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The Hellfire Escalation Glaivelock - a Killer Kobold Build


First Post
Hi and welcome to my first build post here. I like to theorize in games and 3.5 is one of my long time favorites. I've been active on other dnd boards and now somehow landed here^^. Now lets get to the build:
Update: Did found a lil bug and adjusted the build accordingly. While Mortalbane is a nice feat for Warlocks, it's a general feat and we need a meta feat for Escalation Mage to enter. Further adjusted skill point distribution to get enough points in UMD to use wands (with a magic item to boost CHA/umd rolls). This helps the build to deal even more damage than the original release. Added a Magic Item section.

We are going to build a Glaivelock focusing on the max amount of damage possible, while maintaining a notable defense and combat utility. With some daily boosts & buffs we will achieve up to 10 attacks on our turn by lvl 16 and starting at lvl 21 it will double up to 20 attacks. Deal a few hundred d6 dmg at epic lvl per turn (your lucky if you are a hardcore "Shadowrun"-gamer who has that amount of d6. Either way your dmg calculations every round will turn into a nightmare^^). Further this build will be a Desert Kobold to showcase a STR score of 2 (1 with Reduce Person), just because it can, and abuse the Slight Build racial from the web-enhancement to count as tiny (diminutive with Reduce Person)! So the build has clear strengths and defined weaknesses (also negative WIS and CHA modifiers.. / if you stick to the 28P. build). But the offensive power helps to compensate these weaknesses. ;)

PS: The build makes use of many rule books and the Kobold web enhancement. Be aware that this is an optimized build and may be to much (in terms of raw dmg output) for your table/DM to handle. So be nice and check with the optimization lvl of your table and confirm it with your DM. Even a lesser optimized version will still hold his water on most tables as main damage dealer imho.

Desert Kobold (@lvl20)
Warlock 11 / Escalation Mage 6 / Hellfire Warlock 3 (further progressing Warlock into epic lvls).

(you may use more Points or different methods, but for simplicities sake, I did go with it since it's the most basic method for guide builds imho)
Ability Scores (@lvl 1):

STR: 2 (8 -4 racial -2 pathetic flaw) ; (STR: 1 with Reduce Person)
DEX: 20 (18 +2 racial) ; (DEX: 22 with Reduce Person)
CON: 14
INT: 14
WIS: 6
(8 -2 racial)
CHA: 8

AC (@lvl 1): 20
(10 +2 Leather +5 Dex +2 for counting Tiny +1 NA)
(with Reduce Person): 23 (10 +2Leather +6 Dex and +4 for counting Diminutive +1 NA)

LVL Progression:
2 Flaws: (feats from flaws are marked with *)
++ Pathetic: Strength (STR -2)
++ Short Attention Span

1: Warlock
++ Sudden Empower; Combat Reflexes*; Flexible Mind* (hide & tumble)
++ See the Unseen
++ Draconic Rite of Passage: Reduce Person 1/day

2: Warlock
++ Eldritch Glaive

3: Warlock
++ Weapon Finesse

4: Warlock
++ Hammer Blast

5: Warlock

6: Escalation Mage

++ Combat Expertise
++ Fell Flight

7: Escalation Mage

8: Escalation Mage

++ Walk Unseen

9: Escalation Mage
++ Underfoot Combat

10: Escalation Mage
++ Brimstone Blast

11: Escalation Mage
++ Nightmares Made Real

12: Hellfire Warlock
++ Confound the Big Folks

13: Hellfire Warlock
++ Vitriolic Blast

14: Hellfire Warlock

15: Warlock

++ Shape Soulmeld: Strongheart Vest
++ Eldritch Cone

16: Warlock
++ Retributive Invisibility
-- Walk Unseen > ++ Eldritch Chain

17: Warlock

18: Warlock

++ Robilar's Gambit
++ Utterdark Blast

19: Warlock

20: Warlock

++ Eldritch Doom
21: Warlock
++ Eldritch Sculptor

22: Warlock

23: Warlock

24: Warlock

++ Lord of all Essences

All ability score increases from lvl up go in here (+5).
Another +5 from Whishes/Manual of Quickness of Action.
up to +6 from item (up to +12 in epic lvls iirc)
It helps with to Hit, AC & additional AoOs.
On second priority is Con (for extra HP and Hellfire) and Cha comes as last and is only a UMD boost for this build.
Concentration: 9
Knowledge (arcane): 8
Tumble: 10
Hide: 10
Intimidate: 6
Knowledge (the planes): 12
Spellcraft: 23
UMD: 8

