Fun Excercise - Build me a Hard-Boiled Detective!

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  1. #1
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    Fun Excercise - Build me a Hard-Boiled Detective!

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    I recently had a thread on how to build a cylon centurion with D&D 4 tools.

    How about going back a little in the timeline and use another archetype - the Hard-Boiled Detective. (If you want, feel free to expand it to a more "cerebral" character like Sherlock Homes (or Miss Marple? ) or to someone more fantastic/(anti-)heroic like Rohrschach or "The Dark Knight", focusing on the investigative aspects mixed with some martial arts)

    The "Hard-Boiled" detective might be an investigator in Sharn (Eberron). Served in the war or former member of the city guard? Or could he be someone living in Sigil or even Hestavar?

    How would you do it? Which class suits best? What might you want to change about a class to fit it better? What background would you pick? What races fits best?
    What are the crucial skills to take for the Detective? What kind of ability scores fit?


    My first choice might be the Rogue. He has the skill list to pull off the investigative stuff, but does he also have the "tough" attitude I'd associate with this type of detective? (You know, the guy that gets into more trouble than he can handle, gets beaten up occasionally, at other times flinging a shady informant around until he gives him what he wants, all that stuff.)
    Or should he be a Fighter (investing a lot of feats into trained skills, of course), since he will do a lot to protect his clients, and always gets into so much trouble he just needs all the defenses and hit points he can get?
    And of course, his cynicism might be a good representation of a high wisdom, more useful and typical for a Fighter than a Rogue.

    As a race, human might be the obvious choice, but Dwarves or Half-Orcs might also fit into it (to bring out the "tough guy" aspect more)
    For the more cerebral approaches, Eladrin would fit.

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  • #2
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    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

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    There are other classes that would work. A warlock could make a pretty good detective, using his "otherworldly contacts" (take Ritual Casting and use various exploration rituals). A wizard could do the same thing. I like the warlock idea though. Has a very supernatural detective kind of feel to it. Ritual casting, a bunch of knowledge skills, maybe a familiar. He can sneak around well too.

  • #3
    It sounds like you want to create Harry Dresden under the 4e rules:

    Harry Dresden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Based on what little I know of this novel series, I would say Wizard with Warlock multiclass would be a good route.

  • #4
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    harry has his uncles ghost as a combo skull familiar mentor.... ;-)

    Visualizing 4e with Rose Magick

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

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  • #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
    harry has his uncles ghost as a combo skull familiar mentor.... ;-)
    And good INT, good CHA, but crappy WIS


    Hopefully someone who knows the series better can flesh this out. I'll just toss out the little I know based on what friends have told me about the novels, and what I saw of the short-lived TV show.

    Dresden was a staff wizard; a real wizard style staff in the books, but a stealth staff (hockey stick) in the TV show. I would place him at either high heroic or low paragon levels. His name was known to the higher ups and he was quite powerful, but not to reality altering levels. He used rituals in order to uncover clues (Visage of Life is a good example) and it was implied that he used potions too, though the uses sound more like ritual magic to me.

    In the TV show he was rather fond of tossing lightening from his 'staff', though that might just have been for the visual effect. Still, as a concept it's rather nice.

    Dresden was a natural wizard as a child; a prodigy. This came through his mother, who was a talented mage from a family of mages. His father was a schlock stage magician, with no real power. His uncle killed his father (his mother was dead) in order to gain control of Harry and raise him in the family tradition. His uncle dabbled in "The Black" (aka black magic), which I took to be powerful magic that draws on an evil source (Warlock Pact). Harry learnt enough of The Black to kill his uncle in revenge for what he did to his father. I gather that this is a sort of Star Wars "tempted by the Dark Side" thing that reoccurs throughout the novels; easy power, but with a price.
    Last edited by Ryujin; Thursday, 22nd October, 2009 at 04:34 PM.

  • #6
    Months ago, I actually statted up a half-elf bard with the (high)society investigator archetype in mind (inspired in parts by Christie and Doyle). Bard has good access to the skills and skill bumps necessary for such a build.

    BUT, if I were to do a more hard-boiled detective I would edge towards an avenger for the dogged stick-to-itivenes of a Spade, Wayne, or Magnum. I'd be sure to grab the streetwise and percepton skills, and choose the others based on character flavor. While the fluff and censure of the pursuit avenger suits the concept nicely, don't underestimate the other builds' potential as well, since keeping Intelligence as your secondary score will help bump up your knowledge skills.

    As for races, Devas bring the nice edge of Intelligence bump and that extra d6 roll to represent the shamus' luck. The Eladrin also has the Int bump, and has the added benefit of grabbing a skill not in your class list, so that you could try a build with something not immediately ideal such as a Ranger or your aforementioned fighter. The all-around versatility of the Human is a classic favorite, and the extra feat and skill could make all the difference. I think a Gnome or Halfling might work fun, too, as a more elusive, stick-to-the-shadows type of investigator.

    For skills, you'll need to decide how your detective operates. Different approaches can get you to the same place, and so certain skill sets become key. I would think that at a minimum, you'd want a good Insight. Perception is also highly useful. Your typical gumshoe will likely have a good level of Streetwise, but a Holmes or Marple (or Poirot) might rely as much or more on the knowledge skills (history, arcana, nature, and dungeoneering.) Great charisma isn't always typical of fictional detectives, but decent scores in diplomacy, intimidate, and bluff cannot be underconsidered for shmoozing information. If you're more of a break in at two a.m. and riffle through their files kind of detective, though, you'll want to have a good stealth and thievery.


  • #7
    And, as a friend pointed out to me a little while ago, a good CON is frequently a must-have, given the consistent beatings that the average Sam Spade type gumshoe must endure. Thinking back of the radio serials from the '30s, it might not be a bad idea to forget the INT boosts and take a Revenant

  • #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ryujin View Post
    And, as a friend pointed out to me a little while ago, a good CON is frequently a must-have, given the consistent beatings that the average Sam Spade type gumshoe must endure. Thinking back of the radio serials from the '30s, it might not be a bad idea to forget the INT boosts and take a Revenant
    Definitely. My half-elf bard detective actually had slightly better Con than Int or Wis, thanks to the racial bonus. (FWIW: Str 8, Con 15, Dex 10, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 18) I let the bard's Skill Versatility and the Jack of All Trades feat pick up the slack in skill pointage.


  • #9
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    Magsman (Lvl 14)

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    I can see all sorts of different ways to do a hard boiled inquisitivedetective.

    They're more action oriented, coming more from a pulp genre, so you want a more action-oriented class. Ranger'd be a good fit, as would Rogue. Avenger might be an interesting variant as well.

    You -need- Perception, Streetwise, Insight, and Intimidate. I -cannot- see this working otherwise. This pretty much spells out a Rogue or Avenger as best fit.

    Regardless, this is a very good opportunity for you to check out the Eberron campaign setting for ideas on how to make it work for you; they've been doing it since the campaign was first invented.

  • #10
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    Has access to all required skills.

    Reflavor some powers, and it's gold:

    Burden of Guilt
    You unleash a string of allegations at your foe, weaving them with bardic magic to send the creature into a blind rage.
    (rest as Vicious Mockery)

    Vitality of the Vigilant
    You slap the perp in the face with a manila folder full of justice, invigorating your allies as they press the attack.
    (rest as War Song Strike)

    Cheers, -- N

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