, Sacred Vitality, Spurn Death’s Touch
  • Awful Divine Feats

    • Divine Accuracy, Divine Alacrity, Divine Armor, Divine Cleansing, Divine Resistance, Divine Fortune, Divine Intercession, Divine Justice, Divine Spellshield, Divine Spirit, Divine Vengeance, Divine Warrior, Persistent Refusal, Sacred Healing, Sacred Purification, Sacred Vengeance, Sacred Radiance, True Believer
  • Things that would be awesome for you:

    • A second non-marshal level

      • E.g. bard, crusader, barbarian, fighter, psychic warrior
    • Divine Grace

      • Arcane Resistance, hexbands, and Dark Companion
    • Intimidation

    • Inspire Courage, Dragonfire Inspiration, gauntlets of heartfelt blows

      • Snowflake Wardance
  • Things that are worthless to you:

    • The War domain

Great Divine and Devotion Feats

Divine feats are pretty awesome. Many Devotion feats from Complete Champion also use turn undead uses, and are frequently awesome. Here are some of the best for you:

Travel Devotion

This is the best mobility available in the game. Every single melee character who lacks pounce should have this feat. Even those who have pounce should consider it.

Divine Might

This is the big one, the reason you care about divine feats at all. You get +Cha to damage for one round per use of turn undead.

Note that Power Attack is potentially eh for you. If you are using a two-handed weapon, it’s OK, but if not, strongly consider Tome of Battle’s Stone Power. It’s awesome survivability, and counts as Power Attack for prerequisites. You definitely should want mountain hammer at a minimum from Stone Dragon anyway.

Law Devotion

This is a sizable bonus to attack; one of the better devotions to have.

Divine Shield

Shields are a bad idea when they’re actually in your hands. They become a much better option once you can afford an animated one. At some point, an animated heavy shield should be something you own, and once you do you might consider this feat.

Note Divine Shield improves the shield’s shield bonus to AC, and thus does not cover touch attacks. Parrying Shield from Lords of Madness fixes that problem. Shield Ward from Player’s Handbook II does the same, but requires Shield Specialization, which is terrible.

Divine Vigor

“Great” may be overly enthusiastic here, but an effective +4 to Constitution for the purposes of HP isn’t awful. It’s kind of a mini-Rage. Rage itself would be much better, but eh. You wouldn’t have as many uses of that, either.

Niche or Conditional Divine Feats

These feats are maybe worthwhile in certain circumstances, but not generally.

Divine Censure

If you go for a fear-based build (see below), this is half-decent-ish maybe? The only reason it’s worth considering is because it stacks with demoralizing: after a round with your enemies cowering, they continue to be shaken for a while. Use this to up that to frightened, which is way better.

Glorious Weapons

In the right campaign, this is worthwhile; giving your whole team good-aligned weapons can totally turn some fights around. But only if you are fighting a lot of foes with DR /good. And at some point, if enough of your foes are affected by this, your allies should be buying holy weapons, so this is only good when you are seeing a lot of DR/good but not an overwhelming amount of it. Thus, niche and “awful” in the general case.

Pious Defiance

If your Will saves are less than stellar (which they shouldn’t be since you should have divine grace, but anyway), this is somewhat substantial bonus to them as an immediate action. Will saves are important, so it’s kind of valuable. But there are just better ways to protect yourself here.

Sacred Vitality

Immunity to ability damage, drain, and energy drain is awesome. And this gives that for a reasonable amount of time. But that immunity is so awesome that you absolutely should get soulfire from Book of Exalted Deeds sooner rather than later. But before you have that, if you are seeing a lot of these kinds of attacks, and you either can retrain or don’t think you’ll ever be able to get soulfire, this could be worth it.

Spurn Death’s Touch

The reactive version of Sacred Vitality. Healing is way worse than prevention, but this also lets you deal with these things if you failed to prepare, and you can use it on others. The undead-only restriction kind of sucks but that’s the primary use anyway. Regardless, this is worse than Sacred Vitality, which itself was only of dubious value, but it is somewhat more appropriate. Really, though, just buy items that let you do this.

Awful Divine Feats

Without going into too much detail, not all divine feats are great. Since many of them are thematically appropriate, I wanted to mention the ones that just don’t give enough to be worth a feat slot, even if they are appropriate.

  • Divine Accuracy – unless you are fighting a ton of incorporeal foes, but even if you are your party should just invest in ghost-touch weapons.

  • Divine Alacrity – worthless.

  • Divine Armor – just too small.

  • Divine Cleansing – only Fort saves, not worth a feat

    • Divine Resistance – resistance 5 is just too small for two feats
  • Divine Fortune – +4 is nice-ish, but only for you.