Some skills are at just at the minimum requirement for feats and PRCs, while others got the short end due to the high Spellcraft (24 @lvl21) requirements for Epic feats. If you don't plan to play up to EPIC, you can leave it at 12 and put the rest into Concentration, Hide & UMD. Further we will boost some skills via magic items, UMD as most noticeable to use wand without fail chance. For that the total UMD mod needs to be 10 (take 10 + 10 = DC 20 for wands)

Invocation Progress and Usage:

Eldritch Glaive
is our main ability. Since it is weaponlike and not a real weapon it has some special properties besides from the touch attack and the reach it gives (it behaves in many kinds as a weapon, but it doesn't count as a weapon!). It can't be sundered or disarmed. Its damage doesn't benefit from STR (or in our chase it doesn't get penalties from our -5 modifier^^) and can't be used with Power Attack.
Weapon Finesse on the other hand states (iirc in complete arcane) that it can be used with melee touch attacks from spells. Note that the first 2 lvl you will be using your regular Eldritch Blast, due to the lack of Weapon Finesse which comes at lvl 3 and the -5 to hit melee from Str. Since EB is a ranged touch it uses your Dex mod.)
Spells and Effects that target your "weapon" don't work, they need to modify your "attacks" to work.
Another downside is, since it's a full-round action, it forces a concentration check whenever you take dmg (if you want to keep it up for potential AoOs until the begining of your next round). Remember that you are never unarmed since you have still a pair of (useless^^) claws left (Kobold web enhancement) if your EG should vanish or hasn't been activated so far.

See the Unseen to never have problems with invisible enemies in your entire adventuring life. Can be exchanged once you get True Sight via item. Hathran Mask of True Seeing (75k) is the recommended item for this.

Walk Unseen is a great tool by itself, but in our chase it will also help us to get safely into an enemies square to make use of Underfoot Combat/Confound the Big Folks at the start of a fight. Later it gets replaced by Retributive Invisibility which is just a straight upgrade. But until than it makes you into a real sneaky character, combined with your high hide ranks and modifiers. Combined with Fell Flight you even leave no footprints which makes it harder to track you.

Fell Flight is another great invocation, especially due to its 24h duration which makes it always active and you don't need to spend actions to activate it when combat starts. Any magic item that boosts all movementspeed modes allows for a double-dip, since FFs speed is based on the base movementspeed, the item would increase once your base speed and once you flight speed.

Nightmares Made Real is often considered as weak compared to Chilling Tentacles. Buy those people mainly focus on the CC and dmg of the invocations and forget the great utility NMR brings with it. You basically gain Hide In Plain Sight (and only you^^) in it, unaffected by the enemy saves(!) and even True Sight, all that at lvl 11. And since our Save DC will be low anyway (Cha:8) we are just looking for this utility. Attack and hide at the end of your turn. Further NMR can cover a much bigger area and thus can be used against armies and exceptionally large creatures as well. Use a True Sight item yourself to avoid the concealment the enemies get in it. You can annihilate entire armies in it (Five 10ft cubes + One 10ft cube/Lvl = 16-25 x 10ft cubes or in other words up to 250 medium sized creatures under optimal conditions).

Retributive Invisibility will help you to faceroll anything that can't bypass your invisibility. If your enemies can't see you, most of the times they will be left with a base AC of 10 or less against your touch attacks (since they are denied their Dex and dodge bonuses. Only rare types like deflection or celestial bonuses are left). This will help you to hit with all of your attacks and never miss unless the enemy works with miss chances (which we can compensate/counter with a True Sight item).

Vitriolic Blast is our main essence for dealing dmg. It bypasses SR and has no Saves and thus is a great tool for this build. Further the DOT can stack, which makes multiple attacks with Eldritch Glaive on the same target even more devastating.


Feats usage and explanations:

Sudden Empower
is sole there to qualify for Escalation Mage (requires a meta feat). There is no other useful metamagic feat which is available at lower lvls and without further feat prerequisites. But well, once per day we can empower one of our Eldritch Glaive uses. Not great, but not bad either. Can be combined with an escalation ability in the same round for extra cheese.

Flexibile Mind (hide & tumble) is needed for the build to work. Tumble as requirement for Underfoot Combat & Confound the Big Folks and hide to make use of NMRs HIPS utility. And from a RP perspective, "a chaos aura for your warlock? Yes pls!"^^ At lvl 1 you invest 2points into each skill to get it to rank1. This enables you to take the feat also at lvl 1 (since feats are selected after skill point distribution) so that you can profit from it stating @lvl 2.

