Sunday, July 12, 2009

DINO-PIRATES Characters: Ming-Wa

We looked at one type of adept two weeks ago: Kana, She Who Talks To Dinosaurs. This week we're taking a look at someone a little more direct in their application of magic to problem: Imperial Sorceress Ming-Wa.

Ming-Wa's an escapee from one of the fearsome eunuch sorcerers now ruling the great Empire to the north. The magic she learned from her terrible master is unsubtle and potent. Her build is an interesting one, pointing out some of the big differences between this game and other games you might be more familiar with.

Ming-Wa learned the art of Imperial Sorcery as the protegee of one of the East Chamber’s feared eunuch sorcerers. When her master turned on her, Ming-Wa had to flee into the lawless depths of the Dino-Pirate Islands. Her contempt for the rogues who now surround her wars with her desire to find a home.

Her ability choices are not what you'd expect in an Intelligence-based adept — while she has the requisite high Intelligence, she's also put into Charisma, Constitution and Dexterity, at the cost of a point of Strength. We built up her Dexterity because her primary power is going to rely on her attack roll, so some help here is going to be necessary. Her Charisma is really due to her concept (she's an imperious and contemptuous aristocrat), but it's helped to make this character a fun one to play with lots of options even at first level.

With only one level in Adept, Ming-Wa is not very formidable in combat. She's pretty easy to hit and isn't likely to land many blows herself. Even if she does, she's not likely to do much damage. However, her Constitution gives her an above-average Toughness save, so she needn't run for cover at the first sign of a punch-up. And as we'll see, she can actually be quite useful in such affairs.

Her skill choice is wide due to her high Intelligence. In addition to the bonus skills of Intimidate and Concentration she gets for being Imperial, she selects Bluff and Gather Information in order to play off her high Charisma (which Intimidate does likewise), and then she picks up an array of Intelligence-based skills: Disable Device (surprising but helpful — maybe this is how she escaped her Imperial master), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (supernatural) (necessary for anyone pursuing Imperial Sorcery), and Search. A few ranks in Notice never went astray, just to finish the whole thing off.

Such a broad array of skills gives Ming-Wa ample opportunities for stunting, making her more formidable than she appears. Coming up with stunts around Bluff and Intimidate is easy, and with a little creative thought things like Concentration, Disable Device and Knowledge can all get in on the fun. I'd like to see somebody come up with a way to stunt off Gather Information, I have to say.

In addition, both Bluff and Intimidate can be used to feint in combat, which makes Ming-Wa an effective support combatant. She can set up bad guys, leave them vulnerable, and then let her more combat-oriented friends polish them off.

Ming-Wa's weapon helps her out with this tactic — it has the masterwork property "Flashy". In DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND, masterwork weapons can have benefits other than bonuses to attack. A masterwork weapon can have the Flashy property, which means it is tasseled or has noisy rings or whatnot on it, so that when used for feinting, it supplies a +2 bonus to the skill check involved. This gives Ming-Wa a whopping +11 on a feint attempt with her Intimidate -- not many 1st-level enemies will be able to avoid being flat-footed for a round. If she's got a friend with Sneak Attack it's going to be a bad day for the bad guys.

It really speaks to Ming-Wa's personality, too — she just dazzles them, and then lets others handle the tedious business of actually killing them to death.

As an Imperial, Ming-Wa gets the Great Fortitude and Tireless feats for free. She adds Skill Focus (Intimidate) for obvious reasons, and then takes Supernatural Focus on her core power, Wind Shaping. This is why her Power ranks and other numbers have two values -- the higher number applies to Wind Shaping only, because of the bonus granted by Supernatural Focus. To that power she adds Elemental Blast, so she can knock out bad guys with blasts of air, in addition to just creating hurricanes. Wind Shaping promises to be helpful in all sorts of situations, especially in a pirate-themed game where sailing might just feature strongly.

She needs to make a ranged attack to use the Elemental Blast, which will continue to be her weak point. Two ways for her to compensate for that are to either start taking some Warrior levels to boost her combat bonus, or to take the Widen Power feat and dispense with the attack roll altogether. She'll probably want to continue to max out her Intimidate, Bluff and Knowledge skills, but depending on how the game goes that Disable Device skill might become a focus -- she might pick up the Manipulate Object power so she can use it at a distance (even though it's not a canonical Imperial Sorcery power).

She uses her Knowledge (history) skill as her Professional skill, meaning each level she gains she makes a check with that skill to see if her Wealth increases. We imagine Ming-Wa assessing artifacts or researching useful bits of information -- sort of a mercenary librarian, if you will. Regardless, this is a character with a lot of potential directions to go in, and with her Virtue and Vice of "Fearless" and "Arrogant", she's sure to get into no end of trouble, no matter where she goes.