  • Divine Intercession – as dimension door and self-only mean this sucks

  • Divine Justice – you don’t want to encourage your foes to attack someone else as it is

  • Divine Spellshield – +2 is just too small for a feat and a standard action.

  • Divine Spirit – Tiny healing is tiny. Immediate action makes this better than a lot of these “awful” feats but it’s still not worth it.

  • Divine Vengeance – small-ish amount of damage against only the undead. Maybe consider it if you expect to fight pretty much only undead.

  • Divine Warrior – Much, much better than Divine Vengeance, but still ultimately not a huge amount of damage against only a subset of possible foes. In the right campaign, holy can be valuable, but if holy is valuable to you, just get a holy weapon.

  • Persistent Refusal – A good effect, but Luck feats are better at this. Forcing you to use a swift action is a real problem, since the really valuable uses for rerolls are to prevent things that aren’t going to let you act at all.

  • Sacred Healing – just buy wands of lesser vigor.

    • Sacred Purification – just buy wands of cure light wounds
  • Sacred Vengeance – This... is literally identical to Divine Vengeance. What’s that about? Well, different feat, different source: they’d stack. Still not worth it.

  • Sacred Radiance – There are so many cheaper options for light. Liquid sunlight vials literally cost 20 gp a pop and shine light like a torch indefinitely.

  • True Believer – While there may be relics worth using, that goes beyond the scope of this question. Without a relic to use, this feat is very poor.

Things that would be awesome for you:

Some things you are missing that would massively improve your use of Charisma that you lack.

A second non-marshal level

Because initiators add half their level in non-initiating classes to their Initiator Level, it typically makes sense to take an even number of non-initiating classes when multiclassing as one.

The sublime marshal learns new maneuvers on even levels. That means you are best off multiclassing, and taking two levels (or six or whatever: 4n+2 for some whole number n), because then you get your new maneuvers on odd levels.

Consider: a single-classed marshal learns his or her first 2nd-level maneuver at ECL 4th. A something-else 2/marshal 2 is also ECL 4, and has Initiator Level 3 – also enough to learn a 2nd-level maneuver.

Better, the 19th level of marshal is a dead level, which means if you multiclass at all – such as with cleric – and are not getting the 20th-level capstone anyway, the only thing you miss out on from 19th level is your tenth minor aura.

So you really should find another single-level dip to take after cleric.

  • Bard or (harmonious knight) paladin could get you inspire courage.

  • Crusader can still be dipped for steely resolve and furious counterstrike, not to mention five maneuvers. It would be best to do this as Cleric 1/Marshal 3/Crusader 1/Marshal 15 however, so you can pick up 2nd-level maneuvers. Most importantly, marshal gets only White Raven, and as amazing as it is, it would be very valuable to pick up stuff like martial spirit, crusader’s strike, and mountain hammer.

  • I assume you are still going for Lawful Neutral, which means barbarian is not going to work for you, but for anyone else doing something similar: barbarian is a natural choice here. Large ability bonuses, great mobility from the lion spiritual totem in Complete Champion.

  • Fighter gives a bonus feat, which is definitely valuable to you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help with the feats you need most. It also has an ACF that combines very well with a Snowflake Wardance, Intimidate build, though it requires losing cleric or cutting into marshal to do both those and this for your character in particular.

    • Psychic warrior gives a bonus feat and some psionic powers. Expansion is excellent as is dimension hop (Complete Psionic). Dipping cleric and psychic warrior may ask for a little Wisdom from you, however.

Divine Grace

Considering your linked question, I assume you have already rejected paladin as an option for some reason, but it has to be said: divine grace is the single best use of Charisma in the game. It is well worth considering losing the cleric level or cutting into marshal class features to get it.

Arcane Resistance, hexbands, and Dark Companion

If the Paladin’s Code or alignment requirement are what hold you back here, note that the hexblade from Complete Warrior gets arcane resistance, +Cha to saves vs. spells. That qualifier sucks, but it’s still pretty good.

The hexblade also gets a Charisma-based curse, and the hexbands from Magic Item Compendium can give you +Cha to damage (stacking with Divine Might) against cursed foes. Four levels also allow you to take the dark companion variant in Player’s Handbook II, which is awesome.

Unfortunately, hexblade is a really weak class. Two levels for a weaker divine grace and no inspire courage is sad, and four levels is an extremely steep price to pay for the dark companion, as cool as it is. Unlike paladin, I’m not sure I can recommend this over cleric or marshal.