Combat Expertise + Underfoot Combat + Confound the Big Folks (+ Reduce Person) all work together. UC gives you +4AC when you are in an enemies space and CE is sole to enable Underfoot Defense (50% chance that your enemy in which space you stand takes the blow when someone else as him is attacking you).
Note: Some people are under the impression that you can't use Combat Expertise with Eldritch Glaive "since EG is a full-round action" is the argument. But that argument is flawed and I'll explain why.
CE says:
"When you use the attack action or the full attack action in melee "
and Full Attack says:
"If you get more than one attack per round because your base attack bonus is high enough, because you fight with two weapons or a double weapon or for some special reason you must use a full-round action to get your additional attacks."
Which means that any reason, be it normal or special, that gives you extra attacks is by default a Full Attack Action unless it explicitly called out to not count as such. And since Eldritch Glaive doesn't do that (deny it's Full Attack status) , it qualifies as full attack action and can be used together with Combat Expertise. You invest a full round action which includes the full attack action (you just don't have to pay for it separately due to how EG and Full Attack Action works). CE doesn't require you to spend the explicit action, you just have to take/use the action (which is given by EG and how Full Attack is worded).

Shape Soulmeld: Strongheart Vest is another often misunderstood ability/feat when it comes to Hellfire Warlocks.
SS:SV says:
"When subject to an attack that deals ability damage, reduce the ability damage you take by 1"
Subject != Target. So you don't have to be the "target" of the attack to count as subject of it and it doesn't explicitly ask you to be the target. It counts too when you use attacks which backlash at you or you just get hit by splash dmg "attack" without being the primary target. The "Attack" requirement calls for anything that involves an "attack roll" or is specifically called out as attack. And since it doesn't have a special clause like Invisibility ("For purposes of this spell, an attack includes any spell targeting a foe or whose area or effect includes a foe") it won't work with Hellfire Shield, since it "automatically hits" and doesn't need rolls and isn't called out as "attack". But every use of your Eldritch Blast that involves Attack Rolls (regular, Hideous Blow, Spear, Glaive & Chain) will work, which leaves Cone and Doom shapes out.
Since the ability works for each attack that causes damage, it is the better option compared to Binding Vestige Naberius for "this" build. Binding Naberius has more requirements and only heals 1 ability damage per turn (and on the later levels we will often use Hellfire twice per full-round action with the Shadow Haste Escalation for Eldritch Glaive or in epic lvls with Eldritch Sculptor up to 4 times in a round).

Robilar's Gambit is our last (non)epic feat of choice. Since we should be sitting on 40-50+ AC (@lvl 18 with gear) by now, have greater Invisibility always on, access to concealment and HIPS, it's almost a nobrainer to use it. Combine with Confound the Big Folks for extra fun. Remember that all effects of our turn for Eldritch Glaive are all still active when we do your AoOs (Essence, Shadow Power, Hellfire..). Anyone who dares to swing at us will pay for it. Especially nasty if retributive Invisibility is on and the enemy has no way to see us but still tries to hit/attacks (since RG also works on missed attacks). And combined with Confound the Big Folks we can even hope that the enemies will hit each other while we get the extra attacks (we were the original target when the feat activates. RG doesn't require to be hit, nor does it concern about the outcome. The initial targeting is enough to trigger it).

Eldritch Sculptor (epic) will be our first epic feat, because it will double the amount of regular attacks per turn. Be it doubles blasts or double Glaive and thus double the attacks. As a blast shape Eldritch Glaive is a legal target. 2x3 attacks = 6 attacks per turn without any (daily) boosts. And compared to most other builds, all these attacks are touch attacks with a high chance of even denying the Dex/doge bonuses, so all the attacks should almost always hit (unless miss chances involved that bypass your True Sight item).

Lord of all Essences (epic) is the other important epic dmg feat planned for lvl 24. It only doubles the DOT we can apply with Vitriolic Blast. Not the best feat, but still strong enough to be worth mentioning.


Draconic Rite of Passage: Reduce Person

All Kobolds can invest 100G into this ritual (together with a DC roll and some other RP stuff) to get a single lvl 1 sorcerer spell as an SLA 1/day. While 1/day ain't much we won't be using it much before getting Confound the Big Folks (@lvl9). And at that time you can start to look for a wizard and pay him to make it permanent. The SLA from the ritual is more of a fallback strategy, if the permanent buff should get dispelled, it should help to fill the gap until it gets replaced. Later when with UMD and wands, you can drop the permanency if you which and go for a Reduce Person wand.