Intimidation

The tried-and-true way to use Charisma in a melee build is to focus on Intimidate. Between the Imperious Command feat and fearsome armor from Drow of the Underdark, and the never outnumbered skill trick in Complete Scoundrel, you can start each fight by forcing everyone around you to cower in fear as a move action. In other words, your opening move in most fights gives your whole team an entire round in which to act with impunity. Move wherever they want, set up any flanking they need, nail all of them with a big AoE save-or-suck: anything.

Not necessarily for this character, but for the sake of the title question: nine levels of Zhentarim soldier fighter grants you, in addition to typical fighter options, a free Skill Focus (intimidate), Extend applied to your demoralizing, and the ability to demoralize as a swift action.

Inspire Courage, Dragonfire Inspiration, gauntlets of heartfelt blows

Again, something I assume you have consciously decided against for whatever reason, but it has to be mentioned: inspire courage is the best party-wide buff in the game outside of spellcasting. Dragonfire Inspiration substantially improves it. And for this particular question, having it means you can use the gauntlets of heartfelt blows, gaining +Cha to damage (stacks with Divine Might). For those playing at home, this means you could have +Cha to damage up to three times.

Also, unlike divine grace, you can get this without losing anything from cleric or marshal (well, one of ten minor auras).

Snowflake Wardance

This does get away, a bit, from your concept, since it limits your ability to use armor, but it’s worth mentioning: you have +Cha to damage, potentially three times over, and this gets you +Cha to attack. And not just one or two attacks per day, as with smite: this lasts all battle.

Snowflake Wardance from Frostburn allows you to start a special bardic music performance as a free action, and for as long as that lasts add Charisma to your attack rolls with slashing weapons that are wielded in one hand. It does not work if you use medium or heavy armor, or carry a shield (an animated shield is still fine), but there are still really solid options for decent armor in this case. A mithral breastplate is solid armor that counts as light, for instance. Two-Weapon Fighting is probably desirable since you cannot use two hands on one weapon or use a shield, but note that you can get the feat (or the Improved version if you already have it) from the gloves of the balanced hand in Magic Item Compendium.

If you want to, you can also dump Strength here and go for high Dexterity. This works well for light armor (even if it’s actually medium armor that’s mithral), and you can avoid taking Weapon Finesse if you do not want it by using feycraft weapons from Dungeon Master’s Guide II, which allows you to use Dexterity in place of Strength even if you lack the feat.

Drow of the Underdark also has a solid fighter ACF here, great if you’re already doing Zhentarim soldier: replace medium and heavy armor proficiencies with +2 to Initiative (awesome) and +Dex to damage against flat-footed foes (...liiiike those that are cowering!).

Things that are worthless to you:

So, for your stated goal of a supporting, Charisma-based melee build, several of your choices are wasteful; they do not offer anything that furthers those goals.

The War domain

The War domain grants you Weapon Focus in your deity’s weapon, and proficiency in it if necessary. Except that cleric is also ¾ BAB, so getting Weapon Focus this way is literally worse than just taking a full BAB class, and marshal already provides proficiency in all simple and martial weapons. Thus, it literally provides nothing you don’t already have or couldn’t easily get more easily some other way. Weapon Focus is an awful feat in any event, and you can do far better than +1 to attack rolls from a domain.

The Nobility domain isn’t amazing, but it does support your central goal and it’s not awful. That gets a pass.

Note that there is an exception here, if the following are true:

  • you can convince your DM that you worship some deity that has the Dungeon Master’s Guide kusari-gama as favored weapon (note: no published deity does)

  • that deity offers the War domain

  • your DM agrees that the War domain grants whatever proficiency is necessary to use a favored weapon, rather than explicitly martial weapon proficiency only

  • you are doing a Snowflake Wardance build

Then War domain becomes more interesting, because you are actually getting proficiency in something useful. The DMG kusari-gama is an exotic light slashing weapon that deals 1d6 damage, and is treated as a spiked chain for most purposes beyond its statblock. That is, it’s a light, continuous-reach, disarming, tripping, slashing weapon. If you can get proficiency for free, grab this thing and never look back. If you weren’t so awfully feat-starved, I might even recommend paying for the EWP the normal way on a Snowflake Wardance build.

If your Snowflake Wardance build is Dexterity-based, feycraft kusari-gama are possible, and the kusari-gama’s statement that it operates as a spiked chain may make it valid for the Shadow Blade feat in Tome of Battle which adds your Dexterity to damage while in a Shadow Hand stance. You don’t really have the feats for that, but it’s worth mentioning.

Also, while we’re on the subject, the War domain is much less suck if you use a better Weapon Focus. I have played many times with that homebrew, and it’s been very successful.

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