Reduce Person will help us to become tiny and count as diminutive for any opposing rolls whenever it is beneficial for us.
+4 to hit
+4 AC
+12 hide
natural reach: 0 (!)
carrying capacity: 1/2
item/gear weight: 1/10th

Reach: Since doubling the reach (due to reach weapon) of 0 is still 0, we can now enter an enemies space with Underfoot Combat/Confound the Big Folks and attack him with our Eldritch Glaive. (Don't ask me how much of a headache it was to figure this combo out..)

Carrying Capacity & Fell Flight while having STR 1: When we want to fly we are limited to a light load and with a STR score of 1 this limits us to 3lb, 1.5lb when tiny. Luckily our gear weights only a 1/10th of regular gear and combined with a Handy Haversack (which only weights 0.5lb for a tiny character) we have enough storage for the few things we need (Food/Water, some items). The bag can store items up to 2x 20lb in the side pockets and 80lb in the main pocket (for normal size items. for tiny that relates to 2x2lb and 8lb if your DM should rule that the storage capacity shrinks too. But since it doesn't mention anything for small characters, imho you should get the full storage. Either way it's enough room for us). Other than that you just carry some jewelry, bracers of armor (as soon as you can effort this drop the leather armor) and maybe some other magic items. And that should be easy to fit into the remaining 1lb if you recall that everything only weights 1/10th of normal. Now it comes handy that Kobolds tend to not wear any kind of regular clothes/underwear and run around mostly naked. That saves us some weight too :LOL:

Being tiny allows us to enter an enemy's space of any size (including medium size chars), but normally triggers an AoO. If you want to use this in the early levels, Walk Unseen helps to prevent the AoO. Later Underfoot Combat avoids the AoO entirely. When you are in the enemy's space every adjacent ally gets flanking bonus. Combine with Underfoot Combat & Confound the Big Folks to get the most cheese. Best for attacking the strongest (most HP) foe, so that the other enemies might hit him instead of us (while triggering AoO's from Robilar's Gambit)

The Escalation Glaivelock

The Escalation Mage
is a great PRC for the warlock. With Sudden Empore it is easy to enter and offers some immense boosts for our Glaivelock. The Escalation ability is especially called out to work with SLAs and thus with our Warlock abilities. But since the uses for any combination of Escalations is limited to EM classlvl/day (max. 6), we will mainly use em to pimp our Eldritch Glaive dmg, besides from some rare AoE opportunities. These Escalations need a succesfull CLVC check or will dmg us. When you fail the clvl check you can still try to manage the concentration check due to tanking dmg and thus get the Escalation to work. So there is a risk invoked in the early to mid levels of the build. We also get as cornerstone ability of the prc a free use/day for each of the Escalations, with the restiction that it may not be spells/SLAs of the highest lvl we can cast (No Eldritch Doom or Utterdark Blast for the free uses).
It's highly recommend to get an Orange Ioun Stone and a Ring of Arcane Might for a +2 clvl boost on your rolls. Once you can UMD wands, you can buy/use a 13th clvl wand with Create Magic Tattoo for a daily 24h buff that gives another + 1clvl for a total of +3clvl on your rolls.

Shadow Power is basically Empower Spell. It requires a DC 12 + twice the spell-lvl (or to take 2dmg/spell-lvl become slowed and hope to mange the concentration check instead). Beside from the free charge/day and the early prc lvls, we won't be using this much. Only for some rare AoE scenarios where you might want the extra power but don't want to bet on the harder DC risk of Shadow Haste (and already used up your suppen empore).

Shadow Growth emulates Widen Spell for a CLVL check DC of 14 + twice the spell-lvl (or take 3dmg/spell-lvl and become shaken and hope for the concentration check). Another niche ability for this Glaive focused build. But might come handy in a few large scale battles. Shadow Growth Nightmare Made Real anyone?^^

Shadow Haste is the main ability we are aiming to use. It's so much better than the Quicken SLA feat, since the feat's lvl requirement skyrockets for anything else than basic Eldritch Blast/Glaive. Thou the requested CLVL DC for Shadow Haste (16 + twice the spell-lvl) is also limiting to some degree, it gets better with higher lvls. A basic Shadow Haste Glaive will have a DC of 20. At this point an Orange Ioun Stone and a Ring of Arcane Might, which each gives +1 CLVL, is within our character wealth. At lvl 10 when the ability gets available, we are looking at an +12roll to hit 20, to avoid the dmg (and the concentration check for taking dmg and not losing the swift action). This gets easier at the higher lvls. At 20+ even a Shadow Hasted Vitriolic Glaive/Cone with a DC of 28 is not impossible. And past lvl16 you can use your daily free charge for a Vitriolic Claive/Cone.
The True Escalation

If it shouldn't be clear by now, with a Shadow Hast Glaive we double our attacks per round. We get all EG attacks once for the swift action and than once for the regular EG full-round action (and both count as Full Attack Action each). And when we hit epic lvls, together with Eldritch Sculptor, we can quadruple our attacks. Prebuff Divine Power + Haste for max cheese.
At lvl 16, full buffed, this results in 10 attacks in a single turn. Later at epic it escalates into 20(!) attacks (@lvl21 each for up to 17d6 = 340d6 dmg) in a single turn, not counting any possible AoE due to Robilar's Gambit..^^


Picturing the typical combat strategy

You should always have Fell Flight on and recast Invisibility/Greater Invisibility so that it is most likely up for combat start. When there is time to prebuff, use your wands to buff up and use Nightmares Made Real. If you are tiny and have access to Confound the Big Folks, enter the space of the strongest enemy to make use of it. On later levels, you can start with an Eldritch Blast, than move into enemy space to Shadow Haste your Glaive in the first round (this is our wannabe/wannahave pounce combo^^). And when epic, we can even make an Eldritch Blast, than move in for double glaive attacks.


Magic Item Recommendations

Handy Haversack (2k)
Probably the first items to get, to compesate your lack of strength.

Orange Ioun Stone (30k) and a Ring of Arcane Might (20k)
each give a +1 to clvl, combined with Create Magic Tattoo +3clvl

Gloves of Dex. +6 (36k) + 5 Dex. from Manual/Whish (137.5k)

Hathran Mask of True Seeing + Third Eye Concentrate
(75k + (10k+50%) = 90k)
Permanent True Seeing and a flat +10 Concentration bonus

Greater Chausuble of Fell Power + Novice Devoted Spirit Amulette:"Iron Guard's Glare"
(18k +(3k +50%) = 22.5k)
+2d6 to your Eldritch Blast; a stance that causes any enemy you threaten to take -4 on attacks against your allies (but not you).

Bracers of Armor +8; +5; Invurnalbility; Greater Shadow & Silent Moves
(64k + 64k + 2x33.750 = 195.5k)
+13 AC ; DR: 5/magic and +15 to hide & move silently

Ring of Mental Fortitude (110k)
Immune to mind-affecting abilities. Nothing shall stand between a Kobold and his greed. No enemies and no so called teammates who try to Charm you out of your way^^

Circlet of Persuasion (4.5k)
+3 to Cha based rolls to buff UMD mod to 11 (-1 CHA mod + take 10 from dec = 20DC for wands). Alternative or in addition you can go for a straight CHA item.

Rod of Many Wands (27k)
Activate up to 3 wand at the same time (at the expense of charges used per wand simultaneously used). We'll load it with Divine Power & Haste, so that we only need a single turn (and 2 charges per wand) for our short time pre-combat buffs.
If you don't want to use Permanent Reduce Person, you can use the 3rd slot for that when you think you need it for the next fight(and thus increase the charge consumption up to 3 per usage of the rod).

Divine Power - full BaB for extra attacks
Haste - for extra attacks
Create Magic Tattoo (min. 13th clvl) - 24h +1clvl boost
Reduce Person - if you want to drop the Permanent Reduce Person
Lesser Restoration - to heal ability damage if you should make use of your Hellfire Shield
Primal Hunter - 24h +5 competence bonus on Climb, Jump, and Swim checks
Primal Instinct - 24h +5 competence bonus on initiative and Survival checks
Primal Senses - 24h +5 competence bonus on Listen and Spot checks
Primal Speed - 24h +5 Reflex saves & +10ft. enhancement bonus to all your speeds (x2 for Fell Flight)
All 4 Primal Spells together give Improved Uncanny Dodge (casterlvl count a lvl against sneak attacks).
Add any heal wand if needed and you are good to go.


The End
I hope you enjoyed the build as much as of a headache it was for me to make it^^
And I tired to eliminate any errors & mistakes, but at the size of this build post I can't be sure.

Further, I would appropriate any kind of feedback. Be it critic, questions, rule debates or what else may come into your mind, I'm up for all of it. Pls keep in mind that I don't plan to play this build, cause I rarely play at this optimization lvl, it's just a thought exercise for me out of fun.
I enjoy the mess that is called 3.5 RAW :devilish:
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